Self-medicating with yarn…

It has been one of those full-on weeks: lots of travel, lots to do and think about, limited time, and one or two moments when the only reasonable thing to do was to close the office door and indulge in some Anglo-Saxon vocabulary revision.  In amongst it all, as ever, there have been those random acts of humanity that remind me what it is really all about, and some perspective takes over.  Beautiful yellow roses from a work colleague left in my room were just what I needed to find today.

Tonight was the last Friday of the month, which is when YarnMama have their market night.  Now, I am supposed to be reducing my stash this year, but so far I am failing miserably because I am still buying yarn at about the same rate that I am using it. Also, when I am stressed I self-medicate with beautiful yarn. I know this because this week I really found myself hankering for a yarn-y package to be waiting for me when I got home from work.  So I got a bit carried away tonight and bought a bit too much nice yarn to be entirely justifiable.  But it was so pretty, and I was so tired, and the idea of all the fabulous things I could make with it was a bit too much.  I was weak.  Don’t judge me, wait until you see it (I will post pics when it arrives).

Anyway, in amongst the yellow roses, you can see the fabulous purple and turquoise yarn I bought last month at YarnMama.  Its a Dye Candy one, so that means that the colours are fabulous and vibrant. I need to come up with something a bit special for that one, so I am having a think. In the meantime I am playing with an equally eye-popping Dye Candy grad which I am going to make into a beaded scarf-thingie (stop me if I get too technical).

photo 22

Anyway, in other news my notebook is quickly filling up with lists of things for me to have a go at designing at some point this year.  Let me know if there is something you want to add to my list!


Making the most of every free moment…

So one of the things that amuses / irritates the people closest to me is that I crochet every chance I get.  And I mean, every chance.  Between the day job and my resident small person, I get very little time to do something that I would like to do.  So I have a basket in the living room with my current blanket WIP in it (so that I can pick it up and put it down as I get the chance during the evening, small person permitting) and a WIP bag that is usually always with me.  I am lucky enough to be able to crochet in the car without getting motion sickness, and so I look forward to long drives so I can get some serious work done.  Last year on one of our regular trips to see the in-laws we got stuck in traffic for many hours in what was already a 5 hour car trip, and by the time we arrived I had finished a cardigan for my daughter…

Today has been a ‘hooking on the train’ day.  I love these days.  Today was a special treat as it was a 2 hour long direct train there, and the same back again, and I managed to get some real progress done on my latest design project.  And it also involved some added jeopardy, as it involved beadwork.  So in amongst the suited executives with their tablets and laptops, I quietly removed my Marvel Comics inspired WIP bag from Jo.Knit.Sew (a nod to my husband, so that he isn’t totally embarrassed when I get it out) from my smart work bag, and start crocheting away, swapping hooks when I get to the beads and praying that I don’t knock the jam jar with my hand and send them flying across the carriage.  In previous attempts the jar has jiggled with the movement of the train across the lap tray until it gets close to falling off the edge.  Today I discovered that if I stand the jar of beads on my empty WIP bag it doesn’t move (top tip) and I can bead without worrying about the jar sliding onto the floor.  On other train trips I have been known to walk the length of a carriage to get off, with a gent running behind me winding up the ball of yarn that I didn’t know was still in my seat, following me like a yarn-adoring courtier followed by a chorus of good-humoured giggles!

Crocheting in public typically results in some really lovely conversations with people who are genuinely surprised that people still do it (or who haven’t done it for ages), and today I was even called a ‘young person’ by the lady I chatted to.  “The problem with most young people now”, she said, “is they have too much money and they don’t think about the real value of things, the love that people put into things that are handmade.  They throw things away and buy new things.  They don’t cherish what they have. And they don’t understand what handmade really means.”  I love these conversations about things that people loved because they were made just for them.  Crocheting or knitting in public triggers these reflections and they are so moving.  And so true.

A quiet day in…

So today is a rare treat – I have been able to book a day off from work to concentrate on getting some yarn-related jobs done, and I am ignoring all the essential house-related work I should also be attending to.  I do feel a bit like I have to ‘earn’ my yarn time by doing lots of other stuff first, but today I can indulge.  I am really excited because I finally have a logo for my blog and patterns (what do you think of it?) and as a result I have spent this morning finishing off some of my patterns ready to go live in April.  So much seems to be coming together at the moment, including a design for a shawl which I can’t show you yet but I am really pleased with.  It is a big yarn-y hug for someone who has both inspired and helped me, and I wanted it to be something special.  I made it over the last two days in DK, and now I am going to do it in sock-weight yarn to see how much yarn I need for a lightweight version.  The picture above is the yarn from my stash I am going to use.  Its by Pollyorange and called ‘The cold side of the pillow’.  I have been saving it for something special and I hope that there will be enough to finish the pattern.  I will cake it later and make a start.  Its going to be part of something very special that I hope to share with you very soon!

I have really been enjoying the reaction I have had to the post on beading, and I am so pleased people have found it useful.  Eventually I will treat myself to a camera with a video function so I can make some video tutorials to go with that post and to show you some other techniques I use.  The thing about crochet is that everyone seems to have their own quirky ways of doing things, and its nice to see them and compare. It really does build your confidence when you realise that it doesn’t matter how you hold your hook, join your yarn, sew your ends in, sew garments up, and so on, as long as you are happy with it and the end product works.  I am far from a purist, and I do things in all different ways.  So I am going to add a ‘techniques’ section to this blog so you can find those sorts of posts more easily.  And thank you all for your interest and lovely comments so far.

My bead-y eye…

One of the things that I get asked about a lot is beading.  I like to insert beads into the shawls I make and I tend to do this with a miniature crochet hook rather than threading them onto my ball of yarn, which seems to be the more common way of doing it. However, I find this approach has three main drawbacks:

  1. You have to know exactly how many beads you want to work with for the whole project and thread them onto your yarn at the beginning of your project / ball of yarn (and pray you don’t have knots in your ball of yarn!);
  2. You can only see the beads from one side of your work;
  3. There is only one strand of yarn holding your bead in place.

I prefer to use a crochet hook as my preferred method, as doing it this way means that you can see the beads on both sides of your work, you don’t lose ages threading beads onto your yarn, and you can be more thoughtful about bead placement and colour choice as you go, rather than having to work it all out in advance.

So, this is how I do it:

When you get to the place where you want to insert your bead, put a bead on a skinny (0.75mm or smaller) hook.

Remove your regular hook from your stitch and insert your skinny hook:

bead 1

Pull the hook up so that the loop is long and thin, and pull the bead to the top of the hook…

bead 3

And onto the loop…

bead 4

You then carry on crocheting as normal.

It is very simple and very satisfying.  You can insert beads between stitches (as described here) or you can insert them into the body of a stitch by waiting until you have the last two loops of your chosen stitch on your hook, and then you pull a bead onto one of the loops and finish the stitch with the final yarn over hook and pull through.  This can create effects like this…

atlantic beading

I hope you agree that the overall effect is worth the little bit of fiddling with hooks.  I hope you have a play with it – if you do, let me know how you get on!

Wrapping things up…

So this week I have been a bit quieter than normal.  I have been busy with my daughter’s birthday, racing to get some work done before a deadline for the day job, and manically hooking every other moment so I can finish a lace weight wrap which I have been writing the pattern for.  The birthday, the work and the wrap are all done now, and the wrap is blocking as I type this.  The picture shows my blocking essentials – my hairdresser’s squirty bottle and an old tobacco tin of blocking pins. I have over 150 blocking pins – the few you can still see in the tin gives you an idea of how many are pinning that wrap out at the moment!

I have a strange affection for tobacco tins.  My dad’s shed contained shelves filled with neatly stacked tins like this one, with Dymo labels on their short edge indicating what was contained in each one.  This one came to me via a neighbour, whose relative had recently passed, but had left behind a serious button stash.  This was one of the tins that the buttons came in.  Nostalgia meant that I had to keep it and fill it, not with screws, nails or panel pins, but with blocking pins.  I think my dad would approve.  In fact I think my dad would try to have the tin off of me…

Anyway, I think having used over 100 pins on my latest make, and sworn whilst I fiddled with them to get straight edges, I need to invest in some blocking wires!  But I am relieved to have the wrap made.  Another pattern done ready for April launch. Lace weight patterns are a marathon rather than a sprint, but always worth enduring for.

Showing, growing and knowing…

So, a lot can happen in a short space of time.  I have steady downloads of my free hand warmer pattern on Ravelry, and as promised I spent some time this Friday with the same beautiful blue yarn from Unbelievawool that I used for the mitts, and hooked up a new hat pattern.  I haven’t uploaded it yet as I need to take some pictures of one of my very photogenic friends wearing it to illustrate the pattern.  I am really pleased with the look and fit of it and so I am hoping that it will be a minor hit.  I also think I may need to make it in a plain-coloured yarn, because its a texture-led design.  But I am also going to hold the pattern back until April, when I am going to officially ‘go commercial’ and start to launch some patterns that I will charge for.  Part of this experiment is to see whether I can really do this as an alternative to my day job, so part of this year is finding out about what is attractive to people and what isn’t, and to develop my ideas so that they really have some appeal.  I have asked someone to design me a logo, and I am excited to see what they come up with in response to the brief I set them. With name like mine, there is all sorts of potential fun to be had, and it has to be playful in some way, or people might think I am serious about the whole ‘psycho’ bit.

I would really love to hear your suggestions for patterns that you would welcome: at the moment I am working from my own wish list which includes things like ‘something to use up skeins of lace weight yarn in my stash’, ‘something simple to hook but stunning to look at’, and ‘comforting makes’.  What sort of yarn do you have in your stash that you need patterns for?  And how challenging do you want them to be?

Starting to gain momentum.

The last few days have been great as this experiment continues.  The hand warmer pattern that I put on Ravelry has received good interest and steady downloads from a (surprising) range of countries and I couldn’t have hoped for more.  I will try to write a hat pattern too and pop that up as another freebie soon.  But tonight I have finally typed up the Moo-Ra dress pattern and I am going to test it, along with a friend who has a daughter about the same age as my own.  I have been quite buoyed by the number of hits the photograph of that dress has had since the blog started.  Tonight I went to fetch the skein of pima cotton I was going to use for it, only to find that its DK and therefore I wouldn’t have enough yarn for the skirt.  So I have found some unused red bamboo yarn that I can use for the top section, and I am going to use the blue, purple and red yarn pictured above for the skirt.  Both of those are from Lollipop Guild Yarns, and they work well with red and plum coloured mini-skeins I had in my stash from Rosie’s Moments.  Even though the yarns are a bit of a mix and match, I think they will work well and I love the colours.  Next time you see them, should be on the final version of the pattern, all being well.

Lost and found, old and new.

Well, I had the best of intentions this weekend, and I did achieve something – the extra special project I was working on I managed to finish in double quick time and so that was something good.  Then I searched about for the notebook with the Moo-Ra dress pattern in.  I cannot find it anywhere.  My house is pretty disorganised so I think I am going to have to try to re-engineer the pattern, which will take a bit more time than I had planned. But I really wanted to upload a pattern of my own here, and so I typed up a pattern for fingerless mittens that I had in an old notebook and I made the big step of adding it to Ravelry as a free pattern.  Even though its a very simple pattern, its a big psychological step for me to set myself up as a designer on Ravelry.  And there has been some nice interest in the pattern too, even though it has only been up for a few hours, so I am very proud of that.

I did find other notebooks, with scribbles and sketches in, including some ideas I had forgotten about but were sketched on trains to business meetings and similar.  And that has given me confidence too – confidence that I will have enough ideas to enable this to grow, a little at a time.

I also had some wonderful peer support this weekend, which I am very grateful for.  So I have plans for a little thank you for that person, but more of that in due course.  This transition is starting to feel like the right thing to do – a natural next step rather than a leap of faith.

Monday night update…

I have found the missing notebook!!!  Much happiness (as ever, it was hiding in plain sight) and so now I need to type it up and test the pattern to make sure it still works.  I have some amazing pima cotton from Lollipop Guild Yarns that I have been saving to use on Moo-Ra number 2, along with some other cotton that a friend gave to me, so its time to crack on and see how the new colourway works out.