Beaded Arches Shawlette

OK, so I am very excited to be able to reveal Shawl 2 from the Shawl Club collaboration with Unbelieva-wool.  This is the Beaded Arches Shawlette, so named because of its beading and arches (I lack imagination).

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The yarn is a pretty special merino / nylon / yak base, dyed in reds and plums in a colourway called ‘Loving You’.

So, the story behind this one is that shortly after we agreed to do Shawl Club, Sam said that she really liked the idea of a long, thin crescent shaped shawl. So did I, but boy, that is a hard shape to nail without making the pattern so involved that your head explodes from tracking where to place the increases.  One of my rules of pattern design is that ideally it should be something that is mainly simple and meditative to do once the pattern is set, with the occasional bit of complexity.  So I tried to find a way of coming up with the shape, without the headache.

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This was what I managed to come up with.  It is a complete cheat, as the shape is achieved through cunning use of blocking.

I also wanted to incorporate beading because, as you know, I like a touch of beadwork in a shawl and it suited this particular shawl well.  In trying to get the shape right, I made loads of these shawls, and I have to say I have fallen in love with them as I wear them as scarves, like this:

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But here are some early contenders I am also very fond of…

These are using a vibrant grad from Dye Candy, and the one below is using a silk mix yarn (also from Dye Candy) entitled ‘Scream Queen’, without the beads.

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I have more but I will spare you here, although you may see them crop up on Instagram from time to time.  So there you have it: a cheeky cheat.  Forgive me, but it does work!

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Stop the world…

I am exhausted. Again. I am also going through one of those phases where nothing seems to be going to plan on any front.  I am not particularly prone to melancholy, but when life gets this overwhelming, I just want to hit rock bottom and stay there. It’s not quite a matter of feeling sorry for myself, more just a strong sense of being sorry – of wanting to apologise to everyone and everything for all that I have failed to do.  The only thing I find I can do is to take myself away from everything, and focus on the stitch-by-stitch repetition of making something for someone. It is a bit like making a peace offering, but it is more to do with making peace with myself than with trying to please someone else.  After all, when I feel like this, I don’t feel like I can really please anyone anyway.  This is more about reminding myself that I am actually capable of something positive.

So it is a little bit ironic, or appropriate (depending on your viewpoint), that I recently received a Well Being yarn box from Fleabubs, and a skein of yarn from Lollipop Guild Yarns called ‘Dance your cares away’.  They were the last of my yarn clubs before I cancelled them, and they are beautiful. I want to make them into beautiful things, and they inspire me. I just wish I had more time to work with them.

On a more positive note, shawl number 2 should arrive with shawl clubbers this week.  I have been so delighted with the reaction to the Thank You Shawl that I am a little bit nervous about whether the next one will go down as well.  That said, I love it and I have made several versions of it that I wear a lot, so I know it works, but whether it is quite what people are expecting…I just don’t know.  I really hope it proves to be popular. I will put a post up about it when the reveal time comes to tell you a bit about its development.

I will try to get another post up this weekend but I am preparing for a work trip that currently has me numb with fear.  I might have to cake one of these beauties to come with me and keep me company on my travels.  They will give me the peace I need to think clearly and push through this next bit of stuff. A bit of yarn meditation is in order…

Euro-joy

I love Eurovision.  Bear with me.  I know this doesn’t look crochet-related, but it is.

Eurovision has been one of the highlights of my year, along with World’s Strongest Man at Christmas time, ever since I was small.  I love the highly variable quality of the music, the gimmicks, the crazy costumes, the inappropriate commentary, the hope during voting, the devastation when we are marked poorly, and (vary rarely) the joy when we do well.  It has a personal significance because the last time the UK won it (1997, in case you were wondering) also marked the evening when my OH and I had our first date.  So it also operates as our official anniversary.

Sometimes we have a party, but more often we just get in food which is roughly representative of the various nations participating, put it on the table in the living room, and go on a culinary journey around the world, as well as a musical one.

I feel the need to celebrate Eurovision this year with something suitably tacky-retro to crochet whilst I am watching it.  For me, it is so closely associated with the 70s and 80s that I decided to pick out a quick stashbusting make out of these vintage pattern books that I bought a while ago.

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My mum used to have patterns like these when I was a child, but they were given away before I could acquire them.  But what to make?  I am leaning towards a retro tea cosy, or perhaps a toilet roll cover, as some of the costumes worn this year do remind me of one of those crocheted dolls that you used to find at your friend’s house, dressing up the toilet rolls.

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But I think a tea cosy is more me.  Tea and Eurovision are life essentials.  So I think I will go with this one.

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I also have an idea in my head for my own retro take on a peg bag, as I need a new one and I have loads of acrylic to use up.  If I get to make it this weekend I will pop it up here as a quick make, along with my other free patterns.  And speaking of quick makes, I haven’t forgotten about the next part of the retro blanket.  So make sure you are up to Part 2 as Part 3 will be along soon!

 

Bliss is this…

So as promised I tried to document as much of my weekend in London as I could via Instagram, and I hope that you were able to follow along.  I have to say, it was one of the best weekends I have ever had.

I drove to my friend’s village to meet her at the train station.  I parked a little way away and walked in glorious sunshine down to the cafe.  It was warm and still, and all you could hear was birdsong and the occasional car go past.  Everyone I passed was smiling because this was the first really good day of weather we had experienced so far this year.

My friend and I caught the train to London and I hooked whilst she knitted socks until we got to Euston, and then we headed to Waterloo and stopped off for a tea in a little trendy cafe before our first stop at I Knit London.  This was a surprisingly spacious shop for a yarn shop (which are traditionally the size of a small biscuit tin).  It was quiet when we go there so we bought some cold drinks (I Knit is licenced to sell booze but we resisted the temptation) and settled down at one of the tables to fondle yarn and browse some pattern books.  I was very good and found three books which included stitches or techniques I hadn’t seen before (two crochet, one knitting), for a bit of inspiration.  I felt bad about sticking to my yarn ban, but the folk were really nice and there was an excellent selection of bits there.  Very nice.  A good start.

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Back on the underground and on to Loop next.  I have been to Loop before, and it is a yarn snob’s paradise (and I mean that nicely!). They have high end yarns and notions and its a lovely shop to visit.  Upstairs is my favourite bit and I could happily install myself there all day, but I have a child to feed and so I don’t dare.  But yes, as I am sure you anticipated, I was weak, and I succumbed to these beauties.  In my defence, the colour way was a Loop exclusive and they were the only two left.  And they were not sock yarn.  But I felt very virtuous that these were the only ones I came away with (plus a WIP bag that was on sale), so I am counting it as a win…

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We went into The Breakfast Club for an early dinner and then set off for our accommodation. Now, we had planned to share a twin room in a hotel, but we then found that for a tiny bit more outlay we could have a two-bedroom apartment in Clerkenwell instead.  So I booked it, and just hoped that it would be a nice as the pictures on the website were, as it seemed a bit too good to be true.  But it was better than the pictures.  A large living room, two double bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom, all immaculate, all to ourselves.  And a Sainsbury’s nearby for milk and other essentials. It was perfect.

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We settled into an evening of talking and sock knitting.

You need to know something about my friend.  She has an incredibly calming influence on me.  She is very mellow, very sorted, and very philosophical. My resting heart rate drops by an extra 10 beats per minute when I sit and crochet with her (thanks FitBit).  We are very comfortable in each other’s company and she is like a sister to me.  And as we sat up into the small hours, just quietly knitting, chatting and drinking tea, I felt very grateful for her.  My small person was at home with the OH, and apparently she had just been to the best birthday party ever, and here I was, just relaxing.  I achieved an altered state of consciousness, somewhere between ‘flow‘ and ‘bliss’.  And I also achieved ‘smug’, as at 12.20 am I finished my socks.

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The next morning, we got up and I was still in this slightly unreal state of mind.  The sun was pouring into the flat, and we slowly pottered about making tea, eating Malteasers, and getting ready to head out.  We went straight back to Islington, had a pub brunch and knitted at our outside table until the sun moved round and started to become unbearable.  We moved a bit further down the lane, and found the Pistachio and Pickle cheese shop with a big awning outside and empty tables underneath it in the shade.  Apparently no-one wanted a cheeseboard for breakfast, and the lady in the shop was more than happy for us to set up outside.  We drank cool drinks in the sunshine and nibbled olives and cheese all afternoon.  We were just across from Loop, and at one point a lady emerged with a bag and we caught each other’s gaze.  I waved her over to join us, and she showed us what she had bought.  She ordered a glass of wine, got the knitting out, and there we sat enjoying each other’s projects and company.  It turned out that she had travelled all the way from Lille for a weekend away, and had come to stock up on yarn before heading back that night.  She had green hair with nails that matched, and the most fabulous tattoos.  She was brilliant and we could have stayed there all night, except that Loop was due to close within the hour and we needed to have a last look around.  I didn’t buy anything, but our new friend stocked up on some bargains she had not spotted first time around. I just petted the skeins.

We went home on the train, and it must have been the sunshine but even on the crowded train everyone was good humoured and joining in with each other’s conversations.  We went back to my friend’s husband’s allotment, where we sat in his shed in the evening cool, watching the world go by, listening to the birds and the sound of his whistling kettle as he made us tea.  And we sat in his comfy chairs and knitted.  Once I got home, OH and small person were in good moods and told me about their weekend.  Everyone was contented.  There was even a yarn parcel waiting for me when I got back.

One day, all weekends will make me feel like this.  But I am so glad that I had this one, perfect weekend.  One day I will be able to share these weekends with OH and small.  I so hope she will grow up to be a yarnhead…

Living for the weekend…

Don’t get me wrong, this week hasn’t been a ‘bad’ week, but it has been tiring and at times quite emotional.  The light at the end of the tunnel has been the prospect of a delayed birthday treat – one of my friends had a significant birthday and our birthdays are a few days apart so we decided we would plan a little yarn escape in London.  She is much more familiar than I am with the big yarn stores – I have ventured into Loop with her before but she tells me there are other places where yarnheads are welcome and this weekend she is taking me on a guided tour.

Now, before you say ‘what about your yarn ban?’, it is still in place.  I am restricting myself to taking a limited amount of cash (which will not go far in London!), and I am mainly looking for interesting patterns and maybe that very special skein of yarn. But its really going to be about spending time with one of my best friends and having the time and space to concentrate on making stuff in the evenings.  Something to re-balance the head and heart as the madness of work starts to spiral once again.

In shawl club news, I have finally decided on the design for Shawl #5 and I am really pleased with it, both as a pattern and an item.  So I may play around with ideas for the final shawl in my first series of shawl club this weekend.  I think I want to go with something really special and unusual, so London will work as a bit of a research trip to inspire me, I hope.  Otherwise it will be all about the stash busting.  I wonder if I should set myself a challenge of how many KGs of yarn I can get through before the autumn?

On the topic of stash busting, I am also going to learn to knit brioche – I am going to make a massive brioche wrap this summer so that it is done in time for the colder months, and it should use up some of my DK stash, including some random scraps from leftover projects. Using up scrap ends of yarn makes me feel faintly frugal and virtuous (I am neither of these things) so it has to be something to be embraced.

I will try to keep you updated on my London exploits via my Instagram feed.  Come and follow us – it could get both fluffy and messy all at the same time.

A new addiction…

They say the first step to dealing with an addiction is to realise that you have a problem.  Well, my name is Knackered Psycho, and I am a yarn addict.  Last weekend I came back from Wonderwool and in trying to put my stash away I realised that I have a bit of a yarn habit.  My yarn pets may be beautifully stored, but if they were real pets the RSPCA would be round my house by now (after a tip off from my postman), trying to persuade me to rehome them and give them a better life than existing in the cramped conditions they currently endure in my stash drawers.  No officer, I am sure I can learn to look after them better.  They are part of my family.  We cannot be parted.

So recently I decided to do the decent thing and cancel all but one of my yarn clubs (I am partway through a blanket club and I cannot stand the thought of an unfinished WIP).  This was a painful process but the right decision for now.  The new challenge is to improve the living conditions of my yarn by going on an extended making binge. As I stared into the heaving mass that is my drawer of sock yarn (usually reserved for shawls), I decided the time had come to crack open that Slouchy Slox pattern from Rosebuds and Rainbows, and see if I could nail some sock knitting.  A grabbed skein of ‘Get back in the kitchen’ (oh the irony), by Dye Candy (merino and cashmere), and got stuck in.  It took my about 2-3 days to nail the work of art pictured above.  I am beyond proud, and it fits perfectly and is the most comfortable sock I have ever put on my tired toes.  I am now so unused to knitting that my fingers were a bit tender after I finished this one, so I gave myself a day off before casting on the second sock.  I want to get the second one done so I can wear them, and then crack on with some more. I can see a new obsession creeping on.  I already have a friend who almost exclusively knits socks, and I can see how it can get addictive.  In fact, as soon as I have finished this post I will be upstairs, PJs on, getting on with sock 2.  Check me out, with my rock ‘n roll lifestyle…

Shawl-wise I am experimenting with some different ideas, but I am not entirely happy with how they are working out.  I have two more shawls to design for shawl club before I can start to work up some of my other projects, and I know I want them to be dramatic, but the one I have been fiddling with today looks less impressive in real life than it did in my head.  I have an idea re how to adjust it to make it work, but I think I need to sleep on it for now.  Besides, I can’t think straight when my feet are cold…