Colour me happy…

So this has been a very odd week.  Big events in the real world that have implications for my day job, my colleagues and my friends.  A real sense of devastation, and disquiet for what is to come and what has already started to happen.  It turns out that I live in a very different country to the one that I thought I did at the beginning of the week.

So here I am, in my yarn room, trying to come up with something to write and resisting the temptation to curl up in my chair with my yarn pets all around me, gently rocking to some suitably maudlin music.  On Friday I broke my yarn ban and bought some skeins to raise my spirits. Fibre East – the yarn show that I was planning to refresh my stash at – was too far away.  I needed some solace to come this week.

What has been interesting is that I have become more obsessed than before with trying to finish off projects.  My latest set of socks are on the blockers, a test shawl for shawl club is blocking on mats on the floor, and I have three blanket projects that I am determined to finish before I start another project.  And yet the desire to start something new that will cheer me up is overwhelming.

I dive into the yarn drawers then, to seek inspiration.  I find the yarn pictured at the top of this post, the ‘colour me happy’ skein from Pollyorange that is almost too perfect to use.  More rummaging, this time to find this skein of Bluefaced Leicester and Silk yarn by Lollipop Guild Yarns.

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It is another skein I am keeping to make something very special for myself.  For now I just wanted to remind myself of what it looked and felt like.  I turned over the tag to see what the name of the yarn was. ‘Premonitions’.  How appropriate.

I will stick to the plan – finish those blankets, get shawl 6 nailed, continue to stashbust. I need to focus on what makes me happy, and hang onto the fantasy of one day being able to concentrate on this properly.  Who knows, I may need the second career option a bit sooner than I had originally anticipated.

 

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Meeting a Sculptural Crocheter

This Sunday I went down to the Westbury Arts Centre as part of Bucks Open Studios which is running this month.  Its a great chance to nosey around the studios of artists of all kinds and be inspired by what they create.  This includes textiles and fibre artists.  At Westbury there is an artist called Helen Den Dulk who creates large scale sculptural pieces with crochet and knitting.  She creates fantastic wall hangings with crochet which throw shapes and shadows onto the walls which become part of the finished effect.  She recycles and hand dyes some of her raw materials.  She kindly allowed me to photograph some of her work to show you on this blog.

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This one is reminiscent of a sea creature / Dr Who monster and was big enough that my four-year-old could have rested in it! I love the way it pools onto the floor.

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This next one I have a strange affection for because she used Drops yarn, bought from Wool Warehouse, in it.  The ‘brickwork’ is knitted in stocking stitch. It’s special to see something so striking made out of something we would all use for our more traditional makes.

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In this one Helen crocheted around the flex of some fairy lights to create the spirals, which are then lit up by the lights embedded in the work.

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Hanging spiral and circular forms recur in Helen’s work and are strangely hypnotic.

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The open studios are open again this weekend coming.  Do go along if you live in or near Buckinghamshire – there are so many places you can visit, but at Westbury you can see many artists all in one place.  And they do a nice cup of tea too.

On being odd…

Today is ‘Knit in Public’ day.  For me this is everyday.  I have no shame.  However, I thought it was a good day to discuss my technique, as even though many of us who crochet are called ‘knitters’ by the uninitiated, I get accused of knitting much more frequently than most, because of my technique, as you will discover.

I am odd.  You probably know this by now.  After all, you don’t come up with the idea of calling yourself a knackered psycho without being a bit on the strange side.  But genuinely, I am one of those strange people who “doesn’t crochet properly”.

I don’t care.  I wish to make a stand.

I have never had anyone look at any of my finished makes and say “But you haven’t done that right…”  It is only when someone who knows how to do it properly watches me crocheting that they pull a face and comment.  Here is my story.

I am clumsy.  Very clumsy.  I am right handed and have very good fine motor skills, but problems with gross motor skills and coordination.  And balance. When I was younger I longed to be able to crochet things, and I tried to follow lots of book tutorials. They talked about ‘the right way to hold your yarn’ and two (yes, only two) ways to hold your hook.  Crochet magazines still do this.  Below is an extract from a very old pattern book I have in my stash.  I can’t help feeling that the title of this section is misleading – if you read the description and look at the ‘helpful’ drawing, it is small wonder I stuck to knitting…

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It all felt very unnatural, I couldn’t get it to work for me, and time after time I gave up.  I finally learned to crochet at the age of 40, after a work colleague sat and showed me what to do.  Not ‘how to hold my yarn’ or ‘how to hold my hook’, but what I needed to achieve.  I naturally picked up my yarn and hook as if to knit, and that felt natural.  I got it.  I haven’t stopped since.  Yes, it looks like I am knitting rather than crocheting but hey, people think that’s what I am doing anyway.

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When I knit and crochet, I also do something that I know panics people who watch me – I let go of my hook or the needle in my right hand when I wrap my yarn.  This is because I am so right hand dominant that I have to use my right hand to wrap my yarn around my hook.  This feels right to me and I don’t drop the hook or stitches, it all just balances nicely as long as I am pinching the stitch with my left hand.  It does mean that I can’t use hooks with customised handles, like the beautiful Fleabubs ones (except for my beading hook), as there is so much weight in those handles that they do clatter to the floor when I let go.  But I use KnitPro hooks, and these are lightweight enough to sit nicely in my work without dropping.  All is well.  No-one dies, and I get a nice shawl or jumper out of it.

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I also wrap my yarn around my hook ‘wrong’.  I have made a video of me crocheting trebles (or doubles, if you prefer US terminology), and if you watch it you will see I wrap my yarn ‘front to back’, then ‘back to front’, then ‘front to back’ again twice.  I am consistent in doing this and I am complemented on my stitch definition.  But again I have been told by people who watch me that I wrap my yarn wrong, and that it fundamentally changes the look of the stitch.  I am sure that if you compared my stitches to someone who wraps the yarn consistently in one direction you will see a small difference.  But not enough to make anyone care, I don’t think.  It works for me, and when I am not trying to film myself I can get a good turn of speed crocheting like this.

So the purpose of this post is to encourage people who crochet or knit differently to enjoy their quirks rather than worry about them.  I lost years of crochet time because I tried to conform and concluded that I couldn’t crochet.  But I know there are others who have developed their own techniques just as I have.  For me, its about the finished product.  However you can achieve it, go for it. And however odd your technique, you will always have a fan in me!

 

Doing it for the kids…

Its been a while since my last post.  It has been super hectic at knackeredpsycho HQ, such that I had to take a bit of bed rest at one point to catch up on sleep!  The day job is crazy busy until the end of July, and so my precious hooky time is being sidelined at the moment.  And my obsession with knitting socks as a way of destashing has also meant that the time I have had has been spent with the pointy sticks rather than my hooks.  But come August I plan to bury myself in yarn and work up all the designs I have been scribbling down on bits of paper.  I have some plans for a little set of children’s items which I will share with you as they develop.  All my shawl club bits I have had to keep under wraps, but I am looking forward to sharing some more of my projects with you as they develop.

The other things that are keeping me busy include the need for me to make a special blanket for my daughter’s nursery as a thank you before she leaves this summer, and to make lots of cute baby things as one of my friends is expecting her first baby and its a good excuse to produce lots of very quick makes.  The added bonus is that these makes have to be in a practical yarn, and so I get to use up some of my nicer acrylic yarn as part of Project Destash.

I cannot show you my friend’s gifts as she reads this blog (!), but I thought I would show you some of my favourite baby and small child makes from the last year.  Firstly, I love to make blankets, and these are firm favourites.  This was my first star blanket, which used baby soft merino DK and was for a newborn.  When I had my daughter most of the blankets I was given were too large to tuck around her in her car seat.  This one is the perfect size.  It used up yarn left over from a Peppa Pig jumper I had knitted for my daughter, which is why the colours are a little unusual, but putting them in this order really made each colour pop and I loved the final effect!

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My go-to cot blanket is a shrunk down version of an Attic 24 cosy stripe blanket.  If you begin with a starting chain of 120 it comes up the perfect width.  For baby versions I prefer to use a neutral on the ‘plain’ rows and a variegated yarn in the granny treble rows, like this one I made using left over Ice Yarn:

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At Christmas I was asked to make an owl themed blanket for a friend’s sister-in-law.  I used The Hat and I’s pattern for this one, and added the lettering using the Moogly Alphabet patterns.

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Clothes are always fun for little people.  Last year we were stuck in a traffic jam and I made this circular cardigan for my daughter in the time I was trapped in the car (we missed our ferry to Ireland, so I had extra hooky time).  The yarn was King Cole Riot, but my little one found it a bit too scratchy to wear, so I would make it in a cotton or bamboo for her next time.  But this was so quick and easy to make and I loved the final effect.  The pattern was a free one from Drops yarn, found on Ravelry, but there are lots of similar ones out there too.

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In terms of hats, I like this, the Little Sister hat, without the flower.  This one is worked in some left over merino sock yarn from Fleabubs (the Scientist was the colourway).  It can look girly but in this yarn I think it works for a newborn of either gender.

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You can see that I like to use strong colours with little people – something that will hide the messes but that make a really nice statement piece.  I am toying with making a very special little set in honour of my friend’s baby, and as soon as I have done it I will share it with you here as a free pattern.  I just need to put the socks down long enough to make it!