Adventures in thrumming

So this weekend I learned a new skill – thrumming.  Thrumming is the technique of knitting little noodles of roving into something like a glove, sock or hat (or bunny slipper!) which results in little fluffy ‘hearts’ appearing on the outside of the garment, and the inside become a lovely fluffy mass of roving loops.   Over time, with wear and washing, the roving felts to the inside of the thing you have made to create an extra layer of insulation.

img_1815

I first saw roving kits on the Lollipop Guild website and couldn’t resist this kit with the lovely deep grey and neon fluff.  Over the last week temperatures have dropped a lot, and the wind has picked up, which has meant that my small person has really started to feel the cold.  So I found this pattern for thrummed children’s mittens and decided to make her a pair of these.  They are quick to make even for a klutz like me who isn’t exactly skilled with DPNs (I knit my socks on mini circulars).

img_1825

Anyway, I finished the first mitten, and next morning I presented it to the small child, feeling very proud.  The conversation went something like this:

Me: Look what I made for you yesterday!

Child: Oh.

Me: Put your hand in it.

Child: (Slowly inserts hand into oversized mitten) Its too small.

Me: No its not, it just has fluff inside.

Child: Its got stuff in.

Me: Yes, that’s the point, look.

I opened up the mitten to show her this…

img_1841

Child: WOW!  Why is that there?

Me: To keep your hand warm.

Child: Cool.  I’m taking this to Show and Tell on Monday.

So I feel like I have successfully navigated the jeopardy of getting the child’s approval, and I have been authorised to make a hat to go with it.  The next stage is seeing if I can get her to wear it enough that she will felt the wool inside the mitten.  Only time will tell.  I am going to wing making the hat, and assuming it doesn’t go horribly wrong I will post the pattern here.

fullsizerender-10

All Change

In spite of my new year’s intentions, I have had little chance this month to get on the computer to write to you.  In my defence, I have been busy getting all the other things in my life in order.  Exhibit 1: This month I resigned my job and accepted a new one.  It is in a different city, which means commuting and generally being more organised, but it is going to allow me to remind myself why I went into psychology in the first place.  More time for research and fewer responsibilities of the kind I have to juggle now.  Plus, I have it on good authority that I am a short walk away from a good quality yarn shop, so I really can’t complain.  And yes, I did take my knitting to my job interview.  They know what they are getting…

img_1745

Other changes have been a little sadder.  This month has also seen the closure of The Knitting Hut.  This little shop in Woburn Sands was where I rediscovered yarn and knitting, largely because one of my friends who lived there also discovered yarn.  I sat in that shop when I was pregnant with my daughter and I have bought yarn for a fair few projects in there too.  My daughter and I went to the last day the shop was open, and she bought a few yarns of buttons with her pocket money.  She used to enjoy emptying the button jars onto a tray on the floor and sorting them back into their colours. Now she has a little reminder of those days to go with my old photos of her doing that.  The closure was poignant but not sad, as it signals the next exciting episode in Sue Stratford’s career as a pattern designer and I am so glad everything is coming together for her.  She has a new book out soon, so do watch out for that one.

For my part, I have got Shawl 1 of Season 2 Shawl Club (‘The Sequel’) nailed and out for testing, and I’m quite pleased with it.  Its a very pretty shawl, just in time for the spring.  It is our for testing now so I get a little bit of a break to try out some new techniques.  I have just bought a thrumming kit from Lollipop Guild Yarns (see top photo of the bright, bright fluff!) and with the sudden dip in temperatures I am pretty taken with the idea of some ultra cosy mittens. And a hat.  And socks.  In fact, give me all your thrummed garments as I was freezing this morning at work.  I have just had to have a bath to raise my body temperature back up.

So the plan is I can now start to blog properly again as I start the countdown to the new job.  I am already feeling more relaxed and positive. Yes, I know it probably will be short lived, but hey, I am going to approach it with optimism and see what I can achieve.

New Year’s Intentions

Ok, so I don’t really have the resolve for resolutions, but I do have lots of honest intentions.

  1.  Once the January Sales are done, no more yarn buying for the rest of the year.
  2. Reduce the stash by at least 50%.

Yes, that is right, I am going on complete stash lockdown at the end of this month and the plan is to see if I can truly stashbust.  I have a plan to knit lots of socks, both for me and for presents, and I have recently discovered the joy of knitting hats with Aran wool (so fast, and I can get two hats out of a single skein which is a bonus).  Exhibit A – the hat I knitted in a few hours one evening, using Dye Candy yarn and a pattern from the Toft Quarterly Magazine.

img_1743

I also need to help to raise funds for my daughter’s school, so lots of making is required there.  That will give me the chance to clear out all my acrylic yarn too, so that will be satisfying to see that go down.

3.  Blog more frequently and more regularly.

This year work has got in the way. I have been too tired to think in the evening, let alone type.  This is going to change.  My working pattern has to change in pretty fundamental ways because how I am working right now is not sustainable.  And I feel that I keep losing momentum every time work pulls me away from this part of what I do.  To achieve this I have to start taking better care of myself.  That one is easier said than done, but tonight I am going with an early bath, blog and then some knitting to motivate myself a bit.  If I can get two or three blogs out during the week, with a longer one at the weekend I think that might be good.  Perhaps introduce some features.  One of my friends has voted for ‘Squish of the Week’ – a random delve into my stash to show off different yarn types and dyers.

4.  Write more patterns.

Ok, so Shawl Club is going into Season 2 in March, but I feel the need to do a wider range of patterns than just shawls.  A mixture of quick makes and more extended projects.  I might even venture into one or two knitting patterns if I am feeling very brave, but that might be a step too far for me.

5. Do a yarn show.

Ok, so this one terrifies me.  Sue talked me into this one.  At the moment I don’t know which show, and it will probably only be one day, and I need to do my sums properly re how to make it work for me.  I love the idea of it, I am just worried that it might be a bit too soon for me, and there would be a huge amount of work required to get my stall elements ready in time. So I am not sure if I can pull this one off, but I am certainly going to look seriously at it.  I just need to sit here and feel a bit sick at the thought of it for a while.

6. Do a book.

Now, I write for a living, so the idea of writing a book doesn’t daunt me, but I haven’t self- produced the whole thing before, so that would be the challenge.  I have two book concepts in my head – one requires more work than the other – but I think I could get the book thing to work with a bit of peer support and some planned leave from work.

So there you go – six of the best.  Let’s see how many I can tick off.  Can I do it?  Should I do it?  Hmm. Let’s see…

Winter’s Comfort

After a busy Christmas I am finally back at the blog.  So much has happened since I was last typing this that it is hard to know where to start.  I guess that the most important thing is that I finally managed to get the Winter’s Comfort shawlette up in time for the final shawl club of the year.  I am quite pleased with this – it looks simple but has some nice textures and touches, and a few festive beads thrown in too.  I am grateful to one of my fantastic team of testers for the photographs, as I didn’t have time to bead my own version before sending it out for test.  The yarn included as part of shawl club is the most amazing luxury base in a beautiful rich colour, but as I know there are folk who subscribe to shawl club from abroad I won’t say more than that for fear of ruining the surprise.  It is designed to be a shallow scarf type of shawl, as I know so many people who like to wear their shawl that way and dislike deep, traditionally shaped triangular shawls as a result.  I hope that this version will be really wearable and useable all year around.

image1

I treated myself to a couple of Christmas yarn boxes this year, one from Unbelieva-wool and the other from Dye Candy.  Both were, as I hope you can see, stunning, and Dye Candy introduced me to a new base of baby alpaca, silk and cashmere (swoon). I cannot describe to you how soft this combination is.  I just need to find the right project for it.

In the Christmas makes department this year I have focussed on making socks, and so far they have been well received.  I say so far, because my parents are ill at the moment and have banned me for seeing them until they improve, so they haven’t received their socks yet.  I plan to gatecrash in the new year whether they want me to or not.  Both have chest infections which sound horrific but also so bad they are very conscious of not wanting to pass them on to other people.  Noble, but terrifying for me.

fullsizerender-8

I am having a little break from shawl club this winter so that I can experiment a bit and come up with some new designs for the Spring.  I also need to crack on with some of my other plans for the new year.  At the moment I am resting to make sure I am ready to go for broke.  I want to see what I can achieve with this now. About this time last year I started this blog.  At the time I had no idea quite what the year would hold.   I never dreamt I would get so far so quickly.  So although it has been a modest start, it has happened much faster than I thought it would.  And I am learning so much on the way.

Knitting and Stitching Show – Harrogate

I have finally managed to catch a few moments to tell you about the weekend.  As you know, I went to help my friend Sue Stratford on her stand over the weekend at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show.  I normally go to the one at Alexandra Palace as a punter, but I am going through my work experience phase of trying to get some understanding of what it takes to make the shows successful, just in case I get a bit braver and contemplate doing a show myself.

Sue is brilliant on all sorts of levels.  She is a super talented pattern designer, mostly known for her books on novelty knits.  She is very modest and down-to-earth, really approachable, and has a wonderful relationship with the people who buy her books and kits.  And just on a personal level it is a pleasure to spend time in her company.

img_1593

The show was great.  I love Harrogate because I am a massive fan of Betty’s tearooms (well, I am a massive fan of tea and cake…), and so it wasn’t too hard to volunteer to help Sue out when she realised she was going to be on her own over the weekend.  The days started gently but soon got busier, and it was really interesting to see what things people were drawn to and what questions they asked. Sue was selling her new book (A Bird in the Hand) and the yarn kits to make the patterns, along with some of her other books and kits.  We got a lot of positive comments about how fantastic the stall looked, and we did well.  I was treated to a fish and chip supper in front of the telly on Saturday night, where we knitted and watched daft telly until it was time for bed.  Sue was knitting Christmas presents and I was working on a pair of socks which will be a present for someone when I get them done.  The next morning we got up and had a decadent breakfast at Betty’s before getting stuck into a busy Sunday.

img_1603

On the drive home we talked about Sue’s blog, and she gave me lots of good advice and ideas about how to develop what I do.  It has made me rethink my plans for knackeredpsycho.  I think I had just planned to keep on doing patterns on Ravelry, and to maybe do a book or something in future, and perhaps look at workshops at some point.  But I saw all of that as a long way off in the future.  Sue’s advice has given me more ideas and a bit more confidence to be bolder sooner.  This has come at a good time because the shieldmaiden shawl pattern has proved to be really popular, and there has been a lot of activity on my Rav page as a result.  I am starting to think that maybe I could be a bit bolder.  I just need to set some goals for myself, and work towards them instead of bumbling my way through this thing.  So am I thinking about doing a one day show next year, putting some of Sue’s advice into practice.  So over Christmas I will go into planning mode for this.  There is a lot of work to do between now and the show I have in mind, but I think I might just be able to do it.

The kindness of strangers

One of the best things about becoming a yarn-head is the community (or cult) you become part of. Yarn connects us all, but as I have connected with more people it is their biographies that are so interesting.  So many yarn folk are managing stressful personal situations or chronic illness. All of them have big hearts and keep an eye on others more than themselves.  They are crazy.  Many (if not most) are tattooed and / or pierced.  Every one has an eccentric side.  Every one is incredibly vulnerable.

This is probably true of everyone, but I don’t make this level of connection with other people.  Other people are more guarded or care more about maintaining a particular impression.  Yarn folk aren’t scared to be judged, it seems.  They open up, and they wrap others in love.  In my other world or work people are bruised, insecure and defensive.  They don’t let others in easily.  They are judgmental, and often a tiny bit paranoid.

You all know I get wound up by work. We all do in different ways but I don’t always manage stress in the ways that proper people who do my job are supposed to – I swear in my office, get sad, beat myself up over trivia and convince myself I shouldn’t be doing what I do.  I always assumed I was good at concealing this from others though.  Last week, however, a random yarn friend, someone who only knows me from my Facebook posts about yarn, messaged me out of the blue.  It was just a single line email to tell me something positive about how they saw me.  That was it.  Apparently I needed to know, and she wasn’t wrong.  But how she knew that in that moment I needed that little injection of happy, I just don’t know.

Today, I opened the first packages in two different advent yarn boxes I received in the post.  One I expected, the other I had no memory of ordering.  I was confused but assumed that in a moment of tiredness and weakness I must have ordered it and forgotten about it.  I hadn’t, it was an unsolicited gift from another yarn friend.

People with the highest mountains to climb and the broadest shoulders have the biggest hearts.  Thank you both.

Can’t beat a bit of brioche…

So, those of you following my exploits know that I have fallen in love with brioche knitting.  On Wednesday night I sat up late and worked away on my I-cord bind off and finally finished my briochexplosion wrap.  I loved making it, and as ever I popped a photo up on my instagram feed.  I then collapsed into bed and slept the sleep of the smug knitter who has finished a much loved WIP.

img_1584

In the morning I woke up and looked at my phone.  I have never had so many likes for one of my projects as I have had for this wrap.  It has really taken me back.  The yarns I used were by Lollipop Guild Yarns and Dye Candy, and they really complemented each other.  I wanted to go with a denim colour as my neutral tone because I wear jeans so much, and because to my eye denim goes with everything really.  Apparently other folk liked it too. A lot.

img_1583

Anyway, I got to wear it to work on Thursday, like a comfort blanket.  And like a comfort blanket it did help me through a particularly stressful day when I had to be a proper grown up and try to do things that I really didn’t want to do.  But armed with my cloak of awesomeness I found that I could do anything.  It must never leave my side!

Shieldmaiden Shawl

You have probably already seen this on my Instagram feed, but my latest shawl has been up on Ravelry for a couple of weeks now and it is called the Shieldmaiden.  This is mainly because the shape of the shawl reminded me of a shield and then Sam dyed up two amazing colourways – one in icy white and blues and another in different shades of rust and copper.  They both work well, but the yarn shown here is some Three Violet Buttons high twist sock yarn, which I used for the prototype.  Because the shawl is textured, it works well in a plain yarn, but because of the lace elements it also looks really striking in stronger coloured, variegated yarns.

img_1087-2

The feedback on the pattern so far has been great – apparently the instructions are pretty easy to follow and it looks to be a firm favourite for Christmas makes already.  I am so pleased with all this.  I love this shawl and I am so pleased so many other people love it too!

Exciting times

So on Saturday I went to Festiwool for the first time, and I was giving Sam a hand on the Unbelievawool stand.  I really enjoyed being on the other side of a yarn stall, and there was really fantastic atmosphere in the room, and it was a great day even though it rained or drizzled all day outside.  I met up with Sam the night before, and while I was waiting for her to arrive at the hotel I decided to sit and knit with a cup of tea to pass the time.  The waiting staff clearly thought I was some sort of mad, yarn-based bag lady, so I tried to keep my head down and tuck myself away.  Then Verity from Truly Hooked came over to admire my brioche wrap that I was working on.  A little bit of my brain exploded with excitement, because at the end of the day I am still a yarnie who is more than a little bit awestruck by the yarn goddesses.  Except for Sam of course.  She is normal, although I am scared of her for other reasons 😉

Anyway, I really enjoyed chatting to everyone and talking about projects etc with the people who came by.  One of my Thank You shawls was snaffled to feature in the fashion show, so that was just brilliant and I felt very honoured.  I was also massively honoured to meet one of the yarn clubbers, who was also exhibiting as she creates amazing things with felt and was on the stand next to ours.  She was such a lovely lady, and I was really touched to have her as one of our gang of shawl makers.  In fact she had some of my shawls on her stand for sale so that was really exciting to see – somehow it made all this feel a bit more real and less like a dream.  Jackie, I know you read this blog – thank you for your support, I am raising my tea mug to you as I type!  I also got to buy some yarn from a new dyer – the skein at the top of the page is a Little French Meadow colourway that looks like it will be perfect for socks.  I couldn’t resist it.

I learned so much about exhibiting from that bit of work experience, and I have some more coming up as I am going to help Sue Stratford out with her stall at Harrogate’s Knitting and Stitching Show in a week or so.  That is going to be completely different – much busier and more intense, but it is a pleasure to help out a friend who is also going through a career transition.  Sue, as you may know, is known for her books of novelty knits but she also runs the Knitting Hut in Woburn Sands.  Sadly for us she has taken the decision to close her little shop to focus on her design work, which is the right thing to do but the hut has been such a wonderful welcoming place for us over the years.  I live a long way away, but I am a regular (if infrequent) visitor and my daughter has been visiting since before she was born.  She usually comes in and a big tray is set on the floor for her to tip all the button jars onto so that she can sort them out and generally play with them.  She has even sat in the shop window in the past.  So I am very sad to see the shop go and I am glad to spend time with Sue when she needs a hand, to say thank you for all of her support over the years.

In other exciting developments, my village has just started a social group for knitters and crafters.  The first session is tonight and I am a bit nervous about going, but I can’t resist the chance to spend a bit of time knitting in a pub.  I mean, how special is that?

img_1546