Sundae Shawl

So I can finally show you the first shawl of Shawl Club Season 2 -the Sundae Shawl.

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As you know, I am pretty rubbish at coming up with names for my shawls.  This one is called the Sundae Shawl because it looks like one of those wafers that you stick in your ice cream when you are having a treat.  And it also looks great in ice-cream colours. The yarn I used here is by Fleabubs.

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It works really well with bamboo / merino mixes, although any yarn would work well with it.  Plus it is one of those patterns where it will keep on growing if you have the yarn and follow the pattern of the rows, but the examples shown are post blocking and used just 400m of yarn.

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It looks pretty great in grads too.  This one is by Hooking Marvelous and it reminds me of a sunrise or sunset.

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My next shawl will be revealed fairly soon as I did a special one-off pattern for one of the collaboration yarn boxes produced by Unbelievawool, Truly Hooked and Dye Candy.  It uses three different skeins of yarn and is a bit of a departure for me but I am quite pleased with how it has come out!

No turning back…

So, it is really, really happening.  I will have my very first stall at Wool@J13 in May!  It is booked, and I am in the throes of organising my stock.  I will, of course, be bringing my patterns, but I am putting together a sort of pick and mix feel to me stall: pick a pattern, pick a yarn, pick some extras and have them all beautifully wrapped for you, so you have a treat for when you get to open it all again later at home.  Having helped out Sam and Sue on their stands, it seems that a lot of people like to see what is in their kit boxes before they buy them.  So I decided the easiest thing would be to let people build their own kits, and make them as special as possible.

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I have commissioned some yarns from Unbelievawool and Dye Candy, all on a psychological theme, and the testers look pretty special (the ones shown above are from Dye Candy).  I am hoping to ask some of other dyers to contribute as well, but I don’t want to get too carried away for my first show.  But I hope to be able to support some of my other favourite dyers too.

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I have some hand made stitch markers already from Tinkaboo Crafts, and I have found some amazing fabric for project bags which also keeps with the psychological theme.  All brains and neurons! I know they won’t appeal to everyone but I think the fabric looks pretty amazing.  A friend is helping me by making them this time, but I plan to make some myself in future if I can find time (time is my enemy at the moment).

So my extras will be hooks, stitch markers (I hope to get some very special ones made to go with the ones I already have), and WIP bags.  I am trying to source some shawl pins too, and keep toying with the idea of a small amount of things which feature my logo.  What do you think?  Do people like the idea of my little frazzled brain as a badge or a pin?  Let me know!

My Girl Lollipop

I’m going to introduce a new feature, entitled ‘Stashdive Sunday’, and this week I wanted to kick it off by honouring the substantial contribution that Rox Driver has made to my stash, aka Lollipop Guild Yarns.  Based in Nottinghamshire, she has produced some of my most beloved yarn pets and even inspired the creation of the Moo-Ra dress (I still have to finish writing that pattern up!). But the reason I want to honour her today is because it is her birthday, and I wanted to really embarrass her.

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So I am going to restrict myself to some featured beauties from my DK and Aran stash, all dyed by her, and I apologise that my poor lighting really doesn’t do the colours full justice.

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This next one was a custom dye and everyone who has seen the brioche it got used on comments on how fabulous the blue is.  It is multi tonal, both dark and intense and yet bright and vivid all at the same time.  No, I don’t know how that it possible either..

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The next was from one of her yarn boxes, a nod to George’s Marvellous Medicine…

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I have so many more of her yarns in my stash, and I would encourage you to watch her Etsy shop like a hawk.  She also has a pretty good blog which I would recommend just so that you can drool over her yarn boxes as she reveals them.

Thank you Rox.  And Happy Birthday!  And you are still far too young…

Shawl Club – Season 2

So I am now in full on crafting mode again after a little bit of a sabbatical.  Shawl Club Season 2 (“the sequel, just when you thought it was safe to go back into your stash…) has just launched over on the Unbelieva-wool page.  As I type, Shawl 1 is on the floor and on my mannequin, and I am pleased with the pattern as it is one of those easy to do and relatively easy to remember patterns.

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Last season I tried to vary the style and shape of the patterns so that there was something for everyone (the patterns are all available on my Ravelry store if you want to review them). It is quite a challenge to come up with a one skein shawl, especially those that will work with shorter as well as longer length skeins.  The firm favourites last time were the Thank You Shawl and the Shieldmaiden Shawl, but I also have a soft spot for the beaded arches shawlette – more of a scarf than a shawl but there is something special about that beading and it seems to be a popular shawl for gifting.

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This time I have learned a lot from what I felt worked well last time and this time I also want to keep with some easy makes with the occasional challenging element from time to time (but not too often).  I am trying to vary the shapes again, but it seems that you like it when I play with textures and lacework as much as I do, so expect me to revisit those themes again.  I also have an idea for some colour work shawls, and as ever Sam and I are keen to use as many luxury bases as we can.

I hope you enjoy Season 2, and if you haven’t tried it before consider giving it a try.  As ever, I am always here to help if you need me!

It’s showtime…

At the moment, its all about show prep.  The first show is actually the spring fair at my daughter’s school, where I am going to do a handicrafts stall. I am busy making lots of things that I think people will like, including shawls, socks, and baby things, as well as small things that I hope the children will want to buy like toys and so on.  The lady who organises the local craft group in my village has been a brilliant help and also has a small production line going of pretty sewn items and crocheted owl things.  Between us we are starting to accumulate a fair bit of stock. Pricing is going to be based on what I think the children will be able to afford as a suggested minimum donation, and I am hoping that the grown ups will be prepared to buy the more pricy items.  They aren’t pricy at all when you factor in the cost of the yarn and the time, but I know how it is and so I am just hoping that people will dig deep if something is pretty enough and is a one off. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

I have also got very excited about preparing for my first proper yarn show on my own.  I think I might have found a good one if they are prepared to let me in.  I just hope my patterns are considered good enough by the organisers.  I have some really beautiful kits planned and some of my favourite dyers have agreed to supply the yarn for them so I am just waiting for the word and then it will be all systems go.  I really enjoy the product design aspect of all this, especially the packing and presentation of it all.  I am itching to get started!

Since I last blogged I have also had a little treat trip to London to spend a voucher I was given for Loop.  Loop in London is a beautiful shop with super expensive yarns and extras.  It was such a treat to be able to splash out even though I am still on my yarn ban. I couldn’t resist this…

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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.

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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!