A few of my favourite things…

Yesterday I had happy post.  As regular readers will know, I have been on a yarn ban since Fibre East to try to get my stash down to respectable levels.  However, temptation is all around and sometimes I see something that I can’t resist because it is in ‘my’ colours.  Step forward Lady Margolotta by Helen at Bare Threads.  I love blacks, and purples and blues and there they all were, perfectly combined.  It was late at night.  I was browsing Etsy after a long and tiring week back at work.  I was weak.  It spoke to me. I was good, and stopped at just the one skein, even though Helen’s shop had others that I would have loved to buy.

img_1231

In the same late night Etsy session, I also was looking at Down the Rabbit Hole – a shop that sells nerdy jewellery (this is a good thing).  She had a sale on. And I saw this.

fullsizerender-5

It is a serotonin molecule.  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter linked to feelings of happiness and reduced levels of it are implicated in a range of psychological conditions, including depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. So as a psychologist, and as a human being, serotonin is pretty significant so I fell for that necklace too.

So both things arrived on Saturday and I felt pretty happy, and I starting thinking about my other favourite things.  My logo I still absolutely love, even though the brain isn’t quite as it should be, but somehow that makes it more appropriate as most of the time I am sure my brain isn’t wired the way it should be.  In particular it doesn’t have a motor cortex.  If you have seen how clumsy I am, you would wonder if I do too.

img_1233

The mug is a favourite thing too, not least because it contains tea.  I drink tea constantly.  And I do mean constantly.  It is a miracle I achieve anything really between trips to the kettle or the loo.  But it is a daily ritual that makes me feel settled and content and that is no bad thing. Tea is a comforting thing when everything else is crazy.  Including me.

Finally, something else that makes me happy is seeing my makes going to a new home where they are loved.  Today I gave a pair of slouchy slox to a friend of mine, and she seems to genuinely adore them.  I got this picture of them on her toes tonight. I feel like a superhero.  My work here is done.

img_1229

All Change…

Small person is now at school. After a blissfully long period away from work, chaos ensues. The working day has been chopped and changed to try to fit everything in around the new routine of the school day because I don’t want small person to be stuck in after school clubs unless we really have no alternative, or because there is something she really wants to stay late to do.  To be honest, I think we are doing better than I thought that we might, but already I can see that the only way I am going to get everything done this month for the day job is going to be through some very late ones where I can sneak them in. Small person is coping well, other than having a strained lunchtime relationship with a boy who claims to be allergic to peas.  My insights into her world are often piecemeal and a bit surreal…

A random positive from this is that now that I am back at work I am now into the routine of crocheting in the car on the way into and out of work (not when I am driving, obviously), and to and from work meetings on the train.  These regular but shortish bouts keep me on track, which is just as well as I need to test some of the shawl projects that will come out later this year, as well as crack on with some birthday and Christmas presents.  I have a lot of knitting to get through on that front, so little and often will be the way to go.  I think everyone will be getting socks this year…

That includes me.  Maybe.  I decided I needed a treat so I am working on these slox in a yarn by Made by Jude.  I haven’t bought her yarns before but I saw this yarn in Etsy and fell in love with the colours in it.  It has worked up even better than I dared to hope. I even have a little flame up one side of my heel.  I am hoping I can replicate this colour pooling on sock number 2!  Not sure whether to keep them or not but I think I will, just for a change.  The response to them on my Facebook page has been great though, and I think I need to explore more of Jude’s yarns.  The depth of colour in the yarn is just beautiful.

img_0638

 

Hot Beverages and Sandy Balls…

So, I have just returned from a week by the seaside with the family.  It was a much needed break for all of us – a rest for the head and the heart.  As normal, I overpacked yarn, and came home with more than I took because I was able to meet up with Sam from Unbelievawool whilst I was there and she gave me some more to take home with me – one set of yarn for the next shawl, and another set of skeins which are part of a blanket club that I belong to.  So much for reducing the stash… But as you can see from the main picture, there was a lot of sitting on beaches or the sofa with a nice cup of tea and a project on the go.

I did manage to get some crocheting done (more of that in my next blog), and once that was done I had a go at the Arwen pattern from the new Truly Hooked sock book, using a merino / mohair mix yarn from Jo.Knit.Sew.  Those socks turned out to be the main project for the holiday.  I am not a very confident knitter, and although I can do the basics and a bit of intarsia (badly, usually), lace work and mock cables are new to me.  I also had to use YouTube to learn how to do long tail cast on, which now I have mastered it I can see will feature a lot in my future projects. The yarn overs between knit and purl stitches are what drove me to despair initially though.  I got there in the end but not before ripping the first sock back to the beginning about three times.  But once I nailed it I was pleased with the results.  I have the socks on the blockers now -I have just finished the second sock in the last half and hour – and so I will try to get a good picture to show you how well they look.  I am not sure I would make such pretty sock very often, but I learned a lot from making them, and I am sure someone will appreciate them for a gift.

IMG_1028

The price of creativity, however, is pain.  I have developed a hole in my right index finger from repeatedly using it to push the tip of the circular needles through the stitches.  It doesn’t look like much but trust me its quite deep and very sore.  Apparently I am not the only one who has one of these little holes in their finger, which makes me feel a bit better, like I have now earned some sort of badge of knitting honour.

FullSizeRender 13

When I got back home my DK socks I had just finished before I left for holiday were ready to come off of the blockers.  These socks are special for two reasons: they are for me, and they are made with yarn I dyed myself at the retreat last year.  They look amazing and are so soft.  And they have blocked so well. These DK socks always looks a bit of a funny shape when they are done but they are so smart when they are blocked.

FullSizeRender 14

It is late now so I am going to got to bed, and I will blog again about my crochet exploits in the morning.  The knitting needles are being put away for the next two weeks whilst I go into crochet overdrive.  It is time to get some of my project ideas out of my head and into reality…

Fibre East 2016

Well Fibre East didn’t disappoint.  Last year we had fantastic weather and a brilliant day, and this year was the same.  I took a small gang with me – three of my best yarn friends – and we had a great time fondling yarn and chatting to the stall holders.  I got to help out very briefly on the Unbelievawool stand, and I was so pleased to chat to Nicola from Fleabubs, Sue Stratford from the Knitting Hut, Lisa from For the Love of Yarn and Phyllis from Rosebuds and Rainbows. I also managed to get some yarn from some new folk, and chatted to Lola from Third Vault Yarns for ages whilst I dithered over 2 skeins of the most beautiful DK merino / silk mix I had seen (I resisted – my stash is out of control as you know – but I will be ordering it online at some point I am pretty sure).

IMG_0822

So on my shopping list this year was a new shawl pin, some more ‘manly’ coloured sock yarn (ready for Christmas presents) and some red yarn, as I love deep dark reds but have very few in my stash.  As you can see from the picture above, I overachieved this year so I was pretty pleased with my haul.  The picture at the top of the blog post shows part of the most amazing Art Blank from Fleabubs – too fabulous to resist.

Verity from Truly Hooked was there but I was a bit too shy to chat to her this time, but her new sock book was on proud display.  When I got home my own copy of it, that I had pre-ordered, was waiting for me and it looks fantastic.  I have already picked which pair I want to try first, and so I will have to pack it in my holiday bag, along with a nice skein of sock yarn.

IMG_0839

Talking of socks, in the car to and from Fibre East (and at the show too, if I am honest) I was knitting another pair of Easy Peezy socks, but this time using up some yarn that I dyed myself at the Devon Sun Yarns retreat I went to last November.  I learned how to heather yarn, and the result was this purple and grey mix.  So I thought it might look pretty in a pattern like this and sure enough it does.  I don’t think any of the yarn dyers are in any danger from me, but I am a little bit proud of them, even though the light in here doesn’t quite show off the colours.  What do you think?

IMG_0842

 

Re-emerging from the abyss

So, as you have noticed, things have been very quiet on the blog front.  July is, for me, traditionally a month of stress – it is when all the work deadlines for the day job come into conflict, with an added topping this year of trying to get end of year gifts made for the very special women who have helped to look after my little one.  In September she starts school, and so this summer is going to be extra emotional.  Everything I have made doesn’t seem to be enough, or good enough, to recognise what they have done for us as a family.  I said goodbye to the first of my daughter’s current nursery teachers this week.  The only thing I could think to give her was the very first Thank You Shawl I ever made, as it was in her favourite colours, and it was huge.  I hope that every time she puts it on, she feels hugged.

photo 58

So this week should be the beginning of the end of the crazy season, assuming I can get all my work done on time.  One more week and then it is Fibre East (oh my, I cannot wait), which signals the beginning of the end.

Shawl Club continues a-pace, and one of the things I can finally show you is Shawl Number 3, otherwise known as the ‘Forget Me Never’ Shawl.

Two pictures of it – the first one shows it unblocked – highly textured and cosy.  The second shows it blocked (and shows nicely how much blocking can make a project grow.  It is called Forget Me Never, because Sam and I agreed on a pretty forget-me-not colour way for the yarn.  The pictured shawl shows the very subtle first dye of this.  We subsequently decided to ramp up the colour contrasts, so the final yarn colour is a stronger blue, with purple and green accents.

I need to update my archive with this and the previous shawl, but that is a job for the summer months.  I also hope to get some designing done too, so I can launch a new collection of items ready for September, when we all start looking around for ideas for Christmas present makes.  It may not be a very big collection, but it will be exciting for me.  This is all baby steps.  I am still only 3 months into this experiment, and so far it has exceeded my expectations.  I just need to keep all the plates spinning.

And of course, because I don’t know when enough is enough, I asked Phyllis from Rosebuds and Rainbows if she has a DK sock pattern, to help me with my stash busting.  She sent it over – a new pattern for testing – and I used a very special neon yarn by Dye Candy, called ‘Blacklight’, to try it out. As you can see, it makes a very nice (and super quick) winter sock.  Merino cashmere mix.  A treat for the toes.

IMG_0775

The pattern is now up on Ravelry as the ‘Easy Peezy Socks‘.  I am already on my second pair, which I hope to finish to give as a gift to my daughter’s key worker, along with this lazy waves shawlette, which I made on retreat last year.

detail

I am not sure if either the socks or the shawlette will hit the mark, but here’s hoping.

The featured yarn at the top of this post illustrates how I feel – a bit of colour is creeping back into the darkness and not before time.  The yarn is called (perhaps appropriately enough given how crabby I have been on occasion this month) “Kill the Witch”, and it is by  Lollipop Guild Yarns.

Anyway, lots more to follow soon, including some new free patterns, the end of the retro blanket pattern (you thought I had forgotten, didn’t you?), and some more videos as you seemed to enjoy my first foray into video making.  I may even speak in the next one, who knows…!

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.

IMG_0627

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.

 

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.

FullSizeRender 2

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…

IMG_3100

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.

FullSizeRender 3

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.

IMG_3099

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…

Wonderful Wonderwool

Well, this weekend just past I was able to go to Wonderwool in Wales.  One of my work friends decided about a week ago that she needed a yarn fix and had saved up her pennies, and so I felt it was rude not to go with her.  It was also a chance to see my thank you shawl and the bobble wrap displayed in all their glory on the Unbelieva-wool stand, and I was very proud to see them there in amongst the other wonderful shawls.

Wonderwool was brilliant.  We went on Sunday, and we were thrilled to find that it was busy but not too crowded, and that plenty of space had been allocated to the stalls so that you could see what goodies they had, and chat with the stall holders.  Everyone was so nice, and we felt very welcome.  There were plenty of places to sit and take refreshments (Knitting and Stitch Show, please take note) and lots to see.  And the sun shone! We had the best time.

Something very strange happened to me at Wonderwool.  I found myself drawn to knitting projects.  Knitting.  Pointy sticks and all that.  And not just any knitting but knitted shawls.  I bought the kit to make the Lulworth shawl pattern in purples and greys (it is beyond beautiful), and the yarn and pattern for the Festival Shawl by Caerthan Wrack using the grey and wine red DK pictured above.  And a pattern for knitted ‘slox‘ by Rosebuds and Rainbows which was just what I was looking for.  But the sudden urge to knit shawls has taken me by surprise.  I learned to knit many years ago, so I can do it, but I am so impatient and clumsy that I limit myself to small and simple projects.  I just just about do intarsia work, but even that is far from perfect.  The idea of knitting shawls has always sent shivers down my spine.  But these shawls were special, and perhaps I have OD-ed on crocheted shawls with all the shawl club activity!  So I am looking forward to getting stuck into them as a special project, but I need to keep up with my crochet work at the same time.  Happily, work is motivating me to do a lot of yarn related activity at the moment (i.e. it is horrible and stressful) and so I am whizzing through projects.

So, I treated myself to a Doctor Who project bag for my new knitting projects (Welsh memorabilia).  And on the way out we sort of fell in love with the 25g mini skeins of DK dyed by Moonlight yarns in the nicest shade of soft purple/grey I have seen in a long time.  Happily my companion had already spent all her cash by the time we spotted them, so they had to come home with me.  Watch this space for their reappearance in a project near you soon!