Taking Refuge in Tea

Well, today has been one of those landmark days that I have been trying not to think about.  My small person had her last day at nursery today.  They had a little party planned so we parents all packed them off this morning with cake and other sources of sugar, deposited them at the nursery door, and ran before anyone could get too emotional or before the nursery staff realised how much sugar the children were due to consume and tried to call us all back. I was kind.  I put booze in the teachers’ goody bags to get them through it.

While I have been on leave I have taken to nipping to Toft once a week for a brew and some crochet time, and my friend has started to join me. Toft is pretty local to me so it is a nice place to go and hang out and they don’t look at you strangely if you get out a hook and start crocheting as that, after all, is what they are all about.  Today I headed there to distract myself from the events of the day, and indulge in my other daily ritual / obsession – tea drinking.  I take tea drinking to Olympic levels, and have to regulate my intake.  Most of it is driven by the ritual of doing something comforting, and so tea and yarn go hand-in-hand for me.  Plus a cheeky cake. Nom nom.  They do a fine brew and chew at Toft.  Plus you get to say hello to their adorable alpacas and fondle yarn.

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Toft Studio is a barn conversion with a cafe at one end, a workshop space at the other, and lots of yarn and other knitting and hooking goodies in the middle. It has the most peaceful atmosphere and the friendliest staff working there.  You feel welcome there, and welcome to linger.  I don’t make many toys, although I do have a copy of Edward’s Menagerie, but I have made one of the Toft shawls.  It was in a fine alpaca and silk mix yarn (which was a so-and-so to frog when you needed to fix a mistake), worked on a tiny 2.5mm hook, but the finished scarf looks amazing (much better than these pictures would suggest) and it is one of my favourite makes, even though it was one of my early projects and therefore full of mistakes.

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Anyway, back to today. I managed to finish the new version of the Christmas shawl (minus edging) and get that on the blocking wires before I headed out for my cuppa.  So I was bathed in an air of mild smugness that only comes from finally nailing something that was on the to do list. Fruit crumble shortbread was in order. With tea. I think this habit of going there once a week is one I am going to try to maintain when I am back at work.  It has been good for my soul.

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I have test shawls to make for the pattern photos, but other than that I feel on top of my ‘must do’ commitments.  The problem I now have is that I am itching to either make something totally new so I can challenge myself a bit, or something that is just as a treat for me (i.e. socks in one of the special yarns I have been keeping for just such an occasion).  I am not sure which way I will wobble. I probably just need to find the right thing in my masses of books and patterns. And a brew will probably help too.

The Frogathon

So this week hasn’t quite been the hive of creativity that I had hoped it would be.  On the positive front, I have finished Shawl Number 6 and I am really pleased with how it has come out, and Shawl Number 5 has come back from the pattern testers with a thumbs up and only minor tweaks and so all I have to do now is one final check of that one and it will be ready for uploading.

On the less productive front, I finished and then frogged the Christmas Shawl I was working up.  The pattern was getting very complex and the finished product was a bit too flouncy and old fashioned.  I like traditional shawls, but this was just a bit meh.  So I sat and re-balled the whole skein I had just used, slept on it, and came up with something much better.  I am now whizzing through this new one and it is much better. Phew.

Frogging and generally screwing up a good idea is an essential part of my design processes.  I often start something full of enthusiasm and high expectation only to find myself staring at it after each row, worried that it isn’t working, or that parts of it seem ok but others are not, and the decision to either frog or even bin the thing has to be taken.  I don’t bin very often, but there are various abandoned projects around my room, like this wrap (see below) that I started and had to give up on.  I kept what was left because I liked to colour mix, and I liked some parts of the stitch pattern, and I wanted to remember that.  What I need is a big yarn scrapbook to stick these remnants into.

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But messing up a good idea, or accepting that the idea wasn’t good enough in the first place, is always a good thing in the end.  It makes me focus on what doesn’t work, and the brief of what I am supposed to be doing, rather than going all self-indulgent.  And goodness knows that I am self-indulgent enough in other ways.  You just have to look at my stash to know that.

I was planning to get some garment designs nailed this week but I just haven’t had the time.  Lots of family stuff and a small person who just seems to be in overdrive at the moment means that I haven’t managed to achieve the list of 1000 jobs I had set myself.  Anyway, I have some more time before I have to go back to work for playing with yarn.  I will see what I can achieve in this short time.  Maybe I will get the Moo-Ra pattern out finally (still need to type up the updated version) and a few other bits.  But I have to remind myself that this isn’t a race.  I will get it all done eventually.  I just need to be patient with myself.

Beating Heart Wrap

So the other thing I was working on whilst I was away last week was a quick final test of the Beating Heart Wrap.  This is shawl number 4 of shawl club and I designed it a while back using yarn from Unbelievawool and Jo.Knit.Sew that I had in my stash.  I am not normally a pink person but I love the way that the pink contrasts with the black and white variegated yarn.  The spike stitch reminds me of an EEG trace and so that is how the wrap got its name. The shawl pin is a Knit Pro one which works well with the colours I used.  The  shape is a bit unconventional but when it is folded over is creates a nice shape around the shoulders.

To make it practical for shawl club, I needed to change the colours to 3 x 50g skeins.  Sam sent the new colours to me a while ago, but they arrived during a particularly crazy time.  Then time caught up with me and I realised that I needed to get the new colour way version done immediately.  So the long drive to the south coast and the first day or so of the holiday was spent hooking up the shawl club version, which also showed off the alternative ending of a button to secure it, rather than a shawl pin.  Personally I still feel a shawl pin gives you more flexibility about how to wear this, but the button is often more practical, and is certainly less expensive.

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So the shawl club colours give the wrap a very different look – sugar sweet candy colours with a glittery handmade button from the amazing Cross Crafts which matched the yarn perfectly.  If you fancy making this yourself, you can find the pattern here.

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Newborn ‘Scraps’ Hat

As promised, I have written up the instructions for making the little newborn hat that I made for my friend’s baby from the scraps left over from the baby blanket I made for her.  The yarn I used was Sirdar Snuggly DK in cream and one of the Snuggly ‘Crofter’ colourways.  Any super soft baby yarn will do and you only need small amounts. I used a 4mm hook.

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UK crochet terms are used throughout.

Row 1. Using the main colour yarn (in this case cream) make an adjustable loop, chain 3 (counts as 1TB here and elsewhere in the pattern) and then 11TB into centre of loop.  Slip stitch into top of Ch3.  Pull tail to close the loop. (12 stitches)

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Row 2. Chain 3, TB, then *TB between the stitch you have just trebled into and the next one along, then TB into that next stitch**.  Repeat from * to ** 10 more times so that you have 24 stitches (including the Ch3), and then slip stitch into the top of the Ch3 to close the circle.

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Row 3. Chain 3, TB, then TB between the stitch you have just trebled into and the next one along. *2TB, then TB between the last stitch you have just trebled into and the next one along**.  Repeat from * to ** to the end of the circle so that you have 36 stitches (including the Ch3), and then slip stitch into the top of the Ch3 to close the circle.

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Row 4. Chain 3, 2TB, then TB between the stitch you have just trebled into and the next one along. *3TB, then TB between the last stitch you have just trebled into and the next one along**.  Repeat from * to ** to the end of the circle so that you have 48 stitches (including the Ch3), and then slip stitch into the top of the Ch3 to close the circle.

Row 5. Chain 3, 3TB, then TB between the stitch you have just trebled into and the next one along. *4TB, then TB between the last stitch you have just trebled into and the next one along**.  Repeat from * to ** to the end of the circle so that you have 60 stitches (including the Ch3), and then slip stitch into the top of the Ch3 to close the circle.

 

These five rows (rounds) form the top of the hat.  We next start to shape the sides.

Row 6. Chain 3, then 59 TB. Slip stitch into the top of the Ch3 to close the circle.

Row 7. Repeat Row 6.

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Row 8.  Change to contrast colour. Chain 1 and 60DC. Slip stitch into the first DC to close the circle.

Row 9. Change to main colour. Repeat Row 6.

Row 10. Repeat Row 6.

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Row 11. Change to contrast colour.  Repeat Row 6.

Row 12. Change to main colour. Repeat Row 6.

Row 13. Repeat Row 6.

Now onto the final row, which gives the picot edging.

Row 14.  Change to contrast colour. Chain 1. *2 DC, (DC, Ch2, DC) into next stitch**. Repeat from * to ** all the way around.  Slip stitch into the first DC to close the circle.

Sew in ends.

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To make the hat bigger, carry on increasing the size of the circle by 12 stitches each round, following the pattern indicated by the first five rows.  Then when the crown is large enough, carry on with extending the sides to the desired length by TB into each stitch around without increasing, again, following the pattern set above, before finishing with the picot row.

Nothing clashes in nature…

I am experiencing the rather odd sensation of starting my blog during the early evening rather than at the dead of night.  This is because, in a random act of good mummy-ing (not a regular feature of my life, although it is a daily aspiration), I took my daughter to the swimming pool and then to the park.  It is a warm day, and so the combination of all these things has resulted in the small one crashing early; what I had assumed would be a nap is now looking like it will be her night sleep too.

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So, here I sit, rather disorientated if I am honest.  I have been working on a circular blanket as a thank you gift for my daughter’s nursery, but I have run out of yellow yarn and so I have had to put that WIP down for now.  I wandered out into my overgrown garden (it is too hot to start weeding) and started taking some pictures for inspiration.  That is, sometimes you can get stuck in a colour rut.  As much as I love rainbows and ombre colour schemes, they can get tired sometimes, and I also have a tendency to gravitate to the same colours time and again. So, it is nice to go a bit crazy and put some different colours together occasionally.  I love the way you can get a mundane colour to pop or to take on a new look by changing the colours they are combined with. Colours I wouldn’t necessarily  go for on paper can look amazing when used in the right proportions together.

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My garden provides masses of inspiration for this.  It is wild this time of year, with lots of self-seeded flowers mixed in with the intentional planting. I can take credit for none of it, as I inherited it from the previous owner of our house.  It is far from formal, especially as I don’t get as much time to tidy it up as I would like, but somehow it works for me.

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Shawl number 3 from Shawl Club has gone up on Ravelry (blog post reveal to follow), and the yarn is being mailed out by Unbelievawool tomorrow morning.  It has also been inspired by one of the flowers that self-seeds itself though my garden, but that I have a real soft spot for.  The yarn I used for the Ravelry pictures was an early play with colours which we were not entirely happy with, but the final club yarn is a wowzer, and should look amazing.

Anyway, the colours in my garden have succeeded in giving me some ideas this evening.  That is, I have some ideas for new projects that I want to test and develop over the summer whilst I have some downtime from the day job.  I was rummaging and re-rummaging though my drawers of yarn earlier and couldn’t decide what to do.  But a little wander through my garden has done the trick.  Now I just need a little time to play.

Somewhat appropriately for the remembrance activities this week, I also found these stray red poppies growing in the gravel of my path.  Lest we forget.

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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!

 

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…

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!

Sam’s revolution!

So I am a little bit excited.  A few days ago one of my friends made the snap decision that she wanted to go to Wonderwool, and we have decided to do the road trip to Wales to squidge yarn and generally be a bit silly.  An added bonus is that Sam from Unbelieva-wool will also be there so we can talk shop a little bit.

Sam has recently come up with two new shawl designs – one knitted and another crocheted – to add to her existing Cascade shawl design (which is 50% off at the moment!).  I tested the newest crochet shawl for her – this has been named the Revolution shawl, and I love it.  It is a great shape and has wonderful drape to it.  I had the pleasure of being a pattern tester for this one and I can testify to it being a straightforward one to do, and it looks amazing.  My pictures don’t really do it justice.

She is taking her new designs, along with my Thank You shawl and the Bobble Wrap, to Wonderwool.  I have decided to celebrate this weekend by applying an automatic 50% discount to all my patterns in Ravelry this weekend.  So if there is one you have been toying with getting, grab it now if you can.

Anyway, I love going on road trips like this one.  I get to be passenger this time so I have some quality hooky time in the car on the way up and back.  I do need to set a budget for this and stick to it.  I have a stash to bust, so I really do have to be strong! So only the really special stuff is likely to come home with me.  That’s the plan anyway.  Naturally, you will be the first to learn if I stuck to this!

I hope to put up a little quick stashbusting pattern on the blog this weekend if I have the time so watch this space!