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.

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.

Beaded Arches Shawlette

OK, so I am very excited to be able to reveal Shawl 2 from the Shawl Club collaboration with Unbelieva-wool.  This is the Beaded Arches Shawlette, so named because of its beading and arches (I lack imagination).

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The yarn is a pretty special merino / nylon / yak base, dyed in reds and plums in a colourway called ‘Loving You’.

So, the story behind this one is that shortly after we agreed to do Shawl Club, Sam said that she really liked the idea of a long, thin crescent shaped shawl. So did I, but boy, that is a hard shape to nail without making the pattern so involved that your head explodes from tracking where to place the increases.  One of my rules of pattern design is that ideally it should be something that is mainly simple and meditative to do once the pattern is set, with the occasional bit of complexity.  So I tried to find a way of coming up with the shape, without the headache.

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This was what I managed to come up with.  It is a complete cheat, as the shape is achieved through cunning use of blocking.

I also wanted to incorporate beading because, as you know, I like a touch of beadwork in a shawl and it suited this particular shawl well.  In trying to get the shape right, I made loads of these shawls, and I have to say I have fallen in love with them as I wear them as scarves, like this:

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But here are some early contenders I am also very fond of…

These are using a vibrant grad from Dye Candy, and the one below is using a silk mix yarn (also from Dye Candy) entitled ‘Scream Queen’, without the beads.

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I have more but I will spare you here, although you may see them crop up on Instagram from time to time.  So there you have it: a cheeky cheat.  Forgive me, but it does work!

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!

 

Back, and in business!

After a week away, I am pleased to be back.  Today is important, not just because I am back at home and reunited with my stash, but because it signals the start my experiment with designing and selling patterns.  You will have seen that I have the fantastic collaboration with Unbeliva-wool on the shawl club now in place and the first boxes have gone in the post today.  I have also added some new patterns of my own.  I will feature different ones on here on different days, but they are all up on Ravelry, and to say thank you to you wonderful lot for supporting me over the last few months I have set up a 20% discount for you this weekend (enter code BLOG20 against my paid for patterns for activate it).  The one I am really pleased with is this…

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Its called the bobble wrap and it uses lace weight yarn, and includes some beading if you fancy having a go!

The Moo-Ra dress is on its way next – I am just fiddling with the pattern before putting that in the store too.

Right, just a quick one for now as I have to finish unpacking and get some food into my small person.  I will do a bit more of a proper blog tomorrow.  But as you can see from the top picture, I now have business cards and merchandise, in the form of a single mug for myself.  I couldn’t resist putting this on the back…

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A one-skein make…

So this weekend I promised my Instagram followers that I would put up some instructions on how to make this very pretty, and very simple scarf / cowl, which uses up one skein of sock or DK weight yarn, depending on what you have in your stash and how long you want it to be.  I have made it quite a lot, and I am making it again at the moment which has given me the chance to take some pictures as I go so you can see how I made it.  This picture above is a version I made in a Lollipop Guild sock yarn (merino).  I have also made it in sock weight merino / bamboo mix, and it is lovely and soft and cosy for a lightweight scarf (see below).

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The yarn in this picture was from Jo.Knit.Sew, who makes cracking yarns and the colour pooling on this project was the best I have seen, forming a spontaneous zig zag pattern!

At the moment I am making it with a merino / silk mix yarn, again from Lollipop Guild Yarns (called Snow Angel if you want the colour way!).

So, this is how to make it…

If you are working with sock, use a 4mm hook.  If you are using DK I would suggest a 5mm hook, but you might want to play around with it until you get the texture and drape you want, as I tend not to block these scarves.

Chain 34.  (If you want to adjust the width, either add or subtract in multiples of 3 to this number).

Row 1. Treble (UK Term), into the 4th chain from hook, chain 2, and double crochet (UK Term) into the same space.  *Skip 2 chains, then treble twice into the next stitch, chain 2, and then double crochet once into the same stitch**.  Repeat from * to ** to end of chain.  Turn.

Row 2. Chain 3, treble into the chain 2 space in the row below, chain 2 and then double crochet into the same chain 2 space of the shell in the row below…  

*Treble into the next chain 2 space twice, chain 2, then double crochet once into the same space**.  Repeat from * to ** to end.

Then you just repeat this last row (I have put the row in bold to make it clear which row I mean) over and over until the scarf is the length you want. You will end up with a really pretty scalloped edge to the length of the work.

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It is your choice whether to leave it as a scarf or sew the short ends together to make a cowl-type scarf.  Sew in your ends and admire your work!

Let me know how you get on.