The Book is Here!

So…

Yes, there has been a bit of radio silence over the last few months.  Not because I haven’t had lots to tell you about (trust me, I have a list!), but because I haven’t had a moment of brainspace or energy left to tell you about them.  So rather than post a massive blog covering everything, I have started to write up lots of shorter ones that I will start to share with you over the next few weeks until I am back in step with myself.

This one is all about the rollercoaster ride that has been the publication of the Shawl Club Book.  For those of you who are new to the blog, here is the background.

  1. Over the last couple of years I have written the crochet shawl patterns for a shawl club run by unbelievawool.
  2. Increasingly folk were asking when I was going to publish them.
  3. In January I launched a kickstarter campaign to raise funds to cover most of the costs of publishing the book.  This received a really good response, meaning that we hit our target after just three days (also meaning that I had to go ahead and do it).

Now, on one level, getting the book off of the ground was easy, in that all the patterns were already written and well tested. The sticking point was the need for some good photography.  I was lucky enough to find Offshoots Photography who were willing to do the shoots for me, and we had a great time pulling together the pictures and generally goofing around with friends.  Picking the final selection of pictures was the hardest part. There were so many I loved that I couldn’t include in the book, including this one below of my friend playing with one of the models.  But we got there.

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The next job was to consider the typesetting and layout.  On Facebook we had a bit of a discussion about the visual preferences and needs of people.  Like me, many folk experience some form of problem with their vision, and in many cases this is linked to chronic health conditions.  Everyone seemed to prefer a full page width layout to sentences, rather than the column format that is more common in pattern books.  The next issue was to do with visual comfort – no harsh black on white text.  The book looks like it is black on white, but in fact uses a greyscale for the main text so the contrast is softened somewhat. Finally, everyone agreed that big margins and plenty of scribble space was needed.  This is the benefit of self-publishing a book – full editorial control.

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Not all things go to plan.  There were some incidents along the way with couriers and printers which were none’s fault but were a test of nerve at times, especially running up to the launch of the book at Wool@J13.  But we got there.  Just!  I also had the pleasure of running some workshops at the show, teaching folk how to create the Friendship Meditation Shawl.

Friendship main

Self publishing does have technical and legal hoops to go through.  You need to purchase an ISBN number, register that ISBN, deposit a copy of your book with the British Library and generally act as a professional publisher would.  You feel the responsibility of creating something, and launching it on the world.

I am pleased to say that all the kickstarter supporters have received their copy of the book (as far as I know anyway!), and I have been able to get the book into some local yarn shops already.  Yes, I do have a lot of cardboard boxes at home containing the books, but I am slowly finding places to stash them until they all go.  If you want to buy a copy, drop me an email or message me on my Facebook page and I can arrange to get one out to you.  Alternatively, have a chat with your local yarn shop and ask them to get in touch with me to stock it.

I do have an idea for the next book already but its a wee while off.  What the process has made me do is realise that publishing crochet / knitting books is something that I really could do.  I just need to lie down in a darkened room for a year first…

Possible back cover

Meditating on friends and gratitude…

Ok, so this is a little embarrassing and exciting in equal measure. This week I launched a kickstarter to see if I could raise funds to get the book project underway. The plan was that this weekend’s blog would be a chance to spread the word and nudge a little more interest. However, I completely underestimated the response I would get, so here I am already in a position to confirm that we have hit the minimum target I needed to get the book printed! I am so overwhelmed and buoyed by the support I have had. The kickstarter stays open for more backers until 10th Feb, when it closes and the work begins in earnest. So there is still a chance to support the project and get a copy of the book as soon as it’s printed (ahead of its official launch in May) if anyone is interested in getting involved.

The cover image for this week’s blog is an extreme close up of the shawl I designed for the Christmas shawl club, known as the Friendship Meditation Shawl. The reason for this is linked to the beading. I love crochet because it is the closest I get to meditation and I also love a bit of beading, as you know. At the end of the year it’s worth taking stock of all that you have to be grateful for, and my friends are a big part of that. So every bead is a prompt to think of a person or memory that means something to you. And this is a shawl that just grows and grows, so you can keep going and make it huge! I love the grey silk one I made using some elegance yarn that Sam dyed, but I am planning a bigger one using the yarn that Lollipop Guild Yarns put in their End of Year box. It’s loud and proud and I just need to get some beads to go with it. I love the colours in this.

I am starting to plan new shawls for this year’s shawl club that will start again soon (we plan the first box for March). I have some themes in mind but I would love to hear from you if you have an idea you would like us to explore. Last year we were really impressed by the response to the unicorn themed box. The unicorn rainbow wrap I designed to go with it is a mini-skein project, pictured here using an ombré set in blue, but for the box we went with our interpretation of a unicorn rainbow, so bright pink, orange, turquoise, blue and green. But I have to say that I love the colour blend in this one.

Disorientation and the Ocean’s Edge

Today is a very strange day.  I have a day off work, but the small is occupied elsewhere for the whole day.  I am not entirely sure what to do with myself.  I think my options are:

  1. run naked around the house, swearing vigorously (because I can, right?)
  2. clean the house (because it needs it)
  3. attempt to scythe the back garden into semi normality (there is a limit to how far my love of blackberries will allow me to ignore the brambles that are galloping through the bottom half of my garden)
  4. knit / crochet all day long
  5. write a blog post

I have decided against (1) as its too cold today.  I have done some mild tidying up.  Its been raining and so the garden option is a bit more problematic than it should be.  So I think I am going for a mixture of (4) and (5), with possibly some pattern writing thrown in for good measure.

So to the blog – I can now reveal my latest shawl pattern, which is called the Ocean’s Edge Shawl.  I like shawls that are quick to make.  I also like ones where there is an incremental change in the texture or lacework of the shawl.  In this one I was a bit inspired by a trip to the Scottish coastline earlier in the year.  The water washed up on the small beach we were at and as it receded you saw how the water revealed things on the beach and the foam created patterns.  So this pattern is written in sections, starting with the water and ending on the shells washed on the beach.

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It is such a quick pattern to make that one of the shawl clubbers has already finished hers, and so it is with thanks to Joanne that I have this picture above.  My own attempts to photograph it were terrible (I don’t really know my new work colleagues well enough yet to get them to model for me), so I am very grateful to have this picture which shows the transitions of the shawl so nicely.  It doesn’t show off the pretty, pretty sea-inspired yarn that Sam dyed for it, but I have so say that it does suit a turquoise yarn.

So I am not sure what to do next.  I might make a brew, put Judy Judge on (I don’t know why, but she is my current daytime TV addiction), and see if I can finish the last sock in my current binge.  I will do a bit more tidying I think, but that might just be in my yarn room, where I have a lot of caking to do and I might have to re-organise my yarn storage at its getting out of hand.  And then I have a jacket to start to make. A friend asked me aged ago to make her a crocheted cardigan thing and even sent me the yarn but I haven’t really got stuck into it yet.  Today may be the day.  Too much time, not enough decisiveness!

La Parisienne

I am so happy to finally be able to share this shawl with you.  In this month’s shawl club box, Sam wanted to have a Paris theme to the crochet set.  I had been playing around with some triangular-based stitch patterns and felt that they were a little bit reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower (tenuous, I know), so I started to work up something a little bit different.  This shawl has a central ‘lace’ section which is worked first and then wings are added to it to frame the lace part and add width.  It is worked here in a 120g red yak singles sock yarn from unbelievawool which was just beautiful to use and it has a wonderful drape to it.  The shawl is a big one!  As you may be able to tell, I was quite pleased with how it came out.  Red is one of my favourite colours and so this is going to be used quite a lot.

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The edging is the same one I used on the Escapism shawl, as I wanted neat triangles along the border and that method is the best one I have found for achieving that effect.  The shawl shown here was the sample I made, but I think that a plain border along the bottom edge looks neater, and so that is what I recommend in the pattern itself.

Sometimes something very simply looks the most striking!

Feeling mellow

It’s all calming down a little now.  The show went well, the new job is working out ok and today the sun is shining.  This week I have been down the posh end of London for a work meeting, and the train was half empty and on time.  I even got a little bit of hooky done on the train.  My blood pressure has returned to normal levels and I have been headache free for four weeks.  A cynical person might point out the link between this and changing jobs, but I couldn’t possible comment.

When I feel this relaxed I find it easier to come up with ideas for things to make.  I fiddle with yarn and stitches just to see what they could look like.  I sketch out ideas in my notebooks in grubby biro and draw little stitch diagrams so I can remember my thought processes.  Not all of them look the way I think they should when I start to make them, but then I frog and  let them evolve into something more interesting. I like to see where the yarn and my mood takes me.

So I’m feeling pretty productive at the moment.  I’m enjoying the challenge of shawl club and I keep thinking of other things I want to make too.  I need to make time to develop it all but I know I will.  There isn’t a rush, there isn’t a deadline.  Pass me my tea… 

Wool@J13 

What can I say.  As you all know this was my first (and potentially my last) yarn show on my own. I did all my prep, was as organised as I could be, and had wonderful support.  But it doesn’t stop you being a tiny bit terrified.  You can never tell how you will be received, either by the public who come or fellow (and more established) stall holders.

It turns out that I needn’t have worried.  For a first outing Wool@J13 was a huge success – lots of people came (and the ones who promised on Facebook that they would really did materialise into actual human beings – yes, I’m taking about you, Manda), the sun shone for most of the time, and everyone was lovely. I was fortunate to be stood next to Sonic Knits, and two nicer people than Fiona and Gina could not be found.  The ever supportive Sue Stratford was there too, along with the ladies from Kindred Creations who kept and eye on us newbies and kept us going with hugs and much appreciated advice.  Sue won the prize for best stall in show, and I was so proud! I just wish I had got a picture to show you how amazing it was! 


I had my wing woman with me, my bestie, who stopped me from flapping and generally was a calming influence and provider of teas.  She also ensured that we sat up for Eurovision and a cheeky glass of Buck Fizz on Saturday night…


I got to finally meet Jo and and Jodie, who were wonderfully daft and really brightened my already sunny day.  And my yarn friends came out in force too.  Ingrid was full of energy all weekend, and made us all feel like we were old friends.  

The thing that really set this show apart for me was the festival feel of it – beer stall and street food, park and animals for the children and non yarn lovers, plus live music, including that provided by a man in a kilt.  I mean, what’s not to like…

So I already have ideas about how to make it better for next year, and I hope to squeeze in a few more shows before the end of the year.  But Wool@J13 will forever hold a special place in my heart.  It has made me brave. 

Dopamine Wrap

The second shawl in the current season of Shawl Club is the Dopamine Wrap.  I fancied doing something very different in shape, and I liked the idea of working with hexagons and piecing them together into something pretty.  The idea of working a dopamine molecule in as a motif was something that I really liked.  If I am honest, I like the plain version of the shawl so much, that I want to make it again without the motif, as the pattern of the shawl once blocked is so pretty it really doesn’t need much embellishment and the hexagons are very quick to make.  I hope you like it as much as I do!

Sundae Shawl

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

sundae

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.

sundae flat

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.

sundae swirl

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

sundae sunset

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!

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!

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…