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.

image1

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.

fullsizerender-8

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.

Shieldmaiden Shawl

You have probably already seen this on my Instagram feed, but my latest shawl has been up on Ravelry for a couple of weeks now and it is called the Shieldmaiden.  This is mainly because the shape of the shawl reminded me of a shield and then Sam dyed up two amazing colourways – one in icy white and blues and another in different shades of rust and copper.  They both work well, but the yarn shown here is some Three Violet Buttons high twist sock yarn, which I used for the prototype.  Because the shawl is textured, it works well in a plain yarn, but because of the lace elements it also looks really striking in stronger coloured, variegated yarns.

img_1087-2

The feedback on the pattern so far has been great – apparently the instructions are pretty easy to follow and it looks to be a firm favourite for Christmas makes already.  I am so pleased with all this.  I love this shawl and I am so pleased so many other people love it too!

Exciting times

So on Saturday I went to Festiwool for the first time, and I was giving Sam a hand on the Unbelievawool stand.  I really enjoyed being on the other side of a yarn stall, and there was really fantastic atmosphere in the room, and it was a great day even though it rained or drizzled all day outside.  I met up with Sam the night before, and while I was waiting for her to arrive at the hotel I decided to sit and knit with a cup of tea to pass the time.  The waiting staff clearly thought I was some sort of mad, yarn-based bag lady, so I tried to keep my head down and tuck myself away.  Then Verity from Truly Hooked came over to admire my brioche wrap that I was working on.  A little bit of my brain exploded with excitement, because at the end of the day I am still a yarnie who is more than a little bit awestruck by the yarn goddesses.  Except for Sam of course.  She is normal, although I am scared of her for other reasons 😉

Anyway, I really enjoyed chatting to everyone and talking about projects etc with the people who came by.  One of my Thank You shawls was snaffled to feature in the fashion show, so that was just brilliant and I felt very honoured.  I was also massively honoured to meet one of the yarn clubbers, who was also exhibiting as she creates amazing things with felt and was on the stand next to ours.  She was such a lovely lady, and I was really touched to have her as one of our gang of shawl makers.  In fact she had some of my shawls on her stand for sale so that was really exciting to see – somehow it made all this feel a bit more real and less like a dream.  Jackie, I know you read this blog – thank you for your support, I am raising my tea mug to you as I type!  I also got to buy some yarn from a new dyer – the skein at the top of the page is a Little French Meadow colourway that looks like it will be perfect for socks.  I couldn’t resist it.

I learned so much about exhibiting from that bit of work experience, and I have some more coming up as I am going to help Sue Stratford out with her stall at Harrogate’s Knitting and Stitching Show in a week or so.  That is going to be completely different – much busier and more intense, but it is a pleasure to help out a friend who is also going through a career transition.  Sue, as you may know, is known for her books of novelty knits but she also runs the Knitting Hut in Woburn Sands.  Sadly for us she has taken the decision to close her little shop to focus on her design work, which is the right thing to do but the hut has been such a wonderful welcoming place for us over the years.  I live a long way away, but I am a regular (if infrequent) visitor and my daughter has been visiting since before she was born.  She usually comes in and a big tray is set on the floor for her to tip all the button jars onto so that she can sort them out and generally play with them.  She has even sat in the shop window in the past.  So I am very sad to see the shop go and I am glad to spend time with Sue when she needs a hand, to say thank you for all of her support over the years.

In other exciting developments, my village has just started a social group for knitters and crafters.  The first session is tonight and I am a bit nervous about going, but I can’t resist the chance to spend a bit of time knitting in a pub.  I mean, how special is that?

img_1546

Nidhogg Shawl

Shawl 5 of Shawl Club came out about a week ago, and it is the Nidhogg Shawl.  It got its name from a conversation with Hutch of Dye Candy, who commented that an early prototype looked like a dragon’s wing.

img_1259

There is already a well known Dragon’s wing pattern on Ravelry so I needed a new name.  With a bit of googling I came across the Nidhogg, a Norse dragon who apparently gnawed on the bodies of horrible people.  For some reason that appealed to me (can’t think why…!).

img_1218-2

Anyway, Sam dyed two colourways for this shawl – a green and black one, and a purple / red and black one, which sadly I don’t have to show you.  I love this shawl – it is really adaptable to different tensions and styles.  It also suits being made in softer colours and can be worn as a shallow scarf rather than a large shawl.  Its all in the tension, the amount of yarn, and how much you want to block it.  I love the texture it has, and it is a relatively straightforward repeat.  It is just an asymmetric triangle, so you increase on one side only to get the shape.  You can also add a thicker stripe down one edge with the border yarn, or leave the border off altogether.

img_1219-2

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

 

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.

IMG_1138

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.

10991046_10152578134326604_5746779311580260006_n

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.

IMG_1136

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.

IMG_1115.JPG

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.

IMG_0935

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.

IMG_0934

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…!

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.

IMG_0680

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.

IMG_0673

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.

IMG_0677

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.

IMG_0678