Travels with my yarn

Hello!  Yes, back again after a much longer break than I had planned.  Since I last blogged I had to go to Canada for a work trip (Nova Scotia, just beautiful).  Now this was to attend a Big Grown Up Conference Full of Important People.  Fortunately, they are also rather nice and lovely.  Most importantly, the outgoing president of the society organising the conference has recently taken up spinning and weaving.  She is a good friend and utterly spoiled me by gifting me these four beautiful skeins of yarn that she had spun.

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Spinning fascinates me – I would love to learn how to do it but I am a bit scared on two counts:

  1. I will be rubbish at it and this will break my heart
  2. I will be good at it, I will enjoy it, and develop a new fibre-related addiction

Secretly I have a hankering after a beautiful wooden spinning wheel but at the moment I am going to resist.

I had promised myself a drop spindle to play with when I went to Fibre East at the end of July.  However, I made a bit of a boo boo.  This year we have been a bit restricted re when we could get away as a family and after much nagging we finally agreed a week we could both do and a location and we booked it quickly as the date was only two weeks away.  After we had booked I realised it clashed with the long planned trip to Fibre East with two friends.  I have to confess to being more than a little bit gutted at this point.  I love that show and this year there were dyers I really wanted to meet, and whose yarns I was keen to see close up.  I had set aside a little budget for a yarn splurge.  And so it was I found myself on Etsy in the car on the drive to Cornwall, picking some very pretty yarns to compensate myself.  One purchase was waiting for me when I got back home. The beauties pictured below are by All Wool That Ends Wool – she dyed for my first show and the intensity of colour she achieves in her yarn is very impressive.  Anyway, I love these colourways and even though I have enough sock yarn to last me a couple of years (!) I succumbed.  I’m not even sorry.  I mean, just look at them.  The fact that they barely fit in my box of sock yarn is not something I am going to dwell on….

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The last minute nature of the holiday also saw me sitting up the night before we left madly caking yarn ready for some holiday knitting.  At the Canadian conference I promised two of my former colleagues and another friend there that I would knit them socks, as none of them had ever experienced the sheer delight of having a warm bath and then popping handmade sock on your toes when your feet are tired.  There is nothing quite like it.  So I managed to get two sets of socks made while I was away, between trips to the beach, Tintagel, Eden Project and other pretty wonderful places.  The third set of socks is on the needles now.  As ever, I want to keep all the socks, but this time I really do want to keep these – the first ones are on Electric Boogaloo yarn by Lollipop Guild Yarns, and the second is on Jimi by Jo.Knit.Sew.  Jimi is a yarn I had in my stash for a long time, and as it has a little bit of sparkle in it.  They twinkle in the light and are so pretty in real life.

This week I am attempting to work from home with my small, which means logging into work email after she has gone to bed and pretty much working nocturnally.  Said small has agreed to go to bed an hour earlier than normal so that I am not completely tired by the time I start the night shift.  We will see how this works out, but she seems very committed to it at this point!  What I have been able to do, however, it get the signup form for my very first (and currently one-off) yarn box, nicknamed the Brain Box (well, why not?).  I am very, very excited by this as it gives me the excuse to commission some new yarn from my favourite indie dyers plus also go shopping for brain-related extras.  I am really pleased with some of the ones I have sourced.  If you would like to sign up, the link to the form is here.

I am hoping to pick up the pace with the blogging this month if I can so watch this space!

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Boxes and Sock(es)

So the chaos is starting to subside – boxes are being emptied, only to be reoccupied by my cat – a massive Maine Coon who fills a banana box on her own and has assumed they have been emptied for her benefit.  My daughter also grabbed four of the boxes to create her own rocket, complete with jet boosters (made from Smirnoff boxes we got from the supermarket, which makes it look a bit like someone needs to call social services.

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The kitchen looks brilliant, and now makes the rest of my home look awful and so we are going to crack on with redecorating, renovating and frankly just plain cleaning the rest of the house.  Small person wants to bring her friends over for play dates, and at the moment only the mummies trusted not to be too judgemental have been allowed over the threshold.  Small wants her next birthday party to be at home.  So the clock is ticking if this miracle of home organisation and cleanliness is to be achieved in time…

On the crochet front, as promised I have a new pattern out on Ravelry.  Its the DK Dizzy Socks, and I am so thrilled with how they have come out.  I will be honest, I would have never attempted crochet socks without a nudge from someone else, as I tend to associate them with the very talented Sarra from Magpie and Goblin who makes the most brilliant crochet sock patterns on top of everything else this wonder woman does.  But Sam from Unbelievawool asked if I could come up with something similar to the knitted sock patterns she had designed, and I fancied a challenge.  I expected to come back with a ‘no’, but in the end I just decided to follow the same process as a top down knitted sock and it seemed to work. They are so comfy, but I now really need to work up a pair in the beautiful merino Sam dyed for them.  I can see some in people’s Christmas stockings this year!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…!