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.


Seven’s Shrug

So, as you know, I don’t usually go for trying to create clothes that need to ‘fit’ – shawls can be as big or as small as you want them to be and so gauge and sizing really don’t matter too much.  However, Sam contacted me as asked if I would consider writing a shrug pattern for one of her yarn boxes, and I decided that I would have a go and see if I could come up with something that I liked.  Used a skein of ‘euphoria’ which I still had left over from when I did the show and started to develop what has turned into this shrug. Apologies for the terrible pictures – I didn’t have anyone to model it for me!

IMG_2774 2

It is called the Sevens Shrug because the body and the border is worked in sets of seven rows or seven stitches. I wanted something pretty but not too frilly and I am quite pleased with the result.  The gauge and sizing issue has been tackled directly because the pattern is sized individually based on the crocheter’s measurements and their own starting chain.  And it is a pretty quick make too.  It can be made in a day or a couple of evenings (less if you are making one for a child / small person).  The design is simple, as most shrug patterns are, and it would look pretty special in a graduated yarn I think.  I hope you like it!

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.


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.


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!

All Change

In spite of my new year’s intentions, I have had little chance this month to get on the computer to write to you.  In my defence, I have been busy getting all the other things in my life in order.  Exhibit 1: This month I resigned my job and accepted a new one.  It is in a different city, which means commuting and generally being more organised, but it is going to allow me to remind myself why I went into psychology in the first place.  More time for research and fewer responsibilities of the kind I have to juggle now.  Plus, I have it on good authority that I am a short walk away from a good quality yarn shop, so I really can’t complain.  And yes, I did take my knitting to my job interview.  They know what they are getting…


Other changes have been a little sadder.  This month has also seen the closure of The Knitting Hut.  This little shop in Woburn Sands was where I rediscovered yarn and knitting, largely because one of my friends who lived there also discovered yarn.  I sat in that shop when I was pregnant with my daughter and I have bought yarn for a fair few projects in there too.  My daughter and I went to the last day the shop was open, and she bought a few yarns of buttons with her pocket money.  She used to enjoy emptying the button jars onto a tray on the floor and sorting them back into their colours. Now she has a little reminder of those days to go with my old photos of her doing that.  The closure was poignant but not sad, as it signals the next exciting episode in Sue Stratford’s career as a pattern designer and I am so glad everything is coming together for her.  She has a new book out soon, so do watch out for that one.

For my part, I have got Shawl 1 of Season 2 Shawl Club (‘The Sequel’) nailed and out for testing, and I’m quite pleased with it.  Its a very pretty shawl, just in time for the spring.  It is our for testing now so I get a little bit of a break to try out some new techniques.  I have just bought a thrumming kit from Lollipop Guild Yarns (see top photo of the bright, bright fluff!) and with the sudden dip in temperatures I am pretty taken with the idea of some ultra cosy mittens. And a hat.  And socks.  In fact, give me all your thrummed garments as I was freezing this morning at work.  I have just had to have a bath to raise my body temperature back up.

So the plan is I can now start to blog properly again as I start the countdown to the new job.  I am already feeling more relaxed and positive. Yes, I know it probably will be short lived, but hey, I am going to approach it with optimism and see what I can achieve.

Knitting and Stitching Show – Harrogate

I have finally managed to catch a few moments to tell you about the weekend.  As you know, I went to help my friend Sue Stratford on her stand over the weekend at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show.  I normally go to the one at Alexandra Palace as a punter, but I am going through my work experience phase of trying to get some understanding of what it takes to make the shows successful, just in case I get a bit braver and contemplate doing a show myself.

Sue is brilliant on all sorts of levels.  She is a super talented pattern designer, mostly known for her books on novelty knits.  She is very modest and down-to-earth, really approachable, and has a wonderful relationship with the people who buy her books and kits.  And just on a personal level it is a pleasure to spend time in her company.


The show was great.  I love Harrogate because I am a massive fan of Betty’s tearooms (well, I am a massive fan of tea and cake…), and so it wasn’t too hard to volunteer to help Sue out when she realised she was going to be on her own over the weekend.  The days started gently but soon got busier, and it was really interesting to see what things people were drawn to and what questions they asked. Sue was selling her new book (A Bird in the Hand) and the yarn kits to make the patterns, along with some of her other books and kits.  We got a lot of positive comments about how fantastic the stall looked, and we did well.  I was treated to a fish and chip supper in front of the telly on Saturday night, where we knitted and watched daft telly until it was time for bed.  Sue was knitting Christmas presents and I was working on a pair of socks which will be a present for someone when I get them done.  The next morning we got up and had a decadent breakfast at Betty’s before getting stuck into a busy Sunday.


On the drive home we talked about Sue’s blog, and she gave me lots of good advice and ideas about how to develop what I do.  It has made me rethink my plans for knackeredpsycho.  I think I had just planned to keep on doing patterns on Ravelry, and to maybe do a book or something in future, and perhaps look at workshops at some point.  But I saw all of that as a long way off in the future.  Sue’s advice has given me more ideas and a bit more confidence to be bolder sooner.  This has come at a good time because the shieldmaiden shawl pattern has proved to be really popular, and there has been a lot of activity on my Rav page as a result.  I am starting to think that maybe I could be a bit bolder.  I just need to set some goals for myself, and work towards them instead of bumbling my way through this thing.  So am I thinking about doing a one day show next year, putting some of Sue’s advice into practice.  So over Christmas I will go into planning mode for this.  There is a lot of work to do between now and the show I have in mind, but I think I might just be able to do it.


Last night a work colleague passed away.  She was young. She worked way too hard.  She tried to accommodate many unreasonable requests for her time.  She dealt with rudeness and impatience with grace.

Last week she had a stroke.  Last night she passed away.

Life is too short to spend it doing things you think you should instead of the things you wanted to.

Take action.  Prioritize what you love. Don’t let others tell you what your focus should be.  In your heart you know what it is.  Do that.

Life is too precious to play compromise with it.

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.


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…!).


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.


Sketching with Yarn…

So last week was all about roughing out some new shawl designs, but I have been trying to reflect a bit on how I go about coming up with a design.  It has been pretty hard to pin shown, as I guess most creative processes are.  It is also a pretty personal process and so this is just how I manage to do it and I am sure it is a process that I will refine as I do more of it.

I tend to start off with a bit of a concept that I am trying to explore.  Often I will sketch out (usually on a piece of scrap paper with a biro) the type of shawl (or other garment) that I want to try to achieve.  I have a think about the stitches I could use to achieve the shape or to create some texture in the pattern.  At that point I have to grab some yarn and a hook and start to play with some opening stitches.

At this point the yarn tends to inform how the pattern and shape of the shawl will develop.  Often I succeed in recreating in yarn the design I had in my head, but somehow it lacks interest once it is made up, and I will end up frogging the work to start again.  Free-styling stitches until I find a combination that pleases me seems to be the best way to develop a project.  It feels a lot like I am still sketching, but with yarn rather than with pen and paper.

Once I have a few rows nailed I can start to write up the instructions for the pattern as I go.  I have to work a few rows at a time, as sometimes you realise that Row 10 isn’t working because of something about Row 8 which needs to be tweaked.  For the shawls in particular what I am aiming for is to find a set of rows which can be repeated (and memorised) and which will maintain the shape and texture that I want to achieve.

I don’t always have a fixed shape for the shawl in my head.  I like to try out different shapes, just to see how easy they are, and sometimes I will see how the shape develops as the shawl grows  I enjoy playing with the overall shape of the shawl and the shapes I can create within it.  I try to keep the stitches fairly straightforward so that a beginner could achieve the final project. Often it is the use of hand-dyed or variegated yarn that makes a pattern look special, or the use of colours (as in the Beating Heart Wrap), rather than the complexity of the pattern.

I wish naming shawls came a little easier to me.  I find that part really hard. It is hard not to come up with something really obvious or really naff.  So here is my challenge to you:  give me some new shawl concepts to work with by suggesting some names that could inspire me to create a shawl around them.  Maybe that way it will be easier, and you can join me on my creative fumblings!