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!

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.


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.


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.


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.


Meeting a Sculptural Crocheter

This Sunday I went down to the Westbury Arts Centre as part of Bucks Open Studios which is running this month.  Its a great chance to nosey around the studios of artists of all kinds and be inspired by what they create.  This includes textiles and fibre artists.  At Westbury there is an artist called Helen Den Dulk who creates large scale sculptural pieces with crochet and knitting.  She creates fantastic wall hangings with crochet which throw shapes and shadows onto the walls which become part of the finished effect.  She recycles and hand dyes some of her raw materials.  She kindly allowed me to photograph some of her work to show you on this blog.


This one is reminiscent of a sea creature / Dr Who monster and was big enough that my four-year-old could have rested in it! I love the way it pools onto the floor.

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This next one I have a strange affection for because she used Drops yarn, bought from Wool Warehouse, in it.  The ‘brickwork’ is knitted in stocking stitch. It’s special to see something so striking made out of something we would all use for our more traditional makes.


In this one Helen crocheted around the flex of some fairy lights to create the spirals, which are then lit up by the lights embedded in the work.


Hanging spiral and circular forms recur in Helen’s work and are strangely hypnotic.


The open studios are open again this weekend coming.  Do go along if you live in or near Buckinghamshire – there are so many places you can visit, but at Westbury you can see many artists all in one place.  And they do a nice cup of tea too.

Doing it for the kids…

Its been a while since my last post.  It has been super hectic at knackeredpsycho HQ, such that I had to take a bit of bed rest at one point to catch up on sleep!  The day job is crazy busy until the end of July, and so my precious hooky time is being sidelined at the moment.  And my obsession with knitting socks as a way of destashing has also meant that the time I have had has been spent with the pointy sticks rather than my hooks.  But come August I plan to bury myself in yarn and work up all the designs I have been scribbling down on bits of paper.  I have some plans for a little set of children’s items which I will share with you as they develop.  All my shawl club bits I have had to keep under wraps, but I am looking forward to sharing some more of my projects with you as they develop.

The other things that are keeping me busy include the need for me to make a special blanket for my daughter’s nursery as a thank you before she leaves this summer, and to make lots of cute baby things as one of my friends is expecting her first baby and its a good excuse to produce lots of very quick makes.  The added bonus is that these makes have to be in a practical yarn, and so I get to use up some of my nicer acrylic yarn as part of Project Destash.

I cannot show you my friend’s gifts as she reads this blog (!), but I thought I would show you some of my favourite baby and small child makes from the last year.  Firstly, I love to make blankets, and these are firm favourites.  This was my first star blanket, which used baby soft merino DK and was for a newborn.  When I had my daughter most of the blankets I was given were too large to tuck around her in her car seat.  This one is the perfect size.  It used up yarn left over from a Peppa Pig jumper I had knitted for my daughter, which is why the colours are a little unusual, but putting them in this order really made each colour pop and I loved the final effect!


My go-to cot blanket is a shrunk down version of an Attic 24 cosy stripe blanket.  If you begin with a starting chain of 120 it comes up the perfect width.  For baby versions I prefer to use a neutral on the ‘plain’ rows and a variegated yarn in the granny treble rows, like this one I made using left over Ice Yarn:


At Christmas I was asked to make an owl themed blanket for a friend’s sister-in-law.  I used The Hat and I’s pattern for this one, and added the lettering using the Moogly Alphabet patterns.


Clothes are always fun for little people.  Last year we were stuck in a traffic jam and I made this circular cardigan for my daughter in the time I was trapped in the car (we missed our ferry to Ireland, so I had extra hooky time).  The yarn was King Cole Riot, but my little one found it a bit too scratchy to wear, so I would make it in a cotton or bamboo for her next time.  But this was so quick and easy to make and I loved the final effect.  The pattern was a free one from Drops yarn, found on Ravelry, but there are lots of similar ones out there too.


In terms of hats, I like this, the Little Sister hat, without the flower.  This one is worked in some left over merino sock yarn from Fleabubs (the Scientist was the colourway).  It can look girly but in this yarn I think it works for a newborn of either gender.


You can see that I like to use strong colours with little people – something that will hide the messes but that make a really nice statement piece.  I am toying with making a very special little set in honour of my friend’s baby, and as soon as I have done it I will share it with you here as a free pattern.  I just need to put the socks down long enough to make it!


Stop the world…

I am exhausted. Again. I am also going through one of those phases where nothing seems to be going to plan on any front.  I am not particularly prone to melancholy, but when life gets this overwhelming, I just want to hit rock bottom and stay there. It’s not quite a matter of feeling sorry for myself, more just a strong sense of being sorry – of wanting to apologise to everyone and everything for all that I have failed to do.  The only thing I find I can do is to take myself away from everything, and focus on the stitch-by-stitch repetition of making something for someone. It is a bit like making a peace offering, but it is more to do with making peace with myself than with trying to please someone else.  After all, when I feel like this, I don’t feel like I can really please anyone anyway.  This is more about reminding myself that I am actually capable of something positive.

So it is a little bit ironic, or appropriate (depending on your viewpoint), that I recently received a Well Being yarn box from Fleabubs, and a skein of yarn from Lollipop Guild Yarns called ‘Dance your cares away’.  They were the last of my yarn clubs before I cancelled them, and they are beautiful. I want to make them into beautiful things, and they inspire me. I just wish I had more time to work with them.

On a more positive note, shawl number 2 should arrive with shawl clubbers this week.  I have been so delighted with the reaction to the Thank You Shawl that I am a little bit nervous about whether the next one will go down as well.  That said, I love it and I have made several versions of it that I wear a lot, so I know it works, but whether it is quite what people are expecting…I just don’t know.  I really hope it proves to be popular. I will put a post up about it when the reveal time comes to tell you a bit about its development.

I will try to get another post up this weekend but I am preparing for a work trip that currently has me numb with fear.  I might have to cake one of these beauties to come with me and keep me company on my travels.  They will give me the peace I need to think clearly and push through this next bit of stuff. A bit of yarn meditation is in order…