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.

yarn mess

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

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Beaded Arches Shawlette

OK, so I am very excited to be able to reveal Shawl 2 from the Shawl Club collaboration with Unbelieva-wool.  This is the Beaded Arches Shawlette, so named because of its beading and arches (I lack imagination).

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The yarn is a pretty special merino / nylon / yak base, dyed in reds and plums in a colourway called ‘Loving You’.

So, the story behind this one is that shortly after we agreed to do Shawl Club, Sam said that she really liked the idea of a long, thin crescent shaped shawl. So did I, but boy, that is a hard shape to nail without making the pattern so involved that your head explodes from tracking where to place the increases.  One of my rules of pattern design is that ideally it should be something that is mainly simple and meditative to do once the pattern is set, with the occasional bit of complexity.  So I tried to find a way of coming up with the shape, without the headache.

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This was what I managed to come up with.  It is a complete cheat, as the shape is achieved through cunning use of blocking.

I also wanted to incorporate beading because, as you know, I like a touch of beadwork in a shawl and it suited this particular shawl well.  In trying to get the shape right, I made loads of these shawls, and I have to say I have fallen in love with them as I wear them as scarves, like this:

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But here are some early contenders I am also very fond of…

These are using a vibrant grad from Dye Candy, and the one below is using a silk mix yarn (also from Dye Candy) entitled ‘Scream Queen’, without the beads.

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I have more but I will spare you here, although you may see them crop up on Instagram from time to time.  So there you have it: a cheeky cheat.  Forgive me, but it does work!

Back, and in business!

After a week away, I am pleased to be back.  Today is important, not just because I am back at home and reunited with my stash, but because it signals the start my experiment with designing and selling patterns.  You will have seen that I have the fantastic collaboration with Unbeliva-wool on the shawl club now in place and the first boxes have gone in the post today.  I have also added some new patterns of my own.  I will feature different ones on here on different days, but they are all up on Ravelry, and to say thank you to you wonderful lot for supporting me over the last few months I have set up a 20% discount for you this weekend (enter code BLOG20 against my paid for patterns for activate it).  The one I am really pleased with is this…

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Its called the bobble wrap and it uses lace weight yarn, and includes some beading if you fancy having a go!

The Moo-Ra dress is on its way next – I am just fiddling with the pattern before putting that in the store too.

Right, just a quick one for now as I have to finish unpacking and get some food into my small person.  I will do a bit more of a proper blog tomorrow.  But as you can see from the top picture, I now have business cards and merchandise, in the form of a single mug for myself.  I couldn’t resist putting this on the back…

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Shawl club has launched!

So finally I can tell you a bit about what I have been working on.  Tonight I have launched a shawl club with Sam from Unbelieva-wool.  I am beyond excited – her yarns are beautiful and I have had great fun plotting this behind the scenes with her!  So the plan is that you can sign up for a series of yarn boxes, each one about 6 weeks apart, and each one will contain a skein of her yarn which has been dyed to suit the pattern I have written (all of which are new and have not been published before), and a extra something that will help you to do the pattern, plus the pattern itself.  The yarns will be either standard merino sock yarn or a luxury base.  And I am so giddy tonight with the interest in this.  We will do the club for about 8 months and then see if folk want us to continue.

The patterns themselves will be a mixture of styles and shapes to keep it interesting and I am really pleased with how they are coming out so far!  Once everyone has received their boxes I will do a little reveal on this page.

If you are interested in signing up, click the link here and complete the online form.  The first invoices will be payable by the end of March so we know what numbers we are working with.  If you live outside the UK, it is worth knowing that Sam is happy to ship overseas if you let her know on the sign up form so that she can tweak the price to allow for the extra postage.

In the meantime I am also working on some other patterns to go up on Ravelry on the 7th April, including the Moo-Ra dress, a hat pattern, a rather lovely wrap, and a few other bits and bobs.  And as a special thank you to you, my blog-watchers, I will be putting up some free patterns on this site over the next few weeks.

 

Making the most of every free moment…

So one of the things that amuses / irritates the people closest to me is that I crochet every chance I get.  And I mean, every chance.  Between the day job and my resident small person, I get very little time to do something that I would like to do.  So I have a basket in the living room with my current blanket WIP in it (so that I can pick it up and put it down as I get the chance during the evening, small person permitting) and a WIP bag that is usually always with me.  I am lucky enough to be able to crochet in the car without getting motion sickness, and so I look forward to long drives so I can get some serious work done.  Last year on one of our regular trips to see the in-laws we got stuck in traffic for many hours in what was already a 5 hour car trip, and by the time we arrived I had finished a cardigan for my daughter…

Today has been a ‘hooking on the train’ day.  I love these days.  Today was a special treat as it was a 2 hour long direct train there, and the same back again, and I managed to get some real progress done on my latest design project.  And it also involved some added jeopardy, as it involved beadwork.  So in amongst the suited executives with their tablets and laptops, I quietly removed my Marvel Comics inspired WIP bag from Jo.Knit.Sew (a nod to my husband, so that he isn’t totally embarrassed when I get it out) from my smart work bag, and start crocheting away, swapping hooks when I get to the beads and praying that I don’t knock the jam jar with my hand and send them flying across the carriage.  In previous attempts the jar has jiggled with the movement of the train across the lap tray until it gets close to falling off the edge.  Today I discovered that if I stand the jar of beads on my empty WIP bag it doesn’t move (top tip) and I can bead without worrying about the jar sliding onto the floor.  On other train trips I have been known to walk the length of a carriage to get off, with a gent running behind me winding up the ball of yarn that I didn’t know was still in my seat, following me like a yarn-adoring courtier followed by a chorus of good-humoured giggles!

Crocheting in public typically results in some really lovely conversations with people who are genuinely surprised that people still do it (or who haven’t done it for ages), and today I was even called a ‘young person’ by the lady I chatted to.  “The problem with most young people now”, she said, “is they have too much money and they don’t think about the real value of things, the love that people put into things that are handmade.  They throw things away and buy new things.  They don’t cherish what they have. And they don’t understand what handmade really means.”  I love these conversations about things that people loved because they were made just for them.  Crocheting or knitting in public triggers these reflections and they are so moving.  And so true.

My bead-y eye…

One of the things that I get asked about a lot is beading.  I like to insert beads into the shawls I make and I tend to do this with a miniature crochet hook rather than threading them onto my ball of yarn, which seems to be the more common way of doing it. However, I find this approach has three main drawbacks:

  1. You have to know exactly how many beads you want to work with for the whole project and thread them onto your yarn at the beginning of your project / ball of yarn (and pray you don’t have knots in your ball of yarn!);
  2. You can only see the beads from one side of your work;
  3. There is only one strand of yarn holding your bead in place.

I prefer to use a crochet hook as my preferred method, as doing it this way means that you can see the beads on both sides of your work, you don’t lose ages threading beads onto your yarn, and you can be more thoughtful about bead placement and colour choice as you go, rather than having to work it all out in advance.

So, this is how I do it:

When you get to the place where you want to insert your bead, put a bead on a skinny (0.75mm or smaller) hook.

Remove your regular hook from your stitch and insert your skinny hook:

bead 1

Pull the hook up so that the loop is long and thin, and pull the bead to the top of the hook…

bead 3

And onto the loop…

bead 4

You then carry on crocheting as normal.

It is very simple and very satisfying.  You can insert beads between stitches (as described here) or you can insert them into the body of a stitch by waiting until you have the last two loops of your chosen stitch on your hook, and then you pull a bead onto one of the loops and finish the stitch with the final yarn over hook and pull through.  This can create effects like this…

atlantic beading

I hope you agree that the overall effect is worth the little bit of fiddling with hooks.  I hope you have a play with it – if you do, let me know how you get on!