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…

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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.

New Year’s Intentions

Ok, so I don’t really have the resolve for resolutions, but I do have lots of honest intentions.

  1.  Once the January Sales are done, no more yarn buying for the rest of the year.
  2. Reduce the stash by at least 50%.

Yes, that is right, I am going on complete stash lockdown at the end of this month and the plan is to see if I can truly stashbust.  I have a plan to knit lots of socks, both for me and for presents, and I have recently discovered the joy of knitting hats with Aran wool (so fast, and I can get two hats out of a single skein which is a bonus).  Exhibit A – the hat I knitted in a few hours one evening, using Dye Candy yarn and a pattern from the Toft Quarterly Magazine.

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I also need to help to raise funds for my daughter’s school, so lots of making is required there.  That will give me the chance to clear out all my acrylic yarn too, so that will be satisfying to see that go down.

3.  Blog more frequently and more regularly.

This year work has got in the way. I have been too tired to think in the evening, let alone type.  This is going to change.  My working pattern has to change in pretty fundamental ways because how I am working right now is not sustainable.  And I feel that I keep losing momentum every time work pulls me away from this part of what I do.  To achieve this I have to start taking better care of myself.  That one is easier said than done, but tonight I am going with an early bath, blog and then some knitting to motivate myself a bit.  If I can get two or three blogs out during the week, with a longer one at the weekend I think that might be good.  Perhaps introduce some features.  One of my friends has voted for ‘Squish of the Week’ – a random delve into my stash to show off different yarn types and dyers.

4.  Write more patterns.

Ok, so Shawl Club is going into Season 2 in March, but I feel the need to do a wider range of patterns than just shawls.  A mixture of quick makes and more extended projects.  I might even venture into one or two knitting patterns if I am feeling very brave, but that might be a step too far for me.

5. Do a yarn show.

Ok, so this one terrifies me.  Sue talked me into this one.  At the moment I don’t know which show, and it will probably only be one day, and I need to do my sums properly re how to make it work for me.  I love the idea of it, I am just worried that it might be a bit too soon for me, and there would be a huge amount of work required to get my stall elements ready in time. So I am not sure if I can pull this one off, but I am certainly going to look seriously at it.  I just need to sit here and feel a bit sick at the thought of it for a while.

6. Do a book.

Now, I write for a living, so the idea of writing a book doesn’t daunt me, but I haven’t self- produced the whole thing before, so that would be the challenge.  I have two book concepts in my head – one requires more work than the other – but I think I could get the book thing to work with a bit of peer support and some planned leave from work.

So there you go – six of the best.  Let’s see how many I can tick off.  Can I do it?  Should I do it?  Hmm. Let’s see…

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?

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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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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.

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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…!).

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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.

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Neglect!

Hello folks.  I hope you are all still out there!

Where do I start?  The last two weeks have steamrollered me.  Work has rapidly picked up pace and I have become a glassy-eyed work drone.  Get up, get washed, get child up, dressed and out the door to school, go to work, attend back-to-back meetings (each one generating actions that I am unable to act on because I have another meeting to go to), run from work to car in blind panic, collect child and attempt to be semi-functional parent (or when possible stay late in attempt to be semi-functional work colleague), feed child, put child to bed, make a cuppa, stare at WIP bag, knit two rows of a sock, give up, go to bed.  And repeat.

Child says “Mummy, tomorrow try to sneak out from your meeting a leeettle bit earlier.”

Sigh.

Today I am frozen with guilt.  I have a chapter to write which should take me a month and needs to take me about four hours, as that is all I have available to me.  I am being kind to myself in the hope that the muse will find me if I can relax a bit.  Writer’s guilt stops me from picking up my hook to crack on with things I need to do.  But tomorrow we will see Grandpa, and that will be OK.  I will get some time to hook in the car.  I have been asked by Sam to see if I can come up with a pattern for something other than a shawl for a nice change and I am enjoying the challenge of it.  That will be my treat at the end of all this.  Plus there is a yarn sale online tonight, and I plan to treat myself there too. Not a big splurge.  Just a skein for a specific project I am hoping to knit as the nights draw in.

So, I need a bit of time to reset the head.  I feel I have nothing to show for my labours at work this month so I am going to invest more time making.  Yes, it’s time I don’t have, but it is time I can at least share with the small person.  I can make things for her.  Show her that I love her.

In other news, my great, yarn cataloguing friend, has her baby last weekend and he is beautiful.  Just perfect. It reminds me of when my one was small.  I was learning to crochet at the time and I would spend the quiet hours of nursing and holding her trying to make granny squares.  I feel like I have come a long way, but I often wish I had those quiet, child-cuddling and crocheting hours back.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Yarn Emporium

This week has been strangely productive.  I am not used to this. I confess that on Day 1 of being at home on leave I wandered around the house, too afraid to settle down with a hook in case I discovered I was hallucinating.  I eventually stopped pacing the house and settled down in my yarn room for a bit of a tidy up, a yarn squidge, and to have a think about some project ideas I had been playing with. Tuesday saw two of my yarn friends dropping by to invade my yarn room.  Now, to put this into perspective, my yarn room is my office with a big 4×4 Ikea unit in the corner which contains all my yarn, books, sewing machine (I have a dinky one) and other yarn paraphernalia. But I do have quite a bit yarn stash – about 50% shop bought commercial yarn and 50% hand-dyed loveliness.  I was in denial about how much yarn I had because it was all tidied away, but this also meant that I had lost track of what I had.

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So my lovely friend, who is now on maternity leave, offered to come and catalogue my stash into my Ravelry account.  She has recently done it for her own stash and has slight OCD compulsions and so enjoys this.  She also just wanted a chance to squish my yarns and be nosy, but I don’t mind as other people’s stashes are always interesting. Our system was that she typed in the yarn details into my computer and the yarn was then ferried to me (initially by a small child) in another room with good light where I took pictures.  After about 6 hours we had managed to get through most of the hand-dyed and all of the commercial cotton yarn, but I still have other yarn to add in.  The best bit was when she emptied one of my bins of hand-dyed yarn on the floor and just launched herself, baby belly and all, into the middle of it.  I couldn’t get to my camera fast enough, but let’s just say her expression said it all. This was the aftermath.

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When you have had your yarn catalogued, there is no getting away from just how much yarn you own.  Its even worse when you know it only represents half your stash.  I don’t have a stash, I have a yarn emporium.  I toyed with the idea of a de-stash, but to be honest now that I knit socks there isn’t a skein of yarn that I can’t think of a project I could use it for.  So I have decided that I really, really need to go hard on the yarn ban until I can empty at least one of these bins.  I am not sure what a respectable stash size is, but I am pretty sure I am not respectable.  I am a yarn harlot.

The best thing about it, however, is that I have a fantastic range of yarns to use when I am designing something.  For example, I decided to elevate this example of a Dye Candy OOAK baby camel and silk yarn from a yarn pet (it is sooo soft) to project yarn.  This has been a revelation to me – it moves and behaves completely differently to a standard merino sock yarn and its a pleasure to work with. My friends have suggested a new blog feature entitled ‘squish of the week’.  I may yet initiate this.

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So now I am busy hooking up prototypes for new shawls.  I have Shawls 6 and 7 on the hook, and the concept for Shawl 8 is on the sketchbook and is next to be played with.  This is so much fun.  And I haven’t even got onto the non-shawl projects yet!  Time to go squidge some more yarn…

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.

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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.

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Newborn ‘Scraps’ Hat

As promised, I have written up the instructions for making the little newborn hat that I made for my friend’s baby from the scraps left over from the baby blanket I made for her.  The yarn I used was Sirdar Snuggly DK in cream and one of the Snuggly ‘Crofter’ colourways.  Any super soft baby yarn will do and you only need small amounts. I used a 4mm hook.

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UK crochet terms are used throughout.

Row 1. Using the main colour yarn (in this case cream) make an adjustable loop, chain 3 (counts as 1TB here and elsewhere in the pattern) and then 11TB into centre of loop.  Slip stitch into top of Ch3.  Pull tail to close the loop. (12 stitches)

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Row 2. Chain 3, TB, then *TB between the stitch you have just trebled into and the next one along, then TB into that next stitch**.  Repeat from * to ** 10 more times so that you have 24 stitches (including the Ch3), and then slip stitch into the top of the Ch3 to close the circle.

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Row 3. Chain 3, TB, then TB between the stitch you have just trebled into and the next one along. *2TB, then TB between the last stitch you have just trebled into and the next one along**.  Repeat from * to ** to the end of the circle so that you have 36 stitches (including the Ch3), and then slip stitch into the top of the Ch3 to close the circle.

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Row 4. Chain 3, 2TB, then TB between the stitch you have just trebled into and the next one along. *3TB, then TB between the last stitch you have just trebled into and the next one along**.  Repeat from * to ** to the end of the circle so that you have 48 stitches (including the Ch3), and then slip stitch into the top of the Ch3 to close the circle.

Row 5. Chain 3, 3TB, then TB between the stitch you have just trebled into and the next one along. *4TB, then TB between the last stitch you have just trebled into and the next one along**.  Repeat from * to ** to the end of the circle so that you have 60 stitches (including the Ch3), and then slip stitch into the top of the Ch3 to close the circle.

 

These five rows (rounds) form the top of the hat.  We next start to shape the sides.

Row 6. Chain 3, then 59 TB. Slip stitch into the top of the Ch3 to close the circle.

Row 7. Repeat Row 6.

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Row 8.  Change to contrast colour. Chain 1 and 60DC. Slip stitch into the first DC to close the circle.

Row 9. Change to main colour. Repeat Row 6.

Row 10. Repeat Row 6.

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Row 11. Change to contrast colour.  Repeat Row 6.

Row 12. Change to main colour. Repeat Row 6.

Row 13. Repeat Row 6.

Now onto the final row, which gives the picot edging.

Row 14.  Change to contrast colour. Chain 1. *2 DC, (DC, Ch2, DC) into next stitch**. Repeat from * to ** all the way around.  Slip stitch into the first DC to close the circle.

Sew in ends.

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To make the hat bigger, carry on increasing the size of the circle by 12 stitches each round, following the pattern indicated by the first five rows.  Then when the crown is large enough, carry on with extending the sides to the desired length by TB into each stitch around without increasing, again, following the pattern set above, before finishing with the picot row.