Hello, fancy seeing you here…

Hello! Happy new year and all that. I know, since getting the new job things went a bit quiet on here as finding the time to blog has been a bit tricky with the extended commute, but I am back, and I have a lot of catching up to do!

I am going to do some new blogs for the patterns that have come out on Ravelry whilst I have had my head down, and I also have plans to update my photo archive too. But at the moment I am typing this on my phone on the way back from the annual new year pilgrimage to mum’s house. We spent Christmas with my in-laws, and I got the chance to use up some of my stash on small projects while I was there, plus I finished this pretty lovely retro fit jumper designed by Sue Stratford (who also writes the Knitting and Gin blog). The yarn is by For the Love of Yarn, and is a sparkly merino and silk blend that has been in my stash for a while now. I’m really please with the fit of this, and need to make one for me now!

My mother-in-law has asked me to make some lap blanket and so I am busy stash busting with those. My progress is shown at the top of the blog, and the yarn is recycled from an abandoned blanket club make that I lost interest in. I’m using the ripple technique described in the Attic24 blog and I love it in these colours.

But I am on a very strict yarn ban for 2018. I have a crazy amount of very lovely stuff and I have no more room for additions to it. So it’s a year to mobilise what I have, and to prioritise the important stuff – family, making, and getting my act together. I have a very intense six months coming up on both work fronts, so I need to plan and get organised. The book is going to happen this year, one way or another, and I will keep you all posted. But in the meantime here is to a very happy and productive new year!

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!

My Girl Lollipop

I’m going to introduce a new feature, entitled ‘Stashdive Sunday’, and this week I wanted to kick it off by honouring the substantial contribution that Rox Driver has made to my stash, aka Lollipop Guild Yarns.  Based in Nottinghamshire, she has produced some of my most beloved yarn pets and even inspired the creation of the Moo-Ra dress (I still have to finish writing that pattern up!). But the reason I want to honour her today is because it is her birthday, and I wanted to really embarrass her.

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So I am going to restrict myself to some featured beauties from my DK and Aran stash, all dyed by her, and I apologise that my poor lighting really doesn’t do the colours full justice.

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This next one was a custom dye and everyone who has seen the brioche it got used on comments on how fabulous the blue is.  It is multi tonal, both dark and intense and yet bright and vivid all at the same time.  No, I don’t know how that it possible either..

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The next was from one of her yarn boxes, a nod to George’s Marvellous Medicine…

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I have so many more of her yarns in my stash, and I would encourage you to watch her Etsy shop like a hawk.  She also has a pretty good blog which I would recommend just so that you can drool over her yarn boxes as she reveals them.

Thank you Rox.  And Happy Birthday!  And you are still far too young…

Adventures in thrumming

So this weekend I learned a new skill – thrumming.  Thrumming is the technique of knitting little noodles of roving into something like a glove, sock or hat (or bunny slipper!) which results in little fluffy ‘hearts’ appearing on the outside of the garment, and the inside become a lovely fluffy mass of roving loops.   Over time, with wear and washing, the roving felts to the inside of the thing you have made to create an extra layer of insulation.

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I first saw roving kits on the Lollipop Guild website and couldn’t resist this kit with the lovely deep grey and neon fluff.  Over the last week temperatures have dropped a lot, and the wind has picked up, which has meant that my small person has really started to feel the cold.  So I found this pattern for thrummed children’s mittens and decided to make her a pair of these.  They are quick to make even for a klutz like me who isn’t exactly skilled with DPNs (I knit my socks on mini circulars).

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Anyway, I finished the first mitten, and next morning I presented it to the small child, feeling very proud.  The conversation went something like this:

Me: Look what I made for you yesterday!

Child: Oh.

Me: Put your hand in it.

Child: (Slowly inserts hand into oversized mitten) Its too small.

Me: No its not, it just has fluff inside.

Child: Its got stuff in.

Me: Yes, that’s the point, look.

I opened up the mitten to show her this…

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Child: WOW!  Why is that there?

Me: To keep your hand warm.

Child: Cool.  I’m taking this to Show and Tell on Monday.

So I feel like I have successfully navigated the jeopardy of getting the child’s approval, and I have been authorised to make a hat to go with it.  The next stage is seeing if I can get her to wear it enough that she will felt the wool inside the mitten.  Only time will tell.  I am going to wing making the hat, and assuming it doesn’t go horribly wrong I will post the pattern here.

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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…

Can’t beat a bit of brioche…

So, those of you following my exploits know that I have fallen in love with brioche knitting.  On Wednesday night I sat up late and worked away on my I-cord bind off and finally finished my briochexplosion wrap.  I loved making it, and as ever I popped a photo up on my instagram feed.  I then collapsed into bed and slept the sleep of the smug knitter who has finished a much loved WIP.

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In the morning I woke up and looked at my phone.  I have never had so many likes for one of my projects as I have had for this wrap.  It has really taken me back.  The yarns I used were by Lollipop Guild Yarns and Dye Candy, and they really complemented each other.  I wanted to go with a denim colour as my neutral tone because I wear jeans so much, and because to my eye denim goes with everything really.  Apparently other folk liked it too. A lot.

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Anyway, I got to wear it to work on Thursday, like a comfort blanket.  And like a comfort blanket it did help me through a particularly stressful day when I had to be a proper grown up and try to do things that I really didn’t want to do.  But armed with my cloak of awesomeness I found that I could do anything.  It must never leave my side!

A nice distraction

It has been chaos here at Knackered Psycho HQ whilst some (much need) home renovations are going on.  The kitchen is the main focus.  Some would say it is just a very expensive excuse for replacing my microwave following the now infamous ‘blue dye’ incident, when my friend and I (in a desperate attempt to exhaust some blue dye we had used on some yarn) heated the bowl of yarn until it exploded.  Top tip kids – leave blue dye to the professionals!

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Anyway, my yarn room has become a dumping ground for the contents of my kitchen (along with every other room in the house), and I have taken solace in learning how to brioche knit.  When I was at Wonderwool, I met the lady behind Coop Knits, and she was wearing an amazing brioche wrap that she had made with yarn scraps.  The texture of brioche knitting is so tactile and colourful and I was desperate to give it a go.

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After starting and ripping back five failed attempts I finally got my head around it and now I am totally addicted.  I am making a Stephen West briochexplosion wrap using blue yarn dyed for me (I learned my lesson) by Rox of Lollipop Guild Yarns, and various yarns by Hutch of Dye Candy.  The effect is exactly what I was hoping for and so far (touch wood) I haven’t screwed it up too badly.  I can’t wait to get it finished.

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My next post will be a reveal of a new crochet pattern – something I probably would never have tried to make without prompting, but I am so pleased with it.  Watch this space!

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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Bliss is this…

So as promised I tried to document as much of my weekend in London as I could via Instagram, and I hope that you were able to follow along.  I have to say, it was one of the best weekends I have ever had.

I drove to my friend’s village to meet her at the train station.  I parked a little way away and walked in glorious sunshine down to the cafe.  It was warm and still, and all you could hear was birdsong and the occasional car go past.  Everyone I passed was smiling because this was the first really good day of weather we had experienced so far this year.

My friend and I caught the train to London and I hooked whilst she knitted socks until we got to Euston, and then we headed to Waterloo and stopped off for a tea in a little trendy cafe before our first stop at I Knit London.  This was a surprisingly spacious shop for a yarn shop (which are traditionally the size of a small biscuit tin).  It was quiet when we go there so we bought some cold drinks (I Knit is licenced to sell booze but we resisted the temptation) and settled down at one of the tables to fondle yarn and browse some pattern books.  I was very good and found three books which included stitches or techniques I hadn’t seen before (two crochet, one knitting), for a bit of inspiration.  I felt bad about sticking to my yarn ban, but the folk were really nice and there was an excellent selection of bits there.  Very nice.  A good start.

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Back on the underground and on to Loop next.  I have been to Loop before, and it is a yarn snob’s paradise (and I mean that nicely!). They have high end yarns and notions and its a lovely shop to visit.  Upstairs is my favourite bit and I could happily install myself there all day, but I have a child to feed and so I don’t dare.  But yes, as I am sure you anticipated, I was weak, and I succumbed to these beauties.  In my defence, the colour way was a Loop exclusive and they were the only two left.  And they were not sock yarn.  But I felt very virtuous that these were the only ones I came away with (plus a WIP bag that was on sale), so I am counting it as a win…

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We went into The Breakfast Club for an early dinner and then set off for our accommodation. Now, we had planned to share a twin room in a hotel, but we then found that for a tiny bit more outlay we could have a two-bedroom apartment in Clerkenwell instead.  So I booked it, and just hoped that it would be a nice as the pictures on the website were, as it seemed a bit too good to be true.  But it was better than the pictures.  A large living room, two double bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom, all immaculate, all to ourselves.  And a Sainsbury’s nearby for milk and other essentials. It was perfect.

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We settled into an evening of talking and sock knitting.

You need to know something about my friend.  She has an incredibly calming influence on me.  She is very mellow, very sorted, and very philosophical. My resting heart rate drops by an extra 10 beats per minute when I sit and crochet with her (thanks FitBit).  We are very comfortable in each other’s company and she is like a sister to me.  And as we sat up into the small hours, just quietly knitting, chatting and drinking tea, I felt very grateful for her.  My small person was at home with the OH, and apparently she had just been to the best birthday party ever, and here I was, just relaxing.  I achieved an altered state of consciousness, somewhere between ‘flow‘ and ‘bliss’.  And I also achieved ‘smug’, as at 12.20 am I finished my socks.

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The next morning, we got up and I was still in this slightly unreal state of mind.  The sun was pouring into the flat, and we slowly pottered about making tea, eating Malteasers, and getting ready to head out.  We went straight back to Islington, had a pub brunch and knitted at our outside table until the sun moved round and started to become unbearable.  We moved a bit further down the lane, and found the Pistachio and Pickle cheese shop with a big awning outside and empty tables underneath it in the shade.  Apparently no-one wanted a cheeseboard for breakfast, and the lady in the shop was more than happy for us to set up outside.  We drank cool drinks in the sunshine and nibbled olives and cheese all afternoon.  We were just across from Loop, and at one point a lady emerged with a bag and we caught each other’s gaze.  I waved her over to join us, and she showed us what she had bought.  She ordered a glass of wine, got the knitting out, and there we sat enjoying each other’s projects and company.  It turned out that she had travelled all the way from Lille for a weekend away, and had come to stock up on yarn before heading back that night.  She had green hair with nails that matched, and the most fabulous tattoos.  She was brilliant and we could have stayed there all night, except that Loop was due to close within the hour and we needed to have a last look around.  I didn’t buy anything, but our new friend stocked up on some bargains she had not spotted first time around. I just petted the skeins.

We went home on the train, and it must have been the sunshine but even on the crowded train everyone was good humoured and joining in with each other’s conversations.  We went back to my friend’s husband’s allotment, where we sat in his shed in the evening cool, watching the world go by, listening to the birds and the sound of his whistling kettle as he made us tea.  And we sat in his comfy chairs and knitted.  Once I got home, OH and small person were in good moods and told me about their weekend.  Everyone was contented.  There was even a yarn parcel waiting for me when I got back.

One day, all weekends will make me feel like this.  But I am so glad that I had this one, perfect weekend.  One day I will be able to share these weekends with OH and small.  I so hope she will grow up to be a yarnhead…