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…

Living for the weekend…

Don’t get me wrong, this week hasn’t been a ‘bad’ week, but it has been tiring and at times quite emotional.  The light at the end of the tunnel has been the prospect of a delayed birthday treat – one of my friends had a significant birthday and our birthdays are a few days apart so we decided we would plan a little yarn escape in London.  She is much more familiar than I am with the big yarn stores – I have ventured into Loop with her before but she tells me there are other places where yarnheads are welcome and this weekend she is taking me on a guided tour.

Now, before you say ‘what about your yarn ban?’, it is still in place.  I am restricting myself to taking a limited amount of cash (which will not go far in London!), and I am mainly looking for interesting patterns and maybe that very special skein of yarn. But its really going to be about spending time with one of my best friends and having the time and space to concentrate on making stuff in the evenings.  Something to re-balance the head and heart as the madness of work starts to spiral once again.

In shawl club news, I have finally decided on the design for Shawl #5 and I am really pleased with it, both as a pattern and an item.  So I may play around with ideas for the final shawl in my first series of shawl club this weekend.  I think I want to go with something really special and unusual, so London will work as a bit of a research trip to inspire me, I hope.  Otherwise it will be all about the stash busting.  I wonder if I should set myself a challenge of how many KGs of yarn I can get through before the autumn?

On the topic of stash busting, I am also going to learn to knit brioche – I am going to make a massive brioche wrap this summer so that it is done in time for the colder months, and it should use up some of my DK stash, including some random scraps from leftover projects. Using up scrap ends of yarn makes me feel faintly frugal and virtuous (I am neither of these things) so it has to be something to be embraced.

I will try to keep you updated on my London exploits via my Instagram feed.  Come and follow us – it could get both fluffy and messy all at the same time.

A new addiction…

They say the first step to dealing with an addiction is to realise that you have a problem.  Well, my name is Knackered Psycho, and I am a yarn addict.  Last weekend I came back from Wonderwool and in trying to put my stash away I realised that I have a bit of a yarn habit.  My yarn pets may be beautifully stored, but if they were real pets the RSPCA would be round my house by now (after a tip off from my postman), trying to persuade me to rehome them and give them a better life than existing in the cramped conditions they currently endure in my stash drawers.  No officer, I am sure I can learn to look after them better.  They are part of my family.  We cannot be parted.

So recently I decided to do the decent thing and cancel all but one of my yarn clubs (I am partway through a blanket club and I cannot stand the thought of an unfinished WIP).  This was a painful process but the right decision for now.  The new challenge is to improve the living conditions of my yarn by going on an extended making binge. As I stared into the heaving mass that is my drawer of sock yarn (usually reserved for shawls), I decided the time had come to crack open that Slouchy Slox pattern from Rosebuds and Rainbows, and see if I could nail some sock knitting.  A grabbed skein of ‘Get back in the kitchen’ (oh the irony), by Dye Candy (merino and cashmere), and got stuck in.  It took my about 2-3 days to nail the work of art pictured above.  I am beyond proud, and it fits perfectly and is the most comfortable sock I have ever put on my tired toes.  I am now so unused to knitting that my fingers were a bit tender after I finished this one, so I gave myself a day off before casting on the second sock.  I want to get the second one done so I can wear them, and then crack on with some more. I can see a new obsession creeping on.  I already have a friend who almost exclusively knits socks, and I can see how it can get addictive.  In fact, as soon as I have finished this post I will be upstairs, PJs on, getting on with sock 2.  Check me out, with my rock ‘n roll lifestyle…

Shawl-wise I am experimenting with some different ideas, but I am not entirely happy with how they are working out.  I have two more shawls to design for shawl club before I can start to work up some of my other projects, and I know I want them to be dramatic, but the one I have been fiddling with today looks less impressive in real life than it did in my head.  I have an idea re how to adjust it to make it work, but I think I need to sleep on it for now.  Besides, I can’t think straight when my feet are cold…

Wonderful Wonderwool

Well, this weekend just past I was able to go to Wonderwool in Wales.  One of my work friends decided about a week ago that she needed a yarn fix and had saved up her pennies, and so I felt it was rude not to go with her.  It was also a chance to see my thank you shawl and the bobble wrap displayed in all their glory on the Unbelieva-wool stand, and I was very proud to see them there in amongst the other wonderful shawls.

Wonderwool was brilliant.  We went on Sunday, and we were thrilled to find that it was busy but not too crowded, and that plenty of space had been allocated to the stalls so that you could see what goodies they had, and chat with the stall holders.  Everyone was so nice, and we felt very welcome.  There were plenty of places to sit and take refreshments (Knitting and Stitch Show, please take note) and lots to see.  And the sun shone! We had the best time.

Something very strange happened to me at Wonderwool.  I found myself drawn to knitting projects.  Knitting.  Pointy sticks and all that.  And not just any knitting but knitted shawls.  I bought the kit to make the Lulworth shawl pattern in purples and greys (it is beyond beautiful), and the yarn and pattern for the Festival Shawl by Caerthan Wrack using the grey and wine red DK pictured above.  And a pattern for knitted ‘slox‘ by Rosebuds and Rainbows which was just what I was looking for.  But the sudden urge to knit shawls has taken me by surprise.  I learned to knit many years ago, so I can do it, but I am so impatient and clumsy that I limit myself to small and simple projects.  I just just about do intarsia work, but even that is far from perfect.  The idea of knitting shawls has always sent shivers down my spine.  But these shawls were special, and perhaps I have OD-ed on crocheted shawls with all the shawl club activity!  So I am looking forward to getting stuck into them as a special project, but I need to keep up with my crochet work at the same time.  Happily, work is motivating me to do a lot of yarn related activity at the moment (i.e. it is horrible and stressful) and so I am whizzing through projects.

So, I treated myself to a Doctor Who project bag for my new knitting projects (Welsh memorabilia).  And on the way out we sort of fell in love with the 25g mini skeins of DK dyed by Moonlight yarns in the nicest shade of soft purple/grey I have seen in a long time.  Happily my companion had already spent all her cash by the time we spotted them, so they had to come home with me.  Watch this space for their reappearance in a project near you soon!

Thank you…

So, finally I can show you the first shawl club shawl in all its finished glory, and tell you a little bit about it.  First of all, here it is in the shawl club peacock yarn that Unbelieva-wool dyed for me.  And it was exactly as I hoped it would come out. Giddy dancing all around.

 

It is a similar shape to the Almejas shawl that is in my gallery – that was a pattern from inside crochet and I loved it as soon as I saw it because of the way it wrapped around the shoulders more than a standard triangular shawl did.  When I started trying to come up with my own designs, one of the challenges I set myself was to try to come up with something that had that general shape, but was more accessible and easy to achieve.  I also wanted this first shawl to include as many of my favourite basic stitches as I could.  So there are trebles, granny treble clusters, V-stitches and picots in there, as well as some back loop only work in places, to add to the texture.  There is nothing there that a beginner couldn’t master, and it grows quickly!  It is also deceptive.  One of my pattern testers who was hooking very loosely refused to believe it would use the whole skein of yarn when she was up to about row 25.  Then very quickly the yarn started to disappear!  It is also worth noting that it grows a lot with blocking – it looks quite neat and a little bit frilly after it has been hooked, but once blocked it opens up into a good sized shawl.

I asked for this in a peacock colourway because the shape of the shawl when laid flat reminds me of the shape of the top of a peacock feather.  It also happens to include the favourite colours of Anne Farmer of Ditsy Pips.  I dedicated the pattern to her as a thank you (this is why this is the Thank You shawl on Ravelry). When I was dithering about even starting all this, I had a day where I got myself very confused and convinced that it was going to be too messy and too complex to get into.  Anne talked me through how she set herself up and gave me a lot of very practical advice.  For her it was just a quick set of messages.  What she didn’t realise was how close I was to talking myself out of this before I had even begun, but the fact that she even replied to my message on a day when she had other things to worry about lifted my spirits and changed my mind.  Just knowing that someone who barely knew me didn’t think I was a jumped up idiot for thinking about this was the nudge I needed. I felt that I might be able to earn my stripes and eventually join the yarn army.  The kindness of strangers can be everything on a bad day.

So my other motivation was to create a great big yarny hug. To do this, I started out making this in DK rather than sock, as I also wanted to make a super cosy one (it was winter at the time). One of the shawls I wear a lot at home is a Penelope shawl that I made in King Cole Riot (before the days when hand-dyed yarn entered my life and depleted my bank balance). I wanted to come up with something that made people feel as comforted as I do when I wear that shawl.  So here it is, the first Thank You shawl I ever made, in an Unbelieva-wool DK called ‘new uniform’.  It was the only yarn I had in my stash where I had two skeins of the same colour…

I have been really fortunate to have been helped by two cracking pattern testers who have made sure this first pattern was easy to follow.  One of them sent me this picture of the version they produced, which I love.  Its so hard to find good models, you know…

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Apparently she won’t give up the shawl though.  I think I am going to take that as a bit of a thumbs up.

Lifesavers…

So, first week back at the day job was a timely reminder of why Knackered Psycho is important to me.  Lots of trying to catch up at work, asking the impatient to wait, the tide to turn back, and the world to stop so I can get off. A week of highs and lows, where I can feel proud and excited one minute, and depressed and incompetent the next.  Time away from work doing this gives me perspective and a sense of optimism. Time with yarn makes me feel happy and creative. Time with my daughter and husband reminds me why I do this to myself. So we push on. Resilience is about many things.  For me it is about hanging onto the best of yourself and making time to do the things you need to do to nurture those bits.  I now measure myself by a different set of expectations and standards, ones that I have set for myself.  It feels strange, but not unpleasantly so.

Each week its the small things that lift my spirits.  This week it has been the feedback so far on the Thank You Shawl pattern from the yarn clubbers (thank you!), sketching out the new concept for shawl number 5, winning the fabulous Defarge Yarns ombre yarn set in the picture above in a draw, and receiving the Rockamolly mug I ordered from Doodlestop. Never a truer word was written on crockery, especially after the week I have just had.

Owning a sketchbook again makes me feel strangely complete – last time I had one it was when I was in my twenties.  I still find it hard to put things down in it in case its ‘wrong’ so I still find myself searching for scrap paper to sketch my ideas on.  But I am getting there now, building the confidence spoil the pristine pages with my scribbles.  Its only for me.  Scrub that. I should have said “Its for me”.  No “only” – I need to stop doing that.

Anyway, I have made it to the hallowed ground of Friday night without any casualties.  However, my most constant of all lifesavers has let me down – I have run out of teabags.  Bottoms..FullSizeRender.jpg.

All the beautiful things…

Well, its been a bit hectic to say the least over the last few days, but things are starting to settle down now.  I need to update my projects section of this blog to include some of my new patterns, but I did manage to get the wrap pattern up at the weekend.  The first shawl club shawl is also up on Ravelry for those of you who want to look, but I won’t post a picture here just yet, in case there are still folk (and I think that there are) who have yet to receive their boxes.  I will do a post on that one when I am able to.

The last few days have seen me revelling in some pretty things.  Some new yarn came while I was away, and I also finally saw a mannequin that I liked.  I have been looking for one for a while that I can use to put my shawls on so I can take decent pictures of them – hanging them on a coat hanger on the back of the toilet door doesn’t quite seem professional enough any more (don’t judge me, there is good natural light in there…).  Anyway, I found this one…

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…and I am pretty pleased with it, so you will start to see this one creeping into my pictures from now on.  It also has the potential to double up as a parrot cage if necessary.

And then, as if that wasn’t enough, the other half came back from his pottery class tonight with the yarn bowl he has been working on for me.  I asked him to make me a big one, because my current one is small and neat and just about takes one caked 100g skein with very little wriggle room.  So I asked him to do one that was a bit more roomy.  His labours are shown in the picture at the top of the post, and I have popped in a skein of Pollyorange yarn (from my Colour Me Happy box) for a bit of scale.  As you can see, I think he has nailed it and its a great effort for only the second thing he has made and brought home.  The decoration on the side of it is pretty awesome too…

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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Holibobs!

Happiness is in this bag….

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This bag contains the caked yarn from my stash that is going on holiday with me.  It is a large bag.  Many skeins have jumped in and out of it, as if participating in a woolly version of the Hokey Cokey.  I have now settled for a modest amount of about 900g of loveliness, and I have successfully resisted the temptation to add in another cake to make it up to a round 1KG of yarn, because that just sounds excessive…

I have a looong car journey ahead of me on the way there, and another on the way back. Plus, I hope, some R&R in the middle bit. This is premium hooking time, and I am more than a little excited.  I am also feeling virtuous because I have nailed the fourth pattern for Shawl Club, so I am so far ahead of schedule that I can make something that isn’t a shawl for a bit now.  However, I have got an idea for a new shawl that won’t go into Shawl Club, but will just go up on Ravelry if I can get it to work.  I am so tempted to take the yarn for it with me.  Still dithering about that.  Back to the yarn Hokey Cokey again.  What I might do is write down what is in my head and then make it when I get back from holiday.  It is a  bit late at night right now to start caking more yarn, and my swift is making some fairly unearthly squeaks and groans at the moment, and this could frighten the neighbours.

Brian the Sheep, pictured at the top of this post, will stand guard over my stash whilst I’m away.  Brian is a highly trained Ninja Sheep. It is the quiet ones you have to watch, you know. Brian can freeze a thief at 30 paces with his trademark hypnotic stare: “These are not the skeins you are looking for…”

Yes, I think I am starting to lose my mind, but in a good way.  I will try to keep blogging whilst I’m off, but don’t feel abandoned if it goes a bit quiet.  It will mean I am happy with a brew and a hook somewhere far, far away…

Making time to take time…

It is the long Easter weekend this week, which means only one thing.  Not chocolate, or bunnies, or biblical stories.  It means cramming a quart into a pint pot at work.  The short week leading up to Good Friday means that email is blazing with colleagues desperate to move work from their desk to yours as fast as possible before the end of the week.  All of a sudden 101 ‘urgent’ emails ping through, with a note saying that they really do need this done before the end of the week.  Plus I am planning on taking a week or so away from work to spend with family, so that means a need to shift a little bit extra too.  So Thursday saw me preparing to stay at work until everything I needed to do was done.  9.30pm, I left my office to trudge back to the car park, to drive home and collapse.

It wasn’t all bad news though.  Because I knew I would be late, I decided I would let myself have a proper lunch hour and one of my hooky friends dropped in and we chatted yarn-related nonsense for an hour.  It is her skilful hands in the picture, crocheting a favourite Magpie and Goblin sock pattern.  Her yarn, nails and jumper coordinated so beautifully that I had to take a picture.  I also need to make a pair of these socks, as I mastered the ‘magic toe’ technique on a different Magpie and Goblin pattern and now want to have a go at these babies.  I have so much sock wool in my stash (bought for shawl making) that I could do with diversifying a wee bit.

The week ended on a high for me.  I nailed Shawl Pattern number 4 ready for Shawl Club, caked my own bodyweight in yarn ready for my holiday, and then I won the most beautiful set of Unbelievawool mini skeins and some coordinating grey yarn in an online lucky dip. I really wanted that particular win, so I was dancing around the room when I got the notification through.  I felt that I was being rewarded for my late night of work.

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I already know what I am going to use some of them to make, and I want to cake them, but at the moment they are my yarn pets and are so pretty I just want to stare at them.  But I will try to take them with me as I have an idea for a pattern that will use some of them.

I have a little bit of work to do before I can really relax – I couldn’t quite get it all done – but its the sort of stuff I can nail in an evening after the small person has gone to bed. But one thing that this experiment is teaching me is to make more time for my head at work and to take a proper break in the middle of the day.  Its hard to stick to some days, but it rewards me with a clearer head when I manage it.  I get more done because I have that moment of reflection in the middle of the frenzy.

Anyway, I hope you all have a fantastic, crochet-filled holiday weekend.  For me it signals the countdown to the start of my new business on the 7th April. So everything starts to get pretty interesting now!  I can’t wait to start to share it with you.