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.

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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.

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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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Meditating on friends and gratitude…

Ok, so this is a little embarrassing and exciting in equal measure. This week I launched a kickstarter to see if I could raise funds to get the book project underway. The plan was that this weekend’s blog would be a chance to spread the word and nudge a little more interest. However, I completely underestimated the response I would get, so here I am already in a position to confirm that we have hit the minimum target I needed to get the book printed! I am so overwhelmed and buoyed by the support I have had. The kickstarter stays open for more backers until 10th Feb, when it closes and the work begins in earnest. So there is still a chance to support the project and get a copy of the book as soon as it’s printed (ahead of its official launch in May) if anyone is interested in getting involved.

The cover image for this week’s blog is an extreme close up of the shawl I designed for the Christmas shawl club, known as the Friendship Meditation Shawl. The reason for this is linked to the beading. I love crochet because it is the closest I get to meditation and I also love a bit of beading, as you know. At the end of the year it’s worth taking stock of all that you have to be grateful for, and my friends are a big part of that. So every bead is a prompt to think of a person or memory that means something to you. And this is a shawl that just grows and grows, so you can keep going and make it huge! I love the grey silk one I made using some elegance yarn that Sam dyed, but I am planning a bigger one using the yarn that Lollipop Guild Yarns put in their End of Year box. It’s loud and proud and I just need to get some beads to go with it. I love the colours in this.

I am starting to plan new shawls for this year’s shawl club that will start again soon (we plan the first box for March). I have some themes in mind but I would love to hear from you if you have an idea you would like us to explore. Last year we were really impressed by the response to the unicorn themed box. The unicorn rainbow wrap I designed to go with it is a mini-skein project, pictured here using an ombré set in blue, but for the box we went with our interpretation of a unicorn rainbow, so bright pink, orange, turquoise, blue and green. But I have to say that I love the colour blend in this one.

La Parisienne

I am so happy to finally be able to share this shawl with you.  In this month’s shawl club box, Sam wanted to have a Paris theme to the crochet set.  I had been playing around with some triangular-based stitch patterns and felt that they were a little bit reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower (tenuous, I know), so I started to work up something a little bit different.  This shawl has a central ‘lace’ section which is worked first and then wings are added to it to frame the lace part and add width.  It is worked here in a 120g red yak singles sock yarn from unbelievawool which was just beautiful to use and it has a wonderful drape to it.  The shawl is a big one!  As you may be able to tell, I was quite pleased with how it came out.  Red is one of my favourite colours and so this is going to be used quite a lot.

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The edging is the same one I used on the Escapism shawl, as I wanted neat triangles along the border and that method is the best one I have found for achieving that effect.  The shawl shown here was the sample I made, but I think that a plain border along the bottom edge looks neater, and so that is what I recommend in the pattern itself.

Sometimes something very simply looks the most striking!

Sundae Shawl

So I can finally show you the first shawl of Shawl Club Season 2 -the Sundae Shawl.

sundae

As you know, I am pretty rubbish at coming up with names for my shawls.  This one is called the Sundae Shawl because it looks like one of those wafers that you stick in your ice cream when you are having a treat.  And it also looks great in ice-cream colours. The yarn I used here is by Fleabubs.

sundae flat

It works really well with bamboo / merino mixes, although any yarn would work well with it.  Plus it is one of those patterns where it will keep on growing if you have the yarn and follow the pattern of the rows, but the examples shown are post blocking and used just 400m of yarn.

sundae swirl

It looks pretty great in grads too.  This one is by Hooking Marvelous and it reminds me of a sunrise or sunset.

sundae sunset

My next shawl will be revealed fairly soon as I did a special one-off pattern for one of the collaboration yarn boxes produced by Unbelievawool, Truly Hooked and Dye Candy.  It uses three different skeins of yarn and is a bit of a departure for me but I am quite pleased with how it has come out!

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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