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.

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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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Re-emerging from the abyss

So, as you have noticed, things have been very quiet on the blog front.  July is, for me, traditionally a month of stress – it is when all the work deadlines for the day job come into conflict, with an added topping this year of trying to get end of year gifts made for the very special women who have helped to look after my little one.  In September she starts school, and so this summer is going to be extra emotional.  Everything I have made doesn’t seem to be enough, or good enough, to recognise what they have done for us as a family.  I said goodbye to the first of my daughter’s current nursery teachers this week.  The only thing I could think to give her was the very first Thank You Shawl I ever made, as it was in her favourite colours, and it was huge.  I hope that every time she puts it on, she feels hugged.

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So this week should be the beginning of the end of the crazy season, assuming I can get all my work done on time.  One more week and then it is Fibre East (oh my, I cannot wait), which signals the beginning of the end.

Shawl Club continues a-pace, and one of the things I can finally show you is Shawl Number 3, otherwise known as the ‘Forget Me Never’ Shawl.

Two pictures of it – the first one shows it unblocked – highly textured and cosy.  The second shows it blocked (and shows nicely how much blocking can make a project grow.  It is called Forget Me Never, because Sam and I agreed on a pretty forget-me-not colour way for the yarn.  The pictured shawl shows the very subtle first dye of this.  We subsequently decided to ramp up the colour contrasts, so the final yarn colour is a stronger blue, with purple and green accents.

I need to update my archive with this and the previous shawl, but that is a job for the summer months.  I also hope to get some designing done too, so I can launch a new collection of items ready for September, when we all start looking around for ideas for Christmas present makes.  It may not be a very big collection, but it will be exciting for me.  This is all baby steps.  I am still only 3 months into this experiment, and so far it has exceeded my expectations.  I just need to keep all the plates spinning.

And of course, because I don’t know when enough is enough, I asked Phyllis from Rosebuds and Rainbows if she has a DK sock pattern, to help me with my stash busting.  She sent it over – a new pattern for testing – and I used a very special neon yarn by Dye Candy, called ‘Blacklight’, to try it out. As you can see, it makes a very nice (and super quick) winter sock.  Merino cashmere mix.  A treat for the toes.

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The pattern is now up on Ravelry as the ‘Easy Peezy Socks‘.  I am already on my second pair, which I hope to finish to give as a gift to my daughter’s key worker, along with this lazy waves shawlette, which I made on retreat last year.

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I am not sure if either the socks or the shawlette will hit the mark, but here’s hoping.

The featured yarn at the top of this post illustrates how I feel – a bit of colour is creeping back into the darkness and not before time.  The yarn is called (perhaps appropriately enough given how crabby I have been on occasion this month) “Kill the Witch”, and it is by  Lollipop Guild Yarns.

Anyway, lots more to follow soon, including some new free patterns, the end of the retro blanket pattern (you thought I had forgotten, didn’t you?), and some more videos as you seemed to enjoy my first foray into video making.  I may even speak in the next one, who knows…!

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!

Sam’s revolution!

So I am a little bit excited.  A few days ago one of my friends made the snap decision that she wanted to go to Wonderwool, and we have decided to do the road trip to Wales to squidge yarn and generally be a bit silly.  An added bonus is that Sam from Unbelieva-wool will also be there so we can talk shop a little bit.

Sam has recently come up with two new shawl designs – one knitted and another crocheted – to add to her existing Cascade shawl design (which is 50% off at the moment!).  I tested the newest crochet shawl for her – this has been named the Revolution shawl, and I love it.  It is a great shape and has wonderful drape to it.  I had the pleasure of being a pattern tester for this one and I can testify to it being a straightforward one to do, and it looks amazing.  My pictures don’t really do it justice.

She is taking her new designs, along with my Thank You shawl and the Bobble Wrap, to Wonderwool.  I have decided to celebrate this weekend by applying an automatic 50% discount to all my patterns in Ravelry this weekend.  So if there is one you have been toying with getting, grab it now if you can.

Anyway, I love going on road trips like this one.  I get to be passenger this time so I have some quality hooky time in the car on the way up and back.  I do need to set a budget for this and stick to it.  I have a stash to bust, so I really do have to be strong! So only the really special stuff is likely to come home with me.  That’s the plan anyway.  Naturally, you will be the first to learn if I stuck to this!

I hope to put up a little quick stashbusting pattern on the blog this weekend if I have the time so watch this space!

 

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.