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…
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!
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!
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…
Apparently she won’t give up the shawl though. I think I am going to take that as a bit of a thumbs up.
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…
…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…
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…
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…
So I am not the only yarnhead where I work. I have two colleagues who are also demon crocheters and we are trying to get into the habit of meeting up at lunchtime to crochet together and share our makes. One of them has been pattern testing the first shawl to go into shawl club (no major issues, I am pleased to report, so that is a relief!) and the other one is going to pattern test shawls for me but is in the middle of a textured cowl using yak yarn at the moment and cannot put it down. Anyway, lunchtime is now a bit of an oasis in what can be some very long days, and a good excuse to turn away from the computer screen and have a non-work related conversation. We have made a pact to go to Fibre East this year and already getting giddy at the prospect as last year we had perfect weather on the day we went and we are hoping for a repeat.
I love these women. One of them is responsible for teaching me to crochet in the first place, so she has a lot to answer for. The other is great fun as we send each other pictures of our latest hand-dyed purchases when we get home, and we egg each other on to make completely unjustifiable yarn purchases when we are stressed. We all need a friend like that, right?
Anyway, I am busy experimenting with my pattern for Shawl #4, which I have a concept for and its working from a technical point of view but I am not sure whether I love it yet. The other shawls so far have been more open / lacy and this one is more of a solid looking shawlette, and I am worried that people will have reservations about it. The colours pictured here are not the ones that I will eventually be using for the finished shawl, I just needed to grab a couple of skeins from my stash to play with and these seemed to fit the bill. They are pretty though – the one on the right is a King Becky pixel yarn (colourway – Soma) and it is lovely to work with. I will probably keep this for me regardless of whether the finished product ends up in shawl club but we will see. I will have a think about whether I can make it a bit more open without messing up the main concept too much. I have an idea, but I just need to play with it a bit more.
Well, it has been a very exciting couple of days, and I am so thrilled with the response to shawl club. The best thing about it has been the enthusiasm for it given that I am a new pattern designer and I haven’t yet put too many examples of my own patterns up on the blog, so people are trusting in me to give them some interesting projects. One question that has come up is “What is your style?” Its a great question, and one that I have been thinking about a lot since I was asked it.
I guess at the moment I have more of a set of guiding principles that influence my design choices, rather than an overriding style, which I suspect will become apparent as time progresses. So here they are:
- Simplicity: I enjoy the act of crocheting and I have made so many shawls since I became addicted that I have learned that I prefer patterns that are simple enough that they are not stressful to produce (easy to remember repeats of stitches), but that have enough variation in them to keep them interesting. I get frustrated with lots of hook changes, or with patterns that are very strict about gauge, as they take the relaxation out of crocheting for me. I admire these patterns as they usually look amazing, but they aren’t me, or at least they aren’t me at the moment anyway.
- Practicality: I love a make that gets used. So the shawls have to be practical and wearable. I have made sure that there are lots of different shaped shawls in shawl club to suit different tastes and styles, but all of them can be worn out without fear of people pointing and laughing at you.
- Colour: A (knitter) friend of mine has a joke about crocheters having an inexplicable love of ‘clown vomit’ yarns. By this she means the sort of bright and clashing colour combinations that look great in the stitch but offend against Principle Number Two (i.e. people not pointing and laughing). I have favourite colours of course (see picture above) but I like colour combinations and contrasts that are harmonious. I do like the odd riot of colour, and I love vibrant colours, but this is tempered by a desire to put together a more restricted and complementary set of colour combinations. So having experimented with clown vomit in the past, I have now moved down the road towards more restricted colour combinations, with a preference for jewel tones and colours inspired by nature.
- Comfort: A shawl should be a comfort to wear – a great big yarn-y hug.
I hope this helps those of you who are trying to get a sense of what you might expect from shawl club. I am really enjoying making them at the moment – I hope that you will enjoy them too!
So finally I can tell you a bit about what I have been working on. Tonight I have launched a shawl club with Sam from Unbelieva-wool. I am beyond excited – her yarns are beautiful and I have had great fun plotting this behind the scenes with her! So the plan is that you can sign up for a series of yarn boxes, each one about 6 weeks apart, and each one will contain a skein of her yarn which has been dyed to suit the pattern I have written (all of which are new and have not been published before), and a extra something that will help you to do the pattern, plus the pattern itself. The yarns will be either standard merino sock yarn or a luxury base. And I am so giddy tonight with the interest in this. We will do the club for about 8 months and then see if folk want us to continue.
The patterns themselves will be a mixture of styles and shapes to keep it interesting and I am really pleased with how they are coming out so far! Once everyone has received their boxes I will do a little reveal on this page.
If you are interested in signing up, click the link here and complete the online form. The first invoices will be payable by the end of March so we know what numbers we are working with. If you live outside the UK, it is worth knowing that Sam is happy to ship overseas if you let her know on the sign up form so that she can tweak the price to allow for the extra postage.
In the meantime I am also working on some other patterns to go up on Ravelry on the 7th April, including the Moo-Ra dress, a hat pattern, a rather lovely wrap, and a few other bits and bobs. And as a special thank you to you, my blog-watchers, I will be putting up some free patterns on this site over the next few weeks.
So today is a rare treat – I have been able to book a day off from work to concentrate on getting some yarn-related jobs done, and I am ignoring all the essential house-related work I should also be attending to. I do feel a bit like I have to ‘earn’ my yarn time by doing lots of other stuff first, but today I can indulge. I am really excited because I finally have a logo for my blog and patterns (what do you think of it?) and as a result I have spent this morning finishing off some of my patterns ready to go live in April. So much seems to be coming together at the moment, including a design for a shawl which I can’t show you yet but I am really pleased with. It is a big yarn-y hug for someone who has both inspired and helped me, and I wanted it to be something special. I made it over the last two days in DK, and now I am going to do it in sock-weight yarn to see how much yarn I need for a lightweight version. The picture above is the yarn from my stash I am going to use. Its by Pollyorange and called ‘The cold side of the pillow’. I have been saving it for something special and I hope that there will be enough to finish the pattern. I will cake it later and make a start. Its going to be part of something very special that I hope to share with you very soon!
I have really been enjoying the reaction I have had to the post on beading, and I am so pleased people have found it useful. Eventually I will treat myself to a camera with a video function so I can make some video tutorials to go with that post and to show you some other techniques I use. The thing about crochet is that everyone seems to have their own quirky ways of doing things, and its nice to see them and compare. It really does build your confidence when you realise that it doesn’t matter how you hold your hook, join your yarn, sew your ends in, sew garments up, and so on, as long as you are happy with it and the end product works. I am far from a purist, and I do things in all different ways. So I am going to add a ‘techniques’ section to this blog so you can find those sorts of posts more easily. And thank you all for your interest and lovely comments so far.