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…

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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!

No turning back…

So, it is really, really happening.  I will have my very first stall at Wool@J13 in May!  It is booked, and I am in the throes of organising my stock.  I will, of course, be bringing my patterns, but I am putting together a sort of pick and mix feel to me stall: pick a pattern, pick a yarn, pick some extras and have them all beautifully wrapped for you, so you have a treat for when you get to open it all again later at home.  Having helped out Sam and Sue on their stands, it seems that a lot of people like to see what is in their kit boxes before they buy them.  So I decided the easiest thing would be to let people build their own kits, and make them as special as possible.

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I have commissioned some yarns from Unbelievawool and Dye Candy, all on a psychological theme, and the testers look pretty special (the ones shown above are from Dye Candy).  I am hoping to ask some of other dyers to contribute as well, but I don’t want to get too carried away for my first show.  But I hope to be able to support some of my other favourite dyers too.

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I have some hand made stitch markers already from Tinkaboo Crafts, and I have found some amazing fabric for project bags which also keeps with the psychological theme.  All brains and neurons! I know they won’t appeal to everyone but I think the fabric looks pretty amazing.  A friend is helping me by making them this time, but I plan to make some myself in future if I can find time (time is my enemy at the moment).

So my extras will be hooks, stitch markers (I hope to get some very special ones made to go with the ones I already have), and WIP bags.  I am trying to source some shawl pins too, and keep toying with the idea of a small amount of things which feature my logo.  What do you think?  Do people like the idea of my little frazzled brain as a badge or a pin?  Let me know!

Shawl Club – Season 2

So I am now in full on crafting mode again after a little bit of a sabbatical.  Shawl Club Season 2 (“the sequel, just when you thought it was safe to go back into your stash…) has just launched over on the Unbelieva-wool page.  As I type, Shawl 1 is on the floor and on my mannequin, and I am pleased with the pattern as it is one of those easy to do and relatively easy to remember patterns.

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Last season I tried to vary the style and shape of the patterns so that there was something for everyone (the patterns are all available on my Ravelry store if you want to review them). It is quite a challenge to come up with a one skein shawl, especially those that will work with shorter as well as longer length skeins.  The firm favourites last time were the Thank You Shawl and the Shieldmaiden Shawl, but I also have a soft spot for the beaded arches shawlette – more of a scarf than a shawl but there is something special about that beading and it seems to be a popular shawl for gifting.

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This time I have learned a lot from what I felt worked well last time and this time I also want to keep with some easy makes with the occasional challenging element from time to time (but not too often).  I am trying to vary the shapes again, but it seems that you like it when I play with textures and lacework as much as I do, so expect me to revisit those themes again.  I also have an idea for some colour work shawls, and as ever Sam and I are keen to use as many luxury bases as we can.

I hope you enjoy Season 2, and if you haven’t tried it before consider giving it a try.  As ever, I am always here to help if you need me!

Boxes and Sock(es)

So the chaos is starting to subside – boxes are being emptied, only to be reoccupied by my cat – a massive Maine Coon who fills a banana box on her own and has assumed they have been emptied for her benefit.  My daughter also grabbed four of the boxes to create her own rocket, complete with jet boosters (made from Smirnoff boxes we got from the supermarket, which makes it look a bit like someone needs to call social services.

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The kitchen looks brilliant, and now makes the rest of my home look awful and so we are going to crack on with redecorating, renovating and frankly just plain cleaning the rest of the house.  Small person wants to bring her friends over for play dates, and at the moment only the mummies trusted not to be too judgemental have been allowed over the threshold.  Small wants her next birthday party to be at home.  So the clock is ticking if this miracle of home organisation and cleanliness is to be achieved in time…

On the crochet front, as promised I have a new pattern out on Ravelry.  Its the DK Dizzy Socks, and I am so thrilled with how they have come out.  I will be honest, I would have never attempted crochet socks without a nudge from someone else, as I tend to associate them with the very talented Sarra from Magpie and Goblin who makes the most brilliant crochet sock patterns on top of everything else this wonder woman does.  But Sam from Unbelievawool asked if I could come up with something similar to the knitted sock patterns she had designed, and I fancied a challenge.  I expected to come back with a ‘no’, but in the end I just decided to follow the same process as a top down knitted sock and it seemed to work. They are so comfy, but I now really need to work up a pair in the beautiful merino Sam dyed for them.  I can see some in people’s Christmas stockings this year!

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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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Hot Beverages and Sandy Balls…

So, I have just returned from a week by the seaside with the family.  It was a much needed break for all of us – a rest for the head and the heart.  As normal, I overpacked yarn, and came home with more than I took because I was able to meet up with Sam from Unbelievawool whilst I was there and she gave me some more to take home with me – one set of yarn for the next shawl, and another set of skeins which are part of a blanket club that I belong to.  So much for reducing the stash… But as you can see from the main picture, there was a lot of sitting on beaches or the sofa with a nice cup of tea and a project on the go.

I did manage to get some crocheting done (more of that in my next blog), and once that was done I had a go at the Arwen pattern from the new Truly Hooked sock book, using a merino / mohair mix yarn from Jo.Knit.Sew.  Those socks turned out to be the main project for the holiday.  I am not a very confident knitter, and although I can do the basics and a bit of intarsia (badly, usually), lace work and mock cables are new to me.  I also had to use YouTube to learn how to do long tail cast on, which now I have mastered it I can see will feature a lot in my future projects. The yarn overs between knit and purl stitches are what drove me to despair initially though.  I got there in the end but not before ripping the first sock back to the beginning about three times.  But once I nailed it I was pleased with the results.  I have the socks on the blockers now -I have just finished the second sock in the last half and hour – and so I will try to get a good picture to show you how well they look.  I am not sure I would make such pretty sock very often, but I learned a lot from making them, and I am sure someone will appreciate them for a gift.

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The price of creativity, however, is pain.  I have developed a hole in my right index finger from repeatedly using it to push the tip of the circular needles through the stitches.  It doesn’t look like much but trust me its quite deep and very sore.  Apparently I am not the only one who has one of these little holes in their finger, which makes me feel a bit better, like I have now earned some sort of badge of knitting honour.

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When I got back home my DK socks I had just finished before I left for holiday were ready to come off of the blockers.  These socks are special for two reasons: they are for me, and they are made with yarn I dyed myself at the retreat last year.  They look amazing and are so soft.  And they have blocked so well. These DK socks always looks a bit of a funny shape when they are done but they are so smart when they are blocked.

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It is late now so I am going to got to bed, and I will blog again about my crochet exploits in the morning.  The knitting needles are being put away for the next two weeks whilst I go into crochet overdrive.  It is time to get some of my project ideas out of my head and into reality…

Fibre East 2016

Well Fibre East didn’t disappoint.  Last year we had fantastic weather and a brilliant day, and this year was the same.  I took a small gang with me – three of my best yarn friends – and we had a great time fondling yarn and chatting to the stall holders.  I got to help out very briefly on the Unbelievawool stand, and I was so pleased to chat to Nicola from Fleabubs, Sue Stratford from the Knitting Hut, Lisa from For the Love of Yarn and Phyllis from Rosebuds and Rainbows. I also managed to get some yarn from some new folk, and chatted to Lola from Third Vault Yarns for ages whilst I dithered over 2 skeins of the most beautiful DK merino / silk mix I had seen (I resisted – my stash is out of control as you know – but I will be ordering it online at some point I am pretty sure).

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So on my shopping list this year was a new shawl pin, some more ‘manly’ coloured sock yarn (ready for Christmas presents) and some red yarn, as I love deep dark reds but have very few in my stash.  As you can see from the picture above, I overachieved this year so I was pretty pleased with my haul.  The picture at the top of the blog post shows part of the most amazing Art Blank from Fleabubs – too fabulous to resist.

Verity from Truly Hooked was there but I was a bit too shy to chat to her this time, but her new sock book was on proud display.  When I got home my own copy of it, that I had pre-ordered, was waiting for me and it looks fantastic.  I have already picked which pair I want to try first, and so I will have to pack it in my holiday bag, along with a nice skein of sock yarn.

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Talking of socks, in the car to and from Fibre East (and at the show too, if I am honest) I was knitting another pair of Easy Peezy socks, but this time using up some yarn that I dyed myself at the Devon Sun Yarns retreat I went to last November.  I learned how to heather yarn, and the result was this purple and grey mix.  So I thought it might look pretty in a pattern like this and sure enough it does.  I don’t think any of the yarn dyers are in any danger from me, but I am a little bit proud of them, even though the light in here doesn’t quite show off the colours.  What do you think?

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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…!