Nothing clashes in nature…

I am experiencing the rather odd sensation of starting my blog during the early evening rather than at the dead of night.  This is because, in a random act of good mummy-ing (not a regular feature of my life, although it is a daily aspiration), I took my daughter to the swimming pool and then to the park.  It is a warm day, and so the combination of all these things has resulted in the small one crashing early; what I had assumed would be a nap is now looking like it will be her night sleep too.

IMG_0680

So, here I sit, rather disorientated if I am honest.  I have been working on a circular blanket as a thank you gift for my daughter’s nursery, but I have run out of yellow yarn and so I have had to put that WIP down for now.  I wandered out into my overgrown garden (it is too hot to start weeding) and started taking some pictures for inspiration.  That is, sometimes you can get stuck in a colour rut.  As much as I love rainbows and ombre colour schemes, they can get tired sometimes, and I also have a tendency to gravitate to the same colours time and again. So, it is nice to go a bit crazy and put some different colours together occasionally.  I love the way you can get a mundane colour to pop or to take on a new look by changing the colours they are combined with. Colours I wouldn’t necessarily  go for on paper can look amazing when used in the right proportions together.

IMG_0673

My garden provides masses of inspiration for this.  It is wild this time of year, with lots of self-seeded flowers mixed in with the intentional planting. I can take credit for none of it, as I inherited it from the previous owner of our house.  It is far from formal, especially as I don’t get as much time to tidy it up as I would like, but somehow it works for me.

IMG_0677

Shawl number 3 from Shawl Club has gone up on Ravelry (blog post reveal to follow), and the yarn is being mailed out by Unbelievawool tomorrow morning.  It has also been inspired by one of the flowers that self-seeds itself though my garden, but that I have a real soft spot for.  The yarn I used for the Ravelry pictures was an early play with colours which we were not entirely happy with, but the final club yarn is a wowzer, and should look amazing.

Anyway, the colours in my garden have succeeded in giving me some ideas this evening.  That is, I have some ideas for new projects that I want to test and develop over the summer whilst I have some downtime from the day job.  I was rummaging and re-rummaging though my drawers of yarn earlier and couldn’t decide what to do.  But a little wander through my garden has done the trick.  Now I just need a little time to play.

Somewhat appropriately for the remembrance activities this week, I also found these stray red poppies growing in the gravel of my path.  Lest we forget.

IMG_0678

Beaded Arches Shawlette

OK, so I am very excited to be able to reveal Shawl 2 from the Shawl Club collaboration with Unbelieva-wool.  This is the Beaded Arches Shawlette, so named because of its beading and arches (I lack imagination).

IMG_3167

The yarn is a pretty special merino / nylon / yak base, dyed in reds and plums in a colourway called ‘Loving You’.

So, the story behind this one is that shortly after we agreed to do Shawl Club, Sam said that she really liked the idea of a long, thin crescent shaped shawl. So did I, but boy, that is a hard shape to nail without making the pattern so involved that your head explodes from tracking where to place the increases.  One of my rules of pattern design is that ideally it should be something that is mainly simple and meditative to do once the pattern is set, with the occasional bit of complexity.  So I tried to find a way of coming up with the shape, without the headache.

FullSizeRender 7

This was what I managed to come up with.  It is a complete cheat, as the shape is achieved through cunning use of blocking.

I also wanted to incorporate beading because, as you know, I like a touch of beadwork in a shawl and it suited this particular shawl well.  In trying to get the shape right, I made loads of these shawls, and I have to say I have fallen in love with them as I wear them as scarves, like this:

IMG_3141

But here are some early contenders I am also very fond of…

These are using a vibrant grad from Dye Candy, and the one below is using a silk mix yarn (also from Dye Candy) entitled ‘Scream Queen’, without the beads.

IMG_2966

I have more but I will spare you here, although you may see them crop up on Instagram from time to time.  So there you have it: a cheeky cheat.  Forgive me, but it does work!

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…

IMG_2853

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

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…

photo 10

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…

photo 47

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.

photo 41

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.

Lunchtime hooky…

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.

What’s my style?

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:

  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4.  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!

Shawl club has launched!

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.