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…

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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…!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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!