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…

Possible back cover

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Hello, fancy seeing you here…

Hello! Happy new year and all that. I know, since getting the new job things went a bit quiet on here as finding the time to blog has been a bit tricky with the extended commute, but I am back, and I have a lot of catching up to do!

I am going to do some new blogs for the patterns that have come out on Ravelry whilst I have had my head down, and I also have plans to update my photo archive too. But at the moment I am typing this on my phone on the way back from the annual new year pilgrimage to mum’s house. We spent Christmas with my in-laws, and I got the chance to use up some of my stash on small projects while I was there, plus I finished this pretty lovely retro fit jumper designed by Sue Stratford (who also writes the Knitting and Gin blog). The yarn is by For the Love of Yarn, and is a sparkly merino and silk blend that has been in my stash for a while now. I’m really please with the fit of this, and need to make one for me now!

My mother-in-law has asked me to make some lap blanket and so I am busy stash busting with those. My progress is shown at the top of the blog, and the yarn is recycled from an abandoned blanket club make that I lost interest in. I’m using the ripple technique described in the Attic24 blog and I love it in these colours.

But I am on a very strict yarn ban for 2018. I have a crazy amount of very lovely stuff and I have no more room for additions to it. So it’s a year to mobilise what I have, and to prioritise the important stuff – family, making, and getting my act together. I have a very intense six months coming up on both work fronts, so I need to plan and get organised. The book is going to happen this year, one way or another, and I will keep you all posted. But in the meantime here is to a very happy and productive new year!

Travels with my yarn

Hello!  Yes, back again after a much longer break than I had planned.  Since I last blogged I had to go to Canada for a work trip (Nova Scotia, just beautiful).  Now this was to attend a Big Grown Up Conference Full of Important People.  Fortunately, they are also rather nice and lovely.  Most importantly, the outgoing president of the society organising the conference has recently taken up spinning and weaving.  She is a good friend and utterly spoiled me by gifting me these four beautiful skeins of yarn that she had spun.

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Spinning fascinates me – I would love to learn how to do it but I am a bit scared on two counts:

  1. I will be rubbish at it and this will break my heart
  2. I will be good at it, I will enjoy it, and develop a new fibre-related addiction

Secretly I have a hankering after a beautiful wooden spinning wheel but at the moment I am going to resist.

I had promised myself a drop spindle to play with when I went to Fibre East at the end of July.  However, I made a bit of a boo boo.  This year we have been a bit restricted re when we could get away as a family and after much nagging we finally agreed a week we could both do and a location and we booked it quickly as the date was only two weeks away.  After we had booked I realised it clashed with the long planned trip to Fibre East with two friends.  I have to confess to being more than a little bit gutted at this point.  I love that show and this year there were dyers I really wanted to meet, and whose yarns I was keen to see close up.  I had set aside a little budget for a yarn splurge.  And so it was I found myself on Etsy in the car on the drive to Cornwall, picking some very pretty yarns to compensate myself.  One purchase was waiting for me when I got back home. The beauties pictured below are by All Wool That Ends Wool – she dyed for my first show and the intensity of colour she achieves in her yarn is very impressive.  Anyway, I love these colourways and even though I have enough sock yarn to last me a couple of years (!) I succumbed.  I’m not even sorry.  I mean, just look at them.  The fact that they barely fit in my box of sock yarn is not something I am going to dwell on….

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The last minute nature of the holiday also saw me sitting up the night before we left madly caking yarn ready for some holiday knitting.  At the Canadian conference I promised two of my former colleagues and another friend there that I would knit them socks, as none of them had ever experienced the sheer delight of having a warm bath and then popping handmade sock on your toes when your feet are tired.  There is nothing quite like it.  So I managed to get two sets of socks made while I was away, between trips to the beach, Tintagel, Eden Project and other pretty wonderful places.  The third set of socks is on the needles now.  As ever, I want to keep all the socks, but this time I really do want to keep these – the first ones are on Electric Boogaloo yarn by Lollipop Guild Yarns, and the second is on Jimi by Jo.Knit.Sew.  Jimi is a yarn I had in my stash for a long time, and as it has a little bit of sparkle in it.  They twinkle in the light and are so pretty in real life.

This week I am attempting to work from home with my small, which means logging into work email after she has gone to bed and pretty much working nocturnally.  Said small has agreed to go to bed an hour earlier than normal so that I am not completely tired by the time I start the night shift.  We will see how this works out, but she seems very committed to it at this point!  What I have been able to do, however, it get the signup form for my very first (and currently one-off) yarn box, nicknamed the Brain Box (well, why not?).  I am very, very excited by this as it gives me the excuse to commission some new yarn from my favourite indie dyers plus also go shopping for brain-related extras.  I am really pleased with some of the ones I have sourced.  If you would like to sign up, the link to the form is here.

I am hoping to pick up the pace with the blogging this month if I can so watch this space!

Exciting times

So on Saturday I went to Festiwool for the first time, and I was giving Sam a hand on the Unbelievawool stand.  I really enjoyed being on the other side of a yarn stall, and there was really fantastic atmosphere in the room, and it was a great day even though it rained or drizzled all day outside.  I met up with Sam the night before, and while I was waiting for her to arrive at the hotel I decided to sit and knit with a cup of tea to pass the time.  The waiting staff clearly thought I was some sort of mad, yarn-based bag lady, so I tried to keep my head down and tuck myself away.  Then Verity from Truly Hooked came over to admire my brioche wrap that I was working on.  A little bit of my brain exploded with excitement, because at the end of the day I am still a yarnie who is more than a little bit awestruck by the yarn goddesses.  Except for Sam of course.  She is normal, although I am scared of her for other reasons 😉

Anyway, I really enjoyed chatting to everyone and talking about projects etc with the people who came by.  One of my Thank You shawls was snaffled to feature in the fashion show, so that was just brilliant and I felt very honoured.  I was also massively honoured to meet one of the yarn clubbers, who was also exhibiting as she creates amazing things with felt and was on the stand next to ours.  She was such a lovely lady, and I was really touched to have her as one of our gang of shawl makers.  In fact she had some of my shawls on her stand for sale so that was really exciting to see – somehow it made all this feel a bit more real and less like a dream.  Jackie, I know you read this blog – thank you for your support, I am raising my tea mug to you as I type!  I also got to buy some yarn from a new dyer – the skein at the top of the page is a Little French Meadow colourway that looks like it will be perfect for socks.  I couldn’t resist it.

I learned so much about exhibiting from that bit of work experience, and I have some more coming up as I am going to help Sue Stratford out with her stall at Harrogate’s Knitting and Stitching Show in a week or so.  That is going to be completely different – much busier and more intense, but it is a pleasure to help out a friend who is also going through a career transition.  Sue, as you may know, is known for her books of novelty knits but she also runs the Knitting Hut in Woburn Sands.  Sadly for us she has taken the decision to close her little shop to focus on her design work, which is the right thing to do but the hut has been such a wonderful welcoming place for us over the years.  I live a long way away, but I am a regular (if infrequent) visitor and my daughter has been visiting since before she was born.  She usually comes in and a big tray is set on the floor for her to tip all the button jars onto so that she can sort them out and generally play with them.  She has even sat in the shop window in the past.  So I am very sad to see the shop go and I am glad to spend time with Sue when she needs a hand, to say thank you for all of her support over the years.

In other exciting developments, my village has just started a social group for knitters and crafters.  The first session is tonight and I am a bit nervous about going, but I can’t resist the chance to spend a bit of time knitting in a pub.  I mean, how special is that?

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Neglect!

Hello folks.  I hope you are all still out there!

Where do I start?  The last two weeks have steamrollered me.  Work has rapidly picked up pace and I have become a glassy-eyed work drone.  Get up, get washed, get child up, dressed and out the door to school, go to work, attend back-to-back meetings (each one generating actions that I am unable to act on because I have another meeting to go to), run from work to car in blind panic, collect child and attempt to be semi-functional parent (or when possible stay late in attempt to be semi-functional work colleague), feed child, put child to bed, make a cuppa, stare at WIP bag, knit two rows of a sock, give up, go to bed.  And repeat.

Child says “Mummy, tomorrow try to sneak out from your meeting a leeettle bit earlier.”

Sigh.

Today I am frozen with guilt.  I have a chapter to write which should take me a month and needs to take me about four hours, as that is all I have available to me.  I am being kind to myself in the hope that the muse will find me if I can relax a bit.  Writer’s guilt stops me from picking up my hook to crack on with things I need to do.  But tomorrow we will see Grandpa, and that will be OK.  I will get some time to hook in the car.  I have been asked by Sam to see if I can come up with a pattern for something other than a shawl for a nice change and I am enjoying the challenge of it.  That will be my treat at the end of all this.  Plus there is a yarn sale online tonight, and I plan to treat myself there too. Not a big splurge.  Just a skein for a specific project I am hoping to knit as the nights draw in.

So, I need a bit of time to reset the head.  I feel I have nothing to show for my labours at work this month so I am going to invest more time making.  Yes, it’s time I don’t have, but it is time I can at least share with the small person.  I can make things for her.  Show her that I love her.

In other news, my great, yarn cataloguing friend, has her baby last weekend and he is beautiful.  Just perfect. It reminds me of when my one was small.  I was learning to crochet at the time and I would spend the quiet hours of nursing and holding her trying to make granny squares.  I feel like I have come a long way, but I often wish I had those quiet, child-cuddling and crocheting hours back.

A few of my favourite things…

Yesterday I had happy post.  As regular readers will know, I have been on a yarn ban since Fibre East to try to get my stash down to respectable levels.  However, temptation is all around and sometimes I see something that I can’t resist because it is in ‘my’ colours.  Step forward Lady Margolotta by Helen at Bare Threads.  I love blacks, and purples and blues and there they all were, perfectly combined.  It was late at night.  I was browsing Etsy after a long and tiring week back at work.  I was weak.  It spoke to me. I was good, and stopped at just the one skein, even though Helen’s shop had others that I would have loved to buy.

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In the same late night Etsy session, I also was looking at Down the Rabbit Hole – a shop that sells nerdy jewellery (this is a good thing).  She had a sale on. And I saw this.

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It is a serotonin molecule.  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter linked to feelings of happiness and reduced levels of it are implicated in a range of psychological conditions, including depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. So as a psychologist, and as a human being, serotonin is pretty significant so I fell for that necklace too.

So both things arrived on Saturday and I felt pretty happy, and I starting thinking about my other favourite things.  My logo I still absolutely love, even though the brain isn’t quite as it should be, but somehow that makes it more appropriate as most of the time I am sure my brain isn’t wired the way it should be.  In particular it doesn’t have a motor cortex.  If you have seen how clumsy I am, you would wonder if I do too.

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The mug is a favourite thing too, not least because it contains tea.  I drink tea constantly.  And I do mean constantly.  It is a miracle I achieve anything really between trips to the kettle or the loo.  But it is a daily ritual that makes me feel settled and content and that is no bad thing. Tea is a comforting thing when everything else is crazy.  Including me.

Finally, something else that makes me happy is seeing my makes going to a new home where they are loved.  Today I gave a pair of slouchy slox to a friend of mine, and she seems to genuinely adore them.  I got this picture of them on her toes tonight. I feel like a superhero.  My work here is done.

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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.