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!

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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.

The Yarn Emporium

This week has been strangely productive.  I am not used to this. I confess that on Day 1 of being at home on leave I wandered around the house, too afraid to settle down with a hook in case I discovered I was hallucinating.  I eventually stopped pacing the house and settled down in my yarn room for a bit of a tidy up, a yarn squidge, and to have a think about some project ideas I had been playing with. Tuesday saw two of my yarn friends dropping by to invade my yarn room.  Now, to put this into perspective, my yarn room is my office with a big 4×4 Ikea unit in the corner which contains all my yarn, books, sewing machine (I have a dinky one) and other yarn paraphernalia. But I do have quite a bit yarn stash – about 50% shop bought commercial yarn and 50% hand-dyed loveliness.  I was in denial about how much yarn I had because it was all tidied away, but this also meant that I had lost track of what I had.

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So my lovely friend, who is now on maternity leave, offered to come and catalogue my stash into my Ravelry account.  She has recently done it for her own stash and has slight OCD compulsions and so enjoys this.  She also just wanted a chance to squish my yarns and be nosy, but I don’t mind as other people’s stashes are always interesting. Our system was that she typed in the yarn details into my computer and the yarn was then ferried to me (initially by a small child) in another room with good light where I took pictures.  After about 6 hours we had managed to get through most of the hand-dyed and all of the commercial cotton yarn, but I still have other yarn to add in.  The best bit was when she emptied one of my bins of hand-dyed yarn on the floor and just launched herself, baby belly and all, into the middle of it.  I couldn’t get to my camera fast enough, but let’s just say her expression said it all. This was the aftermath.

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When you have had your yarn catalogued, there is no getting away from just how much yarn you own.  Its even worse when you know it only represents half your stash.  I don’t have a stash, I have a yarn emporium.  I toyed with the idea of a de-stash, but to be honest now that I knit socks there isn’t a skein of yarn that I can’t think of a project I could use it for.  So I have decided that I really, really need to go hard on the yarn ban until I can empty at least one of these bins.  I am not sure what a respectable stash size is, but I am pretty sure I am not respectable.  I am a yarn harlot.

The best thing about it, however, is that I have a fantastic range of yarns to use when I am designing something.  For example, I decided to elevate this example of a Dye Candy OOAK baby camel and silk yarn from a yarn pet (it is sooo soft) to project yarn.  This has been a revelation to me – it moves and behaves completely differently to a standard merino sock yarn and its a pleasure to work with. My friends have suggested a new blog feature entitled ‘squish of the week’.  I may yet initiate this.

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So now I am busy hooking up prototypes for new shawls.  I have Shawls 6 and 7 on the hook, and the concept for Shawl 8 is on the sketchbook and is next to be played with.  This is so much fun.  And I haven’t even got onto the non-shawl projects yet!  Time to go squidge some more yarn…

Stop the world…

I am exhausted. Again. I am also going through one of those phases where nothing seems to be going to plan on any front.  I am not particularly prone to melancholy, but when life gets this overwhelming, I just want to hit rock bottom and stay there. It’s not quite a matter of feeling sorry for myself, more just a strong sense of being sorry – of wanting to apologise to everyone and everything for all that I have failed to do.  The only thing I find I can do is to take myself away from everything, and focus on the stitch-by-stitch repetition of making something for someone. It is a bit like making a peace offering, but it is more to do with making peace with myself than with trying to please someone else.  After all, when I feel like this, I don’t feel like I can really please anyone anyway.  This is more about reminding myself that I am actually capable of something positive.

So it is a little bit ironic, or appropriate (depending on your viewpoint), that I recently received a Well Being yarn box from Fleabubs, and a skein of yarn from Lollipop Guild Yarns called ‘Dance your cares away’.  They were the last of my yarn clubs before I cancelled them, and they are beautiful. I want to make them into beautiful things, and they inspire me. I just wish I had more time to work with them.

On a more positive note, shawl number 2 should arrive with shawl clubbers this week.  I have been so delighted with the reaction to the Thank You Shawl that I am a little bit nervous about whether the next one will go down as well.  That said, I love it and I have made several versions of it that I wear a lot, so I know it works, but whether it is quite what people are expecting…I just don’t know.  I really hope it proves to be popular. I will put a post up about it when the reveal time comes to tell you a bit about its development.

I will try to get another post up this weekend but I am preparing for a work trip that currently has me numb with fear.  I might have to cake one of these beauties to come with me and keep me company on my travels.  They will give me the peace I need to think clearly and push through this next bit of stuff. A bit of yarn meditation is in order…