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…

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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…

Bliss is this…

So as promised I tried to document as much of my weekend in London as I could via Instagram, and I hope that you were able to follow along.  I have to say, it was one of the best weekends I have ever had.

I drove to my friend’s village to meet her at the train station.  I parked a little way away and walked in glorious sunshine down to the cafe.  It was warm and still, and all you could hear was birdsong and the occasional car go past.  Everyone I passed was smiling because this was the first really good day of weather we had experienced so far this year.

My friend and I caught the train to London and I hooked whilst she knitted socks until we got to Euston, and then we headed to Waterloo and stopped off for a tea in a little trendy cafe before our first stop at I Knit London.  This was a surprisingly spacious shop for a yarn shop (which are traditionally the size of a small biscuit tin).  It was quiet when we go there so we bought some cold drinks (I Knit is licenced to sell booze but we resisted the temptation) and settled down at one of the tables to fondle yarn and browse some pattern books.  I was very good and found three books which included stitches or techniques I hadn’t seen before (two crochet, one knitting), for a bit of inspiration.  I felt bad about sticking to my yarn ban, but the folk were really nice and there was an excellent selection of bits there.  Very nice.  A good start.

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Back on the underground and on to Loop next.  I have been to Loop before, and it is a yarn snob’s paradise (and I mean that nicely!). They have high end yarns and notions and its a lovely shop to visit.  Upstairs is my favourite bit and I could happily install myself there all day, but I have a child to feed and so I don’t dare.  But yes, as I am sure you anticipated, I was weak, and I succumbed to these beauties.  In my defence, the colour way was a Loop exclusive and they were the only two left.  And they were not sock yarn.  But I felt very virtuous that these were the only ones I came away with (plus a WIP bag that was on sale), so I am counting it as a win…

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We went into The Breakfast Club for an early dinner and then set off for our accommodation. Now, we had planned to share a twin room in a hotel, but we then found that for a tiny bit more outlay we could have a two-bedroom apartment in Clerkenwell instead.  So I booked it, and just hoped that it would be a nice as the pictures on the website were, as it seemed a bit too good to be true.  But it was better than the pictures.  A large living room, two double bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom, all immaculate, all to ourselves.  And a Sainsbury’s nearby for milk and other essentials. It was perfect.

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We settled into an evening of talking and sock knitting.

You need to know something about my friend.  She has an incredibly calming influence on me.  She is very mellow, very sorted, and very philosophical. My resting heart rate drops by an extra 10 beats per minute when I sit and crochet with her (thanks FitBit).  We are very comfortable in each other’s company and she is like a sister to me.  And as we sat up into the small hours, just quietly knitting, chatting and drinking tea, I felt very grateful for her.  My small person was at home with the OH, and apparently she had just been to the best birthday party ever, and here I was, just relaxing.  I achieved an altered state of consciousness, somewhere between ‘flow‘ and ‘bliss’.  And I also achieved ‘smug’, as at 12.20 am I finished my socks.

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The next morning, we got up and I was still in this slightly unreal state of mind.  The sun was pouring into the flat, and we slowly pottered about making tea, eating Malteasers, and getting ready to head out.  We went straight back to Islington, had a pub brunch and knitted at our outside table until the sun moved round and started to become unbearable.  We moved a bit further down the lane, and found the Pistachio and Pickle cheese shop with a big awning outside and empty tables underneath it in the shade.  Apparently no-one wanted a cheeseboard for breakfast, and the lady in the shop was more than happy for us to set up outside.  We drank cool drinks in the sunshine and nibbled olives and cheese all afternoon.  We were just across from Loop, and at one point a lady emerged with a bag and we caught each other’s gaze.  I waved her over to join us, and she showed us what she had bought.  She ordered a glass of wine, got the knitting out, and there we sat enjoying each other’s projects and company.  It turned out that she had travelled all the way from Lille for a weekend away, and had come to stock up on yarn before heading back that night.  She had green hair with nails that matched, and the most fabulous tattoos.  She was brilliant and we could have stayed there all night, except that Loop was due to close within the hour and we needed to have a last look around.  I didn’t buy anything, but our new friend stocked up on some bargains she had not spotted first time around. I just petted the skeins.

We went home on the train, and it must have been the sunshine but even on the crowded train everyone was good humoured and joining in with each other’s conversations.  We went back to my friend’s husband’s allotment, where we sat in his shed in the evening cool, watching the world go by, listening to the birds and the sound of his whistling kettle as he made us tea.  And we sat in his comfy chairs and knitted.  Once I got home, OH and small person were in good moods and told me about their weekend.  Everyone was contented.  There was even a yarn parcel waiting for me when I got back.

One day, all weekends will make me feel like this.  But I am so glad that I had this one, perfect weekend.  One day I will be able to share these weekends with OH and small.  I so hope she will grow up to be a yarnhead…

A new addiction…

They say the first step to dealing with an addiction is to realise that you have a problem.  Well, my name is Knackered Psycho, and I am a yarn addict.  Last weekend I came back from Wonderwool and in trying to put my stash away I realised that I have a bit of a yarn habit.  My yarn pets may be beautifully stored, but if they were real pets the RSPCA would be round my house by now (after a tip off from my postman), trying to persuade me to rehome them and give them a better life than existing in the cramped conditions they currently endure in my stash drawers.  No officer, I am sure I can learn to look after them better.  They are part of my family.  We cannot be parted.

So recently I decided to do the decent thing and cancel all but one of my yarn clubs (I am partway through a blanket club and I cannot stand the thought of an unfinished WIP).  This was a painful process but the right decision for now.  The new challenge is to improve the living conditions of my yarn by going on an extended making binge. As I stared into the heaving mass that is my drawer of sock yarn (usually reserved for shawls), I decided the time had come to crack open that Slouchy Slox pattern from Rosebuds and Rainbows, and see if I could nail some sock knitting.  A grabbed skein of ‘Get back in the kitchen’ (oh the irony), by Dye Candy (merino and cashmere), and got stuck in.  It took my about 2-3 days to nail the work of art pictured above.  I am beyond proud, and it fits perfectly and is the most comfortable sock I have ever put on my tired toes.  I am now so unused to knitting that my fingers were a bit tender after I finished this one, so I gave myself a day off before casting on the second sock.  I want to get the second one done so I can wear them, and then crack on with some more. I can see a new obsession creeping on.  I already have a friend who almost exclusively knits socks, and I can see how it can get addictive.  In fact, as soon as I have finished this post I will be upstairs, PJs on, getting on with sock 2.  Check me out, with my rock ‘n roll lifestyle…

Shawl-wise I am experimenting with some different ideas, but I am not entirely happy with how they are working out.  I have two more shawls to design for shawl club before I can start to work up some of my other projects, and I know I want them to be dramatic, but the one I have been fiddling with today looks less impressive in real life than it did in my head.  I have an idea re how to adjust it to make it work, but I think I need to sleep on it for now.  Besides, I can’t think straight when my feet are cold…

Holibobs!

Happiness is in this bag….

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This bag contains the caked yarn from my stash that is going on holiday with me.  It is a large bag.  Many skeins have jumped in and out of it, as if participating in a woolly version of the Hokey Cokey.  I have now settled for a modest amount of about 900g of loveliness, and I have successfully resisted the temptation to add in another cake to make it up to a round 1KG of yarn, because that just sounds excessive…

I have a looong car journey ahead of me on the way there, and another on the way back. Plus, I hope, some R&R in the middle bit. This is premium hooking time, and I am more than a little excited.  I am also feeling virtuous because I have nailed the fourth pattern for Shawl Club, so I am so far ahead of schedule that I can make something that isn’t a shawl for a bit now.  However, I have got an idea for a new shawl that won’t go into Shawl Club, but will just go up on Ravelry if I can get it to work.  I am so tempted to take the yarn for it with me.  Still dithering about that.  Back to the yarn Hokey Cokey again.  What I might do is write down what is in my head and then make it when I get back from holiday.  It is a  bit late at night right now to start caking more yarn, and my swift is making some fairly unearthly squeaks and groans at the moment, and this could frighten the neighbours.

Brian the Sheep, pictured at the top of this post, will stand guard over my stash whilst I’m away.  Brian is a highly trained Ninja Sheep. It is the quiet ones you have to watch, you know. Brian can freeze a thief at 30 paces with his trademark hypnotic stare: “These are not the skeins you are looking for…”

Yes, I think I am starting to lose my mind, but in a good way.  I will try to keep blogging whilst I’m off, but don’t feel abandoned if it goes a bit quiet.  It will mean I am happy with a brew and a hook somewhere far, far away…

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.

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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.

Having my cake…

OK, so today was a horrible weather day.  It rained heavily all last night and this morning I had to be up early for a very grown up meeting at work.  The sky was dark and it was still raining and miserable, and the roads were starting to flood as I drove to work.  I spent the day running from one part of the university campus to the other for meetings, becoming progressively more like a drowned rat as the day wore on.  And the last meeting was one of those ones that left me feeling a bit twitchy and agitated.  The small person was exhausted today too, so an early night for her, and a bit of yarn therapy for me.  Some new and beautiful skeins in the post to squish (shhh!  I have posted pictures on my instagram feed if you want to see them) and the chance to cake some others ready for a bit of a making frenzy.  The picture shows my latest yarn caking set up in my room, and the yarn pictured is ‘Psyche’ by Unbelievawool, which is just a little bit lovely.

I am due for some leave over Easter, so I want to have a nice pile of yarn cakes to take with me so I can get plenty of hooking in, and maybe even a pair of knitted socks.  And then when I am back I will upload some patterns to Ravelry and link to them here so you can see what I have been busy working on for the last month or so.  And I should be able to finally tell you about one of my top secret projects this weekend, I hope, so watch this space.  In the meantime, don’t forget to let me know what sort of things you struggle to find patterns for, or what sort of stuff you would like me to have a go at designing for you.  At the moment I have some ideas for clothing for children and adults that I want to have a crack at. But I am up for a challenge, and its a good way of getting a pattern named after you if its a good one!

One final note, thank you all so much for your support and enthusiasm so far!  The blog has taken off much more quickly than I had dared to hope it might. I have plans to reward you for your support so watch this space!