La Parisienne

I am so happy to finally be able to share this shawl with you.  In this month’s shawl club box, Sam wanted to have a Paris theme to the crochet set.  I had been playing around with some triangular-based stitch patterns and felt that they were a little bit reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower (tenuous, I know), so I started to work up something a little bit different.  This shawl has a central ‘lace’ section which is worked first and then wings are added to it to frame the lace part and add width.  It is worked here in a 120g red yak singles sock yarn from unbelievawool which was just beautiful to use and it has a wonderful drape to it.  The shawl is a big one!  As you may be able to tell, I was quite pleased with how it came out.  Red is one of my favourite colours and so this is going to be used quite a lot.

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The edging is the same one I used on the Escapism shawl, as I wanted neat triangles along the border and that method is the best one I have found for achieving that effect.  The shawl shown here was the sample I made, but I think that a plain border along the bottom edge looks neater, and so that is what I recommend in the pattern itself.

Sometimes something very simply looks the most striking!

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My Girl Lollipop

I’m going to introduce a new feature, entitled ‘Stashdive Sunday’, and this week I wanted to kick it off by honouring the substantial contribution that Rox Driver has made to my stash, aka Lollipop Guild Yarns.  Based in Nottinghamshire, she has produced some of my most beloved yarn pets and even inspired the creation of the Moo-Ra dress (I still have to finish writing that pattern up!). But the reason I want to honour her today is because it is her birthday, and I wanted to really embarrass her.

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So I am going to restrict myself to some featured beauties from my DK and Aran stash, all dyed by her, and I apologise that my poor lighting really doesn’t do the colours full justice.

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This next one was a custom dye and everyone who has seen the brioche it got used on comments on how fabulous the blue is.  It is multi tonal, both dark and intense and yet bright and vivid all at the same time.  No, I don’t know how that it possible either..

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The next was from one of her yarn boxes, a nod to George’s Marvellous Medicine…

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I have so many more of her yarns in my stash, and I would encourage you to watch her Etsy shop like a hawk.  She also has a pretty good blog which I would recommend just so that you can drool over her yarn boxes as she reveals them.

Thank you Rox.  And Happy Birthday!  And you are still far too young…

New Year’s Intentions

Ok, so I don’t really have the resolve for resolutions, but I do have lots of honest intentions.

  1.  Once the January Sales are done, no more yarn buying for the rest of the year.
  2. Reduce the stash by at least 50%.

Yes, that is right, I am going on complete stash lockdown at the end of this month and the plan is to see if I can truly stashbust.  I have a plan to knit lots of socks, both for me and for presents, and I have recently discovered the joy of knitting hats with Aran wool (so fast, and I can get two hats out of a single skein which is a bonus).  Exhibit A – the hat I knitted in a few hours one evening, using Dye Candy yarn and a pattern from the Toft Quarterly Magazine.

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I also need to help to raise funds for my daughter’s school, so lots of making is required there.  That will give me the chance to clear out all my acrylic yarn too, so that will be satisfying to see that go down.

3.  Blog more frequently and more regularly.

This year work has got in the way. I have been too tired to think in the evening, let alone type.  This is going to change.  My working pattern has to change in pretty fundamental ways because how I am working right now is not sustainable.  And I feel that I keep losing momentum every time work pulls me away from this part of what I do.  To achieve this I have to start taking better care of myself.  That one is easier said than done, but tonight I am going with an early bath, blog and then some knitting to motivate myself a bit.  If I can get two or three blogs out during the week, with a longer one at the weekend I think that might be good.  Perhaps introduce some features.  One of my friends has voted for ‘Squish of the Week’ – a random delve into my stash to show off different yarn types and dyers.

4.  Write more patterns.

Ok, so Shawl Club is going into Season 2 in March, but I feel the need to do a wider range of patterns than just shawls.  A mixture of quick makes and more extended projects.  I might even venture into one or two knitting patterns if I am feeling very brave, but that might be a step too far for me.

5. Do a yarn show.

Ok, so this one terrifies me.  Sue talked me into this one.  At the moment I don’t know which show, and it will probably only be one day, and I need to do my sums properly re how to make it work for me.  I love the idea of it, I am just worried that it might be a bit too soon for me, and there would be a huge amount of work required to get my stall elements ready in time. So I am not sure if I can pull this one off, but I am certainly going to look seriously at it.  I just need to sit here and feel a bit sick at the thought of it for a while.

6. Do a book.

Now, I write for a living, so the idea of writing a book doesn’t daunt me, but I haven’t self- produced the whole thing before, so that would be the challenge.  I have two book concepts in my head – one requires more work than the other – but I think I could get the book thing to work with a bit of peer support and some planned leave from work.

So there you go – six of the best.  Let’s see how many I can tick off.  Can I do it?  Should I do it?  Hmm. Let’s see…

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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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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All Change…

Small person is now at school. After a blissfully long period away from work, chaos ensues. The working day has been chopped and changed to try to fit everything in around the new routine of the school day because I don’t want small person to be stuck in after school clubs unless we really have no alternative, or because there is something she really wants to stay late to do.  To be honest, I think we are doing better than I thought that we might, but already I can see that the only way I am going to get everything done this month for the day job is going to be through some very late ones where I can sneak them in. Small person is coping well, other than having a strained lunchtime relationship with a boy who claims to be allergic to peas.  My insights into her world are often piecemeal and a bit surreal…

A random positive from this is that now that I am back at work I am now into the routine of crocheting in the car on the way into and out of work (not when I am driving, obviously), and to and from work meetings on the train.  These regular but shortish bouts keep me on track, which is just as well as I need to test some of the shawl projects that will come out later this year, as well as crack on with some birthday and Christmas presents.  I have a lot of knitting to get through on that front, so little and often will be the way to go.  I think everyone will be getting socks this year…

That includes me.  Maybe.  I decided I needed a treat so I am working on these slox in a yarn by Made by Jude.  I haven’t bought her yarns before but I saw this yarn in Etsy and fell in love with the colours in it.  It has worked up even better than I dared to hope. I even have a little flame up one side of my heel.  I am hoping I can replicate this colour pooling on sock number 2!  Not sure whether to keep them or not but I think I will, just for a change.  The response to them on my Facebook page has been great though, and I think I need to explore more of Jude’s yarns.  The depth of colour in the yarn is just beautiful.

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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…