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…

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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Special Days

I’m starting to get excited for the summer now!  I have just submitted the last big piece of work I had to get done before the end of July, and it is just tidying up loose ends at the day job next week. Today has also be special because I have said goodbye to two colleagues – one is going to a new job, and other – the person who taught me how to crochet and therefore is responsible for you reading this – is going off on maternity leave very soon.  So we threw a surprise party for both of them today.  My yarny friend got a box of baby things, including the cosy blanket you have seen me making on instagram, and a little matching hat of my own creation.  I am really pleased with how they both came out, and I even blocked the blanket, which I normally never do.  I will pop the hat pattern up here over the weekend for those of you who fancy making it.  It is a great little project for using up the left over yarn from a blanket make!

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I also wanted to get my friend a special something from me to celebrate our yarny relationship.  So I asked Helen from Bare Threads to make up a bespoke yarn box.  I told her a bit about my friend and she came up with this – all so beautiful, all handmade, all ethically sourced.  I cannot recommend Helen to you highly enough.  Her yarns are exceptional and at the moment her yarns tend to sell out before they get onto Etsy, so it is worth contacting her directly if you want to get your hands on her goodies.  Oh dear.  That sounds a bit wrong doesn’t it.  Sorry Helen.

Anyway, the final reason to be cheerful today is that it is ONE SLEEP UNTIL FIBRE EAST.  See me doing the happy, happy dance of yarn joy!  The yarn ban is temporarily lifted and I get to take three of my best friend to fondle some fine wares.  I will get to see some yarn contacts / friends there too, so I am very excited.

So, expect lots of yarn porn shots on my instagram feed this weekend and hopefully at least one, if not two, blog posts as I get overexcited and giddy.

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…!

Colour me happy…

So this has been a very odd week.  Big events in the real world that have implications for my day job, my colleagues and my friends.  A real sense of devastation, and disquiet for what is to come and what has already started to happen.  It turns out that I live in a very different country to the one that I thought I did at the beginning of the week.

So here I am, in my yarn room, trying to come up with something to write and resisting the temptation to curl up in my chair with my yarn pets all around me, gently rocking to some suitably maudlin music.  On Friday I broke my yarn ban and bought some skeins to raise my spirits. Fibre East – the yarn show that I was planning to refresh my stash at – was too far away.  I needed some solace to come this week.

What has been interesting is that I have become more obsessed than before with trying to finish off projects.  My latest set of socks are on the blockers, a test shawl for shawl club is blocking on mats on the floor, and I have three blanket projects that I am determined to finish before I start another project.  And yet the desire to start something new that will cheer me up is overwhelming.

I dive into the yarn drawers then, to seek inspiration.  I find the yarn pictured at the top of this post, the ‘colour me happy’ skein from Pollyorange that is almost too perfect to use.  More rummaging, this time to find this skein of Bluefaced Leicester and Silk yarn by Lollipop Guild Yarns.

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It is another skein I am keeping to make something very special for myself.  For now I just wanted to remind myself of what it looked and felt like.  I turned over the tag to see what the name of the yarn was. ‘Premonitions’.  How appropriate.

I will stick to the plan – finish those blankets, get shawl 6 nailed, continue to stashbust. I need to focus on what makes me happy, and hang onto the fantasy of one day being able to concentrate on this properly.  Who knows, I may need the second career option a bit sooner than I had originally anticipated.