Darning. How it came to this.

Like a lot of people, I knitted when I was a child, and, maybe slightly more unusually, I continued well into my twenties, but, the closure of our local yarn store when the proprietress retired and with the cost of good quality yarn being beyond my, then, meagre resources (and I really couldn’t be persuaded to make any more garments from acrylic), I gradually stopped knitting. That’s not to say I stopped crafting. But I did stop knitting. Or at least knitting regularly.

Then after ages and ages, two things happened. The first was that I had my children. For the benefit of those readers who haven’t had a peek at my “about me” page, I have 5 year old twins, a boy and a girl, and I was (and remain) astonished at how exhausting parenting is. For a period of about 6 months, in order to cope with my 4am starts, I would fall asleep on the couch by eight o’clock each evening. And so, it was in an effort to stay awake (and remember who my husband was) that I came to the conclusion if I was doing something with my hands, it would be harder for me to nod off in the evenings. So I bought some yarn and patterns, and picked up some needles and started knitting. I made a cardi for my daughter and a couple of sleeveless pullovers for my little boy and was generally pretty pleased with them.  

Then, three months later, I realised these garments were getting a bit snug, then about a month after that, they were definitely too small. At this point, it dawned on me that babies grow really fast. So, if I was going to knit their clothes, I was going to have to knit a size up so they would get a decent amount of wear from them. But it takes longer to knit a bigger garment so it was a couple more months before I finished the next cardi for my daughter. By this point, she had learnt the word NO! and refused to wear any form of knitted garment. I persevered for a while but attempting to put her little arm into any knitwear lead to tears and tantrums. Then summer arrived, and I surrendered the battle and the needles (but not the war -although that is a subject worthy of a post all on its own),

Then the second thing happened; my very good school friend Gail taught herself to crochet. I loved the things she was making and, I was missing yarn, so she set me up with a crochet hook and got me started on granny squares. For the whole of that Autumn and Winter, I made blankets. I made them with such a fervour, my husband started to fear for my sanity. We soon had more blankets than beds but I couldn’t stop. I started blanket after blanket. Bought yarn pack after yarn pack. Joined Facebook group after Facebook group. And then I discovered hand dyed yarn.  

And here is the thing. Until that point in my life I’d never heard of sock weight yarn. Obviously I’d heard it called by its other name -4ply – but not sock weight. And then I had a conversation in my head that went something like “this is called sock weight. Does that mean you can knit socks with it? Wait, socks are knitted? I could knit socks!” 

And so I did. A mini obsession was born. I made lots and lots of socks and was supremely happy with every pair. But that was a while ago now and it’s funny how these mini obsessions go in cycles. The sock phase was superseded by a shawl phase (as these are also often knitted with sock weight yarn) which, in turn, was superseded by my recent, and still continuing, hat phase.   

I mention this now because, yesterday, I noticed that my most favourite watermelon socks (pictured above), made from fabulous hand dyed yarn from Abi Grasso, have a hole in the sole. Whilst I’ve done some other forms of mending, I have never darned anything and will admit to feel a bit daunted by the prospect. So, if you need me, I’ll be watching sock darning videos over on YouTube and wondering whether to invest in a darning mushroom.

Egg-gate

I ended my last post with the words “even I can manage an egg”. And really, how challenging can it be to produce a faceless vaguely oval shaped crochet object? As it turns out, for me, quite challenging.

The first challenge to overcome was pattern selection. This necessitated a good deal of time scouring Ravelry (for my non knitting crocheting readers, it’s a website containing hundreds of thousands of patterns for everything you’d ever want to knit or hook). The trouble with Ravelry is that it’s very easy to get distracted. You start with the best of intentions, type in the word “egg” and press the search button and before you realise what has happened, an hour has passed, you are perusing shawl patterns and are nowhere near having an egg pattern selected. So, I buckled down and eventually picked a pattern

Pattern selected, the next decision was yarn. Clearly, I don’t want to buy any more yarn just to crochet a couple of Easter eggs (although as excuses go, I’ve used some which have been much more feeble than this) so I looked in my stash. Some time later, I realised I’d been horribly distracted again, by squeezing and squishing all my beautiful colourful hand dyed yarn, and so eventually settled on 2 shades of Stylecraft Special DK, an acrylic which I don’t especially love but I have loads left over from a previous Attic 24 blanket obsession, and a hand-dyed yellow from Cuddlebums, which I’d been saving for some daffodil brooches but thought I could probably spare an egg’s worth.

So, on to the pattern. It assured me an egg would take about an hour to make, and it is true to say, the second and third ones were much quicker than that. The first one however took me the better part of an evening. It turns out that one of the reasons I’m not very good at amigurumi is that I can’t count. At least, not reliably, when there is good TV to watch.  

And counting, it turns out is the key to producing an object that looks at least a little bit like the pattern. About the first 10 attempts were frogged (translation for the benefit of non crafting folk: to unravel your work, or “rip it, rip it” back) or simply abandoned, when I decided that reusing yarn that had been previously crocheted wasn’t helping my cause.    

Eventually, and after a good deal of sighing, I did manage three egg shaped objects and I do have to say, I think they look really sweet. Now I’ve mastered (ahem!) the pattern, I may make some more but I think the Easter bunnies will need to wait until next year. However, I am now thinking surely all eggs need a nest? So, I’m off to have a scroll through Ravelry…. 

Have a happy Easter everyone xxx

Postie Stalking

It’s always the way isn’t it? You decide to do something, make a big announcement, get everyone enthused, then have to wait what feels like a small eternity for the things you need to get started, to arrive in the mail. This is the story of the dye I need for my blanket. I’ve spent hours of fidgety torture each day waiting for the postie to arrive only to be disappointed as he zooms past our house and up the lane in his van without giving my letterbox a second glance. So, in an effort to distract myself, I’ve been doing other things…

 come on postie 

It was a surprise to me when I realised it was Easter this weekend. This means two things 1. I will need to occupy my children for a month before they return to school again, and 2. I have, yet again, not produced any Easter related craft items. This happens to me every year with almost every event in the calendar. If I actually start something, the event usually overtakes me and well, it just feels weird making Easter bunnies after the event, even though they can be safely stored for decorations next year.

My children are five years old (I have twins) and I appreciate, in a few years (who am I kidding? Next year), the only thing they will be interested in will be the chocolate, but for the moment they are really keen on painted eggs and little birds to hang  up so I’ve focused  this week and found some contorted hazel sticks and have the very best of intentions to crochet some little eggs, which along with some hasty purchases in our local John Lewis and some other bits and pieces, should make us nicely festive. 

  
I am not, it should be pointed out, very accomplished at amigurumi (weird word so, for non crafters reading this, see here for an explanation). Most of the animals I make end up with slightly demented expressions. At Christmas, I crocheted the Toft robin and I had to make 5 separate legs in order to end up with two that could reasonably be called a pair. Needless to say, he is not finished (beak, eyes and assembly still outstanding). 

 It takes real skill which, like anything, can only be mastered with many hours patient practice. But not having many hours and Easter being only a couple of days away, it really will be best crochet hook forward and, surely, even I can manage a crochet egg?

Right. Let’s. Get. Started.

Right. Let’s. Get. Started.

I’ve been saying these words for months with the idea of writing about my crafting life, without actually doing it, so, here goes.

Deep breath.
<<<sounds of toes being dipped into water>>>

It seems only fair that I should start my crafting blog life with a new craft. Well, if not actually completely new, then almost new. About a year ago, on a spur of the moment whim type thingy that I’m prone to, I signed up to and went on a yarn dyeing retreat run by Daisy at Devon Sun Yarns. I mostly did it so I could escape my children for the weekend and it was with some nervousness that I knocked on the door of the Arched House in Lyme Regis on a Friday evening and said hello to a group of women who have forever changed my life.

preparing to dye

It’s fair to say I’ve always been a crafter. I loved art at school and my mum taught me to knit when I was very small. But I’d mostly always done it in what felt like a crafting desert. A 20 year corporate career followed by a move to a commuter village and then twin babies, didn’t leave a huge amount of space for social crafting, so, apart from a brief foray into a quilting group, at which I always arrived late, in a suit and with my mind still on work, I’d never spent any real time with crafting folk.

So, the ladies I met on the retreat were, in every sense, a revelation. Their creativity astounded me (and still does) but what struck me most was their generosity of spirit and willingness to share their time and themselves. And I realised then how wonderful it is to share your crafting experiences with others. There is as much pleasure to be taken from sharing your love of a craft as actually undertaking the making.

crochet hooks made with Kuritumi

I came away from the retreat with lovely new friends, in a state of complete serenity (this might not have been entirely a good thing however, as the morning after the retreat ended, I managed to lose my mobile phone and lock myself out of my house!) and with a good understanding of the basics of yarn dying. I enjoyed it so much that I’ve been back to one of Daisy’s yarn dyeing workshops at the fabulous destination yarn store, A Yarn Story, in Bath (if you are ever in the area, you must visit), and on a crochet retreat with Daisy and Dedri Uys the lady behind the lovely blog Look At What I Made. My last trip to Lyme was on an Inspire a Retreat, again with Daisy, one of the results of which is this blog.

Given how much I enjoyed it, it is surprising that the one thing I haven’t done at home since that first retreat, is dye any yarn. Over the Christmas holidays I was really enthused with the idea of a temperature blanket where you record the maximum and minimum temperature in a row or square of a blanket, so the colour of your eventual blanket is driven by the weather. But I just don’t have the time for a daily row or square (besides which, I calculated this would make my blanket about 15 feet long) so I came up with the idea of doing a row for the maximum and minimum temperatures each week, with an extra row for the rare events of snow and thunderstorms. This would make the blanket a much more reasonable length. But my house really doesn’t need another crochet blanket. But I really wanted to do this. Then I hit upon an idea. I could dye my own colours for the blanket, then it would be really special to me. And this made the idea of yet another blanket, completely acceptable.

 

image

So, here I sit, with coffee, fear and trepidation, looking at 10 skeins of un-dyed super wash merino bamboo mix supplied by Daisy and wondering which colours I need to dye for my temperature ranges. I’m telling you this so I don’t wimp out and pop the skeins back in my stash. You are my conscience. I will now have to keep you posted.