Knitting monogamy

At the start of this year I resolved to finish all the things (see here). So, I figured that as this year was nearly over I should formally review where I’d ended up. My finishing all the things wasn’t solely focused on my crafting but also extended to the housework and chores. 

As I sit here there are two baskets full of clean but unfolded laundry sat in the living room and the vacuum is sat next to the couch instead of back in the cupboard under the stairs, where it belongs. So, in this regard, my resolution has not been entirely successful. And I’m not even going to think about my yarn and fabric stashes.


However, I did spend a small eternity finishing all my knitting and crochet wips, and since then, I’ve been a more or less monogamous knitter. To anyone who knows me, this thought would be startling enough but, the real revelation for me is how much I like the one project at a time approach. I’ve written before about the phases I would go though during the life of a project (here if you haven’t read this before) and it nearly always ended up with me loathing the item and moving on to something else, leaving the unfinished item sulkily looking at me from the wip basket, sometimes for months. Then I’d have to summon colossal amounts of will and set aside long periods of time in the purgatory of finishing all the wips. This is a fairly dispiriting cycle, especially for an activity I undertake voluntarily. 

But, now, with one item at a time, this just doesn’t happen. Not only does the unfinished item not end up sulking in the wip basket but I’m not even feeling the dissatisfied thoughts that used to lead to me falling out with them. The thrill of finishing an item is still there but without the negativity that used to precede it. This means, for just about the first time in my knitting life, I am enjoying the process of the knitting as much as the production of the finished garment. And, because I’m enjoying the process, I’m finishing many more items, in a glorious virtuous circle of yarn.


So if you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by your wip basket, I can heartily recommend ditching it and getting your monogamy on. 

Luscious Loop

Let me tell you about my recent visit to Loop…

It’s 12 years since Loop first opened so a visit was long overdue. I really can’t believe I hade’t made the trip before but a combination of work and babies had kept me too busy to make the pilgrimage. But all that changed when, a couple of weeks ago, on a bit of a whim, I decided to fill in some time before meeting a friend in London, with a trip to Loop.


Loop sits in a quiet street full of quirky and interesting shops, in Camden Passage just off the busy A1 in London, a short walk from Angel tube station. The shop front is gloriously colourful and yet oozes sophistication. You enter through a door so narrow that you wonder for a moment if this is actually the way in. Then you see a note telling you to “push door hard”, and it crosses your mind you may have fallen down a rabbit hole but, you do as you are told, the door flies open, and you are in.

Now, I’d long known from conversations with other knitters that Loop is a very special yarn store. But I hadn’t realised quite how special. It is, quite simply, the best yarn store I have ever been inside, and by quite a big margin. The moment you enter, you are aware you are in a place apart from the rest. In most yarn stores you will find lots of commercial yarn and when you visit yarn stores as often as I do, that can all start to feel a bit samey. But Loop has a huge amount of hand dyed yarn on display and only a very little commercial yarn (and only then at the luxury end of the market). Well, you know what a sucker I am for handdyed, and there was just so much fabulous yarn, I lost myself for some time just squishing and stroking it all before finally gathering some focus.



The store is laid out on two floors with a stock room above (and maybe below but i forgot to ask). On the ground floor is lace and sock weight yarn, and on the first floor is dk, aran and heavier weights. The store will have only one or two skeins of each yarn in each colour way on display, but don’t let that worry you as they have “sweater quantities” in the stock room. I really really wanted to see inside the stock room.

So, I’d gone to Loop with the half formed idea of buying yarn for a new sweater for myself – Whitehorse by Caitlin Hunter of @boylandknitworks. I’d been on the look out for a special yarn for a while but nothing had quite hit the spot. I needed a dk weight for the sweater so after a bit more drifting about squeezing the sock and lace weight, I headed upstairs.


Upstairs, there is a lovely Ercol day bed (I don’t think I’ve mentioned I have a minor obsession with 1960s Ercol furniture) just begging to be sat on and a similarly special Ercol table, on which sat lovely knitting books. And lots more yarn. Also upstairs was a fabulously knowledgeable lady called Jane who, I realised when I got home, is @probablyjane, someone I’ve long admired over on Instagram. I was really sad that I didnt get to tell her how much I loved her fun feed so I’m going to mention it here in the hope she might one day see it.


So, Jane helped me focus my search.  It was really helpful to have someone so knowledgeable about each dyer and base. I did eventually settle on some yarn for my sweater and Jane scooted off upstairs to the store room to look for 4 more skeins in the same dyelot. This left me a few more minutes to squeeze and stroke all the luciousness and flick through a few books before I realised the time, and had to pay and depart. I bought 5 gorgeous skeins of Blue Faced Leicester light DK in the Lila colourway from The Uncommon Thread (@theuncommonthread), a dyer from Brighton who I hadn’t come across before and the most gentle book called Making Winter by Emma Mitchell (check out her beautiful instagram feed @silverpebble2) which has been my bedtime reading every evening since.


So, Loop, I love you. I can’t wait to visit again.

Finishing All The Things

I’ve been quiet on here. But I’ve also been busy. Really busy. Finishing all the things. It’s the middle of April and I’m still keeping up with my New Year’s Resolutions. This is unheard of. I never, and I really do mean never, manage to successfully keep a new leaf turned over. In common with almost everyone else who has ever made a New Year’s Resolution, I’m usually waivering by mid January and, by mid February, I have completely forgotten I ever resolved to do anything. But not this year. If WordPress did emoticons, this would be a smug smiley face.

As some of you might know, I started decluttering my house last year and this has continued apace, with car loads of excess stuff going to charity and, lately, the disappearance of several large pieces of furniture deemed no longer necessary. If you have less stuff, you need less cupboards to put it in,  and I also want to minimise the chances of excess stuff accumulating in all those cupboards again. There is still some way to go on organising our remaining things and there are still areas I need to declutter like my children’s art projects (having previously kept every paper they’d ever made a mark on, in ordered document files, in the manner of librarian or, person with crazy hoarding tendencies) and my craft supplies (there is just so much ranging over so many crafts, its a bit difficult to know where to begin), but the house is, finally starting to feel less crazy and we actually have some space.


I’ve made some changes to the organisational aspects of our home too. The biggest improvement here has been in the way we do laundry now. Previously everyone put their laundry in one giant mountain, requiring herculean efforts to reduce it back down to the point that the lid on the basket would shut. Only once had I ever seen the bottom of the laundry basket and that was the day I bought it. Since then, it’s been in permanent crisis. It also meant I never felt I was getting anywhere, despite all the effort, which was dispiriting, and made me loath laundry and often clean laundry would remain unsorted and unfolding in heaps all over the house because I just couldn’t face it any more. This did not improve the overwhelming feeling of clutter at home. And because it sat around for ages in heaps, it got badly crumpled and then needed ironing.

Now, each member of the family has their own laundry basket in their bedroom and only their items go in their basket. I have a separate basket in the utility room for whites and another for delicates. When someone’s laundry basket is full, I remove the whites and delicates (these go in the whites and delicates baskets, obviously), and wash the remaining clothes. Then the clothes go from the washer into the dryer (or, if the weather is nice, onto the line), then are folded from the dryer back into the basket, which then goes upstairs, clothes are put away and the basket is then ready to be refilled. Clearly we aren’t wearing any less clothes but an entire level of sorting has been stripped out of the system, and I get to feel like I’m actually winning because  of the frequently empty laundry baskets. I wash the whites and delicates once a week, and these do still need sorting but it’s not such a massive job because the whites are mostly my husband’s and the delicates are mostly mine. 


I’ve also made progress with finishing my woolly wips. Lately I have finished my Cuddlebums 2016 shawl club (now a fab poncho), a sockhead hat in a lovely Devon Sun Yarns rainbow, and my temperature wrap. This is my most “handmade by me” item ever as I dyed the yarn for it, in my kitchen, after much instruction from Daisy of Devon Sun Yarns. To read more about the dyeing, see here. This was knited in brioche and was a long knit but very quick in the finishing as I left a long end on each colour change and it took almost no time to turn them into a fringe. I’m going to remember this for future projects.



But I do have a confession to make. I have taken a slight detour from finishing my existing wips, by casting on a Colour Affection shawl. This isn’t strictly within my resolution BUT, the wips I still have to finish each only have very small amounts left to do. And we were away for a week on holiday and I needed something that would take time to make, without taking up huge amounts of space in the suitcase. I’ve wanted to make a Colour Affection shawl for the longest time after seeing Daisy’s one and pestering her to dye me some yarn so i could make a more or less identical one myself. I’ve had this yarn in my stash for at least a year so it seemed crazy not to take advantage of a big chunk of time and get knitting. I’ll show you some pictures of this in my next post. In the meantime, I’m off to test the new laundry system with the mountain of holiday laundry.

Love it Hate it Love it

 

Whilst I have been labouring on my many unfinished wips, I’ve been thinking about why so many have been consigned to the bottom of the wip basket and, have concluded that it’s more than just the delight of casting on with new yarn.


This story will be pretty familiar to anyone who is a crafter but to my non crafting friends, this might come as a bit of a surprise and you’d be forgiven for wondering why I put myself through this all the time.

Almost every project I undertake goes as follows:

  • Buying the yarn or getting yarn in the post “Ooh lovely lovely yarn. Squeeeee. So excited, must cast on”
  • Upon casting on “Oh my goodness this is so amazing, I’m so in love with this”
  • About 1/3 of the way through “So so loving this. Whoo hoooo. Must knit/crochet faster”
  • About 1/2 way through “Hmmm. Is this going to look alright? Is it going to fit? Maybe I should have made something else with this yarn? Hmmm. I’m not sure I even like the yarn any more”
  • About 2/3 of the way through “Ugh. This is awful. I hate it. Why did I ever think this would work? What a colossal waste of time. I can barely bring myself to finish” and, if I’m feeling particularly grim, it’s at this stage that things get relegated to the bottom of the wip basket, never to be seen again (or at least only seen again when I can’t get any more unfinished projects in the wip basket and, like now, have a purge).
  • On completion “I love love love it.”

I know, I know. And let’s not forget, I do this to myself voluntarily.

The plus side of this behaviour is that, once I can bring myself to restart the wip, I’m nearly always pretty quickly into the gratification of completion. So, hurrah for finishing wips is what I say. Here is the latest one I’ve finished – my yarn eating crochet flower rainbow blanket.

Border design


I’m still beavering away on The Blanket Of Doom. However, in the meantime, I’ve been asked a few times about stitches I used on the border on the second of my Cuddlebums Shades Blankets (see here for the Tada! on this). Here is how I did it…

Uk terms.

Round 1. A round of trebles.  To start I chained 3. In each square corner space I made 2 trebles, a treble in the join square and then 2 trebles in the next corner space. At the corners of the blanket I made 5 trebles in the corner space

Round 2. The crab stitch row. This is a row of double crochet but made backwards. This is a bit peculiar the first time you try it but its pretty easy one you get going. There is a good ‘how to’ here. To start I chained 1. In the corner space, I made 3 crab stitches. 
Round 3 Another round of trebles but made in the trebles from Round 1 rather than Round 2. This means the crab stitch from round 2 sits up. To start I chained 3. In the corner space I made 5 trebles.

Round 4. A round of half trebles. To start I chained 2. In the corner space I made 3 half trebles.

Round 5. The bobble row. This took a bit of thinking about. I ended up making 4 trebles then a bobble which is 5 trebles together. There is a good ‘how to’ here albeit it using 3 trebles rather than 5. I used 4 trebles as my ‘spacer’ because it allowed me to pop a bobble neatly in each corner and at the join line of each of the squares and have them neatly spaced between but how many trebles you have in between each bobble would depend on how you wanted to arrange them. For me it was trial and error. To start I chained 3. In the corners, I made a treble, the bobble stitch, and then another treble.

Round 6. As round 4

Round 7. The scallop round. To start I did a slip stitch around until I reached the half treble stitch from round 6 which sat on top of the bobble stitch from 5. Then I chained 3 and made 6 trebles in the 4th stitch from my hook. Then I skipped 4 and made 7 trebles in the next stitch (again above the bobble stitch). This skip 4, 7 trebles in the next stitch forms the pattern. At the corners I did 9 trebles in the corner stitch.


There was also a bit of fudging sometimes to get the numbers to work. For some odd reason I didn’t have the same number of stitches on all 4 sides of my blanket – yep, slap dash work on my part – but there was no way I was going back to sort that out, so in a few places I only made 3 trebles instead of 4  on row 5 which then meant I had to remember and only skip 3 instead of 4 stitches on row 7, and I’m a bobble short on each side at the corners. There was also a fair amount of frogging. I frogged a whole round of trebles because I decided they weren’t working, which was a difficult decision to take given each round was taking such a long time. 

With hindsight, I would have worked out my stitch counts before I got started but, hey ho, you live and learn, and what is life without whimsy.

Cuddlebums 2015 Shades Blanket Club finally finished

Yes! This is just about the first time ever that I’ve made a resolution and stuck to it for more than about a week. If you havent caught up on my resolutions you can read about them here.

It’s so gratifying when you decide to do something and then actually do it until it is done. I really don’t know why I don’t do it more often? Actually, I do, but that not the subject of this post. This post is to revel in the joy that I actually finished something. And a big something at that.


When I signed up to the blanket club at the start of 2015, I had lots of good intententions to prioritise this project. I would make the squares each month when the yarn came in, above all other projects. That lasted until about March, and then things started to slip a little further each month until we got to the end of the club and I realised I wasn’t even close to being half way through making all the squares. This was a blow because I had hoped to present my children with a blanket each for Christmas that year. The realisation dawned that if it was going to be a Christmas present, it would have to be Christmas 2016. You can see how these things get away from themselves!


Anyway, it became my travel project. For a period of about 9 months, I took a ball of the yarn with me everywhere I went and diligently made squares. Actually this made the making very easy. It took me between 15 and 20 minutes to make one square and I got between 9 and 10 squares from a ball, so I spent all the odd 1/2 hours waiting while my children played at various soft plays, theme parks and beaches, making the squares. It was the ideal portable project.

Then I finished the squares and the project quickly became extremely non portable. But I was on a roll and I quickly (well, relatively quickly!) assembled the first blanket. This is it!


And finally, I’ve finished the second. I’m going to let the (many!) photos speak for themselves.








I can wait to put them on the children’s beds.

Next up, The Blanket Of Doom. I kid you not!

Starting the finishing

So, having made a resolution to finish my wips, and declared it publically, I do actually need to get on with it the daunting task. So, what’s been stopping me? Well, apart for the obvious distractions of children not yet back at school and the apocalyptic state of the house post Christmas, it’s actually not as straight forward as it might seem. Do I go for the nearly there, quick to finish wips? Or would it be better to knuckle down with the longer task of finishing a blanket?

Obviously, the easy wins of the quick to finish wips, results in the best headlines. I can just hear me saying “ooh, I’ve finished 15 wips and it’s only January 5th”. But, I know myself and no sooner are these words fading into the ether than the thought “Gosh I’ve done so well, surely I deserve a reward?” will pop into my head and I’ll be wrestling with the idea that a little cast on couldn’t hurt. And once I’m there, I’m never going to pick up an unfinished blanket wip with the idea that it will ever be completed.

So, blanket wips first then. Actually this is not such a terrible prospect, as last year, I gave away all the barely started blanket wips I had (there were several), and ripped out another couple I wasn’t feeling the love for, so all I really have is a couple of gorgeous blankets in Cuddlebums yarn which are crying out to be finished.  Also, at this time of year, it’s nice to sit under a blanket while you knit or crochet. 

So, here I am, enjoying the last of the twinkling Christmas lights and the peace of the house now the children have finally returned to school, catching up on a backlog of TV and, making progress on my shades blanket club from 2015. It’s the second of two blankets I’m making from this club (one for each twin), so I know what I’m getting and I’m just as excited about it as I was when I opened the first box of yarn two years ago. I’m arranging the squares a little differently on the second one compared with the first. Partly this is due to having slightly fewer squares but also I just wanted to try something different. And there will be a need to identify which blanket is which, speedily (and often) in order to resolve conflicts about who has who’s blanket.

Here is a progress shot. I think, maybe a week of focused effort and it might be finished.

And here are some pictures of the first blanket. Aren’t they just wonderfully sunny in a dull damp January?




So, that’s it for me, so far. Some of you said you might join me in the finishing wips resolution. How are you all getting on?

XXX