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.
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?
I wanted to tell you all about my trip to Yarndale last weekend.
I’ve wanted to go to Yarndale ever since it started up in 2013 but it’s a big journey from where I live so would always involve over night stays and my children are still quite small so it was never really a possibility. But when Daisy from Devon Sun Yarns suggested I might like to join her there to launch my book of knitted hat patterns “Wool and Woods”, I jumped at the chance.
Well, it was everything I’d ever dreamed it would be and much more. I travelled up with my lovely friend Sara from Hailstone Heritage on Friday, arriving in good time to pop along to Cooper’s Cafe, above which sits the studio of Lucy from Attic 24. Attic 24 has a special place in my heart as when I first started to crochet I bought a Stylecraft Special blanket pack from Wool Warehouse and made Lucy’s Coast Ripple blanket, which still sits proudly on my son’s bed. As you will know, I’ve moved on a long way since then but, nevertheless, it was interesting to see Lucy’s studio and to see all the many things I’ve read about on her blog over the years, for myself.
So, after a cup of tea and a scone, we struck out along the wonderful Yarn Walk through the park to the Auction Mart where Yarndale is held. When we arrived, everywhere was activity with exhibitors unloading their wares and setting up their stands, and the organisers busy setting out wooly sheep and hanging socks and bunting. We met up with Daisy and soon joined in the bustle, unloading her displays and yarn. And I also got the thrill of seeing my printed pattern book for the first time (you can buy it as part of a kit wth Daisy’s yarn here). Then 9pm came and the Mart went quiet as it closed until the morning. So, after a trip to the supermarket we drove to the sweet house Daisy had hired for the weekend, ate a quick supper and retired, eager for the next day.
Sara and I walked to the show again the next day (Daisy having left early to finish setting up her stand), this time along the canal and, again, along the Yarn Walk. We arrived at the show only about an hour after it had started, but were surprised to find it already very busy, and, to our further surprise, it remained so for the rest of the show, only really quietening down for the final hour or so of Sunday.
It was fabulous to have two days available to look over the show. It’s a big show but I had time to visit almost every stand, squished untold quantities of yarn, marvelled at the very large size of some of the socks on the Sock Line (some of you are incrediby dedicated sock knitters!), tried my hand at extreme knitting and crochet courtesy of Woolly Mahoosive, perused patterns, snuggled in garment samples, tried on shawls, had a lesson from XXX in the action required to turn a spinning wheel (it’s all in the ankle – not lifting your foot up is key), petted the sheep, alpacas and the most gorgeously soft angora bunny (like stroking a cloud), and generally got untold inspiration from all the kind and patient stall holders I chatted with. It was wonderful to be so immersed in yarn for so long.
I also purchased! Although I was very restrained for me; two pattern books by Marie Wallin full of beautiful designs that involve both knitting and crochet, two gorgeous grey skeins of Gleam, a Merino Silk sock mix which Daisy dyed at my request, 8 mini skeins from The Knitting Goddess, who I had never met before but, I’m already sure she will become a favourite of mine, and a tea towel from Tilly Flop, because I have orange highlights in my kitchen and am always on the look out for orange tea towel, but this one is doubly special as it is knitting related.
Why so restrained? Well it was nothing to do with all the glories at the show. In different circumstances, I would have bought masses. I think something in me has shifted over the summer because I’ve been dyeing so much of my own yarn. I have an enormous stash now and so, rather than just buying with impunity like I’ve always done (I’m not really one for budgeting), I searched for the things that really spoke to me.
Sadly, it will probably be some years before I attend Yarndale again. The journey times are just too great whilst my children are so young and I do miss them terribly when I’m away from them. When they are older I’ll go again, travelling up on the Friday, going to the show on Saturday, before driving home on Sunday. But for now, I’ll just have to be content with those two glorious days. Yarndale 2016, you were just amazing!
We had such a great summer holiday this year. Two lovely long weeks of sun, fun on the beach, playing in the park, cousins, scooting, chips, ice cream, sea glass, ammonites and dinosaurs (well, actually icthosaurs and plesiosaurs but my children are a bit to young to know the difference) with the bonuses of a big dollop of knitting and a unexpected trip to Bridport Yarn.
I’m always on the look out for a yarn shop. I rarely go anywhere without checking out the surrounding area (and if it’s a long way, the route too) for yarn. We’ve been known to detour for miles, with the kids bleating “are we nearly there yet?” on a 10 second loop all the way interspersed with “I’m bored”, screaming in frustration and beating each other, in search of an elusive yarn shop. There is a direct correlation between the length of time since I was last in a yarn shop and the time and distance over which I am prepared to endure this torment (and the amount of £££ I spend but let’s not dwell on that).
But in the chaos of term ending and packing for the holiday, I never quite got around to it. And it must have been the blissful feeling of finally being back in my beloved Lyme Regis that soothed by yarnoscope, because it took me a few days to come around to musing that the one tiny imperfection with the town was a lack of a yarn shop. And then I remembered in a light bulb type scrabbling for phone and wifi signal moment that I hadn’t done my research. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I discovered that Bridport Yarn was just up the road. So a trip was hastily arranged. My sister in law came along for the ride. She not a yarnie – I think she came for amateur anthropological research reasons aka why is my brother’s wife so nuts about yarn?, that and the fact that it was a chance to get a quick coffee and a couple of hours off from the children, who went with my husband to the park.
So, Bridport Yarn! The website (here) looked encouraging. I like any shop that has ethical principles and their ethos of trying to offer yarn which is “British, local and fairly traded – sometimes all three!” speaks to my soul. And, the shop itself did not disappoint. It was nestled amongst a nice assortment of independent stops in the way you only find in places where you are far enough from big urban centres to make rents reasonable, or where the majority of the town is owned by some large landowning estate who doesn’t necessarily need to squeeze every penny from the property to pay interest on his over leveraged assets. Already soothed by the lack of thrusting chain stores (there are some on around the corner on the main road but only a scattering) we gazed at the splendid window display and entered.
And, joy of joys, we had stumbled upon a knit and natter session. It was so nice to hear the relaxed conversation of the ladies while they knitted, had my sister in law not been with me (and had I not been conscious of the fact my husband was left entertaining 4 children aged under 6), I may have drawn up a chair and joined them. However, I settled for a quick chat with the lovely ladies and together we all cooed over their current projects including a very special first ever project of a hot water bottle cover, in a gorgeous pale blue yarn, which was particularly charming as the newbie knitter had make some mistakes but rather than frog several rows of hard fought stitches, she had merely deliberately repeated the mistake at intervals such that it looked like it was intentional. Genius! Here are the lovely ladies.
The shop stocked a nice mix of hand dyed and commercial yarns in a variety of fibres and an array of pretty colours, all prettily displayed, as well as the most gorgeous buttons (which I didn’t buy but I have been itching for them ever since). Alas the owner wasn’t there but the shop assistant was friendly and helpful. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so I’ve included several of the shop and it’s goodies here.
I bought two balls of lovely Juniper Moon Farm lace weight yarn, even though lace is just not my thing at all, because, that colour! It just needed to be in my stash. I also bought a couple of long circular needles which were a totally legitimate necessary purchase as I needed them for the hat project – see more on this here.
Bridport Yarn is situated on South Street in Bridport, Dorset, a few minutes drive from the A35. If you are passing on the A35 on your way further east or west or if you are holidaying near by, I would heartily recommend it as a great place to get a yarnie fix. I wish I lived closer. I’m already looking forward to my next visit.
Hello. I’m tentatively waving because I’m not sure if anyone is still out there. I’ve been a bit quiet of late because, well, truth be told, I’ve been wanting to talk to you, but life just kind of got in the way.
Mainly, I’ve been working on a group of hat patterns that will be published in the autumn. It’s fair to say when I took three of my hats along on a retreat with Daisy from Devon Sun Yarns earlier this year, I was just looking for a bit of love and validation, so I was surprised when she asked if I would write some patterns for her yarn. I agreed pretty readily, not realising what an undertaking it was to become. It’s not that the hats themselves were difficult for me to create and the ideas came readily – so many ideas; I knitted so many samples before deciding they aren’t right for the yarn and ripping them back to try something else, finally settling on the six that will become the collection. But, I’ve never written a pattern before and it’s been a steep learning curve. It’s quite a journey from writing some jottings in a note book and knitting a quick sample, to writing a pattern that will work over six sizes of head from baby to large adult and have each size look like the same pattern.
Pattern writing has also had to be fitted in around family life and you would think (or at least, I thought), given that my children are now at school, I would have oodles of time. Certainly in my big-career-pre-child life, I am now ashamed to admit, I did wonder what stay at home mum’s, with school age children, did all day; although in my defence, I was never judgemental, just mildly curious. But the school day is strangely short and by the time I’ve worked for a couple of hours in my job at the local florist Green Parlour , walked the dog and had some lunch, there are only a couple of hours left to run errands, prep dinner, batch cook for the freezer, Kon Mari the house, and do all the household chores (and, for me, the volume of chores expands exponentially in the summer due to my love for my garden – more of this in a future post), before its time to leave for pick up. By the time you add in the coffee mornings, watching PE and swimming lessons, assemblies and sports days, the time available shrinks further.
And before you know it, it’s the summer holidays and you are trying to grab moments while the children are engrossed in some play. And pattern writing, at least for me, requires a level of concentration I just cannot muster when my children are not deeply engrossed in something. The inevitable cry of “Mummy?!” and you know you’ve been rumbled. So I’ve had to grab my opportunities when they come and here is the nub; it’s really hard to do something when you aren’t in the mood, when you are tired or when you just fancy reading a book in a deck chair. What ever the billing, being a pattern designer is a very different life to that of a hobby knitter or crocheter.
The patterns are currently with Daisy’s tech editor and are being tested knitted by a lovely group of Devon Sun Yarn fans, so my work, at least for now, is mostly done (although I might just squeeze in one more hat sample). Now there is the launch to look forward to. We are doing it this autumn at Yarndale, where I’ll also be Daisy’s stand helper. It will be an interesting experience to see a yarn show from the other side, and I’m so looking forward to meeting lots of other fellow yarnie enthusiasts.
So, I hope you can forgive my absence. I have some other pattern ideas percolating in the back of my mind and I’ll start work on those once my children have gone back to school, and I will keep you posted on these as they develop. I also have lots of projects to finish as I’ve been a serial starter of new projects over the spring and summer – I am not one of life’s complete finishers; more of this in later posts too. And I’ve tried some new crafts, done some dyeing and visited some yarn shops that I’m keen to tell you all about, so I promise to be more present from here on in.
But for now, I’m off to enjoy the glorious summer weather with a long dog walk this morning whilst the children are at tennis tots, watching the Olympics (knitting in hand), with the children while we avoid the heat of the day this afternoon (although they’ll probably petition for some Octonauts or Peter Rabbit or Dragons:Riders of Berk). Then it’ll be about time for us all to dip our toes in the paddling pool before I get busy with their tea.
I was caught out by a flat tyre late one evening last week, and to my horror I discovered I did not have any yarn craft with me. My crafting is usually fairly portable. It’s quick and easy to pop needles or hook and yarn in a bag and, with all my patterns stored on my iPad, I’m off! In fact I almost always have a small portable project in my bag just in case I find myself unexpectedly waiting somewhere. But not this evening. I had to endure a wait for rescue without the calming comfort of yarn and needles or hook.
For the last year or so, my portable project has been my Cuddlebums Yarn shades blanket. Each month I would receive four balls of lovely colour from Jodi and would pop one ball at a time in my bag until I found odd scraps of time to crocheted it into squares, and then I replace the completed squares with the next ball and so the project continues. Because of this I’ve been quite relaxed about delays and inconvenience, as I know I can just whip out my crochet to pass the time. Making squares is a brilliant portable project because they take up so little space, and require very little concentration. You just have to remember to stop when you get to the requisite size of square (in the early days of this blanket, I frequently overshot and had to frog back but, the longer the project has gone on, the better I have got at paying attention just enough to stop at the right point). And because you are making the squares in time which would otherwise be wasted, you can, over some months, produce a blanket without it feeling like a huge and daunting undertaking.
In this case, I’m making two blankets, one for each of my children; they will be almost the same but will also be subtly different. A couple of weeks ago, I finished crocheting the last of the balls of colour (a gorgeous purple), which is why I didnt have anything to do when I got the flat tyre. So now, I will need to start on the blanket assembly. As you join the squares together, this naturally makes the project much less portable so it will become a stay at home project to be worked week on in my evenings.
I’m sad to see the end of these squares and, for the sake of my sanity should I get another puncture, I will need to seriously think about what my next portable project will be as I don’t have one ready and waiting. Everything in my yarny pipeline is either too complex or too bulky to make an ideal portable project.
In the meantime, I’m turning my attention to sewing in all the ends on the crocheted squares (and wondering quietly to myself the entire time, why I didn’t sew them in as I went along. There are approximately 800, give or take). I also need to decide on a joining method and an edging and this will necessitate a trawl through Ravelry and my various books and pamphlets so it is a subject I will need to come back to another day. Right now my focus needs to be Project Portable!
I do like to visit independent yarn stores so while I was staying my in-laws recently I asked on a couple of Facebook groups if anyone knew of any good ones nearby and Stitch Solihull came up, so on a rather rainy Sunday, I paid a visit.
Stitch Solihull was opened just three years ago by Ana, who told me she had no previous experience running a yarn store, so what she has created is all the more impressive. It’s a gloriously colourful space with a fabulous welcoming sofa generously adorned with cushions and crochet blankets, and the biggest Heidi Bears’ Dinosaur if have ever seen (Ana made him in aran). Ana has also made a more normal size Heidi Bears’ Hippo. Isn’t he fabulous!
Now, I do like a yarn shop (well, any shop really) with a big comfy sofa and if I hadn’t been accompanied by my husband and children (who refused to play outside in the rain) I might have lingered there, knitting in hand. But there was an extensive range of yarn to be squished, including a favourite of mine, Fyberspates Scrumptious, a merino/silk 4 ply in gorgeous colours with a particularly lovely twist, and Noro, which I’d always thought was a bit rough and scratchy until a friend of mine filled me in on how soft it became after washing.
Ana also stocks a range of hand dyed yarns, as well as undyed yarns and can arrange to have yarn hand dyed to order. It’s always interesting to see what the owner has on his or her needles and Ana did not disappoint. She had not long cast on a pretty shawl in a lovely yarn from Juniper Moon Farm.
But it’s not just yarn. Ana stocks gorgeous fabrics, an extensive collection of buttons, needles, hooks, kits, thread and wool wash. And, Ana is the owner of the most impressive wool winder I have ever seen. Now, wool winders aren’t usually terribly attractive things, don’t take a good photograph, so consequently would not normally be a subject of my blog, but, just check out this big boy!
So, eventually, with my children getting restless, I signed up to the news letter, made my purchases and made a mental note to return. You can find Stitch Solihull in a ‘cabin’ in the outside plant section of Notcutts Garden Centre just off junction 4 of the M42 and if you are ever passing, and need an excuse to break your journey, it’s well worth popping in.
I could barely contain my excitement last weekend when I wangled a detour to Toft on the way home from visiting my in laws. Visiting Toft has been a long held ambition of mine and it did not disappoint. As it happened they were having an open day, so after admiring the alpacas, I parked my husband in the cafe, my kids on the craft table with a helpful pva glue and tissue paper loving Toft employee , and plunged headlong into the shop.
You might think Toft is an odd choice for someone who struggles with amigurumi as much as I do (see my recent post on crocheting Easter eggs) but I just adore their animals and their crazy looking birds. I bought a robin kit at the yarn show Unravel in Farnham Maltings two years ago (and have 3/4 made him – only beak eyes and general assembly to finish him -although trying to produce two legs which could reasonably be called a pair nearly defeated me) and I’ve wanted to see base camp ever since.
Now, in my mind, Toft doesn’t just sell alpaca yarn, Toft is alpaca, and I spent a long time squishing yarn and amigurumi animals in a sort of trance, before I started to actually read labels and it occurred to me that the majority of what they sell is not actually alpaca but, pure wool. Certainly, all the animals and birds I squished in store were made from wool.
But it’s not just any wool. Toft proclaim their wool yarn to be seriously luxurious and indeed it is very soft and squishy and it has a lovely shine almost as if it were spun with a silk mix. It is spun in the UK which ticks a lot of my boxes re buying local and supporting British business but I notice they are quiet on whether the fleece is grown here too, so I’m not so sure I’m supporting British Farmers.
Toft also say their yarn is great if you are time poor (aren’t we all!) as it knits up really fast and, until recently, I might have thought this was an odd thing to say. How can a particular yarn knit up more quickly than another? Surely it’s the speed of the knitter that’s the variable? But I recently knitted with some lovely yak yarn from Devon Sun Yarns and that was a speedy knit so I have a new appreciation of these qualities in a yarn.
One thing I had not previously realised is Toft produce a range of clothing and accessories kits and, to my mind, it’s in wearable garments that alpaca really comes into its own as its so soft against skin. As you know, I’m going through a hat phase at the moment so I just adored their hat kits.
There are a couple of things that set Toft apart from other yarn stores. The first is they only sell their own product. The second is their display. It’s really clear to see that every aspect of the store is carefully considered and reflects their brand. This attention to detail appears right down to their mannequins and the crates they use for their display. No ikea shelves here! This gives the entire store a cohesive and very organic feel which was extremely seductive to me from a purchasing perspective.
The one thing Toft is not, is cheap. Although amongst all this luxury, you wouldn’t expect it to be. And the kit for say the robin I already own will set you back £24 which, even in my book, is quite a lot of money for an amigurumi bird that you still need to (struggle to) produce yourself. But the thing I wouldn’t have realised had I not made the robin is, in the kit, you will get enough yarn for several robins, or a robin and say, an aardvark. So it was with this in mind that I made my purchases.
As you can see, I’ve bought the book of bird patterns and a flamingo kit. But, with the left over white from this, and the left over red from my robin, I should be able to make a stork too. I also bought some sock weight alpaca because, well, I couldn’t visit Toft without buying some alpaca. My last purchases were two lovely chunky French knitting dollies which I plan to teach my children to use this summer.
One thing I would like to have heard about was the story of Toft. It’s possible this was displayed elsewhere in the complex and I spent so long squishing yarn that I didn’t get the chance to explore the rest of the facilities. But, all in all, I enjoyed my trip. I came away feeling delighted with my purchases and keen to return when we were next in the area. If you haven’t been, and you get the chance, go! Just remember to take a bit more than just your pennies with you,
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.