Going back to work for a rest!

Last weekend I went over to Purlescence for their first open day of 2013.  They had remodelled over the winter break, and the new shop layout is gorgeous.  Of course, being overwhelmed with all the lovelies, I completely forgot to take photos, but it is much more open and bright than the previous layout, and the yarns are displayed in all their colourful temptation goodness.  I was very good and other than buying a couple of needles I needed after I broke my knitpicks 3mm, 2 Tunisian hooks to make the Anais jacket, cotton yarn to make two more baby blankets and yarn for a birthday present, I didn’t buy anything at all!

I took along the Tunisian Spa Cloth sampler for the Tunisian course, and there was lots of interest from people throughout the day, so that is looking like it’s going to be a really good day.

I also got to spend time with the ever lovely R at her home and talked well into the night about the upcoming courses and teaching and ideas (and yarn and stash and upcoming babies and 80’s children’s shows… you know the sort of evening)

This week has been half-term break for me, which means that I have been insanely busy and running around.  I really need to use my camera more because then I could show you photos of the champagne tea I had on Wednesday and the fabric shops I was in on Thursday – though you are probably less interested in seeing photos of the MRI scan I had on Monday, or the packing boxes I was surrounded by at a friends house yesterday as I helped her pack for moving.

Monday’s MRI was interesting.  I don’t get the result for a few weeks (11th March), but I did discover that lying on my front, with my arms stretched out above my head and holding them still for 30 minutes is really really painful on the shoulders.  Otherwise it was pretty uneventful and standard type medical procedure with lots of waiting about etc..

Wednesday’s Champagne tea was lovely.  An excuse to dress up and eat cake, what more do you need?  We had champagne, tea (well I had a tissane as I’m not allowed tea on the mix of drugs), finger sandwiches – including a lovely pesto bread, scones with cream and jam and little tiny cakes.  The waitress tried to take my champagne before I was finished (I mean the glass was over half full!), and we had a visitor in the form of a little tiny dormouse who created all sorts of excitement for a good 20 minutes, all accompanied by a beautiful pianist doing the best of Rogers and Hammerstein.  It was a lovely afternoon, and I can see afternoon tea becoming a regular feature of my annual calendar.

Thursday’s trip I went into town with a friend and her almost teenage daughter who has decided she wants to learn to sew.  I’ll be honest, it’s many years since I did some sewing, and have several yards waiting be to turned into several beautiful things, but I was  still shocked by how much the price of fabric has increased since I was last buying fabric regularly.  OK, we’re talking London prices, but still!  Teenage Daughter eventually got some beautiful cotton to make her first skirt, at £12 a meter (!) and I got the thread needed to finish the winter coat I’ve been making for several years.  Naturally we did have to go for tea and cake at Camille’s (lemon cake with frosting, delicious!) but otherwise the day was pretty healthy.

All this activity has resulted in very little crafting time (other than on the commutes – so I have several swatches completed). I had started the Anais Jacket, but after several inches I discovered I had made a mistake somewhere, so had to rip back out to row 1.  gahhh…  Loving how it’s coming out, but of course, in the theme of this week there are no photos!

Today I’m going to be trying to problem solve a friends tension when she crafts, everything she does is far too tight… wish me luck!

I’ll go back to work for rest

Well it’s half term already and I have a busy week.  I’ve bundled Mr TuesdayFortnite off for his first skiing holiday and I have the house to myself.

Tomorrow I get to have a wonderful day out at my favourite ‘local’ yarn store, seeing friends and picking up those complete essential bits that I *need*.

It’s been a busy week, with two friends announcing their impending parenthood (due dates within 2 days of each other) resulting in a night ‘down the pub’, valentines day – which neither Mr TuesdayFortnite or myself subscribe to, but it did get my dinner made for me.  However busy social evenings cuts severely into the time available for crafting.

I got more samples done for my Crochet 102 course,  which are now blocking before I can sit down and work out what’s missing..

Crochet 102 samples

this is about half of the samples blocking…

I also started some for the Tunisian course.  I had an idea of using a pattern to create a beautiful textural scarf from the Resolution Scarf pattern, but so far all three yarns from stash I’ve contemplated don’t agree with my ideas. I’ll post pictures when I have something that isn’t 3 rows of just frogged scarf…

Next week I’m off to spend a day at one of my favourite places, the London Victoria and Albert Museum, to see the stage costume and fashion galleries with a 12 year old friend who is thinking about taking up sewing.

If you don’t already know about the on-line galleries of the V&A museum, then check out the following links..

Hand Crochet

Hand Knit

These links will take you to the V&A archive pages where you can browse some of the hand worked items they have in storage. You can zoom, get background details, multiple photographs etc.. and they are adding more and more of their storage items all the time!  Even cooler is that if you have a specific interest in and area of textiles/fashion you can request to visit the archives and see items you request in person.

Right now I have to try another yarn for that scarf…

Review – Chiaogoo Bamboo & Steel Crochet Hook

Notes: I’m a natural left handed, ‘knife’ holder – but can work pencil hold and right handed.  I’ve worked all 4 styles for this review, but mostly for my natural preference.  My preference for hooks is straight, tapered with a deep throat.  I also have very small hands.  Obviously using a hook for an hour is different to using one for a month and some of my ‘issues’ might simply be due to habitual practice and adversity to change 😉

For this review I tested a 1.8mm hook.

First impressions

  • A lovely smooth handle which is warm to the touch and feels very secure in its attachment to the hook.
  • Laser etching of the size (in metric and US) is clear and easy to read.
  • Very light in the hand, with the weight being slightly forward (like a dart)
  • Has a tapered, deep throat and a pointed head
  • Slightly shorter in overall length than my ‘vintage’ steel hooks (and by slightly I mean a difference of less than ½”
  • Touchable and I found myself wanting to hold the hook just to see how it fit in different parts of my hand.
  • A 1.8mm hook is a slightly strange size as longer term UK crocheters would be more used to a 1.75mm or a 2mm sizing.

Working with yarn

The Hook

The hook is very slick and smooth on a variety of yarns and threads, creating a sense of almost no friction.  The tapered head and deep throat are very good at picking up, and holding onto, the yarn and it was easy to get up a decent speed (for a new hook, there was very little ‘learning curve’).

The length of the metal hook part is suitable for most stitches (including shorter bullion stitches). Though the hook shaft does taper slightly wider into the handle I don’t think that would bother most users.  You’re not going to be doing Tunisian, but the start of the handle is about the same place as the thumb rest on most of my other brands of crochet hook so has the same shaft length to go at as a standard hook (the Lantern Moon hooks have almost no thumb rest and don’t have this issue)

The head is a nice point which inserts into the stitches very nicely with a clean motion and made easy work of the crochet thread, 2ply and cobweb weight yarns I tried with the hook.

I’ll be honest, I adored the metal section (the hook and shaft) of this tool.

The Handle

The handle is so smooth it almost feels waxed or plastic (surprisingly) – but it is warm and comfortable to hold.  It has a nice stable grip and is very easy to hold in terms of touch.  I found myself picking it up just to feel it, and automatically held it in pencil hold, fairly far down on the shaft.

Chiagoo Hook profile

I have a slight preference for the thin straight hooks with a relatively long handle and I found in knife hold that the end of the handle of the Chiaogoo was short enough that it rubbed uncomfortably on the outer edge of my palm – however I have very small (almost child sized) hands, and that might not be an issue for a ‘normal’ person as the end of the hook should nestle more into the palm.  Pencil hold completely solved this problem.  Incidentally I have this exact same problem with my shorter straight hooks, so it’s not an issue specific to this hook.

There was a little learning curve in finding the ‘right’ place for me to hold the hook. The shaping goes from a lovely flat plain at the back of the hook to a more rounded shape at the front.  When you pick up the hook, your thumb wants to sit at the point of change, but I found in practice that this positioning was too far back for me and I wanted to work further up the hook.  I also found in this ‘natural’ hold (the one you want to adopt on picking up) that it was difficult to get the little bit of roll needed to move the hook, which used a little bit more wrist action than I was used to – but nothing drastic.  For me I found moving up the handle slightly to the more oval lozenge shaped barrel solved those problems.

Pros

  • Very light
  • Comfortable to use in Pencil Hold
  • Very fast hook
  • Nice deep throat
  • Warm to touch

Cons

  • Uncomfortable for me in Knife Hold
  • Hand placement on Handle shaping needs a little thought/practice to find the ‘sweet spot’
  • Slight ‘plastic’ feeling of bamboo
  • Some might find the hook too ‘fast’ (slick)

Would Suit People who prefer

  • Pencil hold
  • Warm feeling hooks
  • Broader holding areas
  • Light hooks

Would I buy one?

This is a really nice tool, but I don’t think I would, simply because of my own personal preferences of working style.

If I had bought one as a trial I wouldn’t be disappointed and would consider it money well spent, but I probably wouldn’t buy any more (maybe in a sale, but even then only maybe)

I loved the hook but wasn’t over keen on the handle, if I could get that fabulous hook on a straight shaft I’d buy the set!

For “scientific purposes” I handed Mr TuesdayFortnite the Chiaogoo, a Clover SoftTouch, One of my Vintage steels and a Lantern Moon for comparison.  My partner, a natural right handed, non-crocheter picked up all the hooks like a pen.  He also naturally held the Chiaogoo down on the shaft but preferred the feel of my Clover soft touch and was surprised to hear the Chiaogoo was bamboo.  Having taught him how to chain, he discovered he is actually a knife holder and found the Chiaogoo much less comfortable to hold in knife hold (and he has bigger hands than me ;-).  His favourite overall was the Clover, but he could also see the appeal of the Lantern Moon.

 

Finally finishing projects!

I’ve had a great week catching up on several bits – and a bad week in that it’s been a stress filled and eventful week.

I finally got around to photographing all my outstanding stash (from last October!) so I’ve added a huge heap of yardage to my Ravelry stash pages and made a complete mockery of my ‘2013 Yarn Diet’.  Must. Not. Buy. More. Yarn.  Well, at least not for myself!

I also finished a couple of projects! Yeah, go me!

I finished a cushion ‘front’ that I had been doing in that popular ruffle yarn, you know the stuff.  I loved the colour but didn’t want a scarf, and it so happened that the colourway worked well with my existing living room decor.  It’s only taken about a year to get around to finish this..

Ruffle CushionI also finished the baby blanket, and I’m really pleased with how it came out.  The Nikkim Cotton was perfect and it’s gone beautifully soft during blocking.  I just know it will wear well in use – perfect for busy parents.

cotton baby blanketI also made headway on starting the samples for the Beginners Tunisian Workshop I’ll be teaching in June, and made a great ‘sampler spa cloth’ in Paton’s 100% cotton.

spa cloth

The cotton I can’t recommend highly enough if you’re looking for a tight twist cotton – it comes in 4ply and DK, in range of fabulous colours.  It gives great stitch definition (as you can see), has a gorgeous eggshell-like soft sheen and I loved it so much I’ve picked up a range of colours to use in the class for the lucky students to take away with them..

multicolour cotton

Today I’m finally getting around to blocking the samples for the Crochet 102 (Shaping) class, and I have plans for some KnitPicks multi-colour I acquired…

Review – Tulip Steel Cushion Crochet Hook

Notes: I’m a natural left handed, ‘knife’ holder – but can work pencil hold and right handed.  I’ve worked all 4 styles for this review, but mostly for my natural preference.  My preference for hooks is straight, tapered with a deep throat.  I also have very small hands.  Obviously using a hook for an hour is different to using one for a month and some of my ‘issues’ might simply be due to habitual practice and adversity to change 😉

 First impressions

I was asked to review a Steel, gold tipped 0.5mm Crochet hook

  • A rubberised handle which is warm to the touch and feels very secure in its attachment to the hook (there are little moulding holes at the far end of the handle and you can see the metal of the shaft through them)
  • Sizing is in black on a laser inset label, easy to read with American and metric sizing.
  • Hook and shaft are steel with a gold plated head
  • Very light in the hand, with the weight being slightly back of centre
  • Has a tapered, medium throat and a semi-pointed head
  • Similar length to my ‘vintage’ steel hooks
  • Not as tactile as the Chiaogoo,
  • A .5mm hook is standard sizing and the hooks come from .5mm to 6mm (changing range)

Working with yarn

The Hook

Despite the difficulties of working with a .5mm hook (it took me ages to find a yarn fine enough – ended up with a single strand of embroidery floss) I am trying to be as fair and as reasonable as possible in reviewing this hook

The hook is a standard speed, I didn’t notice any difference in those terms to my usual hooks.  It is smooth on a variety of yarns, but due to the extreme fineness I did find it difficult to get a ‘yarn’ that the hook would pick up and hold onto,  but that was having yarn too thick than any fault of the hook.

The throat for me isn’t as deep as I would like, and though the head isn’t as pointy as some I still found it very easy (easier than normal in fact) to split the yarns (again this could be a feature of the small size of the hook)

There is a sudden and fairly abrupt taper to the hook (probably to add strength), though this didn’t really affect me in working the hook would be unsuitable for the taller stitches and bullion type stitches as it would be difficult to get a consistency of loop size.

The hook worked very well with the single strand of embroidery floss, but anything ‘larger’ was frustrating and difficult to manage.  It did however work very well as a beading hook, inserting very well into 4/0mm beads with laceweight yarn.

The hook also came with a protective cap – partially to protect the hook from damage, and partially to protect the crafter from impaling themselves on the hook when reaching into the project bag.  Most hooks of the smaller sizes (about 1mm down) should come with this.

The Handle

The handle is a plastic rubberised material which is warm to touch, and the double flat sided thumb rest is a nice, comfortable touch.  There is a raised section on the ‘back’ of the hook with the company name ‘embossed’ on the handle, and this could potentially irritate pencil hold users.

The handle was comfortable in knife hold, and I was comfortable using it in pencil hold.

The laser printed and embedded label looked like the sizing information would last, not sure how it would hold up under extremis, but you’d have to be deliberately picking at it to make it look tatty or damaged.

Note:

Given the pack also included the 4mm and 6mm hooks I thought I would say a quick word on those as well.  The handle is a different shape, with a wider, half circle thumb rest and a shorter handle overall, giving a longer metal hook area.  The hook itself lacks the gold touch, but they are nice solid hooks.  Again a throat that is medium deep and a semi-pointed head.  I used both hooks in projects and found them comfortable to use, but not as nice to touch as the Knit Pro.  The shafts are lovely and even and maintain a standard size all the way to the handle.

I was perfectly happy using the larger hooks in projects, and didn’t notice any differences really to my usual hook choices.

I know these are the hooks of choice of many ‘professional’ crocheters – including Doris Chan.  The fact that you can buy these in colour coded sets would appeal to some purchasers (including me).  The Rose Etimo set and the Steel crochet hook set are both beautifully presented and cover most sizes that people would use.  More obscure sizes are available by special order, giving the single largest range of sizes I have ever seen from one manufacturer.

I also note that Tulip do Giant crochet hooks (7 – 12mm) and these sizes are difficult to get hold of in the shops.  They are colour coded aluminium, and there is a trend in crochet at the moment to work with a larger hook than is called for in the yarn to get drape and lightness.

Pros

  • Light
  • Comfortable to use in Pencil and Knife Hold
  • Medium depth throat
  • Warm to touch
  • The gold tip adds a sense of luxury
  • Legible sizing.

There is a matching style from 2mm to 6mm with a gold or silver coloured aluminium hook and shaft., but a bigger and slightly flatter handle.  The gold has charcoal gray handles and the silver is shades of pink.

Cons

The embossed tradename might rub some users

Rubberised handle gives the sense of a work tool rather than luxury item (least favourite of the handle materials for me, and bang in the middle for handle shapes)

Some don’t like the thick ‘pen’ type ergonomic handles

Personally not over keen on the moulding holes in the handle

Would Suit

People who prefer

  • Either hold
  • Warm feeling hooks
  • Broader holding areas

Would I buy one?

This is a really nice versatile tool.  It lacks some of the ‘luxury’ feel of the others but it is a solid and well made piece of equipment that would suit a wide range of users from complete beginner to ‘old hands’.

I like the option of buying sets with scissors in a purpose case, and Tulip has one of the broadest ranges of sizes I’ve seen from a single manufacturer.

 

But I must make ALL the samples

I work best to a deadline.  I’m not the world’s worst procrastinator, though I would probably rank in the top 10, but nothing focuses my mind like knowing I have to get something finished by a set date.  I was one of those kids in school who did the homework when it was set so I didn’t have to write a 2,000 word essay the night before it was due in.

I am also one of those people who thinks about all about the details.  I tend to want to share *everything* I know, all at once.  If I know 50 ways to cast on, and you ask me how to cast on, I find it very difficult to not tell you all 50 ways right then and there – even though I know that can be more than a little overwhelming for any student of mine.

It’s not wanting me to show off, its how my brain works and how I like to learn – once I’ve heard of something I can file it away and retrieve it at a later date.  I prefer going on courses where I come away feeling that not only have I learnt something right now, but that I also have more I can go and find out myself.  Now, that’s true of any course – but having the right key words to start my searches really helps.  Practising my basic techniques/new knowledge for a couple of months and then thinking “ah yes, the teacher said something about twisted rib” means I might know nothing about twisted rib right now – but I do have the key phrase to help me Google it.  I’d much rather work like this than master my basic skills and think ‘now what?’ and have to trawl through hours and hours of internet to work out what the next step is.

Now that the drugs are working I’ve been able to commit to several teaching dates (yay!), but this means that I want to produce a warehouse full of samples and swatches and patterns.

My problem is that I think of a technique I want to share, and my brain more or less implodes.  Let’s take crochet cables as an example.  I know that I want to have at least one finished project that is some form of useable item.  Easily done.  I also know that I own about 65 individual different cable patterns and the small, mad, uberlord-of-the-universe part of me wants to make a sample of each one as a demonstration swatch.  Which is just insane right?

Cables would be part of a larger course.  One that included texture stitches (now I know I have a couple hundred different stitch patterns for that), lace work (another couple hundred) and colour-work (joining colours – there’s at least 5 ways right there, vertical stripes, horizontal stripes, bias stripes, tapestry work, over embroidery and cross stitch, carrying the yarn, not carrying the yarn… and this is just me thinking off the top of my head).

Suddenly my 1 day texture course has at least 5 finished projects and over 500 swatches.  Obviously the sensible thing to do is group these samples into over-reaching categories and make some swatches do multiple jobs (vertical stripes with carried yarn for example).  Lots of these skills are the same across the principle – once you’ve done a 3 stitch cable it’s the same technique for a 4 stitch cable.  My difficultly lies in deciding *which* stitch patterns to use and which to leave out!

Of course, my own personal headache (and I do understand that this is a monkey entirely of my own creation) is compounded by the fact that I am not preparing for just one course.  Oh, no.  I have to go for four different courses, in four different techniques that need completely different sets of swatches and samples.

I am aware that each of these has its own deadline, that sensibly I have to finish the swatches I need for the first of the courses first.  However that doesn’t stop my brain being distracted from “I need to finish that lace swatch” to “but I could demonstrate cable techniques by crocheting a knee-length Arran sweater”.

Ah, yes.  That’s the other issue.  For some reason my crafting brain seems to believe there is no time between *imagining* a project and it being in existence.  Therefore my brain things it’s perfectly reasonable to suggest crocheting a cable sampler queen sized blanket as a demonstration piece.  I don’t even want a queen sized blanket!  But it would be a cool demonstration piece wouldn’t it?!

Must focus on the smaller projects – I can see me having to design some hard-working, multiple technique garments in the near future!

Right now I’m going to block a project…