TED Tuesday – Gratitude

I have so many of these talks to share with you, and am looking forward to getting some of my favourites up here.

Last month I shared the concept of TED talks with you, along with my suggested ‘starter talk’.  If you missed it, it’s here.

This month, take just 12 minutes out of your day to find out how you can permentantly change your brain chemistry to feel happier!   (I know, this one is in French, but it’s subtitled so don’t panic – and it really is worth it)

There is a lot of stuff floating around about gratitude and making lists about the small things that make you happy and journalling about the good things……  this is where it all started – and gives you the reasons WHY it’s possibly a good idea to note that really good cup of tea or coffee you had today.

I’ll be honest.  I’m not as good as doing 3 things a day like she suggests, but i try for one a day, and have been for the last 6 months or so, and I have noticed that I am a bit more positive and a bit less inclined to ‘the sky is falling!’ than I used to be.  Baby steps n’est pas?



Invisible crafting still counts right?

It feels like a while since I updated – and to be fair it is.  Half term descended upon me from a great height, and then I trapped a nerve in my upper back resulting in varying levels of mobility for the last few weeks.

Naturally I haven’t been doing much crafting – inbetween dashing up the country to visit the smaller people while they were off school and lying flat on the floor saying ow – there hasn’t been much chance.

I’ve started the second of two small ‘wrist warmer’ mitts in left over yarn.  A reasonably quick little stranded project during which I have discovered that I carry my floats WAY to tight.  Bah.  Photo’s to follow…

I also took up adult Irish Step dance – much to the amusement of my largely unco-operative body.  Seriously I thought I was going to die after the warm up in the first lesson.  Having a blast though and really enjoying getting back to dance – albeit a compeletely different form to what I have done before.

I have a  baby blanket to start – and that due date isn’t getting any further away, but it will be an excuse to use up some of my mega stash of cottons, so looking forward to that.

I have a whole list of blog posts to share with you – and I’ve started diarising when I need to do them, so hopefully I shall be a bit more consistent in posting!

Keep crafting till next time (hopefully with pictures!)

Knitting makes you less lonely

Just a quick post this week as I dash from pillar to post.  I wonder if there are actual places called ‘Pillar’ and ‘Post’?

Anyway, the BBC reported this week on things to do to combat loneliness – and top of the list was knitting!

If you want to make your hobby count twice against loneliness, then getting involved in the Big Knit with your local Age UK could be something to consider.  If you make a few hats (and seriously any number is gratefully received) then Innocent (of Smoothie fame) gives the local Age UK 25p for every hat.

That 25p is then used to fund befriending services which pays for volunteers to go into people’s homes and give them companionship, company on outings and a weekly chat to look forward to.

Each beginner hat can be done in about 25 minutes (or faster!) but there are some amazing patterns out there!  To make sure that money goes into your local area, see if your local Age UK is involved with the scheme and send your hats directly to them – rather than it being distributed across the country by the National Office.

Tonight is wet and windy – so my own knitted hat was much appreciated!  Keep warm and I promise to post soon!

Who invented 1.5mm needles anyway?

A very quick update my lovely reader.  I’ve been furiously making little crochet flowers for a ‘secret’ project for my family Christmas (which is in February this year, all families have their little foibles don’t they?) so I can’t show you those.

I’ve also been working on my ‘desk drawer’ project.   Due to the fact I cycle to work I don’t want to carry more than I have to, so I have a project I leave in work so I always have something to work on at lunchtime as the mood strikes me.  My current ‘desk drawer’ project is the Norweign Mittens.

I did work out that if I do two rows *every* lunch time, I’ll be finished the first glove (but not the thumb) in 8 weeks!

What possessed me to do my first stranded project on tiny needles in the round I’m still at a loss to explain, however it is fun doing my first stranded project and I’m slowly learning the best ways to hold the two strands of yarn so I don’t end up with a knotted mess after each session.

Today I am hoping to pull out the yarn stash and start the ‘longer-than-today’ task of sorting it into something a bit more organised. I currently have two official 65ltr plastic storage bins and several ‘unofficial’ spots, WiP bags, temporary boxes and bags… I have bought some more storage boxes so hopefully I’ll be able to split it down into something a bit more ‘findable’ – update to follow!

Have you met TED?*

If you don’t already know about TED Talks, it’s sufficent to know they are AWESOME and cover a world of subjects and topics from the best way to tie your shoelaces to the latest information on cutting edge technology (the first conference in 1984 included unveiling the brand new Apple Mac).  If you want to know more, I’ve included loads of info after the video.

I’m a HUGE fan of these informative, interesting and thought provoking talks (never longer than 20 minutes) and often do a sort of wiki-links thing following random talks and subject hopping losing hours and learning loads!

I decided that I wanted to keep a better track of my favourite talks, and also that I wanted to share them with my lovely readers, who are by definition, intelligent and have enquiring minds.  So this is the start of a new monthly feature – TED Tuesdays!

So, here’s a starting point for you, one of my favourite talks that may well change how you work with your google searches and social media….

Extra Info about TED

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, and began in 1984 as a conference to share ideas across a broad range of subjects.  It became a regular conference in 1990, and gets speakers in a vast array of fields (including scientists, philosophers, musicians, religious leaders, philanthropists, and many others) to give some of the best talks in the world.

Lucky for us, their tag line is “ideas worth spreading” – which means all their talks, since 2006 are shared on TED.com and YouTube for free.  That’s currently over 2,400 talks on every possible subject from Adventure to Wikipedia.  Which is just as well as a ticket to the conference will set you back a cool $17,000 this year.

This is just a starting point.  Along with the sister conference; TEDGlobal, TEDx events (free under a licence to be organised by anyone, anywhere), TEDMed (medical and health based talks), TED Radio Hour (using several talks to theme an hour discussion on a single topic – my new favourite podcast) and TED Open Translation Project (which is translating TED talks into 110 languages to improve accessibility) there are literally thousands of talks on top of the core talks.  There is also books, studies, blogs, newsletters…..

So.  Look out for my favourite talks each month and let me know – what are YOUR ideas worth sharing?  I’d love to know what you think of this talk – let me know in comments!

*yes, it’s a ‘how I met your mother’ reference.

Welcome to another 12 months of interesting times

2017 has started, and despite 2016 being memorable for lots of wrong reasons, I had barely got used to it!

Happy New Year dear reader, and I hope this year turns out better for all of us.  My main goal is not to not break any major bones resulting in a 12 week hiatus on most things – but particuarly crafting.

I did manage, over the Christmas break, to complete a huge project that I had been working on most of the year for a friend.  Of course it came down to the wire and I completely forgot to take photos.  A challenge thrown down on St Stephen’s Day (that’s Boxing Day to most of the UK) resulted in me crocheting a hat in DK weight sequin yarn with a 3.75mm hook in a little over 3 hours.  Of course I also don’t have photos of that either.  I did however manage to take a couple of photos of my ‘plane’ knitting though – and now have a lovely pair of alpaca/wool close fitting fingerless gloves.

snuggly fingers

The pattern is Easy Peasy Fingerless Mitts by Make Something Special and whips up in no time (relatively)  – I’m not the world’s fastest knitter by any stretch of the imagination, and these took me about 5 hours all in.

So, first post of the year, and the usual promises and resolutions loom on the horizon.  I’ve got lots to share with you, and big plans.  Some of my break was spent with lots of sheets of paper writing down lots of ideas and plans and resolving them down into something feasible.

The first resolution involves this blog.  I’m a perfectionist which results in me not doing anything until it’s perfect in my head, beautifully presented, hundreds of photographs, witty and insightful, and preferably topical… which realistically is never going to happen.  I’ve accepted that and so have the idea for a series of small ‘update’ posts that should (hopefully) mean that I post more regularly.  I’ve even got a ‘theme’ plan for regular posts on a monthly basis which broadens the original spec of the ‘crafting’ blog, but frankly I am more than just the crafting in my life – which admittedly is a large and important part, but not the only part!

The second resolution is after the confidence boost and publication of the Manchester Shawl last year I have promised to publish at least 4 more patterns this year.  That involves quite a lot of work so fingers crossed.

Of course there are several other non-craft related resolutions – the usual ‘lose weight’, ‘improve my second language (French)’, watch less telly, don’t get blown up by Trump…. stuff.

Right, I’m posting this, imperfections and all, and moving on to working off some of the weight I’ve gained over the celebration period and the 3 months before when I couldn’t cycle to work due to a broken elbow.  I’ll let you know how it went very soon!

So, what are your resolutions for this year?

manchester shawl update

I am completely overwhelmed by the response to the publication of the Manchester Shawl a couple of weeks ago.  Thank you to everyone who had purchased and given me very positive feedback.  This has been a MASSIVE confidence boost to me and I am now looking at ways I can make 2017 my year of designing and publishing.  I have lots of shawls made that I need to write up, and design ideas that I need to work through!

At the moment I’m working on a Tunisian shawl design.  I had looked for a shawl that had certain elements and found lots of shawls that were *nearly* right but nothing that was *exactly* right.  So decided to make my own.  After lots of false starts and ‘almost’ rights (I like this, and this but not that….) I think I finally have a combination that is working so that is finally coming alongTunisian Under Wraps

I’m loving the yarn though.

Talking of yarn I’ve decided that I need to pull out the Stash and reorganise it all (again).  I need to order some boxes for it and dedicate a day to putting it all on the floor and then back into some better order.  At the moment I have two large boxes (and several smaller ones.  And maybe a couple of drawers.  And my ‘current project bags’……oh dear) which is ‘sorted’ into UNDER 4ply and OVER 4ply.

As much as I love those beautiful photos of rainbow cascading yarn cakes, it just isn’t practical with my life and I really don’t need to split by colour group or fibre – it’s not that kind of stash.  Frankly if I sorted my stash into ‘yarn with silk’ I’d have one huge pile and a couple of balls of cotton.  So I’m thinking a box per yarn weight/WPI so when I decide next year to design something in DK or 4ply or cobweb I can just pull out that box for a play and inspiration.

Does anybody else do this?  Have a system for something for years and then suddenly one day realise it’s not working anymore?

I don’t have a free weekend until October – but watch out for a photo update!



Perfect Weekend Sweater

Last October I went to the Knit and Stitch show at Alexandra Palace and scored 10 skeins of Artesano cotton for £30.

I wanted a ‘throw on’ weekend sweater for an upcoming holiday and the cotton was lying there looking at me.  A search of drops gave me a base pattern and after some modifications I ended up with…

cotton sweater side viewcotton sweater  front viewI adjusted the waist shaping and hem, added a moss stitch edging, added the same shaping to the sleeves and added the collar.

However, my crafting friends really weren’t convinced by the pooling. Most objecting to the ‘fingers’ over the bust line and hips, other objecting to the change between the bust, waist (where there are no increases) and hem.

I’ll be honest it didn’t bother me, but I wasn’t massively attached to the result so decided to try something I hadn’t done before, but for which cotton was perfectly suited.  Overdying.

Now, I’ve dyed other things in the past – garments that needed refreshing, tablecloths to match the wall paint etc… but these were all fabric and I hadn’t dyed something I had made before, and I definitely hadn’t bleached something deliberately before.  The internet was surprisingly unforthcoming about the best bleach and amounts to use.  I settled on Cillit Bang Bleach and Hygiene (it’s a purple bottle and picked up mine at Wilkinsons).  I ran a couple of inches of water into my bath (enough to cover the sweater just about) and added 100 squirts of the bleach.  After an hour, with the occasional swirl and turning over after 30 minutes I had this…

cotton sweater bleachedIt *really* didn’t bleach out the way I expected it to.  For some reason I wasn’t expecting pinks!

After that it was a simple case of throwing it into the washing machine with a 500g packet of Dylon machine die in French Navy.  A cycle later and I had this…

cotton sweater dyedand I LOVE it.

While the picture above looks like a solid hue, it really isn’t – there is beautiful, subtle tonal shifts throughout the sweater that show up in different lights.  I took a photo with flash to try and show this, so while the colour is (very) washed out – this does give an idea of the tonal changes…20160814_085716All in all I love it – I’ve had several comments on it while wearing it (including being asked if I frogged the original jumper) and it was a really interesting process.

I have worn it A LOT since I finished it (in fact I’m wearing it today).  For £30 (well less, I still have 4 skeins left) and the cost of the bleach/dye I am delighted.

cotton-sweater finished

Have you ever dyed anything?

It all comes back to Manchester

I’m very excited.  I’ve just published my first ‘paid for’ pattern on Ravelry. The Manchester Shawl is available to everyone here: buy now with Ravelry (and PayPal)

Manchester ShawlManchester has figured heavily in my life – I was born there, as my Aunt crocheted a traditional granny square shawl in the waiting room for my mother to wear during early morning feeds.  We moved frequently over twenty years, but after every move away we always moved back to Manchester – to within 2 streets of where we lived before in fact!

That original shawl is now mine, but much like me starting to fray around the edges and show it’s age.  It has been worn around my mother and me as a baby, it’s been a superhero cape, a den, a secure ‘hiding place’ and a portable hug.  It’s be worn in all weather, dragged through mud, tossed carelessly in bags and used to wipe benches dry… So I needed a new shawl that could withstand abuse required.

Luxury yarns were right out from the start, and the yarns I used are best acrylic – lovely soft modern squishy machine washable acrylic.  The pattern I found and adapted was originally published in the Manchester needlework pattern book (yet another tie to Manchester!).

I had nothing to lose and decided to take a risk on the colour choices – everything else I have is ‘safe’ colours and in the winter months everyone wears dark or neutral colours and I wanted something a bit more eye catching in the grey days.  I’m delighted with how the teal and orange pop together – and it’s certainly eye catching!

Having made one, I decided to write down the pattern – and made another for a friend who also needs a portable hug that can take a bit of abuse from her two lovely boys.  She’s a lot taller than me, so an upgrade to Aran weight and a larger hook produced a positive blanket of a shawl (she’s 5ft 10″ and it’s ankle length on her).  A bone-deep goth, bright colours just weren’t going to cut it, and the Women’s Institute aran rich purple was perfect – dark but rich and jewel like in saturation, this shawl gives a pop of suitably goth colour to her generally black ensembles.

Writing a pattern though takes HOURS.  Not just a couple, but the best part of a working week – somewhere between 30 and 40 hours.  I’m sure they can be written quicker but I take great care to make sure that my patterns are as understandable and as clear as possible.  Writing and rewriting and rephrasing and rereading takes time.  So I made the decision to charge.  Its a token amount, as there is no chart (those are coming for another pattern) but I really hope you will enjoy it!

Reflecting on improvement

As regular readers to this blog may have worked out I have a touch of a type A personality – and as I get older it gets more obvious.  In my crafting life I constantly strive to improve, searching out different ways of doing things, modifying materials, patterns and techniques to get the result I want.

But it’s not just crafting – Mr TuesdayFortnite will happily tell you of the time there were 32 different swatches of ‘grey’ on the front room wall as I took two weeks to decide exactly *which* grey to paint the whole room.  I recently had to change channels when a make-over show hung pictures on the wall *crooked*! (shudder).

This perfectionism extends to my teaching as well – whether I’m teaching dance (my professional training), MS Word to work colleagues or my crafting classes.  After every teaching session, designing a pattern, rearranging a room (or my stash!)…. I sit and reflect and review on what went well, what can be improved and how I can be better.action-reflection cycle

We did the Crochet Beginners class on Saturday last week, and it went really well – with everyone producing lovely work and starting on their individual crochet adventures.

Sometimes the best ideas start with ‘why?’ and sitting in the car on the way home I had one of those moments – I wrote the course way back in 2011 taking notes from other crochet teachers at the time on how to structure a class.  Being new at teaching crochet I accepted the wisdom of my ‘elders and betters’ on the circuit – and didn’t question it.  But why?reflective process

Here, 5 years on, I have the knowledge and the confidence to question that structure – and I’ve broken down what we do on the classes and am starting again from scratch – no assumptions on ‘that’s how it’s done’ or taking ‘because that’s how it is’ as an answer.  Exciting times!