September Sucks

FOs (Finished Objects)

What’s been finished since my last post

  • My Spectral scarf fell off my needles today. While there are (many) more segments than the pattern calls for, I got bored. So when I ran out of my first skein of black yarn, although I have another 25 grams of the colour-phase yarn, I stopped. It’s long, just not Dr Who lengths.

WIPs (Works in Progress)

Works actively being worked on – (not hibernating or we’d be here forever) including my PP (Purse Project or the project that is living in my handbag)

I played with several ideas but my brain just isn’t engaging with the world around me, let alone my crafting at the moment so I have very little to report here.

Every Day’s a School Day

What I’m learning from my crafting this month..

  • Demystifying Double Knitting
    Attended this really informative and eye-opening workshop with SockMatician. Not sure I am as sold on this technique as I wanted to be (often I can barely finish one project so the idea of doing two of the same thing – albeit at the same time – is kinda freaking me out) however it is excellent for making you think and I’m getting much better at holding two yarns at the same time and working continental methods, which are without doubt my weakest skill set. See below for more on this workshop.

Bits of Sheep

Stash reduction or enhancement

I have bought no yarn. Woot. Go me!

MonthBalls/Skeins InBalls/Skeins OutNet Balance

Oh Shiny…

The source of my startitis – for example planned projects , inspirations or ideas that have caught my eye or subjects or topics that have snagged my attention..

Ok. the looonnnnggg bit of this post, as I haven’t posted since mid August – best laid plans and all that!

September decided to be particularly demanding with lots going on at work and a variety of ‘events’ pulling attention from what I wanted to be doing.

The end of August I was lucky enough to ‘pop’ to Vienna for a few days with Mr Fortnite and drop in on friends of ours who live there. Vienna is such a beautiful city that is easily navigable and feels very safe. We did tourist stuff such as the palaces, as well as sat by the Danube and had fresh fish for lunch. We attended an excellent Tango Milonga and just wandered the streets getting deliberately lost. No, I did not buy any yarn (I didn’t even go to a yarn shop while I was there as I haven’t used up the stuff I bought the last time I was there 6 years ago). I did however manage to come home with two beautiful traditional dirndl dresses which I am looking forward to wearing – one of them makes me feel like Cinderella!

Unfortunately September decided to arrive with a ‘bang’ and there were ‘issues’ with our flight home (they basically closed the gate while a group of us were coming through security – which in Vienna airport is after Duty free and just before the gate) resulting in us having to buy new tickets and cope with a further delay of 48 hours. I’m not the most relaxed traveller at the best of times and this little incident hasn’t improved matters. On the plus side I did get my first experience of business class lounges.

A few days later, driving home after visiting another friend, the car decided that my life had been way too uneventful and stable so tried to fix that for me by throwing a wheel on the motorway. I had always wondered how I would react in this sort of situation, and now I know (pretty damn fine according to the Police). I got to deliberately steer into the central reservation (to avoid the car who was undertaking me at the time) and experience the thrill of spinning across 3 lanes of traffic before coming to a controlled stop on a grass verge and watching my own wheel continue down the motorway without me.

I’m fine and thankfully nobody else was involved, but there is a strong possibility that my inability to focus on practically anything the last couple of weeks could be some form of delayed shock – so I’m just letting it play out. The insurance company confirmed this week that our car is a write off, so now we need to look at if we actually need a car (I mean, after all we live in an area with good public transport links) and if we do what sort of car do we want.

We then got to tick off one of our ‘local tourist’ items and visited Bletchley Park. Wow this place is huge and just stuffed full of history – it’s fascinating and very well presented (though be warned, the audio tour can feel very disjointed as basically they don’t know what order you are going to listen to the recordings in so they have repeated a lot of information but not covered other bits) there is a recommended route but you can go around in any order you please. Below are some of the ceilings from the main building…

Bletchley was really inspirational, and though I didn’t understand all of it, I did come away with several crafting ideas inspired by the place. A particularly nice touch in the ‘coding sheds’ was the use of hand knitted garments to dress the rooms. My friend and I must have cut quite the eccentric image as we examined seams and knitting techniques on cardigans, gloves, scarves and hats while everybody else was reading the historical information about the war on the walls.

“Yes, yes, Churchill did make quite a memorable speech didn’t he, but just look at how this knitter has set in these sleeve heads… and the rib variation on the cuff of these gloves is just fascinating… does this feel like Jamieson and Smith to you?…”

All of the items were recreations (I’m guessing, on the fact that cashmerino wasn’t a widely available yarn in the 1940s that they are all recreations, though some items, which felt like pure shetland wool, could have been originals) but they were beautiful creations with very high exacting standards and worked to original patterns (I recognised a few, and even have one of them in my collection). I didn’t take photos as it didn’t feel appropriate, but it was beautifully done.

Last weekend, as mentioned above, I got to do the Demystifying Double Knitting workshop with SockMatician. A very detailed workshop with lots of examples and samples and a wonderfully engaging and passionate teacher. Double Knitting (for those readers who don’t know) is basically a method of using two colours of yarn to create a fabric that is stockinette stitch on both sides meaning there is no ‘wrong side’ to your work. A wonderfully dense, windproof, fabric that has really interesting possibilities for completely reversible colourwork. It involves carrying two colours (or yarns, they don’t have to be different colours but that would be a bit pointless) at the same time and because every stitch is worked there are no floats like stranded colourwork – so you can have as long a section of colour as you want (purists will tell you that you never have more than 3 stitches of one colour in ‘proper’ stranded colourwork. You can probably work out what I say to them).

However there are lots of ways you can carry your yarns. I ended up doing some weird kind of ‘one in each hand’ (thankfully I’m one of those obsessive types who must know all the techniques even if I don’t use/like them) and doing a combination of English and Continental styles.

Because each stitch is basically doubled (lets say a white and black side to your work) you work in pairs. The first one is knit and the second one is purled (regardless of the colour of the yarn). This means for some stitches you will be working a knit stitch English style and then doing a Norwegian purl for the second stitch. Then if the colours swap you may be doing a Continental knit stitch and an English style purl.. all while working off a chart and remembering which colour you should be using (which may or may not match the colour of the stitch on your needle).

Now, I’ve done English style knitting (my default), I can Continental style knit and Norwegian Purl (I can’t get the hand of continental purling for some reason). I have done stranded colourwork. I can see the logic of Double Knitting and how it should work. However, putting all these things together my brain just went poof… I could remember for any given stitch 3 of the 4 needed pieces of information. Lets say we are on the ‘white’ side of the work and the white is held in my right hand and the black in my left…

  1. Is the next stitch a knit or a purl? Knit – both yarns to the back, Purl both yarns to the front
  2. Is the next stitch I need to work a ‘black’ or a ‘white’ stitch? for some reason my brain wanted to add a level of complexity here by involving the colour of the stitch about to be worked, If you try this at home remember this important fact: It’s irrelevant.
  3. For a knit white stitch – work an English style knit stitch
  4. For a knit black stitch – work a Continental style knit stitch
  5. For a purl white stitch – work an English style purl stitch
  6. For a purl black stitch – work a Norwegian purl stitch
  7. Next stitch – return to 1.

My most common ‘error’ is to forget to move both yarns forwards or backwards, and it seems to be when the colours change from whatever the current stitch colour is that my brain then doesn’t know what type of knit or purl I am doing.

However it is a really fun technique, you look like a total legend doing it, and I do have the germination of some really pretty cuffs formulating in the back of my head. I will definitely be doing SockMaticians follow on class once my brain is a bit more comfortable with the processes learnt in this class…

I am also doing another class with him (Geek Knitting) next weekend so really looking forward to that – and I get to report on TribeYarns new premises in Richmond as an extra bonus!

Hopefully, with the new month starting Demanding September will finish and I will be able to get a bit more of a handle on things and I’ll get back to posting more regularly again. See you in a couple of weeks!

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!



Warning! Long post reversing…

Well what a week it’s been – learning and discovering so many things, teaching and giving and actually being productive for a change… although of course the path is never quite bump free

First up was teaching the new Crochet Shaping course, exactly 1 year to the day since I taught the Crochet Beginners class with Purlescence.  We had a lovely crowd of intelligent, inquisitive people along for the ride, who are the best type to have on a class as they help point out the bits I’ve forgotten to say or taken for granted.  I adore having a class full of people who ask questions!  The new tech worked pretty well – a couple of tweaks and I think we’ve got it sorted, and I’m beavering away now putting the finishing touches to the Tunisian Basics course which runs in June.

I think the nicest complement I got from the day (and I’m paraphrasing as this is a week on, if you’re reading this and you remember exactly what you said please let me know and I’ll correct what follows) was:

It wasn’t like a workshop at all – it was like popping round to a friends for a bit of crochet and a natter and learning stuff by accident.

Learning can come in many forms, so of it literal and involving conscious effort to learn on your own behalf.  I’ve had two instances of this in the last 7 days.  First up I signed up for some knitting courses on Craftsy.  I’ve done several of their courses before and found them useful and informative.  The two I signed up for this week were Franklin Habit’s Heirloom Lace Edgings – if you are a knitter and want to know more about lace edgings and different ways of attaching them to your work (and why snowflakes should always be knit in yellow yarn) then this is an indispensable course. I also signed up for Lace Shawl Design, which I’m not enjoying quite as much but again is packed full of information.  It’s aimed at knitters but I can see applying some of the info to crochet designs.

Another type of learning is that from which you learn something from even though you are doing something else at the time – for example, don’t photograph the missing bits of your stash for Ravelry, put it all away and then upload the photos.  You won’t remember what the brand is and how much of it you’ve got by that point, I guarantee it!  My other ‘non-learning-learning’ session this week was teaching the Shaping class.  Any teaching involves just as much learning for the teacher as the students (or it should) and of course by 3am Sunday morning I had not so much ‘rewritten’ the course as ‘reordered’ it – for when it runs again in the future to give a more cohesive and logically structured course.

I also got two new stitch dictionaries in the shape of  Robyn Chachula’s Visual Encyclopaedia and Edie Eckman’s “Around the Corner, Crochet Borders”. I love my reference books and I’m finding them indispensable in preparing for the texture and colour course in September.  Robyn’s book is very well put together – I’ll do a review soon I promise, but I’m already using one of the stitch patterns.

I’ve started a new baby blanket, which may result in a new free pattern.  I’m loving this reversible stitch, and the Vinni’s (as always) works beautiful for baby stuff.

I’ve made lots of progress this week on loads of different things.  I’ve also finally cast on the first sleeve for the Jan Sweater.  Having been knitting this sweater since August 2011 I’m really looking forward to finishing it, and while I still have two sleeves and the seaming to do I’m already fantasizing about the next project I will take up once I finish this..

I’m also on the last 3 rows of Honeymeade – although these rows are over 450stitches long so may take me a little while..  I have finally had to admit (temporary) defeat in the face of Frechen.  My head is just not in right space to focus on this at the moment, so I’m calling a halt instead of getting more and more frustrated with it.  I’m going to back away from it slowly for a couple of weeks and pick it up again next month.

In the  course in the photographing of the stash I may have taken a couple of snapshots of the yarn I got from Purlescence to make the samples for the Texture and Colours course in September (gee, aren’t I organised?)  This is Rooster Almerino DK.

and it’s lovely.  A blend of 50% baby alpaca and 50% merino it’s squishy and soft and the palette of colours are strong without being overpowering – sort of deep subdued pastels if that makes sense.  The colours are saturated without being overly bright giving a lovely rich luxurious feel to the palette. I’m just whittering now, their gorgeous. That’ll do.  Of course I didn’t just buy yarn (who could?) but I was very restrained.  I bought a lovely clasp for my Anais jacket..

and I also picked up one of Tulips new interchangeable Tunisian hooks, along with cable and (for some inexplicable reason) a pack of FOUR cable stops.  Why they don’t sell them in packs of two I don’t know – I know we’ll all lose one down the back of the sofa, but trying to remember where I put the other three will never work!

I haven’t had chance to play with it yet, but I will let you know how it goes when I do.

Last weekend I popped up to the familial home to visit, well, my family. My mother decided that this year. instead of buying me (her eldest daughter) an easter egg. she would go unconventional (if you’ve met my mother you’ll know this is a habit of a lifetime).  Along with a fabulous Vogue branded umbrella in navy blue and silver, and several ‘subtle’ reminders that it’s a Vogue umbrella (the furl strap to fasten the umbrella, the handle and the mechanism button are all branded suitably) I got a a book.  Not just any book of course, but a copy of:

Not only does the title make it sound like owning a shawl is some form of terminal illness, but the introduction boasts of a whole career option I hadn’t thought of previously.  Apparently during the 1980’s nearly every Canadian department store had it’s own Qualified Scarf Consultant.  I want to know what’s involved in becoming a Qualified Scarf Consultant.  I so want that on my C.V.!

The whole thing is wonderfully 80’s and slightly dated, though to be fair a lot of the ideas are just as usable and applicable today. I flipped the book open at random to give you a taste of the illustrations…

At the start of the post I mentioned a ‘bump’.  Well I must have caught my ringshawl on something and snagged it.

The beauty of crochet is that if a thread breaks then each stitch is independent and the whole thing doesn’t just unravel on the spot (phew!) and I do (luckily) have the 2grm scrap of yarn remaining from the original project in order to darn it up and make it good as new. (Hence me going through my stash in the first place to realise that I hadn’t photographed it all for my Ravelry stash pages)

It also forces me to sit down and study my shawl – which should help me start writing up the pattern, something I’m determined to do before the end of April.

Overrun with Baby Cardigans

Easter holidays gave me a little bit of time to dash to the family seat ‘up north’ and visit the relatives.

My younger Sister is fabulous, glamorous and wonderful.  All my life she has been very focused on what’s ‘in’ and designer labels and stuff like that – reading the magazines and following the trends.  Me on the other hand, I get dressed and then wait for it to come back into fashion.  It happens surprisingly frequently.

I know that knitting is currently the ‘big thing’, that it has now tapered out and diffused from the ever increasing knitting groups, and is becoming an ever increasing blip on the general populations’ radar.  However I was still surprised when Sis asked me to teach her to knit while I was there.

A ball of DK (8ply for the non-UK readers) and 5.5mm bamboo needles later and I was *amazed* at how fast my sister processes information.  In an hour we had done cast on, knit (which she confessed she kinda remembered from being a child), purl, garter stitch, stockingette stitch, how to tell which one you were doing and how to swap between them, slipping the first stitch of each row (and why) and casting off.  5 hours later she had a ‘Barbie Quilt’ of beautifully even stockingette stitches, and she had started another ‘test square’ with a few garter stitch rows so that it didn’t curl.

She has now set her sights on a baby cardigan.  I might just have to send her a knit package!  I’ve told her about Ravelry, but it’s all very new and daunting right now.  I’m scrolling through loads of baby cardigan patterns looking for one that isn’t a basic bog garter stitch boredom fest, but also isn’t a top down, raglan, seamless “and now get your dpn’s out for the sleeves” thing which could terrify a beginner.  Sure I’m on the other end of a skype call, but that’s not the point – any suggestions anybody?

There is a theory that the older you get the faster time seems to fly by.  I think it’s all marketing myself (how can you possibly not think the year is going faster if you can buy Easter eggs on 26th December?) but I’m still surprised by how fast my first course of 2013 has rolled around.  I’m all ready bar piling everything in the car – piles of samples, class notes, presentations, blocking equipment, secret goodies and the cutest little baby cardigan for a gender confused child..

baby cardigan

See that little dotted pink line? That ladies and gentlemen is a short row pocket – worked at the same time as the garment.  It gives a completely seamless pocket top and invisible joins and is so cute.  I didn’t think of this myself, I got the inspiration from Franklin Habit and his love of vintage pattern (you can read his post here if you like).

Another example of short row shaping is done in the neck of this little cardigan to let it lie properly on the back of baby’s neck.

shaping on necklineHowever the most concerning thing about this cardigan is not the fact that I have made a baby garment (those of you who know me may be surprised that I didn’t in fact spontaneously combust when presented with this little task) but that I (who never, ever, ever makes any baby blanket present in baby blue or baby pink). had two balls of baby pastels in my stash.  What I want to know is “why do I have a 100g ball of baby blue acrylic, and 100g grams of baby pink acrylic in my stash?!”  It would appear that the stash is prone to growing, with stuff you don’t want, if you don’t keep a careful eye on it.

Having said that the Crochet Shaping course is going to be a blast, I’m trying out several new ideas – I’ve even had my nails done in preparation! k- and I’m really looking forward to it.

Most of this week, and last week has been taken up with final minute non-productive flapping, but I did get to the end of the charts on the Honeymeade shawl (you have no idea how happy I was to complete that!) and I’ve done the first 5 rows of a slip stitch crochet rectangular shawl test about 20,000 times.  More fool me for thinking it would be easy.  More on that process next week I think!

Finally in other news, the doctors are now weaning me off the drugs to see what happens.  Apparently what happens is that when I get to 1mg my hands object, so I’ve gone back up to 2mg till Saturday and will drop back to 1mg next week when it’s not so vitally important that I can use my hands.  My next appointment is 22nd April so we’ll see what happens then.

Simple Pleasures

I know, I’m late.  Apologies.  This isn’t Friday, it’s Monday – but that just means less time until the next update right?

The past week has been a week of squeezing in simple pleasures.  Those little events that give a momentary frisson of great joy. 

First of all was picking up a project (my Honeymeade shawl), that has laid dormant for nearly 12 months and making a little bit of progress.  Only 4 repeats of one of the charts, but given each chart repeat takes just under 30 minutes, that’s not bad going.  During that process I rediscovered just how much I adore the yarn that finally agreed to be this wrapper (after 3 disasterous other, aborted, attempts) – the fyberspates 4ply is just gorgeous and the colouring is working up beautifully – I’ll try and take photos this week for you.  Making any progress at all on any project is a minor win after being so unable to do anything for so long – but for some reason this one felt like a particular achievement.  There’s still a long way to go on this project, but I just know that it’s going to stunning when it’s finished.

As you (probably) remember I had to frog the front of my Jan sweater completely to get the rib section the same length as the back.  Over the weekend I finally caught up with where I had got to previously, the small victory of finally working with virgin, non crinkley, yarn warming the little cockles of my heart (and signifying the section where I have to concentrate on the armhole shaping, but the end of the front is in sight!).  With a tail wind I might even have a back and a front of a sweater by the end of the week!  Then of course there is the sleeves and the making up to do, but that’s not the end of the world.

I love teaching, and there is little that is as exciting as a completely new course or workshop.  However, doing all the prep is not my favourite activity.  Finally completing all 26 swatches (yes, I have an entire alphabet of swatches) for the Crochet Shaping workshop in April was a moment for a little happy dance.  All the little samples are finished, labelled, blocked and pristine – ready for handling and pouring over by curious students.

Finally I felt like doing something I haven’t done in years, and the Hairpin Lace tunic in Crochet So Fine has been looking at me for about 2 years.  Along with the ribbon yarn that I got for free just as I got back into crafting seriously.  I had been waiting for an opportunity to use my Ed Jenkin’s hairpin loom (that I also picked up about 2 years ago), and picking up a skill that I haven’t touched for many years (and it coming back to smoothly and easily) gave a lovely glow of satisfaction to my Sunday evening.  Again photo’s to follow.  The loom is just gorgeous, and the art-silk ribbon so soft that it’s another project that you know from the outset is going to turn out better than you hoped.

Finally I saw a fabulous poster on Saturday that I wanted to share with you…

It will all be alright in the end.  If it’s not alright, it’s not the end!

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…

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…

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…

Well the Drugs DO work, and Workshops have been confirmed!

Well the drugs *definitely* work!  I could have cried with joy today when I carried the shopping in without a second thought.  Ah, the simple things that we take for granted. I missed you.

The drugs I am on are a bit of cocktail, and one of the ones I have to take is a massive dose of Vit D (I’m clinically deficient, who knew?!) once every 4 days.  Combined with the steroids, this seems to have the effect of making me a bit, well, wooshy..

My thought are on a bit of ‘go fast’, which has resulted in my braining spinning on project ideas, teaching ideas, design ideas all day.  Unfortunately most of them fly across my head that fast that I haven’t been able to note them down, but some of them I have, and they are real zingers! More to come on those at a later date – but one of them involved some serious maths

The physiotherapist on Monday was, erm, interesting.  I now have to submerge my arms up-to the elbow in water as hot as I can stand and do a series of stretches three times a day.  For six weeks.  I’ve been going a week and I’m already bored of it.  However I also get to play with Play-Doh three times a day so it’s not all bad.  I also now ‘have to’ swim once a week, and I’ve been given permission to go back to using light weights in my gym workouts, so hopefully that will help combat the slight ‘balloon animal caricature’ that’s happening to me.  More interestingly she also gave me permission to ‘return to normal usage as much as possible’ including my crafting – so I am now trying to fit in at least a little every night upto an hour when I have time.  You can’t see it from where you are, but I have a very happy face!

This comes just in time as we have confirmation of at two teaching dates with Purlescence:

13th April – Beyond Scarves and Granny Squares – Crochet 102 (Shaping)

Beyond Scarves and Granny Squares will take you from ‘beginner’ to ‘confident’.  Teaching loads of techniques to expand your repertoire, increase your confidence and improve your skills, we’ll be talking about those little secret ‘tricks of the trade’ along with the more conventional wisdom gained from my 30 years of practical experience.  We’ll be covering

  • Starting  –  how to get a pretty cast on edge and how to do away with foundation chain
  • Couture Touches – such as how to get rid of “that” gap at the edge of your work, useful stitches to know and how to change yarn
  • Shaping – how to do shapes other than squares, rectangles and circles, lots of increases and decreases
  • Short rows – what they are
  • Gauge – *why* it’s important and when we can ignore it
  • Blocking – how to do it and why it matters

You will need:

  1. to be comfortable in the basics of crochet – holding the hook & yarn, chain, Single Crochet, Double Crochet (American terminology)
  2. a crochet hook of type and size of your choosing (we recommend a 4 – 5mm)
  3. about 50g of light coloured yarn with a nice twist (so it doesn’t come apart too easily or split) of a weight to match your hook (we recommend a 4ply or DK weight).
  4. A pencil/pen and notepad

We won’t be making anything specific in this class, just having a play with techniques in an informal, fun, environment.  If you have any questions or want any advice, please feel free to contact us.

15th June – Tunisian Crochet 101 – Complete Beginners

Also called Tricot, Shepherds or Afghan, even Queen Victoria was smitten with this fascinating form of crochet.  Tunisian combines crochet and knitting ideas to create a unique fabric which can be dense and warm (perfect for mittens!) or light and lacy.  You can easily combine crochet or knitting with Tunisian to get stunning effects, but you don’t need to know either to be able to do Tunisian!
This one day workshop will give you a solid grounding in the basics of Tunisian in a fun and informal environment with a teacher who first picked up a Tunisian hook in 1985.
We’ll be covering..

    • Getting started – what is this strange tool and what do I do with it?
    • The  Basic Stitches – including tunisian simple, tunisian knit and tunisian purl stitches
    • Combination stitches
    • 3 Colour Tunisian
    • Casting off

We will be producing a beautiful stitch sampler during the day, which you will be able to take away to show off your new skills.

Depending on time we may also look at two projects you can start in class and finish at home.

You will need:

  1. no previous experience at all
  2. a pen/pencil and notepad for notes
  3. a mid sized crochet hook if you have one (I’ll have lots of spares if you don’t)
  4. You will be provided with all tools and yarn needed for this course.

If you have any questions or want any advice, please feel free to contact us.

Places on these courses are strictly limited, to make sure I give you all the time you deserve, so book early to avoid disappointment.

With the addition of at least three more workshops in 2013 – Crochet 102 (textures) , a half-day hairpin lace and a half day broomstick lace later in the year, it’s going to be a busy year.  I am super excited, and churning out swatches as fast as I can.  I can’t tell you how happy I am to not only be teaching the more advanced crochet techniques that so many courses neglect, but also to have to opportunity to bring the lesser known crafts of Tunisian, Hairpin and Broomstick to everyone.  Tunisian is tipped to be the big ‘in thing’ for 2013, so now is a great time to learn with lots of exciting designs coming out from the big designers!

It’s going to be lots of work over the next couple of months getting ready, but I’m *really* looking forward to it.