Craftiness, baking and other lovely things.

Monday, 18 February 2019

How to inspire

Over the weekend, I shared this photo in Instagram, explaining how my daughter had found and fixed a hole in her cuddly all by herself.  I was impressed for several reasons:

1. I have always mended injured cuddlies in the past.

2. I didn't know how comprehensively well stocked her sewing box was.  I'm not even sure where some of that stuff came from. She has obviously inherited my ability to hoard select and keep any crafty supply that might someday be useful.

3. After repairing the hole using thread to match the fur, Isabel felt that she should embroider over her stitches in a brighter colour so that her cuddly could be proud of his scar.  (At this point I dissolved in a heap of weepy pride.)

The photo on Instagram attracted a few comments, which I wanted to share with Isabel.  She's always very interested in what I post and what people say and as this time the comments were really about her, she was even more keen to see.  

She was particularly impressed when @soxtherapist* said "You're raising a confident fiber artist right there!"  and she had two questions: what's a fiber (or fibre, if you're in the UK like us) artist and who's @soxtherapist?

I'm not sure that I realised before this how inspirational this sort of comment can be.  I know that I'm always thrilled to read good things about my work, but Isabel was so excited.  She has been playing with all things stitchy since that moment, looking for more cuddlies in need of first aid, working on some cross stitch, practising her crochet and gathering craft supplies for her 'fibre art' work.

This stuff is important.  That one little comment has inspired her and sparked an idea of what her future could be.  Tell your daughter, your son, your mum, your best friend, your Instagram friend, how amazing they are, how beautiful their work is, how happy you are that they shared it.  You have no idea what you might set in motion, what dreams and plans and wonderful futures might result from it.  

* @soxtherapist is an independent designer who came up with the most brilliant way of working the heel in socks, the Fish Lips Kiss heel.  You can find her here on Ravelry.  Tell her I sent you with thanks for taking the time to share a few kind words with a little girl she doesn't know.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Cake, crochet and croup

It has been a very busy week.

Two of my three children had birthdays.  Yes, we are awash with cake.  This year's cakes were unfeasibly tall and almost impossible to cut.  Almost.  They are also delicious and in the interests of reducing food waste I have substituted cake for lunch (at least) once this week.

In crochet news, I have a new pattern coming out this week.  Pop back tomorrow for more information and a special offer.

I've been working on a 'how to crochet' board on Pinterest, gathering tips and tutorials from the internet for quick and easy reference.  You can find it here.  I am still amazed at how brilliant Pinterest is - from crochet stitch help to a recipe for dinner tonight to how to do that eyeliner flick, it's all there.  Bit of a rabbit hole, though.  Much self-discipline is required to avoid losing an hour or two gazing at gorgeous stuff you didn't even know existed.

Today's plans have fallen apart.  Instead of food shopping, lunch out and possibly a trip to the yarn shop*, my youngest, who has had a slight cough for a few days, woke up this morning barking like a seal.  Croup doesn't frighten me like it did the first time I heard it, but it's not nice.  My poor little poppet is a bit up and down but lots of cuddles seem to be helping.  And thank goodness for Calpol, to soothe her sore throat.  Looks like it might be cake for lunch again.

*This trip to the yarn shop is actually borne out of genuine need for yarn.  Really.  I'm working on new designs for my book and my stash doesn't have the right colour/weight/fibre combinations.  Which doesn't mean that I definitely won't buy more than I need.  It's rude to ignore yarn when it asks you to take it home.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Yarn review: Sweet Paprika Designs Crescendo mini-skeins

Towards the end of last year, the lovely folks at Sweet Paprika Designs (an independent Canadian yarn dyeing company) sent me some yarn as part of their yarn support programme.  I had submitted the design concept for Storm Dance and they liked it enough to send me two of their Crescendo mini-skein gradient sets.

Each set has 6 mini skeins of 100% superwash merino.  Each mini is 20g/87yds, 120g/522yds per set.  I had Daydream and Deep Blue Sea which seamlessly blend with each other to create a stunning gradient of blues, from the very palest aqua to deepest ocean.  When it arrived (much earlier than I had expected, thank you very much to the Canadian and UK post services) there was much stroking and squishing of the little skeins, not just by me but also by my youngest daughter, who has inherited my addiction to appreciation of all things yarn.  My oldest, less of a squisher but still with an eye for colour, admired and told me what a marvellous job I have.  Oh yes, having to squish yarn for a living.  I really am very lucky.

Anyway, back to the yarn.  The skeins rolled into balls easily (not always the case).  The yarn is soft and smooth, lovely to handle.  The stitch definition is incredible, particularly important with the Storm Dance design, which uses stitches worked only in the front loop to create the wave effect of the stitches.

I also very much appreciated the smoothness of the yarn when I was unpicking stitches (the design process is not always smooth itself).  No snagging or sticky stitches at all.

And did I mention what a delight it was to see the colour progression as I joined each new shade?  I lost quite a bit of design time gazing happily at my growing wrap.

You can find Sweet Paprika Designs here, their Crescendo gradient sets here and my Storm Dance Wrap pattern here.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Choosing a colour palette

Colour is important in design, in fact it's important in pretty much everything, but it's of special importance when you're putting together a collection.  Every piece must work with every other piece.  The colour story has to be beautiful, cohesive without being matchy-matchy.

And it's not a straightforward thing to do when your collection is made from yarn... yarn from lots of different yarn companies, from different shops, from online...

My first thought was that I'd have to carry around a huge, growing bag filled with all the different items to make sure that any new addition worked with everything else. Whilst I was pondering the practicalities of yarn shopping with a holdall, a backpack and a small suitcase on wheels, I received an email from a paint company and had a revelation.

(Please note that I am not addicted to home d├ęcor as well as yarn. This particular paint company has a range of stunning, heritage inspired paint colours and I like to see what they’re doing and what new colours they’re bringing out. Just so you know.)

Anyway, back to the revelation. I realised that what I needed was a portable colour palette. A little card with all the relevant colours on it. Yep, that’s right. I ordered their free colour card. And when it arrived I cut it up into little rectangles of colour and had a thoroughly enjoyable hour arranging, discarding and selecting colours until I had a collection I was happy with. Then I went all Blue Peter and stuck the chosen rectangles on a card which will live in my handbag and accompany me on every trip to everywhere. Because you never know when you might stumble across some yarn or even a yarn shop.

Can you tell how ridiculously happy the colour exercise has made me? In case you’re wondering what collection I’m talking about, I’m working on a book filled with fabulous patterns and now it has a proper, grown up, cohesive colour palette. Now I just need to visit All The Yarn Shops.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Yarn review: Eden Cottage Yarns Carlisle Fingering

I am working on a very exciting project at the moment.  This year I will be publishing my first ebook of crochet patterns. I love my job as a designer, especially the part where I have to research, squish, choose and buy yarn for new designs.

I want to include all sorts of yarn (weights, fibres, budgets) in the book and it's particularly important for me that I have a pattern that uses just one skein of hand dyed 4ply/fingering/sock yarn.  Almost every crocheter and knitter has at least one gorgeous skein in their stash, much admired, lovingly stroked, but still to be used.  I do too, but not in the right colour.  Plus, I'm a sock knitter so I do use up those single skeins.

I was looking for superwash merino, 100g, very pale, not a solid colour but not striped or speckled either.  The pale bit turned out to be quite tricky.  The world is filled with a riot of colourful hand dyed yarn, as it should be, but finding the yarn I wanted took a while.

After much (very enjoyable) wandering around the internet, I found this beautiful skein of Carlisle Fingering by Eden Cottage Yarns.  The colour is Snowfall and it's a very soft ivory with tiny little hints of the gentlest blues.  It's 100% superwash merino and is as soft, squishy and gorgeous as you could possibly wish for.  Oh, and I think I might have snaffled the last skein of it.  There are lots of other colours available, though, and of course a whole web-store filled with other hand dyed loveliness.

© Eden Cottage Yarns Carlisle Fingering in Larch

I have started to work up my design and it's crocheting up very well.  I'm using a 3mm hook, which is giving me good stitch definition and creating a cosy fabric.  Even with the very textured stitch and small hook, it still has a little drape.  I usually go for a 3.5mm or even a 4mm hook to encourage drape, especially for shawls, but I'm aiming for warm and snuggly with this design.

The distribution of the faint blue is just right - enough that it is dotted throughout every row, but not so much that it dominates the cream base.

I can't wait to share the finished design.  In the meantime, if you have a hankering to squish your own skein of Carlisle, you can find it here.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Playing with granny squares

There are times when you want to crochet something simple, a gentle something that doesn't tax your brain or need your full concentration. 

For lots of us, that go to pattern is the granny square.

Following a stressful week, I pulled out some pretty DK yarn and spent a quiet evening playing with the granny square and came up with this little beauty.  At first glance, it's a regular granny, but look closer and you can see that it's not just trebles (or doubles, if you read US terms).

Round 1 is the traditional granny square foundation round: in a magic loop work ch5 (which counts as your first tr and ch2), then (3tr, ch2) 3 times, then 2tr and ss to first ch2 space to join.

For round 2, join the new colour with ss in any corner ch2 space and work ch4 (this is your first htr and ch2), work 3htr in same corner, ch1, in next corner (3htr, ch3, 3dtr), ch1, in next corner (3dtr, ch2, 3dtr), ch1, in next corner (3dtr, ch3, 3htr), ch1, in next corner 2htr, ss to first ch2sp.

For round 3, join new colour with ss in ch2sp between the 2 groups of 3dtr, ch4 (counts as 1htr, ch2), 3htr in same corner, ch1, 3htr in next ch1sp, (3htr, ch3, 3dtr) in next corner, ch1, 3dtr in next ch1sp, ch1, (3dtr, ch2, 3dtr) in next corner, ch1, 3dtr in next ch1sp, ch1, (3dtr, ch3, 3htr) in next corner, ch1, 3htr in next ch1 sp, ch1, 2htr in next corner, ss to first ch2sp.

(Note: written in UK terms.)

Still as relaxing as a granny square, with that little extra quirky touch.

Yarn: Stylecraft Special DK in White, Lemon, Citron
Hook: 4mm

Whatever you're working on this week, whether it's something simple like my granny square or a more complex project, enjoy.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018


Getting it wrong.  That's one of my triggers, as I learned this morning.

I need to back up here, to give you at least some chance of working out what on earth I'm talking about. 

Anxiety began flirting with me a couple of months ago with, it seems, a view of forming a long term relationship.  I was unprepared and initially struggled, fighting back, becoming anxious about being anxious.

A couple of weeks ago, when a date with anxiety left me breathless, I realised that what I was doing wasn't working.  I am asthmatic and panicking about breathlessness is pretty much guaranteed to give me an asthma attack.  I changed my tactics and started to pay attention to each bit of my body and how it was reacting to the anxiety.  Fluttering around my wrists, heat in my cheeks, tightness in my chest - with each sensation I noted and acknowledged, the anxiety lesssened.  I call this being 'mindfully anxious' and, for me at least, it helps.  It doesn't stop the anxiety coming; I feel anxious almost every day.  It just helps me to feel less threatened by it, to accept it as something that comes and goes, mostly randomly, that I can deal with.

It is mostly random, but I have identified a few triggers.  I discovered a new one this morning, the getting it wrong thing.  But I need to back up again, because the getting it wrong happened after I anxiously responded to a message about one of my crochet patterns, because that's another trigger; messages about my crochet patterns make me anxious.  So yesterday, I opened a message on Ravelry, with anxiety sitting companionably on my shoulder, ready to start with the fluttering and tightening as I read about some confusion with my instructions and a possible issue with the pattern.  I responded straight away, knowing that once I'd dealt with it anxiety would lose its balance and fall off my shoulder, for a while at least.  But I missed something, didn't take time to check and my reply was unclear and not terribly helpful.  No surprise that there was a reply waiting for me this morning.

That was an hour ago and although I am sure that I've solved the problem, the anxiety is still there.  It feels like cold hands pressing down on my chest.  It wants to prevent me from getting on with anything else and just surrender to the panic.  I won't.  I will continue with my current design WIP and if that doesn't work I'll make granny squares.

Crochet always wins.

And I should add, please, if you are someone struggling with one of my patterns and need some help, please please please let me know!  I am a big girl now and a little squirt like anxiety shouldn't get in the way of anyone asking for advice, clarification or help.