Wednesday, 23 December 2015

A New Look

So, you may have noticed that the blog is beginning to change...what do you think of my brand spanking new logo? It was designed for me by a very good friend who blogs over at The Bungaloo, where she has previewed the logos, too. She is a designer with a great eye, quirky style and is a genius with fonts, while she knows me well, so I knew I wanted to work with her on it. She came up with this beauty - I love the linear quality and the use of yarn within the text, while the colours are just so me. Hopefully we shall be working together more on the look of the blog and other, larger projects next year, so stay tuned!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

healing crafts

Apologies in advance for the length of this post, but I have finally had to make the admission to myself (which you may have already gathered yourself from my previous sporadic posting!) that I am a blogger of very good intentions but a lack of time to actually dedicate to posting! I don’t want to make excuses, but since my last post, added to all the regular work and life stuff, there have been other reasons for my lack of presence.

Looking back at my last post, all the way back in March, it feels like such a short time ago, but in that few months so much has changed for us. I don’t usually talk about personal things on this blog. I try to keep to the yarny stuff. I find that comes more easily to me. But recently there seem to be a lot of stories on the web about craft as a powerful healer and I have found crafting (and talking) has helped me through a hard time this year.

Recently I had a lovely chat with the gorgeous sisters behind the yarn company Millamia, which is experiencing its own transitional year in many ways and it made me think once more about my experiences this year and was the motivation for writing them down here. When I wrote that last post in March I was in the middle of writing a new book (due out next year) and I was making a soft, pretty granny blanket for it using the gorgeously squishy Millamia Aran weight.  When I began making the blanket it was a daily reminder of the impending exciting, positive changes I had to look forward to this year. I enjoyed working on that blanket so much, the yarn is a pleasure to work with and the colours are so calming. As anyone who follows me on Pinterest or Instagram will know, the greyscale and pop of warm ochre is one of my all time favourite colourways!

In the week following that last March post, two things happened – I got very ill and we moved home. Not just to a new house, but a new county. I have always lived in and around London, but this confirmed big city gal has overcome her vertigo and moved (slightly) north! Away from friends and family for a new adventure. Despite my initial worries, I am finding that I enjoy the slower pace of life, the serenity of the surrounding countryside and the large network of families who surround us. The most joyous thing is seeing my daughter play in our street with her new friends, which she never did in the city.

The blanket, meanwhile, became something different – it was a symbol of the hopefulness I had felt before that fateful week and a soothing project I needed to work through to help myself heal. I needed to finish that project before anything else. It needed ‘closure’. As I worked, I posted a picture on Instagram, my little reach out to the world. I mused about how many different, conflicting emotions could be captured in a project, entwined in the rhythmical knotting of one long piece of thread. I thought I was being cryptic enough to protect my own privacy, but a good friend insisted that we meet to talk. I was moved to tears. The healing had begun. I am now looking forward to hopefully having that blanket returned to me once the book is published as a tangible reminder of all I have been through this year, in the hope I will never forget the myriad of important emotions I experienced. Much like a Crochet Mood Blanket, it is more powerful than even a diary from the time could have been, when I couldn’t phrase all the things I needed to say, pick out the important stuff from all the thoughts rushing through my head.

I know that the way I have used crafting in my life to work through problems is not unique. I have heard many similar stories to mine over my years working with yarn, especially when I worked in Loop. Our ancestors knew all about yarn, crafts and their healing, commemorative properties, about the love that can be shared through one piece of fabric. I have discovered, from my own experiences teaching textiles, that groups of people crafting talk about things they would not usually share with strangers, a phenomenon that I have read people have utilised in therapeutic ways. I feel almost like an online crafting, creative community has also aided my own healing and I want to say thank you to all the people who have generously shared their own stories directly with me, or indirectly through sharing with the Internet at large. You have been a great help.

Normal service will continue shortly. Hopefully with a new-look blog and a rejuvenated approach. In my time away I have been planning more tutorials, free patterns and content that I hope you will find useful. I am now starting the process of teaching my little one to knit, which I shall also share here to aid you with teaching your own little ones. I am hoping she will enjoy it and use it as a tool for relaxation, creativity, healing – whatever she wishes. Perhaps she will even think fondly of the craft as a link to me, in the way that I feel I have a link to my own mother, and even my great grandmother and the generations further back that I have no knowledge of who passed down these skills. These are the things I love about yarn crafts. The things I am endlessly interested in. I hope you are too. I will never tire of talking about them, and want to encourage this talking, crafting and perhaps even healing.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

new issue

Cover, image by Lucy Williams, cowl Emma Varnam

New issue alert! 
Issue 63 of Inside Crochet is out now and it's a corker this month! I love the cover image for this issue, taken by Lucy Williams, which features a beautiful cowl by Emma Varnam.

Rooster by Shannen Nicole Chua, Image Claire Montgomerie
The Rooster on the cover is a project perfect for Easter, designed by the very talented Shannen from Sweet n' Cute Creations and made by me for my littlun - that's her little hands in this picture. She loves him, he now has a new home in her doll's house! 

Eggs by Nicki Trench Image by Claire Montgomerie

Talking of Easter, there are some very cute eggs to make with the pattern in Nicki Trench's column this month, which the littlun has also taken to playing with - in the basket they are pictured in above. I think this will be a popular egg hunt on Easter Sunday this year, mixing the crochet and chocolate eggs up so that she doesn't get a tummy ache!
Folk Art Jewels by Esme Crick, Image Lucy Williams, Model Frankie Moore, styling Claire Montgomerie
One of my favourite shots in the magazine this issue is the above Folk Art Jewels shot, project by Esme Crick. I do SO love that ring (and yet another of the littlun's fave things to play with!) and I am particularly enamoured with a breton stripe, red lip combo. So wish I could get away with a casual red lip every day...
Hirst blanket by Loopsan, image by Claire Montgmerie

Finally, there are tonnes of projects I adore this month, but this blanket is going to be so popular with our readers this spring, what a perfect new baby present or lap blanket. San Bee of Loopsan has a great eye, I adore every pattern she submits to the magazine. When she submitted this idea, I instantly saw it in the colours of a Damien Hirst spot picture, so I sent her some yarn in a selection of gorgeous hues, and she picked out the perfect selection to produce this little stunner. I am going to make one as soon as I have time - it is great for using up scraps, just buy yourself a base white or cream yarn and have fun with colours from your stash! 
Don't miss this amazing issue - there is also the final part of a gorgeous blanket CAL and a basic broomstick crochet tutorial amongst tonnes of other great stuff, even if I do say so myself...!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

lush, plush hooks

p-LUSH hook in action
Belinda Harris-Reid and Rachel Vowles are the two very driven women behind the upcoming p-LUSH fibre festival and they recently very kindly sent me a rather red p-LUSH hook to play with. The hooks  are being sold in aid of Target Ovarian Cancer , the chosen charity of the festival. The p-LUSH festival will be held on the 27th and 28th of March 2015 in the Ricoh Arena, Coventry and looks to be a rather different sort of fibre fair. Focussing not only on fibre but also craft, design, art, upcycling and even the biggest alpaca event in Europe - there will be hundreds of alpacas roaming around to admire! There are also some rather wonderful looking workshops to sign up for. I fancy making the alpaca birds, while if you haven't tried Tunisian Crochet before, the talented Helen Jordan should be your ultimate guide.

I first heard about the festival, the hooks and the Target ovarian Cancer appeal through Rachel. She is a brilliant technical craft editor - you can find out more about her work in a great interview with Emma Varnam.

Rachel and I have worked together on a myriad of publishing projects now, but we mainly collaborate on Inside Crochet (in fact there is a very lovely interview with her in the current issue 63). She also has an amazing story to share about her own encounter with ovarian cancer, you can read more about her astonishing tale on the p-LUSH blog here. Please do take the time to read this post, as Rachel is doing the 50s Challenge - trying to tell at least 50 people about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer (which she outlines in the post) as only 3% of women feel they can confidently name a symptom. I was shocked by the fact that many women get repeatedly misdiagnosed with IBS as the symptoms are so similar.

Anyway, onto the hooks! I might have mentioned before that I am not a lover of wooden crochet hooks, and so my heart did sink a little when I picked it up, as I wasn't sure I would like using these. Usually, I find that wood grips my yarn and loops too tightly, making it a pain for me to crochet. However, the hooks are made of beechwood, which is then painted red, and this shiny surface was a smooth joy to hook with. 
Another gripe with wooden hooks is usually that the hook is usually not 'hooked' enough, making it hard to grab the yarn, and getting caught when coming through the stitches. The hook on the p-LUSH hooks, I am pleased to report, is very well defined and crisp, meaning that my stitches were flying off the hook! Luckily the girls sent me a 4mm hook because, as we all know, you can never have enough 4mm hooks and I will definitely be using this one again! 
p-lush. Lush

The range of notions does not stop at hooks - if you are a knitter, they are also selling knitting needles in the same pretty red painted beechwood and £2 from every purchase goes to the ovarian cancer charity. If you do buy a hook or some needles, p-LUSH is asking that you then head to social media and post a picture of them in use with the lushplush and plushbritish hashtags to spread the word. Even if you don't knit or crochet, you can also donate by visiting Rachel's Just Giving page - find the link on the p-LUSH blog.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

i heart you...

Ok, so I am not really that big on Valentines day. 
I don't usually buy the old man anything as I am a little cynical about the commercial side of it, but when I have presented him with a token of my affection on the 14th February, it has got to be handmade, no overpriced stuff from the shops. 
And it is usually heart shaped. 
There have been many gifted items in assorted shapes and sizes over the years, received with varying degrees of enthusiasm, but all stored fondly since nonetheless.
So, this is my favourite, simple heart pattern, which I find sits satisfyingly in the hand as a stress reliever or comforter. Alternatively it can be made easily into a charm or keyring or other form of decoration. 
The best thing about it is that if you forgot to buy your loved ones something, you can knock this up in no time this morning before they wake up! Go on, you know you want to! 

Use any scraps of yarn with corresponding needle size. 
Small amount of toy stuffing.
Yarn needle.

Exact tension not essential but ensure you knit tightly to conceal the stuffing.

With 4mm hook, cast on 3 sts
Row 1: Purl
Row 2: Inc, knit to last st, inc – 5sts.
Rep last two rows until there are 15 sts.
Work 4 rows straight in stocking stitch on these 15sts.
Next row: k2tog, k5, CO 1 stitch, k5, k2tog.
Next row: P4, p2tog, turn leaving rem sts unworked.
Next row: k2tog, k1, k2tog.
Next row: Purl
Cast off

Rejoin yarn to rem sts and complete to match first side.
Make another piece the same.
Sew the two pieces together. Leave a small hole to stuff, then sew up the rem hole.

Lots of love!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Ava sweater

Ava Sweater Inside Crochet Issue 62, image by Lucy Williams
The latest Inside Crochet, issue 62, is out now and contains a rather cosy little number by yours truly. It is an easy, boxy sweater made from simple graphic square motifs with circles inlaid into them to create a striking geometric pattern. The yarn is Louisa Harding Susurro. As soon as I used this yarn for a sample in the review pages of Inside Crochet, I knew I had to make something in it, and so I hooked up a quick hat for myself in tweed stitch. (The pattern - below - will be available on the Inside Crochet website soon, will let you know when!) 

Tweed Stitch Beanie, image by Emma Gutteridge

After that I was hooked (pardon the pun!) and decided to make a sweater, too, as it is so smooth and beautiful to work with, warm against the skin and has a lovely soft drape. Ava was the result, and I must say, I rather like her! Hope you do too.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

2014 in photographs

My baby. Grew into not so much a baby this year. Here she is off to nursery for the first time!

It is a very belated but sincere Happy New Year from me - as usual! I want to say my new years resolution is to blog more, but it always is and it rarely works, so maybe if I say nothing, it might happen organically?! 
I don't want to make excuses, but I have had an incredibly busy last few months, and it looks set to be a busy start to the year too, with some rather large life changes occurring on top of all the usual work stuff. So, before the madness really kicks off, I wanted to take some time to look back at last year through some of my favourite photographs. 
Another ambition of mine is to become a better photographer, and last year I tried very hard, most of these are mine, all are highlights. Other, more professional pictures posted here are by the talented and lovely Britt Spring who is now back in her native Australia, I am going to talk more about her soon.

2014 was all about the babies! A reassuring reminder in a stressful, sometimes shocking year that life is good. Nothing like holding a baby to ground you and make you feel like everything will be ok.

Lots of weddings this year too, my littlun was a gorgeous bridesmaid twice and loved the twirly dresses!
The vintage double decker at this wedding was amazing!

I tried out tapestry crochet and promptly designed possibly my favourite ever project this year, Polygon Blanket from Inside Crochet Issue 53 
I also tried out bead crochet and promptly designed another favourite project! This is my favourite ever shot of one of my pieces, by gorgeous Britt Spring. Necklace in Issue 58 of Inside Crochet - my favourite far!
Possibly my favourite ever shot from Inside Crochet so far - shot by Britt Spring. Stunning cami by the talented Jenny Reid from Issue 55.
I just shot this on the hubbie's iphone, but I love it. It is at Kenwood House, a favourite place of ours. There was so much beautiful colour abounding this autumn, this sums it up.

Gorgeous Judy, love this little lady, have enjoyed spending time with her this year and her adorable new little sister - her feet are in the pic above. Love everything about this picture, the colour, her lips, her hair.
Finally, the last images are all about friends, I see too little of beautiful little Grace and I am going to make an effort to spend more time with friends relaxing this year, especially as I am moving away from all of them...eek!
Grace has chickens. Loads of them! I love being at her relaxed house and this sign sums it up.  This bright, welcoming feeling is what I am aiming for in my new house! I am not afraid to use The Good Life cliche!
Another from our summer trip to Grace's. Millie loved the chickens, the dirt, the playing in the mud outdoors with loads of little friends. More of this this year please.