Yarn Along: Ups and Downs

There are weeks when I struggle to post because I feel I haven’t really got anywhere, I don’t know what to write about, and everything seems very dull. Then there are weeks when I’ve got so much going on in my head that if I wrote it all done, no one would read to the end of the post! After a week of deep sadness and weather to mirror it, the sun is out today in all kinds of ways, and I’m feeling somewhat better. The sadness will linger for a while, but some of the immediate intensity is fading, and being able to do things is definitely helping.

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After a week’s work, I think I’ve finally ironed out the maths problems with my shawl design, and I’m starting to cast around for a suitable yarn. If anyone comes across an interesting black yarn that runs 600-800m per 100g, please let me know :) This has really been my main project for the week, making and ripping, making and ripping. I almost gave up at the weekend, when I simply couldn’t get the yarn to match the nice tidy chart I’d drawn. Didn’t it know what it was supposed to look like? Most inconsiderate. Anyway, I’ve sorted that out now and once I have yarn, I should be able to work up a sample from my pattern draft.

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As I said on Instagram, Yarnie friends are the best friends, and the fabulous Sol sent me a wonderful collection from the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, including the new shawl book by Joanne Scrace that I’ve been hankering for. And it’s signed! How exciting is that?? Watch this space for news of a CAL.

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Speaking of which, Sol and I are going to Frejya together in April. It’s a lovely pattern by Aoibhe Ni who designs beautiful things using Tunisian Lace. It’s not a beginner’s pattern (unless you are ambitious and very determined!) but for people who want to maybe stretch their crochet skills a little, it’s a great one to try. I’m going to put a notice the Aoibhe Ni group on Ravelry, and if you fancy crocheting along with us, check it out there, or follow me and/or Sol on our blogs, Instagram or Twitter. I’ll talk a bit more about my yarn choices and swatching on Monday.

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To go with all of that excitement, I’ve almost reached the end of Bleak House, which does, it has to be said, have more than a little drama about it. Listening to the reading, I could understand why the BBC adaptation was so popular. It reads like a a description of a film, and I really want to see the TV version now. Just a couple more chapters and I’ll be done!

Phew. What a week! There have been definite highs and real lows, and I’m glad I’ve got a holiday to look forward to, not only to see somewhere new, but also to take some time to rest and reflect a little. Sometimes I think I’m so busy trying to GO all the time that I forget to check that I’m going in the right direction!

To see if other people have had less bumpy weeks, head over to the Yarn Along at Ginny’s by clicking the button below.

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Not so much finished as done in

This should have been a post about my new shawl, which I’m wearing as I type. Except my normal photographer (read: friend who doesn’t mind taking photos) is on holiday, I think I need to block it harder, and my heart isn’t really in it. I’m afraid I only have a quick snapshot, and the report that now I’ve got the hang of wearing it, I really like it.

 



This is more of a place-holder, really, until I can get some good photos and get excited about my shawl. I’m finding it hard to be excited right now, if I’m honest. Yesterday, the news broke that Terry Pratchett died on Wednesday, and while it seems strange to be so upset about the death of someone I didn’t know, I think authors can be different. When you read, you live in the world they create and grow to love the characters they write about. Pratchett’s books are favourites for both me and my husband, and we can hold entire conversations just using quotes from them (and often do). My responses to feeling like this are very predictable, and I’ve managed two of the three so far. I need to talk, I need to write, and I need to make. The first is easy, the second was harder, but I now have something on paper that I’m happier with, and for the third, I have an idea. More on that soon, I hope.

Rather than dwell, let me point you to some of the lovely things I’ve seen this week that have made me smile.

Sol over at A Crochet Journey has made one of the most stunning crochet bags I’ve seen in a long time. Definitely watch that space for the pattern. There’s also some details there of a CAL we’ll be doing together, and which you’re welcome to join us in. More from me on that next week.

The Shawl Project from Joanna Scrace has me incredibly over-excited. For me, she and Kat Goldin are some of the best designers working in crochet at the moment, and I am terribly jealous of everyone getting to see them at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. Please tell them that I can’t wait to buy it!

Speaking of the EYF, this shawl is making me wish my knitting was better. I love Karie Westermann’s work. One day!

And if you’re not following The New York Public Library on Instagram, I heartily recommend it, for books, history and quite a lot of silliness, which I’m very grateful for at the moment.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

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Yarn Along: Same old, same old

Although I’ve got a lot going on at this end, I’m afraid I’ve only got more of the same when it comes to projects and books.

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That’s my mother’s cardigan, again. And that’s Bleak House. Again. To be fair, both are large-scale undertakings – I’ve only ever made 1 garment before, and that took me a very long time indeed. Come to think of it, I’ve only ever read one Dickens book before, so it’s not surprising both are still ongoing.

It’s definitely hard to keep the momentum going when it comes to these big projects. I’ll admit that I had to take a break from Bleak House for a while, jazzing things up with some podcasts when I realised I was only about 1/4 of the way through but had already been listening for many hours! The same with the cardigan, where I’ve taken breaks to work on smaller things that keep me sane while this project goes on (and on). Fortunately my mother feels the cold, so I’m not too worried about finishing it after winter.

I’ve also learned a lot (mostly to COUNT) from making it, so it’s been a good experience. And I’ve learned a lot from Dickens, mostly about why people love his writing so much. I’m not sure I do, although I feel I can at least appreciate him, even if I find his writing easier to deal with in small doses. But by breaking both projects up, I’m managing to keep going with them, rather than leaving them abandoned like I so often used to do. The “same old, same old” is much better if there’s also something “different new” in there as well!

To see what other people have been making this week, head over to Ginny’s by clicking the picture below.

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Freshly Finished Friday: Blue Skies Hat

Despite ice on the cars and the chill in the air, there’s a definite change in the weather here in Oxford. The college gardens are just starting to show signs of life, and earlier this week, a crocus patch burst into life under one of our trees.

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Despite this, I’ve been determined to take advantage of the last of the cold weather and finish a hat. Again. 



Let me explain. I first made this hat, the Gnarled Bark pattern by Joanna Scrace, in early February. It’s a satisfying pattern, not too trivial, but not requiring too much thought once you get going. I love cables, and had been wanting an interesting hat pattern for a while. My swatch came out bang on gauge for my head size (medium), and in no time, I had a hat. It fitted really well, just as it should have, except there wasn’t enough body for me. I’d wanted something substantial and slouchy, but having chosen a finely spun yarn, my finished hat just didn’t have enough volume for me.

After a few weeks of indecision, I ripped it out and started a new one in a bigger yarn, on a bigger hook and in the biggest size. To my relief, the pattern was just as much of a joy to make the second time around as it had been the first, and this time, I achieved the volume I’d been looking for. A little too much, perhaps, although that might have been my over-enthusiastic blocking. 



Yes that’s a hat on a plate wrapped in a towel balanced on an indoor fire. What?

I think I’m going to have to remake the band, probably just going down a hook size than anything more drastic. There’s nothing wrong with the size, except that I made the one that’s too big for my head! The yarn is Malabrigo Arroyo, and I used almost the entire skein. It’s a lovely, springy yarn and held the cables beuatifully. I was a bit worried they might disappear under blocking, but the overall effect is just what I was going for. Something substantial and warm, but loose enough that my head doesn’t overheat and it doesn’t get impaled on my hairclips too much!

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Look at those lovely cables! It’s just what I wanted from a spring hat, and I’ve worn it pretty much every day since I finished. It’s a lovely, squishy, warm and comfortable hat.

To see what other people have finished this week, head over to A Hard Knit Life for Freshly Finished Friday!

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Yarn Along: Full of surprises

It’s funny how your idea of yourself changes over time, isn’t it? Stuff happens, circumstances shift, and suddenly you find the things that you thought about yourself aren’t quite true any more.

As a child and teenager, I always had my nose in a book. Coming home from school (something of an epic journey, involving 2 buses and the Tube), I’d get off the bus, cross the road and immediately open my book up again as I walked up the street. My blazer pockets seams were stretched because they always had a paperback in them. Yet over the last couple of years, while I’ve still been buying books, I’ve barely been reading.

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Until last winter, when J was studying all the time and I had a lot of time to myself. I had a lot to do, but wanted company at the same time, and I discovered my local library has a huge collection of audiobooks. Huge. And they’re all free. I really can’t recommend them enough. Your local library almost certainly has them as well, and while getting them isn’t always the smoothest experience (Overdrive, I’m looking at you here), they’ve been an absolute lifeline over the last six months. Having worked my way through most of the Bryant and May books, and half of the Burglar who… ones, I decided to try something different this week, and downloaded Bleak House.

Cue surprise number two. Although I had to read Great Expectations at school, I’ve always said that I don’t get on with Dickens. And that’s perfectly true on the page. I’m an impatient reader, and I think to get the most from him, you have to be prepared to take your time and savour the prose. So having it read to me is perfect, and was sorely tempted to volunteer to do the shelving this morning, just to get through the next chapter.

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Something seems to have come over me with my yarn projects as well. I’ve got two almost finished and one that I’m not really enjoying, and yet I have no inclination to start something new. Instead, I’m concentrating on the edging of my Vintage Fremont (started with 18g of yarn, which may or may not be enough. more pictures on Rav page) and am ready to start the sleeves of mum’s cardigan. I keep thinking “I should wind some more yarn for a new project because these will be finished soon,” but instead, I keep on keeping on with them. That doesn’t mean I’m not planning what I’ll do next, it’s just that for once, I’m happy for it to stay a plan until I’m actually ready to start. And I’m even thinking that I might drag something out of hibernation and actually (whisper it) finish it.

I’m not sure if it’s a sign of maturity, regression or just that my need to clear the decks has overtaken my need to start new things. Either way, at least I’m getting things done!

To see how others are getting on this week, head over to Ginny’s. (no picture today, because WordPress won’t let me copy the code!)

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15 in 2015: This I can do

Gosh, two months gone already! Who would have thunk it? I feel like I’m still trying to get the hang on 2015, but also that it’s been around for a long time already. March is going to be particularly baffling, because we’ve been putting things in the diary for it since the beginning of January. So now it’s here, I feel like I’ve already had this month and am going straight into April. Like that feeling you get when you wake up on a Thursday morning and are confused all day because you thought it was Friday. You know?

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Just to add to everything, my notebook broke yesterday. Fortunately, I work somewhere that’s equipped with book repair tape!

I’ve been suffering from terrible Imposter Syndrome lately. One of those ‘inspiring’ quotes popped up on Twitter the other day, which was “the fear of failure is the fear of success”. Nope, sorry, that’s not true. The fear of failure is mostly the fear of failing, falling flat on your face and having everyone- Not laugh at you. Most people are too kind. But at least give a rueful “what did you expect?” shrug. Imposter Syndrome for me is made up partly of a lack of self-confidence (“I can’t do this”) and partly extreme self-consciousness (“Don’t draw attention in case people don’t like you”). Except things I have tried, I have managed to do – crochet, knitting, sewing, librarianing – and even if I’ve failed, no one has laughed. They have been kind and helpful and put me back on my feet. But Imposter Syndrome is insidious and convinces you not to do things, just in case. In case of what, I have no idea. Just generally ‘in case’.

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Except this I can do. These things I am doing. In February, I finished 3 crochet projects (although one was later frogged), 2 weeks at Slimming World, used 3 patterns from my stash, and read at least 5 books. I also made a friend by email, which is a rare and lovely thing, and carried on with my ‘No Stash Acquired’ pledge (which was probably the hardest of all!)

For March, I want to finish a knitting project, send birthday cards and try some new recipes. The plan is to clear the decks a little and get myself straight for New Things. But to do that, some of the old needs to get done, including the finishing of a couple of nearly-done quilts. I think I’ve also decided that going straight into running is not for me, so I’m going to dig out my old Y-Plan DVD and start in the privacy of my own living room before venturing out.

So these things I can do. How is everyone else doing this month? February is always tough, I think. Hope everyone got through it in one piece!

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Freshly Finished Friday: My New Favourite

Thanks to my blog post title, I’ve had this song in my head all morning:

However, that’s not really the right tone for how happy I am with this scarf!

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The pattern is Silver by Bernadette Ambergen, and the yarn is Squoosh Fibrearts Merino cashmere in the colour Winterfell. I bought the yarn at Loop last summer, planning to use it to replace my beloved and sadly lost black Patricia Shawl. However, I miscalculated, because although this yarn is described as Lace, with just 521m to 114g, it’s more like a heavy fingering. As I had two skeins, I knew I wanted to make something that used them both up, and had been hankering for a substantial stole for a while.

It’s safe to say I succeeded.

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The whole stole is about 10 feet long! It starts in the middle and works to one end, then you rejoin your yarn and work to the other end, which is perfect if you’re using two skeins, as you just stitch until you run out in one direction, then turn it around and stitch until you run out in the other! Except, of course, I found that while I’d managed 23 repeats in one direction, I got 25 in the other before I noticed and stopped stitching! I should also at this point offer a public apology to my knitting group, who had to listen to me complain about how long this thing was taking me to make. Four months is a long time for a crochet project, although as recent projects have been longer term ones, I’m gradually learning patience.

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It was worth the wait, because this has proved to be an incredibly versatile scarf. It smishes down so that you can wear it with a coat without being overwhelmed, but if you pull it out, you can drape it around your shoulders almost like a poncho (although most typically it ends up a little tangled, like in the picture!). And the lace is lovely, even if blocking it was rather tricky.

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There’s a horrible picture on my Ravelry page (indoors lighting, phone camera) of the lace while in progress, when it was considerably narrower than in the picture above, and it’s another example of how blocking is so essential. The lace has spread out beautifully, and the slight halo from the cashmere means it’s still lovely and warm. I’ve barely taken it off since I finished, and it’s been great for these chilly February days, when my huge scarf seems like overkill, but my lighter shawls just aren’t quite doing the job.

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Definitely my new favourite!

I’m linking up to Freshly Finished Friday at A Hardknitlife, so do join us there!

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