Wednesday, 6 April 2016

91 Magazine

As you might remember, I recently joined the team at 91 Magazine- just in time for it's launch as a print magazine! I've been absolutely loving reading all the wonderful words and looking at the beautiful photography as I've been sub-editing and it's a real thrill seeing it all come together. For me, it's the perfect mix of creativity, style, interiors, craft and cooking- totally celebrating a slow, creative lifestyle. You'll love it, I promise.
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We're in the process of arranging a very exclusive and exciting launch party for when the magazine is released in May, so watch this space! In the meantime you can now order the print copy here: http://91magazine.co.uk/buy/

And if you have't had enough of me yet, visit the blog here to 'meet' me all over again and see some of my latest photos and happenings. You can also get an idea of the mag's beautiful content and join in some of the projects and hastags we have going on right now.

Here's my current yarn obsession- Grey! Clockwise, from top left: Lang Kim (super chunky), Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift (4 ply), Drops Andes (super chunky); Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino (light DK); Drops Lima (DK); Sparkleduck Baby Camel/Silk (4 ply), King Cole Bamboo Cotton (DK); LGC free yarn (aran); King Cole Vogue (light DK); Drops Paris cotton (aran). YUM.
Image by Kath Webber (@kathwebbercrochet on Instagram)

Happy hooking friends
xxx

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

The Goldberry Shawl

Slow living, crafting and blogging seems to be my way of life at the moment, and do you know what? It suits me just fine. After a busy year of constant deadlines, pushing crochet boundaries and never saying 'no', I've been taking it easy the first quarter of 2016. Self-care is so important and sometimes just doing something you like, or really want to is the best thing of all. Those of you who follow me on Instagram will know that I recently took a fairisle knitting class at Loop, and it was so inspiring. The fabulous Juju Vail taught me so many new techniques, and she continues to inspire me with her beautiful dressmaking and prolific knitting output. While I was at Loop I bought her book, Juju's Loops, and can't wait to get started on the Cinnamon Girl cardigan and Brown Eyed Susan Shawl. However, I had another Loop-related project to complete first.

The wonderful Tif (aka Dottie Angel) recommended this shawl pattern to me way back in December (possibly November?) and began a small crochet-a-long group on Ravelry. It took me a while to select which kind of yarn I wanted to use, as some of the fellow CAL-ers had used aran, worsted and even chunkier yarns for a cosy, winter wrap. When I last visited Loop around the time of my birthday I purchased some limited-edition yarn called 'Speckled Mist'- a fingering/4ply merino by Viola yarns. It's exclusive to Loop to celebrate the shop's tenth birthday. I bought another skein online and began making the shawl after Christmas once my deadlines were done for the year.

I picked it up when I could, after leaving it as an abandoned WIP after the first 20 or so rows- I just wasn't sure this was the best use of my beautiful, expensive yarn. However, I don't like to leave a project unfinished and picked it up again in march and went for the finish line. I found the pattern slightly challenging- not the stitches, you understand, but the wordiness and addition of a poem and plenty of Tolkein. I don't like Tolkein. So if, like me, you prefer your patterns simple, then just follow the charts- they're much easier to read and understand.

As I only had two skeins of the Viola yarn (and at £24 a skein I wasn't prepared to buy a third!) I decided just to see how far the yarn would take me. In addition, I was using 4ply yarn so realising it would come up smaller than a DK or worsted weight shawl, I decided to go for the full 59 rows. I managed to reach around row 56 before my yarn ran out, then spent unnecessary time deciding whether to add a contrast border using stash yarn. I decided not too, actually rather loving the lacy edge, and wondering how it would turn out after a soak with some eucalan and a good block. And here it is...



Isn'tit beautiful? I love how the hand-dyed yarn looks with the pattern...lavender, grey, specks of gold and crimson in there too.

It's drape and lacy-ness have improved immeasurably after blocking, of course, and it's a delight to touch and wear. It's almost a shame the weather has been so mild to wear shawls! But I think it will make the perfect addition to my wedding outfit for a friend's wedding next month.

My next luxury shawl is already on the needles- a knitted shawl called French Cancan in Madelinetosh Merino Light in a stunning indigo blue. Yum!

Happy hooking y'all 
xxx

Thursday, 18 February 2016

A crochet designer? A crochet designer!

So it would appear I'm not exactly getting back into the swing of this blogging lark. And here's why. I'm just so busy! And it's all thanks to YOU. All of you. for your endless support and encouragement, for connecting with me here, on Instagram, Facebook and 'IRL'. Thanks to you, I'm able to find crochet solutions, find creative spirit and come up with ideas that people think are worth paying for.

Over the past year or so I've become a pretty much full-time crochet designer. Of course I'm still working hard on my features writing, too, and really excited to be subediting at 91 Magazine, but the bulk of my time (as you can well understand) is dedicated to crochet. Designing, making and writing up the patterns is really time-consuming but in my mind, time well spent indeed.



Since my book came out THREE YEARS AGO (?!) I've been writing patterns for Inside Crochet, Mollie Makes, Simply Crochet and my blog even featured in Homemaker magazine. More recently I've added some more magazines to my repertoire- The Art of Crochet, Love Crochet and Let's Get Crafting! Knitting and Crochet, and I'm loving the different briefs and design challenges I come up against. I've finally nailed hats! Wahoo! Next up, garments. 

Late last year I was lucky enough to be invited to Simply Crochet's offices for a pattern writing workshop, and the help and support given was amazing. Editor Sara really made me and my fellow designers Hannah Cross, Anne Egan, Louise Smith and the wonderful Fran feel part of the team, and I felt so proud of all the work I've done for them. I hope you don't think this post is a total boast-fest. But it's nice to celebrate one's achievements, yes? and also good for the soul to say 'yes, look what I've done, look at all the things I've made.' 

I'm also really excited that soon you'll be able to download some of my Simply Crochet patterns from Ravelry! For less than the price of a cup of coffee. Amazing. Including this beauty! And my neon doily rug, basket weave trio and super chunky striped and spotty hats. 



Also I met up with the wonderful Steel and Stitch in November (with gorgeous Claire Montgomerie- I was a bit star struck!) and I'm really thrilled to say that I'll be teaching alongside Emma Friedlander-Collins at the British Library (!!!) this Saturday, 20th Feb as part of the Alice and Wonderland Exhibition. It's all free and we'll be making some Alice-themed crochet goodies- come join us!

So anyway, with another four or five project to finish by the end of next week, I'd better get back to it! Visit my Ravelry page for updates on patterns, maybe one day I'll even get around to producing some of my other favourites for you to download. Thanks again guys, you're awesome. 
xxx




Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Françoise!

Hello friends! Thank you all for your lovely comments welcoming me back to blogland. I have lots to write, but don't want to put undue pressure on myself, I'll just pop in and blog when I feel like it, or if I feel like it.

During my absence I have been busy building up my sewing skills. Some projects have gone well, and others have not gone so well. But in the interests of sharing my successes I thought I'd show you my latest make! Readers that have been visiting here for a while will know my love of Tilly and the Buttons, a fabulous blogger and pattern designer who was made famous by appearing as a contestant on the Great British Sewing Bee! In November 2014 I bought her Françoise dress pattern, and it has sat rather forlornly on my shelves ever since. Frankly I was slightly intimidated by it- there was a fantastic sewalong at the time with all sorts of fitting instructions which all looks a bit scary to me. Not to mention the invisible zip. I have been struggling to find an invisible zipper foot for my old machine for some time, and have avoided patterns with invisible zips, or attempted to use my adjustable zip foot. I had some success with that, but really liked the neat look of the real deal.

So....meet Number 9! This is a second hand machine that I bought when Make, Do & Mend sadly closed its doors in December. It's a Singer Confidence, and couldn't be more different to Miss Betsy. It's all so easy! Too easy, I'm not sure I trust it yet, that's why it's still called Number 9. It has a toploading bobbin, automatic needle threader, LOADS of stitch options, a buttonhole foot, storage and removable arm thingy and lots of other features I will probably never use.

And this is the first thing I've made with it!




It was great fun to make, and as you can see, easy to wear! I cut a size 5 in Tilly sizes, and am thrilled with the fit. I have large hips but decided against sizing up on the hips as I didn't want the A-line to turn into a big bell shape skirt. I think it hugs the hips nicely! Obviously I've made the sleeveless version, it had to be really in this gorgeous rust needlecord (purchased from Plush Addict). The skirt is short, but cheeky rather than provocative, and I'll always be wearing it with thick woolly tights anyway.

I think next time I will be a version with sleeves and a collar, this is my inspiration (as ever):
I *Heart* Suzy Bishop, the leading lady in Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. I will need to draft some cuffs though. And source the perfect textured peachy-pink or mustard fabric.

Today I'm wearing my Françoise with a long sleeve jersey top and woolly tights and my black knee-high boots. I was hoping to wear it with my aubergine t-bat clogs but there was a freak snow flurry on the school run this morning so I opted for warmth! Hence my beehive got flattened by my beret. FML, amirite? Or something equally nonsensical and teenage. Also WHOA look at that double chin! Cripes! I did lose half a stone in January, hoping to continue to lose a little more weight this month so my clothes fit a little better.

Anyway, until next time, happy hooking, stitching and bitching.

xxx

Friday, 29 January 2016

Yarn Talk

Throughout January, I had an epiphany. It's not unusual to have this kind of epiphany at this time of year; the start of a new year usually prompts such changes, but I realised I was weighed down with STUFF. So I sheeped out and bought Marie Kondo's best-selling The Life Changing Magic of Tidying. I haven't even got through to the part of how to tidy, but the idea of having objects that 'spark joy' only really struck a chord with me, and so I started with the place that I find is supposed to 'spark joy', and that's my yarn. I've seen bigger stashes than mine, but I felt I just had too much yarn that had no intention of using, that I had gone off, or that was left over from work projects. So I had a big clear out, swapping and selling what I didn't want, or donating it.

Here's what's left of my acrylic:
And I've kept a small stash of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino in this basket too. It was overflowing with Stylecraft Special DK before, so I kept these few colours (2 x Parchment, Forest, Gold, Old Rose and walnut) either for a shawl (possibly My Rose Valley's Nordic Shawl, or Joanne Scrace's Acer) or a granny square blanket. I've also kept the mint, cream and blue from my Annell Rapido collection as I do love these colours. This basket now sparks joy!

I also organised my cotton stash, only keeping my very favourites (some Rowan Handknit Cotton, and a collection of Drops Paris) so they fit snugly into a birdcage that my friend gave me some years ago. I've invested in a cheapo yarn winder, and I wound my super chunky collection nicely, and used up the few balls of chunky that I had, making some mittens and using the chunky Natura XL for a work project. My aran collection now consists of just a few balls of leftovers from personal projects, in case repairs or alterations are needed. I organised all my Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino into one of those big organza bags that Wool Warehouse sends, and have another of my favourite DK yarns. My 'Luxury' yarns all got kept,l of course.
I mean, why wouldn't I? NO FILTER! These yarns really are this gorgeous! I have here (clockwise from top left) some precious The Fibre Company Terra, The Uncommon Thread Lush Worsted, Eden Cottage Yarns Titus 4ply, Collinette Jitterbug, Eden Cottage Oakworth DK (a very generous gift from instagram friend @penelopemakes), DyeForYarn Silk Fingering in a colour exclusive to Loop called Golden Beehive, and that lovely SparkleDuck Baby Camel/Silk. To be fair, virtually all of these skeins will be assigned to knitting projects.

Really what has prompted this yarn stash management drive is the wonderful knitting designer, blogger and podcaster Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade. I've been devoted to her podcasts this month on how she's tackling stash management, and how she's learning to love what she's got. So I'm using up some stash- some baby knits (ssshhh! they're a secret for a friend!) and a shawl for me- some selfish, enjoyable makes to make me appreciate what I've got.

Go have a listen to Helen's podcast and see if you can't get inspired to organise your stash, and join in the #uknewyearstashswap over on Instagram to see if you can get the yarn you've been dreaming of. And join me on Ravelry to see what projects I have queued up and the knit- and crochet-alongs I'm joining.
xxx