Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Finding the words: On the loss of my friend Wink

As a verbose person, writing blog posts usually comes easily - editing them to a reasonable size is the hardest part. But since a phone call on Sunday, telling me about the death of my friend Wink (Marinke, but she liked 'Wink'), I have been struggling to find the right words to start this post. I want to honour her work but at the same time I am sitting here in tears (again) for the loss of a dear friend. A friend who stood a whole foot taller than me - more in heels - and frequently made jokes about it! 
Standing 'shoulder to shoulder' in February this year!!! 
As an artist, Wink's work brought colour and joy to many. She generously shared so many wonderful tutorials and patterns and gave help and encouragement to many people. As well as being known for her beautiful shawls and mandalas, Wink's CAL with Scheepjes was an unprecedented international success. She was so proud when her first book launched earlier this year, and the second (as yet unpublished) is absolutely stunning. She leaves behind quite a legacy, and that's without considering her music and other talents. The response to her death (including hundreds of posts on Instagram and Facebook) has shown just how deeply her colourful creations touched people. 
One of the 'Inspiration' images Wink used on a guest post she wrote on her use of colour
As a person, Wink was funny, warm and generous. In the early days of this blog she was a fabulous sounding board and helped me in many ways. When it turned into more of a personal friendship, we would send each other silly messages - getting excited over journals, dreadlocks, tattoos and all sorts of other things that had nothing to do with blogging. When she visited we sat up late, putting the world to rights, while drinking wine and eating "Gluten Free Dutch Apple Cake" although she had never heard of Dutch Apple Cake before. We laughed a lot. Wink credited me with inspiring her to knit and called me her biggest enabler when she picked up a spindle earlier this year (she teased me about that too, but I was proud to have encouraged her). 
Wink's first time spinning, at Unravel 2015
For the last few years Wink came to the UK to visit Unravel festival with me (find the posts here). It had become a tradition for us to meet up with other crafty / blogging friends and to spend the weekend squishing yarn and nattering. We had already planned next year's trip and found a restaurant with an upstairs room we hoped to fill with our favourite crafty people. It simply won't be the same without her. We made other plans too - joint projects and blog collaborations - all things that can never happen.
It is devastating that someone who was so loved, had so much talent and was such a beautiful person (inside and out) was in despair, and felt that taking her life was the best way out of it. I feel so incredibly sad for Wink's family, her boyfriend and all her friends. My thoughts go out to all of them, and I hope that the massive show of love for her - from all parts of the world - brings a little comfort. She may be gone, but her legacy - in her work and in the many lives that she touched - lives on. 
Rest in peace my friend, I hope you found the light you sought. 

Postscript: If you would like to honour Wink's memory, her family have set up a memorial page and there are various 'events' happening on social media - search for #mandalasforwink #mandalasformarinke and #wearingflowersinmyhairforwink. 
Saturday, 27 June 2015

The Handmade Wardrobe Project: Getting started

There are not many handmade items in my wardrobe but following the relative ease of my 'Trace a T-shirt, Make a Wardrobe' dress I am going to start making make more of my own clothes. This has been on the cards for a while - especially as many of my favourite bloggers are 'polycraftual' and have been writing about handmade wardrobes for some time. I've been seriously thinking about it in the last week but my plans are far from serious, involving quick (fun) projects, many of which I hope can be improvised. So where to start?
Crafts from the Cwtch Handmade Wardrobe Project - sewing, knitting & crochet
Throughout Me Made May I found myself listening to/ reading a lot of different opinions about garment-making. One thing that consistently came up was the value of working out what's missing from one's existing wardrobe and using this to decide which pieces would make the other things "work" better. With this in mind I've done a bit of analysis...

Lifestyle  and Requirements
I'm a mum and I have a dog. We live in a small English village which is surrounded by farmland, and I walk between five and seven miles in an average day. I work from home and 90% of my social life is with friends from the same village. The reality is that I need practical clothes that can be worn with comfortable shoes (for all the walking), whatever the weather.

I love to accessorise with brightly coloured knitwear and jewellery so my clothing needs to be fairly neutral (this is a particular problem as I usually end up buying from two shops whose clothes suit my shape but where they mostly sell patterned things). I prefer loose-fitting garments which can be layered and co-ordinated for multi-season use. The colour palette needs to take this into account. 

The "Plan" 
I plan to start with a few different tunic tops which can be worn with jeans or leggings (which I already have plenty of), or possibly as a dress with sandals or tights/boots and additional layers. Dresses should be more comfortable and practical for me, but I typically have trouble when buying off the shelf clothing due to a generous bust combined with a short body (heck, a short everything - I am short!). Making things myself should be a good solution.

I'd like to knit, crochet and sew to make different garments, and to combine these three crafts for some of the projects too. The knitting and crochet should be fairly straightforward but as I'm impatient, an irregular size and averse to following patterns /love to improvise, the best way to start sewing seems to be drafting my own patterns. I loved making the dress from a t-shirt so this also seems a logical next step. Thanks to a 4-week course from Cal Patch it's also achievable. 
Pattern Drafting Course with Cal Patch
I'm going to fit the classes in as and when I can and I'm not working to a particular schedule except that I'd like to be able to join in with Me Made May 2016, so there is no rush. There is a distinct lack of fabric and sewing tools in my 'stash' so that's also a factor, but I'll update you with my progress here and on Instagram. I have to tell you that I am pretty excited about it all.

Related reading/listening: 
I'll be sharing links and resources as well as any patterns used, starting here with some of my inspiration. 
- Libby at Truly Myrtle has been inspiring me to sew for years as well as having lots of completely handmade outfits! 
- Creativebug all-inclusive sewing content, including the Cal Patch 4-week Pattern Drafting course, and the t-shirt-to-wardrobe class I took. (You can get a free trial if you don't already subscribe.)
- The book 'Design-it-Yourself Clothes' by Cal Patch is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

Notice: This post contains carefully selected affiliate links which provide some help with the cost of running this blog. Thank you for using the links provided - it is always appreciated. 
Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Let the Weaver Fever begin

Since a demonstration at Unravel in February, I've planned to try weaving, so the announcement for a new "Weaver Fever" club from Devon Sun Yarns seemed serendipitous and I signed up straight away. 
Weaver Fever Club box from Devon Sun Yarns - Crafts from the Cwtch
The first box arrived last week but I didn't want to spoil the surprise for anyone who hadn't received it yet, and I didn't have time to play with it between trips, so it's been sitting in wait. The parcel was full of all sorts of gorgeousness including scrumptious hand-dyed roving yarn, washi tape, a badge, pencil, and everything required to start weaving - including a cute little loom. 
Weaver Fever Loom from Devon Sub Yarns - Crafts from the Cwtch
I haven't done any weaving since I was in infant school - and then we used paper plates. Luckily instructions came with the kit, there is email support and a facebook group too - so I'm sure it will be pretty easy to work out it out. So today I'm planning to give it a whirl. Little Miss is poorly and home from school - how long before she tries to get her mitts on this...? 
Weaver Fever yarn (box 1) from Devon Sun Yarns - Crafts from the Cwtch
Monday, 22 June 2015

On sock knitting and the benefits of the 'Afterthought Heel'

Last week I finished a pair of very simple socks for Little Miss from cheap (Drops Delight) stash yarn which had been sitting around for a few years. She is delighted with them. This yarn is fine for basic socks - especially those which will not fit for long - and I used the sock formula from my Demystifying Toe-up socks series. The toe-up / afterthought-heel construction is a method that I am very comfortable with and I don't have to concentrate, so it's the perfect portable project. It also gives a great fit every time. 
Simple rib sock with afterthought heel - Crafts from the Cwtch
For those who are not sure where to place scrap yarn / the heel, my rule-of-thumb is to place it (on the bottom of the sock) when the top of the sock reaches the spot when the leg joins the foot - in the main photo above, this is where the green transitions to yellow. Trying the sock on as soon as the heel stitches are picked up, it's then possible to make any adjustments - e.g. by adding a few rounds before the decreases, adjusting the speed at which the heel decreases or deciding when to graft the heel shut. 

As well as getting a great fit, I like the 'afterthought' heel for other reasons: 
  • It is a quick way of inserting a heel - no gusset, no flap, it's just a 'second toe'
  • The heel can be knit with different yarn if you're running out or want a longer sock
  • It can be knit with re-inforcing thread to prolong the life of the sock
  • It can be easily removed and reknit if you wear through heels as quickly as I do
  • If working patterned stitches on the foot, there is no interruption while stopping to work the heel
  • When knitting two-at-a-time (which I usually do) it's very quick to knit the toe and main tubes, and then you only have to insert the heels for a finished pair. Much less chance of 'second sock syndrome'. 
With one pair off the needles, I spotted a brand new sock pattern - Whiz Bang by Sarah Shoo* - more toe-up socks, with gloriously simple slip-stitch pattern, lovely toe shaping and a "bootylicious" heel that I'd never seen before. I cast on straight away - what a perfect match for highly variegated yarn!
Whiz bang sock - pattern by Sarah Shoo, yarn from The Yarn Yard - Crafts from the Cwtch
On Saturday evening, I knit the first heel. It was an interesting construction and looked very pretty - lots of people will love it. But I ripped it out on Sunday morning in favour of an afterthought as it wasn't such a good fit on my feel, took longer than usual and would be harder to replace. I'm much happier.

Far from being a waste of precious knitting time, trying a something new was a very useful experience - I had worried about being "stuck in a rut" but trying this reaffirmed why I like the heel I usually knit. Knitting is such a personal thing and my usual way of knitting socks works well for me and suits my feet. I know I'm going to love these socks and am looking forward to getting the second one on the needles.

Do you have a go-to method of knitting socks? How do you prefer to knit them and why? Or do you like to mix it up?

*The pattern assumes some previous sock knitting experience / understanding, but is straight forward. The instructions are nicely laid out and easy to follow, with tick-boxes to help you keep track. One size is given, but the stitch pattern is in multiples of 4 stitches so can be adjusted quite easily. Overall a really nice pattern. 
Friday, 19 June 2015

Beginner's "improv" sewing project using Jersey fabric

If you've followed the blog for a while, you'll know I love improvising and have done so with knitting and crochet (it's how most of my early designs started) and with up-cycling small things for the children. After seeing lots of my favourite 'knitters' sewing garments, I really wanted to join in with something quick and easy - the sewing equivalent of garter stitch.

The Creativebug class taught by 'Improv Sewing'
It came in the form of a Creativebug class - "Trace a T-shirt, Create a Wardrobe". In less than an hour, I learned how to use an existing t-shirt (which fits well) to create a template for jersey tops or dresses of any length with different amounts of drape and flare.

My chosen t-shirt is one that I still wear quite a lot so I didn't deconstruct it, instead I traced around the different parts to produce my paper template which was laid onto my fabric and the shape chalked out. With the length and width adjusted to my requirements it was pretty straightforward.

I'm not a great sewist but the fabric was very forgiving and, as it doesn't fray, there is no need to hem it.... however I grew up with  *my* mother and couldn't leave raw edges so I added some hems and then decided to add a cowl neck - which complicated things far more than was strictly necessary.
Improv sewing with Jersey fabric - Crafts from the Cwtch
It's not washed or ironed yet (and is still covered in chalk) but I couldn't wait to show you. Also, my 'model' is much slimmer than me, so I've used the fabric shop trick of gathering everything in at the back to give you the general impression.
Improv sewing with Jersey fabric - Crafts from the Cwtch
It's *far* from perfect, but for my first attempt I'm pretty pleased with it. It would have been easier with a rotary cutter and cutting mat, and may not have needed hemming - my scissor-cut edges are not all that neat. So those have been added to my wish-list.

After watching the many useful tips for handling jersey on the Creativebug class, this medium weight fabric was easy to work with and feels very comfortable to wear. It's thick enough that I don't have to wear another layer underneath, but if I do it won't be too bulky. The jersey came from myfabrics.co.uk where I also got the same fabric in a gorgeous cobalt blue ready for my next project. They are priced at £9.95/m (this project took 1.5m) but if you place a fabric order over £35 using the code "CWTCH0615" you'll get a £10 discount - the code is valid until 20th July 2015. 

The class by 'Improv Sewing' is available as part of the all-inclusive Creativebug subscription - you can start with a free trial now if you don't use it already. (I started that way and liked it so much I subscribed and became an affiliate - you can see my review here.) A book is also available from the same instructors on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk - it includes 101 fast free-form projects - another thing that's on my list!

The next step for me is the 4-week Creativebug course, Pattern Drafting with Cal Patch - I'll let you know how it goes. There is also a  One Hour Top class which looks like fun. Stay tuned....
Wednesday, 17 June 2015

WIP Wednesday: Inspired to make 'All The Things'

So this week, I find myself wanting to make All The Things. Little Miss' socks are finished (they just need her feet to come home from school for photos which I'll post on the weekend) and no sooner were they off the needles but a lovely new sock design popped up in my Instagram feed. I had to have it, because no matter how many other things you *should* be doing, there is always room for a pair of socks, right? 
The pattern is Whiz Bang by Sarah Shoo and it looks perfect for highly variegated yarn which has been in my stash for a few years now without a pattern - Spectrum by Natalie Fergie / The Yarn Yard.

You may also note there is also some FABRIC! It's been on the cards for a while, but I finally got some fabric for a very simple "sewing" project. I have no pattern (and not much sewing experience) and will be 'winging it' based on a Creativebug class called "Trace a Tshirt, Create a Wardrobe" - I'm hoping to get onto that tomorrow, and I'll give you an update in my next post - wish me luck! 
Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Show and Tell: Knitting with Neko curved double pointed needles

If you saw yesterday's post you'll know I just visited Scheepjes HQ. While there, I came across these brand new DPNs which looked so interesting I had to give them a try. I typically use the magic loop method with a long circular needle, but judging by the response to my picture on Instagram, there are a lot of people who are also curious to try these. In the interests of research, I grabbed a ball of Sunkissed, and cast on. As this is not a real project, I knit just a few more centimetres after the last photo was taken, to be able to give you some first impressions. 
Knitting with Neko v-shaped double pointed sock needles - Crafts from the Cwtch
Knitting with Neko v-shaped double pointed sock needles - Crafts from the Cwtch
Knitting with Neko v-shaped double pointed sock needles - Crafts from the Cwtch
Knitting with Neko v-shaped double pointed sock needles - Crafts from the Cwtch
  • Knitting with a shorter length needle was instantly comfortable for me as I'm used to circular needles. If you are only used to using long straight needles they may feel a little strange to start with, but as there is nothing to stick in your palm, or to get caught in your knitting, I can't imagine this would take long.
  • Aside from the comfort issue, the other major benefit is that with just two needles holding the stitches, less time is spent switching between needles which makes for faster and more efficient knitting.
  • As the needles are uniquely curved, the opportunity for stitches to accidentally slip off is greatly reduced too - perfect for a 'travel' project like socks. Being plastic also helps as they are quite 'grippy'. 
  • With any circular knitting, keeping the yarn taut over the first few stitches after changing needle is necessary to get a neat and even finish. As there are only two needles you only need to do this twice per round to prevent laddering.
  • Being quite heavy-handed I have a history of snapped needles and usually stick to metal, so I was a little worried that about snapping this 3mm / US 11 plastic set. For this reason, I think I would find the larger sizes (for hats and such) less worrisome, but this is just a personal preference.
  • Overall, I did find these easy to handle and would use them again, especially in the larger sizes for sleeves on top-down sweaters where I find regular DPNs have a tendency to get caught in the body. I'm hoping they may become available in other materials in the future.  
UPDATED: You can order these needles from Deramores (with worldwide delivery - simply change your country on the top left of the screen) and in the meantime you can find more information about the needles, including a short video, on the manufacturer's website. If you have a set already, I'd love to hear what you think of them - please leave a comment. 
Monday, 15 June 2015

Finding inspiration: Bloggers' Weekend at Scheepjes

Following some projects I made with their lovely yarns last year, I was chuffed when Dutch yarn company Scheepjes (you can learn how to pronounce it here) added me to the "Blog Inspiration" pages of their website, as it includes some fabulous bloggers/designers whose work you would be sure to recognise. When Scheepjes invited us all to visit their offices in the Netherlands - to meet one another and look around - it took all of two seconds for me to say yes. So last Friday, I found myself having a picnic and warehouse tour at Scheepjes HQ in the province of Drenthe.
Scheepjes Bloggers' Weekend June 2015 - Crafts from the Cwtch
Left to Right: Nerissa, Esther, Heike, Carmen, Dedri, me, Maria, Annelies, Kirsen (hiding), Jellina and Atty
Of course we got to see new colourways of some favourite yarns and a peek of some things that will be coming up next season (we are sworn to secrecy). Seeing lots of yarn is always exciting, I expected that,  but I wasn't expecting the buttons. Buttons in every shade of every colour - rows upon rows of them! There was much excitement about those, and not just from me.  
Scheepjes Bloggers Weekend - Crafts from the Cwtch
Scheepjes is a small family-run business, despite international success and they are very environmentally-conscious, with a background in farming. It was interesting to learn that the office and warehouse are powered by solar energy panels on the roof and Job, who runs things since his parents retired, drives an electric car (which was plugged in outside), and has further plans for collecting and using the rainwater.

After a busy day 'at the office' it was time for something more relaxing and we spent a lovely evening getting to know one another while eating delicious food at Touche in Assen. As bloggers within a broad age range and from different countries, it was great to share the common experiences as well as the differences in how we do things. It's always good to be around your 'tribe' and as you might expect, we had lots of laughter and a thoroughly good time.

On Saturday we headed to a different venue -  De Paalkoepel near Groningen - where we enjoyed lovely views of the lake, high tea and a lot of knitting and crochet. None of it was mine, as I was far too interested in what everyone else was making, and in writing notes for some new designs, inspired by the trip.
Scheepjes Bloggers' Weekend June 2015 - Crafts from the Cwtch

Scheepjes Bloggers' Weekend June 2015 - Crafts from the Cwtch
Unless you have been living under a rock, you will have seen this blanket and/or heard of the Sophie's Universe crochet-along before. It's an amazing design by Dedri Uys (pronounced 'Ace' - that's Dedri in the middle of the picture) which can be found on her blog 'Look At What I Made'. This is the most stunning piece of crochet - it's beautifully textured and has amazing detail. This version is made in Stonewashed XL and I'm completely in love with it...
Scheepjes Bloggers' Weekend June 2015 - Crafts from the Cwtch

Scheepjes Bloggers' Weekend June 2015 - Crafts from the Cwtch
So that he could really join in, Dedri taught Job to crochet. He did great, but his square wasn't quite as cute as  Carmen's little ami bird which really caught my eye - if you like it too you'll find the pattern in Mollie Makes (issue 52).
Scheepjes Bloggers' Weekend June 2015 - Crafts from the Cwtch
You might also recognise Carmen as the winner of last year's Mollie Makes Handmade Awards, Youth Category. (I can confirm she is as lovely as her creations.)

Of course all good things must come to an end, and on Saturday afternoon I headed back to Schipol Airport with Heike and Dedri. We did our bit for World Wide Knit in Public day on the train and I spotted an older man taking a sneaky photo of us with his phone, but before he disembarked he came over to tell us his wife knits and to ask about our projects. I'm sure he must have sent the picture to her. My picture came out upside-down, but I like it - it captures the mood perfectly.
World wide knit in public day 2015 - knitting on a Ditch train. Crafts from the Cwtch
Now that I'm home and thinking back on everything, I realise it was a wonderful weekend for many reasons - meeting the Scheepjes team was lovely, we enjoyed super hospitality from Anita and Job, generous sharing of information and tips from all the other bloggers, and made lots of new friends. I have come home with so much inspiration for projects, blog posts and collaborations, and can't wait to get started!

I'll be back tomorrow with a 'show and tell' - some rather unusual knitting needles I picked up at Scheepjes which caused a lot of interest on social media when I posted a pic yesterday. See you then. 
Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Show & Tell: A quick peek inside "Cora"

This post contains affiliate links and an exclusive reader discount
You may recall that a little while ago I interviewed the lovely 'solo-preneur' behind the Jordana Paige brand - if you missed it, you can read the post here. Being a bag lady, I was very keen to review one of the bags for myself (the Crafter's Tool Butler was one of my favourite giveaway prizes a few years ago so I was already a fan of the brand) and set about choosing.

It was a tough decision but I eventually decided on 'Cora'. The picture on the left swung it for me, as I'm sure I never manage to look sophisticated while trying to find something in my bag... but I'd like to. Grey is my favourite neutral as it can be used in any season, so I went for the 'dove grey' option.

Cora is now here and packed for my trip, which will really put it through it's paces, but I wanted to share my first impressions today as the generous reader discount runs out on June 15th (see below).

Delivery: International shipping was really fast, and the parcel got across the USA and to the UK in just a few days.  If you're in the US then it should take hardly any time at all. Unfortunately it was then held to ransom by Customs* for over a week - if you're ordering from the UK you should bear this in mind, especially if you're as impatient as I am.

First impressions: Cora arrived well-boxed and inside a branded dust bag. An optional strap attachment was included (inside one of the pockets) which allows Cora to be worn as a cross-body or as a shoulder bag. Without the detachable strap, she can be worn over the arm or carried in hand - as a point of reference, the handles are just long enough to fit over my shoulder, but I wouldn't carry her there.
After (impatiently) waiting, I am really relieved that Cora has lived up to my expectations so far. I love the look of the 'vegan leather' which has an attractive crosshatch design, and is quite lightweight (some of my expensive designer bags don't get used much as they are just too heavy when loaded up) and the lovely finish. The stitching and 'furnishings' all look very good.

Inside: This is certainly a TARDIS bag (it's bigger on the inside) and manages to fit a lot of stuff without looking like it would, thank to the clever design which includes a wide base and tapering at the sides. The inside is incredibly well thought-out with pockets for everything, so there is no need to rummage - maybe I can attempt the sophisticated look after all!
Initial impressions of the Jordana Paige Cora bag - it's like the TARDIS! Pockets for everything and much bigger on the inside!
As you can see there is a zipped pocket at the back which fits my iPad. Three slip-pockets which fit a Kindle (in a case), keys - attached to the bag by a clip, and iPhone 6. Both a small and large zipped pocket are on the inside, one of which separates the main sections so personal effects (my huge purse and journal etc) are not mixed up with everything else, and I have put two project bags (containing a 100g sock project and a 150g shawl) in the biggest section with room to spare.

The front pouch zips off to become a little clutch which I'll use in the evenings, so I won't need to take another bag on my trip. (I'm a little cautious about someone swiping this off the front while I'm travelling, so it'll probably remain free of anything more than lipstick until I use it as a clutch.) I am incredibly happy with it so far, and can't wait to use it to go to Holland.

You can see the full range of Jordana's gorgeous handbags here, and if you shop using this link before until 1st August 2015 you can use the code CWTCH to get a whopping 20% discount. After chatting with some Instagram friends, I'm already thinking that Quinn would be a nice option for casual days out (and there are a few in the 50% Off / Factory Seconds sale at the moment too!!!!!).
*Be sure to factor local tax rules into the price when calculating currency conversions, if you're ordering from outside the USA. (As Cora is the most expensive bag in the range, her "ransom" cost me just over £28.) 
Friday, 5 June 2015

I'll call it a win! #crochetconfession

Do you remember that I went to an "Instagrannies" meet-up a little while ago? One of the attendees was Sarah Shrimpton whose lovely blog "Annaboos House" has been on my list of favourites for some time. Sarah writes about her cute crochet creations and takes great photos - if you haven't seen the blog or her instagram feed, they are well worth a click. 

Sarah has just published her first book The Beginner's Guide to Crochet which, as the title suggests, is aimed at novice crocheters. As part of the book launch, Sarah has been asking some bloggers she knows to write about their early crochet experiences and tagged me in her blog hop (details here). She asked for 'Beginner Win' or 'Beginner Fail' stories, but mine is really a bit of both... 
Back in May 2011, when I'd just gotten to grips with knitting basics I really wanted to learn to crochet....but I wasn't sure where to start. This desire coincided with the first issue of Mollie Makes magazine hitting the shelves and there was a 'crochet apple jacket' pattern in it. I quickly set to work... but I just couldn't figure out what to do. I was looking up tutorials for the stitches but some of them used UK terminology and some had US terms - the words were the same,  but they referred to different stitches which completely confused me. With this mental block, I simply couldn't translate what was written into anything resembling an apple cosy and at the time I blogged that it looked about the right size to fit a walnut - it had gone horribly wrong - a definite Beginner Fail (with capitals)!

Luckily a friend invited me to a knit and natter where two fortuitous things happened - first I got to meet the multi-craftual and all-round fab person that is Lee McKellan ('anotherlee') and secondly, Lee sat down with me for an hour and taught me to crochet. With her guidance I was able to figure out what the instructions meant as well as the fundamentals (such as which bit to crochet into, how to count the stitches, and things which now seem very obvious but had seemed confusing at first).  That night I finished my first crochet item...
... and then I made another. After that I started making all sorts of little crochet items including jar covers, coasters, some cushions and even children's clothes, but always found it easier to work with charts or to alter patterns so I didn't have to decipher written instructions.

That was four years ago and if you've been following the blog in the last few weeks you may have seen that I have recently re-discovered my enthusiasm for crochet during the Makealong - although my mental block hasn't completely gone. My second shawl is very nearly finished and I have some crochet clothing patterns (for me) in my queue. As it happens, I still prefer charts!

So that's my crochet story, and I think I'll call it a win, although it took a bit of help to get there. If you'd like to get your hands on a collection of simple patterns to build your crochet confidence, Sarah's book 'The Beginner's Guide to Crochet' is available as a print book, or eBook from Sarah's page on Stitch Craft Create right now, and to continue the blog hop I'm nominating the knit and crochet expert Jacqui Harding from Happymaking Designs as I'd love to hear about her early experiences.

If you'd care to share yours too, please submit a comment (below) - I'd love to know how you first started crocheting. 
Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Travel Planning...

Ok, it's time to 'fess up. How many of you spend more time thinking about the projects you're going to work on during a trip, than planning which clothes you need to pack? I know I can't be the only one. I'm not talking about "summer holiday" knitting here (although you can read my thoughts on that here), I'm thinking about projects for train rides, airports, planes and such. 
Travel planning
Pictured: Destination Travel Wallet  which I won on Twitter! 
You see, next week I'm going on a trip to the Netherlands! I'm pretty excited about it for a number of reasons - one is that I am a self-confessed Dutchophile. Another is that I will get to indulge my passion for solo-travel - when you're usually responsible for little folk (plus a very big one who doesn't particularly like being a passenger) traveling alone - with it's opportunities for airport-browsing, reading, and quiet crafting - is a mini-break in itself. I'm looking forward to that, which is not to say that I won't miss my gang, but still.... 

I'm looking forward to catching up with Wink, plus a load of other lovely bloggers I have not yet met 'in real life' - although Facebook almost passes as real life since we moved to West Sussex. Most exciting of all, as one of the bloggers featured on the Inspiration pages of the Scheepjes website, I will be attending a tour of their factory!

Founded in 1855, Scheepjes (which means "little ships" after the transportation methods they traditionally used) is the oldest Dutch yarn producer still in existence, and I am expecting it to be interesting as well as a lot of fun! As always, my phone will be charged and at my side, so you can expect lots of pictures when I get back.

In the meantime, I am wondering just how many projects are too many, how small a capsule wardrobe for three days can be (to leave room for purchases), and whether I made a mistake booking only carry-on baggage. So far, I'm thinking socks, maybe some yarn and needles for another Clarity Shawl (a pattern I wrote for Let's Knit magazine last summer) which is a really nice easy knit, perfect for travel, or perhaps I should only take enough for the journey there, as I'm pretty sure I'll be coming home with some new yarn and lots of inspiration....
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