Mess vs minimalism (Room Makeover in Progress)

The "Cwtch" is one of the smallest rooms in our house and was originally intended to be my husband's edit suite (he's a TV/film editor). Fortunately, it turned out to be much too light (it's the only double-aspect room in the house), and too noisy (downstairs amid the hustle and bustle of family life).  He took a spare bedroom instead and this little room was left without a purpose until I started crafting, when it became a mini 'sitting' room I could peacefully knit in. It contained just a sofa and a few pieces of furniture we didn't want elsewhere.

Back in 2013 I rescued a vintage cocktail cabinet which was sufficient to house my tiny stash. A little while later, when I needed more storage for craft books and yarn, I took part in a £50 room makeover challenge which improved things - I bought a shelf unit with cupboard space. More recently I found a vintage desk that included further book storage. As my requirements have changed I have put a further mish-mash of unsuitable storage in here - but it's never enough as it's not really 'fit for purpose'. What I need is not a sitting room but a small 'studio' space. Space without vintage teak which seems to disperse light - to take clear photos I've had to adapt the end of my desk with a piece of white MDF. It's been driving me crazy and only a constant supply of fresh flowers has kept me going through the winter months.

When yet another box of yarn arrived for design commissions, and there was nowhere to put it, I finally took the plunge and made the 3.5 hour round-trip to IKEA. It turns out that for a couple of hundred pounds it's possible to get a new desk and enough storage to go across one small wall.  A bit more will cover professional assembly.

So I spent most of today removing everything but the sofa, the (almost empty) desk and the dog. With the furniture gone I was able to give the room a proper spring clean and tomorrow someone is coming to put the new things together. Then my real work can begin.

I'm hoping to minimise what comes back, and to make the space feel less cluttered by arranging things more effectively. Tonight - for one night only - I'm trying 'minimalism'*. It's not really my style, but I'm enjoying it for it's novelty value, and if you've read 'A Squash and a Squeeze' you'll know what I mean when I tell you the room is ENORMOUS now!

*Of course, you must understand this only extends to the Cwtch. The rest of the ground floor is covered in flat-packed furniture, boxes of books and yarn, random cupboards and projects in various states of completion. I'm not quite sure how it all fitted in, but I think the room must certainly be bigger on the inside!

Bloggers' Weekend in Groningen

In my element, perusing aisles full of yarn at Scheepjes HQ. Photo credit: Deri Uys
Last Thursday I headed off to Gatwick airport to meet up with my friend Dedri Uys (if you don't recognise the name, you will probably know her for 'Sophie's Universe'). Dedri and I met at the last Scheepjes Bloggers' Weekend and it was time to do it all over again. Although we had been together at Unravel recently, there was still a lot to catch up on as we traveled to the Netherlands - new projects, her Wool Warehouse shop*, sock knitting, what we hoped to see over the weekend, including my yarn "wish-list". When we arrived at Schipol airport, Tatiana was waiting for us and we made the journey to Groningen together (by double-decker intercity train). 

Groningen is a beautiful city in the northern Netherlands with written history that dates back to 1040, and evidence that it existed long before then. It was an important trade centre in the 13th Century and it's university was founded in 1614. As my WWII-history-buff husband informed me, it was also the site of second world war battle which destroyed most of the main square. These days it is full of colour - the bikes, small boats (in Dutch, "scheepjes"), stalls of vibrant flowers in the market square and even many of the buildings. 

On Friday morning we headed to Scheepjes HQ where we met up with the rest of the bloggers' group, minus two who were unable to attend this time. As always we had a wonderful welcome from the Scheepjes team including personalised goody bags. As a small family-run business, Scheepjes are keen to support other small independents and our bags included a Tilly Flop teatowel - mine says "Oh how I'd rather be knitting!"*, an awesome double-sided mug from Deez Dutch - mine says  "Bloggers Gonna Blog / Knitters Gonna Knit" *, as well as prefect-style badges! 

After an educational day, lots of yarn squishing and exciting secret (s-EEEK!-ret) previews, which will make some of my yarn-wishes come true, we all headed out together. I'd met most people already but over a delicious meal (and rather a lot of wine) I chatted and laughed with those I hadn't met before. It's interesting that most of the younger people went off to bed quite early, leaving a few of us in the bar until the small hours - but I'm not sharing those photos!

'They' say that things happen for a reason, and it was Wink who first introduced me to Scheepjes (they wanted to commission a knitting pattern). When I was invited to last years Bloggers' Weekend, new friendships were made and they have bloomed over the last year. Aside from the professional opportunities and personal friendships, being part of this group has helped so much with the loss of our friend-in-common and given me the chance to contribute to something productive and worthwhile in her name. In the early hours of Sunday morning there was laughter, tears, and yet more laughter as Esther, Nerissa, Atty, Dedri and I reminisced and discussed the project we have been working on in Wink's memory

After shipping my own contributions for the Last Dance on the Beach crochet-along, I had only seen the completed blankets on official photos and seeing them with the other designers and friends, was very special. On Saturday, between crafting, eating, and breaking my tooth (yes, really!) we managed to get this picture with the Dance under the Stars luxury (Merino Soft) blanket sample.

L to R: Kirsten, Jellina, Esther, Dedri, Carmen, Esther, Christa,
 Job aka 'Mr Scheepjes', Atty, Tatiana, Bernadette, me, Nerissa, Tammy and Maria
I have so many more pictures and highlights from this trip, but I'll save them for later and will finish by saying this... When you find your 'tribe' it's a wonderful thing and in this case, the tribe found me. I'm so proud to be a part of such a special group of people. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Scheepjes for their wonderful hospitality - dank je wel!

*Affiliate. Find a range of kits to make Dedri's amazing crochet creations at her dedicated Wool Warehouse 'shop'. Tilly Flop teatowels for knitters or crocheters can be found on Julie's Etsy ShopDeez Dutch is also on Etsy.

Leaving on a jet plane (with knitting, but no clothes!)

I'm heading out to the airport in a matter of hours and, as my scheduling has completely gone to pot, there won't be any more blog posts this weekend. You see, school holidays began a fortnight ago and I've been busy feeding, entertaining and refereeing - oh yes, the children have hit a new phase and are constantly squabbling about everything. And I really do mean everything

So it's perfect timing that I'm escaping leaving the family at home for a few days. I'll tell you all about the trip when I get back* but for now I can confirm it will involve other bloggers, a few workshops (because it's "work", obviously), plenty of yarn-smooshing and probably quite a lot of laughter too. 

We'll be away for a just couple of days and nights, so there is plenty of room in my hand-luggage for yarn. I'm planning to work on two new projects which have been sitting in my design journal for a while - one is a two-colour shawl which will continue the 'Brioche Basics' series. When I should have been ironing and packing my clothes, I was drafting and working out the increases for the pattern, and then completing the set-up rows, ready to test-knit it on the plane** and train. 

Of course, it would be foolish to travel with just one project. Who knows what could happen... I might get bored, or make a(n unfixable-while-travelling) mistake, or heaven forbid there could be a disaster with my needles (or the spares). So I've worked out a rough idea for a sock pattern too, and have yarn and needles to swatch for that. I have a calculator and pencils, loads of podcasts and my PrimeMusic app has been busy downloading lots of playlists and albums to listen to 'offline'. Of course, this also all happened when I should have been getting my clothes ready and packed - I really should get on with it now. 
*If you follow my Instagram feed you'll probably get to see where I am and who I'm hanging out with.  
**Whenever I mention knitting on a plane someone asks if that's possible with the current baggage restrictions. I can confirm that it's perfectly fine to have knitting needles (or crochet hooks) in your hand luggage or hold luggage when flying to/from a UK airport.  Here's the link which confirms it  - and as far as I know, most other places are fine too, but do check if you're not sure. The thought of my ChiaoGoos being confiscated means I usually take Knitpros which are a lot cheaper to replace if anything should happen to them, and as they are wooden and interchangeable I also take some spare tips (I've been known to break them with alarming regularity). It has never once been a problem with airport security.  

A blast from the past: Cwtchy Cable Armwarmers Revisited

When I decided to learn to knit cables, my first project turned into the first free pattern I published elsewhere (on both Ravelry and Craftsy).  Five years on, it is still downloaded multiple times each day and there are lots of lovely projects in the Ravelry gallery, but the worsted weight yarn I used is now discontinued. While I was on an armwarmer mission last week, a relative (who has gifted these dozens of times since I published the pattern) made a pair from another yarn - Milla Mia Naturally Soft Merino. This is a double knitting yarn, which is easier to find / substitute from stash so it seemed like a good opportunity to photograph her project and to update the pattern formatting. 

The pattern is really easy (remember, it was my first time knitting cables) and knits up quickly. It has two size options - a long and short version (23.5 cm and 19 cm respectively) and both left and right leaning cables. The new format includes check boxes so you can easily keep track of where you are, so it really is a nice simple project if you can knit in the round on double pointed or circular needles.

I like my armwarmers long and without any thumb holes - this makes them incredibly versatile, and they often double up as legwarmers for me or my children. However I know that others do like thumb holes, so I included them as an option. While reformatting, I changed the thumb hole to an 'afterthought' construction and I knit up a single short mitt in the same yarn, so you can see the difference between the two. (I don't like having a hole, but a friend who also made some, says she wears hers upside down when she wants them as 'short sleeve extenders' and this hides it - a good fix if you must have them).

You might be able to see that my knitting (the short one) is a slightly looser gauge and this is the gauge I've used for the pattern. It's worth noting that the Milla Mia is not an especially fluffy /cosy yarn and so they are not as 'cwtchy' as the original pair but the yarn is quite springy and has a nice stitch definition for cables, and most importantly, it feels soft to the touch.  

If you'd like to download the new version of the pattern, I've added it to my Love Knitting Designer page, where you can also find a selection of my other patterns for sale. I've updated the Ravelry project details too, so you can continue to 'favourite' and 'queue' them and to add your projects. Happy knitting! 

Last Dance on the Beach: Selecting your 'Kit'

Last weekend I showed you the three colourways for the 'Last Dance on the Beach' Scheepjes CAL (crochet-along) in memory of my friend 'Wink'/ Marinke. On Tuesday I reviewed the two yarns which are in the official kits. Today, literally thousands of people around the world will be delighted to know that the time is finally here to order the official kits. This is my last planned post about the CAL until it is underway, and tells you more about what is included and where you can get the yarn. But first, in case you haven't seen the images (all over the internet!) this week, here is a little recap:

L to R: Dance in the Rain, Dance Under the Stars, Dance in the Sea
To make the CAL accessible to as many people as possible, Scheepjes have made two versions of the yarn kit. The basic Colour Crafter (100% acrylic) option which includes the yarn and limited edition label, and a luxury version of Merino Soft yarn (50% Superwash Merino /25% Micro / 25% Acrylic) and lots of other goodies.

While quite different, both of these yarns are great in their own way - see my comparison / review here if you missed it. As you will see in the charts below, the colours are very similar in both kits.

As mentioned in my review, both yarns are 'double knitting' but the Merino Soft is a bit thicker and therefore works to a different gauge - so the approximate size of the finished blankets is not the same:
Basic / Colour Crafter = 115 cm x 150 cm
Luxe / Merino Soft = 130 cm x 160 cm 
Whichever you choose, Scheepjes will be making a €2 contribution to the mental health charity, Mind. With over 25,000 group members expressing an interest in the CAL Facebook groups, this could mean a significant donation. Of course, if you choose to make up your own colour pack, you can always make a donation of any amount you would like.

If you want to join in but are worried that you are not an experienced crocheter, I can tell you that the squares vary in complexity (mine is very easy - if you can hold a hook, you can make it!) and there will be a video each week so you can see the stitches/techniques you will need. If you have the desire to learn new things and can follow instructions, you'll be able to do it. You have until April 20th to get your yarn ready and to join the English-speaking or Dutch group on Facebook (although you can still join in and play catch-up after that if you want to). What are you waiting for? 

UK Stockists and international postage from the UK: 
You can order now from TWO shops in the UK - they are Deramores* and Wool Warehouse*. Both ship worldwide and many of the international group participants said they find they ship quickly to destinations as far as Australia and New Zealand, but it can take a few weeks for them to get there, so you might want to place your order as soon as possible as the CAL starts on April 20th.
Update: If you know which you want, here are the DIRECT links to each pack
Derammores: Basic KitsRainSea, Stars and Luxury Kits - Rain, Sea, Stars
Wool Warehouse: Basic Kits -  Rain, Sea, Stars and Luxury Kits - Rain, Sea, Stars

Further afield: 
Paradise Fibres in the USA and other stockists across Europe (plus one in South Africa) also sell the kits - find the full list here. Note that there may be some fluctuation in the price based on the exchange rate at the time of your order - be sure to select the correct currency before checkout, especially if you are in one of the countries that use different 'dollars'.

*Affiliate. Prices are fixed at £33.99 (€43,40) for the basic kit / £119.99 (€159,90) for the luxe  with free UK delivery available at both UK stores. International shipping costs vary depending on your location.


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