Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Kaleidoscope Crochet Blanket Club

As I blogged about Daisy's 2014 Murder on the Moor club last week, I thought I'd better blog about my club this week.

My club is Kaleidoscope Crochet Blanket Club 2014 and for now its the only thing I am working on.
In fact my whole life is dedicated to it at the moment.
I spend my time at home crocheting the blanket and a lot of my hours at the studio working on the pattern and promoting it.
It has become an obsession, I'm really hoping the hours I am putting in will be worth it and that my club members will enjoy it and be as excited as I am about it.

I have just finished crocheting May and the blanket is beginning to come together, up until now its looked very busy, but now the design is showing through, I'm really pleased with it and can't wait to start June.
Its a bit frustrating as I have to stop after every month and photograph the wip, most of the photo's are are bit rubbish due to the fact I have taken them at home with my iphone, but members will get the idea.

Also I've just started a Flickr Kaleidoscope 2014 group for member's only, you can only join if you have signed up for the club, I can't wait to see the first photo's posted by members. The group is viewable to the public, so even though its a member's only group, non members can look at the photo's.
If you prefer not to join Flickr there are also several threads about the Kaleidoscope running in my Desirable Crochet Motif Ravely Group 

Yesterday I started dyeing the wool for the first quarter, I hoping we can post it out at the beginning of January, the pattern is finished, it all depends on how quickly Phil winds the wool over Christmas.
(I should add that being self employed means we don't ever stop work and even though we won't be dyeing during Christmas we will be working at home.)
As we are dyeing a huge quantity of wool for the club, there will be several different shades of each colour, this means that members will receive a slightly different set of colours to each other, making their finished blankets all unique to them.
Also as different amounts of colours are used in each month we are having to re-wind all the wool into mini skeins of different sizes.
You would not believe the amount of maths involved, luckily Phil (the excel king) decided to make a mega excel spread sheet that works out exactly how much yarn we need for each member.

Anyway here are yesterday's photo's of the first dyeing session, they are a bit blurry as the dye room is steamy when the dye baths are on and I wanted to get photo's of the action as it happened.

The some of the wool (Godiva HT) mordanted by Daisy hanging on the dye room wall waiting to be dyed.

 The first wool dyed, its going to be Woody Bay (green), which is made by dyeing fustic (yellow) and then over dyeing it with indigo. The colour only looks dirty because of the steam.

Woody Bay and Indigo dyed and waiting to be washed.

Woody Bay


Westerwood, waiting patiently next to the indigo bath, ready to be dyed today.

More un-dyed club Godiva and Woody Bay, Watersmeet and Withypool, dyed, washed and ready to go outside on the drying rack to be aired. All our yarns dyed with indigo have to go outside to be aired as indigo is very smelly and being outside seems to get rid of the smell.

Here's some Phil prepared earlier, its Watersmeet which he has test wound to make sure we can get the right sized skeins.

And finally a very sneaky peak of the centre of the actual blanket, there are 50+ motifs for January, so I don't think I'm giving away too much by posting this here.

Oh and I forgot to mention there's still time to sign up for January (you can find the link at the top of the page), but you'll need to be quick.
We are considering offering back membership's, so people can join in during the year and not miss all the fun, we haven't quite worked out the details yet, but will let you know when we have.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Murder on the Moor

With the help of Phil I have managed to create three very gifted and talented creative people.
All three are passionate about their life's work and dedicated to their passion.
 My big girl Fep is an extraordinary painter, creating contemporary mythical worlds on canvas, my baby boy Fred is a computer genius hoping one day to build his own games company.

And my number 2 child is Daisy, (only number 2 because she was born between the other two).
Daisy is a serious writer, she studied creative writing at university and has a passion for the written word.
She has been runner-up in several writing competitions and been published numerous times.

You know her as Daisy of The Natural Dye Studio.
This time last year we had just persuaded her to write a few murder stories for our new NDS Murder on the Moor club, it was a bit of fun and completely different to any other yarn club we knew about.
We wanted a club that was new and exciting, so decided to run a club that each month had the next installment of the murder story, a skein of NDS yarn especially dyed for the club and a clue (gift)

Daisy had never written murder stories before so it was something very new to her.
Her main character is Florence Blackmoor a forensic pathologist/detective, and over the course of the year she got to know Florence and been able to develop her character, as a result Daisy's stories have got better and better
This last quarter's story has been the best so far and finishes on a dramatic cliff hanger, you'll have to sign up HERE for January to find out what happens next......
Incidentally Daisy had rough plots for all 4 of next years stories and I'm really looking forward to reading them, you can find the synopsis of all 4 quarters on the link above.

Lynton is linked to murder stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who frequently visited his friend Sir George Newnes who lived here. Sir George is famous as the  publisher who published The Strand magazine and in 1887 he published the very first Sherlock Holmes story, he also built the Lynton town hall, cliff railway and a mansion on the top of Hollerday Hill.

I like to think that maybe Daisy is following in Sir Arthurs footsteps and maybe Florence will go on to be the new modern day Sherlock Holmes.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Bad maths

I'm working on the Kaleidoscope Club Blanket at the moment.
The crochet bit is easy, but I'm having to do lots of maths, working out how much of each colour is needed for each motif variation and so how much wool is needed to complete each month, then adding it all up to work out how much of each colour is needed for each quarter, so we can send members the right amount of wool.

My maths is appalling, I'm frustrated and confused, there are so many variables that even with a calculator I'm coming up with different totals each time.
Luckily I have Phil and Valerie to check my maths and correct my mistakes, but I have a sense of panic and dread every time I start thinking about maths.

I have really bad number dyslexia (there is a proper name for it, but I can't remember what it is and probably couldn't spell it even if I did remember.
My inability to do maths (and spell and punctuate) has made me feel frustrated and stupid all my life.

remember times when my parents spent long journeys in the car making me recite my times tables, my mother shouted at me at the time, she was good with numbers and she couldn't understand why I couldn't get them right. It wasn't her fault, being number dyslexic wasn't recognised at the time.
Nor was normal dyslexia (which I also suffer from)
I hated maths at school, always got an "e" or failed, reports always said "could do better" and "she doesn't concentrate in class"
Had to take my o'level 2 or 3 times till I passed it and my lovely teacher said she was convinced the exam board had marked my paper incorrectly and with anyone else she would of sent it back to be checked.
English and spelling of any sort was also a struggle, but I loved reading and books, so I took English literature A'level, I hated the essays, but loved the books, so manage to struggle through.

Numbers don't stay in my head, I have no idea what my mobile number is and I've had the same number for about 10 years, after 18 months living here I can almost remember my phone numbers, but sometimes get them wrong too. 
My postcode is a bit of a struggle too, if someone asks me for my phone number I panic and stutter and do my best to remember.

It wasn't until a few years ago that I realised I'm not stupid, its just I have a number problem, but I'm good at other things like colour, design and art.
I've kind of got normal dyslexia under control with spell check, but always spell some words wrong however many times I write them. 
I'm still rubbish at punctuation and normally have to read everything I've written and re-order the words so they make more sense.
Hopefully my writing isn't too bad.
Very occasionally I get e-mails from people pointing out my spelling mistakes and even more very occasionally the e-mails are quite indignant and rude about my lack of professionalism.
I'm sure these people have no problems with spelling or numbers and don't understand that other people do.
In the past I have read forum posts laughing at people who can't spell or punctuate, they just don't understand and assume anyone who makes mistakes is obviously stupid or badly educated.
I find the lack of understanding very sad, everyone is good at something, but the somethings are all different.

I design crochet patterns that need lots of maths, my motifs have got simpler, but my colour layouts have become far more complex.
I've made life difficult for myself, but I love what I do and keep doing it so, have to fight maths on a regular basis.
But having said all this I love geometry and how shapes fit together, I even have a  Pinterest  Geometry board
I guess geometry is visual and as long as I don't have to work out the angles, its brilliant.

I've written this blog post as I know I'm not the only one who struggles with numbers and spelling and punctuation, in fact I gave birth to and work with one - Daisy, who's a writer, which means she's made her life difficult too :-)
I just want to say to them "your'e not alone, don't feel stupid, as your'e not, its just numbers and when you write them down they make pretty patterns" :-)

P.S I didn't let anyone proof this post, so its bound to read all wrong and have the wrong punctuation, I thought it would be a good illustration of my issues.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Twinkly sunny blanket day

After a week of gloomy grey skies we finally have a glorious sunny winter day.
So we took Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on a photo shoot in the Valley of Rocks.

And as a result I've been able to publish the pattern HERE on Craftsy, I'll add it to Ravelry, the NDS website shop and Etsy later.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013


Is my tec editor.
I mention my tec editor quite a lot in my post's, she is a major part of my life and I thought maybe you'd like to know a bit more about her.

I can't quite remember how our relationship came to be, I think I asked for feedback on a design I was publishing.
She was kind enough to take time out of her day to write a really constructive, detailed and helpful appraisal.
So I asked if she would like to help me with more of my patterns and she said yes.
Since then she has worked on every pattern I have written.

I work every waking hour a day, 7 days a week, the time I spend away from NDS and dyeing is spent crocheting and designing.
She is almost always at the other end of an e-mail, whatever time of day or night.
I feel guilty e-mailing her over the weekend as she should really be enjoying her time off and its not her fault I am an obsessive workaholic.
Sometimes I am so wrapped up in my work I don't e-mail her for day's, its not that I'm ignoring her, its just I am ignoring the world and indulging myself in my crochet.
She always understands.

We only ever see each other at show's, where there is never enough time to talk. I fear if there was we would brain storm for hours and hours and hours and maybe its not good for me to have too many new idea's, I have too many already.

The photo below was taken last year, I have made it very small as I'm not how sure she feels about having her picture on-line, we both look like scared rabbits caught in the headlights, I hate to think which problem we were discussing.

Not only does she tec my work, she also comes up with suggestions of how I can improve my patterns, sometimes I love her idea's, sometimes I'm not so sure and don't use them, she always accepts my decision with grace.
I think between us we have come up with a fairly good pattern template, that hopefully is understandable for most people.

On top of all this she also tec's for magazines and is a talented designer in her own right, has several patterns published in magazines and more to be published in the pipeline.
She also dedicates her time to her local knitting group, arranges bus's to the shows, organises KAL's and CAL's and answers my customer's questions.

So if you want to read more about a very modest, reluctant superwoman, you can find her blog HERE 
And her patterns on Ravelry HERE

Monday, 11 November 2013

Twinkle, Twinkle & Kaleidoscope

I've just spent the last 4 day's sitting on my sofa crocheting.
I want to finish Twinkle, Twinkle as soon as possible as I want to start concentrating on the Kaleidoscope Club Blanket.
At the moment I'm obsessed with Twinkle, I need to finish it as I've started the club blanket and I know once I get stuck in I won't be able to do anything else,
 I've taken a few sneaky peak photo's of the club blanket. I want to show you what it looks like so far, but I want it to be secret, so I've tried not to give too much away.

This photo is the whole blanket (so far), its the back folded into quarters, I haven't sewn the ends in yet, just in case the colours are wrong and I have to move them around.

This is a close up of the front.

This is what Twinkle looked like on Thursday morning.

And this is what it looked like last night before I went to bed.

And a few shots taken in daylight over the weekend, the colours are truer. It hasn't been blocked and so it looks lumpy.
And I'm going to run out of the background colour, I'm trying to dye some more, but the chances are it will be totally different, so I have to work out what to do next.......

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Lynmouth Storm - 2nd of November 2013

We live in Lynton which is half way up a hill,  at the bottom of the hill is Lynmouth, which is 2 minutes drive away.
About a week ago we had a severe weather warning for a massive Atlantic storm, the storm didn't really happen here, although I know other parts of the country were badly affected.
But we had our storm on Saturday.

It was high tide at 5 pm, so Phil and I decided to venture out to buy fish and chips for our tea and see what the sea looked like.
We weren't disappointed, as we drove down the hill the sea looked higher than the land, I have never seen it look so dramatic.
Stupidly we had left the camera in the office and so the following photo's were taken with my iPhone.
The photos are dark, because it was getting dark

This is from outside the fish and chip shop looking west towards the Valley of the Rocks.

This was taken from the same place, if you look carefully you can see a small black line, which was a surfer, there were several out surfing - Mentalists!!

The harbour and the Rhenish tower, which shows how high the sea was.
The 2 Lyn rivers meet at Lynmouth, there is a small harbour with a wall that divides the harbour from the river, the tide was so high the wall had disappeared completely.

We walked the dogs over the bridge to the other side of the river, this photo is taken east across the bay looking towards Countisbury hill, you can see a very windswept Phil and Loki, (there is a small black dot in the distance which is Tinks)

And another shot from the same place looking west, the boats you can see are inside the harbour, the harbour wall was under water. When we walked back over the bridge the water had flooded the road in front of the buildings and waves were crashing over the wall in all directions.

The noise of the wind and water crashing twinned with twilight and the fact that the whole village had turned out to look at the sea made it a very surreal experience.
In a very strange way it was magical and I'm glad we braved the storm.
The video below isn't brilliant, but it will give you an idea.

Limited Colour & Experiments

As you already know NDS has had an incredibly busy year, we've done 6 shows and dyed hundreds and hundreds of kilo's of wholesale.
This has meant we have had to stick to our rainbow range.
I spoke to one of our ladies at Ally Pally who commented that our colours have been a "samey" all year.
I understood exactly what she meant, our colour's have had the same names all year, although there has been a huge difference in shades due to the changes in the water, our water comes from a spring off the moor and the rainfall affects the minerals that are washed through the rocks.
For example last year it rained all summer and this year its been sunny and dry, so our colours have been different, the colours also change with the seasons.

We only use 5 dye plant's - Indigo, Fustic, Logwood, Cochineal and Madder, these are the dyes that work best for us, but they limit the colours we can achieve.
Mordants can also alter the dye colours, we also only use alum and cream of tartar which again limits our range.
Chemical dyers have a huge palette of colours to work with and so its a lot easier for them to come up with new colour combinations

Anyway Daisy and I had planned to spend a couple of weeks in the summer experimenting, but we were just too busy and it never happened.
While we were dyeing for Ally Pally I had a bit of a mental blip and dyed far too much Dazzling 4 ply blues, yellows and greens.
So last week we started over-dyeing and experimenting with it.

This is what we did last week........
They'll all be in tomorrow's update at 7 pm UK time, which you will find HERE
We dyeing the rest of my mental blip at the moment, so there will be more next week.
And the week after we'll be playing with white yarn, I can't wait.........

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Twinkle, Twinkle - When a plan goes wrong

After all the show chaos and meeting all my immediate deadlines I finally have time to design what I feel like.
I do have the Kaleidoscope club blanket to make, which does have a deadline, but as I've already finished January there is no urgent rush.

So I have been playing with some idea's and come up with a new blanket design - "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"
Its not symmetrical which is a huge challenge for me, my brain works symmetrically so I have to force myself to not try and rearrange the design.
Its also a mix of colour, rather than blending the colours I am using whatever comes out of my wool basket.
Over the past few months I have begun to realise that you like mixed colours rather than blended colours.
My Lily blanket and Lula scarf are still best sellers and sell more than my newer more organised designs.
I love colour mixes as well as blends, so I don't mind designing some new ones.

Twinkle, Twinkle is the result, made with Godiva HT which is soft and snuggly - one of my favourite blanket yarns.
I thought it might be a nice idea to publish the pattern before Christmas so we could produce starter kits to put on the site so you could buy them as gifts.
It started off like this a couple of weeks ago. I tend to make a swatch then block it to make sure the design is working and at this stage I was happy.
The colours and focus aren't quite right in the following photo's, some were taken with my phone and others were taken inside, so they are all a bit off. I normally photograph all my designs outside as the natural dye colours look their best in nature :-)
The colours of the wool at the bottom of the page are the correct ones and colours I am using in the blanket.

Then I did a bit more, even though I still liked it I decided that the dark background was wrong, it stood out and made the central colour blur, so I changed it, which was/is not an easy job!
To start with I couldn't come up with a background I liked, most of them took too much emphasis off the stars, I really liked a mosaic of blues, aquas and greens, but all the blue stars disappeared into the background.
Eventually I came up with all the little circles.
The photo below shows the existing dark background and the circles I was experimenting with.

Like a good crochet motif maker I had sewn in almost all my ends, so for the past 10 days I have been cutting out all the solid dark blue/motifs and replacing them.
Considering I'd almost finished 2 sides of background its taken me ages, a lot longer to cut and frog than it took me originally to crochet and sew in the ends.

This was how it looked yesterday afternoon when I came home from work.
Its progressed a bit further as I worked on it last night, I've almost finished replacing the dark background motifs and am back to the place where I started cutting and frogging.
If you look closely you can see all the ends I haven't sewn in, I want to make sure its right before I commit myself and have to cut and frog all over again!

 The photo below was taken with the flash and has bleached the colours, but it does show what the blanket looks like when it is the right way around, so I've included it.

This weeks NDS yarn update contains an awful lot of Godiva HT, including mini Skeins and colour collections. Twinkle, Twinkle uses all our rainbow colours, so if you want to make it now is the time to start collecting skeins. The update will be live tomorrow (31st of October 2013) at 7 pm and you will be able to find it HERE

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Pinterest and what it means to me

After writing my last blog post about how I'm struggling to find enough time to do social networking.
I'm going to admit to having a slightly unhealthy obsession with Pinterest.
It's something I look at when I have a spare 5 minutes, before I go to sleep, when I'm too tired to crochet, at least 3 or 4 times a day.

I have been a member for several years and never taken much interest in it, to be honest I couldn't see the point of saving pictures of cake and clothes I want to wear.
You might not believe this when looking at me, but I'm not a food person, I eat because I have to, not because I enjoy it, it just doesn't excite me.
But I have a foodie for a husband who does all the cooking and has made it his life's work to ensure I don't starve, he's a brilliant cook and always cooks too much. And has been known to sulk when if I leave anything, hence the fact I'm quite round and not a skinny beanpole.

Anyway back to Pinterest..
When I was at art college we were actively encouraged to keep scrapbooks of pictures that inspired us and I have recently discovered Pinterest is a giant scrapbook with pictures and inspiration found from the entire internet.
I do have a couple of boards that are pointless, such as my Lurcher and Sheep board's, I've saved the photo's because I like lurchers and sheep.
But I have lots of boards full of quilt's, crochet, islamic tiles, textiles, colour's, texture and shape.

I'm also beginning to realise that peoples boards reflect their personalities, its fascinating to discover that you can tell exactly whether they like cooking and clothes or where they want to live or who they want to be etc etc
I'm not sure what my boards say about me, except I like sports cars, lurchers, sheep and the whole rainbow, texture and shape.

I'll let you decide for yourselves.....

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The end of our show year & social networking

Here at NDS we have had a very, very busy year.
Our last show was Ally Pally which was last weekend, since our return home we have been trying to relax and catch up on sleep.
So I have been very, very quiet on the social networking front

We haven't really had a break since January, each month was packed full.
Every month we dye on average 100 kgs for clubs, wholesale and retail stock.
Sometimes we have more wholesale, sometimes we have less.
We started planning the shows we had booked in January.
Our first show was Unravel in February.
The we did the big European trade show in Cologne in March.

Wonderwool in April.
I published my second crochet motif book in May.

Then we did Woolfest in June.

In July, August and the beginning of September we dyed for Yarndale and The Knitting and Stitching show, a total of 6 days show, 2 weeks apart.
Plus I published Madder Triangles in September

All this has meant I haven't had much time to chat on-line, which has resulted in our Ravelry group going to sleep and Twitter almost ignoring me, however our Facebook group has grown and grown and grown.
Social networking is really important to a small business like ours, so I constantly feel guilty that I'm not keeping up with friends, customers and the news.
But something has to give, the 3 of us work 7 days a week, just to keep the work under control.

And now we can have a bit of a rest, although we still have clubs, wholesale and retail stock to dye.
Plus I have some very exciting crochet design work in a very distant pipeline.
I also have a complete crochet motif collection book planned asap, maybe in time for Christmas if I can fit it in.
Plus I need to finish the pattern for a design which is being published in a magazine very shortly.
And finish and publish my Florence blanket.

And finish and publish my new Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Blanket.

And finally finish and plan the Kaleidoscope club blanket.

I'm not complaining we've had an amazing year, I loved every minute of it, we've met loads and loads of customers, both old and new, but please forgive me if I seem absent.
Don't worry we're still here.................