Thursday 31 January 2013

Coincidence or not??

As I have already told you on several occasions I am not a prolific designer.
Each one of my designs takes ages to make and design, I put my heart and soul into my crochet, I do it because I love it.
So when I discover that someone might have copied me I get very upset and angry.
My designs are very personal to me and I feel betrayed and helpless.
My initial reaction is to shout about it and make a huge fuss, then calm down, forget about it and move on.
Yesterday I was made aware of the pattern below.
I decided to sleep on it and to see how I felt in the morning.

Lily is probably my most popular pattern, it was first published in 2011 and was a best seller almost instantly.
It has nearly 2300 hearts on Ravelry, plus loads of projects.
We have sold thousands and thousands of copies of the Lily pattern all over the world.
It always has pride of place on our stand at shows and always gets lots of attention and admirers.
Lily was designed in honour of my mother, so is very personal and special to me.

Our Mini Skein club grew out of the need for mini skeins to make Lily.

Last year not only was the Lily pattern in my blanket book, its also the cover photo.

So why am I so upset??
I'm upset because I found the links to this.....

The motif is almost identical, the foundation chain has more stitches, round 2 uses trebles instead of half trebles and round 5 is missing.

My Lily chart.

The other one

You can find it HERE on Ravelry.
You will notice the published date is January 2013.
There's a Facebook group HERE
and best and most upsetting of all it's been published in a book which is currently selling on Amazon.

Now you tell me...
Is it a coincidence?
Am I overreacting and being too sensitive??
Should I grow a thicker skin and be less of a drama queen??

I don't know, what do you think?

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Star Scarf part 2

Here it is.

The orange trianges have begun to fade.
And you should be able to see the design emerging.

Sunday 27 January 2013

Quiet day's & books

The snow has gone and the temperature has gone back up, the birds are singing and the sun is shining and its very peaceful here on Sunday morning.

I thought I would share what I have been doing for the last few days.
We were snowed out of the studio for several days last week, so we have been working at home.
I decided it was about time I started on the next motif book, so I have been gathering motif patterns together and sorting through swatches and photographs.
It doesn't sound like a lot, but it takes ages, each photo needs editing and charts need to be re-checked.
Today is day 3 of photo editing, so I'm having a break for a while and writing this post.
My evenings are spent crocheting and I have a lot of swatches to make for the book, but I'm really struggling to make them, all I want to do is make orange triangles.

So not only am I working on a motif book, I'm also working on an orange triangle book.
I'm using the same motif for all the designs and each one will have at least 1 orange triangle lurking in the design.

So far I've made 2 blankets and 1 scarf and have just started work on a second scarf.
You have already seen the first blanket - Lecchi
And sneaky peaks of the second blanket which is still secret.
The first scarf is going to be published in a magazine, but I do have a photo to share.
Its a pile of ends, I like sewing in ends, if you do it at the end or beginning of every time you sit down to crochet it becomes easy and a lot less stressful.
But sometimes I don't want to stop crocheting so end up with a huge amount to sew in, thats why I have this pile of ends.

For the last couple of night I should of been swatching motifs, but did this instead - its the second scarf.
Can you see the orange triangles??
Its made with Dazzling lace and so this swatch is quite small, I'm hoping the orange triangles will disappear into the background as it grows.

This scarf won't be secret so I can post photo's as I make it, but you won't be able to buy the pattern until I publish the book :-))

Sunday 20 January 2013

Why I use natural dyes

When I first started dyeing 12 years ago I couldn't afford chemical dyes, so I used what was in my garden and the local hedgerows.
I became very skilled at dyeing yellow and beige, but there are only so many times you can use yellow and beige, so I saved up and bought a few chemical colours.
I hated them, they didn't have any character and I didn't know what to do with the exhausted dye baths, it seemed wrong to pour something down the drain that I was unsure of. 
Was it harmful? or was it safe?
I didn't know anyone to ask, so went back to my natural dyes.
I still don't know much about chemical dyes, but I do know a lot of chemical dyers who are ethical, responsible and skilled people and that their dyes are tried and tested to be as safe as possible.

In the early day's I used alum and cream of tartar as mordants, they were freely available, alum was used in hospitals to bath bed sores and cream of tartar was used in cooking, so I felt that I was safe to use them without harming the environment.
After a year or so of yellow and beige I discovered a supplier who sold historical plant dyes and mordants.
My world changed, suddenly my colour palette was a lot bigger and I had the option to use lots of different mordants which made the palette possibilities even bigger.

I quickly wrote off using the mordants as most of them are heavy metals and certainly couldn't be poured down the drain.
So I still only use alum and cream of tartar.

The dyes were all the raw materials, which meant lots of boiling and soaking to extract the colours.
It was like making mud pies for adults, I loved it.
I used the raw plants for many years and was very snotty about extracts as I believed it was cheating.
But then NDS grew too big, we needed to cut down on the time it took to prepare a dye bath, so now I use extracts.
Most of our extracts are made by a very ethical company who grow a lot of their own organic plants and are soil association certified.
They are only too happy to give us advice and answer all our dye related questions.
When I first started using extracts I was really happy to discover that they behaved in exactly the same way as the plants.

I find it impossible to obtain the same colour from the same dye using the same recipe each time.
The dyes are effected by the water quality, weather and the time of year.
For example the dyes play up in the winter and the colours lose their intensity, but by the spring we can get a lot deeper, more saturated colour.

For example the first photo below shows Angel lace dyed in the spring and the second shows Angel lace dyed in late autumn.

Last year we moved to Devon from Suffolk, our water type changed from alkaline to acid. 
The water type effects the colour, its been a huge learning curve and challenge not knowing what colour to expect.
The colours seem darker and more intense here, but we have to add chalk to several of the dyes, to get a similar colour.
It will take us several years to know what to expect each season.

You may notice I am using "we" instead of "I", thats because Daisy our number 2 daughter moved with us and has become my apprentice, we have learnt about the new colours and how the dyes react together.
Its been a huge amount of fun, every dye bath is exciting.
She has by-passed the years of stinging nettle dyeing and gone straight to extracts.
But she's already become a skilled dyer, some days she does all the dyeing and creates new colours on her own.

But this year we are faced with a new colour challenge, but I'll tell you more about that another day.

Saturday 19 January 2013

Our very first snow in Lynton

Occasionally it used to snow in Suffolk, not much, but a little bit.
Over the past week I've been following the weather forecast and its seems to be snowing a lot in Suffolk, but we didn't have any here.
While Suffolk was snowed in we had manky grey drizzle, but all that changed on Thursday night.

We woke up to snowy Lynton yesterday morning, we are very close to the sea and the roads were melting by about 10 am so Phil decided we would go to work.
He wouldn't accept that there would be more snow the higher you went and persuaded Dais and myself that it would be fine and we were being wimps, so off we all went.
The drive up the hill was very slow and tricky on the hair pin bend, there were several places where snow was drifting across the road, but even still he was determined to get through.
Eventually we got through, Alta Lyn is up a tiny lane, up a little hill and down a little hill.
Up was ok, down was ok, but turning the van round so we could go home wasn't.
The van got stuck on the very small hill, luckily there is a grit box outside the studio gate, so Phil had to do griting just to get the van out so we could go home again.

Here are some of the photo's just to prove we made it.

Outside the dyeroom

The studio and dyeroom

Lynton from Alta Lyn

And Daisy being a standing up snow angel.

After a manic post packing session we made it down the hill very slowly with not too much trouble.
When we got home Phil took Loki out for a walk and took lots more photo's

The Torrs hotel, Lynmouth from the North Walk

The Lynton cricket pitch in the Valley of Rocks


Loki loves to roll in snow

Hollerday Hill from South Cliff, if you look really careful you can see a row of wild goats walking along the path in the middle of the photo.

Countisbury Hill from the North Walk

And finally the Valley of Rocks

Thursday 17 January 2013

Don't be scared of colour

I often have e-mails from customers worrying about whether the have the right colour for a project.
And also worried about whether one colour will go with another.
So I thought I'd write a blog post about it.

Firstly DON'T be scared of colour.
I bet you are not really scared of colour, even though you think you are.

Have you ever bought a dress and then needed to find a pair of shoes to match?
The dress and shoes probably aren't the same shade, its difficult to find leather and cloth in the exact same shade as both materials are dyed in a different way, so different dyes will be used.
Have you ever planned flower beds? You may know you wanted a pink here and a yellow there, but  nature decides for its self and even if you think you know the colour, you will end up with a different shade.
Or have you planned a wedding with a colour theme?
Buying bridesmaid dresses, napkins, flowers etc to match will end up a series of similar shades, but not the exact colour.

The wool photo below shows you an example of several different shades that go together and would be interchangeable.

See its not so difficult afterall, you do it all the time without even realising it.

For some reason knitters and crocheters can get incredibly stressed about using the right colour for a project. Personally I don't think there is right colour, as colours look different in different light.
If you are trying to use a similar colour, compare the new one to the old by squinting at them, its easy to tell which are the wrong colours as they will stand out from the right ones.

This bit is the advice to my customers who worry about getting the right colours for my designs.

I am lucky because I have a huge stash that is also known as shop stock, so I have a massive amount of colours to choose from. But I quite often find I have run out of colour and have to replace it with a different shade,.
If you look at my designs carefully you will find that I use lots of different dyelots in the same project.
Its easier to blend colours with crochet motifs, especially multi coloured ones.
For example the photo below, I have raised the contast so it's more obvious. The 2 motifs marked with crosses have backgrounds that are slightly different shades, it more obvious if you see the blanket in the flesh.
But its not too obvious for the motifs to stand out as being wrong.

You might be making a 3 round motif, the 1st round is pink, the second is purple and the third orange, maybe you run out of pink, you can add a different shade of pink, the motif will still look right with the others, there will just be a subtle difference.
I like the subtle differences I think they give a project more depth and detail, without much effort.
Another good thing about motif's is that you are only making a small piece 1 at a time, rather like jigsaw pieces. If you find a oolour that is wrong you can easily start again with a new colour.

I hope this post makes sense, I have a lot to say about colour, but its very jumbled in my head.
I really need to write it all down and do some proper blog posts about it.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

New book?

I promised to tell you more about my colour experiment plans.
As you may have already realised I am doing lots of work with a triangle motif.
All of my recent designs use the same motif, sometimes I use 4 rounds, sometimes 6.
But its still the same basic motif however many I use.

The difference between each design is colour, shape and pattern.
I am so obsessed with the motif and what I can do with it.

This is the starting point for all my designs

So far I have made 2 lap blankets and am working on a lace scarf.
But I have layouts for another 3 blankets, 2 shawls and 2 scarves and I think if I play with photoshop for too long there are more designs lurking.

I'd like to do a book of some of my triangle designs, but am not sure if people want books on colour, shape and patterns. I haven't seen any, but that doesn't mean to say there aren't any.
I've always been a huge fan of Kaffe Fassett, his thing is colour and pattern, I could spend hours looking at his books, not for his knitting patterns, but for the colours and shapes.
I'm not saying I'm want to be Kaffe, but I would love to be as talented and as inspirational.
People love Kaffe, so maybe my book would be ok.

I am worried that you might be disappointed with a crochet book with only one motif in it and that pretty diagrams and photo's might not be enough.
What do you think? I'd love to know.

Although I would say I am going to be guided by your opinion's before I make a decision as to whether I should do a book or not.
But I think I'm far too obsessional to listen.
But I am really interested to know what you think........

Monday 14 January 2013

More time....

I follow some knitwear/crochet designers on Twitter, they talk about their new designs and pattern writing exploits.
A lot of them seem to publish new patterns every few weeks
I want to do that too, I wish I had the time, but I don't

I can't publish patterns every couple of weeks for two reasons.
The first is because most of my designs are blankets which take weeks and weeks to make.
I could get them made for me so I could design more, but to me they are like pieces of art and I don't know what they are going to be until I have finished them.
I change my mind about colours and stitches and shapes designing and refining as I go along.
So blankets are my first stumbling block.

The second is I'm too busy.
My mornings are spent running NDS and dyeing, in theory my afternoons should be spent designing.
But most day's my mornings finish at 5 pm and thats only beacuse we have to go back down the hill to the post office to catch the last post.
If it wasn't for the last post they would probably finish about midnight.
Occasionally I manage a whole afternoon and very very occasionally I manage a whole day.
So all my designing and crocheting is done in the evenings, we tend to stay up late, Phil knitting and me crocheting.
Not because we want to stay up late, but because we want to cram as many hours of playing with wool in as we possibly can.

I love my life and wouldn't want to do anything else.
I live the dream even though its hard work, every second is worth the fight.

But even still I get slightly jealous, every time someone talks about their latest pattern and shares photo's.
Wish I had more time.......

Saturday 12 January 2013

Spare a thought for Verity

I'm sitting here on my nice snuggly sofa crocheting in front of the fire.
From where I sit I can see the top of Summer House Hill, its not very summery today, its cold and bleak with horizontal rain, we have snow forecast so its going to be even bleaker soon.

The bleak coldness reminds me of the day we went to see Verity a couple of weeks ago, I meant to blog some photo's at the time, but then Ted got ill and died and I forgot.
But I've remembered now so here is the blog post.......

Verity is a 65 foot bronze Damien Hirst sculpture, she was stands at the entrance of Illfracombe harbour.
She was erected last October and we have been meaning to go and see her ever since.
We finally found the time just after Christmas when all our babies were here.
It was a bitterly cold bleak day, the sea was boiling, Verity must of been freezing, but I'm sure she's a lot colder today.

Friday 11 January 2013

Orange Triangle Obsession

I promised a post about orange triangles yesterday, so here it is.

I am struggling with an orange triangle obsession, at the moment they are the only thing I want to make.
My first orange triangle's design was Lecchi that I also blogged about yesterday.
Here it is in case you missed it.

I finished Lecchi and immediately started on a new blanket, which at the moment is still secret so I can only show you tiny detail shots.
This new blanket started off with a Withypool/Woody Bay background.
It doesn't look too bad in the photo below, but this is the centre and the further out it went the worse it got.

I kept crocheting even though I wasn't 100% happy and eventually decided that I hated it so much I had to frog it, so I did and replaced all the Withypool/Woody Bay background. with Lundy (orange).
As a result I was a million times happier :-)
And I'm extra happy with the finished piece.

Number 3 design of my orange triangle obsession was frogged.
It was going to be an aran blanket, I tried sooooo hard not to use orange triangles, I wasn't happy so I kept frogging. Eventually the wool looked Like I had used it to clean the floor with and I still hated the blanket.
So I binned it all.
Sometimes things just don't work and I have found its better to bin and walk away than keep frustrating myself further. I hate doing it, but it always makes me feel better when the binning process is done and dusted.

I started crocheting number 4 design last night.
Its made with Dazzling lace, I didn't think I had a Lundy so thought I was safe with an slightly orange/gold instead.
But today I discovered some Lundy Dazzling Lace in stock that I didn't realise we had, so I'm taking a skein home with me. I'm kind of hoping it will be too bright so I can't use it..
The design will be a ripple scarf, sorry the photo is a bit rubbish, it was taken with my phone this morning.

The other thing all these orange triangles have in common is that they are the same motif, its very simple and plain.
But is perfect for colour experiments, but I'll tell you more about those another day.....maybe tomorrow......

Thursday 10 January 2013

Very proud day

I've been very quiet about my crochet projects recently.
You might be forgiven for thinking I had given up and taken up sky diving instead.
But I haven't, all my recent projects have been secret one's, these include 2 new blankets.

Today I can finally share the first blanket - Lecchi.
Lecchi was designed and started while I was on holiday in Tuscany last year.
Lecchi marks the beginning of my orange triangle obsession, which I will blog about in the very near future.

Lecchi has just been published in a brand new British crochet magazine, its called Simply Crochet and comes from the same stable as Simply Knitting and The Knitter.
I was asked if I would like to be involved months ago and I was delighted and excited to be part of it.
But I had to keep it a secret.
Today is the day that Simply Crochet is launched in the shops - so I'm doing a happy happy dance.
Not only has Lecchi been published, but its also on the front cover.

You can find Simply Crochet's website HERE