Monday 29 June 2015

The Joy of Wool

I think you might of realised by now that I am a yarn snob, I only use natural fibres.
I would say 100% natural fibres, but I will stretch to a small percentage of synthetic fibre in a yarn as long as its not over 25%.

I spend a lot of time social networking and looking at pictures of crochet via Pinterest and Instagram.
I am sad to see the numbers of crocheters who seem to use synthetics and nothing else, who not only exclusively use synthetic but seem oblivious to the possibilities of using other fibre types.
At the moment there seems to be a trend to use a certain brand (which I will not name),
Recently on several occasions I have been e-mailed by crocheters wanting to know which colours of that particular brand do I use in my blankets......sigh.......

So rather than dwell on the over reliance of synthetic for crochet I am going to share my joy of wool.

Wool is warm, malleable and cuddly.
It can be soft, sophisticated and refined such as a expensive merino or rustic and full of character such a rare breed hand spun wool.
Some of the more rustic yarns still smell of sheep and have lanolin left in them, for some people this would be a bad thing, but I love the fact that I am working with an almost living fibre.
Part of my enjoyment of crochet is the yarn itself and how it feels in my hands, I love the warmth and texture and tones of colour, even the chemically dyed cheaper wool yarns have a depth I haven't seen in a synthetic yarn.

Incidentally I should add I don't use synthetics now, but I have done in the past and so have some knowledge.

There are several misconceptions about wool.

1 - Its expensive
Yes - Indie dyer/Specialist spun wool is quite a bit more expensive than synthetic yarn.
But there are budget ranges of wool that are perfect for blankets, which are slightly more expensive than the cheaper synthetics, but you could still make one of my smaller blankets for under £50.
Recently I have been exploring cheaper wool ranges to recommend for my blankets, the first 2 brands I have discovered are Drops and Cascade, both these companies have a huge range of yarns and colours that are well worth exploring.
However there are many companies who spin cheaper wool yarns, if you search Wool DK on Love Crochet, you will find a world of wool waiting for you to discover.

But if you want to treat yourself to something special, go and have a look at one of the following yarn companies, they all sell beautiful wool, they are all my friends and I love their yarn and thoroughly recommend all of them.
John Arbon Textiles, Skein Queen, Easyknits, Knitting Goddess, Fyberspates and Posh

2 - It is not machine washable.
Completely wrong!!
Look for the superwash wool's, in the past I dyed quite a few for NDS and made several garments that were bunged in the washing machine time and time again.
However you will need to check the washing instructions or ask the manufacturer before you throw them in the wash.

3 - Wool is itchy/scratchy
Some of the cheaper wool yarns aren't as soft as they could be, but then so are some of the cheaper synthetics.
I have read comments on Ravelry from knitters/crocheters advising others that if you wash your itchy synthetic yarn with fabric or hair conditioner then it softens up!!
The yarn isn't getting any softer, all you are doing is coating it with a conditioner that makes it feel soft!
In my experience wool gets softer over time and synthetic gets harder.
I have several blankets made by my Granny about 30 or 40 years ago, she didn't actually buy yarn, instead she went to jumble sales and searched out the hand knits, frogged them and re-made them as blankets.
The synthetic yarns are rock hard and the natural yarns are still soft, obviously synthetic has come a long way in 40 years, but even still how are we to know what it will feel like in 40 years time.
If you are putting all your time and love into  heirloom blanket, you still want it to be just as beautiful in 40 years as the day you finished it.

4 - Wool is produced by cruel sheep farmers who mistreat their animals.
Recently PETA have produced a disgusting video of sheep being shorn in a very cruel and barbaric fashion, I will not link it here as I find it so upsetting, but if you want to watch it you can find it easily on a goggle search.
There are "bad pennies" in every industry and PETA has focussed on one of them, the practises seen in the video should be outlawed and the people performing them should be prosecuted and banned from contact with animals.
However I live in an area where sheep are the main farming crop.
I've watched sheep being shorn on numerous occasions and have never seen a sheep treated in this way, I find it outrageous that all sheep farmers have been tarred with the same brush, it makes me very angry.
I could write pages and pages of venom aimed at PETA for producing such a one sided argument and the damage it will do to farmers who are ethical and do the right thing.
I have supported PETA in the past as I am an animal lover and believe in animal rights, but I also support my local farmers who are eking out their living in a difficult place and treat their animals with care and compassion.

I've also read articles on how animal farming destroys the environment and how we should only be using vegan yarns.
I have very strong feelings about so called vegan yarns, but I need to stop writing this blog post before it becomes too much of a rant and leave you with the following Bamboo link as a counter argument, it may be extreme, but its no more extreme than the PETA video!.

Monday 22 June 2015


Good morning from a very gloomy damp Lynton.
There are 2 pigeons on the roof opposite that looks like its been through the washing machine.
They are very tiny in the photo, but it will give you an idea.

I spent a lot of last week working on the two Zodiac club blankets.
I designed the pattern over a year ago, it was incredibly complex as it contains all the Zodiac constellations laid out in roughly the right order and placements, the maths involved took weeks and weeks, luckily Valerie did an amazing job and patiently walked me through it all.
Although at one point she discovered I'd miss counted the number of motifs and all the numbers were wrong, luckily it was quite early on :-)
The blanket was designed for a NDS crochet blanket club, members who signed up for the club received all the yarn needed and 12 instalments of the pattern to run throughout the whole of 2015.
We started selling memberships this time last year, a lot of knitters wanted to join in and asked for the knitted version, so Valerie took on the job of turning my crochet motifs into knitted motif patterns.
And Phil took on the job of knitting all the motifs, but I agreed to sew in all his ends and join them together to form the blanket.

We both finished January in time to exhibit at Yarndale in September, so we could promote the club.

Phil started knitting motifs in the autumn, but I left my crochet version until the winter because I was making book blankets.
I decided to make the blankets side by side, so they were always at the same stage, this meant I could photograph them together on the same day in the same light.
Phil has always been several months ahead of me with his motifs as he just kept churning them out and didn't stop to do something else.
I had a panic in January when I realised I hadn't even started to think about February, so I finished both blankets up to April and put them aside again.

Then I had another panic in April as I hadn't started May, so again finished both blankets up to August.

(This is a photo of July, the pattern instalment hasn't been sent to the members yet, but I'm sure they will forgive me for the sneaky peak :-)

I've been half heartedly doing bits here and there.


And to be honest making the Zodiac's have become a chore, I get bored working on old designs, as they are never as good as the new designs in my head and I want to move forwards rather than stagnate or go backwards.
I had begun to dread working on the Zodiac's as they were taking ages, making a single crochet blanket on its own would of been fine, I would of finished making it months ago, but having to sew in Phil's ends and construct his blanket as well made the job twice as long and far more difficult.
I'm not happy with the finish of the knitted blanket, but I'm a newbie at knitted blankets so really have to expect that it won't be as good as the crochet one.

I gave us both a deadline and decided he had to finish the knitting and I had to finish the crochet by August, he finished the knitting a couple of weeks ago, he's done so well and I'm really proud of him and his knitting achievement.
But I think he's really missing making his Zodiac as he still hasn't decided on what to knit next and keeps flicking through his pattern books looking for inspiration, maybe I ought to suggest another blanket to him.

Since he finished the knitting I have been very aware of my looming deadline, I had to force myself to finish the September installment, it seemed to take forever and I did a lot of moaning. I eventually finished September last week and only got round to photographing them yesterday.

I have had an awful lot of self doubt about the Zodiac's, the members are very quite and I'm still not sure if they like the blankets, part of me thinks that the Zodiac's have failed as a design, maybe they were too complex and the pattern is too random, its certainly not symmetrical and I like symmetrical best.
 But two things have happened that have given me back my enthusiasm and the excitement I need to finally finish both blankets.

The first is the photo below that I posted on Instagram during the week, its had a massive amount of likes and lovely comments.
Its of the edge of the crochet blanket.

The second is the realisation that the end is very near and now I can't wait finish them both.
 Last night I added the October motifs to the knitted blanket and am half way to adding the October crochet motifs, I would be working on the Zodiac's now but I have to write this blog post and do some charts for another project......

Monday 15 June 2015

Birthday and Cornucopia

Good sunny monday morning - :-)

I'm busy, busy, busy adding yarn to the Etsy shop, plus a million other things, so this is a instagram round up post and photo heavy.

I spent the whole of last week working away in the background on my secret Love Crochet project, which hopefully will be revealed in the next week or so.
 But I do have some non secret photo's to share.
On Tuesday I felt a bit rubbish so went to see Mandy at Amanda Janes cake shop for a cup of tea and photographed her amazing rainbow display cake, decorated by her glamourous assistant Kat.

On Wednesday I played with last weeks swatches and decided that the triangle swatch wasn't working, but the square one was.
I love the mix of chemical and natural colour, it adds a whole new dimension to my work, so I've decided to turn this swatch into a blanket.
I think I'm going to call it Cornucopia, because the colours are very fruity, plus my Dad had a yacht called Cornucopia in the 1980's.
However I have discovered the colours are almost impossible to photograph, so there will probably be a lot of wip photo's to come.
The ones below are almost right.


On Thursday Billy was forced to sit on some plastic bags full of my book blankets because I had been very thoughtless and not left them out for him to sit on.

On Friday Dais and I went for a pre-birthday Exmoor adventure.
She took me to Nutcombe Bottom to see the tallest tree in England.

And to Winsford Hill to see a rock in a shed (the rock is actually the 6th century Caratacus Stone)

Saturday was my birthday, Phil bought me some lucky cat's to add to my collection, one day I will have enough to fill a whole mantelpiece and maybe the luck to go with them.

And then we went on our annual birthday road trip, this year we went to Bude, the weather was appalling, we spent most of the drive in a wet and windy cloud, but we did have a lovely ice cream here on the beach.


And yesterday Phil and Adam and I had a lovely stroll along the Lyn Way for a Sunday lunch at the Cottage Inn, which actually turned out to be a lovely surprise birthday lunch with all our friends (apart from poor Dais who was working).
The Cottage Inn has recently been taken over by Pam and Gary, who used to run the Nartnapa Thai Resturant in Lynton.
If you are in the area and love Thai food the cottage is a must to visit, the whole village missed them like mad when they went home to Thailand to spend Christmas with Pam's family :-)

Monday 8 June 2015

Secrets and colour

Last week was all about pattern writing, this time for the book.
I finally have a book skeleton, its very scary to see it printed out and in a display book, but its also very exciting and beginning to feel real.
I did take a photo of some wool on top of the display book so I could show you, but I must of deleted it off the camera as I can't find it.

I have almost finished Book Blanket no 8 (only 2 more to go :-) and I discovered I had made far too many of these
They are far too pretty to go to the discard pile, so I thought I'd make a new blanket for me to self publish and did a little bit of swatching.
I can't really spend much time developing it further at the moment as I have too many other things to do, but I'm quite happy with the swatch (even though the photo is a bit rubbish)


As I've almost finished no 8, I need some yarn for no 9, so I acquired some Knit by Numbers DK from the John Arbon Textiles shop round the corner.
There are a few colours missing, one of them is the pink, which is being spun shortly, so I'm a bit reluctant to start the blanket without it.

As I've started writing the book, I need to start working on swatches for illustration, I've already finished 2 of the colour wheels, so needed to make the last one, so started playing with the yarn in my colour wheel basket.
And subsequently found another pile of tiny motifs to play with, which ended up with another idea for a blanket I don't have time to make.


This one will incorporate a skein of Easyknits and Skein Queen, which are both saturated colour, but I think will look amazing with the natural colours.
The motifs are going to be tiny, the squares in the photo below are only 2 inches wide, so I will have to make millions for a blanket, so its going to be a very long process.

So I have 2 forbidden blankets, that I shouldn't be working on as I don't have the time, and it was a huge struggle to put them to one side.

But luckily I am easily distracted, and was especially distracted when the yarn arrived for my secret Love Crochet project.


I can't tell you much about the project yet, I've finished half the crochet bit and am going to start writing the patterns to day.
But I can tell you about the yarn and give you the colour numbers so you can start collecting.
The yarn is Lang Baby Cotton,  its a perfect time to buy as its reduced from £4.25 to £3.80
You can find it HERE
The colours are as follows 14 (yellow), 16 (lime), 116 (apple), 74 (jade), 79 (duck egg), 78 (turquoise), 46 (violet), 7 (lilac), 19 (pale barbie), 55 (pink), 128 (soft red), 27 (orange)
The colours don't actually have names, they are only listed as numbers on the site, the names are mine and hopefully will make it easier for you to choose.
Hopefully I'll be able to tell you more about the project next week.

And yesterday I actually took some time off work and we went for a afternoon stroll to Lynmouth for an ice cream.
I have never seen the tide so low, the photo below will give you an idea of how far you needed to walk to get to the sea.
If you click on the photo its should bring up an enlargement, its a panoramic photo which makes the river look wonky, its straight in real life.
If you look carefully at the base of the hill you can just make out the buildings at Lynmouth.

Monday 1 June 2015

Colour theory and excuses

Last week I did a little bit of moaning about the fact I can't share what I'm crocheting at the moment.
I have 3 secret projects on the go at the moment.

The first and biggest project is my book, I have finally started writing patterns and realised I have a mountain of work to do.
Luckily the blankets are under control, I've finished 7 blankets and am well over half way through number 8, numbers 9 and 10 are in the design stage.
Number 9 is going to be relatively simple, but I'm planning a mega complex explosion of colour for number 10 :-)
The second project is the Zodiac which is really 2 in 1 as I'm having to sew in Phil's ends and construct the knitted blanket as well as the crochet one.
I think we are up to September, I'd like to get it finished ASAP, but I need to be realistic and do all the other things I need to do too.
And the last project is something I am working on for Love Crochet, hopefully all will be revealed in the very near future.

All these projects mean that I don't really have much to say or share with you, I've been very quiet on Instagram and my other social networking sites.
Yesterday I decided I needed to do something positive about it rather than moaning that I was too busy.

So here is yesterday's work.
It is the beginnings of a colour wheel/rainbow tutorial.
I made my own life incredibly difficult when I closed NDS, all my designs are made out of NDS yarns and so I need to recommend replacements to you so you can make my designs.
I didn't realise how difficult finding yarns to recommend would be, firstly I need to find natural yarns that I enjoy using and then I need to choose the yarns that have the biggest colour ranges in them..sigh..
DK isn't too difficult as there are lots of DK yarns I like, but 4 ply is proving a bit of a nightmare.

So to make it as easy as possible for you I decided I needed to do some swatches to explain what I'm trying to say.

I started off with 2 big piles of yarn, because stupidly I thought I could do all the colour wheel swatches for both in a day!
The 2 yarns are my NDS colours, which are my default colours and the other yarn is Drops Alpaca


After I had crocheted a couple of base circles I realised I didn't have time to do both yarns, so the Drops Alpaca got put back in the basket for another day.
My plan was to do 3 wheels for each yarn, one for the primary colours, one for the secondary colours and one whole wheel.

I started with the whole wheel (primary, secondary and tertiary colours)  as it was easier to work backwards.
The base colour is silver, as I don't really like white, its far too easy to get dirty.
I try not to wear white as it seems to instantly attract food, whether I've eaten or not.
Anyway this is the whole NDS colour wheel, these are most of the colours I use for all my designs.
There are a few other colours, but if you collect these you should be able to make most of my blankets easily.

 I photographed the wheel on a white background as in theory this would give the truest colours, however I also photographed it on the natural wooden background of my coffee table because I like the way the colours look against the wood.

Neither of the above photo's look completely right, so I will need to take lots more photo's before I am happy with them.

The same goes for the photo's below, which are the secondary colours in the colour wheel.
Then I ran out of time and so the primary colour wheel is missing.
Once I've finished the 3 NDS wheels I will re-photograph them and write an explanation that hopefully will make a lot more sense than the waffle I have written in the blog post :-)