Monthly Archives: October 2016

All Aboard The Stylecraft Blog Tour Bus For A Giveaway And A Free Pattern!

Have you been following this year’s Stylecraft Blog Tour? Yesterday, designer/author Sue Pinner showed us her marvellous Spinning Top crochet blanket pattern.

Six new shades have been added to the aran and the chunky Stylecraft Special acrylic ranges, and the fine fibrous folk at Stylecraft have mixed these up with some of the existing shades to make a couple of different ten-ball colour packs that they’ll be selling for a while. Over the summer, they kindly gave a few of us yarniacs a pack to try out. (Did I mention that this yarn-blogging thing is SOOOO TOUGH?!) This year’s blog tour gives a dozen of us the chance to show off what we’ve been making with our yarn.

I chose the ‘Parchment’ pack in chunky weight. Look!Stylecraft Special Chunky blog tour
Anyway, welcome to Day Eight of the blog tour. At an unfeasibly early hour this morning, I was woken by a rumbling sound, which turned out to be the colourful Stylecraft blog-tour-bus squeezing its way down our driveway, and parking beside the Stinkwagon. Hurrah! Heaven knows what the neighbours thought, although they’ve witnessed crazier (especially that time when I yarn-bombed our house).

stylecraft blog tour blogstars

The blog-tour-bus! In the courtyard at our house!

So clad only in my third-best pyjamas, I rushed outside to greet the bus.

I’d been thinking long and hard about what to make with this yarn, as it ideally had to incorporate all ten shades. Also, I was in the mood for a spot of crochet. So I designed this scarf, ably modelled by my headless friend, here:-

free crochet scarf pattern stylecraft blogstars

Would you like the FREE pattern? OK, I’ll pop it at the end of this post.

The finished scarf turned out well, but along the way, my goodness there was a lot of growling, and ripping out, and setting a poor example of emotional self-regulation in front of the children.

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Then, the night before I finished it, I was across the road in the village pub with a group of friends, celebrating the birthday of one of us. (Hmm, that was the sentence that grammar forgot, wasn’t it?) Three of us were knitters/crocheters, so a certain amount of yarnery was going on around our bit of the table. But the poor birthday girl – an avid and skilled knitter – didn’t have any yarn with her! Horrors! Yes of course we offered to sprint home and fetch some for her. But do you know what she did (and I swear she did this voluntarily)? She picked up my scarf-in-progress, which was at the time looking very hairy due to the number of ends I’d procrastinated about weaving in, and she wove in all the ends! All of them!

So I pulled out a sock-in-progress from my handbag and knitted a bit of that instead. (What?? You think that I ever leave the house with only one WIP?) Technology and lighting were against me on the photo front, but here she is:-
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J, I owe you big-time. And I hope you enjoyed your birthday.

So at last the thing was nearly done, and the next day whilst slightly hungover I worked a simple scalloped edge around it. What do you think?
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But now, I have a… difficulty. I want to show you a picture of the thing laid out, so that you can see how the flared end tucks through the slit near the other end to make a loop. But laid out flat, it presents a photographic problem. There’s no other way of saying this: it looks undeniably phallic. So, um, let’s mess things up a bit.

free crochet scarf pattern stylecraft blogstars

ANYWAY, would you like the chance to win a big squooshy pack of all ten shades of Stylecraft Special Chunky that I used to make this thing? You would? Well that’s a coincidence, because the kind folk on the Stylecraft tour bus happen to have a pristine new pack of yarn all ready to post out to one lucky winner. The competition is open worldwide, but you’ll have to hurry, because it’s only open from 1000hrs to 2359hrs TODAY, UK time, so put down your knitting/hooking for a moment and hurry, hurry, hurry!

Click here to enter!

And so, as the day draws to a close, the tour bus will rumble colourfully on to its next destination: Sarah at Annaboo’s House. It’s clocking up a lot of miles, that bus. Fortunately it’s very environmentally-friendly, existing as it does only in my imagination.

Just in case you’ve missed any, the full list of participants in the blog tour is: Emma Varnam, Jane Crowfoot, Keep Calm And Crochet On, Sue Pinner, Annaboo’s House, Hand Knitted Things, Cherry Heart, The Patchwork Heart, Crafternoon TreatsStylecraft’s own blogLe Monde de Sucrette, and of course this very blog.  

free crochet scarf pattern stylecraft blogstars

So would you like the FREE PATTERN to make this beast? Yeah? OK, then. Here it is. I’ll put a photo-tutorial for some of the stitches up within the next few days, too.

I’ve also listed the pattern on Ravelry, here.

The Candy-Pop Scarf

Please note: pattern instructions use US terms. (Fellow Brits, I’m sorry: it’s the only area in which I’m not loyal to our land. I’ll post a UK version shortly.)

Dimensions of finished work: 99cm (39”) in length, by 18cm (7”) for most of its length, narrowing slightly before flaring out at one end.

Hook: 6mm.

Gauge: 16 sc sts to 10cm/4”.

Yarn: Stylecraft Special Chunky ‘Parchment’ pack, comprising one 100g (3.5oz) ball of each of the following shades: Parchment (1218), Pomegranate (1083), Sage (1725), Pale Rose (1080), Saffron (1081), Spice (1711), Empire (1829), Gold (1709), Pistachio (1822), and Storm Blue (1722). Now given that this is a whole kilogram (35oz) of yarn and the final scarf only weighs 225g (8oz), you can most certainly reduce the number of shades if you wish to, especially as some of them only make a brief appearance in the pattern.

Ends: Lots of colour changes potentially mean lots of ends to be woven in. Unless this is your idea of a rollicking good time, there are a couple of ways to minimise the weaving. First, when you’re working in colour A, and then have only one row of colour B before returning to colour A, you don’t need to cut colour A because the edge of your work will be concealed. So in the pattern, I’ve encouraged you to travel up the side of your work using a sneaky slip stitch to resume working in colour A. Don’t tell anyone I said that, though. Second, where possible, you can crochet around your yarn ends once you’ve started a new colour. It’s not always possible to do this, e.g. if your new colour is being used to work a chain, but it’s possible most of the time.

Abbreviations:-

St(s) = stitch(es).

Ch = chain.

Ss = slip stitch.

Sc = single crochet.

½dc = half double crochet.

Dc = double crochet.

Tc = treble crochet.

YO = yarn-over.

Sc2tog = decrease by single crocheting 2 stitches together.

Yarn colours are given in capitals. Continue in current colour until instructed to change.

Right, let’s get started.

the twisted yarn free crochet scarf pattern stylecraft blogtour

SAGE. Ch 120 stitches fairly loosely.

  • -1. Ch1. Sc all stitches. Turn.
  • -2. Bobble garland edging. [Ch6. Work 5dc into the 3rd ch from hook, omitting the last YO-and-pull-through for each of these 5 stitches, ending with 6 loops on the hook. YO and pull through all 6 loops. Make a tight ss around the base of the bobble. Ch3. Sc into the 4th st along] repeated to end of row, although final ch3 after the last bobble is worked into the 3rd st along, because you’ve reached the end of the row. (30 bobbles.)
  • 1. You are now going to turn your work and make further rows on the other side of the starting chain. So proceed to the other side of the starting chain by working a sneaky ss at the end of the row. Ss into first ch. Ch1. Sc all sts across the row. Turn. Cut yarn. (120)
  • 2. PISTACHIO. Ch1. [Sc, sc2tog, sc] repeated to end. Turn. (90)
  • 3. Ch1. Sc all sts. Turn. Do not cut yarn.
  • 4. SAFFRON. Ch1. Sc in every st. Cut yarn.
  • 5. PISTACHIO. Switch to other end of row to resume working in Pistachio, working a ss in the end st. Work as row 2 until 2 sts remain. Sc these last 2 sts. Turn. (68)
  • 6. As row 4.
  • 7. STORM BLUE. As row 3.
  • 8. As row 2. (51)
  • 9-10. Both as row 3.
  • 11. As row 2 until 3 sts remain. Sc, sc2tog. (38)
  • 12. [Ch5. Ss into next-but-one st of previous row] repeated to end. The end of the final chain loop will have to be worked into the next st, not the next-but-one st. Turn. (19 loops)
  • 13. Ch3. [Ch1. Sc into the chain loop from previous row] repeated to end of row. Turn. (38)
  • 14. As row 2 until 2 sts remain. Sc in each of the last 2 sts. Turn. (29)
  • 15-16. As row 3.
  • 17. As row 2 (after the initial ch1) until 5 sts remain. 5sc. (23)
  • 18-20. As row 3.
  • 21. As row 4.
  • 22. GOLD. 1sc, [1 bobble, 1sc] repeated to end, pushing the bobbles through to the front and back of the work alternately. Cut yarn. (To create each bobble, work 5 dc into the same stitch, omitting the last YO-and-pull-through of each dc. You will then have 6 loops on your hook. Finally, YO and pull through all 6 loops. Push the bobble through to the correct side of the work. The sc into the next st anchors the bobble.) (11 bobbles, 6 on one side and 5 on the other)
  • 23. STORM BLUE. Working from the side where you left the Storm Blue yarn, ss into edge of previous row so that you can use this yarn for the present row. Ch1, sc into first stitch. [Ignoring the next st from previous row, work a dc into the same-colour st from the row-before-last that’s directly below this bobble on the reverse side of that bobble. Then work a sc into the next st from previous row, i.e. the st after the one you ignored] repeated to end. Turn. (11 vertical bars, 6 on one side and 5 on the other)
  • 24-25. As row 3.
  • 26. As row 4.

the twisted yarn free crochet scarf pattern stylecraft blogtour

  • 27. PARCHMENT. As row 4.
  • 28. PALE ROSE. As row 12. Cut yarn. Turn. (11 loops)
  • 29. PARCHMENT. As row 13, but finishing with a ch1 after the last sc. Turn. (23)
  • 30-34. As row 3. (23)
  • 35. As row 3, but on the 4th and the 4th-from-end st, increase by working 2 sts where usually you’d work one. (25)
  • 36. As row 4.
  • 37. PALE ROSE. [Ch5. Ss into next-but-one st of previous row] repeated to end. Turn. (12 loops)
  • 38. Ch4. (4th ch = the first st of current row.) [Sc into the chain loop from previous row, ch1] repeated to end of row. Turn. (25)
  • 39-41. As row 3.
  • 42. POMEGRANATE. Bobble row! As row 22. (12 bobbles, 6 on each side)
  • 43. PALE ROSE. As row 23. (12 vertical bars, 6 on each side)
  • 44-47. As row 3.
  • 48. POMEGRANATE. Ch2. ½dc all sts. Cut yarn.
  • 49-51. PALE ROSE. Resume with yarn from row 47 using a sneaky end-of-row ss, as before. Then work as row 3.
  • 52. [ss, sc, ½dc, dc, tc, dc, ½dc, sc] repeated 3 times, then ss. Cut yarn. Turn.
  • 53. POMEGRANATE. Ch4, [tc, dc, ½dc, sc, ss, sc, ½dc, dc] repeated 3 times, then tc. Turn.
  • 54. As row 53. Cut yarn.
  • 55. PARCHMENT. As row 52, but do not cut yarn. Turn.
  • 56-58. As row 3.
  • 59. As row 4.

the twisted yarn free crochet scarf pattern stylecraft blogtour

  • 60. SAGE. As row 3.
  • 61. Ch3. Dc into 1st st. [Ch1, dc] repeated to end. Turn.
  • 62-65. As row 3.
  • 66. As row 61.
  • 67. As row 4.
  • 68-70. PISTACHIO. As row 3.
  • 71. As row 61.
  • 72. As row 4.
  • 73. SAGE. As row 4.
  • 74. POMEGRANATE. As row 4.
  • 75-76. PISTACHIO. As row 3.
  • 77. As row 4.
  • 78. SAGE. As row 3.
  • 79. SAGE. As row 4.
  • 80-86. PARCHMENT. As row 3.
  • 87. As row 4.

the twisted yarn free crochet scarf pattern stylecraft blogtour

  • 88. SPICE. As row 3.
  • 89. As row 4.
  • 90. PISTACHIO. Ch3. 2dc into 1st st. [Miss 2sts then work 3dc into the next st] 7 times, 2dc into the last st. Cut yarn. Turn. (25)
  • 91. SPICE. Ch3. [3dc into next gap between clusters from previous row] 8 times. 1dc into last st. Turn. (25)
  • 92. Ch3. 2dc into 1st gap between clusters. [3dc into next gap] 7 times. 2dc into last st. Cut yarn. Turn. (25)
  • 93. POMEGRANATE. As row 91. (25)
  • 94-96. As row 3.
  • 97. SAFFRON. Bobble row! As row 22. (12 bobbles, 6 on each side)
  • 98. POMEGRANATE. As row 23. (12 vertical bars, 6 on each side)
  • 99. As row 4.
  • 100-104. SPICE. As row 3.
  • 105. As row 4.
  • 106-112. PARCHMENT. As row 3.
  • 113. As row 4.

the twisted yarn free crochet scarf pattern stylecraft blogtour

  • 114. SAGE. Ch1. Work sc into 1st 11 sts of row only. Turn. (11)
  • 115-116. Ch1. Sc into all 11 sts. Turn. (11)
  • 117. EMPIRE. Ch1. Sc into all 11 sts. Cut yarn. (11)
  • 118-120. Resuming with SAGE, as row 3. (11)
  • 121. EMPIRE. Bobble row! As row 22. (5 bobbles, 3 on one side and 2 on the other)
  • 122. SAGE. As row 23. (5 vertical bars, 3 on one side and 2 on the other)
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Just finished row 122.

  • 123-125. As row 3. (11)
  • 126. As row 4. (11)
  • 127-130. PALE ROSE. As row 3. (11)
  • 131. As row 4. (11)
  • Now go back to row 113, and from the opposite end of the row, work the same 11-st pattern you did for rows 114-131. When you’ve finished this, there should be a 3st-wide gap in the middle of rows 114-131.
  • 132. PARCHMENT. Ch1. Sc the 1st 11 sts. Ch3 across the gap, then sc into the 11sts on the other side. (25)
  • 133. As row 3. (25)
  • 134. Ch1. Sc2tog across 1st 2 sts. Sc until 2 sts remain. Sc2tog. Turn. (23)
  • 135. As row 3. (23)
  • 136. As row 134. (21)
  • 137. As row 134. (19)
  • 138. As row 134. (17)
  • 139. As row 134. Cut yarn. (15)
  • 140. STORM BLUE. As row 134. (13)
  • 141. Ch1. Sc2tog twice. Sc until 4 sts remain. Sc2tog twice. (9)
  • 142. GOLD. Bobble row! As row 22. (4 bobbles, 2 on each side)
  • 143. STORM BLUE. As row 23. (4 vertical bars, 2 on each side)
  • 144. As row 141. (5) Cut yarn and pull through.
  • Weave in ends before working scalloped edging.
  • Edging. SAGE. Begin at end of row -1 (i.e. the bobble edging row). Work around the edge of the piece, finishing at the opposite end of row -1. Cut yarn. Then work all the way around the inside edge of the gap in the middle of rows 114-131. Cut yarn. Here’s how to work the scallops:-
  • Scallops: Sc into end st of row. [Work 5 ½dcs into a row-end st about 2 rows further along. Then sc into a row-end st roughly 2 rows further along] repeated all the way around. The spacing of the scallops is a bit of a judgement call. And when you’re working the inside of a curve, stretch each scallop out over slightly more rows. When you’re working the outside of a curve, work each scallop over slightly fewer rows.

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Over To You

On Sunday, this blog quietly turned three, which gives me an OK-ish excuse to wheel out pictures of the cake that the Stoic Spouse secretly had commissioned ahead of this site’s first blogiversary, in 2014. (Way back in the mists of time, he also proposed via a cake. Are you spotting a theme in this man’s primary means of communication? If he ever decides to ditch me, it’ll probably be via an ‘I want a divorce’ cake.)

blogiversary blog cake knitting

The blogiversary cake was large, and rather delicious. I wish I could have given you each a slice because your kindness, generosity of spirit, and humour, have made this blog. Also, it was damn fine cake.

Seriously though, thank you. Whether you’re a loyal long-termer, or whether you only came across The Twisted Yarn at 3am this morning because you’d already read the rest of the internet and this was the only thing that remained, I really do appreciate your visits, and your comments.

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Anyway, I was thinking about how quite a few of you are bloggers yourselves, whilst others are on the look-out for interesting yarn-related stuff to read. So I thought, why don’t we all have a little party right here on this page? If you’re a blogger, feel free to shout out loud about what you do via a comment at the end of this post. If you’re a reader and you know of a blog or two that the rest of us should definitely be reading, please tell us why!

Meanwhile, this year’s Stylecraft Blog Tour has just kicked off, promoting lovely new shades in chunky and aran ‘Special’ yarn. Emma Varnam has shared her blanket, and Jane Crowfoot has taught us about colour. Still to come, are Keep Calm And Crochet On, Sue Pinner, Annaboo’s House, Hand Knitted Things, Cherry Heart, The Patchwork Heart, Crafternoon TreatsStylecraft’s own blog, and Le Monde de Sucrette. Oh, and I’m in there too, on 31st October to be precise. Hurrah!

So let’s hear about your blogs!    ↓Comments!↓

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It’s Not A Popularity Contest! Oh, Wait, Actually It Is…

Hello blog. Just a short one today.

Thank you for all the kind comments that you’ve left lately, you lovely yarny lot. On Sunday, this blog will be three years old. Three! I can scarcely believe it. In my experience, three-year-olds are obstreperous and independent little spirits, prone to embarking on unhinged adventures and removing all of their clothes on a whim. So read here at your peril.

Talking of the blog, I discovered by chance the other day that I’ve been shortlisted for the British Craft Awards!

British Craft Awards

Good grief! I’d have fallen off my chair in surprise at the news if I’d been sitting on one at the time. Anyway, now that the shortlist is out there, the winner is to be selected by public vote. (Can you tell where I’m going with this? What, you can?!) So I would be hugely honoured and grateful if you popped over to their site in order to wang me a vote. And if you’re in the UK, you stand a chance to win big chunky Amazon vouchers, too, just for the trouble of entering. The link is here. Select the Knitting And Crochet option, and then within the question about your favourite blogger, you’ll see this very site listed as an option. If you’re kind enough to vote for me, I’ll pop round and weave in all your yarn ends as an act of gratitude, because I’m not above a little bribery and corruption when it’s needed. Um, thank you.

So has there been knitting and crochet? Well yes, there most certainly has. There’s also been a fair amount of frogging, but I’ve tried to be all adult about it and tell myself that frogging a dozen hours of work is just bringing me closer to the eventual much better outcome. Unfortunately I’m not falling for that rubbish. I’m busy designing something for the Hobbycraft chain of shops and it just wasn’t working. It looked very nice in my head, but the reality was a little less splendid. So I sat in my usual spot at the twinnage’s music group and began to thread my needle many rows down, ready to rip out a lot of stitches. (For privacy reasons, photo taken whilst all the children were out of shot gathered round the teacher’s piano.)

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Onwards, my friends, onwards. I shall not be defeated by a pesky cowl.

May your crochet and knitting be more successful than mine.

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Thank You

This post is mostly a ‘thank you’ to all of you who sponsored, encouraged, or at the very least grudgingly tolerated me as I prepared to run the Oxford Half Marathon in aid of the Nasio Trust. The big race was yesterday. Nine thousand of us lined up in the centre of Oxford under a beautiful blue sky, to await the starting klaxon. Guess what: I didn’t win. (But my friend Chris did come 15th out of the 9000, which just boggles the brain: he’s fast.) Still, I ran all 13.1 miles (21km), for which I got a nice heavy finisher’s medal:-

Oxford Half Marathon

But I’m getting ahead of myself: let’s go back to the beginning. Most of my running posts on here have been about various disasters, and it was starting to look as though yesterday would be no exception. Some tough stuff has been happening in the last week or so: my grandmother died suddenly, one of my sons was rushed to hospital in an ambulance in the middle of the night with breathing difficulties (he’s fine now) and – on a vastly more trivial note but still incompatible with running – I just have not been able to shake off the stubborn cough/cold that I developed about a million years ago. Also sleeping through the alarm on the day of the race wasn’t a great start. But somehow, we got ourselves organized-ish, and arrived in Oxford under a brilliant blue, but very chilly, sky.

The old limestone buildings in the heart of Oxford were positively glowing in the autumn sunshine. I’d planned to take lots of photos on the day to show you, but in the end that didn’t happen, what with running an’ all. I did, however, manage to snatch a shot of my feet. Just in case you don’t know what feet look like.

These feet were not made for walking. Or running.

These feet were not made for walking. Or running. Or anything, really.

Nine thousand competitors is a lot of people, and the centre of Oxford was crowded. (Those thirteenth-century street planners didn’t really consider the needs of twenty-first century race-runners.) But there was such a joyful atmosphere, and there were brass bands playing, and spectators cheering and handing out jelly-babies to passing runners, and everyone seemed so excited. This was my first ever race, and when we crossed the start-line, it felt very, very, odd to be on the inside of the barricades instead of being one of the spectators cheering on a friend. At first, squeezed into narrow streets between the barriers, it was all a bit too crowded, but later in the race there was far more space.

Oxford Half Marathon Nasio Trust

That’s me with the plait and the blue trainers. Photo credit: Selma at https://eclectichomelife.blogspot.co.uk/

Yes it was a race, and I’m sure there was a certain amount of hard-nosed competitiveness up near the front (you’ll have to ask Chris), but back where I was, it was more like a group of folk enjoying a run together rather than a race, and it just felt happy. I was running as part of a small team for the Nasio Trust, led by my friend’s daughter Ella (proud mum post here on my friend’s blog), and we mostly ran together, an orange-clad band of five with matching balloons. Hang on, I’ll just blag a couple more pictures from Ella’s mum so that I can show you them.

Ella, leading from the front. (Me on the right at the back looking knackered!) Photo credit: Selma at https://eclectichomelife.blogspot.co.uk/

Ella, leading from the front. (Me on the right at the back looking knackered!) Photo credit: Selma at https://eclectichomelife.blogspot.co.uk/

It was fun to be racing up and down a city that I know so, so, well. We ran past the college where I did my first degree, and the college where I did my doctorate, and very near my first flat, but my plan to take photos as I went just didn’t happen, because it turns out that 13.1 miles is actually rather a long way, and I was busy concentrating on keeping moving. Had I stopped, I might never have started again.

Anyway, WE DID IT. Two hours and twenty-four minutes (including an eight-minute loo stop) after setting off, we dragged our weary feet over the finish line and boy, were we ready to stop.

Team Nasio. That's me on the left looking like death, and Ella in the middle of everyone else all looking as though they've had a gentle stroll in the park. Photo credit: https://eclectichomelife.blogspot.co.uk/

Team Nasio. That’s me on the left looking like death, and Ella in the middle of everyone else all looking as though they’ve had a gentle stroll in the park. Photo credit: Selma at https://eclectichomelife.blogspot.co.uk/

So THANK YOU for all your support. So far, you’ve contributed £437.50 (including Gift Aid) to this fantastic cause. There is still time to donate! The link is right here, and every penny will help improve the life opportunities of disadvantaged children.

And now, let’s get back to the knitting.

 

RIP Alma Merritt – mother, grandmother, war survivor, knitter, genealogist, historian, and lover of the written word. I thought about you the whole way round the race.

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The Mindfulness In Knitting, A Book Review

It’s fairly rare for my day job (clinical psychologist) to collide with the knitting thing, but today a new book is published that spans both of these worlds, and I’ve been given the chance to review a copy. “Well if you absolutely insist,” I said. Actually, that last bit is a lie: I jumped at the chance. Allow me to introduce you to The Mindfulness In Knitting by Rachael Matthews, published TODAY by Leaping Hare Press.

The Mindfulness In Knitting Rachael Matthews review

It’s rather a beauty, don’t you think? Not that I’m superficial enough to judge a book by its cover…

Mindfulness – just in case you haven’t made its acquaintance – is a set of techniques derived from traditional Buddhist meditation. The purpose is to free oneself from angst about the future, the past, and the unknowable, by learning to tune in acutely to all of your senses in the present moment. (Melded with cognitive therapy, it’s created an approach that’s achieved a pretty impressive evidence base in treating recurrent depression amongst many other problems.) Mindfulness is mostly the brainchild of Jon Kabat-Zinn, a man who looks so uncannily like George W. Bush that it’s tricky to concentrate on anything he says because one is so busy marvelling at the resemblance. I once attended a ten-day conference-workshop with him, so I speak from experience.

But I digress.

This is no dry textbook, and I had to switch off my impatient day-job brain. It’s a series of reflections on the meaning of knitting, the purpose of knitting, the role of knitting, and the benefits of knitting. Reading each chapter (whilst knitting, of course) felt like a meditation on an aspect of our craft. The author hails primarily from a knitting and knit-activism background, rather than from a mindfulness/therapy background, but I can’t help respecting a woman who’s been thrown out of the bar of the Savoy for knitting.

The Mindfulness In Knitting Rachael Matthews review

The whole book feels like a peaceful space into which you can step at will to reflect on the significance of the stitches on your needles. Matthews recognizes that the process of knitting is particularly compatible with mindfulness. In her own words, “The utterly absorbing process of creating textiles provides us with an informal meditation space while connecting us with a heritage we cherish and ultimately a universe we understand.” And both knitting and mindfulness are increasingly recognized for their health benefits.

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The six chapters each address an aspect of the craft, considered mindfully. There are accompanying exercises designed to help you bring mindfulness deeper into your knitting, for example one contains a list of questions about the place that knitting occupies in your life right now. For me, these exercises were the least interesting part of the book, and I was far more absorbed when reading Matthew’s anecdotes and wisdom.

My favourite chapter is Knitting Circles And Craftivism, perhaps because Matthews’ background is rich with interesting experiences in this area. This section is a meditation on the implications, the politics, and the power of knitting in public, and knitting in groups – especially groups set up with the purpose of using knitting as a form of activism. Like the Yarn Harlot (Stephanie Pearl McPhee) before her, Matthews writes about the unifying nature of making textiles, irrespective of the makers’ origins. It’s true, though: I’ve met knitters of many ages and backgrounds, but whilst we’re knitting together, we’re sisters (or brothers) in yarn.

The Mindfulness In Knitting Rachael Matthews review

I enjoyed this book most when Matthews wove in anecdotes, material from history, and other information. Early on, she considers her relationship with our knitting forebears, and – further back in time – with the practitioners of naalbinding, a frustratingly slow precursor to knitting that tested even Matthews’ yarn-related patience when she gave it a try. As she says, “the knitting experience is as much about the occupation of mind as it is the working of fingers”. Too true, as anyone faced with the instruction to knit acres of monotonous garter stitch can attest.

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There were reflections, too, that caught my attention, for example about how “someone, somewhere was probably knitting with us in mind in the months leading up to our birth”. I wonder what that person was hoping, expecting, and dreaming. My mother is a knitter, my grandmother was a knitter, but I’m not sure what if anything they created in the weeks before I arrived. I was also drawn to the section on the complexities of knitting for others, how a gift can in fact be a weapon when it arrives, hideously inappropriate but with the firm expectation that it shall be worn and appreciated. Knitting for others is a minefield, and we’ve all probably got some horror stories from times when we’ve been the giver or the receiver. Matthews is wise in her unpicking of what exactly is going on when we give or receive a hand-knitted gift.

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I like this book. It’s not what I expected, but once I sat back, put my feet up, cast on, and lost myself in each of its six meditations, I enjoyed it very much. And since I finished reading, I think I’ve approached my works-in-progress in a more mindful way, thinking beyond the immediate demands of knit or purl.

The Mindfulness In Knitting, Meditations On Craft And Calm by Rachael Matthews, is published today by the Leaping Hare Press, hardback UK price £8.99, and is also published in Australia, New Zealand, and South East Asia. Enjoy.

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(Usual disclaimer: I did not pay for this book, but all opinions are my own.)

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Back In The Crochet Garden

Dear blog,

I’ve neglected your regular silliness business, what with all those giveaways and other stuff.

So I thought it was high time to drop in on a project that’s been slowly (very slowly) progressing in the background whilst I’ve been on here chattering about other things.

Yes, if you’ve been reading here a’while: you’ll know the one. The over-ambitious furniture-related one that began with a house, and which is now slowly (oh-so-slowly) acquiring a garden. It’s so close to the sewing-up-and-revealing stage that I’m starting to have even more ambitious ideas about how to embellish its craziness. Would you like to see the latest additions?

I’ve been crocheting all sorts of flowers and shrubs, making it up as I go along, but a lot of the leaves are longer-thinner/shorter-wider versions of this. Also, I’ve made lavender (using Stylecraft Batik, in shades that couldn’t be more perfect for lavender if they tried):-

make lavender with yarn

Planted in its new home, it looks like this:-

make lavender crochet garden embroidery

And stepping back for yet another gratuitous shot, here it is again with the picnic blanket in the background:-

crochet garden lavender embroidery

Would you like to see a little more around the rest of the garden? There aren’t many bare patches left to fill (which is more than can be said for my progress on the real garden that I’m supposed to be redeveloping). Here’s a selection of views, taken as we stroll across the lawn and beside the pond.

crochet knitted circle pond garden

The flower beds are nearly full:-

crochet garden embroidery flowers

…though this one is still my favourite:-

crochet garden embroidery flowers

And the vegetable garden is neatly regimented. I’m particularly proud of the cauliflowers:-

crochet vegetable garden cauliflower lettuce carrot

Let’s have one more shot…

crochet garden embroidery flowers

Meanwhile, there’s still time to sponsor me for the Oxford Half Marathon that I’m running on 9th October in aid of the wonderful Nasio Trust and their work supporting disadvantaged children in rural Kenya. More details are in this blog post. So how’s training going? Well… the good news is that I’ve already run the whole distance (13.1 miles / 21.1 km) in a training run a couple of weeks ago. BUT the less-good news is that I’ve had a horrid cold-cough for the last 10 days, and I currently can’t run very far without hacking a cough that suggests most of my disposable income goes on tobacco. (No, I don’t smoke.) I’m determined to complete the race this Sunday, and to do so running, but this one’s gonna hurt. I will, however, definitely be able to run faster and further if lots of people are generous enough to sponsor me for this for this fabulous cause. Any amount, large or small, will make a real difference to children’s lives. A huge THANK YOU to those of you who have sponsored me already from both near and afar. The page where you can do so is right here. Many thanks.

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Getting Cosy

Our letterbox is a mean and fearsome beast. Unusually narrow but psychopathic of nature, I swear that I’ve heard it growl on occasion. Postal staff approach with dread, and if you saw the state of the few letters that make it as far as the doormat, you’d be forgiven for assuming that we owned a very large and ill-tempered dog.

letterbox

Beware Of The Letterbox

So when I was contacted about a company that claims to deliver vacuum-packed, letterbox-friendly yarn, I said, “Yeah, right. Charming idea, but you haven’t met our letterbox.” At the very least, some innocent postal worker would lose a finger or two in the attempt.

“Don’t worry, it’ll be fine,” they said. “We’ll send you some yarn.” But the physics just didn’t add up: large, fluffy balls of wool versus bity, mean-mouthed, letterbox. I was pretty sure I knew who’d emerge triumphant and un-shredded from that battle.

I was curious, though, so I investigated a little more. The company is called Cosywool, and they supply yarn, patterns, and knitting/crochet equipment worldwide via mail order. Their website is here. Yarnwise, they’ve got a nice broad range from eighteen of the major producers (including Stylecraft, Rowan, Rico, Debbie Bliss, King Cole, Noro, Red Heart). The number of shades stocked for many of the yarns isn’t (yet) quite as humungous as for some of the other major online yarn shops, but their prices are about as low as you can get, e.g. a ball of Stylecraft Special DK is only £1.65 (up to 34p cheaper than from other major online suppliers), and Rowan Felted Tweed DK is £6.35 (up to 94p cheaper than elsewhere). These prices are good. Very, very good.

The needles, hooks, and accessories are all by KnitPro* and Pony, with the emphasis on the Symfonie range from KnitPro, and knitting accessories from Pony. There is only one range of crochet hooks available at present. From the history described on the Cosywool website, it sounds as though this firm is expanding fast, so perhaps more crochet tools will follow soon.

But their big, shiny, distinctive, ‘thing’ is that they vacuum-pack their yarns just before despatch, so that the package will fit comfortably through your letterbox whilst you’re out, rather than sitting on the doorstep being liberally watered by a passing cloud. “Hmm, OK,” I said, eventually. “Send me some yarn. But you’ll regret it, and so will Colin the Postman.”

The next day, I came home from work expecting to see the shredded remains of a package – and possibly of a postman, too – on the ground outside my house. But there was nothing. So I was very surprised to open the door and see this:-

cosywool vacuum packed yarn wool

After a brief tussle (pictures too violent for family viewing so not included here), I managed to prise the package from the jaws of the rabid letterbox. Look! Now that is thin.

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I’d say no more than a centimetre thickness, max. Even our letterbox is wider than that. It was genuinely difficult to imagine that this pack included real yarn. But it did!

I've eaten pancakes that are thicker than this.

I’ve eaten pancakes that are thicker than this.

Time to fetch the scissors and set the yarn free. As soon as you begin to cut, the balls of yarn magically** begin to swell.

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Yarn! Real yarn… that within seconds returned to the normal proportions you’d expect from two balls of Debbie Bliss Rialto Chunky, especially when you give it a little squoosh:-

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Also, in the package they send you a mint. At least it looked like a mint. I ate it, just to be sure. Yup, mint. Fresh breath and yarn: what’s not to like?

The website is attractive and user-friendly, which only increases the danger of people like me buying all the yarn. They aim for same-day despatch, too.

To be serious for a rare moment, I was genuinely surprised by how well the vacuum thingy and the returning-to-normal-fluffiness thingy worked for this yarn. The balls of wool are sitting beside me as I write this post, and the only visible sign of harsh treatment is that the ball bands look a bit folded. But hey, you don’t knit with the ball bands, do you? Opening up your vac-packed yarn doesn’t feel quite as nice as when you burrow into an oversized box to find pristine, organza-wrapped skeins of perfection, BUT that’s a trade-off I’m happy to make if it means my order doesn’t have to do time on the doorstep in the company of the local cat population.

If you want a unique, hand-spun skein of something for your glass-cased stash, then you might want to go elsewhere, but if you want speedy low-cost deliveries of major brand yarn to knit/hook (and a mint!) then I seriously recommend looking at this supplier.

Enjoy.

 

∗ That’s Knitter’s Pride to you in North America.

∗∗ Disclaimer: no actual magic is used in this process, as far as I’m aware.

Please note that this is a sponsored post, but all views are very much my own. What? Why are you looking at me like that? A lass has to top up her yarn budget now and again. Yarn doesn’t grow on trees, y’know. Well, except rayon maybe – sort of…

Also, I’m not exaggerating about our letterbox.

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