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Better-Than-Average Week

You know how it can be.

Some weeks are good, whilst other weeks could be held up as case studies in a presentation on How Not To Succeed At Adulting. Or Life. Or Anything, Really. Believe me, I’ve had plenty of the latter.

Yes, I sat in The Chair. No, I didn’t spill champagne on it.

Thus far, this week is shaping up rather well, although I realize that the mere act of typing those words will set cosmic cogs in motion to mess that up most mightily. Consequently my entire family probably is, as you read this, being devoured by giant mutant snails that are on the slither from the local nuclear research facility. And yes, I do know that UK snails are generally herbivorous, but as I said, these are mutant snails.

I’ve had a couple of bits of good news this week. The one that I’ll mention only briefly is that I’ve been offered a new job at a different hospital, closer to home and working only with outpatients. The other one is that this blog has won another award!

knit now knitter of the year 2017 award

If you happen to have a copy of the latest edition of Knit Now magazine in your hands, then please turn to pages 48-49. I’m one of the winners of the Knitter Of The Year 2017 awards! Squeee!

knit now magazine knitter of the year 2017 award

Look! It’s true!

knit now magazine knitter of the year 2017 award

See my shiny new badge, here →. (If it’s here ←, then I commend you for your ability to read this blog upside-down.)

It would be fair to say that I’m rather excited about this news, as well as being surprised.

knit now magazine knitter of the year 2017 award

But the thing is, it’s actually you who have co-won the award. My prize is in the ‘Online Innovator’ category, for folk who chatter about knitting online. Their criteria for judging the winners included sites with a very engaged readership. And given that so many of you have, over the past few years, kindly shared your thoughts, comments, wisdom, and anecdotes on here, I can only say a heartfelt thank you. You make this site what it is. Have some champagne.

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If Freud Were A Knitter

The very last thing that I should be doing right now is beginning a new piece of knitting, just for fun.

So… you can probably guess what I’m doing. If you’re familiar with the Freudian analytic terms, ‘superego’, ‘ego’, and ‘id’, my knitting is, right now, all id. To clarify: your superego is that irritating voice in your head that earnestly lectures you about the wisdom of washing and blocking your gauge swatches before you measure them. Yeah, I tell that voice to shut up, too, especially when it later murmurs ‘I told you so’ as you try to squeeze your full-ish frame into the micro-cardigan that you’ve ended up creating because your tension was way off. Nobody likes a smart-arse.

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Your id is the part of you that WANTS TO GO TO THE YARN SHOP RIGHT NOW AND BUY ALL THE PRETTIES, ALL OF THEM RIGHT NOW! Successful adulting mostly involves getting that voice to quieten down a little, because it’s 9.00 on Monday morning and you really ought to put in an appearance at your pesky head-of-nuclear-physics-for-NASA job, and anyway NASA doesn’t pay so well that you can buy ALL THE YARN, ALL OF IT! I WANT IT I WANT IT I WANT IT I WANT IT I WANT IT NOW!

Sigh. If you have small children, then you’ll be very familiar with the operation of the id.

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Sitting awkwardly between these two extremists and wishing it could be somewhere else entirely, is the ego. That’s the voice that says ‘Look, just put in a few hours at your nuclear physics job, and then you can go and buy one – or possibly two – skeins of moderately-priced wool at the yarn shop, OK?

It’s generally a good thing if the ego gets a hefty amount of say in what happens, because the id will drain your bank account and alienate your friends, and the superego is that character that you really don’t want to get stuck next to at a party. So for a fully functioning ship, you should let the ego take the helm fairly often.

…So I’ve messed up, there. Here’s my new yarn. Adriafil Knitcol pure wool DK-weight, in case you’re wondering, purchased when I stupidly gave my id custody of my credit card for a while. And the reason for this yarn purchase? I was seduced by a jumper pattern in a knitting magazine.

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There are lots of jumper patterns that I can scroll right past, because they’re baggy and unflattering, especially in the sleeves. But this one looks nicely fitted. It’s in the current issue of Simply Knitting magazine, here in the UK.

The plan is to make it in this gorgeous variegated Adriafil Knitcol yarn, which may or may not work. I’m gauge swatching, (yeah I listen to my superego a bit, sometimes…) and I’m trying to work out whether the reverse stockinette ‘background’ to the pattern is going to look awful and messy in such shade-shifting yarn.

Hmm, that's not really working, is it?

Hmm, that’s not really working, is it?

Because of course in reverse stockinette, you’ve got all those purl bumps to contend with, which can look super-messy if they’re a different colour from their surroundings. Compare the picture above with the reverse of the swatch-in-progress.

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Hmm, I’m not sure whether this works. If it doesn’t, I’ll just have to find an alternative, right-side-stockinette pattern for the yarn, and rip out what I’ve done in order to begin again (she writes, as though ripping out a few hours’ work will hardly cause any emotional pain at all).

So, um, may I humbly ask for your opinion on this weighty matter please?

Also, don’t you think it’s time for a (worldwide) giveaway of beautiful, beautiful yarn with accompanying patterns? Yup, I thought so too. Stay tuned, people, because there’s one coming up within the next week or two. Hurrah!

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When A Knit-Lover Goes Shopping

Want to see something that’s both gorgeous and knitting-related?

This isn’t usually a blog about buying-all-the-things, but occasionally my typing finger hovers a little too persistently over the “Add to cart” button. And on this occasion I succumbed to temptation. Sorry-not-sorry. Would you like to see the contents of the little parcel that fearlessly flew the Atlantic and plopped through my letterbox the other day? Loook! (This isn’t a sponsored post – I paid full price, I have no connection with the maker, who as far as I know has no compromising photos with which to blackmail me for publicity.)

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How lovely? I’ve been wearing them most days since they arrived.

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See those grey hairs? They weren’t there before the twinnage arrived.

They were made by Jewelia Designs, and they’re perfectly splendid. Just sayin’.

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Anyway (this post is a tad bitty – I hope you don’t mind) do your laser-sharp minds recall the shark-bombed house that I mentioned a few posts ago? Well as luck would have it, it’s up for rent right now. Move your life and your work and your family to Oxford, UK, and all this could be yours! See here. And if you decide to do so, please be kind enough to invite me for dinner because I’d really like to view your shark up close (as well as share your company over dinner, obviously).

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But let’s get back to the knitting. Specifically, Simply Knitting magazine, the folks for whom I take a spatula to scrape some of the bonkersness out of the recesses of my brain for a column once a quarter. Well this month ain’t my quarter, BUT the current issue features an article on knit-blogging, with interview material and photos from me and a couple of other bloggers. You could maybe put a case to argue that I’m a tad biased, but I think that knit-blogging is a lot of fun, so if you’re tempted to try, here’s some advice. Part two next month.

Yup, that's my camera strap, leaf design, hands cutting knitting, and bag design.

Yup, that’s my camera strap design and camera, leaf design, hands cutting knitting, and bag design.

And that, my fine fibrous friends, is pretty much all for this evening. Very much more to come…

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Ooh Look, A Shiny New Knitting Magazine!

And now for a review.

I don’t know whether there’s any truth in the old adage that there’s somebody out there for everyone. Could be tricky if your particular someone is working the oil rigs off the Norwegian coast whilst you’re herding llamas in Chile. However I do think that these days, there’s probably a knitting/crochet magazine out there for every knitter/hooker: it’s just a matter of trying a few until you hit the right one.

Hence this post. The folks at De Agostini sent their carrier pigeon my way with a message. (De Agostini publish part-works about all sorts of creative things: you want to build a life-size replica WW2 submarine out of matchsticks over the course of 20 weeks? They’re your chaps.*) Anyway, they’re just starting a new magazine, and they very kindly sent me a copy of the first issue for review. (That was tough on the poor carrier pigeon, I tell you.)

*OK, I made that example up.

Simply Stylish Knitting

With me so far? Jolly good. Let’s get the practicalities out of the way first. It’s available directly in a few countries, by which I mean that De Agostini have made themselves at home in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Malta. It’s published weekly and in the UK, the first issue is available for 99p, issue 2 will cost £1.99, and subsequent issues will be £3.99. I believe that Issue 2 is just out now.

So if you’ve ever bought part-works before, you’ll recognize the format here. Yes this is a magazine, but its pages are pre-punched and detachable so that you can file them in a binder, assuming that you’re of an organized persuasion. Every issue comes with a couple of balls of yarn which enable you to make squares which will eventually be joined together to make a colourful throw. (There are other patterns and techniques, too, but I’ll get to those in a minute.) The idea is that each square teaches you a different stitch. As you can probably tell, this publication is pitched more towards the beginner end of the knitting spectrum.

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Now maybe my fickle head has been swayed by a free magazine (unlikely), but I happen to think that this is a rather splendid way of learning to knit, if you’re newish to the craft and want to expand your repertoire of skills. When I came back to knitting as an adult, I started out by working lots and lots of different squares in all sorts of stitches, just to get my confidence back. I keep meaning to dig these squares out and use them as dishcloths. And working from this magazine, at least if you miss an issue, it’s not going to ruin your whole project. The throw that you end up making may be larger or it may be smaller, but it’ll still be a throw.

Want to have a look at the kit that comes with it?

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The yarn is 50% wool and 50% acrylic DK, and although it doesn’t feel like it was handspun under moonlight by your favourite local indie yarn magician, it is better quality than the yarn that comes with many magazines, and it’s adequate for learning and practising. The needles that came with mine were of slightly wonky bamboo, but they’re good enough to use, and I think the publishers have got this the right way round by prioritizing quality of yarn over quality of needles. Oh, and there’s a darning needle, too. A lass can never own too many darning needles.

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Now I said earlier that this mag is pitched firmly at beginners. Absolutely no previous knowledge is assumed, and  they’ve devoted more space than other magazines to the real basics of things like casting on, working garter stitch, etc. There’s backup via online videos too, so you should be able to master this stuff from scratch even if you haven’t got your Great Aunt Ethel ‘The Entrelac’ Evans looking over your shoulder to guide you.

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In addition to squares for your throw, each issue covers a few other skills and patterns, in this case techniques such as winding yarn into a ball, and making pompoms, and patterns such as a simple mug cosy and an iPad cover. (There’s a smart fox on the front of the iPad cover, but it’s worked as Swiss darning rather than actual knitted colourwork.)

The layout is bright, clear, and uncluttered, and I think that there has been a real attempt to think through what a beginner needs to know. Oh, and there’s no advertising whatsoever, except for subscriptions to the magazine itself. All of the content is around patterns and techniques: there is no industry gossip, news, or reviews. I tell you this so that you can make your own mind up: you may love it or you may loathe it.

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Hmm, I do worry that this post is sounding a little overly sane by Twisted Yarn standards, so at this point we get to the slightly more unhinged bit. Here, for your general edification and magazine budget decision-making, is a quiz in order to determine whether Simply Stylish Knitting is your lifelong partner in the knitting mag world, or whether you’d scarcely get beyond the first date. Ready? Go…

 

Why do you read knitting magazines?

A: To learn as much as I can and to get ideas.

B: To get the low-down on what’s new.

C: I don’t. I’ve got Ferret-Fancier’s Weekly hidden inside the cover of this knitting magazine, but I didn’t want anyone to see that when I got on the bus.

 

How experienced a knitter are you?

A: Which way round do you hold the needles again?

B: Hmm, I’m doing OK. I can churn out scarves, but I’m a little scared of fairisle.

C: Have you not read all six of my publications on advanced intarsia?

 

How chatty do you like your knitting magazines to be?

A: Not at all. I just want to knit, thanks very much. I’ll save the gossip for Stitch-n-Bitch night at the pub.

B: A little. I’d like to read about major knitting shows and new yarn brands.

C: Sister, give me all the gossip. First of all, I want to know whether there’s any truth in the rumour that the editor of Knitting World magazine was seen holding a crochet hook!

 

Do you like gifts included with your magazine?

A: Yes please. Some yarn wouldn’t go amiss, especially if it comes with ideas for using it.

B: Maybe, although I’ve already got WoolWarehouse on speed-dial, and my stash is causing local subsidence.

C: No thanks. I’m quite capable of finding my own way to the yarn shop. (Hardly surprising, given how much time I spend there.)

 

What style of writing do you like to read?

A: Clear, practical, calm text (which does slightly beg the question, WHY ARE YOU READING THE TWISTED YARN??), and with lots of how-to explanations.

B: Informal, chatty, and with personal anecdotes.

C: Yo, wassup? I like my mags totes down wiv da kidz, innit. I’m cravin’ da word on da knittin’ street! What gives, bro?

 

What type of magazine buyer are you?

A: Loyal. I like to build up a collection and it drives me mad if I miss an issue. I keep all my back copies in a binder.

B: I do have a favourite that I tend to buy the most.

C: Changeable. Last month I bought Knitter’s World because of the free gifts, but this month I might get World Knitting, or Mum might just lend me her latest Knitting The World.

 

What’s your attitude to adverts?

A: Don’t like ’em. They make the magazine look cheap and cluttered.

B: I don’t mind a few ads for yarn suppliers.

C: You kidding me? I only buy magazines to get retail discount codes.

 

And finally, what’s your aesthetic?

A: Light and white with brights. Modern. Tending towards minimalist. Zingy citrusy shades. I like pink.

B: Um, not fussy really. Pink is OK.

C: Victorian gothic. Dark and complex. I hate pink.

 

Right, the moment of earth-shattering truth revelation has arrived. Have a look at your answers to see whether they’re:-

Mostly A: I think that we may have just found your perfect knitting magazine. Enjoy!

Mostly B: OK so the publishers didn’t have a life-size cardboard cut-out of you at their planning meetings as inspiration, but there’s probably some stuff in Simply Stylish Knitting that you’d enjoy.

Mostly C: Look my friend, I’m all for trying new things, but I really don’t think that this publication was written with you in mind. Oh, and it’s not true that the editor of Knitting World was seen with a crochet hook: that was a malicious rumour started by her rival at World Knitting, OK?

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In Which Life Imitates Art. Or Vice Versa. Or Summat.

Well, I’m back. Properly back, but more on that later.

The ridiculous thing was that in my IVF-befuddled state, I clean forgot to mention that my column is in this month’s Simply Knitting. Here’s a sneaky peek. I really must get on with writing the next one.

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Anyway, to the point of today’s post…

There comes a point in many big projects where the novelty of the early stages has well and truly worn off, but the end isn’t yet sufficiently in view to draw you closer. You just have to keep on keeping on. And on. And on. Especially when your project has eight different balls/bobbins working simultaneously and has turned into a sort of fiendish crochet intarsia. (I really don’t like intarsia.) Also, you have to resist the temptation to run off to the yarn shop and buy some luscious variegated merino with which to knit a lacy top.

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No, this isn’t a bungalow. I’ve just got a lot more upstairs and a tad more downstairs to do.

This is the very large and very adventurous furniture-related version of my house-bag, in its early stages. Quick mini-picture of the original because I know there are quite a few new readers around here lately. (Waves hello enthusiastically to y’all!) Those who’ve seen this a million times before, avert thy eyes sharpish:-

crochet house bag

Now I apologise for being coy about this new project. If it works, it will be the craziest and most fun thing I’ve done in a long time. So I don’t want to give too much away. And if it doesn’t work, my humiliation will be displayed here for you all to laugh at. I have no shame, me. It involves a large piece of furniture, and it’s going to have a garden all of its own. I’m thinking of this for the lawn:-

The lawn. Ready for planting.

The lawn. Ready for planting.

That’s a 400g ball, by the way. There’s going to be a lot of lawn. I’m busy designing the flower beds, which will annoy the Stoic Spouse no end when he reads this, because I ought to be out there designing our real flower beds in our real garden. But somehow it’s easier to design yarny gardens, and you can keep planting them whilst it rains.

I’m writing up the bag pattern whilst I crochet, and working this new house is a useful reminder of some of the finer points I need to include for the pattern. This time round, I’ve learned my lesson and am adding to a chart as I complete each section. No more trying to remember what on earth I did from a few illegible scrawls in a notebook.

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I’m working really hard on this project, so I hope to have it done pretty soon.

As I said at the beginning, I’m properly back to this blog, as of today. This is a bittersweet moment: much as I love the ‘Yarn, the reason I’m wholeheartedly back is that today was test day for my IVF and the result was a big fat negative. This was our last attempt, so we shall be sticking as a family of four. Don’t get me wrong, I realize how lucky I am to have the pesky, insomniac, food-averse, crazy Toddler Twinnage, but I still have a bad case o’ the broodies.

Of course I had to hide my sadness from the twinnage, so we went for a toddle around the village this morning, in order to admire the progress of summer. We met this chap/chappess: this was about to be a much cuter photo, until s/he realized s/he was being descended on by three over-curious people, and so did what hedgehogs do best and shut up shop.

Go away, humans.

Go away, humans.

And I’ve blogged before about the cherry-farming heritage of this village in times past. Though there are scant cherry orchards here today, the hedgerows are dotted with old trees, whose fruit is just getting ripe. Look! (Excuse wobbly photo but it was windy.)

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In Oxfordshire villages, there may as well be a by-law that your cottage garden must be filled with hollyhocks, so we admired beauties such as these:-

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…Which reminds me, I have some hollyhock seeds that I must plant in our own, real garden.

Time to keep on keeping on. And on. 🙂

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Stylecraft Competition, Yorkshire, Internet Friends, And Champagne.

Oh where to even begin?

I’m back from yarn-filled, sun-drenched (despite any regional stereotypes you’ve encountered) west Yorkshire. I have so much to show you – more, I think, than can realistically be shoe-horned into one blog post, unless you like your blog posts encyclopaedic.

Obviously, to anyone who’s been dabbling ‘Yarnside a-lately, there’s the main event, co-judging the Stylecraft / Let’s Knit competition to find a luscious new shade of yarn. Here’s a teaser photo, but this fabulously colourful event warrants its own post:-

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My fellow judges. Left to right: Annabelle Hill (sales director at Stylecraft), Sarah Neal (editor, Let’s Knit magazine), Lucy (Attic24 blog).

…And having had the fascinating experience of a tour round Spectrum Yarns’ mill (where the judging took place), I’d love to show you the embarrassingly few photos that I took. Another post!

And then the knitted skirt and crocheted bag I designed for the occasion deserve their own post, especially the skirt, completed over breakfast on judging day with hairspray-related advice from the editor of Let’s Knit magazine to complete its details. In fact, the whole wonderful Yorkshire experience deserves its own post, ending with a dash even further north to meet up with Gill from the Greenclogs blog, whom I’ve been gradually getting to know online, and who turns out to be every bit as lovely/creative/clever/kind/interesting as I imagined she’d be in person. (Pity I went all socially anxious and scarcely let the poor woman squeeze a word in edgewise.)

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…And three other little things that I’ll say here, because they’re not big enough for their own blog posts:-

(i) Thing the first.

Today, Colin The Postie delivered many things (let’s gloss over the tedium and financial demands of most of them), including an issue of this coming month’s issue of Simply Knitting magazine (edition 133 – out todayish, I think?) with an interview with, erm, me, inside the back cover. Witness:-

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My column in Simply Knitting begins shortly, though it won’t be every month.

(ii) Thing the second.

I’m drafting this pen-and-paper, as always, this time in the garden whilst loosely managing the Toddler Twinnage, and I’ve just realized that a pair of great tits are breeding in the nest box beside me. Springtime squee! I couldn’t steal a photo of Mater or Pater Great Tit going in, so this blurry iPad snap of the home front will have to suffice.

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(iii) Thing the third.

(No bitterness here… Oh no, none at all…) So I got home from Yorkshire late, late, late last night, all braced for the weeping hordes to intercept me in the driveway, desperate in their need for maternal wisdom and salvage. Know what I found? No weeping whatsoever, but an empty champagne bottle in the sink and tales of unnaturally well-behaved children in my absence. Clearly, things function better round here when I’m not present. Sigh.

So, where shall we begin with this blogfest? the Stylecraft competition, surely? Right, I’ll get drafting…

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