Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Faversham Pilgramage

Last weekend, three of my crocheting friends and I ventured out of South East London and into the wilds of Kent in search of fresh yarn foraging ground.

Faversham Market Hall by Sarflondondunc on Flickr

Alighting at the lovely ancient town of Faversham on a sunny summer market day, the first thing we did, of course, was make our way through the craft stalls and congenial hustle and bustle to get lunch. Then, more than satisfactorily fed and watered in the fittingly eclectic cafe The Yard, we set forth to The Yarn Dispensary in the quaint market square.

We sat at this very round table for lunch! Photo from Faversham Life website

A yarn shop most aptly named - I gather because the tudor building was once, indeed, a pharmacy or apothecary, but now in our eyes, just as health giving.
Despite their evident knitting bias, we nevertheless quickly settled in to the intense and therapeutic business of familiarising ourselves with the stock. We found linens, silks, cottons and wools, as well as alpacas and even yak.

Inside the Yarn Dispensary - c/o

We picked up on yarns from Sirdar Sublime, Yorkshire Spinners, Debbie Bliss, Baa Ram Ewe, Fyberspates, Juniper Moon, Louisa Harding and Erika Knight, to name just a few, as well indulging in decorative hooks and other notions, some patterns and even cheeky, yarn-based car stickers (to add to the existing collection).

We conversed at length to the delightful owner, Gillian Ely, and exchanged business cards on behalf of the Knitting and Crochet Guild.

We were afforded a peak at their workshop space and regaled with the tales of a yarn shop keeper. Eventually, weighed down with brown paper bags, we tripped back out into the sunshine and made the only sensible next step - tea and cakes of course! It had been a perfect afternoon and the journey back to the big smoke was smooth and crochet-filled.
Mandy Mellican and Gill Gardiner - very happy and 
about to get off the train back at Bromley South Station.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Crochet Society

Anyone who crafts will know about the little problem of storage. Tools and machines, materials, samples, paperwork, books and magazines - they all take up so much space! But it's not only that, it's also about being able to lay your hands on a specific item when you need it, too. So every crafter of every denomination dreams of owning a room, dedicated to this cause.

My own spare room, once the mini domain of a mini Zubairy, - and still bearing the stars - had, in more recent times, been in active service hosting lodgers. But now, new year, new beginnings an’ all that, I'm biting the bullet, accepting the income drop, and spreading my stash!

Only a crafter understands the deep pleasure of creating a well ordered work and storeroom. Where to put the UFOs? How to categorise the yarns? Are we going for plastic boxes or something more decorative, natural? And as for all those tiny notions...The needles and stitch markers, cable holders and row counters, the tape measures and hook size gauges, spare project bags, pattern leaflets, business cards, buttons and snap fasteners, hooks and eyes, elastic, twine, labels both fabric and card….
It's a big job, and it will never be finished!

When I'm not in Spare Oom, it seems I'm in a cafe! This Saturday my relationship with cafe society reached a new intensity...I had to get an MOT, so while waiting, I took advantage of the time away from washing and cleaning and ordering the clutter, just to crochet. Two and a half hours on a Saturday morning drinking coffee and properly finishing a project. Bliss! Result - this hot water bottle cover.

Two balls of expensive Japanese yarn, (Genmou) picked up on last year's Great London Yarn Crawl, from Loop in Islington. I even sewed on one of my recently acquired Designer Labels.
 The pattern is from a newly published ‘bookazine’ for Beginners.
The car passed its MOT
and I motored on to my next cafe to meet family for lunch. Without a break thereafter, I joined crocheting pals in Beckenham for an afternoon out of the rain, talking yarns and projects and deciding how to finish Bridget the Elephant's yummy jummy.
From a pattern by Kerry Lord, in her book 'Edward's Menagerie'

Thursday, 27 October 2016

A whirlwind of publicity

It's an exciting time! My first book is out next week at last.

Though Amazon have been advertising it for quite a few months with apparently a completely different cover!

This more intense blast of colour would have been my preference but I can only guess that the lovely people at Quarto had their own reasons for the change, I'm sure related to the fact that it's part of a series. Shame though, and I crocheted that colour splash piece especially!

Also this week I have a design in Inside Crochet Magazine - in fact, there's a little inset on the cover, which pleased me of course, but still leaves my ambition to make the main pic as yet unfulfilled. Next time, maybe? I've received the commissioning editor's brief for new ideas next year so I'll get stuck into that shortly. What's really nice is the number of photos of my Starlight Sweater in the pattern pages, AS WELL as in the How to Tunisian Crochet pages. It was commissioned to relate to the free gift of a 6mm Tunisian hook that came with this month's issue.

Meanwhile, I've been having a lot of fun with the Knitting and Crochet Guild this year. I attended the Annual Convention in Sheffield in July where I taught Improvers Tunisian in a workshop, and generally had a marvellous time amongst my own kind for a whole weekend.

Guild Treasurer Tricia Basham made these samplers after attending my workshop!

I have upped my volunteering game this year by re-designing the 40 year old Guild Newsletter - 'Slipknot', and now every quarter I am doing the layout. I've had mostly positive feedback about that, thank goodness, so haven't lost my graphic design touch (phew!). I should be working on the next edition right now actually.

With regard to my teaching I've, as usual, been having fun at gorgeous Denman College. Beginners weekends, Granny Square and Broomstick days, as well as an Introduction to Tunisian day. Most recently I did the Glamorgan Federation weekend and we made crocheted or knitted and felted bags.

And finally, I've not neglected my local area - teaching Beginners at Stag and Bow in Forest Hill, where I met my new and very good friend Susannah, who now comes to my Tuesday night sessions, has joined the Guild and came with me to Kirsty Allsopp's Handmade Fair in September. Crochet changes lives!

I've also started teaching at Fancy Moon in Crystal Palace - which is lovely and I look forward to an ongoing relationship with this lovely little shop.

What with the book coming out and whatnot, I'm being featured as a designer on a couple of other blogs this month too….

Firstly Margaret Etherington's site Craft Notebook - I'm being launched this coming Sunday!

And also on the Knitting and Crochet Guild's website which is already advertising my book on their news page and will shortly post an interview with me.

But WHAT, you may well ask, is ACTUALLY ON MY HOOK??? Well, as usual, several things but right at this minute, I'm making Georgina the Hippopotamus from Toft's Edward's Menagerie, out of Sirdar Smudge in a beautiful muted shade of heather. Should be done by tonight - lovely. And then I can start preparing my next course at Denman - Crochet for Christmas!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Crossed to the dark side

As a serious crocheter of eight years standing, I have finally turned my hand to knitting! So now I'm all fingers and thumbs again and sticking out tongue. My first and most apposite reflection is that you need more elbow room to knit (but on second thought, perhaps it's just that I am a beginner and will learn to keep my elbows to myself on the train in future??). 

I started with the most enormous needles because I happen to have them from teaching Broomstick crochet. 25mm pins make for quick knits - which for someone with my attention span is a Good Thing. Before too long I had a stretch of garter stitch to show for my over long period of forgetting to intake breath, and sitting at a rather strange angle. Glad I wasn't in public. The superchunky swatch was tactile and drapey, with lots of flaws. I switched to some 4.5mm pins that someone who didn't know me very well gave me as a thank you present a while back. Now I was making a fine stockinette in DK yarn. It really looked like knitting - with holes and extra loops and tweaks and catches - but knitting just the same. I didn't look like a knitter though.

I popped to the market and bought myself some 5.5mm pins to use with chunky and found my level. Tried a touch of ribbing before switching to my new favourite - Moss Stitch. Things have started to smooth down and speed up now, and I've even worked out how to go back on myself and undo some wrongs. Very satisfying.

Back on home turf, meanwhile, I've been Bavarian Crocheting round and round and round until I had to stop and wait for more yarn to arrive from an online store. And trying to follow a Tunisian pattern with one or two missing bits and bum steers in the instructions, from a new book I bought on baby clothes. I should write to Robyn Chachula. Maybe I will… when I've done this. I've also been testing out an interesting yarn that stretches, and am trying to devise a pattern for a chic little swimsuit. Taking too long though without kicks. Gotta have crochet kicks!

On Tuesdays come my ladies (and one gent), and where I was going to get on with my Loom Knitted scarf (the loom arrived in the post yesterday), I ended up not, because my help was required. That's OK. It's all part of the fun of it. Professional musician, Susan, recently swapped crotchets for crochet, and had taken on a dauntingly large project - an Irish themed blanket made of shamrocks in square motifs. We worked on the second stage today - as she has made all forty five shamrock shapes already.

My one gent, lovely Andrew, was making waves over by the fish tank - an unusual version where the mountains were 2tr in next stitch x2 and the troughs were 2trtog in next st x2, instead of the more familiar groupings of 3. I drew some charts for him to demonstrate how to make sure the troughs and peaks stayed strictly lined up.

I also drew a chart for Mandy after we worked together to devise a way to square off a hexagon in two easy rows.

My element. AND we had choco Leibnitz!

I've only gone barmy like this because I have largely finished work on my book - Bobbles Puffs and Popcorns - for Quarto, due out September. Not QUITE at the printers yet but oh so close!
Pictures to Come. :)