In a spin

Well, its been a little while since I last blogged. January and the first part of February have passed in a fit of busy.

I’ve been doing a lot of work crochet (two book deadlines and a variety of commissions) and whenever I put the hook down I had a quick spin. I’ve got to the fun stage of spinning where I kind of know what I’m supposed to be doing, can manage to make my hands do it most of the time and am having fun experimenting. So far I have spun about 200g worth.

This picture shows two I spun and one I’m trying out for review:

2016-02-11 11.23.09

 

The grey green yarn is the first spinning I did. Its probably knittable but has a few “interesting characteristics” My second lot of spinning I forgot to photograph because it was a gift for Kat but I think it came out rather well and the stuff on the bobbin is a batt from Spin City than I have managed to spin really nice and fine and chain plyed to preserve some of the colour repeats. (get me, I almost sound like I know what I’m doing!?)

The pink yarn is not spun by me (One day I might be able to achieve that but not yet!) It is a trial skein of Tamar, a new yarn being released by Blacker Yarn that will be released on 3rd of March. Its a lovely rustic feeling yarn but it has really lovely drape. I’ve been having a play and will almost certainly release a design in it later in the year. I was particularly pleased with the way I wound it. A lovely blog reader, Christine, got in touch to explain the method her Nanny used to use to wind a centre pull ball without any equipment and I had to give it a go. A little more practice and I shall do a little tutorial I think.

I took a lovely business trip up to Scotland where we shot the photos for not one but two books! The first book is with the printers as we speak and will launch at Unravel on 19th February. I’m so in love with the beautiful pieces and the way Kat has captured them on film. You can take a look at all the patterns in the look book below.

We had a new member on team “The Crochet Project” this time. My mum has joined the gang as Chief Executive Officer of Literary Excellence. (She is a super doopa proof reader!) Welcome Lin and thank you for sorting our errant apostrophes, homonym errors and run on sentences (amongst other mistakes.)

I shall be at Unravel for the weekend helping launch the book and teach a class on Textured Crochet (there are still a few spots left) at just £30 for a three hour class including festival entry its a bit of a bargain.

So yes I’ve been busy. What have you been up to?

Cheers to 2016

It was a funny old Christmas – I ended up on crutches for a torn calf muscle on the 23rd and limped, stumbled and hopped into the New Year. The injury combined with family illness and Storm Frank meant we cancelled the New Year trip to Scotland to see Kat (and to do the shoot for our next book) So we had to content ourselves with pottering around here and resting up.

I’m so pleased with the new designs – I think they are going to get worn a lot next spring and summer! I hope you all like them as much – it always feels like such a huge leap writing a new book and not knowing if anyone will want to buy it.

As you may know I’m not a fan of new year’s resolutions, I set my year goals in September, so I am not making any but I can tell you that 2016 will bring:

  • more dressmaking (I’m taking a class starting in January),
  • some spinning (I finally got the wheel going – it’s hard!),
  • lots of crochet (I have big plans),
  • mostly fun not work knitting (I have no plans),
  • fewer shawls than last year (I have plans for some but not two books full again!)
  • more cardigans (feels so good to be designing garments again – spreadsheet geek!)
  • laceweight yarn! (I have at least one design coming up and a big passion for doing more, it looks so good crocheted),
  • and CELEBRATIONS when I turn 40 later in the year.

2015 was an amazing year for me, work-wise, and I am hoping that success continues into 2016, I feel very optimistic.

I’ll leave you with a look at my Christmas this year:

 

christmas 2015

Clockwise from top left: Daft hats; Fairisle look Christmas cakes; a first attempt at spinning; working on a new design, skateboard presents, more new designs; the crutch; Star Wars excitement.

Christmas Craziness

christmas wreath

Not the good kind but not the bad kind either.

I was going to do a lovely picture rich post of all these things but I can’t make wordpress show my instagram pictures and I have no time to resize them all for the blog so if you want a visual trip through my Christmas preparations then do hop over to see my instagram feed where it is all beautifully illustrated  but here are the words:

The past few weeks have been categorised by very broken up working days – there have been a million things going on in the school and community that require me to be here or there or remember to bring this or that. While I enjoy seeing the kids get excited as Christmas approaches I find it all quite stressful as I balance all the extra shopping, cleaning etc that I need to do. However it has not been all bad…

For the past few years I have declared a “deadline-free December” which means I don’t take on any commissions due in December because it is such a hectic time. I did this again but I do have lots and lots of things to finish off for a The Crochet Project shoot we have scheduled for the end of the year. I’m back making cardigans and I forgot how much I love designing them! Its been a real treat to sit with large amounts of yarn and play with little details and work on getting the fit just so whilst making them very easy to adapt and adjust.

Preparation for the shoot also included sewing four dresses for it! I am not a much of a dressmaker – I did a fair amount in my early twenties but that was mostly very small dresses from very cheap fabrics to wear clubbing that didn’t need to be too well finished as I’d only wear them a handful of times before refashioning or recycling. Now I want to work with lovely fabrics and make things that will last for years and years (and cover a bit more of my thigh ideally too!) It made me a bit scared to try. So actually having to make to a deadline was a very good ice breaker for me. I did pretty well, they aren’t perfect but they are good. I learnt a lot and I really loved doing it. So much so, that I’ve signed up for a pattern cutting class next term at my local leisure learning college.

I finished up the week by giving my studio a jolly good sort out and clean. Gosh its a joy to be in now its cleaned, I feel like a weight has been lifted. Its gone back to being a little sanctuary from the chaos of marauding children and guests – and not a moment too soon with the holidays looming!

The kids have finished all the nativity performing and have been packed off wearing Christmas jumpers for their last day of school today so I will be trying to tie up loose ends and switching the out of office reply firmly on.

I don’t plan to blog again until next year but will be popping my head into social media and posting pictures on instagram and facebook no doubt if you want to keep in touch.

As you can imagine there is not last minute gift making for me this year but if you are then you might like the gifting guide I wrote on The Crochet Project blog (with time guides!)

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Joanne

 

 

I’m back

Half term is long over (sadly) and Jury Service is done! I had the dubious honour of making it all the way through without having to ponder any verdicts as each case collapsed before we had a chance.

There was a lot of sitting around waiting in the jury room so I got a lot of crochet done. I am almost through a cardigan for a forthcoming book and a blanket for a magazine. The crochet was most frustrating because security wouldn’t allow me to take metal hooks through the the jury room as they were apparently a security threat. I am not sure why, keys are surely as dangerous but were allowed through. Anyway, rules are rules and I was allowed to take through bamboo hooks. I’m not a massive fan of bamboo hooks, it really slowed up my progress and my wrist is still hurting a little into the middle of the following week from the strain caused by it. It did inspire me to write a post on The Crochet Project blog about how to choose the right hook for you though.

right crochet hook

 

First thing back on Monday I had a good planning chat with Kat and we are all geared up to do the work needed to get us to a very busy Spring. I can’t say too much more yet but we are very excited about it. Not least as it is a jolly good excuse to get together for a photo shoot too!

And so, I have much making and pattern writing to do. It feels strange after lots of admin and editing and other kinds of desk work to be back doing my favourite part of the job almost exclusively for the next month or so. I shall try and keep blogging to keep you up to date with what I am up to as much as the secretive nature of the design phase allows.

I’ll leave you with a little teaser of something I’ve been working on lately….

2015-11-11 15.05.27

 

PS There is also a lovely article in the most recent issue of Inside Crochet about me as a “crochet entrepreneur” (sounds awfully grown up to me!) – have a look if you get a chance.

Cheer up your January

I know you probably can’t think past the end of the year right now but I know many of you dread January, the month of cold, damp and going without because you spent all your money. So I wanted to tell you all about the classes I am running in January – why not treat yourself, pay now then have something to look forward to, or even ask for it as a Christmas present (but make sure they book ahead)

teeny shawls pic

First up is my first ever visit to teaching London.  Knit with Attitude have invited me to teach a class on Crochet Shawls on Sunday 10th January 12-3pm. You can book online here

If you are looking for a relaxing but engaging treat then why not join me on a luxury retreat in Dorset with Amber & Willow. Over a three night stay with two full days of tuition you’ll learn lots and lots, we will be looking at texture, cables and lace – everything you need to get going on pretty much any pattern! The emphasis will be on building skills in a relaxed and fun environment. The teaching days are Tuesday 26th and Wed 27th January. You can find more details and book here.

vintage lace class shot_edited

Of course I will also be teaching at The Sheep Shop – the January dates are mostly fully booked but there are a couple of spaces on the beginners crochet class and the crochet slippers class both on 23rd January.

There are also few spots left on classes with me at the shop before January including:

Christmas Wreath Crochet – 28th November, 1-45-4-45pm

Granny Squares and beyond – 5th December, 10am-1pm

Beginners Knitting – 12 December, 10am-1pm

Amigurumi – 12 December, 1-45-4-45pm

For more details about any of the classes at The Sheep Shop head here or call 01223 311268

christmas wreath

 

 

Don’t forget I do travel to teach, speak to your local yarn shop if you’d like to see me teaching near you.

Hope to see some of you in class soon!

 

Introducing Saunders

IMG_1406

 

Today I released a new pattern through The Crochet Project. We are breaking the recent mould a little bit by virtue of not being a shawl and not being 4ply! You can find out all about the pattern over on The Crochet Project blog but I wanted to tell you a little about the background to the pattern here and how it came to be.

I teach pretty regularly at The Sheep Shop in Cambridge and I have an absolutely lovely group of ladies who attend classes regularly. They have all been on pretty much every single crochet class I teach and as soon as a new class is listed, they generally book it out. I love this because I get to see some friendly faces when I teach and have watched them all grow in skill and confidence over the past few years. But I began to think I had unleashed a monster when they began to demand a crochet sock class. You see, I am not a fan of crochet socks. Or rather, I should say, I wasn’t a fan. I found crochet socks pretty stiff and unyielding, not particularly comfortable to wear. I knew you could make them work if you made them quite lacy as it was easier to get the stretch in this way but none of the group are particular fans of lace. Anyway, they wore me down and after a few requests I agreed to work on a crochet sock class for them.

Because I have a great interest in what crochet can and can’t do and how that compares to knitting I had some ideas about how I might be able to make a design that really worked. The trick was to find a unisex pattern that allowed some of the stitches to lie vertical and some to lie horizontal to replicate the two way stretch that knitting will give. It took quite a few attempts. Hook size it turned out was really important to get the various elements of the design to work well – cuffs needed to be worked on a very small hook to give some elasticity by keeping the yarn tightly wound, the main stitch pattern needed to be worked loosely to allow the stretch to happen and the heel and toe ,w orked in palin doubles needed to be somewhere between to stretch but not to wear out tooo quickly. I think there were about five completely failed protoypes and then the pattern went through another couple of iterations before I was truly happy with it. I started making the samples for the class.

In the same week I finalised the class design, Kat and I had a phone call to set the direction of The Crochet Project for the next few months and she said she thought we should release a sock pattern soon. Lucky timing! “Well actually I have something I am really really happy with, almost ready to go” said I.

I’m really happy with the final result, Kat has taken some beautiful pictures to illustrate the pattern, as always. I learnt a lot in making them and am happy to be able to share that hard won process with you so that you can create well fitting crochet socks for your whole family (and friends and neighbours!) Yes – I think this will be a very hard working pattern in your library, whether you want a quick gift for grandpa or a new born baby gift. Warm toes for all I say!

You can purchase the pdf pattern for immediate download for £4.

 

Reverse Gear (in more ways than one)

Hi,

Over on The Crochet Project blog today I am introducing Reverse Gear – the fifth of the five shawls from The Shawl Project: Book Two. I won’t blog about the process again here as I talked about it back in June. In summary: it was blooming hard won and loved very much for that!

 

small reverse gear

 

The Shawl Project: Book Two is available to download immediately as an e-book (pdf) for £10 or order in print for £12 +p&p.
(The link for the ebook takes you directly to paypal to complete the transaction.)

And with that my life slips somewhat into reverse gear for a little while. This week is half-term for us so I have the week off to be with the children and visit my sister and nephews (always such a treat as I don’t get to see them nearly often enough), I’m then back at my desk catching up for a week before starting at least two weeks of Jury Service.

So until at least the 23rd November my out of office reply is on to warn people that emails may not be responded to in a timely manner. You aren’t supposed to work in the evenings or weekends while on Jury duty as you need to be really alert in court. I’m hoping they at least let me crochet in the waiting room between cases so I can get a little bit done.

I will be popping up here to blog I expect – we have a new pattern release so I’ll certainly want to tell you about that…

And on that cliff-hanger I shall leave you until I next get a moment to pop in!

Introducing Missed Kingfisher

I’m very pleased to day to introduce Missed Kingfisher shawl from The Shawl Project: Book Two to you. On The Crochet Project blog I have told you all about how the shawl fell as a fully formed design idea from my mind. And here I will tell you how having a fully formed design idea doesn’t necessarily make for a quick and easy design process.


small kingfisher 2

I knew exactly how the stripe pattern was going to play out. I knew how the shaping and the short rows worked. I knew the stitch pattern I wanted to use. I had the yarn sourced and wound. I grabbed a 4mm hook, the size I normally use for a 4ply shawl and started. No, too dense. 4.5mm? No too dense, 5mm? Nope! 5.5mm? No! Finally at 6mm a very shocked Joanne was happy with the fabric and the drape achieved. Through the process of so many swatches I had refined little details like the increase placements and the short row hole closing technique so it was all good. I wrote the pattern out and set too.

small kingfisher 1

As I carried on working, at about two thirds in, I became a little bit uncomfortable about how the shaping was working out, it seemed to not really want to lie flat properly. I vacillated for a day or two between “that shit will block right out!” and “this isn’t quite right.” In the end I decided to see what happened when I blocked it. It did improve things but it seemed really sloppy to produce a design, in a solid fabric particularly, that needed help to be what it was supposed to be, and even blocked I wasn’t 100% happy with the shape. So back we went to the second section and fixed what I knew the error must be. You see in the knitted versions of these shawls you do the increasing only at the ends of the rows, they all need blocking to the right shape or a hump occurs but blocking magically fixes it. Crochet is not as good at borrowing yarn from neighbouring stitches as knitting is, and there lay the problem. The design needed occasional smoothing with increases placed around the curve to allow the stubborn crochet stitches the freedom they needed to move.

small kingfisher 3

I love design realisations like this. While frustrating at the time, they push my understanding of crochet and make me a better designer. There are relatively few studies of how crochet fabric behaves and how it differs from knitting and a lot of the understanding I have is from considering carefully as I work and using these observations to inform my design practice.

The Shawl Project: Book Two is available to download immediately as an e-book (pdf) for £10 or order in print for £12 +p&p.

Print copies are now in stock and shipping in 1-2 working days.
The link for the ebook takes you directly to paypal to complete the transaction.

 

How Humphrey came to be

All this week and next we will be introducing the five shawls that make up The Shawl Project: Book Two on The Crochet Project blog.

(scroll to the bottom for details of how to buy the book)

Today is the turn of Humphrey and there is a little story behind this design. It is the story of how I did battle with a yarn and lost but don’t worry, it is a fairy tale and the ending is happy. Read on.

chester wool co camel

Once upon a time a woman  bought a skein of yarn from her favourite local yarn shop, the skein was lustrous and beautiful and the woman didn’t quite know what to do with it, so afraid was she of not doing the yarn justice. (A common tale in the world of stashing – maybe you have such a skein?)

After some time, she returned and bought a second skein as she had made a special plan for the yarn that involved a fairytale ending. Yes, she planned an elaborate cabled panel, snaking down the spine of a shawl that would look like Rapunzel’s plaits. If she could dream it, she could do it!

But each swatch the woman made did not satisfy her; the cable was too bulky, or it didn’t sit quite right or the design melted away without enough definition, the drape wasn’t right. Almost half the first ball had been used up by now. The skein clearly did not want to be cabled.

So the woman listened to the skein and let it be lace. The first swatch afterwards came out perfectly, the design flowed out of the woman’s fingers easily and they all lived happily ever after.

THE END

And that is pretty much how it went folks. I just went looking for the failed swatches in my studio but they have mysteriously disappeared so I can’t even show you how not right they were. I do think the Rapunzel pattern might still happen in a different yarn one day. It will take me a little bit of time to come back around to the idea though I should imagine.

humphrey small 1

 

But Humphrey, despite not being what I thought it would be at all, is a design I am so happy with and proud of. I love the delicate lace and the beautiful way it sits on your shoulders without slipping – this is all down to the shaping! I’m proud that I worked out the maths of the unusual Faroese construction and that I managed to distill it into something you can follow in the design notes if you’d like to design your own. I love how easy the pattern is to follow once established with very little counting and intuitive decreasing and the way you race to the finish with ever decreasing rows.

 

humphrey small 2

And I know that this is the shawl I will be popping over my shoulders when I go to my husband’s black tie work Christmas dinner (I just need to find a suitable little black dress to offset it) or anytime I want to feel rather special.

So why Humphrey? I was going to pretend it was about the glamour of the Hollywood heydays and named for Bogart. Actually it was a silly joke that stuck in my head while I was making it:

What do you call a camel with three humps?

Humphrey!

You see the yarn is a baby camel blend and the shawl has three sections. I do not claim my humour is as sophisticated as the design!

For all the technical and construction details of the design, pop on over to this post on The Crochet Project blog.

To be able to make your own Humphrey here are the purchasing details you need:

The Shawl Project: Book Two is available to download immediately as an e-book (pdf) for £10 or pre-order in print for £12 +p&p.

Print copies will be dispatched within two weeks in the order they were bought.
The link for the ebook takes you directly to paypal to complete the transaction.

Acer – join us!

IMG_1014

 

I love a design challenge. Sometimes that means making crochet fabric do extraordinary non-crochet like things, sometimes it means getting complicated and technical but sometimes its like Acer making the very simple, very beautiful.

I decided I wanted to create a shawl design that looked complicated and beautiful but would be the ideal project for anyone who could crochet but hadn’t really ventured into the world of patterns yet. Maybe they know the stitches but so far have stuck to the classics they have been taught like ripples and granny squares or perhaps they have learnt all their crochet from youtube videos. I wanted to open up the wonderful world of patterns to these people. Maybe this describes you?

I also wanted the pattern to be something that was very beautiful and very wearable, something you could complete and pop on to admiring glances and then maybe make a second, a third and a fourth for some very special gifts.

My final requirements were that I didn’t want the outcome to be hindered too much by not matching gauge or tension (let’s fight one battle at a time, look at matching the tension once you’ve mastered following a pattern!) or by access to blocking equipment and knowledge. Blocking is the finishing stage for all crochet and knitting where you wash the finished piece and pin it to shape, in the case of Acer, this opens up the lace pattern and makes the finished piece much bigger. Acer looks marvellous unblocked, lightly blocked or aggressively blocked depending on your skill level and tools you have available.

And just to make it more open and inclusive it is written for two weights of yarn 4ply or DK but really you could make it in whatever you liked by just adjusting the hook size.

Of course for the more experienced crocheter you have a quick and fun project perfect for gifting or to make for yourself something to match an outfit at the weekend – yes it is that quick! Although its written with beginners in mind it still has the same precision and style you’d expect from The Crochet Project.

So how do you join in the fun?

Lovecrochet.com are kindly hosting the crochet-a-long (CAL) for us. For the uninitiated, a CAL is where lots of people get together, in this case online,  to make the same pattern. It’s a great way to get going with a pattern: if you get stuck there is always someone to hold your hand, if you are unsure you can ask questions and get really quick replies and you can be inspired by all the lovely yarns and finished shawls other CAL participants are sharing. We are also sharing some detailed videos and tips to help you from start to finish on their blog.

What do you need to do?

We are throwing a launch party this Wednesday at 8pm UK time (UTC+1) on the facebook group where we will be getting to know one another and sharing our plans for the CAL. Do join us!

Not on facebook? Tag #acerCAL to play along on instagram or twitter and I’ll find you!

IMG_1031

 

Beautiful photos courtesy of Kat Goldin.