Reverse Gear (in more ways than one)


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.


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?


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!



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? 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!



Beautiful photos courtesy of Kat Goldin.

Book Two is Go!


After giving our lovely newsletter subscribers the first crack of the WIP, I am delighted to be able to tell you that you can now get your hands on The Shawl Project: Book Two!

book two small



All this week and next we will be introducing the patterns across our three blogs, giving you a different perspective on the design in each place hopefully (like a very tiny blog tour!) Until then you can find the technical details for all the designs on Ravelry.

The book is available as an instantly downloadable e-book (pdf) which you can >> 


If you prefer print, pre orders are now open in our Etsy shop

Print orders will be shipped within two weeks – the little app on my phone that makes a lovely little cash register kerching noise has been trilling frequently since we opened up the preorders. Orders will be going out strictly in the order they were placed as I may not be able to ship them all in one day!


PS: all the lovely comments you are putting on the etsy order notes are absolutely making my day! Thank you all!


This week is all about shawls, shawls and more shawls – we just can’t get enough of them! Over this blog, The Crochet Project Blog and Kat’s blog will be posting about all things shawl with some really exciting announcements. We’ll be talking about the launch of The Shawl Project: Book Two, introducing each pattern and talking about the Acer CAL which kick off this week.

book two small

But the smart money is signing up to our newsletter because the newsletter people get the first heads up on how and where to buy the book! So go on. Sign up now!

Switzerland and the obligations of blogging

Oh dear! I bumped into a neighbour and friend yesterday who exclaimed that she was glad I was okay because she worried when she saw I hadn’t blogged yet about my trip to Switzerland. It’s okay everyone, I’m fine! Well, I am now, the week since I returned very late on Sunday night has mostly been spent on the sofa or in bed with poorly kids and poorly me at various points. Everyone is safely back to work and school now though.

So Switzerland and Swiss Wulle! The sun shone and I spent the weekend in good company of those who understand gleeful shouts when you find just the right skein of yarn. We learnt the importance of being specific when you order beer. Old friends were caught up with and new friends made, shawls and cardigans were admired and yarn was squished. The burgeoning lace weight stash was added to and I found a new favourite project bag…

swiss wulle

Swiss Wulle!

I may be more than a little bit excited right now! The old flight bag is down from storage and dusted off (not many hand-luggage only trips happen with children in tow – it very much harks back to a past life when weekends abroad were more the norm) for I am jetting off this weekend to Switzerland!

This is the view set to greet me on touch down

from the Swiss Wulle site

I will be teaching two classes at the festival and it is not too late to book if you’d like to join me (just click on the link) :

Making Crochet Wearable 10am-1pm Saturday

This class is for the adventurous and inquisitive crocheter. What makes a good wearable fabric, what we need for various types of garments and accessories and how to combine hook size, stitch pattern and yarn to create them. All the secrets which make our designs for The Crochet Project so special!

Crochet Shawls 3.30pm – 6.30pm Saturday

Based on our successful book this class teaches the tips and tricks for making dazzling crochet shawls, whether you have lots of single sock skeins to use up, want to get started on a design from the book or tap my brain for design ideas this is the class for you. The class includes a copy of the book.

I’ll also be smoozing the night away on the first night party cruise where you can meet all the tutors and many of the vendors and enjoy socialising and chatting all things yarn.

With a fab array of vendors  it is sure to be a great market place. I am especially looking forward to popping to see Daisy from Devon Sun Yarns who will have samples from The Shawl Project Book One on display (and books to sell).

I’ll also be packing any granny squares I can find around the studio to contribute to the wullecube art installation

I believe there may also be a meet and greet book signing that I’ll be involved in – I’ll be bringing both Shawl books and I also have a shawl design in the special festival shawl book.

Hope to see you there!

teeny shawls pic

Good times in Yorkshire

What a lovely time I had at Yarndale!

yarndale stall pic


We managed to make a very pretty looking stall – of course if helps to have more than a dozen beautiful shawls to help decorate it.

The new book was a huge hit on the stand with sales well beyond our expectation. We didn’t quite sell out but we don’t have enough to start shipping orders so we will be reprinting and then launching it in the etsy shop. (If you want to be kept up to date when that happens then sign up to the mailing list)

We got to meet so many of you! Thanks to all who stopped by the stall and to all those who came wearing our designs, bought us WIPs (work in progress) to see or offered kind words and words of encouragement about our designs. We feel so very very lucky to have such lovely lovely customers.

We also got the odd chance to pop off the stall and see some beautiful yarn, say hi to lots and lots of our friends and meet lots of lovely new yarnies and designers too.

I took today off to potter around the house and relax a bit. Tomorrow there is stock taking and sock making and another blog post, because this is just a short rest at home and I need to tell you all about where I am off to next…

Looking ahead

I like to make plans September to September – it just feels much more natural and sensible to flow with the school years at the moment as each brings change for me and my young family.

Last year’s word was STRENGTHEN as I wanted to make sure my business was ready for the challenges of going full-time, but I also applied it to all areas of my life. (you can see what goals I set myself here and how I did here)

This year I have all three children in school and my childfree hours shoot up from just 10.5 a week to a whopping 29! This is a massive change for me, its been 10 and a half years of being pretty much a full-time mum and four of those I have worked very part-time building up this business.

So the word I have chosen to set my goals around this year is


Pace has many resonances for me this year…

A change of pace:

With my life/work balance changing dramatically this year, I want to establish a way of working and living that is healthy, works for me and my family and is sustainable in the long term to avoid burn out.

I still want to take the school holidays off (no childcare at any rate) – if there is one thing that packing your youngest off to school teaches you is that all this is fleeting and I don’t want to miss out on them. I find that school holidays off works well for my sanity and creativity anyway but I am aware of the challenge this year that it will be more of a shock because I have much more time in term time.

I don’t want to be doing cleaning and tidying on the weekends, so I need to find a way to fit that into the working day that is productive.

Aside from teaching I don’t want to work weekend and evenings, although I will always use that time for sample making because I knit and crochet to relax anyway.

And I am DETERMINED this year to make time to exercise.

Pace myself:

I think it will be a very gradual process this year; working out what pace I can comfortably work at, how much work I can take on, and setting up regular advertised office hours. I need to work out what is the correct mix for me of teaching, editing, writing and designing.

Regular pace:

I want to have a regular pattern release schedule going forward. In the past I haven’t been at all good at this but I would like to have a major project release once every six months and an individual pattern out every other month at least. I was thinking about this in terms of cooking:

one brewing, one stewing and one bubbling

that is, one that is the next idea I know I’ll work on, one that is currently in progress and one that is newly released for you all to get excited about.

I also want to apply the regular pace to blogging. I hope to start blogging more for The Crochet Project – we haven’t really done that yet but I think we should. So I need to manage two blogs, pace is important.

Set the pace:

I want the work I produce, particularly through The Crochet Project, to be held up as industry leading in terms of style and production quality. Basically I want to be a designer to watch.

I understand this is a very lofty goal and who knows if it is achievable ( and I certainly  hope noone thinks it smug) but by having this goal I will strive for the very best designing and pattern writing I can.