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    Nearly two weeks ago, my talented friend Marinke (known as Wink) took her own life. She had discovered crochet during severe depression following her diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome, and found the repetitive yet creative nature of crochet to be, at that time, a life saver.

    Lots has been written by others about her sense of colour, her enthusiasm for crochet, the books that she had written, her musical talent & her fantastic blogging. All of that is true, and she will be missed far more than she would have realised while mired in depression so deep that she must not have been able to imagine that there would ever be a way out. 

    We met at Unravel 2014 along with Sarah & Gilly - you can read my blog post about it here. We chatted fairly often on facebook. The thing is, she was the only person I have talked to about the challenges of living as an adult with an autistic spectrum disorder. She had managed, through crochet, to find her niche, her way in the world. She had found a way of working that she could manage. She would plan for the shutdown she knew was coming after the stress of travelling & socialising. She was my inspiration - my little beacon to hold onto when Matt has struggled with the challenges presented by his ASD. The knowledge that it was possible for Wink to find her place, and if she could, Matt could too. 

    I know that being on the spectrum generally places you at a higer risk of depression and suicide. It's one of the main reasons we fought to get Matt out of mainstream education when we did. Depression is insidious, and mental health is something we need to talk about more openly, without stigma.

    Wink may have lost her place, and that's heartbreaking. But she did find it - and I am keeping a tight hold on that. 




    Beginner Crochet Blog Hop #Crochetconfessions

    I've been tagged by Sarah from Craftsfromthecwtch blog to join in the beginner crochet blog hop.

    I've taught lots of people to crochet and have been lucky enough to see that moment where everything 'clicks' into place for lots of students. It doesn't click for everyone straight away though, and I definitely fell into the non-clicking category for ages. A really long time. About a year to be honest!

    I went on a crochet workshop back in 2010. I was a good knitter, but had never even picked up a hook before. I kind of got the hang of making the stitches on the day, but it didn't stick. I tried a few times over the next months to get to grips with it, but I couldn't tell where my hook should go or where I'd gone wrong. A friend sat down & showed me how to do a granny square and it started to make a little more sense. But I knew that I needed to get my teeth into a project to really get to grips with it. Then I saw the Groovyghan pattern & decided that I would make a blanket. And I did!  

    This was when crochet clicked. That was at the start of 2011, and I haven't stopped since. The blanket looks a little shabby now, but it has been used & used, machine washed & used again. It's still one of my favourite things. So while I started off as a #crochetfail, persistance and blind refusal to accept the facts led to a definite #crochetwin.

    As part of this blog hop I've been gifted an e-copy of Sarah Shrimpton's new book The Beginners Guide to Crochet. I struggled to learn crochet from a book, but this one is a pretty good bet. It has clear illustrations with simple explanations, and builds on skills in a very logical way. The projects are achievable, and I think it's a great introduction to crochet. It is available from Stitch Craft Create as a print book, and also as an eBook if you prefer! And if you need to stock up on anything, check out Sarah's curated crochet page

    I'd love to hear about your learning experiences - was yours a win? xx



    Oops - sorry for the long absence.

    So somehow a month just vanished. I've had some magazine work, there has been a whole lot of gymnastics training (not for me!) and we've just put our house up for sale. Keeping it viewing ready feels like a full time job, especially for someone as housework challenged as me!

    But there is some sewing going on, some swatching (aren't the Fyberspates Vivacious dk colours gorgeous?) and jam jar posies of garden flowers to enjoy. I'm sitting in a tidy house catching up with Nashville series 3, and feeling pretty positive about the changes that are coming up.

    I have a blog hop post coming up and a book review to do and I'll try to be a better blogger - even if this might turn into a house hunting/selling focussed blog for a little while! See you soon xx


    Yarn Shop day & Daisy pattern

    Tomorrow is Yarn Shop Day - it's a Let's Knit initiative & this is the 2nd year it's been going.

    As you might know, I both teach & work at The Wool Stop in Thornbury. We have lots planned tomorrow including a knitting surgery (that should keep me on my toes!), 10% discount, goodie bags for some lucky customers, spinning, a raffle & yarnbombing which everybody can get involved in.

    Our chosen charity this year is in memory of Daisy, who died last year on the night following her 7th birthday. The charity is Funding Neuro, and the money will go to the team in Bristol who are so close to giving parents hope in the fight against DIPG. The methods they are trialling offer hope for treating things like Parkinsons too, so it's important work.

    The day is supposed to be a fun, community focussed day. Everyone is welcome, whether you can knit or not - you can make a pompom & add it to the yarnbombing outside the bank, buy a Daisy pin, have a cuppa & some cake. Maybe try knitting/crochet or spinning & see if it might be your next hobby! Maybe you think knitting is just for white haired old ladies - come along and enjoy having your preconceptions busted! 

    In the meantime, I've been crocheting some daisies to add to the yarnbombing, to remember Daisy. It's especially appropriate as this weekend last year is the weekend she became ill. From a healthy 6 yr oldschool girl to a death sentance in just a few days. Heartbreaking. In case you want to make your own flowers, here's the pattern that I've improvised. Unlike my published patterns, I haven't had it tech edited or test knitted, so if there are any errors, let me know. It's only meant to be reminiscent of a daisy, not an attempt to exactly reproduce a flower, so feel free to make as many or as few 'petals' as you like. I have used UK crochet terms.

    Daisy - Use any yarn you have, and work at a tightish tension. You will need a tiny bit of yellow yarn and a few metres of white. Use a hook that's a little smaller than you would normally use. I used dk yarn and a 3.5mm hook.

    White 'petals'

    Ch8, slip stitch together to form a ring.

    Rnd 1: Worrking in to the ring, 1dc, *ch 15, dc; rep from * 11 times or as many as fits comfortably into the ring without overlapping. Do not turn.

    Rnd 2: Ch15, sl st into ring through petal, in between dcs. Repeat around until each 'petal' has another behind it. Sl st to join and fasten off.  Set aside.

    Yellow centre

    Rnd 1:Into magic ring (also known as disappearing loop), ch1, dc6

    Rnd 2: 2 dc into each dc (12 sts)

    Rnd 3: dc into each dc, sl st to dc, fasten off. Leave a long tail. Use the tail to stitch the yellow centre onto the centre of the white ring.

    The daisy will look very curly. Soak and lie flat to block, or steam block. The bottom flower in this picture is pre-blocking. Top is blocked. It doesn't take much effort and it makes a big difference! Just arrange the petals by brushing them out flat with your fingers, no need to pin.

    If you like this pattern, consider making a small donation to the fund, or maybe use it to do some fundraising yourselves xxx


    World Autism Awareness day - books & films

    Awareness is important. I've written quite a few blog posts about this. The first Autism awareness day post was back in 2012. You can find all the autism-related posts by typing autism into the search box on the right hand side or by clicking the autism tag. The more people who know about the autistic spectrum, the easier my son's life will be!

    So here are some books & films that have helped me to understand more - and they are not academic tomes. There are very good academic books (I would recommend Tony Attwood) but this is a list of novels/films/TV shows that I think do a good job of explaining/representing the autistic spectrum.

    The Curious Incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon is a novel that has been made into a play. I haven't seen the play, but the book made so much sense to me when I read it & resonated with me more than academic books about Autism. If you haven't read it, it's well worth a go. There are parts of the book that are ludicrously funny, and others that make a parental heart ache. Imagine collecting your child from a police cell and not being able to give them a hug. I can't tell you how thankful I am that Matt is an enthusiastic hugger!

    All Cats have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopman. I bought this book to take into primary school to help Matt's class mates understand why he sometimes acted wierd. It's charming & lovely - great for explaining difficult concepts to younger children, but also a simple introduction for adults too.

    A different witch, Debora Geary. In fact not just this book, buy all her books! The main character in this book is an adult woman with Aspergers who is brave, funny & loving. I interviewed the author in this post, and I love to re-read her books often.

    Snowcake. I love this film. It stars Alan Rickman & Sigourney Weaver - need I say more? I know that the plot has some pretty big errors & there are a lot of missed opportunities, but the two actors make up for all of it. Alan Rickman being supremely grumpy & Sigourney transforms herself into a high funtioning autistic woman. There are some blurry OCD/autism overlaps that bother some people, but I love it. The main character was advised by Ros Blackburn. If you get the chance to hear her speak, do it! We (DH & I) heard her talking at a NAS 2 day thing and she was wonderful. Articulate, blunt, without a smidge of self pity, brutally honest about her disabilities, and inspiring. There's an interview with Ros about the process of working with Sigourney Weaver here

    Rainman - watch the film by all means, but please don't take it as a guide to autism! That film has probably done more harm than good for autism awareness, but that doesn't mean it's a bad film - just a very very narrow interpretation on autism that is regarded as fact because Dustin Hoffman does his usual wonderful acting job.

    The Big Bang Theory. I'm sure most of you already know about it, but just in case.... This is an American sitcom based around an initially unlikely friendship group of intelligent & socially awkward men, and the cute wannabe actress who moved in across the hall. The cast developed over time & now has 7 core characters;4 men, 3 women. The central character is Sheldon. The writers have (wisely) refused to label him, which gives them more scope for plotlines & development. However, Sheldon has a lot of very clear autistic-type traits. The show is funny & touching, and does a lovely job of showing the incredible irritation of living with Sheldon as well as the way that he becomes the group's centre. It's not really a show about autism, but it made geeky cool, and has an underlying acceptance of differences that has made it such a loved & succesful show.