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    Monday
    Feb082016

    Going underground

    All Photos credit Juju Vail for The London Craft Guide

    If you're a UK knitter you may have heard of the Great London Yarn Crawl, organised by my friends Rachel & Alli. Having run the yarn crawl for a couple of years, they decided that they would be in the perfect position to write a crafty guide to London. There are loads of great yarn, fabric & haberdashery shops in the city and soon you'll be able to find out where they are & lots more.

    I can't wait to see the book. There are 9 patterns from different designers - mostly knitting, 2 sewing, and I have a little bit of crochet in mine too. From a photo posted to Instagram, it looks like the book will also have mini craft crawls too. I know (as a non-Londoner) I will be trying those out as there are so many interesting bits of London I haven't visited, and this gives me the perfect excuse.

    I kept my bag simple - there are no tricky techniques or difficult to get hold of materials and the zip is as simple as it can be. I used 3 fat quarters of Liberty fabric - as it's such a famous London brand - but I had loads of fabric left. There is a matching purse, and both the purse & bag are small enough that you could hand sew them if you wanted to. I did an interview which is on the yarn in the city blog here, so I won't repeat myself. But I really like this pattern, and am thrilled to see the photos. The book will be launched at Unravel, Farnham Maltings (19th-21st Feb 2016). I'll be going on the Saturday - I might see you there?

     

     

    Thursday
    Jan212016

    Learning crochet

    Crochet took me forever to get the hang of. Seriously, it took me about a year. I just couldn't 'see' it. I was a good knitter when I tried to learn and was used to being able to see the patterns in knitting. I was knitting a lot of fairly complex lace, and could see where I made a mistake and could generally work out a way to fix it without having to rip out hundreds of stitches to do it. So crochet should have been a doddle, right? Wrong! I couldn't see where the stiches should go, couldn't work out how many stitches I'd even done.

    I went on a workshop, and kind of managed it while the teacher was there. She was charming, a very skilled crocheter and did a good job of showing the different basic stitches and what they could be used for. But it didn't really stick. I could form the stitches but couldn't see where I should put them. It also taught me about the importance of having handouts that people can refer to after the class, and also about having a project to make so that you can continue after the class & not forget what you've learned. So I always try to design a project that will teach the key skills involved, at the skill level that the workshop is targeted for. 

    But even if it's basic, it doesn't need to be boring! So given the challenge of a beginner crochet evening class of only 2 hours, I knew that I wanted to teach chains, double crochet & treble crochet as they are the most commonly used stitches, the building blocks of all the other stitch patterns. And that whatever I made should be consistent so that as long as the students could get the first few rows done in class, they'd be able to continue at home. And so that it doesn't get too repetitive, we can take a break and make a contrast colour flower. 

    There's plenty of opportunity to customise and try things out. I'm hoping this will be a really good class project  - fingers crossed that the students like it as much as I do!

    Wednesday
    Jan132016

    So it turns out 6 months is no time at all.......

    Ahem, hadn't really planned to stop blogging for 6 months, but somehow it happened! 

    So what's happened since my last blog post?

    We moved house - while the move itself was urgh, I love the house. Especially having an open fire <3

    I'm still designing - mostly for a magazine on a no name basis, so they don't need to credit me. I did submit to Knit Now in the last call though, and so you'll be seeing a couple of designs in the spring. 


    I'm still teaching - my regular Mon & Tues night sewing classes at Kingshill House in Dursley started this week. Due to a computer glitch, the classes were listed as full before they actually were, which has meant that the class numbers are smaller than normal. So if you want to sign up, there's still time! 

    I don't have many knitting & crochet workshops signed up yet, but I expect there will be plenty of them this year too!

    And to keep things interesting, I've signed up with a temp agency that specialise in providing teaching assistants for Special Educational Needs. I don't like to feel too comfortable with what I'm doing, and so this should spice things up :)

    In September, I went to Chicago to see my Uncle inaugurated as the President of Illinois Institute of Technology - impressive, huh? The ceremony was inspiriational & it was lovely to have a family meet up that wasn't a wedding or funeral. I also fell in love with Chicago, and would love to go back and spend longer there. It's a really exciting city.



    There are interesting things coming up - I'll be able to tell you more soon, but my first sewing pattern is going to be on sale soon - and if you are going to Unravel, you'll be able to see it :)

    So I'll try to avoid another long break - see you soon! xx

     

     

    Thursday
    Jul092015

    Marinke

    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. 

     

     

    Thursday
    Jun112015

    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