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    Keeping it simple

    I've fallen out of the habit of blogging, as is pretty obvious on here! I will get back to it, but in the meantime I post much more regularily on Instagram. It's quick and easy; I use the camera on my phone rather than having to use my proper camera - which needs the battery charging & I can't find the charger - uploading images, editing them down to a reasonable size, and loading them onto the website. And I'm all about simplicity at the moment.

    There are lots of complicated things going on at home, to do with our oldest son, whether the local education authority will let him stay at his school post-16, claiming disability allowance & doing the attendant paperwork & interviews and stuff like that. So my head in full of complexity and I'm finding (once again) that crafts are my perfect outlet. 

    I bought an old loom ages ago and have been scared of it since. So I decided to just try it, use leftover yarns & see if I could make a simple scarf. As you can see, I did! And the potential of weaving is so exciting. Especially when considered alongside handspun yarns, with all their character. My spinning mojo is back - I'll be showing you more on the blog soon. I've been learning new skills, and went on a Quilt Routes workshop last saturday. I'm so in love with my little piece of machine sewn artwork, and can't wait to do more.


    The focus on simplicity has spilled over to work too. I had always planned to do self published work this year, with a couple of book ideas in my head that needed refining. Then an idea popped into being all by itself and wouldn't go away. So unexpectedly, granny squares have become my focus, and I'm about half way though the designs for a book! With such a clear focus, I can't go haring off, getting distracted by other ideas. I'm being very disciplined about the designs, and it turns out I'm falling back in love with granny squares. The designs are not all actually square, but they all come from that construction & I'm loving it. Happy days :)




    Autism Awareness 2016

    And here we are, all of a sudden it's April & World Autism Awareness day is upon us. I don't know about you, but it's taken me by surprise. I've been so busy dealing with the bureaucracy  & stress caused by our second post-16 education & health care plan review, that I haven't considered an autism awareness blog post. 

    It's our second EHCP post-16 review. For the same child. As Matt has been an academic year ahead of himself he started post-16 at his school this academic year. However, as he is chronologically 16 this academic year, we are going through it again. And harder. This is the change for County to put him into a cheaper academic placement for the next 2 years. We were ambushed in January at his annual review, with the county representative claiming that he was failing academically as he hasn't yet achieved a C grade at English GCSE. I was so taken aback I somehow forgot to point out that he shouldn't have actually taken any GCSEs yet, and yet he already has 2 grade Cs. How is that failing? Grrrr. 

    Anyway, there is a bigger chance than ever this year that he will be taken out of his residential school and moved to a more local provision. It will be interesting to see how important the pupil's views are in comparison to budget.

    Yesterday, we got a letter through from ATOS, who administer assessments for disability benefits (PIP). I had to complete a 40 page form for Matt over the christmas period, get it back to them just after New Year & have heard not a single peep since. Until yesterday, telling us we had a meeting in 6 days time at our house. That doesn't give us much time to prepare. Although, I suppose it's good that it is happening during the school holidays when he is actually here. They are coming to our house, rather than us going to them, which is not the norm as far as I am aware. Or maybe it is for 16 year olds? Who knows. 

    Luckily for us, autism awareness is rising. There's more on the TV about autism/aspergers. So maybe we will be dealing with someone who has an idea what it is. 

    There are a couple of things on British TV at the moment that are highlighting autism. The A word on BBC1 is a drama about a fairly dysfunctional family who find out that their 5 yr old son has autism. I have some reservations about this programme. I am quite glad they are not asking the boy actor to fully embrace an autistic meltdown, but it does make meltdowns look like temper tantrums. However, it's probably not reasonable to expect a child actor to bang his head against the floor/wall till it bruises, or to scream loud & long enough to lose his voice. Or to thrash around blindly without any care for injury to himself or others. So I can accept the compromises they have made. But they need to have considerably more humour in the show. Autism families tend to have an appreciation for black humour! 

    I am however really enjoying Employable Me on BBC2. Only around 15% OF PEOPLE IN THE UK WITH AUTISM ARE IN FULL TIME EMPLOYMENT. They have dealt with Tourettes & Autism Spectrum conditions very well so far and have shown a pretty balanced view of the difficulties as well as the strengths of the people featured. I really hope it opens employer's eyes to the benefits of considering neurologically diverse employees (in loyalty quite apart from anything else). If you haven't watched it, you should! I had no idea that Tourettes could suddenly affect you as an adult - which happened to one of the two people featured in the first show. The other person on the first show is a man with autism in his 30s who has never had a job. I defy anyone to watch this without rooting for him, and caring desperately what happens. So if you are in the UK, would you take the time to watch it? Catch it on iplayer, enjoy & learn.

    And to lighten things up, how about a quick reprive of Special Needs Ryan? Yes? Your wish is my command!



    Unravel 2016

    Last weekend me and my friend Gilly (Tickety-b) went to Unravel. We missed last year, and it was lovely to be back again. We met up with Sarah (Crafts from the Cwtch) and later Joanne (Not so granny - after she had finished teaching) and had a grand time going round all the stalls, chatting with the vendors & bumping into friends. 

    I made sure to visit Rachel & Alli of Yarn in the City and was excited to pick up my copy of the London Craft Guide. It's a great size book - perfect for popping in your bag, and there's a whole lot of stuff packed in. It's made me want to have a couple of solo days in London so I can do my own mini yarn crawls!

    I had fun at Spin City's stand, and had a lovely evening chatting with Louise & her Mum along with lots of other knitty folks that evening. I didn't buy any yarn, but I did get lots of spinning supplies.

    You might have spotted a copy of Crochet Yeah! in there too - and I've already started a project from it. Joanne & Kat are a great team, and I love what they have done with The Crochet Project

    Another highlight was catching up with Amanda Perkins and seeing her crochet blankets on display as a collection. Spectacular, and definitely a good argument that crochet can be both practical and art at the same time.

    If you went, I hope you had fun. I met too many new people to name check everyone, but that's one of my favourite things about yarn festivals - all the amazing people I've got to know! What's your favourite thing?



    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?




    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!