For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb
Psalm 139:13

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

off the hook: over the rainbow crochet blanket

It's no secret – I've been AWOL for some time because I've been busy making all of the things ever. One of which is this crochet blanket. The fab news is, not only is my latest blanket off the hook, I designed it and the pattern is in the new issue of Simply Crochet magazine! Wahoo! Grab a copy of issue 56 if you fancy making it (shameless plug). 

Blankets are always a bit of commitment. They're a labour of love, really, as they take such a long time to make. But when I first clapped eyes on these fantastically over-saturated, Crayola-esque colours, I instantly felt a crochet blanket coming on. Have you ever had that feeling? When you discover a new yarn and it just shouts it's intentions at you? Sometimes it's "I NEED to be a cardigan!" or "I'm a shawl! I'm a shawl!", but it could equally be "Keep me in your stash and squish me". In fact, most yarns seem to say that to me. 

Not KnitPicks Shine Worsted, though. These babies were destined to become a rainbow crochet blanket and no mistake. Zig-zagging ripples were the order of the day, so I played with a few different stitch combos and settled on this repeat with clusters and back loop details to highlight the colour changes in the stripes. The texture and colour changes are what kept things interesting through this project. I just couldn't wait to see how the pattern would look in the next shade of yarn, and the next, and the next. Colour is very exciting, you guys. 

Naturally, I fell head-over-heels for this yarn during the process. The sheen, smoothness and depth of colour in KnitPick Shine Worsted is amazing, and it's loosely plied without being splitty at all. I'm currently plotting what to make with the leftover scraps. Maybe some granny squares for a rainbow cushion? I'll keep you posted.

Mr P kinda loves this design too. He keeps asking when we'll get the sample back and we've decided it'll take pride of place on the sofa for lap blanket duties. I often joke that I'm never happier than when I'm in a blanket, but in a rainbow crochet blanket of my own design I'm sure to be ecstatic. 

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

baby bootees and a handmade legacy

We owe so much to the women who taught us to knit, don't we?

Nannie, now in her nineties, and Auntie Maureen, who we miss, would never have described themselves as knitters, but it's the skills they passed on to me that give me that identity. In their generations, almost everybody was handy with a needle and thread or ball of yarn. Now they're the kind of skills we have to seek out. 

A couple of weekends ago, I headed south to the seaside town where my parents live. I'd been invited to a baby shower for my friend Beth who's about to pop (so exciting). Naturally, I'd done the knitterly thing and stitched a pair of baby bootees – these ones by Marianna. In the past, I've knocked up little pairs of buttoned Mary Janes using the Saartje's Bootees pattern. They are very cute and it's a good excuse to raid the button stash, but I found this design a lot less fiddly.

The pattern is free (always a bonus), they're so easy to knit and look really adorable. I'll definitely be making more of these! I used DROPS Cotton Merino for this pair, which is a soft DK that's machine washable. I was keen to make them in natural fibres and this yarn fitted the bill nicely. Get all the deets on Ravelry here.

I was pretty chuffed with my handmade gift, but it was by no means the most beautiful or meaningful one given. We gathered round and Beth started unwrapping gifts for her little one. The first present was a pair of breathtaking handknitted blankets. One had a colourwork pattern with hedgehogs and a moss stitch border, the other was a delicate circular blanket in fine white lace. Both were lovingly and painstakingly stitched. The lady I was sat next to had made them. Her name was Jean. She was wearing a beautiful handknitted cardigan - periwinkle blue with complicated cables. It sounds cheesy, of course, but you could tell how much love she'd put into the making those blankets. Jean told me they had taken weeks to make and described how she'd made the round one with circular needles. She'd been knitting for years and had made many, many blankets in her time. Jean said she was even making blankets now for the children of people she'd made blankets for before they were born. That's an incredible legacy of heirloom knitted blankets.

Mama-to-be Beth is a very creative lady, so I know those beautiful blankets will be treasured for years to come. Her mum explained to me that Jean was a family friend who'd taught Beth how to knit when she was younger. It got me thinking about the impact that the older women in my life have had.

Nannie and Maureen taught me to knit. It's a simple thing, but it's had a huge impact on my career, my creativity, my identity, the people I've made connections with and how I think about my creator.

There have been some very significant pseudo-grandmas in my life too. Dodie, Nannie's best friend, gave me some vintage knitting patterns and my first tapestry needle years ago. I still use it to sew in all the ends on my projects. Mary gave me and my sister old books that her children had read, which helped kindle my love of reading at a young age. And Gwyn, who taught me about the power of prayer, even amid heartache, and how it's never too late to learn something new or find joy in an unexpected place. I'm so grateful to all of them.

Who do you owe your craft skills to? Let's celebrate them.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

the social heart project yarnbomb

On Valentine's Day I took part in One Social Girl Meredith's annual yarnbomb for the fourth time. It's always such a lovely thing to join in with - spreading a tiny bit of handmade and a message of love where you live. This year, the #sheepishheartbomb became #thesocialheartproject and it was another chance to do something positive in real life and see the results of everyone's efforts online. Here's what I got up to over lunch in Bristol. 

Yes, I felt super self-conscious taking a bunch of crochet hearts out of my pocket and tying them to a gate, you know, just in the park in the middle of the day. But I'm hoping maybe this encouraged somebody. And that makes the small gesture worth it. 

Check out the #thesocialheartproject hashtag on Instagram to see everybody's crafty love notes out in communities around the world. Did you join in? I'll be stitching and sharing again next year!

Friday, 13 January 2017

hello 2017

2016, it's been real. A little too real. I'm so glad it's 2017. 
I hope you managed to have a bit of a break over Christmas and New Year. We had some down time and as usual I'm feeling a little reflective now it's January. 

It wasn't the best year. With all the worldwide negative and dramatic goings-on, as well as some struggles with striving, comparison and not finding contentment myself, it did suck in quite a few ways. But I'm still a silver linings kinda girl. I know there's a plan for me and that I am very blessed. I just need that to sink in properly in 2017. Having a look back over the last year is a good way to bring the positives and milestones back to light.

As always, there were some firsts: visits to Italy and Scotland, gym membership, difficult goodbye, blogging workshop, sponsored post, clay pigeon shooting (don't ask), trip to A&E (unrelated), x-ray, soup run, big festival, serious hangover (never a good idea), falling in love with spreadsheets, 

There were births, deaths and marriages, joyful, rowdy gigs, there was some wobbly mental health, Mr P learnt to drive, I finally visited the wonderful Letty and we went to the Bronte parsonage (literature geek achievement unlocked!), I crocheted my way across Loch Ness with some marvellous colleagues, I had my long hair cut off (finally), we celebrated our third wedding anniversary in Sorrento, went for a windy Christmas Eve walk on the beach and saw in the new year with friends. 

Last year I challenged myself to, among other things, finish two garments. And I totally did! Orange You Glad was my first adult-sized crochet garment and Miette my first knitted one. I'm pretty proud of them both and now have plans for a knitted jumper. I also managed to tick off another crafty goal – designing a blanket. I'll keep you posted on that one! 

I carried on running and yoga-ing, too. With a running buddy, I ran further than ever before (no-one was more surprised about this than me) and am planning a longer run with my sister in 2017. 

By far the biggest stepping-out-of-my-comfort zone moment was launching my To Be Adorned shop in 2016. Here's what I had to say on the matter. It's all been quiet on the western front around these parts lately as most of my free time is now spent dreaming up new designs, crocheting, wrestling with my glue gun and trying to figure out how to run a tiny business armed only with an iPad and a whole load of yarn. I have a feeling 2017's going to be a busy one. 

In the year ahead I'd like to knit a jumper, make the shop a success, pray more, love more and find joy in the everyday. But who knows what adventures are ahead!

Have you set any goals for 2017?

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

yarn along: The Night Circus, Elegance and a baby hat

It feels like it's been a while since we caught up, so what better way to check in than with a natter about reading and knitting? Ginny's yarn along is always a joy, but especially now it's so dark and cold that all I want to do is curl up indoors and ward off the encroaching winter with yarn and books. 

What are you making at the moment? This tiny stripy baby hat is fairly fresh off my needles. It's a Simply Knitting pattern from their Hand Knits for Baby booklet. The pattern is called Hats Off and I made it for a special little lady who hasn't been born yet! It's a pretty straightforward, knitted flat pattern and I figured out my own sassy stripe sequence. The yarn is Bessie May Smile – a squishy merino DK that is SO soft. You can see more on Ravelry here

I've finally finished The Night Circus (sooo good - message me if you've not read it and fancy my copy. I like to pass on good books). The colours black and red have an important presence in the story and there's an amazing bit near the end where a knitter gives one of the characters a beautiful red scarf. Check it out:
"She hands him a red wool scarf, the one she has been knitting on and off. It is longer than Bailey expected from watching her knit, with intricate patterns of knotted cables at each end.
"I can't accept this," he says, part of him deeply honored and the other part wishing people would stop giving him things. 
"Nonsense," Elizabeth says. "I make them all the time, I am at no loss for yarn. I started this one with no particular reveur in mind to wear it, so clearly it is meant for you."
"Thank you," Bailey says, wrapping the scarf around his neck despite the warmth of the train."

It's just brilliant when knitting crops up in a book you've fallen in love with. So what's next? I'm about to start on Elegance by Kathleen Tessaro. I've not read anything else by her, but I friend passed it on to me so I'm giving it a go. I'll keep you posted. 

I'd also like to share something exciting that happened earlier this month - the lovely Sarah of Crafts from the Cwtch featured me in her 'In Conversation With…' series. We had a good old chinwag about Knit Happens and my Simply Crochet day job. You can read it here

What are you knitting and reading at the moment? 

Saturday, 29 October 2016

the shop is open!

Guys, I did a thing. Last week I launched my To Be Adorned Etsy shop!

Yep, this is one of the things I've secretly been working on for ages. It's been one of my goals since about 2010 to create my own collection of bits and bobs and launch an Etsy shop. And I've finally done it!  

Inspired by antique jewellery, vintage fashion and my own love of crochet, I've designed a mini collection of handmade accessories with decadent details. Some of the items are wedding focused and some of them are just for feeling a little bit more fabulous! I'm absolutely bursting with ideas at the moment and getting creative in this new way has brought me so much joy, so I'm thrilled to finally be able to share this with you. 

To Be Adorned is basically a newborn right now and I know I've got a lot to learn and a shed load of hard work ahead of me, but here goes! 

I'd love to know what's inspiring you and bringing you joy at the moment. 

Sunday, 9 October 2016

off the needles: Miette

Ta-da! She is finished!

I started Miette last Christmas as part of Andi's Selfish Sweater KAL 2016 and now the cardigan is FINALLY off the needles and on my back. Okay, so it took me a grand total of nine long months to finish, but what a journey! 

This is my first ever adult-sized knitted garment and I'd definitely recommend this pattern to anyone contemplating such a feat. I'd long admired Andi's Untangling Knots cropped sweater designs and initially I was seduced by the vintage, 1950s vibe of Miette, (and the fact that it's a free Ravelry download – let's be real), but I fell even more in love with the pattern as I stitched. It's easy to follow and the seamless top-down method meant not only could I try it on as I went along (cue jubilant mirror prancing at every stage), but I didn't have to do any sewing up at the end. Hurrah!

The zigzag lace sections look fancy when they're blocked but are simple to do and I don't think I had any points in the project where I got totally stuck. It's just a really wearable, flattering design.

My version of the cardi is knitted in Drops Nepal – an aran-weight alpaca mix yarn. Deliciously soft, really cosy and smooth to stitch with – I'm a fan! It was one of the suggested yarns for the project on Ravelry, and as it's so reasonable and I'm a sucker for alpaca, I knew it was the one. There's a great colour range, too (I shopped at Wool Warehouse). I'll be interested to see how it wears over time. Have you used it before?  

And obviously I've already decided on the garment I want to knit next. It's this sausage dog jumper by Amanda Jones, in mustard yellow of course. What on your needles at the mo? 

Cardigan: Miette; Gingham dress: old H&M (charity shopped); Bag: charity shopped; Boots: Clarks Originals (hand-me-downs)

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