Showing posts with label crochet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crochet. Show all posts

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Making a blanket; or how I cope with the long winter nights.

I don't do so well in Winter! I really do try to appreciate it, and try to not let the season get me too down but I struggle a lot, especially as it gets darker in the evenings and some of the days never seem to get very light. I think it is all about the light. On the days where it is grey and raining I am often glum, bright and crisp days - no matter how cold - seem to make me much perkier.

This year I decided to set myself some Winter challenges - first, to follow a pattern and make a crochet blanket. I like making things up as I go usually and am not a huge planner for my crochet projects. I do believe concentrating on something new to learn helps to pass the time when I am not feeling so great, and crochet has helped me through my darkest times. Remember when I was really poorly while pregnant and made a huge blanket... 

I know I use crochet in my business, added to shelves and bedside tables, but I also still crochet for fun, just for me. It is a passion, so it isn't at all like a busman's holiday! I am quite a slow crochet-er, a large blanket would take me sixty or seventy hours to do. That is quite freeing really as there is no way that I could sell the blankets, even to make minimum wage, so I know that these will only ever be for gifts or for myself and that takes a little bit of the pressure off.

Why did I choose to make a blanket as my first Winter challenge? There were a few reasons that all came together really...

The challenge of following a pattern - actually starting and finishing a project that I haven't made up, which means I don't have to make any decisions at all. I'd never followed such a large pattern before, and I'd never made anything in the colours suggested! I always amended, and have green bears and pink monkeys to prove it!

I met Lucy from Attic24, who is a super lovely crochet blogger, and one of the amazing people behind Yarndale. Lucy blogs to people all over the world from Skipton - which is my nearest town. She is very lovely - despite being an international award-winning crochet superstar, she is down to earth albeit super talented. Here is a picture of the two of us at Yarndale.






Lucy is a blanket designer, among other things and I really liked her blankets. They come in packs from Wool Warehouse, which cost £26. It's a good price and I decided this was a lovely and affordable Winter Challenge. I actually treated myself to a new crochet hook too - so the total cost was £31. 




Here is the start of my blanket. The start is always the hardest, as you don't have the feel of the pattern and it also can look a bit strange. It's quite bobbly (is that even a proper word), but I trusted that in time it would all work out for the best. That's kind of my life motto really! 



Here is a close up. I actually made a yarn buddy, Hi Margo!, and we sent each other pictures as we were both making the same blanket. It was such a lovely and slow, but pressure free way to get to know someone, I can heartily recommend it. 


This blanket is called The Moorland Blanket, and is supposed to reflect the colours of the moors. Now as someone who grew up very close to the moors and who still sees them regularly, I can say, it is exact. This pattern and the colours above show the earthy ness of the moors, browns and greens with the odd flash of purple heather. I think the shapes tell of the way the land is springy underfoot when you walk on the Moors. 






I always knew I wouldn't keep this blanket and that is was a gift. It was for a friend who was struggling, as she watched one of her close friends die. I couldn't do anything to help her, no one could really but I could make her something to hug her when she needed it. 

I am very lucky to have some really special friends, who are always there for me, who are unconditionally supportive and who just make my life so much better. She is one of those friends who is really lovely and, which is crucial, she appreciates hand made things. Not everyone does as I have learned and I would not want to make something that took a very long time without knowing it would be cherished. 




It got colder and darker as the blanket grew and the warmth was much appreciated. More shades of purple were used to represent the swathes of heather. 



I really liked the way that counting stiches helped me to feel  relaxed and that the pattern here was something that I could do while the toddler played, it was something I could pick up and work on for twenty minutes or so and then leave for a few hours or days. 



It was around this time that I started to really look into the concept of 'hygge', which is a Danish word which translates to a feeling of cosyness, of being content in the moment, and as a way to survive bleak winters. Understanding this felt amazing. It's that feeling of not being alone, not being the odd one out. Other people struggle with this too - in fact almost a whole country does and they have found ways to cope. Hot drinks, candles, blankets. Easy things that make the darkness more bearable. 

I hope that this could be my salvation. 




This picture of me with the blanket represents row 89. That is about 45 hours of work! This was a real moment for me, hence the quite cheesy grin! Row 89 was Duck Egg, and this meant I had reached the sky in the blanket. I love Summer skies and blue is my favourite colour.





Look at these wonderful shades of blue glinting in the sunshine. This made me feel really happy. 





And then it was done! It's taller than me, so I made husband pose with the finished article. It's been a good challenge.

I feel proud to have finished this. My friend seems very pleased with her gift. I started another blanket almost straightaway as this may be one of the ways I start to learn to cope well with darkness. 

I've also found my next challenge and will post about that at some point too. 

Monday, 17 July 2017

About me

Hello everyone, it seems like a long time since i just chattered away and talked about me. We'd better rectify that then, hadn't we?




Life has changed a lot for me over the last couple of years and although I love change and tend to thrive on change, I'm still adjusting to this new life style.

Two years ago, I was developing prototypes of my handmade shelves with added crochet and starting to think about building a business. I was working full time and had teenage children. I was spending my spare time renovating our house, a former dentists from the 1900's.

Now, I'm a new mummy again- well new ish, my little one is 14 months old as I write this. He's walking, climbing, and trying very hard to speak to us! I'm my own boss of two different businesses. I've hardly moved the house on at all, but it's our forever home so it's ok!



Not going out to work very often and not having colleagues are pretty big changes. Working 13 hour days looking after a baby and then starting work on my businesses is also very different. It doesn't feel like work at all and that means I am exceptionally grateful to have such a wonderful lifestyle. I do take time everyday to appreciate my life, my work, my family and friends, my health and my house and businesses. I do chat away at people when I see them though as I think I am a little in danger of not having enough conversation in my life. That's one of the definite downsides of living with four boys and being the only girl. 

My days are spent dividing my time between my two businesses and making sure I have plenty of time to play with my little man. I struggle to fit household tasks around these, but just keep telling myself that there's more to life than neatly ironed clothes. The teenagers are mostly having to fend for themselves. Ideally that will just mean they grow up to be very independent. They won't allow me to take pictures anymore, so I can't introduce you to them! 

My consultancy business is as an evaluation expert. Unless you've worked on charity and publicly funded projects in the past you probably have no idea what that means. I've been a project manager for charity projects for the last 14 years and along the way I've learned that evaluation is one of my key strengths. I'm one of those weird people who loves English and Maths and is good at both. I happen to enjoy analytical work and meeting people and evaluation means I get to do all the bits I love.

How it works is that when charities and community groups receive public money for projects, which could be from the lottery, from health funding agencies or charitable trusts, they call upon someone like me to show the impact of their work. What this means, for example, is that if a group of young people are developing a project around building a community garden and they are being supported by a gardening group: I can work with them to find out which bits of the project were particularly successful, what taking part meant to the young people and what the project did for the local community, the wildlife, the community who see the garden every day. I help projects measure things like confidence or resilience and happiness among other difficult-to-measure-things. By bringing someone like me in, the project staff can focus on running the project, I can help them to find out how they should plan another project and I can show how the project was a worthwhile investment to other funders, which hopefully means more projects in the future. It's my way of helping to make the world a better place. 

I really love this work, it's flexible and I'm my own boss and I get to problem solve too!

Then the other business is destabled. As you are reading this on my destabled website the chances are fairly high that you already know something about my work here. I'm a furniture designer and maker. Each of my products is designed and refined by myself and then made by hand by me. I work with wood and crochet and make a capsule collection of products; shelves, wall hooks, bookends, and my latest design - bedside tables.



My products are designed to echo the forest, and the shape of trees but in a clean and contemporary manner. Each of my wooden shelves and bedside tables are made from solid wood which have the knots removed, to show the shape of the original tree. This means that each piece I make is a completely unique design, just like no two trees are ever identical.

I start with the wood and make design decisions throughout. Smaller knots tend to have smaller holes and larger knots have larger holes.



The larger holes are filled with crochet. These are woolen knots, again, made by me! I use the finest hand dyed yarns and then add paint to create a truly original product which is a usable item too.





I am often asked where the inspiration for adding crochet came from, and the truth is I'm just not entirely sure. I have been crochet-ing for a few years and often used to hold my work up to the light to see how the pattern was coming along. Out of nowhere I decided I wanted that crochet to be a part of furniture. I started teaching myself woodwork only because I had a vision of what I wanted my shelves to look like. It took me a long time to get them to look like the ones you see now, which is the vision I had. I kept my early works though, to remind myself how far I've come. I'm a fairly confident person on the whole, but I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to share those first attempts! 

I use dovetail joints, they're strong and sturdy and look great. Again, that was a pretty huge learning experience. Luckily I really do love learning. To manage this lifestyle I've chosen, I've pretty much given up watching TV. I catch the odd show or movie, and sometimes I put documentaries on in the office while I tidy up or do a job where I don't need to concentrate so much. 




I don't mind not watching TV. I'm quite impatient anyway and always felt a bit like I was wasting time if I just sat down and watched something. I'm quite driven and give myself a hard time if I'm not productive. I need to stop doing that so much, as life with a baby just isn't productive and I need to get better at appreciating the little moments we have together, rather than thinking of all the things I still have on my to do list. 

I don't like wasting materials, and had all these circles of wood leftover from my shelves. I spent ages trying to think of a way to use them and then I remembered that branches of trees are natures coat hooks. Is that a saying? I've possibly just made that up! Anyway - that was the inspiration and now I use the holes I remove to make simple and elegant wall hooks. I like to try and think of it as I am using all of the tree. I use hooks a lot at home, and still need more. As I type this I realise more and more that I make the products that I need. Is that what every designer does? 



I've always loved to read. Trips to the library as a child were my favourite thing to do and I still read a lot as an adult. Not as much recently, I lost the ability to concentrate when I had antenatal depression (you can read about that here) and although I do now feel healed, I just don't have the time. I could make time probably, but I want to focus on blogging, and learning to improve my photography and improving my social media skills so I haven't really put reading as a priority right now. 

Again, I was thinking of my love of forests and woodlands and places and travel and all those images combined in my head to create a vision of these bookends which are shaped like signposts and these can be personalised with any combination of six special places. I love hearing the places people choose. Making these gives me a sense of wanderlust every time! 



Our house is a forever house, as I mentioned before and it has lots of wonderful original features. One of the most amazing parts is that we have an outbuilding with a garage, a den above and a stabIe. I still have to pinch myself sometimes when I think I own a stable! It's like a dream come true. The stable is my workshop, I make all these products in my stable, it's my little haven and I spent a lot of time in there designing, hence the name destabled.

It's so easy to talk about yourself isn't it! I've just kept writing and there's more to say! I'd like to discuss how I spend an average day, the spaces I work in, what I've learned setting up a business, and much more. I feel however that this post has come to rest at a natural place, so I shall save those ideas for another time.





Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Real life problems: Yarn Storage

I started to get a bit overwhelmed as I really was drowning in yarn!


Warning the following four images are just gratuitous yarn shots! 






Let's get back to the real life problem. Almost one year ago, I had another beautiful baby boy. My other boys are teenagers so our house had become a more grown up house. We have a playroom for the xbox and massive telly required by grown up boys and apart from lots of sport equipment toys were rare these days. 

Our house had become a bohemian and lovely space. Comfortable, quite messy in a sit-down-and-be-cosy-friends-always-welcome kind of way and I had (have) a lot of hobbies and half done projects which require equipment. This worked out pretty well but once we started to add; changing mats, toys, nappy storage, toys, new baby washing piles, toys, jumperoo's, toys, bouncy chairs, toys, pram, did-I-mention-all-the-bloomin-toys! I started to feel out of control. 

I like the toys, I don't think we have that many just coupled with my personal style which is quite cluttered anyway it soon felt too much and not in a good way. My son has inherited some of my personality as he loves to get every toy out, scatter cushions on the floor, empty the nappy storage (all clean items - don't worry) and we were spending most of our days living in this...





There was a while, where I thought - it's fine, he's going to have awesome orienteering skills! But it has started to get to me more as he moves around more. I want him to have space to play and I want to have space to sit on the floor with him. 

This was the catalyst for coming up with a solution. I love problem solving - it takes time, but I really enjoy it. I have spent a long time thinking through and decided that I needed to change up the furniture as it wasn't working and repurpose some of the items. I had all my yarn in a beautiful old bohemian 1970's storage unit which reached the floor. I decided this would work much better for toys and then started to think about how I could store my yarn. I like to see it, as it encourages me to not go and buy more yarn for small projects as I often have what I need already. If I hide it away, I would go yarn shopping much more often and I don't need to do that. 

I tend to make quite a range of crochet projects - toys, amigurami, blankets, flowers for my shelves and so on. Quite often my projects don't need masses of wool, which means I end up with quite a lot of half balls of yarn and I have started buying lovely hand dyed skeins of wool as they are just gorgeous and I have those rather than lots of different balls. 

I estimated I had around 100 balls of wool to store. As I am a shelf-maker (you can view my etsy store here)  I decided to come up with a wall mounted solution which would display these 100 balls and still be easy to access. I did NOT want them to all fall out every time I took some yarn from the bottom of a shelf. 

Firstly I carried out some market research and looked into what storage is already available. None really. A lot of people use Ikea shelving and while that works well in the main, it doesn't stop wool falling out. There are some beautiful glass fronted vintage armoires which work very well but I don't have £1000 to spend and wouldn't have the floor space either. 

I also asked people how much yarn they had. The answer was a lot! So I started to draw bigger shelves than I'd originally planned. I counted my yarn and there was nearer 200 balls to store too, once I'd rounded up all the stray carrier bags with balls stashed in them. 

Here is an image of my very first design. It worked really well except the elastic wasn't quite covering the way I needed it too. Some balls of wool were at risk of falling out as I reached for another. 





These two pictures above show me testing the shelves in my own dining room/ craft room. It was quite messy as there were 200 balls of wool scattered about the place and that's when I took the picture of me drowning in yarn. 

Teenage son had a lovely time chucking balls of wool at me and then photographing the results! 



You can see above that I used mirror plates to hang my shelves. I always use these as I find them long lasting and sturdy and with this shelf it can be completely invisible when the wool is in there. 

I decided to add more elastic and kept to a strict design, so that the shelf looks beautiful. I didn't want the elastic to detract from the yarn, and chose to make the shelf available with either black, white, pink or clear elastic. 

Here you can see my finished product, in use, in my own home. 



I've tested it out and it works. Nothing has fallen out. All 190 balls of wool (of varying sizes - some full balls, some skeins, some small ones and some chunky yarns) do fit in. There's even a little space to add more! 


This wall makes me so happy every time I see it now. It's a practical problem solver and a work of art! 

My yarn storage shelf is now available for sale on Etsy and all the product features are listed there. I've also protected the design so I am the only person who can sell these. 

I'm really excited to share my problem solving with the world! 





Monday, 10 April 2017

For the love of rainbows

Hello all,

I'm writing this about rainbows. I know, you picked that up from the title, but I couldn't think of another way to begin. There aren't any other words to describe rainbows! 

I'm a colour lover, which if you have ever read this blog before you already know. I like brights and pastels and am a fairly confirmed bohemian maximalist. Is that an actual thing? If not it should be. I like spaces and interiors to feel busy, homely (really-that-should-say-messy) and comfortable. Like you can put a mug down on a surface and not feel guilty. Like you can make yourself at home. Like you want to come to my house. 

When I was around five years old, I remember taking part in a 'wear as many colours as possible' charity event at school. I can't be sure if it was Comic Relief, or Children in Need but it was something like that. My school uniform at five, included a stiff necked blue shirt, and a tie, so getting to wear own clothes was a huge treat. I didn't go to a public school or anything, just no one had thought to let little kids wear t shirts and sweaters like they do now. I vividly remember having crochet socks with a diamond pattern, knee high and in white and my Mum let me colour every diamond in with marker pens. I loved that outfit and felt like a 'bobby dazzler' (Northern Colloquialism for 'outfit on point' for you Non-Northerners and Millenials!).

Fast forward a bit and I moved in with my boyfriend (now husband) six years ago, and one of my first thoughts was that the front room was big enough for a rainbow wall. It was one of my first home renovation projects and six years later, it's got bigger and better and I love it still. Here it is in it's current glory! 




It says homely doesn't it? There is a mix of my handmade shelving, vintage shelves and Ikea staples in there. I do love Ikea, I just don't want purely Ikea in my home as I want it to feel like my home and not a showroom. You get me? 

And now? Now I find myself making crochet shelves, using a rainbow pattern of colours and wools or yarns. I spend my days and nights obsessed with colour combinations, crochet and interiors. I haven't really changed very much from that little girl upcycling her socks thirty years ago! Blimey, it feels strange writing that. 

I've recently designed a yarn storage shelf and when I came to display it I didn't even have to think about the look, it was always going to be a rainbow. 


It fitted into my rainbow mirror wall! This is my craft room/ office. I have the stable for my workshop but I tend to work indoors on a night. Can't be using power tools at midnight now! That sounds really wonderful doesn't it? The reality is that the space shown above is also our dining room (that's why you can see a fridge freezer in the mirror, as the kitchen is so tiny there isn't room for a fridge - cringe!). I'm being pretty honest here. It works pretty well but I do spend a lot of time moving my stuff around to make space for meal times and setting up again. Or we eat on half the table surrounded by my projects! 

All of this is my way of sharing a little of my story of how I got here. Rainbows isn't an accident and if I look back I do see this was never random. 

I've met some lovely people along the way who also do rainbows. I've teamed up with them and this Easter weekend we are hosting an online Rainbow Market Weekend. I've never taken part in one of these before, but as far as I can tell, you click this link


Press going and then facebook automatically tells you the event is live. While you sit in your pyjamas eating chocolate (or-not-perhaps-that's-just-me), you can browse some gorgeous handcrafted rainbow inspired items at special offers, with no obligation to buy! Just have a look. Take part and share the love of rainbows. 





Tuesday, 27 December 2016

32,000 stitches

Crochet saved me.





This is how I managed to survive a pregnancy where I was really sick and nauseous for almost all of it and more difficult, had antenatal depression. Do you know, I don't want to always talk about this but it has been such a big deal over the last year and a bit. At first, it was all encompassing and even now as I feel better there is a lot of fear still there. I think talking about (well writing about) is one of the strongest ways to help so here we are. 

Time passing was the hardest. I used to wake up and think, oh no, another day to endure. Endure by the way is the right word, survive hints at something more than the shell I became. 

I'm feeling an awful lot better now, but I need to acknowledge what I've been through and how hard it was. It's almost like feeling traumatised - but I know that's too strong a word. Raw I think it better. It's like a scar that is still not healed. I read the term 'depression hangover' somewhere and that sums it up. I'm fragile, all too aware of what I have been through and every time I have a bad day I start to panic that the depression is coming back. I don't think it is. I just wish that this could be solved with a bacon buttie! 

Back to the 32,000 stitches. I crocheted my way through pregnancy. I counted stitches rather than be in my own head and I made things. It was a healthy way to deal with it and it helped me to cope. It didn't really make me feel better but it did pass the time. 

One of my projects (there were a lot) was a blanket for a king size bed. It had 32,000 stitches in it. 


It's a king sized bed size, corner to corner (often called c2c) crochet pattern which I learned from a Youtube tutorial by Bella Coco. Link here.

Strangely, I think I sound like Bella. Anyway, the pattern was very easy once I had the hang of it. What was difficult was choosing colours. Depression robbed me of my decision making skills and it seemed to take longer to decide what the next row colour should be than to crochet it. 

I made the blanket in four identical quarters, and then sewed them together. 






I used mostly Aldi wool for this project, as I was saving every penny for maternity leave. I'm really glad I did as now I'm about to go into my last three months of time off, and had I not saved, I would be going back to work now. And, I'm not ready yet. 




I'm sat on this blanket right now, to write this. It was originally intended for my bedroom and the colours match that room. However, my baby often naps in the front room and I try and catch up on sleep by snuggling under this on the sofa. I try for a Nasa nap (26 minutes, supposed to restore mental function. Not sure it's working fully, but at least I can concentrate a little!). 





I actually like it, it's a memento of a difficult time, but looking at it makes me feel stronger. I got through it. I didn't fold. Thank goodness.