New year, new me? 

Not quite. I don’t tend to make new years resolutions as I’ll only beat myself if (when?) I don’t achieve them. 

That being said, there are a number of things I want to achieve in 2017. Unsurprisingly they are all yarn related. 

In no particular order:

1. Learn to crochet with thread. 

This one scares me a little. I’m not sure if my short fat fingers will be able to manage! There are some beautiful things that can be created with crochet thread, and some lovely colours. Though doilies may be old fashioned I think they can look great in a frame as a work of art. 

2. Learn Tunisian crochet. 

I’ve toyed with this in the past and it’s a fascinating method. Again, some amazing things can be done with texture and colour and it has a completely different look to traditional crochet. 

3. Design something and write a pattern. 

So far the majority of what I’ve done has been from other people’s patterns. Now I want to branch out and create my own. 

4. Teach. 

I’ve already run a few workshops and thoroughly enjoyed it. Few things are better than sharing a skill you love. 

5. Promote craft as therapy. 

Something close to my heart. I feel very strongly that crafts can have a major benefit in the management of mental health problems. I would like to focus in particular on men’s mental health. Most crafts are traditionally seen as ‘women’s things’ but there is absolutely no reason that this should be the case. Mental health problems among men are rising at an alarming rate and men don’t tend to seek help until they reach crisis point. I know from my own experience that that having something to focus on can be a big help. 

6. Challenging perceptions. 

Hand in hand with the above is to try to break down  some barriers that stop men from wanting to take up crafts, in particular yarn crafts. It’s a no-brainer for me. ‘Try it, you might like it.’  The issue of ‘masculinity’ is a contentious one. How does it make you less of a man if you like to crochet or knit? But this is the issue that keeps men away. Anyway, it doesn’t matter what other people think. 

So, some lofty ambitions. I’ve no idea yet how I’m going to go about some of them. But I’m sure I’ll have fun trying! 

Just remember to challenge yourself every day.  

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Talking about mental health 

​Much has been written about the positive impact crafts can have on those suffering with mental health problems, in particular knitting and crochet. 
The repetition of the stitches promotes mindfulness and has a calming influence. Following a pattern provides a way to shut out chaotic thoughts and concentrate on the task in hand. Successfully completing a project can boost self esteem. 
Suicide rates among men are growing at an alarming rate. Yet men are underrepresented among knitters and crocheters. Without wanting to over simplify what is clearly a major social issue, I believe that if we can promote these crafts as a therapy there can be a positive impact on the lives of many men. 
There is still the belief that knitting and crochet are ‘women’s things’. This is something that needs to be overcome. One of the reasons for the increase in male suicide is that men feel the need to remain ‘masculine’ and therefore don’t talk about their problems. So knitting and crochet could be seen as a ‘threat’ to that ‘masculinity’.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that mental health, particularly among men, is something that needs to be talked about in a more positive manner. It’s not weak to admit you are struggling or to seek help. I’m guilty of having those feelings myself, but a combination of talking therapy and my discovery of the benefits of crochet have helped me immensely.

Back to earth 

So, another weeks holiday gone by in a flash! It’s been relaxing and always a pleasure to spend time with my family outside of the usual environment. 

I managed to make a start on teaching my sister in law to crochet. She picked it up quite quickly, especially since I am left handed and she is right handed. I bought her a book of patterns for her to try so I hope she will carry on. 

I always have a few difficult days when coming back from a week away. I think it’s the contrast between the open space and freedom I’ve had compared to the noise and speed of the city. I guess I’m a country lad at heart, living in the city out of necessity. 

I’ve been inspired to try to simplify my life even further while I’ve been away. At the moment that looks like I might have to move house to achieve that, for various reasons I won’t go into. Whilst that would cause short term complication, it would probably be best in the long term. 

I was reminded last night that I need a yarn swift. I’ve ended up in a terrible tangle while trying to make a ball out of a skein, which will now take me a few days to sort out. So, off to Amazon I go!

Heading to fibrehut this weekend to look at spinning wheels and other paraphernalia. I really think I want a spinning wheel, but I’ll need to justify the investment to the keeper of the purse… Wish me luck! 

More soon 

Ian 

 

Holiday 

I have temporarily escaped the rat race. 

This will be my view for the next week. The sun is shining and the shallows are swooping. 

It’s something of a groundhog holiday as we’ve been coming to the same place for 10 years now. But it has something to suit all of us. Fishing for some, swimming for others, and enough room for us all. 

I plan to relax as much as I can, as this is the first proper break I’ve had this year. I’ll do some crochet, and my sister in law wants me to teach her too. And I have some lovely fibre called Purple Rain from Fab Funky Fibres that I want to start spinning. 

Most of all I want to relax and do what I want when I want to. 

Happy holidays! 

Ian

Spinning around 

About a year ago I bought a kit containing a drop spindle and some roving, as I wanted to learn to spin. I also bought a book entitled Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont. Having flicked through the book I decided I knew what I was doing so had a go. 

It was an utter disaster. 

I put the kit away and didn’t touch it again until earlier this year. I was inspired by seeing all the beautiful hand dyed and spun yarn on the Internet so decided to give it another go. 

With a lot more concentration and patience I did some research and discovered what I had been doing wrong. So I started again. 

I started with the ‘park and draft’ method as I understood that this was the best way to start learning. Obviously there were a number of hiccups, and perhaps a few rude words, but slowly I started to get the hang of it. 

I found the most difficult part was to draft evenly. Drafting too little means thicker sections, drafting too much means it’s thin or will break. Getting the balance right is something that will take much more practice. You can see above how uneven it is. 

Something else that will come with practice is knowing how much twist to put into the yarn. I still have no idea how much is too much, but I know how much is too little, as it just falls apart. It’s not called a drop spindle for nothing! 

I also discovered that I tend to hold my breath when I was drafting. No idea why! But overall I found it to be an almost meditative pass time. 

When I thought the spindle was getting too heavy (more regular breaking of the yarn told me this) I wound it off into a ball. Hindsight now tells me I should have wound off onto a bobbin, but that’s all part of learning. More on that later. 

Once I’d finished with one colour I moved on to the next. My intention now was to ply the two singles once I’d finished. 

I was now starting to spin and draft at the same time. Spin the spindle and let it drop, then drafting out while it’s spinning. This is a much quicker method of spinning yarn as I can spin until the spindle almost reaches the floor. I’m only short so this means about 6 feet at a time with my arm extended. But in all the second single was spun in days rather than weeks. 

It seems much more even than the first, and much thinner. This was going to make it more of a challenge to ply as I had 2 different thicknesses, but I ploughed ahead anyway. 

Proper spinners use a lazy kate when plying yarn. I had to improvise. I first wound the two singles onto empty toilet roll tubes to use as bobbins. Then I stuck two knitting needles through a box with the bobbins on. Et voila, makeshift lazy kate! 

Clearly some feline assistance was required… 

Then I started to ply. I attached the two ends of the singles to the spindle and spun, this time in the opposite direction. The singles had been spun clockwise, so I plied anticlockwise. 

The amount of twist in the singles made it challenging, as did the differing thicknesses. There were a number of breaks that I had to rejoin, and possibly a few more rude words. But eventually I had a spindle full of 2 ply yarn! (Which I forgot to take a picture of) 

Again, because I don’t have all the gear, I had to improvise when winding it into a skein. Usually a niddy noddy is used, and I will have to get one just because of the name. But I wound it between my hand and elbow. Finally my very first skein of handspun and hand plied yarn! 

I soaked it in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes and it is now hanging in the shower to dry. And the bathroom reeks of wet wool. 

I have some hard dyed roving that I bought at Yarningham a couple of weeks ago, so I’m going to have a go with that next. I have a plan in mind for constructing a lazy kate so I’ll put that into motion when I’m back from my holiday. Oh yes, holiday. A week on a farm in Norfolk, can’t wait! 

That’s all for now 

Ian 

 

The weekend!

It’s finally the weekend. In our house that means total relaxation. Neither of us have particularly stressful jobs bit I find it extremely important to my mental wellbeing to just stop for a couple of days.  No pressure, no deadlines, just doing what I want when I want to.

As usual, that will include some crochet,  some spinning and possibly a nap or two!

Next weekend we are going away with my family for the week. We.re staying on a farm where many of the buildings have been converted to holiday accommodation.  We.ve been going to the same place for over 10 years now,  so there are many memories associated with it. With my eldest nephew heading off to university later this year, it might well end up being the last family holiday.

Anyway, back to this weekend. I’m crocheting a cover for my drop spindle, combining 2 hobbies into one. I will be continuing to practice with the drop spindle also.

It’s something I’m really beginning to enjoy as I get better at it. Now I want a spinning wheel! It’s quite meditative and relaxing. And I’m looking forward to being able to make something with my very own hand spun yarn. Though in reality that is probably some way off.

In addition,  I want to do a little bit of work on a workshop I’m planning. More on that another time.

That’s all for now. Have fun, whatever you do!

Ian 

Starting over

OK, let’s get this blogging thing under way again. I’ve not been very good at it so far!

First, an introduction. My name is Ian, I’m currently 47 years old and live in Birmingham with my husband and my cat. I first picked up a crochet hook about 18 months ago and since then I’ve been hooked (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Like many people, I came to crochet at a difficult time in my life. My mother had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and I was struggling to come to terms with it. I was drawn to craft, and initially intended to start knitting. That lasted about 10 minutes before I threw the needles across the room. The kit I had included a crochet hook so I gave it a go. And a passion was born!

The possibilities of crochet are seemingly endless, which is what I love about it. Once you have a grounding in the basics you can let your imagination take over.

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Having said that, the above  is from a pattern, but the colour choices and layout are all mine!

I’ve recently started to learn to spin on a drop spindle. I find it very therapeutic and hope that I’ll be able to get the hang of it enough to make yarn of my own. II’ll share more about that next time.

I’m intending to use this blog to detail my adventures in yarn and hope that some of you will come along on the journey with me.

That’s all for now, I’ll be back with more soon.

Ian