Saturday, 6 February 2016

In progress....

Hello my Fellow Fibre Fantics! I hope this post finds you well. I want to talk today about what I'm working on at the moment.

Around about this time last year, I started to crochet a blanket for my brother and his girlfriend. I am calling it Peacock Kaleidoscope because the pattern I am using is called Kaleidoscope by Tammy Hildebrand and is from Unexpected Afghans by Robyn Chachula and I am using a peacock kind of colourway. I had intended this to be a Christmas present, but alas my poor hands could not cope with sewing in all the hundreds of ends. Just so you know, I have quadrupled the size given in the book so that it will fit a king-size bed. I think they have a double, but I'm not sure so thought I'd better err on the side of caution and make it bigger. If it is a double, then the blanket will swamp their bed and will have the effect of a weighted blanket.

Alas, soon after I started to make it, I had to stop crocheting all together to rest my thumbs. I picked it up again in October and finished all the motifs. I even got about a quarter of the way through the filler motifs before I had to stop because I had forgotten to sew in the ends from the joining rounds of the main motifs and when I tried to sew them in after working some of the filler motifs, it hurt my hands (particularly my thumbs) more than sewing ends usually does.

I really want to finish this blanket for my brother, but the sewing in of the ends is killing me! I keep texting him to let him know I haven't forgotten and I'm not being lazy, just trying to cope with painful hands, and he's been really nice about it, but he mentions the blanket to our Mum from time to time with comments like, "I thought Shelly was supposed to be crocheting me a blanket, but I haven't heard anything for a while". What to do!!!

While having a break from the horrendous ends, I have started to work on a new shawl. I have been in love with this pattern for a long time, but have not been able to get the tension quite right. However, after working on Shayron's Lace recently (photos will follow - she's still being blocked), I found that I could manage lace-weight mercerised cotton with a 4mm hook, so I thought I'd give size 10 crochet cotton (practically the same) a try with the 3.5mm hook, as required for this pattern.

I have had a few false starts that involved ripping out and restarting (hence the photo above), but now it all seems to be going well. I am happy, but I am not looking forward to going back to the ends on the Peacock Kaleidoscope. Wish me luck?!

Monday, 1 February 2016


Hello and welcome to String for Brains, a crochet journal of sorts. I have started reading Kathryn Vercillo's book, Hook to Heal and have decided to blog about my progress with the book and my journey through self-healing and finding my inner artist. I know she's in there somewhere, but as I have "string for brains", this may take some time!

I thought it might be fun to share a little background before I start working on the exercises in Kathryn's book, so I will start with my crochet journey. I used to do a lot of cross stitch - I mean a lot of cross stitch. I was quite accomplished at the craft and took pride in my work. However, in 2010 we had to move house and I needed to do something a little more portable than cross stitch to cope with the stress. Yes, I know small cross stitch projects are indeed portable, but I was only working on large projects at the time and found small projects (the portable-sized small projects) irritating and pointless. I mean, I found my inner peace while crocheting large projects and it could take me a while to find it. With a much smaller project, I would probably finish it before I felt the relaxing calm that usually came with hours upon hours of work.

So I needed something different. I used to make friendship bracelets when I was in my teens, and gave that a go again, but it was hurting my back to lean over a safety pin attached to the knee of my jeans. So that was not the answer. I considered knitting, but it made my hands go numb (which has more recently been diagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome) and my tension kept changing. Then I remembered the last jumper I'd knitted had advised a simple crocheted neckband (it offered a knitted alternative, which I had used at the time). I also remembered my frustration that so many knitting patterns these days required some basic crochet skills when it came to completion and finishing touches.

So I decided to teach myself to crochet. We were packing up four people's belongings in a one-bedroom house, so there was no room and no internet, ergo no YouTube which, to be honest, never actually occurred to me! I had a couple of books that had some basic crochet instructions in them and tried making a few basic stitches. Then I realised that if I was ever going to actually do anything with crochet, I had to actually make something in stead of just "practicing". So I threw myself in at the deep end and started work on a picnic blanket. With hindsight, I realise there are many other projects that would have been far more suitable than this one. It was made up of motifs, which was ideal, but the very second round introduced me to puff stitch after only half an hour of practice with chains and single, half double and double crochet! (NB I am using US terminology. Yes, I am British, but the American terms just make more sense to me!)

It was hard going, not to mention frustrating! After two weeks of making these puff stitch flower squares, I ripped it all back and started again. Had I made a mistake? No. I am a perfectionist and the tension on my first squares was sloppy compared to the comfortable tension I had reached within a fortnight!

From then on, I was totally hooked. I seriously did not put my hook down for four years, and only did so then because I had developed de Quervain's Tenosynovitis (damage to the sheath around the thumb's tendon) and had moderately severe Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (both as a direct result of the 100% increase in housework, and the tenosynovitis partly from holding my hook too tight).

I took a break for a while, the whole time pining for the hooks and yarns I had grown to love and could no longer live without. After two months of no hooking whatsoever (and driving my family completely barmy), I picked up my hook once more and forced myself to hold it looser. A lot looser, And as I was holding the hook looser, so I had to hold the yarn looser. My tension isn't sloppy, it just isn't tight anymore. If I find that I need to work on a project that requires tight tension, I will only do a very little bit at a time.

So what do I crochet? Anything at all! I started with the picnic blanket and then tried my hand at amigurumi when my step-daughter found a Crobots book in Waterstone's. I was then crazy about amigurumi, which is how I came to be holding my hook too tight. Since then, I have made some doilies, cushions, lacy tops and lots more blankets. I now have a fascination for lace. Any kind of lace. But since this is a crochet blog, I shall keep the content on topic. I have recently made a few shawls and have discovered that I love shawls! Whether they are triangular, rectangular, semi-circular or crescent-shaped, if it's pretty I will crochet it. Crochet first, find a home for it later. (that's a joke).

On the lace front, I have tried (and was bored by) Bruges Lace and am now exploring broomstick, hairpin and Tunisian. I find this exploration very exciting and will be making a few things in each technique, although I have to be careful with Tunisian crochet because it does aggravate the CTS a little bit.

I also love to read blogs by other crocheters. I will often see something and think, "oooh I could do that!" Or else admire their choice of colour palette or the stitch pattern they have used. Everything I see inspires me at the moment and I guess it won't be long before I start making designs of my own that aren't amigurumi (if you like meerkats, check out my other blog and you'll find a free pattern for a life-sized one).

I must apologise for the complete lack of photographs in this post. I was so excited about beginning a new journey and starting a new blog to document it that I completely forgot to prepare any photos for it beforehand!

What is your crochet story? Have you crocheted since you were a child or have you learned relatively recently? Did you have any problems? Leave your comments below and if you blog too, share a link and I'll pop over to take a look - if you don't mind of course!