26 August 2010

Hello, brick wall.

There is little in this world that I love more than walking into a yarn shop. I'm sure you feel the same. The smell of the fibres, the intelligent, friendly, knowledgeable staff wearing their own creations. It's like stepping into an Aladdin's cave and finding you're not the only Aladdin in there.

But sometimes, there's a catch. I have no doubt that any crocheter reading this has witnessed the chink in the sales assistant's smile when you mention the C-word. Honestly, I don't get it. Crocheters use more yarn than knitters per project and we tend (in general) to churn projects out faster, so why are we under-valued?

At the beginning of the summer, I started to think of doing some lovely, summery cloche-type hats in 4-ply for myself. Something nice and cheery, in bright solid colours to compliment my blonde hair, something easy to wash and that would wear well. Sock yarn would be perfect. So, I went to the nearest yarn shop to my bus stop, on the Quays in Dublin. I knew, months before that they had a whole range of solid-coloured sock yarns, but now, they were nowhere in sight.

I skipped up to a shop-lady and asked when they were expecting a new order in. "Oh, not 'til winter. No-one uses sock yarn in the summer" I was told, flat out.

"I do" I hazarded, not really wanting to turn this into a pitched battle. "I crochet using lighter weight yarns during the summer, you see and..."

Her face dropped, and as curtly as you please, she announced "Knitters only knit socks in winter"

Well, what's a girl to say to that, eh?

25 August 2010

Note to self:

Tension squares won't make themselves.
Get a move on, me!

24 August 2010

New Pages

I don't know how long this service has been available on Blogger, but now, I have a few stand-alone pages. See? Just up on top, there. And it wasn't until I sat down to add pattern information to these pages that I realised how long I have been designing for.

I mean, my first published design, Rapunzel, was in May 2009. A year-and-a-half ago! And my first pattern on Ravelry was uploaded in October 2008!!!

I hope this doesn't mean I can't call myself a newbie anymore...

23 August 2010

How I spent my weekend, by Aoibhe - Age 10 3/4

I was house-sitting, in the country. I may have mentioned this already, but it was just too awesome not to bore you all about.

I had 4 house-mates.
Pheobe (left) and Ben (right):


And Lily:

I got to walk by a little lake:

Crochet outside with a glass of wine:

And generally take advantage of the gorgeous weather by sitting and rolling around in this:

Yea, it was a great weekend.

21 August 2010

Naturally Dyeing, Nice and Easy

Natural dyeing is easier than you think. I swear.
The only thing you really need to be aware of is that it can smell a bit. This is not to be attempted around someone who is sensitive to strong smells, doesn't like their kitchen stinking of vinegar or who dislikes having large quentities of onion skins knocking around the place.

Today, in the kitchen, we're going to be making nice, white merino lace-weight into nice, russet merino lace-weight. We'll be using:

100g Merino Lace-weight (gently washed in cold water and left damp)
100g Onion Skins
1 part white wine vinegar, to 4 parts water (cold)
and a bit of luck.

A few points before we start.
In general with natural dyeing, the same quantity of yarn and dyestuff (in this case, onion skins) are required. There are a few exceptions, but it's a good rule to go with.

100g onion skins does seem like a lot of curries and Italian food preempted it, but taking a few extra minutes in the supermarket vegetable aisle, rooting around the onions will soon have you stocked up on skins. They weight next to nothing, but if you feel weird buying 3 cent worth of onions just ask the manager if they mind you popping in now and then to collect skins. Yea, you'll seem a bit mad, but the most interesting people in the world are mad.

Using less dyestuff will result in a lighter shade.


1. Gently wash the yarn in cold water to get off any manufacturing residue and set to one side.

2. Mix vinegar and water in a large pot and gently add yarn. Only now will you put it over heat. Bring slowly to a boil. It's essential that the yarn doesn't experience any sudden changes in temperature during its time wet. Cold to hot is as bad for felting as hot to cold, so remember that at the other end, too.

3. Allow to boil for 1 hr, topping up with hot water if necessary. Try not to disturb the yarn at all. Again, moving it will only result in its felting.

4. Once it's been well mordanted, allow to cool in the water before gently removing and rinsing in running water in a collander or sieve. Set to one side.

4b. Alternatively, transfer carefully to the sieve or collander and rinse well in a sink of boiling-hot water. DON'T BURN YOURSELF!

5. Put the dyestuff into a pot of hot water and boil.

Once colour has leeced out, remove spent dyestuff. Allow dyebath to cool.

5b. Alternatively, have dyebath prepared as you mordant, and transfer hot yarn directly into dyebath after spent dyestuff has been removed.

6. Add mordanted yarn to dyebath and bring slowly to the boil.

The dye has taken when the water runs all but clear. You'll notice the yarn starting to take colour after only a few minutes.

If this doesn't happen and you've used a dyestuff that you know should work, it's likely that the mordanting wasn't done for long enough. Again, allow to cool. Leave yarn overnight in the dyebath for a deeper shade.

7. Remove from dyebath, wring gently and allow to drip-dry.

8. Marvel at the gorgeous colour yarn you have just made for yourself, and how it doesn't smell of vinegar or onions at all!

Well done!

Other fun dyestuffs to try include Dandelion Petals which give a gorgeous sunny yellow; Blackberries with give a deep purple; and fresh beetroot, which gives a lovely warm burgundy.

Remember all naturally dyed yarns and fabric must be hand-washed cold and with great care.


Mordant: In this case, we're using vinegar. It will open the yarn and allow it to accept the colour. There are very few dyestuffs that will stick to yarn without some kind of mordant.

Dyestuff: Onion Skins in this case. Whatever you're extracting colour from to use as a dye. Not all colourful plants make good dyestuffs, but it's worth experimenting.

Yarny, Happy People

I am one.
I'm here, house-sitting for a family member. Not only that, I'm dog sitting (two, big and cute) and cat-sitting (two, friendly), in the country, surrounded by fields and trees and cows and sheep!

I'll have photos when I remember to get a computer, my camera and a connecting chord in the same place at the same time.

I'm playing with naturally dying some lace-weight merino as I type, and have it bubbling away on the last stage, now. I'm deliriously happy as I take a break to check things on line. This IS the life. THIS is the life. This is the LIFE! Anyway you look it it, I'm in my element.

So, I'm curious, what's turned you into a yarny, happy person this week?

18 August 2010

Calculating Meterage

They say in school that calculus "is something you'll use every day of your life", that it's "super-important for your development as a functioning, sentient being". Yea, we all heard our Maths teachers try to grapple our interest away from copy-book doodles or note-passing on a rainy Monday afternoon, but you know they may have had a point.

I haven't thought about what value x has for quite some time, and suddenly, as I sit here, calculating out the meterage for all these lovely glove patterns, I realise it's very handy, nay! ESSENTIAL! I'm all about the x-values now. I'm multiplying this by that, taking numbers across the equals and changing their positives to negatives. I am... in a phrase "rocking maths".

There are many ways to calculate the meterage of a project - and all have built-in flaws - but as this is my favourite way, I figured I'd share it.

Put on your nerd hats people, we're going in!

Ok, so say a glove, individually weights 28 grammes without buttons, ribbons or any extra stuff. The band on the ball of yarn says that 50 grammes = 181 m. We need to calculate how many meters are in that glove.

Easy peasy.

28 / 50 = .56
.56 x 181 = x
x = 101.36 m

This I round up a bit. Always better to expect a bit more yarn than a bit less to be used (plus, you'll have to account for any ends that you may have trimmed off), so 110m.

There are two gloves (usually) in a pair, so, 110 x 2 = 220 m in the project.

Now all that's left is to sit back, feel smug and get on with any other bits of crochet you need to do.

16 August 2010

UFO to the rescue!

It's not often that an un-finished project (or a UFO), can be put to good use. After all, what can you do with just the front of a jumper, or the top of a hat? But occasionally, like here, that bit of mis-shapen, abandoned crochet is exactly what you need, at exactly the right moment. So it was yesterday for me.

I have taken up an interest in fermenting my own wine. It's exciting (in a very slow way), not too expensive, and in the end you get a simultaneous sense of accomplishment and intoxication. What more could you ask from a hobby?

So, I have two, 5 litre demijons on the go at the moment. One has Rhubarb Wine in the last stages before bottling, and the other has Mead, still bubbling and fermenting away. One important point in the wine-making process is to limit its exposure to light. That said, I still need to keep an eye on it all, to check progress. With this in mind, both demijons have been gifted with that half-finished, totally abandonned, oddly-shaped bit of granny-square blanket that has been shoved around the apartment for the last three years.

Suddenly, another UFO has become an FO!

15 August 2010

Yarn Bombing, taken to a whole new level

We've all seen the gate-cozies, Lamp-posts covered in stripey scarves, and bobble hats on Lenin statues, but these people take the biscuit. They take more than the biscuit, actually. I'd give them the whole pack.

Now, while my feelings about yarn bombing are mixed: "Oh wow, how much WORK did YOU put IN?! AMAZING", mixed with ample quantities of "Such a waste of yarn... should've just given it to me...", I still have to stand in awe of this:

I mean, don't you just LOVE the bobble on the end of the turret?

Prize Time!

Well, as I watched my hit-counter slowly eek upward, I had an idea "oooh, almost 10,000 visitors!" I squeaked, "I must celebrate!" But it was not for me to celebrate alone. After all, I didn't sit there, hitting refresh 10,000 times. Time to share the joy!

As it turns out, my 10,000th visitor didn't reply to the prize post, so I have no way to signalling them out, but my 10,001st visitor did. Mayogirl! Congratulations! Please email me (my contact details are on the right, there, and let me know what two patterns you would like from my list on Ravelry. I'll send them directly to you.

Etain is the only one I can't. I don't own the rights to that again, yet.

13 August 2010


The next visitor to this blog will be my 10,000th!
Say Hi 10,000th visitor!

I wanna give you a prize.

I'm a total wing-nut

Yep, forgot to click to activate the free Ravelry download.
It's all fixed, now.

12 August 2010

For the fun of it.

Possibly the fastest turn-around of my pattern-writing career, I have made the star I was working on this morning available as a free Ravelry download.


And why not Follow Me, to be the first to find out about new, and free patterns coming soon from your friendly, neighbourhood Thread Bear.

A wee break

I took a small break today from all the glove-making I've been busy with the last while, to play with some very non-glove-shaped things. This is the result.

Three pretty, squidgy stars which will now hang on the wall in the bathroom, to cheer the place up a bit. The beads, by the way, I have had in my posession since I was about 6 and have been integral to many crafty projects over the years. I love them dearly.

11 August 2010

Say Hi! to your stash.

Have you ever found yourself completely stuck on a pattern, unable to wrestle any sense from a yarn tangle, or unable to find that one ball of yarn you need in your stash? Have you, under circumstances like this, ever spoken, aloud to your yarn?

If the answer is "...yes", worry not. We've all done it at some stage.
But, I ask you, has your yarn ever spoken back?

No, I'm not fit to be tied up and left in a nice, squidgey room, I'm talking about your colour preferences. Is your stash telling you more about your personality than you thought it was? Have a good look at your stash bag, box, closet, room (depending on your ability to hoard) and see what colour pops out at you the most. Then, check below to see what that says about your own personality.

White: The purist. Especially when it comes to yarn. Undyed, sheepy goodness, with no extra complications. This indicates a person who hates clutter. White is also the colour of youth - be it physical or mental - and may indicate a certain innocence of personality.

Grrrrr, Firey! Red people are an energetic bundle of springs. Out-going, fun and a bit of a handful when they get going, Red is the colour of passion. It may also be the subconscious choice of a person who wants to exhibit these traits but may need a bit of encouragement.

Wine people are well-rounded individuals, so they are. Wine-loving people (not that kind of wine...)are likely to be Red-lovers who have experienced a few harsh lessons in life and learnt well from them. They are kind, forgiving people still posessed of a lot of life. If you know a Wine person, hang on to them. They'll be a good friend.

A very gentle colour, people who gravitate towards pink tend to need a lot of love and kindness and may react badly to harsh words. There is little passion in Pink, but a lot of love more than makes up for it.

Aren't you a dramatic imp? Life and soul of the party, Orange people have a tendancy to over-exagerate for dramatic effect. They're also unlikely to sit still for very long, always coming up with new plans and ideas. If you know an Orange person, hold on to you hats, you're in for a hell of a ride.

Wise and Intellectual, Yellow people have a good head on their shoulders and a kindly way. Ask their opinion on any subject, and they will give you a well-rounded answer, softening any harsh criticism with a plentiful sense of humour.

As you'd expect, Green people are a peace-loving bunch. They are often too kind of spirit, preferring to let someone take advantage of them before they'd think of raising their voice. Modest and trusting, Green people usually don't know how great they are.

The true grown-up of the bunch, Blue people tend to be patient, persevering, conscientious, sensitive and self-controlled. To Reds and Oranges, this may seem dull, but Blues often think through problems before they become too overwhelming, making them great advisors.

Very particular, choosey and steadfast in their opinions, Turquoise people are a mix of the best bits of Blues and Greens. They have good manners, good taste and can be very good company if you're lucky enough to pass their tests. Their sense of independence means they have few friends, but those they have will be very close, indeed.

Individuality comes naturally to the Purple person, as do a sense of wit and empathy.
Always on the look-out for that which is strange and beautiful, a Purple person may find it difficult to communicate their off-kilter ideas to some of the more grounded people around them, leading to frustration. A true artist, a Purple person is likely to reach a position of leadership.

Earthy, occasionally tactless, often struggling to get words in the correct order, Brown people are nonetheless reliable and understanding. If you ask one of these people a question, be prepared for the unvarnished truth. If your bum looks big in that dress, they'll describe how big in blunt detail! But wouldn't you rather know than not?

Grey people load on the pressure, work hard - often without notice - and will continue until the work is done. They like life to be calm and uneventful. Young grey-lovers may be super-shy and may find they can't project their personalities as well as many of the brighter colours. But still, greys get on well with most people, so if you find your stash has a lot of grey in it, why not brighten it up a bit by introducing it to some more vibrant tones?

We all have some of this in our stashes, don't we? Black hates extravagance, but manages to make a statement without all the bells and whistles. Often, Black-lovers are trying to bring some mystery to their lives. You may find, once you get to know a Black person better, that shades of other colours start showing through.

So, which are you?

09 August 2010


So, I have been aware of Elizabeth Zimmerman for a while, now.

As a crocheter, I have never worked up any of her patterns, but I know, from sitting around chatting during a few Fibre Fun Friday sessions, that a lot of knitters whose opinion I respect, love her. To me, she seems sassy, intelligent, and above all else, immaginative, which is why I'm writing this short post.

It's her 100th birthday today, folks. I didn't know this until a few minutes ago, which makes something that happened last night seem veeeery spooky to me.

I had a dream and in it, I was mooching around a 2nd-hand shop full of musty old jumpers and thread bear skirts. Then, I saw in the window a beautiful, lacy, cream-coloured shawl/blouse thing. Really amazing work, and I asked why it was there. "Oh, that's our Elizabeth Zimmerman original. We don't sell that" came the reply.

I can't blame them. It was a treasure.

Happy Birthday, you awesome lady. And thanks for freaking me out.

How about you? How are you celebrating the First Lady of Knitting's birthday?

08 August 2010

Fingers on gloves.

Do you have an opinion on this?

'Cause I'm finding it mighty difficult to justify adding fingers to a lot of my designs. I don't want to have a book full of things I wouldn't wear, and I don't wear gloves with fingers. I mean, who wants to be incapable of crocheting on a cold day?

Every winter, I make gloves, and I wear them on busses, during walks, down to the shop, and none of these activities are made any easier by making my hands clumsy with fluff.

Do you agree?
Are fingers on gloves important?

06 August 2010

Mission Central

It has begun!
Step One in Operation Crochet-As-A-Job has commenced!

I've contacted all my lovely testers, who will be slaving over a pattern each, to highlight the lumps and bumps in my first, ever crochet collection. They'll be getting a written pattern, charts where I think they're needed, and a short list of questions that will help me identify what needs changing, if anything.

I have fire in my belly, now. This is happening, people! From hereon in, I will have a "Collection" to my name. This is achingly groovy to me!

And for those of you wondering if "ooooh, is that the cover?" It may be, it may not be. The problem with being both crochet designer AND graphic designer is that all the ideas keep shifting, and not a night goes by when I don't sit up in bed, wondering if this change, or that change would make it all the more awesome a project.

The goal posts may move several times before this is all in the can, as it were.


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