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Making for yourself.

“Why is yarn so expensive?” I ask my mum rhetorically over the phone.  “Oh I know” comes the response.  Debbie Bliss yarn is mentioned.  I needed DB Como for a crochet blanket I’m making -£10 a ball , my mum had bought DB Cashmerino, I’m guessing £5-£7 a ball, for a hooded jacket she knitted for my nephew when he was a toddler.  Mum: “I don’t think they ever put him in the jacket.  I wish I’d kept the yarn for myself”.

We’re both on tight budgets.  Indeed, I write this now mainly because I’m putting off paying the council tax for another hour or so.  I was paid yesterday and I want my hard-earned money to rest in my bank account for just a short while before I send it to be spent on councillors’ biscuit supply or to fill a pothole.  As a fairly recent newcomer to crocheting and buying yarn, I took off my training wheels and decided on a project from a book, that being the blanket mentioned in the previous post.  Excitedly I head to the website with the intention of buying all the yarn I need to make it.  Add it all to the basket, and £200 is the total.  A whole third of a month’s wages for me.  I’ll have to do it in stages.  How many squares can one person crochet in a month anyway? I reassuringly ask myself.  Still, this is my first big project for my new-found hobby, I will bite the bullet and buy the suggested yarn because I want it to be just how it looks in the book.  I buy 5 balls of Rooster Almerino DK per month for a few months and eventually I got there.  I made it for my family, for my home, but ultimatelyl I made it for myself and not being one for expensive clothes or shoes and seeing as I don’t wear jewellery, I don’t own a car, drink or eat out, I do have my hobby and I wanted nice yarn to make a beautiful blanket that I hope will be in the hands of my grandchildren one day.  If I were making for someone else, I don’t think I’d have been as finikity about it.

The thing is, when you’re new to the world of yarn buying, you haven’t the confidence to break rank, trust your knowledge of weight and colour in order to break rank and buy a cheaper option.  You want it to look just like the pictures, to feel as soft as you imagine and last forever.  All are qualities you’re not entirely sure cheaper, usually synthetic, varieties of yarn will supply.  Then comes the day when your hand is forced.  The Debbie Bliss Como mentioned above is discontinued  the peril of owning pattern books.  I research it and find it to be a superchunky, blissfully soft blend which also has a tendency to disintegrate over time.  Whether that last part is true or not, I feel rewarded for not desperately searching for stash sales.  I need 22 balls of the stuff! My knowledge is limited, but as with most things in life, when you’re limited, start with what you do know.

The DB Como is 50g a ball and superchunky.  Online shopping, for all it’s great points, has its limitations.  Pictures can’t tell me how it feels.  So I search  out local yarn shops and find one I never would have discovered otherwise.  In it I find a yarn that I think will make a fine substitute.  It’s not the same, and is what I would call ‘hairy’ yarn.  I buy one ball for £3.15 as a tester, go home make the first bit of the pattern and while it doesn’t of course look exactly like the pictures, it looks close enough for my liking, and I even prefer it.  It looks more rustic (translation; messy, far from perfect).  In the book the DB Como blanket is draped over a huge pristine cushioned coffee table/giant footstool in equally immaculate neutral surrounding.   If I were photographing my version for a book it would look more at home in a little room with mismatched, tea stained furniture, sagging misshapen cushions, scuffed coffee table and with cat fur on every possible surface.  Which is just as well because that is exactly where this blanket is going to find itself.

I guess I’ll go pay the council tax now.  I know I can’t get through the day without a chocolate digestive.  Oh wait. Yes, I can.

I hate you local council.


Colours of Spring

A few weeks ago I was chatting to an italian co-worker and we were indulging in some altogether very british complaining about the weather.  “Typical England.  Only one day of sun and then always raining.” came the complaint in her very thick italian accent, utter exasperation latent in her tone of voice.  I smiled and nodded in agreement as I tried to think back to the last time it had rained for any sustained period of time.  Internally I was puzzled as to why, despite her perception of british weather, I’ve never seen her without a pair of sunglasses balanced hopefully on her head.  Perhaps it’s some type of charm to plead with the sky and that’s why she wears them on her hair rather than her eyes.  She sells store cards in the shop I work in so perhaps it’s part of the get up to sell more credit cards; by imparting a sense of sunny holidays and the good life.  Wealthy people and big shots wear sunglasses, yes?

Musings on my impression of her appearance aside, my quest for an easy life meant that I chose not to point out to her that our part of the country has had so little rainfall in the past two years that the whole area is in drought and currently under a hosepipe ban, an enforcement which if broken can land you a hefty fine.  That’s more typical England, the fining I mean.  More recently however, we’ve had some April showers.  Alternating blasts of bright sunshine followed by drenching downpours of rain and/or hail, the sky alternating between pale blue and deep, brooding dark purplish grey.  During one such sunny break yesterday I ventured out into the garden.  As it was sunday the noise of the traffic was barely audible and all I could clearly hear was the dripping of the fallen rain off the plants in the garden.  The sky in the east was purple-grey and in the west is was pink and blue.  Everything in the garden seemed so refreshed and vibrant and I couldn’t resist grabbing my camera to capture some of the colours of spring.  I have a row of raspberry canes lining one side of my garden path and the leaves change colour gradually through the seasons but they are never as green as they are during the spring and after rainfall.

Prompted by my recent reading of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, I pondered, should any extra terrestrial ask us (humanity that is), which colours represent the seasons best, presuming they’re asking those of us who live far away enough from the equator to experience seasons, what would we tell them.  I’m sure if such an event ever occurred a suitably well equipped and academic committee would be formed to provide the answers.  But in the meantime, I make my own personal preparations.  Spring is pale blue, light and vivid green, muddy brown  and purplish-grey.  Have your own suggestions?  Answers on a postcard please (or in the comments, whatever’s easiest for you).  I think I’ll postpone mulling over the colours of other seasons until I experience them as they come this year.  The visible spectrum of light is such a wondrous thing and yet we’re burdened by the knowledge that there is so much our eyes fail to see.  Good ol’ Carl Sagan, making me feel both amazed and annoyed at being human. 

In a roundabout way, I’m linking this to one of my current crochet projects which is a so-called ‘Springtime Throw’.  The pattern was reproduced in an issue of Mollie Makes magazine and I have since purchased the original book, Cute and Easy Crochet by Nicki Trench.  When I first saw the picture of the throw I fell in love with it and despite being strapped for cash most of the time, set about buying a few balls of the expensive yarn to make it.  It’s 432 squares of 30 different colour combinations.  But now after pondering the colours of spring, I can’t really say that the throw is made up of the colours of spring.  Perhaps it’s a spring throw in terms of tog, like a duvet.  Still incredibly beautiful though and I look forward so much to payday so I can buy a few more balls of yarn and finish a few more squares.  I’ve completed about 250 squares and this is what that looks like.

Perhaps it’s a spring throw in the sense of happiness and joy it evokes.  Just how I felt when I was walking to work one day and noticed the quintessentially english willow trees that bow over the river were just beginning to bud after a cold and dry winter.

Giving Up the New in a New Year

Last new year I made a resolution to cut back on the number of newly made finished products I purchased and opt for handmade and secondhand instead.  It didn’t go too badly, but in order to achieve this I found I needed new things in order to produce handmade items in particular.  Over the course of that year I acquired most of the necessary tools, a sewing machine and a candle making kit, for example.  Now that I have these at my disposal, I feel I can renew this resolution in earnest and intend to use this blog to catalogue and record my efforts.  I’m not going to the extent of blowing glass for my own vase or building furniture, mostly because my home is already adequately furnished, but it does need finishing touches and it is these I want to create.  I’m also a baker, mostly of cakes, but this year I want to try producing most of my own bread.  To get the bread one truly desires is no easy task.  It’s a skill that takes time and effort to even approximate mastery and my own experiments have taught me that no two loaves are ever the same.

All in all I like to make all sorts of things and I hope to look back on this blog next new year with great pride.