Tag Archives: Inspiration

Shifting Sands

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Shifting Sands

Life has seemed turbulent lately. Many of you will know that 2016 was a phenomenally tough year for me, for so many reasons. 2017 started with moving house, so more upheaval. By February I was planning everything I needed to do to get back to my usual crafting and studying activities. And then the big one hit … my mum was very suddenly diagnosed with a brain tumour.

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My view, as I took in the news.

It was soon clear that this was not going to be a long illness. There was no prospect of treatment, other than palliative care. For one who likes to navigate by festivals, I find it extraordinary to think that mum was diagnosed on Shrove Tuesday, died on Passion Sunday, and the last time I spent with her on Earth was on Mothering Sunday (which, coincidentally, was also my birthday). We will gather to celebrate her life during Holy Week. By the time Maundy Thursday dawns, the end of life rituals will be done. The grieving will continue, and will mellow over time.

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Mothering Sunday flowers from our last day together. When I turned for a last look before leaving, I saw that my daughter had laid one of the daffodils on mum’s bed.

It’s hard to know what I could say about my mum that would do her justice. She was my my first and most important teacher. She’s the one who taught me to knit, who brought the enduring love of yarn and the simple pleasure of handwork into my life. She’s mentioned in the first paragraph I ever wrote on this site, and how could it have been otherwise? It couldn’t. So profound is her spirit within me that she is here in every word. She was the recipient of my first every story skeins: Sunset Forest and A Quarter of Sherbet. Clearly, her influence stretches far beyond me and my little niche of creativity, but I start there because it’s what I come here to write about.

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A rainbow over the hospice.

It was my mum who bought me the Hook to Heal book for my last birthday. I have made so much of the healing power of crafting over this short and difficult journey. I have stitched, and hooked, and sewn by her bed. I could be with her, in ways we had been together hundreds of times before. We didn’t need to talk if there was nothing to say or mum needed a rest. But we had easy companionship and the joy of watching a creation take shape. She asked my daughter to make her a bag to hold her prayer stones. We stitched it together on the journey to see mum. I finished my Elise shawl when mum was ill. I had worked on it beside her, and shown her the beautiful colours in the yarn, and the patterns I was creating. I’ll wear it to her funeral next week.

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Beautiful stained glass windows in the hospital.

Before mum’s diagnosis I had started Scheepjes’ Hygge crochet along. I treated myself to the kit as a post-moving house present to myself. I didn’t know it would take on a much greater significance. I stitched so much of that piece by her bedside. Although I worked on other projects too, Hygge was immediately special. It was calming and beautiful, and really engaged my mum who admired it and insisted on showing it off to staff and patients alike!

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Hygge to week 7. This project was and continues to be a blessing for me and my mum.

When her prognosis came through I knew she would not see it completed. And I knew it was by now far too special to be anything other than a tribute piece to her. When she died, as I was stitching week 7, I embroidered her initials and dates into the piece.

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JAB 1947 – 2017

Mum touched so many people’s lives in so many different ways. I could not possibly list them all here. But I think the common theme through her life is a true understanding of what it means to serve people, and a clarity about why our service to others is important; about why people – and how we treat them – are important. The way she lived taught me formative lessons about living the life you want in the way you want: enjoying and embracing the things that are important to you, under the guidance of a strong and generous moral centre.

My mum went to University in Hull and used to tell me about the librarian: Philip Larkin. When I came to study for my GCSEs, one of his poems was in our anthology. I’ve always liked the last line, and though I am taking it out of context, I’d still like to think about it here. Larkin talks of his Schoolmaster, who “Dissolved. (Like sugar in a cup of tea.)” Now, my mum was far too much of a strong woman to dissolve in life. She wasn’t one to stay in the background. But when I think of her influence I see that although she is no longer here, everything she’s done for the last nearly-70 years leaves the world a sweeter place. Although we have a journey of grief to navigate, eventually those rough granules will dissolve too, and what we’ll be left with are the sweet memories, and the knowledge that we have been the luckiest of families, to have such a person in our lives.

Goodbye mum. Love you always. xxx

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September Rolag Club: Michaelmas

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September Rolag Club: Michaelmas

Welcome to Forgotten Festivals Rolag Club!

This month we are celebrating Michaelmas on the 29th of September.

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Michaelmas is named for St. Michael, the biblical archangel, and the feast of Michaelmas was important as one of the old quarter days which neatly divided the year into four. (The other quarter days were Christmas, on the 25th of December, Lady Day on the 25th of March, and Midsummer, taken as the 24th of June.) Michaelmas was the traditional day to settle debts and to change one’s employment. Hiring Fairs allowed employers and workers to make new arrangements. Workers for hire would advertise their skills by wearing an emblem of their trade: a crook for a shepherd, or a mop for a maid, etc. If a new employer was found, this token would be swapped for a ribbon and a shilling to spend at the fair.

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Emblems of the spinner’s trade.

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A shilling to spend!

The themes of this rolag box are the angel, the michaelmas daisy, and the tools of the trade. I hope you enjoy it.

In this box you should find:

  • The story of Michaelmas.
  • 10g of rolags in “Michaelmas Daisies” – 63% Merino, 30% Hemp, 7% Tussah Silk.
  • 20g of rolags in “Archangel” – 50% Merino, 25% Bamboo, 25% Faux Cashmere and a hint of Angelina.
  • A handspun mini skein in “Halo”.
  • Tea in Turmeric Gold and Three Chamomile blends.
  • Stitch markers: Spinners’ emblems of a spinning wheel & a skein of yarn.
  • A shilling – don’t spend it all at once!
  • A hand-woven Wrist Distaff.
  • 3 Michaelmas Daisy buttons from Forest Valley Designs.

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A mini skein of ‘Halo’.

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Michaelmas Daisy buttons by Forest Valley Designs.

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A notions pouch from Forest Valley Designs.

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A wrist distaff for handspinners (especially spindle spinners).

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Wrist distaff in detail: Tablet-woven band by Story Skeins.

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Tea in Turmeric Gold for the angel’s halo, and Three Chamomile for the daisy family.

 

 

July Rolag Club: St. Swithun’s Day

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July Rolag Club: St. Swithun’s Day

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Welcome to Forgotten Festivals Rolag Club!

This month we are celebrating St Swithun’s Day on the 15th of July.

St. Swithun was an Anglo-Saxon bishop, born around the year 800, who lived until approximately 862. His feast day is on the 15th of July, and in popular lore he is remembered for the famous weather myth:

St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mare

Swithun was appointed as bishop of Winchester by Æthelwulf, the Anglo Saxon King of Wessex. He was known as a pious and deeply spiritual man, preferring to share banquets with the poor rather than the rich. Upon his deathbed he begged to be buried not inside the church, as dictated by his place in society, but “outside the north wall of his cathedral where passers-by should pass over his grave and raindrops from the eaves drop upon it.” In 971 Swithun’s remains were moved to a new indoor shrine, and legend grew up that the heavy rain on that day demonstrated the saint’s displeasure at the move. So grew the idea that if it rains on St. Swithun’s day, it will rain for the next 40 days.

Funnily enough, there is some meteorological truth in the proverb. The jet stream that influences our summer weather is usually fixed by mid July and tends to remain steady throughout August. If this jet stream lies to our north, high pressure from the continent leads to a warmer, drier summer. Alternately, a jet stream lying to the south of our islands brings arctic and atlantic weather systems, possibly including 40 days of rain.

This month’s rolag club is themed around our changing weather. You have a set of rolags inspired by glimpses of rainbow colours in a cloudy sky. We have an abundance of guest makers: your mini skein from Setting the twist is based on summer showers, you have the most amazing stitch markers from All Wound Up, and to cope with all this weather, you have handmade lip balm from Lifebloom. I’ve thrown in a few extra treats, including your tea, which has a bit of a twist this month.

Enjoy!

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“Shy Rainbow” rolags were blended with white falkland and alpaca, and colourful silk.

In your box you should find:

  • The story of St. Swithun’s Day
  • 30g of striping rolags in “Shy Rainbow” – 50% Organic Falkland, 30% Mulberry Silk, 20% Baby Alpaca
  • A handspun mini skein in “Summer Shower” by Setting the Twist
  • Flower tea
  • Stitch markers by All Wound Up
  • Lip balm by Lifebloom
  • A mini umbrella (or parasol – you get to decide)
  • Silver-lined clear beads – beautiful little raindrops!
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Weather-based stitch markers from All Wound Up.

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Blooming Flower Tea from The Exotic Teapot.

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Handmade lip balm from Lifebloom.

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A handful of raindrops: clear, silver-lined beads.

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And a little umbrella (or parasol!) to match.

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A pair of rainbows!

Hook to Heal: Wk 9 reading/Wk 8 check-in

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Hook to Heal: Wk 9 reading/Wk 8 check-in

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Our reading for week 9 is:

Week 9: 27th June – 3rd July

  • Giving Back, pp. 177-190
  • For the kindle folk that’s from the chapter heading “Giving Back” to the text box “Yarn for Thought: More Musings on Giving Back Through Crochet”. This box has 5 bullet points and the final one begins “Where do you make most of your purchases?” and ends “… the community of people out there who are making things by hand?”

The focus is on helping others and thereby helping ourselves. There is a well-researched link between voluntary work and wellbeing. This week we will see, and maybe follow, Vercillo’s suggestions for giving back through the medium of crochet. This could be small-scale, such as making a gift for someone, it could mean starting a crochet group or getting involved in a charity. There is all manner of craftivism out there to inspire and build upon.

Have a great week!

All the information about the read along, including how to join, can be found on the project page.

Personal check-in, week 8

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  • Morning pages: Where’s the wagon?
  • Artists date: Me and my hook. 💕
  • Exercises: 4/8

Before I talk about this hook to heal week, I wanted to address the issue of perfectionism. Before I started this hook to heal journey, I had no idea it would coincide with some of the most difficult times I’ve had in recent years (and if you know me, you’ll know that’s bad.) It has made it very hard to stick with this, to protect that time, and to do the work. But that’s ok. Life happens. In my previous incarnation as a dyed-in-the-wool perfectionist, this would be cause to abandon the project entirely. But no longer. Running this read along means doing my part of the journey in public, and the fact it’s been a rough ride for me means I get to model the process of accepting and working with the difficulties; of hitting bumps in the road, but getting up again each time.

So this week my morning pages went awol and my artist’s date was necessarily very modest. But I am feeling a whole lot better today and came back to my pages with renewed enthusiasm! And although I am missing a couple of weeks, working with the week 8 exercises fit well, so I taught my husband a new craft (though it was lucet rather than crochet … the principle holds!)(exercise 1), I crafted in parallel with my children, to lay the foundations of family craft hour (exercise 2), I didn’t get around to the exercise about recreating a favourite memory, but I did find the pieces already in my collection of fibre art that has been inspired in this way. My favourite is this woven scene:

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It probably won’t mean anything to you, but it means so much to me. For me, this scene is summer school, friends and family, freedom, love, laughter and learning. And baseball! I have also crocheted gifts with intention (exercise 5), joined local crafting groups (exercise 6), and does this read along count as a crochet book club (exercise 7)? Probably not, but I’m glad I did it.

So onwards to week 9. I still have an awful lot of healing to do, but now I feel ready to face the challenge again.

April Rolag Club: All Fools’ Day

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April Rolag Club: All Fools’ Day

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Welcome to Forgotten Festivals Rolag Club!

This month we are celebrating All Fools’ Day on the 1st April.

Now more commonly known as April Fools Day, the origin of All Fools’ Day and how it came to be celebrated by so many cultures remains a mystery.

One story dates the tradition to 16th century France. In 1582 France changed from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, meaning the new year was celebrated on the 1st of January. Those who persisted in celebrating the new year towards the end of march, up to April the first became the butt of jokes, including having a paper fish stuck to their backs and being called “poisson d’Avril” because the young, easily caught fish was a symbol of gullibility.

Other ideas tie this widely-celebrated festival to the start of spring, when nature frequently fools us with unpredictable weather. There may be links to the ancient Roman festival of Hilaria, celebrated at the end of March, which involved dressing up in disguises.

This month is a double celebration because it’s Story Skeins’ birthday! Story Skeins officially launched on the first of April last year. It’s been an amazing year of unexpected surprises and exciting projects, including this rolag club. Thank you all for being a part of it!

This month’s rolags are inspired by the traditional costume of the fool. We have bright and bold primary and secondary colours, and equally colourful accessories. The bells are also inspired by the fool’s costume and in addition to your stitch markers you have 6 extra bells to add into your yarn, or use for your own creative project. There’s a selection of April fool’s pranks, tea and a handspun mini skein from our guest maker, Sarah at Setting The Twist.

Have all the fun!

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Self-striping “Fool” rolags in a merino/silk/corn fibre blend.

In this box you should find:

  • The story of All Fools Day
  • 30g of rolags in “Fool” – 60% Merino, 20% Silk, 20% Corn
  • A handspun mini skein in “Harlequin” by Setting The Twist
  • Tea in blends of “Three Tulsi” and “Heart-warming”
  • Stitch markers and split rings for you to store your stitch marker collection
  • 6 bell charms
  • A “poisson d’Avril” – use at your own discretion!
  • And you can find your final treat at tinyurl.com/RolagRevellers
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Bright, bold colours were the theme for this month, inspired by the fool’s, or jester’s, costume.

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These are self-sriping rolags with ordered colours provided by stripes of merino, while the uniqueness and interest comes from a randomly arranged layer of silk colours.

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This month’s mini skeins in “Harlequin” were spun by Sarah at Setting The Twist

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Fitting with the jester theme, the stitch markers were a pair of colouful bells and I included a split ring to help club members store their increasing stitch marker collection. Six extra bells were included. Maybe some will even make it into people’s yarn!

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A “poisson d’Avril”, ready to be coloured and deployed at the owner’s discretion!

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Every rolag made this month was unique.

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And here are my rolags, spun as irregular worsted-weight singles.

The Single Skein

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The Single Skein

As a handspinner, my creative path has led me to specialise in unique single skeins. Often the indie dyers I follow also have single, sometimes one-of-a-kind, skeins available. Or sometimes, the budget will only stretch to one luxury skein from a spinner or dyer.

I often see knitters and crocheters searching for that perfect one-skein project for their special yarn. This post explores ways of using small amounts of special yarn. (I will confine myself to knitting and crochet for now. Weaving is a whole other topic!) We will look at one-skein projects suitable for different yarn weights, but also think about more imaginative ways to show off that extra-special yarn.

The one-skein project

The key here is knowing what the essential information is, and knowing where to look for patterns.

If you have received a skein from me, or have read about my skeins on this blog, you will see that every skein is categorised according to its WPI (wraps per inch) – from which we calculate the yarn gauge – and the total length of the yarn. Knowing these measurements allows you to search for a project to suit your yarn.

Undoubtedly, the best place to find patterns is Ravelry. It is free to sign up, and as a member you can use the excellent pattern search facility. Simply go to the advanced pattern search, select the appropriate options for meterage or yardage and yarn gauge, and see what comes back. It’s likely you’ll have dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of options to choose from.

Now let’s think about typical yarn lengths for different gauges. Approximate values are given below:

Aran weight: ~160m per 100g skein.

Ideal one-skein projects: Fingerless mitts or ear warmers.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn by Truly Hooked. Pattern.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn handdyed by Story Skeins. Pattern.

DK: ~220m per 100g skein.

Ideal one-skein projects: Scarf or cowl.

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Photo by Heather Young. Yarn by Devon Sun Yarns. Pattern.

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Photos by Laura-Jo Webster. Yarn by Story Skeins. Pattern.

Sock weight: ~400m per 100g skein.

Ideal one-skein projects: socks or shawls.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn by Excelsior Yarns. Pattern.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn by Lang Yarns. Pattern.

Laceweight: 800-1200+m per 100g

Ideal one-skein projects: Large shawl or wrap, for example this Wrapped in Lace Shawl.

Please note that these measurements are a rule of thumb, and most appropriate for yarns which are predominantly wool. Fibres with higher density, such as many plant fibres, may give less length per 100g for an equivalent yarn gauge.

Feature Yarn

Another option is to use your special yarn as an accent in a larger, plainer piece. My favourite example of this is my Nordic Shawl, which makes me smile every time I see it. The rainbow stripe is “Six Colour Rainbow” from Unbelieva-wool. The oatmeal yarn is Stylecraft Life:

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Further examples:

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Photo by Clare Davidson. Accent yarn handdyed by Clare.

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Photo by Becky Shay Pollard.

Patchwork

This option uses small amounts of a variety of yarn to build up a project. It’s a great option for mini skeins, or ends of yarn. Try to keep the yarn gauge consistent, and choose to do your project entirely in animal fibres (or predominantly animal fibre mixes), or entirely in plant fibres (cotton, bamboo, etc), or entirely in synthetics.

My increasingly large collection of mini skeins (again from Unbelieva-wool. I’m quite a fan!) are destined for a Beekeeper’s Quilt. I am using my 30g of rolags from my monthy rolag club to make a wrap based on the When Alice Fell motif pattern. And one day I will make myself a Log Cabin Scrap Blanket.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Pattern.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn handspun by Story Skeins. Pattern.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn and pattern from The Art of Crochet.

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Photo by Sonia Bowmar-Scothern.

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Photo by Stacey Galbraith.

Scrap projects

For even smaller amounts of yarn there are many options for scrap projects, made of tiny lengths of yarn. My favourite is the linen stitch scarf.

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Photo by Rox Driver. Hook by Hooklicious! Pattern.

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Photo by Shadow Gilboa-Way.

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Photo by Alison Horne.

Using textured and “art” yarn

Hanspun yarn has so many delicious possibilities. It can be smooth and balanced and regular, and mimic machine-spun yarn. But can also be so much more.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn by Weird and Twisted. Pattern.

The only limit to using these yarns is your own imagination. A small amount of textured yarn can make a great trim, or a pair of cuffs, transforming an otherwise plain garment into something really special.

For her Road Trip Scarf, Kirsty has combined the irregular button yarn I spun for her with a second skein of handspun to create a bulky yarn for a quick project.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Handspun yarn by Story Skeins.

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Photo by Kirsty Rodger. Yarn by Story Skeins. Pattern.

Close-up:

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I have an inspiration board on pinterest called “Great for Handspun” which includes all sorts of projects, using yarns from the conventional to the wacky. This is my particular favourite.

My general advice to my customers is: the more that’s going on in the yarn, the less there should be going on in the pattern. Just as complex lace or cable patterns are shown to their best advantage with a plain yarn, so complex yarn is at its best advantage when used with a simple pattern. When the yarn is creating the intetest for you, the pattern should stand back and allow the yarn to show off!

Freeform

Finally, don’t feel the need to be constrained to a pattern. You are making art and have the freedom to explore as you please. If you don’t like it, just pull it back and try something else.

The world of freeform crochet has really taken off over the last few years, and this article explains how hanspun yarn is a perfect match for this art form. Here is an example of a stunning freeform crochet blanket.

I hope you have found inspiration for your beautiful, unique skeins here. I also have a gallery on my facebook page of fantastic creations made from handspun yarn. Please feel free to send me pictures of your work if you would like to futher inspire your fellow crafters.