Tag Archives: Learning

Book Review: Hook to Heal!

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Book Review: Hook to Heal!

Hook to Heal! 100 crochet exercises for health, growth, connection, inspiration and honoring your inner artist.

By Kathryn Vercillo

Hook to Heal caught my attention from the first time I heard about it. It went straight onto my wish list and when my birthday came around this year, lo! the book arrived (thanks, mum!)

Hook to Heal held a lot of appeal to me, as it draws together a lot of seemingly disparate themes that for me, reflect very accurately the threads of my life. I say “seemingly disparate” because I’m not sure that many people make the connection between fibrecraft and topics such as health, wellbeing, challenge and personal growth, despite these being obvious to many of us deeply involved in this fascinating realm of creativity.

Hook to Heal uses the medium of crochet to provide the arena for thinking through and working on all sorts of areas of life. These include, but are not limited to: Self-care, Self-esteem, Facing fears, Relationships, Balance, Giving something back, and Artistic development. With such a comprehensive scope, you can see that this is no small task that Vercillo set herself when planning and writing the book.

I decided to work through her book this year, and as an act of sharing and community-building, I decided to open the process up as a read-along for anyone who wished to join. I studied the structure of the book and devised a 12-week program. I knew 12 weeks was a short time for such a book, but fortunately I’ve battled my perfectionist demons already, and won, so my aim was to cover roughly half of the exercises in each section. There were weeks of huge success with the process, weeks of what felt like terrible failure to engage with it at all, and everything in between. I documented this journey here.

Firstly, I have to say, this is a brilliant book. It challenged me from the outset because it wasn’t what I expected from a crochet book. There are no pictures! As I worked through the book I came to realise that this was a genius decision. Vercillo challenges us in every chapter with crochet exercises that get to the heart of a topic. What would pictures do? They would give us something to aim for, something born of someone else’s imagination and thought process. In this almost entirely text-only book, we are set free from attempting to mimic a result. We are able to use the exercises to question ourselves, to explore creation in all manner of ways, and to just see the outcome of whatever comes from that process without the burdon of expectation or comparison.

In my 12-week whistlestop tour I have acquired a host of new tools to help me with various issues. Some of the mindfulness and self-care exercises in particular have become well-used favourites already and I hope they will support my efforts at self-improvement long into the future.

Coming to the end of the read along, my overriding feeling is that this is only my first pass of Hook to Heal. There is so much more in there to explore, so much more depth I have not yet reached. Ideally I would use the same 12-part scedule, but instead of spending a week on each section, it would be a month. Then I could spend a whole year really exploring the questions Vercillo poses, truly making time for and looking after me. 

I haven’t yet read Vercillo’s previous book (Crochet Saved My Life), but have heard at least some of her story through Hook to Heal and through her writing online. I think her work is so important as a contribution to the understanding of mental health and the positive role of creativity in recovery and in everyday living. Vercillo seems like someone who has taken her experience of the most challenging of times, and turned it into a force for good. This book is her gift to all of us.

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Hook to Heal: Wk 5 Reading/Wk 3 Check-in

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Hook to Heal: Wk 5 Reading/Wk 3 Check-in

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Our week 5 reading assignment is:

Week 5: 30th May – 5th June

  • Embrace a Sense of Adventure, pp. 94-115

For those reading on Kindle, that’s from the chapter heading “Embrace a Sense of Adventure” to the text box entitled “Yarn for Thought: More Musings on Developing your Sense of Adventure.” The box contains 6 bullet points, and the last one begins “Make a bucket list,” and ends “… spark your creativity in new directions.”

This week the challenge is to build on these foundations of self-care and launch into new adventures, pushing against the walls of our comfort zones and learning new things, both about our craft and about ourselves.

Have fun!

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

Personal check-in, week 3

  • Morning pages: 6/7
  • Artist’s Date: 1/1 – Knitting indulgence!
  • Exercises: 4/6

So, here I am, a full week behind! I have decided that this is OK. I am remembering what the author said in her introductiom about not using this book to beat ourselves up (after all, isn’t that what we’re trying to get away from?) I also want to demonstrate that it’s OK to not do something perfectly. It’s OK to carry on in my own way. It’s certainly better than just giving up.

It has been another exceptionally tough week (fortnight, actually). So letting go, releasing, relaxing are all very good things to be concentrating on and I also continued with the idea of mindfulness crochet. Real life comes along with a big dose of stress for our family at the moment, and I have been using repetitive craft exercises as a balm. This week the almost endless beaded cast-off on my current project, and carding much of my fleece supply have helped to keep my sanity in tact.

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The almost endless beaded cast-off. So long. So worth it. So meditative.

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Carding raw fleece: guaranteed to calm the mind and soothe the spirit.

Letting go, releasing and relaxing is very familiar teritory to me, mainly thanks to my study of the Alexander Technique. So many of the exercises were either things I have done before, or aimed at types of personal development that I’ve been studying for years.

Focussing on our successes, getting rid of the ‘shoulds’ that we all have, challenging the belief that we need to know or to control, working with processes rather than aimimg for a specific result, this is all well worn ground for me.

So I enjoyed being a beginner (exercise 2). I taught myself Bavarian crochet! It didn’t go that smoothly, the tutorials I picked skipped over some key information (which, as someone who occasionally writes tutorials, is a very useful lesson!) But I wasn’t too worried about the errors, I left them in (exercise 6), and because I was only interested in the process of learning, not the final product, I frogged the lot after reaching my goal (exercise 4). I have already joined a mystery crochet-a-long (exercise 3) and although I didn’t get a chance to sort my wips (exercise 5), I shall certainly be following this exercise as I pack to move house over the next few weeks.

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First steps in Bavarian Crochet

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That doesn’t look right!

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A few errors, but basically I understand this now.

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Continuing beyond the tutorial. I got this.

 

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Final product. Ripping out my work scandalised my daughter. But the process was the thing that mattered, and that learning can’t be frogged.

Week 3 was a week of consolidation for me, rather than new territory. It was great to take the general principles I’ve been learning for the last few years and apply them to my craft in order to further eradicate the menace of perfectionism. They are lessons I will need to remember as I move forward with this project.

What’s my job?

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What’s my job?

It’s only three years since I was a new spinner. I’ve reached the point where I find myself mentoring other new spinners as they start exploring this fascinating craft.

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One of the most common complaints I hear (often offered as an apology for the perceived deficiencies of the new spinner’s own yarn) is about irregular yarn. It’s something I remember about my first efforts at the spinning wheel too. I thought my first yarn was quite ugly. But at the same time I was so proud of it because I made it all by myself!

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There seems to be a common journey for spinners, with early efforts being thick and irregular, and subsequent yarn gradually becoming thinner and more consistent. Then you reach a stage where you want to spin thicker yarn again, and almost have to re-learn how to do it. And you may want to spin irregular, or thick and thin, or even more exotic yarn and so you go about learning those techniques, continually refining your knowledge, your practice and your control over the process.

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What I’ve come to realise is that, as spinners, it’s not our job to replicate machine-spun yarn. When we judge our early efforts, that’s the yardstick most of us use for comparison.

But the thing is, if I wanted machine-spun yarn, I could just buy it! It has its place and I use plenty of commercially-spun yarn, but it is a different beast from handspun. There is a sense of satisfaction for the spinner to know that, if you choose to, you can replicate the fine consistency of machine-spun yarn. But my plea to spinners (new or otherwise!) is to see consistency as a design choice, rather than a value judgement.

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I often think of handspun yarn as being full of life. And I think that relates to this question of what is my job as a handspinner. I see my job as creating something unique every time I go through the process, from inspiration to yarn design, to the final skein.

What commercially-spun yarn can never replicate is that sense of the unique creation of every millimetre of yarn: the possibility of a story in every stitch.

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Tutorial: Spinning Seed Beads into a Single

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Tutorial: Spinning Seed Beads into a Single

December’s rolag club, seen here, featured ‘Evergreen’ rolags and ‘Holly Berry’ beads. I have done quite a few beaded yarns in the past and there are several ways to add these kind of inclusions into yarn. In a plied yarn it is easy enough to thread your beads or sequins onto a thread and ply that thread along with the singles, as in this yarn, or you may be able to thread your beads directly onto one or more of your singles, but sometimes you want to spin your beads directly into the yarn. Here’s how:

Assumed knowledge

  • Staple length of fibre: refresher available here.
  • Basic Spinning: refresher available here.
  • Park and Draft for the Wheel: refresher available here.

Materials

  • Fibre
  • Beads
  • A beading (or very fine) hook if you have one, and
  • Cotton thread if you don’t.
  • Something to spin on! A wheel or spindle.

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Method

I don’t have a hook fine enough for seed beads, so I am going to show you a method for threading beads onto fibre using ordinary sewing thread.

  1. Cut a length of cotton, around 20cm long.
  2. Thread the bead onto the cotton, just as if you were threading a needle.
  3. Pull a reasonable length of thread through the bead, so that the bead sits roughly in the middle of the thread.
  4. Now take the end of the cotton once more and, leaving a large loop, thread it back through the bead. Take it slowly at first, and leave yourself plenty of length on either side of the bead.
  5. Now you should have a seed bead threaded such that you have a large loop on one side, and two ends of the thread on the other side.

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Now let’s consider the fibre:

  1. Take the fibre you wish to spin and draft out a few fibres from one end.
  2. Pull out a few fibres. Just pinch at the very top as you pull gently, so that the fibres removed are a single staple length. Your bead will sit in the centre of this staple length.
  3. Twist them with your fingers, just as if you were spinning them, to make them easier to handle.

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  1. Carefully thread your twisted fibres through the loop of your cotton thread.
  2. Move your bead along the thread, towards your fibre.
  3. Pinch your fibre back on itself, such that your bead can slide from the thread to the fibre.
  4. Move your bead along and then gently pinch one end of the fibre, so that the bead cannot come off, and ease the other end of the fibre right through the bead so that the bead ends up placed in the middle of your staple length of fibre.

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Here is a close-up showing the bead being threaded into the fibre. You can see that, having twisted the fibres, they show a clear distinction between each end of the fibre, as if it were a thread. The loop which has just passed through the bead has distinct ‘legs’. As you hold one end of the fibre, pull gently on one of these legs. If you feel a firm tug on the fibres you’re holding, try the other leg. It should connect to the free end of the fibre and allow you to pull that free end right through the bead.

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Follow this procedure for each of the beads you want to spin into your yarn:

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Now put the beads aside and start spinning your fibre. Here I am attaching my fibre to my leader:

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I like to get the spun single established first before I think about spinning in the beads. Here I am checking the gauge of the singles yarn against the commercial yarn (a worsted weight single spun yarn) that I am using in my project.

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Now it’s time to start adding the beads into the yarn:

  1. In order to control the spin, I will stop the wheel when I get to the point of attaching the first bead, just as in the Park and Draft for Wheels video, seen here.
  2. When I want to attach a bead, I stop spinning the wheel and draft some fibre out to my desired thickness, just behind the pinched off twist.
  3. I take a pre-threaded bead. (It is easier to handle these by picking the beads up, rather than by picking the fibre up.)
  4. I hold the end of the fibre that passes through the bead with the thumb and fingers that are holding the twist in place, and lay the beaded fibre parallel to the section just drafted.
  5. I restart the wheel and allow the twist to run up the drafted fibres, capturing the bead and the fibre onto which it was threaded in the process.

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  1. Repeat as often as desired, and the result is a beautifully beaded singles yarn:

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Adding beads whilst spindle spinning

This is slightly trickier as you have to control the spin, as well as the beads, with your hands. Review the technique of Park and Draft on the Spindle, shown here. I would spin this sitting down so I could hold the spindle between my knees to keep it still when needed.

Follow the steps as above, to the point you want to add your first bead into your yarn.

  1. Stop the spindle and hold it still.
  2. Make sure you have your pre-threaded beads to hand.
  3. draft out a length of fibre to your desired thickness.
  4. Pick up a bead and lay the threaded bead alongside the freshly drafted fibre.
  5. Position your hands such that the finger and thumb that are pinching off the twist can hold one end of the threaded fibre in place, and you have other fingers available to stabilise the other end of the threaded fibre.
  6. Use your free hand to restart the spindle spinning and let the twist travel into the drafted fibres, capturing the bead as you go.

A video tutorial will follow as soon as possible and I will add it to this post.

Helluva Helix

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Helluva Helix

Background:

A first experiment in spiral plying.

Story:

Have you ever had one of those problems, that no matter how hard you try to solve, just keeps coming round again?

“Here I am again,” you think, as your previously-vanquished foe returns yet again.

“It’s a vicious circle,” you think. You think of going round and round and round, never escaping.

But what if that circle were actually a helix? And you’re not returning to the same spot, but climbing up, learning something new each time, gradually working your way to the surface.

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Information:

Title: Helluva Helix

Composition: Merino plied with polyamide thread.

Weight: 100g / 10 WPI / worsted or aran weight

Length: 233m / 255yd approx.

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat.

Details:

Date: July 2015

Skein code: 0054

Fibre: 100% merino

Source: Habetrot Fibres

Status: For Sale

The Story So Far …

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The Story So Far …

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[Quote by Lexi Boeger.]

It’s just over two months since Story Skeins officially launched. I’m feeling reflective tonight, so I thought I’d write a little blog about it.

This time last year I was working my way through The Artist’s Way as part of the training course I started in 2012. It was challenging in lots of ways. I was challenged to explore my creativity (after having been challenged to think of myself as someone capable of creativity in the first place…). I was challenged to identify my dreams. I was challenged to become more authentically, and wholly, myself. I was challenged to drop some of the artifice I thought I was using to protect myself, but was actually trapping me in the small space I had labelled ‘safe’.

How far I have come in just a year. One of the dreams I identified was to become a yarn maker. Why does it fascinate me so? I guess it’s always been how my creativity has snuck out, even whilst I was denying it and safely labelling myself as someone capable of learning practical skills. I still deeply appreciate the practical skill element of the work I do, but it’s not what fires the heart and soul. That fire is fed by the abundance of possibility. The freedom to play with shape and space, twist and angles and geometry, fibres and textures and wacky inclusions, colours and patterns and combinations, and ideas. Every creation is unique. Every moment is unique. As long as I don’t forget that, I have the excitement of a beginner every single day.

I’ve never liked attention. Making my work public has been one of the biggest challenges for me. Because my approach to my work is very experimental (not just in the spinning, but in the writing and the planning and the kind of projects I explore) I rarely have any sense for whether the work I’ve produced is any good or not. Old me finds that very difficult. I have about three decades behind me which are full of trying to be good and trying to get things right. New me thinks a little differently. New me is excited by the uncertainty. (Old me looks on from the sidelines, wondering WTF is going on.) New me has, to a large degree, given up rushing to judge myself as succeeding or failing. New me just wants to play. Old me just wants to play it safe.

So, I took a risk. I decided to show you all my creations. You may love them, you may not. So far I’ve loved most of what I’ve made. Sometimes right from the start. Sometimes a slow burn. Sometimes not until the moment of completion. Some stuff I’m still not sure about. Every bit of it has taught me something. Being brave enough to put it out there has taught me something. Why brave? Because maybe, if you really look at the things I make, and the way I do it … maybe you’ll see the real me.

Harebell

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Harebell

Background:

This was another experimental skein, barely more than a mini-skein, made from some left-over merino single plied back on itself from a centre-pull ball. The dyed fibre came to me as a gift from a dyer who was experimenting with her own process. In return, it has been gifted back to that artist so that she can see what her fibre looks like when brought to life as yarn. Spinning this fibre was more like spinning a carded preparation, and the resulting yarn is light and airy, and unbelievably soft. It was in fact so light that it fooled me into thinking is must be ‘4-ply’ or at least sports weight, but no. Repeated WPI measurement revealed it to be DK. I was just unused to a DK yarn feeling so light in my hands.

Story:

Campanula Rotundifolia – such a grand title for a humble guest.

Arriving in summer, companion through autumn,

The cooling breeze coaxing fine bells into motion.

Ethereal purple, such a delicate hue.

My world becomes richer when it’s shared with you.

(Lower skein)

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Information:

Title: Harebell

Composition: 100% Merino

Weight: 21g / 11 WPI / DK

Length: 64m / 70yd approx.

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat.

Details:

Date: April 2015

Skein code: 0015

Fibre: Merino

Source: Truly Hooked

Status: Gifted