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Dearest Everyone,

To celebrate the release of my new 'Big Hook Crochet' book, I'm doing a little giveaway over on my instagram account.  Go see!

It's published by CICO publishers, who have made everything look just lovely, and features 35 patterns - from scarves and hats to baskets and rugs.  It's so exciting!  And to think, it's all from a bit of broom handle.  I can barely write anything cos it's so bonkers! xxx

Or 'How to Make Your Blog Look Like a Super Pro Website'!

I am VERY excited to share my shiny new look.  On my leaving-the-real-world-to-become-a-crochet-pro journey I thought it was finally time that I looked like a crochet pro.  I have two books now, have been featured and contributed to lots of magazines and online things, but I realised my online presence was still saying 'amateur'.  It's time for an overhaul, and I know that when I'm looking for someone to do something for me, the first thing I do is go and look at there website, so clearly, I need a website.

Having spent a lot of time looking at web hosts and being really intimidated by the time or cost of getting something set up, my brother-in-law suggested I just use my blogger account.  Figuring it was a good place to start I spent 4 hours yesterday, wiggling gadgets around, working out how to add in tabs and links to shops and changing my side bar.  In a bleary eyed state I called him and asked him to have a look for me, and he sent me this link:

Free Responsive Blog Designs

Oh my G.O.S.H it's amazing!  You copy the code, and then paste it into your blogs html section in 'Layout'.  That is honestly it!  Five minutes and you can have something that looks super professional and it's completely free!  Now all I have to do is buy my domain name, and I can have it set up as a proper .com.  Anyone wanting to up their online presence, I can't recommend this enough.

Just to add to this, on some very good advice, this week I've started using a proper camera to take my pics rather than my phone.  It's so much better - the images are crisper, you can change the light levels, all sorts of things that give your overall vibe a much more professional finish.  Having been nervous of it, it's completely worth taking the time to do it, see?

Hello!  Our summer break began last week and we've been off on the first of many legs, visiting family around the country.  First leg was to my identical twins for a few days.  She has two boys of similar ages and dispositions to mine so it's always super easy.  On unpacking the car they saw this very beautiful bag - it was hand sewn by an epic friend (go find her at Sky Meadow Bakery, she's an exceptionally talented baker too!), and I always use it to carry my yarn about with me.

Them: "What's in that bag Aunty Em?"
Me: "Wool"
Them: "Ooooh, so ANYTHING?!"

Each nephew had a request, actually one nephew and an identical twin had a request, so by the end of the hols, these scrap-yarn, 'Hey Duggee' characters were left behind and tucked in to various beds.

The shorthand versions of the patterns are on the pics, but here are the longhand versions too (using US terminology).

Rnd 1. using dark brown yarn, mr 6, (6)
Rnd 2. 2sc in each st (12)
Rnd 3. *2sc in next st, sc in the next* rpt to end (18)
Rnd 4. *2sc in the next st, sc in the next 8 st's* rpt to end (20)
Rnd 5-9. sc in each st
Rnd 10-12. Swap to lighter colour yarn and sc in each st
Rnd 13. *sc2tog, sc in next st* rpt to end
Rnd 14. sc2tog to close

Arms: mr4 in dark yarn, sc 1 row, then switch to light yarn and sc for 5 rows
Legs: using light yarn cast on an i-cord (excellent tutorial here) and do 3 rows in light colour and final row in dark
Nose: mr 4, 2sc in next 3 st's only
Ears: mr 6, 2sc in next 4 st's, sc in in next 4, ch1, turn, sc in next 4

Rnd 1. mr 6
Rnd 2-6. sc in each st
Rnd 7-9. Switch yarn sand sc in each
Rnd 10. sc2tog to close

Arms: ch 5
Legs: ch 3
Nose: mr 4
Ears: just a loop of yarn
Eye: paper stuck on with pritt stick!  (well, we were on holiday, you've got to manage with what you've got to hand!)

Would love to see any pics when you've made them!  Tag me on instagram at steelandstitch xxx

This week I had a slightly unusual crochet commission.  Not unusual as in "can you make me a giant banana?" but unusual as in "oh, I don't usually make things like that".

But I took it on anyway (gotta get paid somehow), and had 3 days to make a 1970's hat, following a 1970's pattern.  For that whole 3 days, all I could be heard muttering, as I was hunched over my hook and yarn with burning RSI was: "but this is INSANE!"

It's a classic, Irish picot, frilly flower, bonkers bonnet of a thing, that I would never wear, or even come near to designing in a squillion years.   But I learned a lot from it.  By the 4th flower I was totally down with how to make the petals do that, lifty uppy thing, and by the end I'd say I could confidently make something out of a picot mesh if I so desired.

So this week I've learned to step outside my comfort zone, because you never know what you'll discover until you do (one of those being that I will never wear a floral, Irish picot bonnet in red.  Ever).


It's now been 5 months since leaving the daily grind for one of freelance freedom and this week has been a time for reflection and assessment.  And a week off.  A whole week of not pushing myself to make patterns, drive social media or thinking of ways to make some extra money.  This has led to two thoughts:

1. I miss having a regular income and a ready made social network!  I CAN live on the meager amount I make if I eek out all the books, patterns and commissions, we can eat and pay bills, but my jeans have holes in, and while I can go thrift shopping for new ones, I'd really like to go and get some new skinnys from a proper shop.  I also really like the new friends I've made through the power of social media, but you can't have banal conversations about your favourite flavour yoghurt, or what you watched on tv last night.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not ready to give this all up, I love the freedom this lifestyle choice allows me to look after the boys, help out at school and make proper meals.  But I'm wondering if my mental health (and wardrobe) could benefit from a couple of days a week back in the real world.

2.  I haven't just doodled with yarn for ages.  Yes, I did make the crow for Mr. Steel&Stitch, but that very definitely had to look like something in the end.  So on my week off, I went into the sublime South Downs, and came away inspired by the beautiful colour palette of all the grasses and wild flowers.  On getting home, I immediately raided my yarn stash and dragged out everything that resembled the greens, purples, pinks and yellows that the South Downs in summer has to offer.

And then set to playing with stitches and colour to make my very first shawl, something that even in the depths of winter will take me straight back there.  It's very much a work in progress, and there's almost as much ripping out of stitches as there are creating them, but I'm loving it.

Maybe it's just about balance...
This crocheting business all started with making things for my many muses - my boys, my besties, my beloved and my sisters.  I've spent years now making things for publishing, so this week I've gone back to where it all began, and do you know something?  I think I'd forgotten how much I actually love crochet.  This week there's been:

No writing down patterns.
No worrying about yarn brands.
No thinking about if it'll photograph nicely or fit in with the 'collection'.

Just good, old fashioned making things for people I love.  It's like doodling with yarn to make people happy.  It's the best.  And I really, really love crochet.

This little crow was for my beloveds birthday - he's always wanted a pet crow, and now he can keep this one in his pocket.  Yes, it's very difficult to photograph him , no, I don't care!

And I have a lovely friend who is about to have her second baby.  She willingly sacrificed her husbands time to make me a crochet app (more on that another day), and said I could pay in crochet.  I haven't made this in payment, I've made this as a gift.  We called her Strawbs at uni, so this is in honour of that: a little strawberry new born hat and cutey booties :)

(Ok, so I did write the pattern up after and get it on Etsy, but they're too cute not to share!)

I think the lesson here might be to take time out more often, to remember why I do this in the first place.  Don't get me wrong, designing patterns is literally the best job in the entire world, but sometimes it's good to remember where you came from and why.
This is a really hard post to write, but I think it's important.  There's been so much sadness and beauty around the death of Wink, A Creative Being, and creator of many beautiful crochet mandalas.  My only connection to her is through instagram, but it's impossible to miss the waves of compassion coming from the crochet community for her family and in her honor.

She was featured in the amazing book 'Crochet Saved my Life' by Kathryn Vircello, author of Crochet Concupiscene blog, and a very talented lady.  I don't usually share personal things here, I don't feel like I want people to see or know that side of me, or feel that I'm looking for sympathy or am somehow weak.  But that's the point, it's not weak, and the more people share their experiences, the less stigma is attached mental health issues, and the more help people can get.

Crochet has saved my life too.  I've been suffering from PTSD for two years now, (I don't want to share why) but I have crippling health anxiety which is overwhelming; fear, terror, depression, they're all things that come unbidden and daily.  But crochet has honestly helped me through, and continues to do so.  The rhythm is soothing, getting lost in counting endless rows and rounds.  When I'm getting worked up and distraught, I can pick up my hook and yarn, and the feel of it starts to work it's magic straight away.  It can bring me peace, often when nothing else can.

It's so so sad that Wink felt that there wasn't another way out, and I truly understand that.  I'm lucky, only very recently was I finally able to ask for help and am now in the process of finding a way to heal.

There is no shame in having a mental health issue, there really isn't.

Love and thoughts to Marinke's family. xxx

So you all know by now that I'm not any good at blogging regularly, but I have been ridiculously busy.  I've been pulling together bits for a 'Hipster' collection, mainly designing and making new pieces, but also from dusting off half finished wips (works in progress) and giving them some new life.

There are always those pieces that you get half way through and then just run out of steam.  NEVER throw them away!  Tuck them tidily into your stash and then months (sometimes years) later you can look at them and suddenly see their potential.  It may not be what you originally had in mind, but design can be a slow process, and sometimes you need that time apart to realise how much you can mean to each other.

This super cute kitten hood was just that - the hood was made but I just didn't know what I wanted to finish it.  I tried tassles and pompoms but neither worked, and then it languished for a year in the craft box.  On digging it out a few weeks ago it screamed 'GIVE ME KITTEN EARS!' and that was that.  So give your wips a chance guys, they CAN fullfil their potential!  (The hood pattern is on sale for a limited time only on Etsy x)

(Here are some sneaky peeks at my upcoming hipster collection, hopefully it's enough to give you an idea but not too much to give the game away!)