Monday, 18 September 2017

Happy One Month Blockaversary, Amanzi!

Hello, fellow Yarnarinnas! Wow, it's been a very full month, in more ways than just crochet! The weather, good grief! Hurricanes, floods, droughts, fires and you know, through it all, there is this island of sanity called Crochetland. I belong to *quite a few crochet groups* and I have so far, never seen a nasty word written toward a fellow Yarnie! It gives me hope, and also some peace to know that in the midst of turmoil there is always sanctuary to be found within the yarn-bombed walls of Crochetland. And I thank you for this!

Also, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all of you who support my handwork. My yarn basket overflows! And it's absolutely wonderful to experience this sense of abundance and goodwill from a largely women orientated crafty community. So many of you, with your kind and encouraging words, have given me the motivation and confidence to spread my crochet wings. So much so that I am graduating, very soon, into a proper studio space ( with an extra room, as well as a kitchen and bathroom) to hold workshops and informal crochet gatherings! What do you think about that!? 😃

My local yarn shop is on board with this development, with ideas galore about how we can enjoy the space! I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!! So, watch this space for the unfolding of  The Hookery ( I can't call it Hooks'nTales because it will be ALL about Crochet and not so much about Tales, although a group of women together...I'm sure there will be many tales shared ).😄

But, moving onto the Amanzi! I am having so much fun with this project. As I have said, it was intended as a cushion cover or a large blanket panel but whereas all of my other squares really had a finishing point that I was happy to reach, Amanzi kept whispering "just a few rounds more, Jen". Who am I to say no to more hooky, erm...not I!

I've had no idea from one round to the next what would reveal itself but somehow as I completed one round then immediately another presented itself in a very easy, natural unfolding...or is that unraveling? I've literally just gone with the flow. Of course, this has made it a bit difficult to give exact final yarn amounts. I can tell you when it's all done!

Already, Amanzi's are appearing and I'm astounded, as usual, by the clever and inspired colourways popping up. Wow, I will say it again, I TOTALLY SUCK at colour coordinating in comparison to some of the combinations I have seen. I understand now why cartoonists will pass their drawings onto Colourists! Some of you are just absolute geniuses!

credit: Cindy van der Schee

credit: Jeni Ahern

credit: Sandra Salas

credit: Kathleen Sundby

credit: Marianne Jacoby

credit: Raponsielief

credit: Claudia ( aka Boerewors )

credit: NorahY

There are many others in various size stages which I will share in another blog post which will be more of a photo essay and less yadayadayada! 😄

I decided this time that I would not be a cheapskate and would, therefore, use Stylecraft Special DK for the entire project. You laugh, it's expensive here, seeing as it's imported all the way from the UK! Then, it still has to travel 1000kilometres down to Cape Town! And NOTHING is cheap in Cape Town. Nevertheless, my local Yarn shop, which happens to be literally around the corner does make the effort to keep up to date with all the latest colours, and although I moaned about running out of my favourite colour, Raspberry, it was only a  two-week wait. I'm really enjoying the smoothness of the  Stylcraft Special DK, it's lovely to crochet with. It has Augusta's full snuggle approval.

The Amanzi Throw,  when completed will measure approximately 1.2m x 1.2m or 47" x 47". Then, there will be an optional border if you wish to stop there. I have some ideas for the border based on a few interesting patterns in Edie Eckman's Around The Corner Crochet Borders. Weirdly, I have quite a collection of Crochet books and stitch bibles yet I never seem to find anything I absolutely fall in love with! So I do tend to make up stitches combinations. 😃 But don't worry, the video guides will help you through my creative experiments if you're a bit nervous to go any further than the Block! Or, if you're still contemplating purchasing the pattern. So far, Amanzi has been downloaded more than 1000 times, and still going...! It's surreal to think of Amanzi's being made, all over our beautiful planet. It's a very, very, very nice thought though. 💚

Note : Amanzi is being translated into Dutch as we go along, thanks to Cindy van der Schee who is doing an excellent job of the translation. The extended parts, as well as translations, are all included in the Pattern price so no need to break open the piggy bank...again.

Well, dear Yarnarinnas, the day is almost half done and I hear a Throw calling me. Wishing you a lovely day wherever you may be in Crochetland.

Happy hooky and stay fabulous!

Friday, 18 August 2017

Welcome, Amanzi!

" Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink!"

"Amanzi" is the Zulu word for Water. It's also the Xhosa word for Water. Zulu and Xhosa are the most widely spoken languages in South Africa. We recognise eleven official languages! That's democracy for you!😊

Now, more than ever before, I am keenly aware of how water is life. It sounds obvious, but the lack of it was brought into sharp focus recently with the devastating fire storm in Knysna. Knysna is a truly magical place and I'm not going to even try and cover this unique town in a blog post. Instead, I invite you to delve into its remarkable history,  here, here and here

Knysna Lagoon

Although South Africa is considered a water compromised country, it is a hard fact to keep in mind when you're faced with some of the planet's most beautiful waterfalls, rivers, lakes and natural springs that thunder, gurgle, ripple, roar, and snake their life-affirming presence across the length and breadth of this land. Not to leave out two magnificent oceans, The Indian and Atlantic, lapping our eastern, western and southern shores.

This book, The Story of Water, by Alick Bartholomew, dives beautifully into the life of Water and its role in sustaining our physical, spiritual and emotional equilibrium.

The ancient Augrabies Falls. On my bucket list!

Debengeni Falls in Tzaneen ( I have had a swim in that pool! )

The beautiful Breede River

The mighty, snaking Limpopo! 

Once, a mad bunch of Geologists and I ( a mere core logger) went for a splash ( on truck inner tubes ) down one of  Limpopo's tributaries, The Sand River, only to be stopped short about a mile down by a Farmer standing on the banks gesticulating and yelling at us in Afrikaans, " Is julle blerry  mal! Daar's krokodille in die rivier!!" ( Translation: Are you all bloody crazy! There are Crocodiles in the river! ). To say we beat a hasty exit from those waters is an understatement! With some regret, we watched silently as our inner tubes bobbed off into the distance. It was a long, scorching hot walk back to camp and all the cold beers had been tied to the tubes! 😥

A gift from The Drakensberg ( The Dragon Mountains ), the Tugela River which is about to burst its banks!

Yet, here in Cape Town we are restricted by phase 4 water rations!  The directive from our Provincial administration is this: 100 liters per person, per day! Inclusive. This means: 2-minute showers, no watering gardens or washing cars with hoses... and if it yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down ( with water saved from that 2- minute shower! ).😅

I was inspired ( and craved!) to create a design that was rich in texture, colour, and filled with "flowery, growing, and reaching out elements"...if that makes any sense at all? Amanzi, water, life giving and the root of all Abundance.

After our dreadful Summer here in Cape Town, where every thriving green bit of life browned and shriveled, where the relentless Summer winds whipped away whatever moisture was left hidden deep in bark and briar, our first Winter rains felt like soft diamonds from heaven, and more precious than if those jewels themselves had fallen from the skies. Yes, I'm waxing lyrical. 😄 To see the Earth spring back to vibrant life made me all the more aware of saving every precious drop for the torturous Summer ahead!

This is the first time I have used Stylecraft Special DK exclusively for a project and all I can say is that my little point and shoot camera does not do the colours justice! 💖 They are YUMMY!!

I have SO LOVED, making this square, that I didn't want to stop. So, I designed an expanded border!

Please excuse the picture quality but my camera just freaks out over all the yummy colours! I really must spoil myself ( and all of YOU ) with an upgraded camera...any recommendations that don't cost the earth? 😃 

The expanded block measures 56cm x 56cm/22" x 22"

As with The Durban Spice Girls, there are Video Guides to help you through, so you can't go wrong! 😊 There are  "independent rounds" to keep your interest all the way to the end. ENJOY, and I'm sure to see some amazing colourways surfacing soon!

   Click on the BUY NOW Button to purchase this pattern via Ravelry! 

Take care, and happy hooky in Crochetland! 💖

Sunday, 16 July 2017

The Durban Spice Girls one month Blockaversary!

( credit: Kathleen Sundby )

Hello, fellow Yarnies! I hope you are very well in your little corner of Crochetland?💖

Yes, it is true, time flies when you're having fun! An entire month has passed, to the day, that I released my first ever paid pattern, The Durban Spice Girls! And what a month it has been, In fact, it's hard to believe it was only four weeks ago! Someone asked me if I had imagined how many downloads there would be and I kid you not, 45 was the optimistic number in my head. I thought, well 45 is a good number, and I'll be more than happy with that. In fact, even 25 downloads would be awesome.😊

(credit: Raponsielief )

So you can imagine my utter surprise when the downloads just kept, well, downloading! First 10, then 25, then 55, then 120 and it just kept rolling. One month later and The Durban Spice Girls is close to 800 downloads, and still going! THANK YOU ALL for supporting the handmade revolution! 💖

I learned a few things too:

 A) Ravelry is AMAZING! All I had to do was upload the Pattern and a lot of nitty gritty was taken care of by the Ravelry fairies, who live in my computer.😊

B) Keep an eye on the % taken off by Ravelry, Pay Pal, and your bank. Your ching looks good but you still have to pay your dues.

C) EU customers pay tax ( shoowee, quite a bit too! ) which is tacked onto the price of your download, which you need to "pay back" to Ravelry. Yes. keeping EU tax is a criminal offense. Thankfully Raverly take care of this and makes sure the Taxes go to where they must go.

It's early days yet but quite a few Durban Spice Girls have begun to surface. I don't know what to say about the gorgeous colourways except, I stand in awe!!

(credit: 1djk1 )

(credit: Marieke Kok )

(credit: dbart )

I worked this one for the video guides that come with the pattern. 😊

Every day, these past four weeks, have felt like a celebration of sorts, a month long Durban Spice Girls party! Of course, there have been gifts galore and I have been gifting the pattern like confetti. Also, there is a competition ( details on the Facebook page, updated every Wednesday until the 22 August ).

( credit: Sandra Salas )

          (credit: Lindsay Shatto  above and below YogiBuBu )

As many of you probably already have, I too have a Wishlist board in my teeny workroom. Finally, I was able to wipe it almost clean. 😄

I bought a whole bag ( 18 balls! ) of Stylecraft Special DK! Rather than a precious ball or two. Yippee!! It's imported yarn here, so a little expensive for my usual budget. A few days later I bought a whole lot ( 8 balls ) more! I can't show you yet, but my NEW big, BIG Square is ALL Stylecraft Special DK and oh, how I am loving all the colour choices. Frankly, I am in Yarny Nirvana!

I also ordered two Crochet books I've wanted for two whole years. The Crochet Stitches Visual Encyclopedia by Robin Chachula, and  Around The Corner Crochet Borders by Edie! Eckman

If you know of any "absolutely MUST have" crochet books, be sure to let me know in the comments.

I'm already excited to release my next BIG square pattern ( and videos ) and I'm hoping it will coincide with the Competition draw on the 29 August, which happens to also be my birthday! 😵

In the meantime, I hope that you're enjoying whatever you have on your hook at the moment, and that life is being particularly kind, gentle and very generous with you.

Au revoir! And don't forget , I am always at my FB page if you need a quick chat or you want to post your finished Hooks 'n Tales squares for all of us to admire! 💕

Jen xxx

Friday, 16 June 2017

The Durban Spice Girls ...another BIG square!

Hello, Yarny friends! Well, it's here. The day has arrived where I get to post my very first paid pattern! This is a biggy for me seeing as a)  I really LOVE giving things away for free, or just for fun, and b) I never know how to price my work. I mean, what is the value of ones' time? Priceless, I think. It's easy to work out the cost of materials, but time? Well, that stuff is precious!

I really struggled to settle on a "fee" and decided on $2. My reasoning was that I could purchase a fairly decent ball of yarn with $2! 😃 Also, the few fans I have, keep begging me to charge for my work. Now at least I can say once upon a time I did!!

About this square. It's really the sister square to The Pondoland Square because, while I was busy with The Pondo, my mind was wondering off in many directions, like strands of yarn working themselves into other patterns but linked, like umbilical cords, to the present design. It's a huge problem for me, my mind has all Tabs open, all the time. This can become exhausting, especially when it's virtually impossible to settle on one design only, stick to it, and then see it through all the way to the pattern PDF. Even as I put in the last full stop, I'm thinking oh, I could do this, oh look, I can explore that bit in another design...and so it goes.

So there I was, deep in Pondoland but I could also see women, in pretty Saris, and it made me remember the days of childhood holidays and long weekends in Durban. For those of you who are unfamiliar with where this is exactly, Durban is the major port, and a bustling city of the province known as KwaZulu/Natal. The province lies on the eastern seaboard of South Africa, hugged by the warm waves and golden sands of the Indian Ocean. It's hard to explain exactly, but every province in South Africa ( there are nine ) is like a unique, independent country! KwaZulu/Natal especially so seeing as it's not only home to the King of the Zulus, but it's also home to the largest Indian ( as in from India! ) community outside of India!

Back when I was a child and young teen, Durban was a ten-hour drive away. This involved, seeing as we were six kids cooped up in my Dad's fire engine red Ford station-wagon, many stops along the way. The road was long and wound eventually through the hills and dales of the Natal Midlands, as we descended gently from the escarpment to sea level. I could wax lyrical about the Natal Midlands, for hours! But that's another story for another square? 😊

One of the highlights, for me, seeing as I wasn't really a beach bunny due to my skin which never tanned but burnt bright red, blistered, peeled and went back to " pale, with freckles ", was visiting all the interesting little craft and curio shops in Durban and surrounds. especially when I was older and more independent. My absolute favourite spot was the Indian Spice Market. Think Flea Market, and then upsize with major bling added.

My Father, in his day, considered himself somewhat of a cook but only when it came to Friday night homemade fish and chips, and Saturday night Curry! Oh, the chopping, the sauteing, the fragrance, the swearing... THE KITCHEN ( as the only girl in a house of boys somehow I always landed the dishwashing chore 😢 ). Hence, the Indian Spice Market! Every self-respecting South African man has a unique, homemade- from- scratch, Curry Recipe which absolutely everyone has to try because naturally, theirs and only theirs, is THE BEST! Of course, when you actually taste Indian Curry prepared by Indian people, only then do you admit that your Curry could do with improvement! But never let a South African man, with a Curry recipe, know that! 😋

The original Durban Spice Market burnt to the ground in the 70's! I can only imagine the amazing aroma of burning herbs and spices. But yes, it was a terrible disaster at the time. Luckily it was rebuilt and survives to this day! Of course, it's not only Curry spices which are sold there, but every imaginable lovely thing! GORGEOUS rainbow - hued Sari's, bolts of divine fabric, unusual kitchenalia and homewares, sparkling, exotic and otherworldly looking jewelry, hand-embroidered shoes and slippers, pungent and floral toned incense, essential oils, sandalwood soaps, Indian teas, bindis, multi-coloured bangles, skirts with tiny mirrors worked into them, soft Indian cotton teeshirts and of course... lots and lots, and LOTS of food stalls!

For someone like myself who is a HSP and an INFJ ( for years I just thought I was probably an alien )... places like the Spice Market make a lasting impression. Who am I kidding? It's more like the experience somehow sank deeply into my bones, into every cell of my body, and remained there. I only have to have the briefest reminder and I am back there, filling small paper packets with "hot as hell chili mix" or "mother-in-law masala" or "best daughter-in-law biryani mix"!😄 There is a place, here in Cape Town, that stocks the soap, first bought at this market, which I have been using for years, Mysore Sandalwood Soap. Nothing compares, NOTHING!💖

Just a bit about the pattern. It's a cushion sized design, with lots of interesting rounds, and I imagine, from what I have seen done with The Pondo, that it will be translated into the most beautiful colourways! I have not added a specific colourway page to this pattern but I have mentioned each colour for each round. More as a guide. ALSO, there will be videos available, as a bonus, to everyone who purchases the pattern! In the videos, I will also explore embellishing the design, and also another ( or two ) options for the central Flower! I really enjoy making the videos as I can explain more clearly exactly what goes where. Pattern writing, for me, is extremely stressful! My brain is so NOT wired for pattern writing! I wish I had a little crochet Elf who could just take my pages of handwritten notes and magically transform them into a perfect PDF pattern. We can dream, right?

Of course, I could talk crochet, all day, every day and there is so much more I want to write but, this is a blog post and not a book! 😄

The pattern is available to purchase on Ravelry, and on Monday I am doing a draw ( so head on over to the FB page and add your Ravelry name! ) and three lucky persons will get a FREE copy of the pattern. I tell you, a warning in advance, it's tricky...and why I am making the videos so that you don't end up throwing the pattern at me should you see me in the street! 😃

English and Dutch Versions available on Ravelry
Click on the button if you are a non-Ravelry Member

See you in Crochetland!
Jen xxx