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

Saturday, 10 June 2017

The Little Phoenix Square

As many of you may already know, this first week in June has been marked by some devastating natural disasters here in my beloved Western Cape Province. We needed the rain, so much, and when it came it came with bells! The weather services issued a warning that we should brace ourselves for " the worst storm in 40 years!". That's a big statement considering this is The Cape of Storms! Then, just as we were seeing the tail end of this, the gale force winds, doing their job of blowing the clouds to where they are needed, also helped to fan devastating, unprecedented wildfires in beautiful Knysna. It has been in the international news so I won't go into all the details here. Besides, my heart is still ripped to pieces. As is usual for me in times of crisis, I crochet.

I wanted to make a simple " no think / just feel" little square (only six rounds! ) that would represent hope, and life and all good things that will spring from the ashes of Knysna. Even writing this I am in tears. Lives were lost, fauna and flora decimated!! Some pain cannot be expressed adequately in words alone. What has filled me with so much love and pride for my fellow South Africans, is that even through all the turmoil and uncertainty we are experiencing in our country right now, the outpouring of deep compassion and generosity has renewed my hope in humanity, has revived our faith and trust in one another. I was reminded, again, of why I have such a deep and abiding love for this country, and it's people. Don't get too excited, or be too disappointed... this is not a very original square.

 All my creativity has been plowed into the up and coming BIG SQUARE which should be published in mid-June. Until then, stay safe and hug your loved ones close.



Sunday, 14 May 2017

Of Shawls, and Things.

Hello All, and I hope life has been giving you lemonade! Although some Lemons are sweet too. 😄

Just popping in for all you Hooksters who haven't "hooked" up with me ( yet ) on the Facebook HooksnTales page. It's a lot more lively there than here on my Blog, which I use more as a collection site for Crochet Resources and/or a pick-up point for new patterns I release. One of the reasons I am not on Instagram is the time it takes to administer Social Media accounts! This, I can tell you, takes time, and therefore time away from the Hook! And we can't have that now, can we? 😃

There has also been quite a bit of action regarding The Pondoland Square and almost daily I am adding new Pondo's to the FB Albums ( pop over to the FB page for a further looky? ). These are from my patient and talented Testers.

Credit: Cindy Van Der Schee 💕

Credit: Judy Stamnes 💚💝

Credit: Lucia Martins 🙌

And then I made all those video tutorials which was going waaaahaaay out of my comfort zone! The Pondo has also been featured on quite a few websites too! Here and here, Not to mention getting a lot of action on FB crochet groups. I've been dishing out buckets and buckets of grateful THANK YOU's. I'm always ( pleasantly ) surprised that my squares do make other crocheters happy! I feel very encouraged by all our sisters in yarn. Having never had an actual sister I can tell you it's a brand new experience for me to be the recipient of so much positivity and kindness from other women. Our crochet community is an incredibly warm and nurturing one, and I feel very grateful and honoured to be part of it all. 💓

And The Pondo was #1 on the Ravelry Hit Parade for a week! Showeee, I was SO excited! 🙌

Then there has been a mini-CAL, as well as a bigger CAL hosted by the Colourful CAL's/KAL's Group Projects on Ravelry. This CAL runs until August and involves all the squares. It's " open-project too" You can join anytime, make whatever you like, and no pressure to stick to a specific timeframe.

I've been creating "squary" Albums on FB as a way of providing a database of all the squares and their colourways, and honestly, I am awestruck at some of the AMAAAZING colourways clever crocheters have come up with. I used to think I was quite good with my own colourways but no, I see I have still so much to learn. Which is wonderful, challenging and inspiring! Thank you!

In spite of all sorts of personal interruptions to my hooky life ( my eldest son stayed with us for 3 weeks 💓 en route to a new job in New York, I had Flu, there were all those public holidays too with The Man at home! ) I have been deep in designing, redesigning, frogging, and generally faffing over the new BIG square. This one will be a paid pattern so I am excited to see what sort of results will come of my attempt to extort hard cash ( for YARN of course ) from y'all in exchange for an awesome pattern? Tee hee! I will still continue offering beautiful FREE patterns, so don't panic. But from time to time, to keep my yarn basket in action, I will charge for a pattern. Sounds fair? Or not? Let me know in the comments. You may have noticed that a while ago I added a PAY FAST button in the hopes a few pennies would be deposited to help with that ever dwindling yarn basket. And so 💕 THANK YOU VERY, VERY MUCH  💕 to those who have popped in some spare change. A little goes a long way here in South Africa. 💖

The other thing is...I have suddenly been struck with the Shawl virus. I began making one, just off the top of my head, to see if I could actually do it and then BAM I was hooked. I am only half way through and just feeling my way through the design. Of course, it has been named * The Flamingo Feathered Shawl *. If it works out as I hope, then I will attempt to replicate it and share the pattern.

I was wanting to do an easy side project that would involve an almost "brainless" amount of hooky. Also, using one skein ( or two ) in one variegated colour and a large Hook ( 5.5 ). I had a new 100g skein of Elle Yarn Pullskein DK acrylic in "Rosily". I managed 17 rounds with one 100g skein and I have a 50g skein in a similar colour ( more purply ). 9 more rounds to go, not counting the border, to make it approximately 52" ( across ) and 26" ( down the centre ). There will be tassels involved. 😄

 I'm not even a "shawl person" so who knew! 😃 Watch this space because there WILL be shawls! With patterns!

Keep your Hooks close and wishing you a wonderful yarny fun-filled week!
 💕 Jen