Sunday, 27 March 2022

Manic crochet designer at work

I'm wide awake in the early hours of 27 Mar but as the clocks have gone forward an hour, we'll be getting up soon anyway. I am super-excited about a new way of working overlay crochet stitches. It came to me as I was trying to think of a way to translate the cross stitch alphabet from a sampler I made years ago into a crochet equivalent and boom! The overlay /M\ and /W\ stitches were born in my head. Two ways of doing it, I really want to grab some yarn and a hook to try it out ipto see if either or both ways work but .... If I get up now to try it, I will wake Diesel, our new dog, he will then need to be let out in the garden and then he'll expect his breakfast. He is Mr Impatient when it comes to eating, After that, our usual weekend routine is MTM will shower, get dressed and take him for a walk whilst I prepare breakfast and get showered myself. No crochet time. Arghhh! Driving me mad, I can't bring forward everybody's day just because I'm feeling manic and want to get on with it!

Thursday, 27 January 2022

Big Paws paw print dog blanket

 

Dog blanket with paw prints

My latest crochet blanket design is dedicated to and inspired by Bongo, our lovely Manchester Terrier who died aged thirteen and a half in the Summer of 2021. I named it Big Paws because when we became ready to welcome another dog into our life, there were very Big Paws to fill. RIP Bongo, we will love and miss you always. 

It's available now in my Sooz Jewels Etsy Crochet Patterns shop

Here's my favourite photograph of Bongo, taken on holiday in Budle Bay, Northumberland in 2020.

Bongo the Manchester Terrier




Wednesday, 8 December 2021

2021 roundup


In the summer, after a short illness, we were heartbroken to lose our wonderful, affectionate, ball-chaser at the age of thirteen and a half. We shared his life for his final four years, he looked after us on our walks and beachcombing, kept me company on the sofa demanding to be fussed. He guarded MTM's office and terrorised the local squirrels and pigeons if they dared stray onto the lawn. We made many a trip to the post box sending out packages of beads. There really was no area of our lives he wasn't folded into in some way. We were very rarely apart from each other. 




We never got him used to being on the jetty, we finished rebuilding it the summer before last. I include it in this round up because it has been such a sanctuary for us during the most difficult of times. It's very peaceful and quiet down there and you just let the river take your troubles downstream. It's my happy place.

Typically for Manchester Terriers, he always hated water. He was never even keen to go for a walk in the rain, he would do his business in wet weather and then turn back, insisting we took him home to dry his ears. I think the idea of having a whole river of that nasty wet stuff flowing underneath him felt completely wrong, he was more comfortable sunbathing on a cushion outside the open door of my beadmaking studio, trotting in and out, keeping an eye on me and another looking out for those squirrels! Our time with him went so fast, we can never keep our furry friends for long enough. 

The flowers - photographed above with his name tag - were sent by Bongo's original owners who rehomed him with us when they could no longer take care of him.




We scattered his ashes on a sunny sand dune overlooking Budle Bay where I took these joyful photographs of him almost exactly a year earlier. Missy and Guinness, our two other Manchester Terriers, are close by on Bamburgh Beach and Stag Rock. They'll keep you company and we'll visit you all often. RIP Bongo, we miss you so much. 

Lost in the pandemic was the fact that Brexit finally happened at the beginning of 2021. All my EU customers now have to pay import VAT at their domestic VAT rate due to the UK leaving the Customs Union. This has made my beads 19-27% more expensive on the continent. 

Once my regulars had all been stung by doorstep demands for money by carriers, 40% of my sales disappeared. Not only were they having to pay VAT, an extortionate handling charge was also being imposed.

Etsy finally started collecting the VAT in July but paperwork glitches with the electronic handshake the barcode on the postal label - supposed to tell foreign carriers VAT had been paid - meant the very few EU customers who had stuck with me were now being double-VATed and *still* being charged handling fees. It was a very bad time for my business. I had to stop selling to Europe. This may settle down once the systems are properly in sych.


I finished my photography course but I haven't done much with it this year. I've spotted things in the garden that were looking good and thought I'll get the camera out when I get a minute. But it always got dropped to the bottom of my to do list and moment by moment, they all just passed me by in a graceless morass of apathy. This is one of the few I managed, this bee is me .... head down .... plough on.

Both of us caught Covid in late summer, the Delta variant we think. MTM picked it up at work from one of the schools his employer was refurbishing and a week later, I also succumbed. It wasn't too bad, no hospitalisation but MTM was very fatigued for weeks and weeks afterwards. Thank goodness we were both double vaccinated (and now boostered up as well).

After we were better, a routine medication review showed an elevated platelet count on my blood test. I was referred for numerous precautionary cancer investigations. These dominated a couple of the Autumn months. The NHS were stressful in their appointment system cockups but magnificent in their person-to-person treatment and care of me. It was invasive but thorough and the upshot of it all is I'm physically completely well.  

My platelet count has now gone back to normal and the earlier elevation presumed to be a lingering effect of my prior Covid infection. As my GP put it, it wasn't wise to make that assumption at the time.

Sisters .... thank goodness for sisters! Both of mine were very supportive during this time. And of course MTM was my rock, as ever, driving me to appointments and listening to my worries. On my nil-by-mouth days (both of them), he even ate a cold dinner on his own so the smell of cooking wouldn't make me feel hungrier, that's love for you! 

He has been asking his employer to take him off schools refurbishments due to the Covid risk they present to a gentleman of relatively advanced years. They have refused. He has resigned. He is  currently working his contracted three month notice period. He leaves in the middle of January 2022.

MTM isn't like me, he doesn't just resign at the drop of a hat. This comes at the end of a long period of estrangement and mismanagement by the company owner. He feels deliberately pushed into early retirement. There's so much more I could say about this concerning constructive dismissal, we have much evidence going back two years to support a claim. We may have to go legal on that yet. It's all very unsettling after 16 years with the same company.

If you've read this far, well done, and thank you! It *IS* nearly a year's worth of blog posts condensed! It's not been easy to write but I have some brilliant news as a reward!


At exactly the time all this craptitude - and some other bad stuff that isn't mine to share - was all threatening to get on top of me, a US company who had seen my other Etsy shop (where I sell crochet patterns as a kind of pocket-money sideline), got in touch. There aren't many designs in it but they loved one - a macrame style plant hanger - so much they offered a substantial fee to buy a license to distribute it to their subscribers.

I have taken this as the universe signalling to me to concentrate on my crochet designs. After a few weeks advance notice to my remaining bead customers, I closed my bead shop last week for an extended period - potentially permanently - whilst I explore this possibility some more.

I have a stack of designs all in various stages. Some are nearly finished, some just need a few photographs taking as tutorial pics to help people make my designs. I feel this brings several of my talents all together. I have loads of ideas and I'm super-excited about the future.

I hope to be posting a bit more regularly next year! Looking forward to better times ahead.

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Crocheted trailing plant pot hanger / holder

Here is my latest free crochet pattern, to make a macrame inspired trailing plant hanger/holder. Instructions are written out row by row but for chart readers, two charts are provided towards the end of this blog posting.

It is quite difficult to print patterns out from my blog. The blog version will always be free and available to consult here but for those who want a print-ready version, a PDF may be purchased for a modest sum from my Etsy shop.

Pattern is written in UK crochet terms throughout.

SIZE

To fit a pot with a diameter of 12.5-15cm (5-6 inches) and similar height

Overall length measures approximately 59cm (23.5 inches) from tip of hanging loop to the bottom of the pot when displaying a 12.5cm (5 inches) potted plant

ABBREVIATIONS

  • rs- right side
  • ch(s) - chain(s)
  • rs - right side
  • ch(s) – chain(s)
  • sp - space
  • st - stitch
  • ss - slip stitch
  • dc - double crochet
  • tr(s) - treble crochet(s)
  • rep - repeat
  • beg - beginning
  • rem – remaining

GAUGE

21 sts and 10 rows, worked in tr = four inches square  NB: if your gauge square is larger, you may find you will need a second ball of yarn

MATERIALS

  • 1 x 50g ball of Scheepjes Catona or equivalent 4-ply weight cotton/cotton blend*
  • Size 4mm hook (or whatever size is required to achieve gauge)
  • Darning needle to weave in ends

*Other suggested yarns: Scheepjes Linen Soft, Drops Safran, Rowan Summerlite

INSTRUCTIONS 

If you are familiar with reading charts, Chart 1 (at the end of this document) covers rows 1-9.

Round 1 (rs) 

Make a slip knot and place on hook, ch 8, ss into first ch to form a ring, do not turn on this or subsequent rows, the rs faces you throughout the project

Round 2 

ch 1 (does not count as a st), 20 dc into ring, ss into first dc

Round 3

ch 6 (counts as 1 tr, 3 ch), *skip 1 st, tr in next st, ch 3, rep from * 8 times, skip 1 st, ss into 3rd ch of beg chs

Round 4

ch 3 (counts as a tr), 3 trs into base of same ch, *skip 3 ch sp, dc in next st, skip 3 ch, (4 tr, 3 ch, 4 tr) in next st, repeat from * 3 times, skip 3 ch, dc in next st, skip 3 ch, 4 trs into same st as initial trs, 3 ch, ss into top of beg 3 ch

NB At the end of Round 4, the chs you need to ss into the top of may be partially hidden due to the number of trs worked into the same st. The darning needle in the photograph shows the correct place to work the ss.

Round 5

ch 4 (counts as 1 tr, 1 ch), (skip 1 st, tr in next st, ch 1)  4 times,  *(tr, 3ch, tr) in 3 ch sp, ch 1, tr in next st, ch 1, (skip 1 st, tr in next st, ch 1)  4 times, rep from * 3 times, (tr, 3 ch, tr) in 3 ch sp, ch 1, ss into 3rd ch of beg 4 chs

Round 6

NB – in Round 6, and all subsequent rounds, where items are in brackets after the word “skip”, this means there is more than one item to skip, ie, all the stitches listed between the brackets should be skipped.

The darning needle in the photograph above shows where to place the next tr after skipping for Round 6.

ch 3 (to count as tr), *ch 5, skip (1 ch sp, tr, 1 ch sp, tr, 1 ch sp, tr, 1 ch sp), tr in next st, tr in 1 ch sp, tr in next st (2 tr, ch 3, 2 tr) in 3 ch sp, tr in next st, tr in 1 ch sp, tr in next st, repeat from * 3 more times, 5 ch, skip (1ch, tr, 1 ch sp, tr, 1 ch sp, tr, 1 ch sp), tr in next st, tr in ch sp, tr in next st, (2 tr, ch 3, 2 tr) in 3 ch sp, tr in next st, tr in 1 ch sp, ss into 3rd ch of beg chs

Round 7

ss into each of next 3 ch, ch 1 (does not count as a st), dc into same ch *ch 3, skip (2 ch, 2 sts) tr in next st, ch 1, skip 1 st, tr in next st, ch 1, (tr, ch 3, tr) in 3 ch sp, ch 1, tr in next st, ch 1, skip 1 st, tr in next st, ch 3, dc into 5 ch sp, rep from * 4 times.  NB on final repeat, end with ss into beg dc (instead of dc in 5 ch sp)

Round 8

ch 1, dc in same st, *dc in 3 ch sp, ch 4, skip (rest of 3 ch sp, 1 tr, 1 ch sp), tr in next st, tr in ch sp, tr in next st, (2tr, ch 3, 2 tr) in 3 ch sp, tr in next st, tr in ch sp, tr in next st, 4 ch, skip (1 ch sp, tr), dc in 3 ch sp, dc in next st, repeat from * 4 times.  NB on final repeat, end with ss into beg dc (instead of dc in next st)

Round 9 

ch 1 (does not count as a st), dc in same st, *5 ch, skip (dc, 4 ch sp, 2 sts) tr in next st, ch 1, skip 1 st, tr in next st, ch 1, (tr, 3 ch, tr) in 3 ch sp, ch 1, tr in next st, ch 1, skip 1 st, tr in next st, 5 ch, skip (2sts, 4 ch, 1 dc), dc in next st, repeat from * 4 times.  NB on final repeat, end with ss into beg dc (instead of dc in next st)

If you are familiar with reading charts, Chart 2 (at the end of this document) covers rows 10-13 with row 9 included for clarity to indicate to the user where one chart finishes and the other starts.

Round 10

NB – in Round 10, as with some previous rounds, there are quite a few stitches to skip. The photograph above shows the correct place to continue. 

ss into each of next 5 ch, ss into next st, ss into 1 ch sp, ss into next st, ch 3 (to count as tr), tr in 1 ch sp, tr in next st, (2 tr, 3 ch, 2 tr) in 3 ch sp, tr in next st, tr in 1 ch sp, tr in next st * 9 ch, skip (ch 1 sp, tr, 5 ch, dc, 5 ch, tr, ch 1 sp) tr in next st, tr in 1 ch sp, tr in next st, (2 tr, 3 ch, 2 tr) in 3 ch sp, tr in next st, tr in 1 ch sp, tr in next sp, rep from * 3 times, skip (1 ch sp, tr, 5 ch sp, dc, 5 ch sp, tr, 1 ch sp), ch 9, ss in top of beg 3 ch

Round 11

ss into each of next 2 st, ch 4 (to count as tr and ch 1), skip 1 st, tr in next st, ch 1 (tr, ch 3, tr) in 3 ch sp, ch 1, tr in next st, ch 1, skip 1 st *ch 4, dc in 9 ch sp, ch 4, skip (rest of 9 ch sp, 2 sts) tr in next st, ch 1, skip 1 st, tr in next st, ch 1 (tr, ch 3, tr) in 3 ch sp, (ch 1, tr in next st) twice, rep from * 3 times, ch 4, dc in 9 ch sp, 4 ch, skip (rest of ch 9 sp, 2 sts), ss in 3rd of beg 4 ch

Round 12

ss in 1 ch sp, ss in next st, ch 3 (to count as tr), tr in 1 ch sp, tr in next st, *(2 tr, ch 2, 2 tr) in 3 ch sp, tr in next st, tr in 1 ch sp, tr in next st, ch 4, skip (1 ch sp, 1 st), dc in 4 ch sp, dc in next st, dc in 4 ch sp, ch 4, skip (rest of 4 ch, tr, 1 ch sp), tr in next st, tr in 1 ch sp, tr in next st, repeat from * 3 times, (2 tr, ch 2, 2 tr) in 3 ch sp, tr in next st, tr in 1 ch sp, tr in next st, ch 4, skip (1 ch, 1 tr), dc in 4 ch sp, dc in next st, dc in 4 ch sp, ch 4, skip (rest of 4 ch sp, tr, 1 ch sp), ss into 3rd of beg 3 ch

Round 13

ch 1 (does not count as st), dc in same st, *dc in next st, ch 3, ss into dc just worked to form a picot, dc in each of next 3 sts, ch 75, ss in 5th ch from hook, dc in next ch, htr in next ch, 2 htr in each of rem 68 ch, skip 2 ch sp, dc in each of next 3 sts, ch 3, ss into dc just worked to form a picot, dc in each of next 2 sts, 4 dc in 4 ch sp, dc in next 2 sts, ch 3, ss into dc just worked to form a picot, dc in next st, 4 dc in 4 ch sp, dc in next st, repeat from * 4 times.  NB on final repeat, end with ss into dc at beg of round (instead of dc in next st). Leaving a tail long enough to weave in, cut yarn, draw through loop on hook to fasten off. 

HANGING LOOP

Turn the hanger upside down and check the twists on the hanging strings are spiralling all in the same direction (I had mine going clockwise). Give it a bit of a shake, check each string has roughly the same number of twists on them. Carefully lay the hanger down with the strings separated from each other. 

One at a time, insert your crochet hook through the loops at the top of the hanging strings, in the same order they go around the hanger. 

Make a loose slip knot in your yarn, place it on the end of your hook and draw it through all five loops on the hanging strings. Pull the yarn a little tighter and then ch 1 (this is referred to hereafter as the “initial ch”).

ch 10, ss into the initial ch, pulling the yarn tight again.


Turn, ch 1 (does not count as a st), 12 dcs into 10 ch ring, ss into initial ch. Leaving a tail long enough to weave in, cut yarn, draw through loop on hook.  When weaving in the end on the hanging loop, wrap the yarn around the initial chain a few times to reinforce it. 

Weave in ends.





Sunday, 22 November 2020

Who IS the VBP man, why does he wear a bowler hat?

I have just finished listening to a very funny Audiobook "Born to be Mild; Adventures for the Anxious" by Rob Temple. I loved it, it's very entertaining in a spookily accurate way; and also a now melancholy reminder of what ordinary life was like just before the pandemic. I could heap many more plaudits and praise on this book but it would take up more of your valuable time to read so please just take it as a given I'm a huge fan of its brilliance.

I follow the @verybritishproblemsofficial Instagram feed, I think it's something to do with Rob Temple because he also writes those books too. (I know he's on Twitter but I'm not a Twatterer because it's very bad for me, full of one-sided conversations I can't follow, I don't like myself on it so how can anyone else? Anyway, I've closed two accounts already and have forgotten the password to my third).

Any minute now, she'll get to the point of this blog posting .... I can hear your brain screaming at me. Right, so I will.

I don't get one of Rob Temple's references. It's in a section that resonates with me particularly strongly because it's about how seemingly little things can make an anxious person's head virtually explode. I want to fully understand it. 

To set the scene, the author is standing in a "queue" behind a couple with a baby on an adventure to Blackpool Tower, the quasi-sorry-excuse-for-a-queue has already annoyed him. Now this couple are asking daft questions, even the baby is guilty in this; they are holding the line up with pointless enquiries. This is the passage which I took down in shorthand during my second listening of this marvellous book:

"I am one limp burger away from going Michael Douglas, except without the guns. I tell myself to stop being so angry, stop trying to bend the world to you. Nobody asked you to come here. Maybe I'm doing it on purpose because I think I'm the VBP man with the bowler hat from the book. No, no, I am really like this, unfortunately. I am about to break my own neck by tensing too much. Calm down. By the time I'm paying for my ticket, I have already ruined the experience for myself. Anxiety causes me to get so quietly wound up because I'm constantly trying to communicate my dissatisfaction with a situation by thinking about it really intensely and then getting pissed off because nobody can hear what I'm NOT saying."

Who is this "VBP man in the book"? I get the Michael Douglas reference (from the film Falling Down) "I'm the bad guy?" Classic line! But "the VBP man" has defeated me. I've also asked Micky Taking Monster and two major search engines but have drawn a blank.

There are a few possibilities that occur

  • It's a misprint, it should say something else
  • It was misread by Mr Baynton, in an otherwise flawless performance, he should in fact have said something else.
  • I have misheard Mr Baynton, I should've heard something else.
  • I'm perhaps not in the target age demographic, Rob Temple was 39 when he wrote Born to be Mild. Maybe if I ask someone in their 30s, it's a reference they would get immediately. 
  • This was a test for observant readers/audiobook listeners and prizes are sent to anyone who points it out. (Fingers crossed, eh?)
  • The author can't remember writing this paragraph and now has no idea what it means. In which case, I promise I will let him know if I ever find out
  • Does this really matter?

Yes, I know it doesn't matter, particularly at the moment when there are far bigger things to worry about. B-u-u-t ...one of the things I like most about reading (or listening to) books are the jumping off points they sometimes give you.

I have now become obsessed with really, really wanting to read the book that the VBP man is in and finally find out why he wears a bowler hat. If anyone can help me out with the title of the book the VBP man is in and the author's name, you'd be really helping me out. 

If anyone can't leave a comment giving me the answer because of the "I am not a Robot" requirements, I'm also asking the same question on Instagram @soozjewels but in a more concise manner.

Thanks for reading!

EDITED: at 4:22 next day, a light bulb goes off. VBP stands for Very British Problems. Mr Temple must have a bowler hatted man in one of his VBP books (which I haven't read yet) thank f*ck for that, maybe I can get some sleep now! 🤣 😴