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

Thursday, 30 March 2017

The Pondoland Square is here!

Hello, Everyone! I'm really so happy to be able to squeeze in this square before April is upon us. I can't believe it has taken me all of the entire month of March to finish this block. Ok, it is quite a few more rounds than I am used to, but I wanted so much to make a piece that was big enough for a cushion cover, that when all was done, only the tails needed working in. Well, let me tell was CHALLENGING alright! Whew!!

My heartfelt deepest thanks go to my Testers, Cindy van der Schee ( Holland ), Judy Stamnes ( US of A ) and Lucia Martins ( Brazil ). I can tell you from hard experience now, that pattern writing is a Lady Dog! If you're a Virgo you'll know then that we are pretty good with the details, and finer print, but make no mistake, pattern-writing tests the limits! Imagine, EVERY single stitch must be accounted for! Anyhow, as you know, I could talk Crochetnease ALL DAY, every day, but I do want to get this square to you before the weekend. 😍

So, let me tell you a bit about the magical Kingdom of Pondoland. To be sure, until recently, I kind of vaguely knew it was in the general eastern area of South Africa. This area is also known as The Wild Coast because of its pristine natural beauty, as well as an awe-inspiring coastline. If you've ever wondered about herds of cattle on the beach, then you have to see the beach loving Bulls! of Pondoland!

No surprise where I got my colourways from! 😄

That coastline, like all the coastlines hugging the southern tip of Africa, is famous, or should I say infamous, for its hundreds of shipwrecks and dozens of Castaways!  Half of all these shipwrecks saw all souls drowned or eaten by sharks ( I mention this in The Birkenhead Square ). However, groups of sailors, officers and civilians sometimes made it to shore. Survival depended on where exactly they found themselves. The shoreline then was dotted along the way with "rest and replenish" stations but considering the distances, as well as the wild terrain between them, even landing halfway between these way-stations drastically reduced your chances of being saved. In many cases, survivors seeking sanctuary sickened and died along the way. If luck was on their side, they were rescued by peaceful tribes living along these shores.There is ample documentation of survivors integrating into local tribes, and of course, legends abound about these pale-faced people and their descendants.

Some years ago I came across a book in our local thrift shop called The Sunburnt Queen. This is a tale based on scatterings of information, about a White, or possibly a Malay girl-child, a survivor and castaway from around the mid-1700's, who was rescued and integrated into one such tribe, later becoming a Queen of Pondoland! This was a fascinating read!

Not so long ago my husband worked for a company that designed and made signage. One of their clients was a large Petroleum group. Anyhow, as luck would have it, just after a new design was implemented they asked if anyone would volunteer to take a road trip into these wild eastern hinterlands! The task: visit ALL related gas stations and check on how well the signage was displayed.

It is truly wild country still, and most people are fairly sane, so no hands went up. At lunchtime, my husband skyped me and in conversation mentioned this. Two days later we were on the road!! He didn't stand a chance! I mean come on, a FREE road trip, all expenses paid, to a part of South Africa neither of us was familiar with!? What's not to volunteer!

I won't go into the entirety of this ofttimes beserk, one-week car trip that covered a few thousand miles, but let me just say that at one point, we crawled along national roads so as not to collide with Cows, Calfs, Bulls, Sheep, Goats, Pigs, Piglets, Chickens with Chicks in tow, Roosters and Geese. At another point we were surrounded by wildfires and once we were stopped to have the car sprayed against Foot and Mouth disease!? Being Vegan ( me ) and Vegetarian ( husband ) we also pretty much starved! Mind you, the Backpackers we mostly stayed at were incredible. Really beautiful, well kitted out, almost luxurious. Our car-sore bodies were most grateful at the end of each day. And if all else failed, the views were worth it all!

South Africa, so wildly diverse, spine-tingling wonderful, full of raw energy, and colour and light... all underpinned by deep, deep soulfulness. 💗 A never-ending well of inspiration 💗

Until next time. Or as we say in Afrikaans, Tot Siens!!


I've also made a video tutorial:

Part One: Rounds 1-7

Part Two: Rounds 8-12

Part Three: Rounds 13-17

Part Four: Rounds 18 - 23

Part Five: Rounds 24 - 30

 The Final Rounds! Yippeeee!

With much appreciation to Carmita from Las Labores de Carmita. ❤❤

Take care, have fun!
Jen xxx