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It's been so peculiar seeing the magnolia flowers blooming alongside the rhododendrons, it's always saddening to see how climate change is playing havoc with the weather.  One of things I love about taking inspiration from the natural world around me, is how in tune you become with the changing cycle of the seasons.  You start to watch for when the flowers are blooming, which in turn makes you notice which birds are in the hedgerows, or when the berries are ripening. 

When I was stuck in an office all day, this was something experienced from the car on the way to school, on the train during the commute.  It takes you away from what's actually going on around you, and numbs you to reality of what's happening to our eco-systems.  Having the opportunity to live how I do; creating and capturing the colours of the hedgerows as part of my work, has really brought home how things are changing. 

I'm not a preachy sort, and I really understand how difficult it is to take on ALL the worries of the world, especially when you're just trying to get through each day.  But try and take some time to experience the world outside, on your door step, get in sync with it, and value it for how amazing it is.

Anyway, here's some more late-spring yarnporn and colour inspiration, courtesy of the hedgerows leading to my house.

For years I've been obsessed with collecting colour palettes; from places I've been, to things I've eaten.  Although I didn't actually know that's what I was doing at the time.  Walking along a seafront, enjoying the way the sea, sky, grass and buildings all sit next to each other, or loving the marbled pinks in a rose petal all seemed insignificant.  But it does all go in, and sits in your brain somewhere, then whether you realise it or not, they pop up to inform things like colours you choose for your walls, ribbon you match to wrapping paper, or colours for your next crochet project.

Beautiful colours make my soul want to burst with utter joy.  I can happily hyperventilate over a copper and pink combo.  You'll know I've been faffing with yarns and natural colour palettes for a good year now, but I've decided to trial a new approach.  A full-on, Victorian collecting and categorisation of the colours of plants from my hood.  For reference, but also just for the beauty of having them.  And I LOVE it.  I'm only a few weeks in, but there are already visions of a 'yarn year in colour', and it excites me much, much more than it should.

So, how do you work with colour?  Using plants as an example is ideal, they've evolved to be striking and enticing: Find something that you love, and look at the balance of it.  Is it mostly one shade with hints of others?  A bluebell isn't blue - it has a lilac-blue base, with hints of dark plumb, and it's brightend up by the green that sits next to it. Altogether it makes a beautifully balanced colour combo.

Lie the colours you've chose next to each other, do they enhance one another or do they drag each other down?  'Try things on', chop and change things and see what makes something work and what doesn't.  You'll invariably end up with go to palettes that you love, but it never hurts to shake up the mix once in a while.

I know I've written around this a few times, but never very succinctly.  Recently I've had another influx of people asking me how to go about it, so I've tried to come up with a definitive list.  This is just based on my experience, but hopefully it'll be helpful!

Pick a publisher: look at books that you already have and like the style of, chances are if you like their aesthetic, they’ll like yours.

·            Synopsis – what the book will be about, why you’d like to write it
·            Contents  - what you will have in the book; intro, chapters, patterns etc
·            Introduction – sample text of what you’d write
·            Sample Patterns – 2 or 3 projects to give them an idea of your pattern writing competency and style, you ideally want a minimum of 35 patterns altogether
·            Yarn colours/brands – the more info you can give them up front, the better, different countries use different brands, so try and make sure you have something that everyone can access

Send it all off and wait and see what happens!

Things to be aware of:

A publishing house will have a list of the sort of the books that they want release for the next 2 years, if your proposal doesn’t fit into that list they may well reject it.  It doesn’t mean it’s bad!!  It just means you need to keep trying until you find a publisher that IS looking for something like it.

Having a blog, social media etc with stats that can show that your patterns have a market, are a useful in convincing someone to offer you a book deal.  For example, I list free patterns every now and then, and know from the stats on blogger that some have been downloaded at least 40k times. 

Selling patterns or getting them featured in mags/online is another useful thing to have on your ‘CV’, and will help give a publisher confidence in your marketability.

You have no say over creative control.  You may have a book in your head – it won’t be the same as there’s.  They are the experts at this, you have to just trust them and let them do their thing.  Essentially you are just a pattern writer, they will direct the layout, colour, photography, aesthetic, font, design, EVERYTHING.  They will also edit your text, patterns and style to fit in to the market they want to sell to.  My advice is ‘let go’ and you’ll get on fine.  If the idea of this makes you unhappy then maybe self-publishing is a better way forward.

Now you all know that while I love crochet, I'm not adverse to a bit of craft dabbling.  In fact I love it.  In fact I'd consider myself a hardened, craft veteran.  Yes, I have made my own helmet out of fibreglass for a G-Force costume (freaking awesome, thanks for asking).  Yes, I have withyed, weaved, stitched, glued, painted and sewn until my fingers have bled.  This is my yoga.

A couple of weeks ago I had the honor and excitement of being invited to a crafty breakfast event by the lovely chaps at Hochanda (Home of Crafts Hobbies and Arts).  Did I think they could teach me anything?  Hmmmm...  But did it seem like a lovely opportunity to go and meet some like-minded people and get my paws on some delicious breakfast treats?  Yes!

There were a variety of crafts to try, and I was actually pleasantly surprised.  The die-cutting machine took ALL the labour out of cutting felt by hand, (which I have done meticulously.  Frustratingly. For hours.) and left a very professional finish.  The watercolour session  showed you simple tricks to paint a quick and easy landscape.  But what I really learned is that there are a lot of people out there, that like making stuff, but may not have the confidence or experience to make something to the sort of standard that they'd like.

I have the good fortune of having the self-confidence to go and buy a fibreglass kit and start attacking a mannequins head, and will come out with something that I'm generally happy with.  Or to sit down with a pile of wool and a felt pen, and come out with a candy-skull storm trooper embroidery.  But it's taken years of relentless, obsessive experimenting to build that confidence.  What the kits and activities these guys offered do, is allow people to find that confidence in an easy and accessible way.

Totally check it out, it will surprise you.

To check it our for yourself:  Hochanda, the Home of Crafts, Hobbies and Arts, is broadcast live on Freesat 817 (24/7). Sky 663 (24/7), Freeview 39 (6am-9pm) and online HD.
Hello lovehearts, in insta-world there have been a lot of queries about how to tapestry crochet, and seeing as we're doing some final 'how to's' for the new book, I thought I share some of them with you.

Tapestry crochet is also known as intarsia, jacquard, colourwork, fairisle or mosaic, and is a neat and quick way of changing colour.  You can either work over all the different coloured yarns you have to make a nice, stiff fabric, or you can pick them up, working over a them every few stitches.
 Work over the colour you want to change to for a few stitches, or hold it next to your work, where you want to change.
 Work the first part of your stitch in the existing colour...
Work the final yarn over in the new colour, and pull through all loops on your hook.

 Work the next stitch in the new colour...

...Until you want change again, and then repeat the process - finishing the last yarn over with the next colour.

Do you ever have that thing, where you have a design in you're head, but your not exactly sure how to start or where to start?  When you need a bit of time for your subconscious to work it out, but you still want to be making something?  That's where I've been this week, fidgety and itching to make a new crochet jumper - all the wool has arrived, I just haven't worked out the specifics yet.

Then I got home one evening to find that Mr.Steel&Stitch had been printing out pics for the Beasts to colour in, and they had a picked a picture for me; a candy-skull stormtrooper that they thought I might like.  I love my family.  Having been trying out a bit of embroidery thanks to a 70's book of stitches my mum got me, it struck me as the perfect time to try it out for real.

Digging out an old jumper and some wool, it was literally a case of drawing the image on in feltpen, and then spending a week of very happy evenings playing with stitch techniques and wool.  I freaking LOVE the result and think this may become a regular occurrence - although, how many hand embroidered jumpers of storm troopers does a gal need?  AND the jumper design has crystalized in my head, so I'm all ready to go ;)

It must be spring because I really can't seem to stop obsessing about flowers!  I've just re-released my floral headdress pattern - it was originally made as part of a Day of the Dead, Halloween costume, but it's just too ludicrously pretty not to wear more often.  So you can now get it as a pattern on its own over on Etsy or LoveCrochet, and as a special treat, here's a free, mini flower tutorial for you xxx

1. ch 8
2. dc in 3rd st from hook, dc in each st
3. ch3, dc in 3rd st from hook, 2dc in each st
4. *ch8, sl st in first st, working one st per ch: sc, hdc, dc in rest, sl st into next dc at base* rpt to end
5. roll up into a flower, stitch together, add a few yellow strands for stamen.