Fuss Free Festival Shawl by Louise Tilbrook

I have a finished object – a Fuss Free Festival Shawl! I’ll wait while you all pick your jaws off the floor…it’s been a really long time! In my defence, I actually have finished a few more projects in recent months. However, I’ve been having an issue with Photoshop and haven’t been able to edit photos. I’m hoping to get to that soon, but then have to get around to blogging about them. Watch this space!

Fuss Free Festival Shawl

I started knitting my Fuss Free Festival Shawl off the back of Louise’s success with the shawl, which was the hottest pattern on Ravelry for a while! As a result, Louise ran a knit along in May, which I followed along in her most excellent group on Facebook Everyday Knitter.

Yarn and Excel files

I dug around in my stash and found 200g of four skeins of beautiful yarn that the gorgeous Linda from Kettle Yarn Co gave me a couple of years ago. They were four OOAK (one of a kind) colours in beautiful pinks. They made a lovely gradient and I was very excited about finding the perfect project for them. They’ve been hanging out in my trunk for a long time!

My beautiful OOAK Kettle Yarn Co yarn.
My beautiful OOAK Kettle Yarn Co yarn.

The pattern is super easy and is knitted in lovely, squishy garter stitch. I’ve had a really great relationship with garter stitch for the last few years because it lets me just sit and knit without thinking about it. The fabric it produces is also one of my favourite things to wear; warm, soft and very comfortable.

I was utterly determined to use up every ounce of yarn that I had. Being a nerd, I decided to figure it out mathematically. Maths and shawls is hard because the amount used in each row isn’t a constant. Struggling with it on a particularly gloomy Saturday, I weighed the yarn after every row and recorded the weight of the ball. I then presented John with my data and asked him to tell me exactly how many rows I needed to knit to use up all of my yarn. Yay, maths!

I always love how a shawl starts from the most basic place and goes on a journey with you as it grows.
I always love how a shawl starts from the most basic place and goes on a journey with you as it grows.

Finishing the shawl

It took me just over a month to knit the shawl. I started on the 1st of May and finished on the 11th of June. I then took a few weeks to block it, which meant it sat on the chair in my room staring at me accusingly for a while. Following a discussion with my lovely friend Ricky, I decided to film the blocking process because he has a scarf he wants to block, which helped kick my butt into gear. I blocked it and filmed it, and that video is here!

Blocking the shawl, pulling the picot edging out to get that lovely definition at the end.
Blocking the shawl, pulling the picot edging out to get that lovely definition at the end.

Knitting this shawl was a joy. It has very interesting to put in beautiful edging on both sides, and the picot edge is lovely. I had to block it really well to get the definition that I achieved. It was worth the time! The worst thing about it was sewing in all the ends, which was totally my fault for choosing to do a stripy shawl. The next one will be self striping.

Finished Fuss Free Festival Shawl

The finished shawl is better than I imagined. It grew massively when I blocked it, the fabric is so soft, the yarn absolutely gorgeous, and I’m really looking forward to putting the shawl into my daily rotation. This will happen when the weather in the UK isn’t as crazy as it currently is!

My Fuss Free Festival Shawl in all of its glory!
My Fuss Free Festival Shawl in all of its glory!
The shawl is absolutely massive.
The shawl is absolutely massive.
Lovely picot edge on the cast off of the shawl.
Lovely picot edge on the cast off of the shawl.

John’s spreadsheet was spot on – it was two rows out, which over the hundreds of rows I knitted was incredible. I’m going to employ his data skills more often in my knitting.

I’m super pleased I have a new FO to add to my closet, and all inspired, have already cast on a new shawl. Watch this space!

Much love,

Corrie xx

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Wonderwool Wales Part Two – a major purchase

I had a hidden agenda while we were at Wonderwool Wales this year, and it ended with a major purchase. For years I’ve been lusting after a more portable spinning wheel than my Ashford Traditional. Every year I try out the wheels on various stands and tell myself “one year”. After a particularly miserable six months, and a renewed enthusiasm for spinning, I’d quietly and secretly decided this might be the year.

For my previous blog on our general experience of Wonderwool Wales, click here.

Woolyknit display - this was stunning, life size and wow I want it.
Woolyknit display – this was stunning, life size and wow I want it.
A quilted map of the UK showing all the coloured sheep in their locations.
A quilted map of the UK showing all the coloured sheep in their locations.

A major purchase

After lunch at Wonderwool, we walked past the Ashford stand and I asked Ricky if he minded if I tried out some wheels… One of the team gave me the go ahead to have a go, and I leapt in with enthusiasm.

Trying out wheels

The first I sat at was the Joy, a double treadle wheel that you can fold and put in a backpack. The movement was a bit cramped and it didn’t help that the person who’d used it before had spun in the opposite direction to me. If you’re not a spinner, this basically means it was unravelling rather than spinning the fibre I was trying to feed on. I’d always thought this was the one I would love, but having tried it…no.

Trying out the Ashford Joy at Wonderwool Wales.
Trying out the Ashford Joy at Wonderwool Wales.

I wasn’t thrilled with it, so moved on to the Kiwi 2.

This is a slightly bigger, heavier wheel. The speed they’d set it up to (it has six) was much better suited to my spinning style, and I felt a lot more comfortable. It also has a kiwi carved onto the right treadle, which although particularly idiotic as a reason to buy something, contributed. Although it doesn’t fold up like the Joy does, it’s much more portable than my Traddy.

I made up my mind to buy one, and we went on the prowl!

Finding a wheel

After doing a price comparison of suppliers at the show and weighing up the merits of buying one from someone who didn’t have it with them at the show, I decided to go with Wingham Wool Work. Theirs was instant gratification (aka no postage fees), and also very well priced. They also gave me a free tote bag and £15 worth of fibre. All round, a fantastic deal. I spent about fifteen minutes fondling fibre and making my choice, bought it all, and left with the most enormous grin on my face! (This photo makes me look much more red than I was in reality, according to Ricky.)

For those wondering how John reacted to me adding yet another spinning wheel to the collection….I called him first and gave him some time to think about it before making the purchase. He’s actually very pleased…because now he gets to buy a new music instrument! He also said “I know you’ve want this for years and you should do it.” I’m a lucky gal.

With my new spinning wheel!!!
With my new spinning wheel!!! My biggest purchase at a wool show in years.

Assembling the wheel

I put the wheel together the minute we got back home that night – you can watch the video here. Then I sat down to do some spinning, and I’ve been at it ever since. The wheel spins wonderfully, and I’m really enjoying working with it. There’s no doubt that it’s different, but in a really good way. It’s definitely going to help with my ambition to get more adventurous with my spinning.

Just a note on why I decided to go with the Ashford wheel, as opposed to another brand. One of the things I value in all brands is the ease of technical support and access to accessories. A well-known brand with lots of accessories that one can buy from most global locations, as well as plenty of interchangeability between equipment of the same brand, is something that appeals to me. These wheels may not be the prettiest, or have the most functions, but they’re affordable, good quality and very well known.

A stashquisition from Wingham Wool Work in merino and silk
A stashquisition from Wingham Wool Work in merino and silk
Some merino fibre - 300 g of it from Wingham Wool Work
Some merino fibre – 300 g of it from Wingham Wool Work

I’m going to go and make more plans for future spinning projects!

Much love,

Corrie xx

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Walking through a Woolly Wonderwool

Last weekend I visited Wonderwool Wales with two of my favourite people. Although John didn’t actually come in to the show with me, he provided valuable moral support from the cafes of Builth Wells, in the form of encouragement and financial restraint. Ricky, however, did come in with me, and he made the day for me.

I haven’t really talked about Ricky much on here. He used to do my job, so we worked with each other closely until I found my feet in the role. We have similar personalities, a love of craft, and importantly a mutual appreciation of the fabulous fun you can have with fibre. When I decided I was going to Wonderwool, it made less sense not to invite Ricky than it did to invite John. (Try wrap your head around that, I think it means what I mean but I’m not really sure!)

With two of my faves in Builth Wells, visiting Wonderwool Wales.
With two of my faves in Builth Wells, visiting Wonderwool Wales.

This is a truly monstrous post, so grab a cuppa and enjoy!

Walking in a Wooly Wonderland

So, Wonderwool. Three massive halls in an agricultural showground, filled with all the fun one can have with fibre in its many forms. Trying to follow my rules for visiting Wonderwool, we did a first sweep of the place, trying not to get lost. This took from 10am to 3pm, so it wasn’t really a first sweep, and more an in-depth examination of as many stalls as we could manage before we dropped!

This is one of my absolute favourite shows. The size of the halls means that although there are tonnes of people, you don’t feel too overwhelmed by everyone. There are also loads of exhibitors, with a huge variety of wares. The animals that make it are also a big draw for me, although I do feel sorry for them. This year there was the most adorable nanny angora goat with her twin kids. They were incredibly cute and we had more than one visit with them.

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Llareggub

I particularly enjoyed one of this year’s curated exhibits, a felt Llareggub made by a group of 30 crafters, with an intense amount of detail protected under a huge dome. Llareggub is the village from “Under Milkwood” by Dylan Thomas, and the exhibit was put together in 2014 to celebrate 100 years since his birth. Each felt building is augmented with hundreds of additional bits and pieces made using materials ranging from Fimo, to painted toothbrush lids, to shrink plastic.

This is an astounding piece of work. Each building was crafted by a different person and we spent a long time chatting to the lady who made the sweet shop! Find out more about the group here. I’m all inspired to make little cottages for house warming presents now. Watch this space!

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Felt

Ricky is a felter, and as a result we paid a lot more attention to the felt than I would normally. I’m always astonished by what can be achieved with a bit of water, soap and time. The needle-felting also really caught my eye – this is probably why my photos are felting heavy! People whose stalls I particularly enjoyed included:

    • Ali Scott felt artist: I fell in love with her three musketeers piece and bought a souvenir postcard of this. Her colours were stunning.
    • Jenny Barnett: I learned the basics of needle felting from Jenny. She has a new book coming out…the first is excellent and I’m waiting with bated breath for the next instalment, which will include wet felting.
    • Black Dog and Ginger Cat: Someone who runs workshops, and has done a truly incredible project felting tiny, perfect bees.
    • The Makerss: Larger felt pieces that are incredibly charming, and very engaging owners. They also have a book that is excellent.
    • Iona MacKenzie Laycock: A truly unique artist, who I will dedicate a whole blog post to at some point in the near future.
    • Taylored Felt: Innovative ways of framing, as well as sheep heads felted from the fleece of the sheep depicted. She’s based in Stroud and does workshops there.

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Knitting and Spinning

My eyes were not only for the felt, obviously. We headed over to John Arbon first to nab some Alpaca Supreme, as every year I leave it slightly too late and they run out before I get there. I also got some cut silk cocoons from Oliver Twists to make some art yarn.

We also made a point of going to Debonnaire and admiring her sparkly selection. I didn’t want to just buy a skein that would languish in my stash. Instead, I spent some time carefully looking at the pattern samples and choosing one. The Silk Wave Shawl* is a simple pattern that only requires one skein of yarn. It’s also easy enough for TV knitting, and I left a bright purple skein of lace to make that in.

A new to me vendor was Siobhans Crafts, with fibre and handspun yarn from Manchester. The fibres are influenced significantly by popular culture, and Dr Who inspired rolags were what drew me in first. Siobhan had a bargain bin, in which a OOAK braid of fibre was languishing. I snapped it up when I spotted it!

Siobhans Crafts Dr Who rolags!
Siobhans Crafts Dr Who rolags!
Woven unicorns
Woven unicorns

Friends at Wonderwool

I also took some time to catch up with old friends. Louise from Spin City got a flying visit as we were desperate for lunch. I managed a longer catch up with Kari and Tracy at Purl Alpaca Designs (they have big news, read it here). We also popped in to chat to Belinda Harris-Reid, and Ricky enjoyed looking at her samples. I spent a small amount of time with Tanya the Knitting Swede first thing, but didn’t get to go back as we ran out of time. Finally, Wriggle Fingers got a visit as one of John’s best friends from school was on the stall exhibiting some of the fibre that she sells through Velvet Sixpence.

Wandering around with regular breaks for tea, lunch and a scotch egg took basically all day. Ricky had bought loads of fibre for his felting adventures, and as well as my yarn and fibre, I had stacks of fibre for the needle felting group I oversee at work. Having added a few necessaries like new felting and knitting needles to my burden, I was completely overloaded. We were exhausted, and the biggest purchase was yet to come!

Ricky, me and our stashes (I'll be honest, half of mine was already in the car)
Ricky, me and our stashes (I’ll be honest, half of mine was already in the car)

This blog post is already way long, so I’m going to leave it here for now! Wonderwool Wales Part 2 will go live soon. If you would like a sneak preview, I did video all my purchases for a haul video on YouTube.

Much love,

Corrie xx

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*This shawl pattern isn’t available online, but if you see Erica at a show, she’ll have it there!

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Pisa Socks – A (finally) finished object!

Today we are talking about….Pisa and socks! I have a huge blog post about my adventures at Wonderwool Wales to go up, but I’m keeping that to myself for now. Have you ever discovered that by making something public, it loses some of the shine on it? The day out was one of the best days of my adult life, and I’m holding the memories close to me before making them public so that I can cherish them for a little longer.

Calzepiu! My sock yarn for the Pisa socks.
Calzepiu! My sock yarn for the Pisa socks.

Pisa Socks

So, Pisa! Last September, our very lovely friends Patrick and Elly had a wedding of sorts. Although they’d already been married for a year, they got all of their friends together in Tuscany and we spent a weekend together. I took a few extra days off work, and John and I spent a couple of days braving terrifying mountain roads, eating glorious gelato, and traipsing through the delightful city of Pisa. The tradition of buying sock yarn as a souvenir continued, and when we got back I cast on a new pair of socks.

John at the Devil's Bridge, somewhere that was truly difficult to get to!
John at the Devil’s Bridge, somewhere that was truly difficult to get to!
Gelato, gelato, gelato.
Gelato, gelato, gelato.

I get an hour for lunch in my job, which still feels new after a couple of years of self-employment, even though I’ve now been here for nearly a year! I like to spend half of this time knitting, and the simplest thing to knit are socks! They were a bit of a trial to be honest. I cast on sixty stitches at the toe, knitted to my heel, did a fish lips kiss heel, and then all the trouble started.

The first time I knitted the cuff stockinette with a small ribbed section at the end. Didn’t like it, frogged back to the toe(!). Then I knitted a ribbed top of the foot, and fully ribbed cuff. Tried them on, didn’t like them. Frogged back to the toe(!). The third time was the charm, as I knitted to just about the heel, then did a 2×2 rib from there. Simple!

My finished Pisa socks!
My finished Pisa socks!

Project Details

Yarn: Calzepiu
Pattern: No specific sock pattern, but Fish Lips Kiss heel
Toe cast on: Judy’s magic cast on
Cuff bind off: Jeny’s surprisingly stretchy bind off 

Of course, it wasn’t simple. Working on them for half an hour a day meant that it took me months to get an FO. I started them on the 11th of October 2016, and finished on the 15th of April 2017. Now that they’re finished, however, they’ve joined the ever growing ranks of my sock drawer, and will make me think of my friends with fondness whenever I wear them!

The reprobates I call my friends!
The reprobates I call my friends!

Much love,

Corrie

Calzepiu

The story of the yarn is itself rather wonderful. Patrick used to buy yarn from this place as a teenager, and recommended it to me. We tried to go there around midday, but Pisa is very continental in that everywhere closes for like four hours around lunch. We hung out at the Leaning Tower for a while until it reopened.

Once successfully in, I realised they spoke exactly no English, and my Italian was limited to what I’d quickly learned on Duolingo before the trip. AKA, not much. Through pointing at my feet, miming knitting and holding out indiscriminate amounts of Euros, I managed to escape with a ball of sock yarn. I even, somehow, managed to match the yarn to my outfit, thoroughly unintentionally. We celebrated my success with yet more ice cream!

When your yarn matches your top completely accidentally!
When your yarn matches your top completely accidentally!
The leaning tower of Pisa with John
The leaning tower of Pisa with John

*Elly runs a rather wonderful blog from Sydney, which you can find over here.

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A tip or ten for Wonderwool Wales

It’s craft show tip time! It’s been almost two years since I last went to a craft show, and I’m beyond excited to be heading to Wonderwool Wales tomorrow. Because of living in relative isolation in Devon from September 2015, then moving to Bristol and getting back into the world of full time work, I haven’t been able to attend any for ages. I’ve missed my regular forays into the fibre world. This post may come a little late, but here are my top ten tips for visiting Wonderwool Wales. They do require a bit of preparation beforehand, hence why the post may be slightly late!

Ten Tips for Wonderwool Wales

Tip One: Research the vendors a little before you go

There are loads of them (219 this year!), and some are super popular. If you don’t know who is going, check out the exhibitor list and read up on those that you like the sound of. Once you’ve done this, don’t exclude the others. Part of the joy of craft shows is discovering new people you’ve never heard of before, or thought you had no interest in! I only started needle-felting because I discovered someone new at a craft show…

Tip Two: Print a floor plan and get acquainted with the rough layout of the show

You can get a printed plan when you get your ticket, but a bit of preparation goes a long way. I’d recommend downloading and printing these before you go and acquainting yourself with them! The show is spread out over three halls and there’s a lot to see and do. There will be loads of people, plenty of fibre and even some animals to coo over. Making sure you know where you’re going is a great way to ensure you’ve taken everything in.

A sheep and her little lamb at Wonderwool Wales.
A sheep and her little lamb at Wonderwool Wales.

Tip Three: Do a first sweep

If there’s a vendor who has something in particular you’re desperate to get your hands on, head over to them first, buy whatever it is you’re absolutely dying to get your hands on. Once you’ve bought whatever you are burning to purchase, walk around the halls. If you’ve got your most desired purchase out the way, you won’t be distracted by looking for that. You’ll be able to absorb the atmosphere, figure out what is out there, and make a note of what you want to go back to. This helps prevent a lot of spur of the moment purchases as well. I have in the past bought a sack of fibre, then walked two stalls down and seen a better sack for a better price in a better colour that I would have preferred.

Tip Four: Prepare to do a lot of walking

With your first sweep, walking back to stalls to buy what you’ve spotted, visiting the loo and getting food, you won’t find it hard to hit your 10,000 steps. Comfy shoes are a must.

Tip Five: Dress warm

The show takes place at the Royal Welsh Showground, and the halls Wonderwool is held in are usually used for livestock at agricultural shows. They are ‘inside’ but they’re really outbuildings. There’s no artificial heating, and even with all the walking, if you stop for a spot of lunch it can get quite chilly. With all the hand knits you’re going to want to show off, this shouldn’t be a problem!

Tip Six: Take lots of water

There’s limited access to drinking water and you don’t want to keep wandering back to the food vendors to buy a beverage. You’ll need to make sure you stay hydrated, especially with all that heavy fibre to weigh you down after spending a few pounds! If you bring your own water bottle you will be able to refill it.

Tip Seven: Take cash, and plenty of it. But, set a budget!

There are two parts to this – the first being that this is an agricultural setting and I’m not sure if there’s an ATM available. If there is, the chances of it having enough money to last the weekend are slim. Some vendors do accept card, but don’t bank on it!

The second part relates to budgeting. If you say you’re only going to take cash and you take £100, you will only be able to spend £100. Likewise with £20 – or £200! Even if you do plan to spend on your card, it’s useful to set a budget. I once walked away with an unbudgeted Ashford Knitter’s Loom that set me back £300. It affected my savings goals for months! Was it worth it? Probably not.

Tip Eight: Make sure you’ve got a small crafty project with you

With all the walking, you’re going to want to make sure you sit down and rest your feet for a little while. You’ll feel inspired by all the fibre, and the people crafting around you – there’s no better time to work on something.

Tip Nine: Decide what you’re going to eat

The food at the show can be expensive and you may want to bring a packed lunch or snacks. Even if you buy your main meal there, you may want to graze throughout the day, and it can take away from your precious yarn budget. I take plenty of packed lunch, and normally buy a scotch egg (or three). The packed lunch can be eaten as a packed dinner on the way home if you don’t get to it otherwise!

Tip Ten: Take a shopping list

If you’re just going to browse and don’t have any fixed idea of what you want to buy, you’re in the best place! If you have a list of things you want, however, it’s better to write them down and make it accessible. It’s very easy to forget what you’re there for in the heat of the moment. You don’t want to leave and halfway home realise you’ve forgotten to buy that skein of yarn for your next shawl project.


That’s it for my top tips. Most importantly of all, enjoy yourself! Look at as much as you can, especially some of the exhibitions the vendors and the show put on. I’ve seen some incredible things, especially some of the more incredible felt pieces!

Top Tip: Take time to look at the exhibitions that have been put together for you!
Top Tip: Take time to look at the exhibitions that have been put together for you! Gingerbread House at a previous Wonderwool.
Felted sheep heads at a previous Wonderwool
Felted sheep heads at a previous Wonderwool

Woodpecker-14

Official exhibitions this year include a knitted map of Llandysul, a Llareggub Village in felt, and displays and period costumes brought together to mark the centenary of the First World War.

A felted village! Literally cannot wait to have a look at this.
A felted village! Literally cannot wait to have a look at this.

I’m going to leave it at that – I hope everyone has a wonderful time, and see you there!

Much love,

Corrie xx

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Travel Crafting, and Travelling for Craft

Travel and craft are two elements of my life that are inseparable – we are currently in the car so I thought I’d write about it! Realistically all parts of my life are inseparable from craft, but travel basically means craft to me… Let me explain!

Travel Crafting

Every time we go somewhere, one of the main questions I ask is “what craft should I take”. It used to be “what knitting should I take” (usually with a # because social media) and then I discovered the delights of travelling with cross stitch. I’ve done a video about this, which you can find here.

I usually over-pack, because I’ve got a fear that I’ll suddenly experience a fit of productivity and finish all the things. Even, or particularly, if something has been languishing on the needles for months (years)! For example, we are currently going to spend Easter weekend with some friends. I’ve packed two pairs of socks (one of which is literally just the cast on edge) and my Australia map, which I reckon has at least twelve hours of work left in it. Projects way beyond time availability!

My Australia map cross stitch at the end of March - perfect travel stitching?!
My Australia map cross stitch at the end of March – perfect travel stitching?!

This tendency actually worked in my favour on holiday in February. I sprained my knee, and I suddenly had a lot of alone time while people were skiing! Also, I was on pain killers, and my ability to work on complex projects was limited. I was able to switch between more or less appropriate projects depend on requirements, and congratulated my genius!

My desire to craft while travelling, whether we are away from home or actually in transit, makes it something I can’t resent. Delays are even better. When we were stuck at Lyon airport for a few hours, John was champing at the bit. I sat working on some stitching, safe in the knowledge that it was the only thing I could (or should) be doing at the time. Utter bliss.

Today’s #yarnlovechallenge features no yarn but the subject matter of #speed is very relevant. I’m in an airport waiting for a flight that has been delayed by over an hour. My travelling companions get annoyed by delays, but (provided I always have craft on me) I always see it as a stolen opportunity to indulge myself knowing I have literally nothing else I need to or can be doing. It’s a moment to take a breath and let the world rush past at its normal pace while I concentrate on the act of making. (I would normally be #knitting but there is increased security in France and I didn’t fancy my chances getting my chiagoos through the x-ray machine – I’ve never had a problem before, but didn’t fancy today being the first one!)

A post shared by Corrie Berry (@plutoniummuffins) on

I’m hoping this is something about myself that will never change, as it makes me a better travel companion! I have quite a lot of travel anxiety and it helps with that. John definitely prefers me stitching, not bitching!

The socks I've been lugging around for six months. I'll definitely finish them during this stint of travel. Definitely!
The socks I’ve been lugging around for six months. I’ll definitely finish them during this stint of travel. Definitely!

Travelling for Craft

This ties in today, because I’ve finally got to a place where I can start going to fibre festivals again. I’ve got a lot of wonderful friends and contacts who I’ve met through my involvement with these events. Fibre vendors from Brighton to Bakewell to Edinburgh, and everywhere in between, have delighted me with their wares. I’ve really missed being seeing everyone for the past couple of years, and now is the time to start again!

Working on my Angel socks with a matching teapot in Edinburgh!
Working on my Angel socks with a matching teapot in Edinburgh after a fibre festival.

People wonder why I would put myself through this. I have to admit, when I went to Edinburgh I left London at 5am, I wondered what the heck I was doing this for. However, these events are wonderful because I get to meet up with lovely people, find out what’s new in the fibre world, and of course supplement my stash! It’s also incredibly inspiring seeing what people are getting up to. There are also often excellent chances for travel crafting!

The next fibre festival I’ll be going to will be Wonderwool Wales on the 22nd and 23rd of April. Last time I went, we lived in London and stayed for the weekend. This time I’ll be driving from Bristol (two hours of luxurious travel crafting time) for a day. Along with all the fab exhibitors and retail opportunities, exhibitions that will be on show include a knitted map of Llandysul, a felted Llareggub Village (tribute to Dylan Thomas), and a Curtain of Poppies to commemorate the Great War. I can’t wait!

A felted village! Literally cannot wait to have a look at this.
A felted village! Literally cannot wait to have a look at this.

I’m so excited to share the trip with you. I’ll be posting photos on the day on Instagram, and I’ll catch you all up later too!

Much love,

Corrie xx

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April 2017 Resolutions – peach blossom and spinning

Hurrah, a new resolutions post! Back when I started doing my monthly resolutions, I used to be super ambitious. The more successful I was at completing all the things I set out to do, the more I judged myself against the things I didn’t quite finish. My plan for resolutions from now on is to pick just three. Even if there are things I want to add, I need to try accomplish my three, instead of half-heartedly completing a dozen. No more ‘failure’ should mean no more judgement!

Without further ado…

April 2017 Resolutions

I never set any 2017 resolutions, as I got to the end of 2016 in such a maelstrom of thoughts, feelings and activities. One of the big things I wanted to do this year was fix my spinning wheel. I know, you never even knew it was broken – I’ll tell you all about that another time. However, I finally finished fixing it this morning, and so two of my three resolutions are spinning related.

Fixing the split hub on my spinning wheel following an incident with Tonks and a windowsill last year...
Fixing the split hub on my spinning wheel following an incident with Tonks and a windowsill last year…

Spin fibre for a shawl

I used to just spin for the sheer joy of the spinning process. This last winter I found myself longing for an alpaca shawl knitted from a fibre I got from the lovey John Arbon textiles in 2015, then never actually spun anything from. It’s a chocolate brown alpaca with white highlights, and so soft it’s almost like trying to touch air. I’ve never started a handspun project with a knitted project in mind for the yarn, so this is totally new to me.

The flexibility of this month's resolutions means...I can spin as much or as little of this as I like!
The flexibility of this month’s resolutions means…I can spin as much or as little of this as I like!

I’m going to aim for about 300g of yarn in a 4 ply weight, which if I am successful will give me loads of choice on a knitting project. At this stage I’m considering a hap construction, because garter stitch is the best, but I’m open to suggestions!

Spin an art yarn

My spinning to this point has been focussed on getting an even single, therefore an even ply and a balanced, even yarn. I think it’s time to start experimenting, so I’m going to pick a fibre and go nuts with texture. I’m not going to say anymore than that as I don’t want to restrict myself – watch this space!

Start a ‘peach blossom’ shawl

OK, this is less weird than it sounds! John went to Texas for work in March and he brought back two beautiful skeins of yarn for me to play with. He got it from Gauge, a yarn shop in Austin, and the yarn is by Black Trillium Fibres. It’s a fingering weight merino and silk blend, hand-dyed in the colourway “Peach Blossom” (I told you it wasn’t that weird).

Beautiful squishy yarn from Texas, courtesy of John.
Beautiful squishy yarn from Texas, courtesy of John.

I’ve realised shawls are my favourite thing to knit, and I’ve been itching to cast one on but not had the perfect yarn. This is it. I haven’t found a pattern yet, but I want to knit a swatch so I can figure out what the fibre looks like – i.e. does it self-stripe, and if so how big are they. Even if I just knit the swatch and choose a pattern, that’ll be a success in my books!

Other plans

Although the above are what I’ve resolved to do, I’ll keep doing some other crafting. I realised that I feel guilty sometimes when I do things I didn’t say I would. I don’t know why I’ve felt this way – nobody has ever told me off for cross stitching when I didn’t resolve to do something cross-stitchy, for example! The things I currently have on my radar are candle-making, cross stitch and possibly some sewing, so you might see some of those as well.

I can’t promise I’m going to blog particularly well going forward – but I can promise that I will try my best to do my best on the blog!

Much love,

Corrie xx

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Finally breaking the Radio Silence

It’s been a record breaking period of silence at Plutonium Muffins. I’ve been doing a lot of really exciting things, few of which relate to craft, and many of which have left me so exhausted that I got home from work last night and was asleep by 7:30pm. It’s been a very long, very crazy few months. I thought I’d give you all a brief update, then maybe by breaking the “oh God my first post back has to be really good” silence, I won’t be intimidated by the thought of posting anymore!

Reasons for Silence

Without going into too much detail, here is the low-down!

October

John and I moved all of our stuff to Bristol, finally. For the last five years we’ve had things strewn over Devon, Kent and London – it took two huge van loads and flooring the attic, but it’s finally done! I’ve managed to sort out my craft room/our guest room, and we finally have furniture!

Bringing everything home in October.
Bringing everything home in October.
I finally have a craft room!
I finally have a craft room!
That cupboard at the bottom is actually a desk that comes out.
That cupboard at the bottom is actually a desk that comes out.

November

I completed Nanowrimo! I’ve wanted to write a novel since the age of 9 and can safely say achievement unlocked! Whether or not anyone will ever read it is another matter, as it was more an outpouring of ideas onto paper (figuratively speaking) than any great feat of literary genius. It was a hard slog though – I only decided to do it about four days in, then had a couple of weekends where I was too busy to do anything. A couple of days of silence locked away at home while John was away and I hit the mark!

December

Obviously, Christmas happened! There wasn’t a lot of crafting as I made a conscious decision not to stress myself out getting ready for it, but we spent a lot of time visiting with friends and family. I got some lovely pressies, including Anna Maltz’s “Penguin: A knit collection” from John. I’ve been wanting it for ages and clever boy that he is, John went and perused my craft bookcase to see if I already had it.

I’ve not made anything yet, but there are things queued, including Rockhopper, Fledgling and Pinglewin!

Christmas at my brother's house.
Christmas at my brother’s house.
I learned to make candles over Christmas.
I learned to make candles over Christmas.

January

All the things happened in January. Someone at work retired (which was a bit of a personal loss to me as she was a friend and I don’t get to see her every week anymore) and I had to take over parts of that job, which has been quite tough. On top of that, I started a beginners course in accounting, with a view to eventually becoming a fully fledged bean counter. I had to suspend it due to other work activities that you’ll find out about….but I start again on Monday and I can’t wait.

I also hit 1,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel, which was super exciting and the result of a lot of hard work learning to edit videos. The support has been unreal, and I don’t intend to give that up (although it has suffered the same silence that the blog has).

1,000 subscribers <3
1,000 subscribers <3

More excitingly, I started running again, after a year and a half hiatus due to a knee injury and then laziness. I’d been doing pretty well, although running at 6am in midwinter in the UK was quite hard work. There was thick ice on the roads, although the silence in the middle of Bristol was lovely at that time on dark cold mornings. We do live on a hill though, and walking to the bottom of it was sometimes more of an exercise in skating than anything else! This is all past tense because…

February

We went skiing! I’d not been before and it was utterly lovely. I had a wonderful time and was starting to feel quite confident on these ridiculously long poles when I had an accident….

At the top of the French Alps with John.
At the top of the French Alps with John.
And at the bottom of the mountain...
And at the bottom of the mountain…I originally tried to break the silence when everyone else was skiing and I was upset at the bottom of the mountain!

It wasn’t anything too bad – I just fell awkwardly, twice, and sprained my knee. It’s not completely healed yet, and I’m still not managing to get back into running, or walk around a lot. As a result I spent quite a lot of my free time cross stitching and making videos for my YouTube channel, which still sit on my laptop waiting to be edited because I didn’t have a suitable chair for my craft room and it was too sore to sit at my desk.

I’ve actually tried to break the blogging silence a few times, and the first time was while I was trying to recover from the knee injury. I discovered that trying to blog while medicated and on a poor wifi signal was ridiculously frustrating.

I worked on my garden and produced something quite lovely (if I do say so myself, and I must credit my mum for doing most of the work), and started working 13 hour days at work to complete the goal for…

The end of our garden following its makeover!
The end of our garden following its makeover!
The rest of the garden - now I just need a bench and I'll have the best place to sit and knit!
The rest of the garden – now I just need a bench and I’ll have the best place to sit and knit!

March!

…a new office! My company moved its head office six minutes down the road to a more modern, bigger, better location with beautiful furniture, plenty of co-working space, and a real emphasis on trying to give us, the employees, a great place to feel comfortable at work. What I didn’t anticipate about this project (which I found out about on my very first day at the company) was that I would become the spearhead for the moving process. From helping everyone at the old office to become paperless, to physically packing crates on the last Friday we were at the old place after everyone else had come home, I put the rest of my life on hold to bring it over the line on time.

We moved last week and it’s even better than I thought it would be! I officially stood down as a ‘change agent’ last night, and am now living in a post-move world where I’m not entirely sure what I should be doing on my weekend now that I’m not looking at charts of equipment and floor-plans. We celebrated with doughnuts and a party, which was lovely.

Doughnuts, which were utterly delicious.
Doughnuts, which were utterly delicious.
...and a party!
…and a party!

April

I got a chair for my office as a result of the office move – I donated money to the companies charity of the year, and they let me take a chair home. Tonks loved it (excuse the mess, I need to do some tidying) and its much more comfortable. So, plans for this month are many – but I’m going to go back to my monthly resolutions, so hold your horses and you’ll find out all about my plans for April soon.

Tonks welcoming my new chair home.
Tonks welcoming my new chair home.

I feel guilty that I’ve not been around as much as I would have liked – but not too much, as I couldn’t have managed the last few months if I’d been putting pressure on myself to document my crafting. It’s the first time in years that I’ve got through such a period of intense activity without a mental health ‘incident’ – and I think that’s absolutely the greatest thing about it all.

Here’s to being around and never a silence to break again!

Much love,

Corrie xx

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Handmade Christmas Stocking

A few weeks ago the team at Turtle Mat asked if I’d like to take part in a Christmas Stocking challenge. They’ve done blogger craft campaigns for a couple of years, and I was keen to get involved. A few days later, a box arrived filled with some of the loveliest craft supplies. I was good to go!

Stocking Inspiration

I left the box in my craft room for the last couple of weeks while I’ve considered what to do. I’ve found it a little hard to get into the Christmas spirit, but on Thursday at work I was challenged to decorate a gingerbread house. While sitting in the kitchen decorating it, inspiration struck. I was going to do something with the essence of gingerbread.

Finished the gingerbread house! 🎄 #gingerbread #gingerbreadhouse #christmas #decorate #colour

A photo posted by Corrie Berry (@plutoniummuffins) on

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As all ideas do, it evolved into something I wasn’t really expecting. I started out with the gingerbread house idea, which turned into something akin to the old woman who lived in a shoe, which then morphed into what I ended up with, a festive little house on a stocking that we will be able to hang for years to come.

The hessian that I was provided became the base, and I sewed it to some blue fabric to give myself something solid to work on. I then sewed the two halves together so that it is actually a working stocking that I might even use to gift John some things next weekend! With embroidery thread, glue gun in hand and all the bits I was provided by Turtle Mat (as well as some of my own), I created something that I think is really rather cute.

The base of my stocking.
The base of my stocking.

The Finished Stocking

The edible bits, two candy canes and three chocolate coins, are removable. Who says gifts can only go on the inside of the stocking?! I was more restrained than normal and only put one bell on it in the form of the little Santa peeking out of the window… Believe it or not, there’s actually a whole face under that red felt that makes up the window. I didn’t like the look of the edge of the window the first time I did it, so it had to get covered. I think it makes it slightly cuter!

The full Christmas stocking.
The full Christmas stocking.
Close up of the little Santa poking out of the window.
Close up of the little Santa poking out of the window.
The robins are so amazingly cute.
The robins are so amazingly cute.

My favourite bits are the two robins and the pine cones, which I just had to cover in glitter. I had great fun, especially as I free styled and let things come to me as I played. I’m usually a ‘plan it all out in minute detail’ kind of person. It’s been a refreshing day just messing around with some crafty bits! I covered up all of my stitching with glitter glue and then regretted it straightaway. You win some you lose some!

The full stocking at a slightly different angle because I love it so much.
The full stocking at a slightly different angle because I love it so much.
The stocking from the bottom up.
The stocking from the bottom up.
The stocking from the top down.
The stocking from the top down.
The second absolutely flipping adorable robin.
The second absolutely flipping adorable robin.

I can’t emphasise how much I loved this stocking, both from a ‘grab some craft bits and go nuts’ point of view, and for the finished product! If you find yourself with several hours free next December, grab some scraps of fabric and some spare decorations, and go nuts! You might be surprised by what you produce.

Much love,

Corrie xx

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FIVE

Five years ago, I sat down in the lounge in a shared flat in Brixton, South London. There were things literally everywhere – a small trunk of yarn, a house rabbit in a cage, very poorly constructed sofas. John and I were in the beginning phases of our relationship, and one night he heard me moaning about my Blogger blog.

My lovely fellow
My lovely fellow

Five years of Plutonium Muffins

It was really important to me to have a blog. I was a student blogger for Imperial College for two years, I had a website as a teenager, and I’d always found writing a huge release. “Well,” said John, “lets make a blog for you on your own website so you’re in control of everything.”

I had literally no idea how to do that. My dad and brother had run my website when I was younger, Imperial College ran the blog there and blogger was, well, blogger. With encouragement from John (who in those days was known as JS), I brainstormed 100 names and put it to Facebook to vote on the most popular. Plutonium Muffins tied with another, and as it was my own first choice, I went with it! (Just as an aside – the other name that ‘won’ was “hatsnhugs”. I’m glad I went with my choice…)

Five years ago today we went live with this announcement!

Happy 5th Birthday Plutonium Muffins!Happy 5th Birthday Plutonium Muffins!
Happy 5th Birthday Plutonium Muffins!

In the time since we’ve had a lot of major exciting highs and also some pretty low lows. I’ve done a lot of travelling to wool shows and exhibitions and met some of the best people. I’ve given up full time work to pursue my crafty dream (twice!) and gone back to work realising it’s not as easy as it seems. I’ve branched out and now do ALL the crafts, not just knitting. I’ve started a YouTube channel, a Ravelry group and social media profiles galore. In all of it I’ve made some incredibly special friends, not least a friend for life in Australia and some cracking mates in the U.K. I’ve spoken to people in America, South Africa, Canada, the UAE, and most of my fans are actually in Russia! I’ve had two major mental health incidents. Through it all I’ve had Plutonium Muffins to dedicate myself to – some months more and some months not at all.

A friend for life, because of this crazy thing that I did!
A friend for life, because of this crazy thing that I did!

I’m thrilled with all we’ve achieved together, and I can’t wait to enjoy the next five years with all of you! Thank you all so much for coming along on this journey. I’ll be doing a birthday giveaway, to be announced after Christmas as at the moment I’m busy trying to keep things together in all the madness. In the meantime, enjoy the latest PM pet, doing what she does best.

Tonks loves yarn.
Tonks loves yarn.
Even though it's like five times bigger than her!
Even though it’s like five times bigger than her!

For the rest of this month I’m challenging myself to blog using only my phone, so the format will probably change a bit. I hope you enjoy it!

Much love,

Corrie xx

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