Friday, 24 November 2017

The Riebeek-Kasteel Weekend Block, finally!

In the title of this blog post I say "finally" because finally, I am writing about Riebeek-Kasteel and the magical synchronicity that brought us to one of the most charming little country villages in South Africa.

Recently, Riebeek -Kasteel was voted as the 3rd most charming village in South Africa but hands down, so far ( and I have travelled South Africa extensively ) Riebeek-Kasteel, for me, takes first prize!

It's a funny story, as they say, but really it is...not in funny haha ( although it has a happy ending ) but peculiarly interesting. So, here goes:

Once upon a time, a very sad girl met a very sad boy, They made each other smile again and dream big dreams. One of these big dreams was to have an off-grid weekend-away-country hovel, where they could escape from their busy working lives, where they could find some relief from the unrelenting noise and hustle of city life, and where their still broken hearts could further heal.

They made a list.
a) Must be less than two hours drive from the city.
b) Must be at least 5 acres.
c) Must have trees.
d) Must have a spectacular view
e) Must have a river running through it.
f) Must be close enough to a local village so that supplies could be easily sought.
g) Must be cheap, really, really cheap! *

Everyone laughed at their Big Dream. If you know the Western Cape at all, especially around two hours drive from the City ( and ocean ) you'll know land and houses are expensive. Only for the well-heeled and all that. However, just on the off chance, they happened to speak to an estate agent and mentioned in passing their Big Dream. Of course, the agent laughed along with everyone else. But the next day a fax arrived with a thick black squiggly line on it and X marking the spot. Fate had stepped in. No sooner had the Big Dream been shared when an elderly couple called the estate agent to ask for help selling their...yes, you've guessed it. As I say in my patterns, "Repeat * to *".

So the happy couple dashed up- country, less than two hours from the City,  followed the squiggly black line, fell in love with what they saw, borrowed money from a Parent ( which wasn't much and paid back in a year ) and that was that. A small off-grid wooden house was erected. A huge storm came along and blew it over the mountain. No kidding, all true! There were sad faces all 'round but at least the land was still there and another abode could be re-built, at some point. In the meantime, while the piggy bank was filling up again, this slightly sadder couple travelled around on odd weekends to other adorable villages where they sunbathed, drank lots of beer and apple cider to drown their disappointment, ate out and for two days sloughed off the grime and burdens of City Life. La Dolce Vita!

One Saturday morning back in the City, while they were drinking rather excellent coffee at their local bakery,  they happened to overhear a couple arguing about a house they were building in Riebeek-Kasteel. Mmmm, Riebeek-Kasteel, hey? After shopping for a few weekend supplies they headed back home and hit the Interwebs. They typed in, R.I.E.B.E.E.K - K.A.S.T.E.E.L. Ohhh, myyyyy.

The following morning, bright and early, they squeezed their three dogs into the car,  packed a flask of coffee, wrapped up a few sandwiches just in case all they found in the village centre was a minute, sparsely stocked general supply store with the usual grandiose name like The Majestic Supermarket or The Grand Cash and Carry and headed north-west an hour and fifteen minutes ( as promised on Google Maps ), to the mysterious village of Riebeek-Kasteel.

It's difficult to describe the feeling as they drove over the Bothmanskloof Pass but it felt very much like the same feeling they had when they first saw their Big Dream in material technicolour. They pulled over into a small picnic spot. Conveniently situated very charmingly to take in the magnificent views of the Riebeek Valley falling away below, surrounded by mountains ( the Castle walls? ), their slopes descending into dazzling green, lush vineyards, sage-green Olive Tree groves and undulating orchards of Peaches and Almond Nut Trees. Nestled between all of this, was the village but all they could see at this point was the tall, white church steeple of the NGK Dutch Reform Church ( South Africa is famous for its NGK gorgeous churches! )

Fast forward two years and Riebeek-Kasteel has become their regular go-to getaway destination. They love that it's so close to the City and yet seems an entire other world away. They dream, but not seriously, of finding a small, manageable property where they can build an off-grid hovel, plant a vegetable garden and not spend a small fortune staying at delightful Bed and Breakfasts everytime they need a break! House and Land prices are out of reach seeing as they decided Cash was King a long time ago. Mortgages are for starry-eyed, younger people! But strolling around this delightful piece of earthly paradise, checking the prices on For Sale signs and dreaming a little dream, was free right? And besides, the BIG DREAM elsewhere was waiting for something to pop up out of the ruins of the storm.

One weekend on one such walk, they noticed that a large property had been parcelled off into four smaller plots.The price looked good, but still not doable as a cash sale. They shrugged their shoulders and walked on. The following day, a Monday, a fax arrived.

Dear Sir/Madam
It has come to my attention that you are my neighbour in the *BIG DREAM* area. I haven't seen any movement on your property but I happen to be an estate agent and I have clients, an Architect couple, who are very interested in your *BIG DREAM* piece of land.
They are prepared to offer you * 6 x THE PRICE YOU PAID *!

 ( which just happened to be the price of the small piece of land our hero and heroine had ogled in Riebeek-Kasteel! )

Please get hold of me urgently!
Mr Estate Agent

With the spare change, the formerly sad couple, with a BIG DREAM, built their little off-grid hovel in Riebeek-Kasteel ( just west of the village ) and learned that dreams do come true if you never give up on them even if you don't always get what you want. They learned too, that you will ALWAYS get what you need. They are currently living happily ever after in the SMALL DREAM which is growing bigger by the day.

Our rescue Roxy and the Alpaca from next door! And yes, I have booked a bag of Alpaca wool next time he gets a trim, which is soon! And then I will spin a yarn. Tee, hee!

What has any of this got to do with the latest BIG BLOCK PATTERN, you may well ask? Inspiration, that's what! However, it's not so much that the beauty of a place inspires me but rather the way I feel when I am there. Many of my projects began in Riebeek-Kasteel... the way I feel at that moment galvanises the motivation to pick out a few colours and "play". This is at the genesis of every design. I never have a clear idea where it's going...I just go with the flow, making sure to write it all down along the way, so that I can share it later with all you lovelies!

I want to tell you more about Riebeek-Kasteel but there is SO MUCH to say and at this rate, I am NEVER going to get down to showing you the new pattern! Well, here it is! It's big at 24 " or 60 cm and in spite of all the fancy techniques ( Celtic weaves, squeeeeee! ) it works up really fast. This is another versatile block that can be used as a very large cushion cover, a central block in a blanket, or folded to make a complete back and front smaller cushion cover. Then also, you can make more Blocks and join them together to make a BIG blanket. The smaller block can be added as a border, or used on its own to make a bigger piece! There are video tutorials throughout so you can't go wrong!

I'm still passionate about squishy, super-textured stitches and techniques and I really wanted to see them in another block but after The Amanzi Throw I craved something a little less raucous! And so, The Riebeek-Kasteel Long Weekend Cushion Cover was born. I hope you enjoy making it as much as I did. I just wanted to keep going but reminded myself that a Xmas holiday was in order. So I stopped at Round 49! It was really VERY HARD to do that! 😄

Shoooweee...a looooooong post but there it is.
Happy hooky, fellow Yarnies and see you in Crochetland!
Jen xxx

PS: Riebeek-Kasteel is also home to a bevvy of famous Artists, Writers and former struggle activist Journalists who bravely wrote about the ills of Apartheid in the bad ol' days! One of them is Jacque Pauw who recently released a very telling and controversial book called The Presidents Keepers. He also owns a very nice Pub in Riebeek-Kasteel called The Red Tin Roof.

PPS: I almost forgot!! If you'd like to purchase the pattern... 

Friday, 3 November 2017

A little catch-up is in order!

Oh, yes, indeed...a little catch -up is in order, especially seeing as I completely missed an October Blog Opportunity! Somehow, in all the excitement of working The Amanzi Block into a Throw sized piece, I lost a month! Of course, my eldest son, Nick, arrived home for a three-month break from working in THE BIG APPLE. Funny how things work. I never imagined one of my children living and working abroad ( although it's common here in South Africa for Nestlings to fly very far from the nest ) and I always wanted to visit New York City! And now, vicariously, and a generation later I am, through Nick! Life is full of surprises.

Finally, The Amanzi Throw is completed. Well timed I think, just on the cusp of Spring and Summer. I can truly say that I crocheted in a house, I crocheted on a step, I crocheted in a yard and crocheted in a car, I crocheted here, and crocheted there and pretty much crocheted everywhere! And many of you crocheted along with me. Part Five aka The Final Rounds was released two Fridays ago and so, slowly but surely. completed Amanzi Throws are beginning to appear. As I have come to expect, the colourways are mind-blowingly beautiful!

credit: Emma Sharpe

      credit: Cindy van der Schee

credit: Sandra Salas

credit: Marianne Jacoby

I struggled through the final parts with dreadful hayfever and if you only knew the myriad stops and starts, just so I could sneeze, cough or blow my nose, in-between crocheting, photo-taking and videoing... it's actually miraculous I managed to finish ahead of schedule! But I am nothing if not determined. My father always complained that I was as stubborn as a Donkey. I take it as a compliment now. Tenacious is my middle name!

Many of you lovelies have sent me private messages bemoaning your post-Amanzi blues. Yes, it is a thing with all creative work that we throw ourselves into, heart and soul. Crochet is an active meditation, keeping us engaged in the present ( mind * fullness )  especially if the pattern requires our full attention. Thus, it takes us elsewhere, away from the troubles and challenges of our usual routines or daily expectations and responsibilities. Handwork so easily serves us, rewards us, and transforms us too! It's no wonder we feel a little anchorless until our hands are once again hooked back to shore by beautiful yarn and just the right pattern.

With this in mind, OF COURSE I am already working on a new pattern!! Although many designs are in a large wicker basket on top of my cupboard all impatiently awaiting their final fruition. All I need now is another 24 hours in my day and two more pairs of arms!  I'm one of the few people I know who does not crochet at night. My day begins at 4am and by 8:30pm I am already in crochetdreamland. I'm hoping to release this newbie mid-November.

This October, in fact, was my 1- full- year- of- crochet- patterns anniversary! I released my first free pattern in October 2016, and then went on the design another 13 free patterns before releasing 2 paid patterns. Looking back it's a pretty full schedule of crochet-work! Nevermind all the designs that never made it to Ravelry! And crikey, what a year it's been! I was approached by Furls and Interweave to submit designs and  *famous crochet designers * have left me encouraging and congratulatory messages! *faints* My patterns have shot to #1 on Ravelry and have been featured on a slew of websites! Whooohoooo! I can't thank those Admins enough for the fantastic exposure this has afforded me. You need to know that I. AM. NOT. USED. TO. THIS. SORT. OF ATTENTION!! Quite frankly I'm thrilled, but from under the duvet cover...if you understand my meaning?

And then most importantly, besides learning a heck of a lot of new stitches/techniques...through this magical year, there are the many new friends I have had the pleasure of meeting, not in the flesh but over our crochet hooks and continents apart! This has become my joy, moreso even than pattern creating. Crochet really does transcend so many usual barriers we encounter in ordinary life that keeps us inevitably very disconnected from our fellow Earthlings. Isn't Crochet marvellous?

Take care, fellow Yarnies! Keep those hooks warm and that lovely yarn close! See you in Crochetland!