This boy of ours is 11 years old today - happy birthday Aran!

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To celebrate, I've released a free pattern- 'Aran's Slouch' - and you can find it on the Free Patterns page. Usually members of The Woolly Hat Society get an exclusive period on free patterns yet this one's a little different, and I'd like folks to consider donating to their local kidney charity.

5 years ago Aran was living with chronic kidney disease having gone into renal failure a couple of months earlier on new year’s eve. Bronchial pneumonia hit boxing day 2013, which was preceded by impetigo. A post- strep complication led to acute PSGN (poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis) which was then further complicated by HSP (Henoch-Schonlein purpura). He was off school for months (the risk of infection was too great) and it would be at least another 18mths before he went into remission.

Kidney disease can recur and stay for life (it's not something you're ever entirely clear of), with a possibility of end stage kidney disease, so he continues to have his annual checks. We are mighty chuffed that he continues to be in good health and clear of kidney disease for the last 3.5yrs. Acute PSGN and HSP mostly affect children and the year that Aran had acute PSGN 19,000 people died worldwide from the disease... we were the lucky ones.

It's only really now that I can see just how hard this hit all of us. We were also facing eviction and we somehow all had to get through it and keep buoyant for Aran's sake. We got through it. Yet only a year after going into remission and winning the eviction case Brexit went & threw us back into uncertainty again... this week we should finally see some stability again.

Go and enjoy this pattern on us, wish our boy a happy 11th birthday and keep everything crossed for a successful residency application?

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I’ve said previously that we’re trying to work at getting our studio photography perfected so that we can work whatever the weather (usually we’re battling the sunshine, rather than the rain) and slowly but surely, we’re getting there.

For me, the biggest hurdle is lighting. We’re gathering a few lights that pack a lot into a small unit (necessary, given the size of my studio) yet somehow I’m rarely content with the lighting effects we get, even when the various set-ups that Tom puts together work well. I am so much happier working with natural light; I’ll always have a diffuser by my side as the natural light here is invariably too strong, but I loathe using reflectors as they always look so false to me - they make light bounce in ways it wouldn’t necessarily bounce. And if I struggle to use a reflector, you can imagine the state of me trying to give a yay or nay to studio lighting.

Slowly, though, we’re getting there. And the one set up that pleases me is dark and moody (quelle surprise). I don’t even care if there’s a lack of light on the face (I much prefer the presence of shadows to their absence) if the light hits the Hat at the right point. As I’m editing the first photoshoot for the Lateralis collection I can tell you there’s some shots where the face is barely visible but the Hat looks a stunner… shots that many people would say are too dark, and to my mind, that’s the point.

Before the shoot we had Monday afternoon we did a few practice shots with Aran for a future free pattern. When he’s in the mood for getting in front of the camera, he goes for it!

 
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Fun as these are, these shots told us that we needed to change the lighting and make it more dramatic… when Aran wasn’t larking around the regular shots looked too much like school photos and there’s no way I’m putting anything like that out, so more shadows on the face it is then, not less.

I suspect in the long run we’ll be inhibited by the pokiness of my studio (compared to that of a the photography studios we usually get a glimpse of) which in turn inhibits our control of light. I know I’ll also get bored of using the same background too often. But it’s a good exercise, and the next plan is try night photography around the Yard, which, if successful, would mean we may never have to battle the sunlight again.

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Our wee chap is no longer so wee as he's turned 10 today. 10 years old. Blimey.

 
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We'll be celebrating with pizza tonight and then there's a joint birthday party this coming weekend, as it'll be one of his best friend's birthdays too. They're growing up, and fast.

He still has his love of robots and tech, and there's been a slight indulgence on that front when it comes to gifts! He'll be building and constructing before we know it. I'm mighty chuffed that there's a Raspberry Pi in the mix, too.

 
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And it also means that the Classic Beanie is now available to download directly from the Free Patterns page. The photos for this Hat are a little bit special, as they were shot 5 years ago when Aran was so poorly with acute kidney disease and he's so calm and content in them. It's hard to look back at this time, but it's good to look back and see his strong spirit shining through.

Happy birthday sweet soul. We love you.

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It's become a bit of a thing that for Aran's birthday, I publish a new free pattern.

As I was going through my hard-drives recently I found these photos that we took when Aran was ill with chronic kidney disease and I realised that I'd not published this pattern yet! So I've dusted it off and got it ready to go on 13th March.

Members of The Woolly Hat Society get exclusive early access to free patterns, and as the next newsletter is going out this coming thursday (2nd March) you may want to sign up if you haven't already. It's going to be a bumper issue this month!

 
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Can't believe these were 4 years ago - he's grown so much, and is so much better. He'll be 10 this year :s

 
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Gotta love a nicely fitted crown, no?

 
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The Hat comes in 3 sizes and is the sample used about 2/3 of a skein of Malabrigo Merino Worsted.

There's another freebie to come - details tomorrow!

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There are two Hats to mention today!

 

Allerton is a skater style slouchy Hat that features columns of slipped stitches against a garter stitch background. The pattern also includes notes on how to customise the columns for a truly unique Hat whilst still maintaining the Hat's structure. Although it may appear to be a classic square top finish it isn't; there is a gentle shaping to the crown which creates a unique drape.

 
 

The Hat is named for Chapel Allerton, where the Baa Ram Ewe shop is located. I feel in love with this skein of Manos del Uruguay Alegria when I was there teaching earlier on in the year, and was keen to take on the challenge and design something with it!

 
 

Hadleigh is possibly one of my favourites in this collection - it's proportion, the use of slipped stitches, it's sideways brim, that cheeky pixie point - lots of things to love about this one!

The yarn is a hand-dyed skein I purchased at the Swiss Wolle Festival, when I was teaching there last year. The dyer, Bilum, is a new to me dyer from Hungary and I really loved the way the shades were layered within the skein. It's a sports yarn that reminds me of Wollmeise with it's softness and twist.

 
 

The naming for this one is a little more abstract that some of the other designs. It reminded me of a bottle neck junction that we used to travel along all the time on the A13, on our way to Southend. The junction that takes you through Hadleigh, and that joins as you head out of the main high street, is visually very similar to the way that the slipped stitches travel up the Hat and converge at the point of the crown. Hadleigh is one of the lesser known towns along that stretch of the A13, and with an historic castle and lots more to explore than meets the eye. Hadleigh is in the borough of Castle Point, which seems so apt for this Hat!

That's all from me today, but do keep an eye out for updates to your Ravelry library as I release each pattern - I'm about a day or so behind in blogging about them all.

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