The ‘hygge’ of co-counselling

Bundle of heartsWith an academic background in Linguistics I have always been fascinated by untranslatable words.   For example, English has ‘nice’: nice day, nice food, nice time, nice person, nice face, nice weather, nice house, nice clothes, nice place… Every ‘native’ English speaker understands the quality of ‘niceness’ but it is very difficult to explain and cannot be translated by one single word.  Something that is ‘nice’ is pleasant and attractive but not exceptionally so.  However ‘nice’ also expresses warmth; a nice person has a warm personality and a nice house is welcoming.  A nice meal has not only good food but, if eaten in company, is convivial.

Conviviality is a key component of the Danish word ‘hygge’.  Hygge expresses environmental cosiness, comfort, welcome and warmth but more than that is “people’s behavior towards each other. It is the art of creating intimacy: a sense of comradeship, conviviality, and contentment rolled into one.” ( As I have come to understand hygge (largely through conversations with my colleague Pia Christensen) I have also realised that this is a key component of the CCI co-counselling community.

Co-counselling (co-co) is a system of peer counselling in which “one person listens while the other talks (or “works” in other ways)… the person being client … is in charge of the session and the person being counsellor mainly just gives very good attention.”  (  The co-counselling partners share the time equally between them and take it in turns to be ‘counsellor’ and ‘client’.  However,  this is only the session.  Although the co-counselling session and its skills are the basis of all co-counselling, the true richness of CCI co-counselling lies in the community and the hygge.  The community is dispersed and anarchic with no formal organisation, hierarchy or leadership.   Even without these structures, we manage to organise several residential events each year, of varying lengths for group sizes between 14 and 140 people.

The main purpose of a co-co residential is participate in sessions and workshops to address issues and to learn new techniques.  However, I’ve been attending co-co residentials for at least 25 years and that means that I have come to know a lot of co-counsellors and made many friends along the way.  At a residential we spend a lot of time together: cooking, eating, washing up, hanging out, chatting, playing games, making music… in addition to the ‘official’ activities such as opening circles, workshops or support groups.  Each event is like sinking into a pool of warmth and welcome.  It’s a community in which the question “How are you?” is a request for information rather than a formulaic greeting.  Sometimes the going is tough and there are difficult group or interpersonal issues to work out,  Nevertheless, at the end of the weekend or week I always leave feeling loving and loved as a result of having experienced deep social intimacy.  Coco workshops are often nice but most importantly, they are hyggelig.  When I leave thinking “I need more of this in my life” I know that what I actually need is more hygge.

For more information about CCI co-counselling see

“Bundle of Hearts” image from




Writing group coffee cosy

Writing group coffee cosy At work we have a writing group that meets weekly.  Writing is an integral part of our work as academics but some people (like me) struggle to find the time for writing so the existence of the group helps me to block time in my diary.  The promise is that laptops and coffee are always available but sometimes the coffee gets cold so… yet another coffee cosy! This one is made from leftover scraps of New Fashion DK.  I started with the light blue stripe that is at the top in this picture but after the  red it all started to look a bit West Ham, or maybe Aston Villa (or even 1970s at Freddie Osborn school) so I added a fairly broad stripe of the pink and then the dark blue.  I’m still not sure about this colour combination and think it would have been better with three or five colours rather than four.  The coffee cosy was a little wonky so after adding the buttons I blocked it.  Mistake! What I learned from this project is block  before buttons!

Yarndale Mandala

Mandala for Yarndale

As part of the tour de obsession cycling through Yorkshire this year, Yarndale will feature an installation of crocheted mandalas/wheels organised by Lucy of Attic24. Lucy is inviting people to make and send mandalas and at the last count she had more than 300 from over 30 different countries.  I am not sure how the mandalas will be displayed in Skipton Auction Mart; the plan is to hang them on a wall but there aren’t many walls in the market. However, no matter how they are displayed, the gathering of so many varied and colourful circles should  have the magnificence of a gothic cathedral window.

This is my contribution.  It’s made from the the same Hobbycraft/WI yarn as Sue’s coffee cosy.  There are patterns available but I just made it up as I went rather than working from a pattern.  It was an interesting challenge as I didn’t use any actual increase stitches so often had to stop and think before starting a new row to work out how many stitches to put in each block.  There were several rows where I stopped part way and started again with a new idea.

Lucy has asked contributors to send their name/region so I will send my mandala with this card from the Leeds University Art Gallery featuring Harrogate Pump House by Carlos Nadal, one of my favourite artists.  It’s a perfect fit not only in terms of colour but also the Tour de Yorkshire theme. The university art gallery is well worth a visit by the way, with not only the (impressive) university art collection but also special exhibitions.  At the moment there is an exhibition of images of Yorkshire.  Go and see it; take my car!


There is a gallery of Yarndale mandalas on Pinterest:, soon to include mine, I hope.

Sue’s seawater coffee cosy

Sue with her coffee cosyMy lovely colleague Sue kindly watered my plants whilst I was away in Jordan (for work) so I made her this blue-green coffee cosy.  Sue asked for turquoise but half of her clothes are lime green so I could not resist adding stripes of lime. Today it matches her cardi very well but Sue said that she would have worn a turquoise scarf had she known that there would be a photoshoot with her new coffee cosy.The yarn is an acrylic DK from the new range by Hobbycraft and the WI. I love the seawater colours  but found that the yarn had a tendency to split. This was a surprise: after all, the Women’s Institute is something of an authority when it comes to knitting, crochet and other domestic crafts so I expected that a yarn sponsored by the WI would be particularly good.  However, I probably wouldn’t buy the WI brand again (unless I just happened to be in a Hobbycraft shop and it was on a 3 for 2 offer in sea colours). Hmm…

 Sea colours coffee cosy  Sea colours coffee cosy buttons

Travelling with crochet

Crochet at the bus stop

The one crafty area where I think I have really developed a bit of expertise is crochet on the move. I’ve hooked on buses, trains, boats, and aeroplanes; and in airports, stations, cars and hotel rooms… I’ve crocheted in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America as well as on my daily commute. So, here are my tips for travelling with crochet.

Project bag and purse

The first thing you need is a good project bag.  Sewing is not within my skillset so I had to buy a bag ( and I chose this because I love the colours.  The drawstring top means that the yarn can sit securely in the bag with the string pulled tight; you really don’t want your lovely clean yarn rolling all over the floor of the train or plane!  This bag came with a handy little zip purse to hold all the little bits and bobs that find their way into the bag (which you also don’t want on the floor). The bag is lined too, which stops it from being too floppy.


Many people think that you can’t carry scissors on a plane but you can, provided that they have round/blunt ends and the blades are less than 6cm from the fulcrum.  Baby nail scissors fit the description perfectly!  In addition, they are cheap and you can buy them all over the place so it’s not a disaster if they are lost or confiscated (see below).

Hooks and needles

Hooks, of course, are crucial for crochet as are needles for darning ends and sewing up.  I have mild arthritis in my hands for long sessions I like swap between different hook types.  I also carry a needle threader (for those yarn ends that are just not quite long enough) and stitch holders so that I don’t lose my working stitch when the bag bumps on my back as I run for the gate.  A carabiner is really useful: I can use it to clip the scissors to the drawstring or to attach the drawstring to the straps of my main bag.  I have been known to leave things on trains and buses (I left my lunch on the bus last week) so a carabiner helps me to keep my belongings with me.

Backup bits and pieces

Although scissors, crochet hooks and darning needles are all permitted on planes, airport security officers are allowed to confiscate anything they perceive as dangerous so I am always a little anxious when my bag rolls into the x-ray machine.  I’ve taken my project bag through airport security innumerable times and never had a problem but, just in case, I carry a little backup kit with a bamboo hook, a plastic needle and a pair of baby nail clippers (part of a set with the scissors). I really don’t want to sit empty-handed on the plane!

wet wipes

Eating and drinking on the move can be a sticky business and I don’t my work to get grubby so I always keep some wipes in my bag (better than a spray because they don’t need to go into the liquids bag for airport security).

Work in progress

How could I forget my work in progress?  This is to cover a little decorative hoop but most of the time when I am on the move I am working on granny squares…
Granny squares…just like these!  This lightweight packing cube holds spare yarn on the outward journey and completed work on the way home.  By the way, I like to darn in the ends as I go so that when I get home, the squares are ready to add to the blanket.

Phone and headphones

Finally, but so important – an audiobook!  At the moment I am enjoying ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ by Paul Torday which I downloaded ages ago and forgot.  Long airport delays can become unexpected hours of pleasure when accompanied by a good audiobook and a bag of crochet!

Daft crochet: pea-stick tie

Pea-stick tie So… my  father gave me some young sweet peas and I planted them into tubs with bamboo canes to climb. I was going to lash the canes using the tripod lashing that I learned as a Girl Guide but then thought: why not add some colour? So here is a slightly colourful crochet tie to hold the canes together.  the only thing is… I have no idea what colour the sweet pea flowers will be so it could be that they will clash horribly.


These coasters are a birthday present for a friend who is very keen on putting little mats underneath coffee cups.

Coasters displayed on table

The mats are made from Wilko Yarnfair DK on a size 4 hook. On the small coasters I really like the irregular effect that the self-striped yarn creates but I don’t think that it works as well on the large mat. The way that the colours change in the middle of each row seems clumsy and it also does not show the different stitches. For example, in the second to last row, two-thirds of the row seems to have a curved pattern whilst the rest does not but, of course, the stitches are the same all the way round the circle. The next time I make a set like this I will use a single colour yarn for each row; this would highlight the stitch variation beautifully.

The two yellow buttons on the large mat are attached to a drawstring. When the drawstring is pulled then the sides of the mat come together to form a little bag to keep all the coasters tidily in one place.

Coasters wrapped into bag

“Shades of red” coin purse

At Christmas my son received a ‘Mighty Wallet‘ made from  a material called ‘Tyvek’ which looks and feels exactly like paper but is much stronger and seems impossible to tear.  The only problem is that it has no fasteners so whilst it is great for cards and banknotes, the wallet does not hold coins.  He has asked for a coin purse but I hadn’t been able to find one that was suitable until…

Closed red coin purse Coin purse open

I realised that I didn’t have to buy a coin purse for him!

The yarn is Wilkinson’s ‘Yarnfair’ DK in ‘red and cranberry’. I really like working with this yarn; it’s 75% acrylic / 25% wool but very soft, doesn’t split and the stripes emerge clearly.  With this particular shade the difference in colours is more subtle than the (no longer available) shade that  I used for the phone sock and webcam cosy but I still find the variation pleasing.  One thing that I’m not so happy with, though, is the finishing.  Sewing up  has never been my strong point!

Phone sock

Phone sock My husband likes to keep his phone in some kind of case so I knocked this up for him. It took about an hour and half and is double crochet throughout. I used the foundation chain as the top edge so that the opening is a little narrower in order to hold the phone securely.Phone sock