Garden Route Blanket By Emma Varnam

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Guest Blog | Posted on 29-06-2015



We have an exclusive design to share from the talented blogger and designer – Emma Varnam. This pattern has been designed just for us in Stylecraft Life Dk yarn. The Garden Route blanket is available to purchase as a pack for £29.99.

Emma has kindly written a blog post – the story behind her beautiful blanket design -

“Part of taking a holiday for me is having a good big craft project to get my teeth into. Some years I have used my down time to catch up on my crochet commissions. Other times I like to create a ‘me’ project, simply for the joy of making. As a family it has nearly been a decade since we took a two week holiday and this year we planned to visit a dear friend on South Africa. That is a BIG trip and I knew that I wanted to take a very special project with me to enjoy on our adventure.

emma varnam garden route blanket

When Black Sheep Wools asked me to design a blanket for them, I knew that I wanted to create a design which was inspired by the colours of the Cape and the feeling of Summer. I chose Stylecraft Life DK for my yarn. The colour choice is large and I also wanted to ensure the finished design was affordable and washable.

Lots of people are afraid of making colour choices for their creations. My advice is, ‘Don’t be scared, find a greetings card or illustration from a book which inspires you and taken the colours within it as your cue.’

I started with this stripe design from Cath Kidston, and then added a few more zesty colours to ensure the final look as a tropical vibe. The best way to tie a colourful scheme together is to use a base colour which will frame each motif. In this case I used cream to form the final round on each hexagon.

emma varnam garden route blanket

Although I was eager to start my new project I was unusually disciplined and began the project on the plane. On-line you see lots of worries about the hooks and needle you can fly with. My favourite Clover hooks seemed fine and the only downside was that I couldn’t take any scissors but had to break the yarn with my fingers.

On our two week break I think I broke the back of the blanket. Some days I just made up the colourful centres. Others, I blasted through the rows, joining with the outer cream round as I went. Even though I work on professional design commissions I find silent moments of crochet so relaxing and even found myself adding a few rows on our road-trip along the garden route.

emma varnam garden route exclusive blanket

I am so glad that I chose this colour scheme, the bright summer vibe looked so brilliant in the Cape Town light. Some mornings I got up especially early to sit quietly and crochet with the sea view as my backdrop. Eventually my blanket grew and grew as I connected each hexagon. Each morning a little more of the blanket was warming my knees as the sun rose.

emma varnam garden route

The great part of having a holiday project is that when it is finished just looking at this blanket reminds me of the places I made it. What a perfect holiday souvenir; portable, practical and pretty.”

A weaving Crafternoon

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Company News | Posted on 25-06-2015



Last Friday we invited weaver Lauren Colbeck to the Craft Barn for a Crafternoon demonstration. Lauren is a self taught weaver and only started weaving at the end of last year. It seems that weaving must be quite an addictive hobby as she had lots and lots of gorgeous shawls to share. She brought along two different looms and also a peg loom for folks to have a go themselves. It is great to see a finished piece and the weaving in action.

Lauren enjoys using a variety of different yarns including chunky, boucle and super fine lace weight. The small loom Lauren is currently working on shown below is Araucania Botany Lace yarn in shade 1797.


Lauren has woven in a chunky cream yarn too which shows up nicely on the multi-coloured Botany Lace.


This is the first shawl Lauren made, a gift for her mum.


A customer had a go at peg weaving. A good place to start for newbie weavers!


This tartan design is absolutely beautiful.

red shawl tartan

Can you guess the Rico yarn?…….. It’s Rico Creative Melange Glitz. It was hard to capture the sparkle in this yarn, but you can see all of the fabulous colours and stripe effect. Yarn isn’t just for knitting and crochet!

rico melange glitz shawl

Thank you for popping along Lauren.


Sewing Bee – Choose Your Winner!

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Patchwork & Quilting | Posted on 23-06-2015



We would like your help in choosing a winner for our Sewing Bee. All of the designs are so lovely it would be unfair to just leave it up to us to decide. Everyone followed the brief – designed and made a patchwork based item on the day. The great part of all, everyone put their own spin on it and created an individual piece. Voting will be taking place across three social media platforms – Facebook (like the image), Pinterest (re-pin or favourite) and Instagram (like). Here on the blog is the place to find more images of the finished Sewing Bee projects.

Ali from Very Berry Handmade

Made a patchwork tote bag

ali veryberryhandmade tote

Very Berry Handmade blog

ali veryberryhandmade tote

Jo from Jozart

Made a patchwork windmill bag

jo jozart windmill bag

Jozart blog


Diane from The Cheshire Quilter

Made a group of patchwork containers

diane cheshire quilter containers

The Cheshire Quilter blog


diane cheshire quilter

Lucy from Charm About You

Made an applique cushion cover

lucy charm about you

Charm About You blog

lucy charm about you

charm about you

Rachel from Mamma Fairy Sews

Made a hobby bag with lots of pockets

rachel mamma fairy sews

Mamma Fairy Sews blog

rachel mamma fairy sews



Barbara from Black Sheep Wools

Made a summer shawl with crocheted edge

summer shawl

summer shawl


The winner will be announced on Monday 29th June 2015!

Winwick Mum Sockalong Progress

Posted by Emma Eaves | Posted in Staff Projects | Posted on 22-06-2015

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About a month ago the Winwick Mum sock along began, I joined a week later and I am still going!! It has been a slow process, not because it is particularly difficult just life keeps getting in the way!

You can read about my preparation pre sockalong here. I had chosen to use a long circular, as advised by Christine I cast on and knitted a couple of rows on DPNs, then changed to a circular…it took me a while to figure out the magic loop, once you get the hang of it it is pretty easy, but a bit fiddly and you are only working on half of you stitches at a time so can’t get too much momentum going as you have to keep feeding the cable through. I used the metal novas and I must say I really like them, they are very smooth and the yarn just slides off.


I decided to make my socks a little shorter in the leg (and I just wanted to get onto the heal!) the heal flap was very easy and knitted up pretty quick. Onto turning the heal, this is where I struggled and had to ask the Facebook group for help. I had picked up my stitches but then couldn’t figure out how to knit across the front of the foot as these stitches were in the centre of my cable!! Luckily several people were able to point me in the right direction and I was soon on way again. I did get a bit mixed up on the first couple of rounds as I put in too many markers! But I persevered and worked through the pattern and got back on track. I am currently finishing my foot and should hopefully soon be up to the toes and have a finished sock. I just need to make the second one so I have a pair.


I think for my second sock I will be trying a short circular instead to see if I prefer this, I am hoping my tension won’t differ too much.

I am not sure if I am a sock convert but I do love all the different sock yarns and we have just had a delivery of some gorgeous pink Botany Lace, so I may just knit some more in the future.

winwick mum sockalong

Sewing Bee at the Craft Barn

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Patchwork & Quilting | Posted on 19-06-2015

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Last Wednesday we held our very first Black Sheep Sewing Bee here at the Craft Barn. We invited 5 bloggers to take part and our very own Barbara. Barbara is a team leader in the Craft Barn and is our go to lady for all things patchwork. She has some fantastic pieces of work including these shown below.



Everyone was given a brief to make a patchwork based design within the day. It was interesting to see each person’s fabric choices and what they would turn into over the course of the day. As Barbara took part in the Sewing Bee herself she has written all about her day below.

Early next week we will be sharing each of the six final designs here on the blog and on Facebook for you to vote for your favourite.

Over to Barbara…………

“I spent the day with 5 lovely ladies at our first Black Sheep Sewing Bee. After introductions and tea we all set off making our patchwork creations.

Ali from Verry Berry Handmade made a colourful bag using Denyse Schmidt fabrics.

very berry handmade patchwork

Jo from Jozart made a windmill bag.

Jo from Jozart blog sewing a windmill patchwork bag

Diane from The Cheshire Quilter made containers with pockets.

diane patchwork container

Lucy from Charm About You made an applique cushion cover.

lucy charm about you applique cushion cover

Rachel from Mamma Fairy Sews made a hobby bag using Dena Designs Little Azalea fabrics.


I decided to make a summer shawl using ‘Millefiore’ and shot cotton by Kaffe Fasett with a splash of Philip Jacobs’ pansies. I used the foundation piecing technique for my project for the base fabric. I chose ‘Wish’ by Valorie Wells which is a really pretty light voile.



It was amazing to see everybody working – they definitely know their stuff. The speed at which they worked was amazing, how everybody finished their projects in a day, I’ll never know. I finished mine at home by sewing a blanket stitch edge with a crochet border, adding long fringing to each end to complete. For the fringing I used Rico Crochet Cotton in turquoise, the colour brought everything together beautifully.

barbara_work_in progress

We had a fantastic day and everyone was impressed by our brilliant Pfaff machines with the built in walking foot, a huge thumbs up for quilting.


Rachel attached this handy pin cushion to her sewing machine. There is a free pattern over on her blog.



Thanks to all the ladies for joining us, we really had a great time, plenty of chat, tea and sewing. What more could anyone want……….Well, there was a little surprise treat. As things were wrapping up and fabric scraps were being tidied away, we were each presented with an amazing goody bag kindly donated by Coats Crafts, the perfect end to an enjoyable day.”

Barbara x


British Knitting Awards 2015 – Voting Now Open

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Company News | Posted on 16-06-2015


Exciting news everyone! We have been nominated for FOUR awards in the British Knitting Awards 2015, in association with Let’s Knit & Let’s Get Crafting magazines. We are over the moon to have been nominated and we are ever so grateful for your support so far. If you feel we are worthy (super smiley face), it would be fantastic if you could take the time to vote for us. This year Let’s Knit are giving away an IPad Air to one lucky winner.

You can vote either online or by post. There are details in the July issue (94) of Let’s Knit magazine on how to post off your entry. Otherwise pop on over to the British Knitting Awards voting page here -

british knitting awards 2015

What is your favourite yarn? – Part 2

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Yarn Reviews | Posted on 15-06-2015

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Last week I shared our Facebook followers yarn favourites – part 1. This week I am back with the round up for part 2. Four more yarn categories have been put up to the vote. Along with carefully counting numbers it has been interesting reading the comments people have left to support their choices. I have included some of this feedback below. To read more take a look on our Facebook page.


fashion yarns

The favourite is………A - King Cole Opium Palette

Janine says – ‘I’ve just finished a wrap for my holidays and it looks stunning even though it’s only garter stitch!’

Lyndsay – ‘I’ve just started my first King Cole Opium project and I’m loving it!’


chunky yarns

The favourite is……….B – Rico Creative Melange Glitz Chunky, closely followed by Sirdar Faroe Chunky.

Double Knitting

double knitting yarn

The favourite is……….Rowan Wool Cotton


cotton yarns

The favourite is………King Cole Cottonsoft Dk

Lyn says – ‘Washes and tumble dries beautifully. Lovely and soft.’

Helen says – ‘King Cole Cottonsoft  I too am part of the wonderful Knitted Knockers UK group that make 100% cotton prosthesis for women who have had mastectomies …king Cole Cotton soft is the softest and comes in the prettiest colours.’

WIN Rico Creative Cotton Aran yarn

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Company News | Posted on 12-06-2015


To celebrate the launch of Sarah Shrimpton’s (aka Annaboo’s House) exclusive summer crochet patterns, we are giving away a special prize to one lucky winner. This amazing prize includes all 14 balls of Rico Creative Cotton Aran required to make all 3 projects, a 4mm Clover crochet hook and beautiful KnitPro faux leather bag handles. Simply head on over to our giveaway page to enter.


Good luck everyone!

Annaboo’s House Summer Crochet Free Patterns

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Crochet, Free Patterns | Posted on 10-06-2015



Last month we shared a special guest blog post from talented blogger – Annaboo’s House. You may remember she mentioned a ‘secret’ and exclusive summer project she had designed just for us. Well, the time has come to unveil these beauties. Sarah (aka Annaboo’s House) has come up with three co-ordinating summer accessories – a beach bag, sunglasses case and tablet cosy, all crocheted in a rainbow of Rico Creative Cotton Aran yarn. To make all three items you will need 14 balls of yarn, that’s one shade of each colour. Imagine all of the different colour combinations you could create with this project! Share your pics with us #bswsummer, we would love to see what you choose.

All patterns can be downloaded for free from our free patterns page.

annaboo's house beach bag

Choose from a variety of colours for the faux leather bag handles too.

annaboo's house tablet & sunglasses case

Basics of Patchwork

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Patchwork & Quilting | Posted on 08-06-2015

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To make life a little easier for anyone embarking on a patchwork project we have brought together our five must have accessories. Each item has an important part to play in the basics of patchwork. This is before you even think about beautiful, printed cotton fabrics and the endless quilts you will make (well you can always have a teeny peak, can’t you?). It is a good idea to understand these tools and why they are so useful.

Rotary Cutter

A rotary cutter is a fantastic piece of equipment for any patchworker or quilter, as accuracy is key when cutting out patchwork pieces. When using a rotary cutter you can always get a neat edge and easily cut a curved shape every time. When your blade is getting blunt, fear not we also sell replacement blades. The rotary cutters come in various sizes – 28mm, 45mm and 60mm. The smaller sizes are ideal for cutting intricate shapes.

Milward rotary cutter basics of patchwork

Cutting Mat

Using a rotary cutter you will also need its best friend – a cutting mat. These accessories are like two peas in a pod, a team of the patchwork world. We would definitely advise using a cutting mat rather than having to explain the damage a lone rotary cutter could do to your table, it doesn’t bare thinking about, eeeek! The best part of all the Milward cutting mats are self-healing, any dents will bounce back. Obviously any excessive pressure and the mat will not self-heal back to its original state.


cutting mat basics of patchwork


Patchwork Ruler

A patchwork ruler with inch increments is the next item to add to your basics of patchwork shopping list. Use this handy ruler to accurately cut strips of fabric to just the length and width you need. It is super helpful that the ruler is clear too. Your fabric is easily visible when lining up where to cut. There are also 45° angles marked on to help when cutting triangles and various other patchwork shapes.

patchwork ruler

 Quilter Seamer 8″

If you haven’t guessed already, patchwork does involve quite a bit of measuring and accuracy is essential to the overall finish of a piece of work. This nifty little item may just look like a clear cuboid. It’s not; it is actually a quilter’s quarter inch seamer, designed to help out when adding your quarter inch seam allowance to paper and fabric pieces. It is exactly a quarter inch wide!

quilters seamer

505 Temporary Fabric Adhesive

Any quilter would recommend this little treat. A bottle of 505 temporary adhesive spray is so good to have to hand when arranging your fabric pieces ready for sewing. The spray leaves no residue, saves on pinning work then having to re-adjust and can fabric pieces can be repositioned for up to 20 minutes after the initial spray. It also works well for applique – but we will save that for another day.

505 adheshive basics of patchwork

There you have it our top five accessories for the basics of patchwork. Now it’s time to choose your fabrics…………