Sara’s Video Blog – Part 6

Posted by Sara Mulvey | Posted in Sara's Blog | Posted on 05-02-2016


Arne & Carlos Afternoon Lecture – Important Information

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Company News | Posted on 04-02-2016


On Tuesday 23rd February 2016 stars of the knitting world Arne and Carlos will be visiting the Craft Barn. We are super excited that they will be spending a whole day here with us in Warrington. They are teaching a workshop in the morning, followed by a lecture in the afternoon from 2pm – 3pm. The workshop is now fully booked, however you can still book a place on the workshop. Due to the amount of interest we have had in the lecture over the past few weeks we are now taking bookings. The lecture is still free to attend, but you do need to call or email in to book a place on the lecture. Numbers are limited due to the amount of space we have and for health and safety reasons. Please pass this message on to anyone else you know who’s planning on attending and do get in touch as soon as possible.

Either call 01925 764231 or email to book a place.

Designer Q & A’s – Martin Storey

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Designer Q&A's | Posted on 29-01-2016



Yesterday saw the launch of the very first pattern of Martin Storey’s second Rowan Knit Along (KAL). Martin Storey’s first Knit Along took place in 2014 and was a huge success. Patterns were released over a period of weeks a square at a time. With the final pattern released being the sewing up instructions to guide how to join the beautiful jig-saw of squares together. Sara enjoyed taking part in the KAL too and took her blanket on display at the many craft shows we attend throughout the country. Many of our customers enjoyed taking part including a lady called Chris who’s blanket can be seen in the photo below.


Martin has gone for a different look this time round with 4 colour ways to choose from all in tonal shades, still using the Rowan Pure Wool Worsted yarn, exploring the many different shades there are on offer. The colour packs are available to order on the website already made up for you.


We are lucky enough to have the 2016 KAL blanket up on display in the Craft Barn at the moment. It really is a fantastic blanket that has had so many positive comments, both the design and choice of yarn. If  you are taking part in the knit along please do share your progress with us on social media or on email


To coincide with the start of the Martin Storey knit along 2016 I got the chance to ask Martin a few questions about his life as a designer and working on his second KAL.


When did you first pick up a pair of knitting needles and get the knitting bug?

I first got the knitting bug around the age of 5 or 6. I was taught to knit by my infant teacher, the wonderful Mrs Cross. Mrs Cross felt it important that both boys and girls learnt the basic skills of knitting, sewing and cooking. I still remember the plastic pink and yellow needles we learnt to knit with!

What was your first ever knitting project?

One of my first projects was a very badly knitted scarf, sweater and pair of trousers for Sindy’s boyfriend ‘Paul’ – at the time [the early 1960's], a very popular fashion, teen-doll. I still have ‘Paul’ dressed in his original knitted outfit.

What / who influenced you to take the next step and pursue knitting as a career?

Around the late 1970′s, friend of a friend introduced me to the fabulous and at the time, quite ground-breaking handknit designs of Patricia Roberts. I just loved her early work and it was probably her design influence that got me thinking about a career in knitwear.

Your first knit along one was a huge success. We can’t wait for your second Rowan knit along to begin. This time you have gone for a tonal colour palette, what inspired the colour choice and overall design?

For my KAL 2 in the Pure Wool Superwash Worsted, I looked to the motifs, textures and colours of our North Europe, knitting traditions. The knitted textures and colourwork patterns of the Shetland Isles; the Faeroe Isles, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland. A look which is currently very popular in interior fabric, wallpaper and fashion design. Unlike my first KAL, the knitter can now choose from four, classic tonal palettes, chosen to fit in with the most popular, interior colour schemes. A very soft and natural palette: a calming, blue palette; a fresh green and a zingy, spice palette. Whichever colour suits your mood and interior.

Can a beginner knitter join in with the KAL? What sort of stitches will feature?

Once again this KAL has been designed with the beginner knitter in mind. In the first KAL we explored simple texture created by knit & purl stitches, together with simple lace and cable techniques. Having gained those skills, I’ve developed them a stage further and in this blanket we start to create more recognisable motifs in both one colour and two colour squares. Delicate heart motifs in simple texture, lace and with a further option that introduces the beginner knitter to a simple bead technique; Nordic tree motifs in texture and eyelet stitches; A fun, moss stitch spots square. Linking all these motif squares together and introducing a brand new ‘colourwork’ skill for this KAL, I have designed three squares in two colours and without the ‘fairisle-headache’ of stranding or weaving the yarns at the wrong side of work. These colourwork squares are all achieved by working two or four rows in each colour [as if you were working a stripe] and the colour-effect gained by simply slipping stitches.

How do you begin the design process? What comes first a knitted swatch or a sketch of the design?

Before I even put pen to paper or yarn to needles! I begin with lots & lots of research from all sources. I buy all the best fashion magazines every month [a must for keeping up with knitting trends], I have a huge collection of vintage knitting patterns, old cross stitch & embroidery books [great for colour work inspiration]. I trawl antique fairs for interesting fabrics, charity shops, people wearing interesting knits on the street, the internet, on holiday, films, watching the tv! Then, once I’ve compiled all my research, I start to refine ideas into groups and that’s when my actual designing process begins. From this point it’s normally a swatch first and when I’m happy with the look of the swatch, I start to sketch out the ideas into a knit-shape.

What excites you about knitting? The 3D fabric it creates, the variety of stitches, yarn or the endless possibilities?

I suppose I particularly enjoy designing for men, usually with myself in mind, so I know that I can get something I wanted knitted! Anything textured or cabled is my signature handknit design – though I am rediscovering the joy of designing handknits in fairisle or intarsia colourwork. Pattern and colour are once again, very popular in hand knitting.

Does the yarn you are using influence your design?

Yes, for example if I was working on a cable or texture design then I tend to go for the more traditional ‘pure wool’ yarns that in my opinion always show cables to their best effect. For colourwork my ‘go-to’ yarn is Felted Tweed. The Felted Tweed colour palette is sumptuous and the yarn gives colourwork pattern a real vintage and timeless feel. I used Felted Tweed in my recent, ‘Easy Fairisle Knits’ book.

Which other designers do you admire?

Oh, a difficult one to answer. I’ve always admired all my fellow Rowan designers:- Kim Hargreaves, Marie Wallin, Lisa Richardson and Sarah Hatton. Also, I very much like Jared Flood’s, ‘Brooklyn Tweed’ range of designs and the uniqueness of Steven West – I particularly admire his bright choice of colours and the originality of his knit designs.

What is your favourite yarn to knit with?

I love working with Felted Tweed. The colour palette is sumptuous and the yarn gives pattern and texture a real vintage and timeless feel. I used Felted Tweed for my recent book ‘Easy Fairisle Knits’. The sequel ‘More Easy Fairisle Knits’ is due to be launched this summer 2016.

Do you enjoy knitting for yourself? If so what do you make?

These days, I don’t tend to knit much for myself. My knitting time is usually spent on swatch ideas or experimenting with stitches. I recently started knitting myself a shawl collar jacket. I got the back knitted up quite quickly and put it aside to concentrate on design. Six months later it’s still sitting there, waiting to be completed….!

Do you have a knitted treasure? A piece that you could never part with, a gift or maybe something you have made yourself?

Yes, my Patricia Roberts grapes and cherries slipover. It was my first challenging knit that I made way back in the early 1980′s. I took it along to my interview for a place at Art School, where it was much admired and I believe the reason I was offered a place on the course.

If you could give us just one knitting tip, what would it be?

When slipping stitches, always slip the stitch purlwise unless otherwise stated on the pattern. This will help to prevent your stitch from twisting. This is how I would advise to slip the stitches on my new KAL.

With a new year ahead of you what knitting plans do you have for 2016? Are there any projects you can share?

Design-wise, 2016 is going to be a busy year for me! The sequel to ‘Easy Fairisle Knits’, ‘More Easy Fairisle Knits’ is due to be published this summer. Also, two new books in the pipeline for autumn 2016 – a sequel to ‘Nordic Knits’ and a book featuring Afghan throws, blankets and cushions for the home. In the meantime, I will continue to contribute designs for the Rowan Magazine and their seasonal brochures.



Spice of Life Blanket

Posted by Lesley Cragg | Posted in Spice of Life CAL, Staff Projects | Posted on 22-01-2016


Early last year, I had an idea. I wanted to help people like me who knew the basics of crochet, move onto something more complicated and that used different stitches & techniques. I thought the best way to do that would be to host our very first Crochet Along and  I knew just the lady to help us do it…

Sandra Paul (aka Cherry Heart) and I had worked together on a couple of projects beforehand and I knew that her eye for design, colour and pattern writing skills would be just perfect for this project.

I contacted Sandra and invited her over to the Craft Barn where we chatted through some ideas and decided that a sampler blanket would be ideal.

It was from here that the Spice of Life Crochet Along was born. Little did we know that it would turn out to be one of the most successful CAL’s to date!

As momentum built up around the CAL both on and offline, staff here at BSW had lots of fun in choosing their own yarn and colours to make this beautiful blanket.



I chose these colours from the Stylecraft Special Dk range as each one of them made me smile!




Lesley's Spice of Life Blanket

The Spice of Life Facebook group has nearly 8000 members now from all over the world and continues to grow day by day. Some people are working on their 4th, 5th & even 6th blanket!

The pattern is still available on our website and now you can purchase my colour pack for just £22.75! That’s pretty good value for such a beautiful blanket.

Taking part in this CAL has given me the confidence to have a go at other patterns and to not be afraid to try new stitches. If you haven’t yet made your blanket then I would whole heartedly recommend it, even if you are an expert crocheter!

You can find the pattern and more information over on our website:


Craft Shows & Exhibitions 2016

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Shows & Exhibitions | Posted on 20-01-2016


It’s the start of a new year and we are approaching the start of the new show season. This time next week the Black Sheep Wools van will be jam packed full of oodles and oodles of yarn, patterns and needlecraft. Taking all of the crafts and products on location to Sandown Park racecourse. This is only the first show of 2016, so if you don’t live locally to this one worry not there are many more to come.

There is so much to see and do at the various craft shows including workshops held by the show organisers and fabulous demonstrations. That’s not forgetting the most important thing on your to-do list, visiting the magnificent Black Sheep Wools stand. We decorate the stand with an array of cross stitch kits, garments and fabulous colour packs. The grand centre piece of our stand being the famous ‘yarn dive’, packets of yarn piled in a massive mound for you to dive in and search, all at phenomenal bargain prices.

We hope to see you there!

Keep an eye out for more shows being added later in the year on the ‘Exhibitions‘ page on our website.


Craft Awards – Silver Winner!

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Company News | Posted on 19-01-2016


Today we have some very happy news to share. We have been awarded Silver in the International Craft Awards 2015 for ‘Best Independent Store: North of England’. This is a fantastic achievement as we are all very proud of our bricks and mortar store – The Black Sheep Craft Barn here in Warrington. Thank you to everyone at Crafts Beautiful and Papercrafter magazines for your votes and support. We look forward to picking up our award in February!


Arne & Carlos are coming to the Craft Barn!

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Company News | Posted on 15-01-2016


We are super excited to share that Scandinavian knitting designers Arne and Carlos will be visiting the Craft Barn this February. If you haven’t heard of the design duo then let me fill in a few gaps. Arne and Carlos have been designing for many years and have worked with many high end brands during this time. They are best known for their Fair Isle knits and very first craft book – ’55 Christmas Balls to Knit’. Since its release in 2010 it has been published in over 10 different languages.

They will be spending a full day here on Tuesday 23rd February, teaching a mini workshop in the morning and holding a lecture in the afternoon. In the workshop you can make a pair of wrist warmers following their pattern ’5 Wise Virgins Wrist Warmers’. The workshop cost is £25 and includes yarns and refreshments. Book a place on the workshop here.


Hear all about their interesting life in knitting at the afternoon lecture from 2pm – 3pm. It is free to attend and will be held in our spacious workshop room at the Craft Barn. Please call 01925 764231 to book a place on the lecture.

First Knitting Projects

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Staff Projects | Posted on 12-01-2016


Julie and Jayne learnt how to knit in 2015 with a little help from the ladies in our Knit and Natter group. After knitting simple swatches to get the hang of a basic garter stitch, Julie and Jayne were ready to tackle new yarns and a new project. I can see more projects coming in 2016 from these two newbie knitters. What were your knitting achievements of 2015?

Jayne's knitting

Jayne’s swatch had a slight decorative smattering of holes. Pretty impressive for a first attempt, don’t you think?

It was onwards and upwards for Jayne as she soon got into the swing of knitting and purling. She used a very helpful trick to stay on track and remember which side was which. A safety pin and a scrap of paper pinned on either side was a great idea suggested by Stacey.

jayne_learnJayne’s latest project is a scarf knitted in James C Brett Flutterby Animal Print – a super chunky yarn that has a very clever pattern that looks like animal print. This is the second scarf Jayne has knitted and she is also currently part way through a wrap knitted in the Flutterby yarn for her daughter.


Garter stitch really compliments the pattern and adds to the animal like texture.

jayne_flutterby_animal2After a quick how to with the Knit and Natter ladies, Julie could soon recall knit and purl stitches. After knitting a hat for her daughter, Julie was ready to move on to a bigger project.


Deciding to tackle a garment in Rico Fashion Colour Pop Dk, a tank top / vest top great for summer and to layer over a blouse or t-shirt in the colder months. Here’s Julie striking a pose in the tea shop, in between serving customers pots of tea and scrumptious cakes.

Julie summer vest top

Spice of Life inspired baby blanket

Posted by Sara Mulvey | Posted in Sara's Blog | Posted on 11-01-2016



I have a bit of a thing. If a friend or relation has a baby I have to make a blanket. My cousin’s new baby, Emily was no exception.

Thankfully I knew it was a girl so colour choice was quite easy. I’m not particularly a traditionalist and I’m not mad on the colour pink so I used 9 different shades which I thought looked a bit vintagey (if that’s a word!). Two of these are pink but they do blend well with the greys and duck egg.

I’ve been so inspired by our Spice of life CAL, and learnt so much, that I knew I had to use stitches from this.

Sara's SOL CAL inspired baby blanket

The main body of the blanket is in v stitch. I love this stitch. It grows so fast and is really economical with yarn. Something I needed to bear in mind as I was using Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. This is one of my favourite yarns but doesn’t go very far so I needed to get the most out of it.

Sara's SOL inspired baby blanket

The border is a row of double crochet, to provide a foundation. Again this is the same as the Spice of Life (SOL) CAL.

I then used the shell stitch to finish off. I loved this stitch and it finished the blanket perfectly.

Sara's SOL inspired baby blanket

I’m delighted with the way it looks. The yarn feels beautiful and I think my cousin will love the colours. Fingers crossed!

I’ve got so many other ideas of blankets I can make with the stitches I learnt from the SOL CAL. If you’ve been left inspired too don’t forget our competition. We are looking for projects that have been inspired by Sandra Paul’s Spice of Life crochet along blanket. That could be anything from a mug hug to a cushion cover! Take a look at our competition blog post for more information.

Cable Wrist Warmers – Free pattern

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Free Patterns | Posted on 07-01-2016



Happy New Year everyone! With winter very much set in place for the next couple of months here in the UK, we have got to thinking about cosy winter accessories. Hats, snoods, scarves and mittens all spring to mind, knitted in warm and woolly yarns to keep you snug during the cold months.

Yvonne has been getting creative with cables. Her knitting needles haven’t stopped of late; the ideas have just kept on flowing. That is in between making an amazing jumper here and a teepee there. Take a look at our staff projects blog post for photos. A pair of snuggly wrist warmers are a nice project to make whilst the weather is still cold and you are waiting patiently for new spring / summer yarns to arrive.

cable wrist warmers - free pattern

Cable Wrist Warmers

You Will Need

  • 2 balls Noro Kama
  • 1 pair 5.5mm knitting needles
  • Stitch holder
  • Cable needle


C4B – slip next 2st onto CN to back of work, knit next 2st, knit 2st from CN
C4F – slip next 2st onto CN to front of work, knit next 2st, knit 2st from CN
T3B – slip next st onto CN to back of work, knit next 2st, P1 from CN
T3F – slip next 2st onto CN to front of work, P1 knit 2st from CN

Moss stRow 1 K1, P1
                 Row 2 P1, K1

This st pattern forms moss st. Use for complete rows or stitches as stated.


Cast on 30sts.

Row 1 – 4 Moss st
Row 5 & 6 Moss st increase 1 stitch at each end of rows
Row 7 P2 *K2, P2* rep *to* to end
Row 8 K2 *P2, K2* rep *to* to end
Row 9 P1, T3B, P2 *T3F, T3B, P2* rep *to* to last 5st, T3F, P1
Row 10 K1, P2, K4 *P4, K2* rep *to* to last 3st, P2, K1
Row 11 P1, K2, P4 *C4F, P4* rep *to* to last 3st, K2, P1
Row 12 K1, P2 *K4, P4* rep *to* to last 3st, P2, K1
Row 13 P1, T3F, P2 *T3B, T3F, P2* rep *to* to last 3st, T3B, P1
Row 14 K2 *P2, K2* rep *to* to end
Row 15 P2, T3F *T3B, T3F, P2* rep *to* to end
Row 16 K3, P4 * K4, P4* to last 3st, K3
Row 17 P3 *C4B, P4* rep *to* to last 3st, put these on a stitch holder, cast on 3st
Row 18 K3 *P4, K4* rep *to* to last 3st put these on a stitch holder, cast on 3st
Row 19 P2 *T3B, T3F, P2* rep *to* to end
Row 20 *K2, P2* rep *to* to end
Row 21 – 28 As row 9 – 16
Row 29 P3 *C4B, P4* rep *to* to last 3st, P3
Row 30 K3 *P4, K4* rep *to* to last 3st, K3
Row 31 As row 19
Row 32 As row 20
Row 33 – 37 Moss st

Cast off in moss st


RS facing, pick up 3st from cast on, 3st from both stitch holders, 3st from cast on = 12sts

Row 1 – 9 Moss st

Cast off in moss st