Woollen Woods – Devon

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Miscellaneous | Posted on 04-05-2016

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Have you heard of the Woollen Woodlands project? It is project in association with the Voluntary Arts and National Trust. This autumn there is going to be a magnificent array of yarny creations on display at Arlington Court in Devon. All of the items on display will be knitted, crocheted or felted. Woodland themed bits and bobs all made of one of our favourite things – yarn!

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The creations to be displayed are all kindly donated by members of the public. As knitters and crocheters we all have plenty of yarn oddments dotted around our homes ready for this type of stash busting projects. The Woollen Woodland was extremely successful during the summer months of 2015 and encouraged lots of visitors to explore the area and follow a trail to find various creations along the way.

WoollenWoods at Arlington Owls (2)

Woollen Woodland organisers at Arlington Court are looking for new makes to add into their display for autumn. Natalie Savage, Visitor Services Manager for the National Trust at Arlington Court said, “All the creations from last year have been gently washed and stored over the winter, ready to begin the display in 2016. However, with this year’s exhibition taking place over September and October, we’re keen to have some more autumnal entries, such as acorns, fungi and dahlias.”

Woollen Wally Squirrel

In 2015 wolllen items were sent to Devon from all over the UK, the youngest contributor being seven years old and the oldest well in her nineties. Each crafter is asked to send in their name, age and town where they live with their creation, to show who has contributed and how far they’ve been sent. All items should be sent to ‘Woollen Woods, Arlington Court, Barnstaple, Devon EX31 4LP’ by 1 August at the latest.

Find more information on the National Trust website and on the Voluntary Arts website.

We have gathered together a couple of patterns that fit the brief -

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Knit a squirrel or hedgehog with this King Cole pattern.

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Perhaps a crocheted Ollie Owl?

Black Sheep Craft Barn SALE!

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Company News | Posted on 29-04-2016

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Would you like to know a secret? Well, it’s not really a secret, as some of you may have heard through the grapevine our annual Craft Barn sale is returning this May. The sale dates have been confirmed and the sale will be taking place from 13th – 22nd May 2016. This sale is only in store, at the Craft Barn in Warrington.

There will be lots of incredible bargains, including yarns with up to 70% off RRP! We will have special offers on fabric and needlecraft too. All of these offers are only available in store and are not to be missed. If you are thinking of making the journey to Warrington, don’t forget that we have a lovely little tea shop where you can grab lunch, a coffee or a slice of scrumptious homemade cake.

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For those who do live further afield we always have amazing deals in our clearance section online. Plus, be sure to sign up to our newsletter where you will get all of our latest offers delivered to your inbox.

Designer Q & A’s – Susan Pinner

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Designer Q&A's | Posted on 27-04-2016

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In the run up to Yarn Shop Day 2016 we caught up with crochet designer, Susan Pinner to ask a few questions about crochet. Susan will be here on Yarn Shop Day sharing all of her crochet treats and doing a book signing between 10.30am and 2.30pm. Along with two books full to the brim of her own fabulous designs – ‘Granny Squares‘ and ‘Granny Squares & Shapes‘, Susan also designs crochet patterns for Stylecraft.

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There will be many more talented crafty folk to see too, including demonstrations of weaving from Beryl Weir, sock knitting with Winwick Mum and even more crochet with Crafternoon Treats! Read our Yarn Shop Day blog post here.

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Who taught you to crochet? What was the first thing you ever made?

My best friend’s Gran when I was about 8 or 9, but I never made anything until my early teens and it was a gold, orange, brown, oatmeal rug in RUG WOOL that someone had given me……very hard going with huge tassels on each corner.

What projects do you have on the go at the moment? Any top secret snippets of crochet you can share?

Nothing TOP SECRET I wouldn’t get paid lol! But I’m doing some felting projects some free form projects and researching some new stitches that always leads to a variation on a new stitch in one way or another.

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Have you ever made something that you will treasure forever? A project that took a little longer than expected, a labour of love or perhaps a beautiful piece that you just cannot part with. 

Almost everything I make…I find hard to part with. Two of my favourites are these and old, old freeform flowers on stripes, a felted hat that made it to Knitting Vogue Knitting magazine anything I do from real life like the primsoes and the Chunky Monkey CAL I did last year.

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SILVER LACE BLACK PRIMROSE

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When designing something new, where do you begin? Is it a sketch, with a colour palette or sampling?

How long is a piece of string? Sometimes from a sketch, sometimes from a colour combo, a new stitch or a new yarn. When working with yarn companies you have to be able to adapt your style to their wants and new yarns and sometimes restricted colours

This one was from a sketch…

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You now have two books full of your designs – Granny Squares and Granny Squares & Shapes, plus you do lots of fabulous crochet designs for Stylecraft. Do you have a favourite design?

The latest designs are usually favourites but if you push me to pick one for Stylecraft…..the new Tartan blanket and cushion.

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And the bead and bezel I did for Stylecraft blog tour…I’ve made them up in lots of colour combo’s since.

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Your books are full of really lovely designs, are they suitable for a beginner? Are there any designs in particular you would suggest?

This daisy pattern so versatile, easy to make and can be made in so many colour combo’s and sizes from 3ply sock yarn to Aran, this picture is from a 1950′s colour chart as a box cushion for our 1975 camper.

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And the blanket motif…again its versatile.

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Do you do any other crafts?  

Not really, these days crochet fills my time, a bit of paper crafting especially at Christmas time.

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If my crochet time was my own I would do far more free form crochet, I have  bags of crochet circle waiting for me to join them together and tapestry crochet too, like this one.

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Do you have a favourite place to crochet?

My craft room the light is fabulous and I have a double sofa unit like a bed in there, but any where that’s comfy, the sofa, in bed…lots of space to spread out all the yarn and 4 cats and bury myself…..a tidy moment doesn’t look like this often!

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Staff Makes

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Staff Projects | Posted on 21-04-2016

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Black Sheep Wools staff are always busy making one thing or another. If we aren’t making something, we also enjoy thinking of what we could be making. So many projects get planned and changed during a day at work. No matter what part of the company you work in, whether you are packing an order, putting new stock on the shelves in store, adding new products to the website, you really can’t hide from the continuous flow of temptation that catches our eye on a daily basis.

I have gathered together a selection of projects made by our talented staff. These are really only a snippet of the projects that do get made; many are eagerly given to the recipient before having a photograph.

Yvonne has been knitting away for her super cute grandchildren. Here is her grand-daughter wearing a cabled jacket, knitted in Debbie Bliss Rialto Chunky using Hayfield pattern 4534.

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Yvonne has also knitted a jumper for her grandson using Schachenmayr Extra Merino. She spotted this stitch pattern being used on a different design and adapted it to a trusty pattern she had in her collection.

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Yvonne’s flower decorations are a great stash buster. She has been crocheting pretty flowers from Search Press Crochet Flowers book to adorn straw sun hats for her granddaughter.

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Lesley has been making lots of crocheted hats for new born babies. The photo below is of her friend’s little one, sporting his new hat in Hayfield Baby Chunky, complete with a huge pompom.

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Sally loves to crochet and couldn’t wait for Jane Crowfoot’s Frida’s Flowers crochet along to begin. She had her hook poised and ready for the pattern release from Stylecraft. It only took her one evening to do the first two pieces. Sally opted for the Stylecraft Classique Cotton dk colour pack.

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In preparation for the CAL, Crafternoon Treats blogger Kathryn designed a ‘Frida’s Flowers’ inspired project bag. This pattern is available as a free download and you can find the colour pack at Black Sheep Wools. Sally chose to crochet her bag with a variety of oddments, including shades of Stylecraft Special Dk that she has used double to create a chunky yarn.

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Although Maria no longer works at Black Sheep Wools she will always be an honorary  member of the team, often popping in for the knit and natter group and to stock up on new yarns. After attending the Arne & Carlos workshop, Maria went on to make a second pair of mitts using another of their patterns. She chose a lovely selection of yarns from her stash. Find the free pattern on Arne & Carlos website.

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Emily has finished her Spice of Life Croceht Along blanket, using a selection of Rico Baby Classic Dk and Sirdar Snuggly Dk. A gorgeous colour combination!

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Lucy had been searching for the perfect pattern for a double knit yarn for a while. When she spotted the new Rowan Summerlite Dk book she could not resist, so many beautiful patterns all in one book. Lucy is using a forest green shade of Schachenmayr Extra Merino, following the ‘Bronte‘ cardigan pattern. She also took on the task of adapting the pattern so that she can knit it in the round, eeeek! The cuff of the cardigan is so pretty with the cable detailing.

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Stacey attended the weaving workshop at the Craft Barn last week and has truly fallen for the craft. She bought a loom and was off making a pretty woven scarf.

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Finally, take a peek at Janet’s latest project. There will be a fabulous pattern for this one coming very soon!

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Crocheted Dishcloths – Guest Blog Post

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Guest Blog | Posted on 19-04-2016

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Guest blog post written by Black Sheep Lucy

When I started knitting around ten years ago I practiced on dishcloths. Not glamorous and I felt a bit foolish buying dishcloth yarn but it was a great way to practice.

Here’s a list of reasons to make your own dishcloths:

  • Quick (even for my beginner stitching)
  • I could practice new stitches and techniques on these small ‘samplers’ whilst still getting an end-product
  • Something to cheer up boring old house work
  • Mistakes didn’t matter
  • They last longer than shop bought and don’t smell as much either!
  • Economical and thoughtful gifts (though people may insist they won’t use them as they’re too pretty – tut!)

A decade later, I’m learning to crochet and decided to go with the same plan. I’ve dipped a toe (leg) into the universe of crochet with the Spice of Life Crochet along and want to practice a little more.  I spotted the fabulous “Springy” range of colours in Rico Creative Cotton Aran and realised that dish cloths don’t have to just be in creams and white.

Oh, and if you subscribe to the, ‘”They’re too pretty for housework,” argument, you can always use them as exfoliating face/wash cloths.  With warm water, they’re great for removing cleansers as a more environmentally sound alternative to cotton wool.

These cloths benefit from being made with a larger hook to provide extra airflow through the finished item.  Rico Creative Cotton Aran suggests a hook between 4 and 5mm so I opted for a 5.

crocheted dishcloths

crocheted dishcloths

Square Dish Cloth

Shade A
Shade B
Shade C

To start, in A, chain 27

Row 1 – 1tr into the 4th chain from the hook (the first 3 chains make the first treble).  1 tr into each chain to the end (24 st)

All rows will contain 24 stitches

Row 2-3 – 24tr each row

Row 4-5 – Change to B, 24tr each row

Row 6 – Change to C. 24tr. Do not cut this yarn at then end of the row but leave attached to work for border later.

Row 7-8 – Change to B, 24tr each row

Row 9-11 – Change to A. 24tr each row. Cut yarn and weave in all ends.

Border

Using the still attached Shade C, create a border by working double crochets into the spaces around the cloth.  Approx 24 stitches each side and working 3 additional doubles into the same space for each corner. Cut yarn and weave in.

The 2 round cloths are inspired by patterns found in the book, Boho Crochet.

Designer Q & A’s – Joanne Ridley

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Patchwork & Quilting | Posted on 14-04-2016

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This spring / summer we have a new workshop tutor coming to teach at the Craft Barn. Joanne Ridley is a talented patchwork and quilter who is so enthusiastic about her craft. We cannot wait to have Joanne here to teach all of the fabulous projects she has planned. As Joanne says below, ‘they are all beginner friendly’, so if you are thinking of taking a dip into the fabric world, why not add Joanne’s workshops to your to do list? There are 3 workshops coming up – Applique Cushion with Clever Concealed Zip in April, Foundation Pieced Tote Bag in June and Star Table Runner Patchwork in July. All workshops include fabrics, notions and a delicious finger buffet lunch – with a scrumptious tea and cake break in the afternoon.

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I sent Joanne a few questions to find out some more about her love of patchwork and what she likes to make. Take a look below at her answers, accompanied by a selection of photos of her work.

How long have you been sewing and doing patchwork?

I come from a long line of makers so I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t do some sort of creative activity. I learnt to crochet when I was really little, knitting came a bit later (and less naturally!) and throughout High School, University and the early years of married life I did lots of embroidery. When my son was a toddler (he’s eighteen now) I went on a ‘Creativity Day’ where you could either paint or do patchwork – I really, really can’t paint so I went for the patchwork option (we made a Cathedral Windows pincushion) and I was hooked straight away. The lady who was showing us what to do was so evangelical about her hobby that it made me want to find out more. I came home and bought a patchwork magazine, saw an advert for a local exhibition, went along and found a patchwork group, was recommended a good teacher to do a sampler quilt class, and everything mushroomed from there. I eventually bought a longarm quilting machine and started a quilting business which has ranged from making banners for schools, churches and Walking Days, to quilting other patchworkers’ quilts, to running workshops. Now that I have a full-time job my business is mainly concentrated on workshops and I don’t have time to quilt for other people anymore but it was a really good grounding for being brave and going outside your own comfort zone.

How long have you been teaching the craft?

I started a little group at home about seven years ago called Stitch and Chat. We met once a month and each night was basically a little make-and-take workshop. We did all sorts of crafts, not just patchwork, but some of the ladies who come along started to ask about making a quilt themselves, so we began to have Saturday workshops every so often. Over several years now we’ve had all sorts of workshops and it’s lovely to see people’s reactions when they ‘get’ a technique, or hold up a finished article and announce, “I did it!” This is me (on the end in the white blouse) and a little group of ladies after a cushion workshop – see, lots of smiles!

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What skill set is required for each of your workshops?

The workshops I’m leading at Black Sheep are all beginner-friendly. You don’t need any specialist knowledge: you just need to want to have a go and I guarantee that you’ll leave at the end of the day with an item you’re really pleased with and a big pile of new skills under your belt. The important thing to remember is that there are no quilt rules, just guidelines – I’ll show you how to do it, but if you wobble off, or find another way, or yours looks a bit different – no one will ever know! Patchwork is great fun and one of the main aims of the workshop is to try something new and discover whether there’s a whole new craft here you could be taking up!

What is your favourite patchwork technique / design? 

Oh – too many to mention! I still haven’t exhausted all the things I want to try and the list of quilts I’m going to make some day keeps on growing! The two things that keep me most engaged though are the quilting and the challenge of design. I love how the quilting transforms a patchwork top into a quilt: here’s a band of patchwork:

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and here it is with freehand leafy feathers quilted onto it:

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Both pictures really appeal to me (see below for my answer about which colour palette I like (!) but I think the quilted version has an extra zing to it.

Making banners for clients with very precise requirements has meant I’ve had to be quite inventive at times. Several school banners have necessitated the making of interesting elements, and on several occasions the creation of quilted children (So I got to walk out of work one evening saying, “I’m just going home to make a child” which raised the odd eyebrow…) and the pictures below show a couple of the stages – I like that I had to find ways to interpret the requested designs into reality.

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Do you have a favourite colour palette you are always drawn to?

Its rainbow all the way I’m afraid: the more colours that are in there the better, and there’s just something about a lovely ordered span of colours that makes my heart pop. The rainbow banners show that I think, and I also love the colours in this picture of a stole I made for my husband one Easter.

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What project (s) do you have on the go at the moment? 

Well, I’m working on something for Black Sheep but I think it might be a secret…

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You’ll have to come back to me about that.

Recently we made owl blocks at a workshop which was really good fun – curved seams turn out not to be scary at all, and the owls are so cutie!

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The last quilt all for us that I finished was a ‘dresden plate’ design:

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I don’t only quilt though: I crochet a lot too, and because we were doing scarves and cowls at the last Stitch and Chat night, I’ve done a couple of them in the last few weeks:

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(I know that it looks like knitting but actually it really is crochet: half trebles done into the ‘third loop’ at the back of the stitch – those ‘V’s that look like a rib are the tops of all the stitches being pushed over towards you as you spiral round and round.)

There’s always a bigger project on the go as well, isn’t there, and at the moment mine is with wool from a Black Sheep kit I bought from Sara at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate – it was supposed to be a granny stripe blanket but we have rather an embarrassment of blankets so I am doing a slightly different stitch and making an enormous shawl instead.

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Where do you find inspiration for your projects?

All over the place really! I’ve got lots of magazines and books to browse through, and of course the internet has such a wealth of images and ideas that it can be overwhelming. I’m a bit stubborn about doing something that’s been done before though, so I usually start out with one idea and finish with a rather different end product. I do love Pinterest for mooching but I think there’s a danger that you’ll spend an hour staring at your screen when you could have been using that time to actually sew something yourself :) Gazing at my fabric stash is always a good kick-start if I’m feeling a bit aimless, or looking at objects around me or other crafts I’m doing – and (as if all the crochet didn’t do the trick) just to prove that I’m not a one-craft devotee, here’s a little embroidery I did : there’s a link in it to one of the other pictures in this article – can you find it?

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Frida’s Flowers Afternoon Tea

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Company News | Posted on 13-04-2016

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Last week we were very honoured to have crochet lady of the moment, Jane Crowfoot at the Craft Barn for 3, fun filled days. Over the years Jane has taught many of her popular workshops at the Craft Barn. Last year was the first time we held afternoon tea with Jane, this was a huge success and we couldn’t wait to do it all over again. Coinciding with week 1 of Jane’s second Stylecraft crochet along, we couldn’t have picked a better week to have Jane here with us.

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This is where the 3 days of fun began, with afternoon tea on Thursday, Jane didn’t disappoint with her bright and cheery disposition, along with oodles of crochet inspiration. In particular the Frida’s Flowers Stylecraft crochet along (CAL) blanket, inspired by the artist Frida Kahlo. Jane looked to Frida Kahlo’s traditional dress, taking inspiration from colours and floral details. When you look up Frida Kahlo she is often wearing a floral headdress, full of an abundance of colour and beauty. This is what Jane wanted to translate into her crochet work. Having chosen to use Stylecraft Classique Cotton as her yarn choice, Jane was inspired by the yarn to create a 3-D effect, which she did throughout the blanket in the floral centre pieces. The cotton yarn lends itself well to a strong structure.

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It was interesting to see the hexagons that didn’t make it into the final blanket design, looking at these you realise just how much work goes into designing something. The process is not as simple as one idea and that idea is the final and only one. Lots of sampling and testing has to be done to reach the final outcome.

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Jane had this gigantic bag alongside her during the talk. As if by magic it just kept producing yet another crocheted delight (some knitted here and there). One of the ladies described it like a Mary Poppins bag, it really was! You wouldn’t believe she could fit all of the gorgeous works of art in there.

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The beautiful vibrant shades of orange, red and pink in one of Jane’s ‘Lantern Shawls’. Each colourway is inspired by weather, this one being – ‘Monsoon’. Inspired by Jane’s trip to India last year. Below is the lanten design in blanket form, this pattern is coming soon.

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These were small lantern motifs in the form of a delicte scarf. Jane crocheted this design in sock yarn.

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Here’s Jane and Annabelle (from Stylecraft) holding up the Stylecraft Lily Pond blanket.

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Lots of knit and crochet inspiration in this photo!

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Alternative colourways of Jane Crowfoot’s ‘Persian Tiles‘ blanket.

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On Friday and Saturday Jane held two sold out workshops – freeform crochet and lily pond bag. She will be back at the Craft Barn again in June to teach her Frida’s Flowers motif workshop. Due to popular demand Jane will be teaching the same workshop on both 3rd June and 4th June. Take a look on our workshops page to find out more information.

If you would like to purchase a yarn kit to join in with the Frida’s Flowers crochet along, we have 3 different kits to choose from – Stylecraft Classique Cotton (original pack), Stylecraft Life Dk and Stylecraft Special Dk.

Embrace by Kim Hargreaves – #tryitTuesday

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in #TryitTuesday | Posted on 05-04-2016

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The change of seasons is often a tricky one when it comes to knitwear. When is it time to tuck away those cosy winter knits and swop them for light and carefree cotton? These days, in the UK a waterproof yarn would probably be our best option, to help keep us dry from all the rain showers we encounter. Currently no such yarn exists in the hand knit market, so we will have to continue wearing our knits underneath a waterproof jacket. When the weather is slowly shifting from winter to spring it is nice to have that in between jumper. Easy to wear on a slightly warmer day, but also enough to keep you warm.

The knitted top we have chosen for #tryitTuesday is from Kim Hargreaves Embrace book. This could be just the top you need for the transition to spring. Knitted in the lightweight, baby alpaca blend of Rowan Lima, this yarn feels so soft against your skin.

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The top is called ‘Leah’ from Embrace.

Colette went for a more casual style wearing the top slightly off the shoulder.

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Lesley tried the top with a white vest underneath, also going for a slight off the shoulder look.

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There are 21 designs in the Embrace book, all with a 70′s vibe. A great selection of tops, cardigans and sweaters to choose from, knitted in beautiful Rowan yarns.

Spring at Black Sheep Wools

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in New Products | Posted on 04-04-2016

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Spring is in the air at Black Sheep Wools, especially in the Craft Barn. Lots of new yarns and fabrics have arrived in store (they are online too) to inspire those new season makes. Fabrics are draped alongside complimenting yarns, decorating the Craft Barn with bright and breezy spring cheer.

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The new Brassica fabric range from Philip Jacobs is such a detailed print design (shown here in ‘yellow’). It comes in six different colourways, which would look so impactful all in the one patchwork project.

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This fuzzy, cloud like yarn is Sirdar Touch. Don’t the new shades remind you of candyfloss or those coconut sprinkled marshmallow biscuits? With just one ball you can make a super squishy snood.

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A spring themed wreath adorned with mini pompoms, flora and a sleepy Stylecraft bunny.

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Bright and zingy shades of Sirdar Cotton 4ply are lovely new additions to the range.

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Daffodils are adding a splash of spring to the tea shop – can you spot the odd one out? It’s a knitted daffodil from Sirdar Knit Pretty book.

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A new Sirdar yarn for spring is Sirdar Jolly Dk. There’s lots of colour bursting from this yarn, perfect for babies and children.

All of these beautiful things are only a snippet of what’s new in store and online. There is so much more to be discovered! If you would like to see what’s new online be sure to head on over to our new page.

The latest craze for your pooch…..knitting!

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Miscellaneous | Posted on 01-04-2016

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Sara has been busy recently, teaching her adorable dog, Poppy to knit. After reading about the latest craze for your pet pooch Sara couldn’t wait to teach her canine companion. She has really taken to the craft and enjoys settling down by Sara’s side of an evening practicing her new skills. Sara has said that she is already part way through knitting a snood to stay warm on chilly morning walks.

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This photo was taken after she had dropped a stitch and lost a bit of patience!

*APRIL FOOL!*