Spice of Life Catch Up with Cherry Heart

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Spice of Life CAL | Posted on 07-10-2015



Last week Sandra Paul aka Cherry Heart, came to the Craft Barn for a Spice of Life Crochet Along meet up. It was a lovely, relaxed afternoon for everyone to share their blankets and discuss their progress with Sandra. Sandra also offered advice on stitches, including helping out our very own Lesley. After speaking to Sandra she realised where she had gained a few extra stitches. Here she is taking back the crochet. :( It happens to us all! This pic below is of Lesley’s second #spiceoflifecal blanket. I wonder how many people out there have more than one on the go at once.


Sandra moved around the tables chatting to everyone whilst they crocheted their blankets and enjoyed a cup of tea and biscuits.


Here are a couple of Spice of Life blankets our customers were crocheting.



Whilst Sandra was here in the building Sara took the chance to have a quick catch up with Sandra, about the Spice of Life Crochet Along and its incredible popularity. It is amazing to see that the dedicated Facebook group (Spice of Life Crochet Along group) has over 4,600 members. Watch the video here on our YouTube channel.

Sandra brought along a selection of her other irresistible crocheted delights too, including blankets and shawls. The colours Sandra puts together work together harmoniously, along with her choice of stitch and yarn. A lot of thought and work goes into these designs. Many of these patterns can be found on the Cherry Heart blog patterns page.

Cherry Heart Blankets

Two different blankets sitting side by side.


Take a look at the detailed floral edging on the shawl in the centre, so pretty!


A gorgeous pastel blanket crocheted in a cotton based yarn.

Cherry Heart blanket

How cute are these circle droplets adorning the edge of this cheerful blanket? It reminds me of pick n mix!

The Knitting & Stitching Show – Alexandra Palace

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Shows & Exhibitions | Posted on 01-10-2015


Can you believe it’s already that time of year again? It’s time for the spectacular Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace, London. A whole year has passed since we packed up the van having squeezed crafty goodies into every last nook and cranny that we could find – quite an art in itself.

This year the show will be running for 5 days again, opening on Wednesday 7th October through to Sunday 11th October. That’s 5 whole days to spend in a crafter’s paradise, set in a stunning location in London. Sara took this photo last year of the beautiful stained glass window in Alexandra Palace.


Popular knit design duo Arne and Carlos will be opening the show on Wednesday at 10am. You may recognise the Nordic designs from books, such as ’55 Christmas balls to knit’ and ’30 Slippers to knit & felt’. They also have a popular sock yarn range with Regia Design Line, each shade creating a lovely fair isle design as you knit.


There will be fashion shows throughout each day from Coats, showcasing their latest designs and yarns for autmn winter. Also workshops, lectures and tea rooms to have a break from the hustle and bustle. Once you are all shopped out be sure to visit the galleries area, where you will find work from leading textile artists, along with work from talented students. Lots and lots of inspiration to spur on your next project!


Here are a couple of pics from our stand and setting up last year.


Sara sat down for a moment with Debbie Bliss in our fabulous yarn dive.


If you are booking your ticket to the Knitting & Stitching Show in advance we have a special offer for you. Use code EX15 and get your ticket for £12.

For those who can’t make it to Ally Pally why not visit us at another show in the UK. Take a look on our exhibitions page for the events where we will be exhibiting.

First Therapeutic Knitting Workshop – Guest Blog Post

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Guest Blog | Posted on 30-09-2015


Betsan Corkhill debuted her Therapeutic knitting workshop on Saturday. She has written a blog post about the day below. If you would like to book on a future workshop or purchase a copy of Betsan’s book ‘Knit for Health and Wellness‘ you can find them both on the website.

“The first day-long Therapeutic Knitting workshop took place on Saturday 26th September at Black Sheep Wools’, fabulous Craft Barn.

I have given a lot of talks and run many groups where we have focused on individual elements included in this workshop. However, this was the first time I’d put them together into a full day….so it was a bit of an unknown.

Being the first Therapeutic Knitting workshop, it was also a bit of an unknown for participants, so I want to thank all those who came along and contributed to make it such a successful day. It was lovely to meet you all.

The ideas presented in the workshop offer an alternative way of viewing and improving wellbeing. An approach which is based on evidence and gathering support in the worlds of neuroscience, wellbeing, pain management, and mental health to name but a few.

Did you know we all have the ability to change neurologically, biologically, behaviourly and socially and, with the right knowledge, each of us can work towards positive change? In doing this we can take control of our own wellbeing and build our personal wellbeing toolbox. This is was the basis of the workshop.

We began by taking a look at the science behind using knitting as a therapeutic tool and the concept of whole-person health. Using this knowledge, the second session looked at the practicalities of knitting therapeutically including the choice of materials and how to use different types of project, colour and texture  to achieve different mind states and aims.

In the first of the afternoon sessions, we covered the subject of stress, why it is so important to manage it and how to use Therapeutic Knitting to do so. After tea and delicious cake the final part of the day looked at the biology of pain, how it is highly advantageous to have this knowledge before experiencing pain and how therapeutic knitting can be used to change pain. As part of this section we talked about using our own natural brain chemicals and how we can learn to access these.

Participants shared personal stories and experiences which added a richness and an understanding of how Therapeutic Knitting can be used to enhance wellbeing and deal with the inevitable challenges life throws our way. Participants also commented on the large amount of information shared with several reporting valuable moments of insight.

I feel quite humbled by this feedback -

“I am grateful for a truly amazing, life-changing, brilliant brilliant day.  I attended Betsan’s Therapeutic Knitting Workshop at Black Sheep Wools in Warrington today and it was AMAZING. I knew she’d be good but I didn’t realise I’d want to shout it from the rooftops. I think it’s probably the best £40 I’ve ever spent in my life. I came away with knowledge, understanding, positivity, wisdom, tools, skills and lots more. OUTSTANDING. IT WAS OUTSTANDING!

Excuse me whilst I go and shout from the rooftops some more….”

The craft barn offers a lovely, light, spacious workshop environment that greatly enhanced the day…and then of course there are those delicious cakes!

All in all I felt it was a successful debut for my Therapeutic Knitting workshops.”

Changing colour & weaving in ends in crochet – #techniquetuesday

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in How to....... | Posted on 29-09-2015



A couple of months back we had the lovely Jane Crowfoot at the Craft Barn teaching her wonderful workshops. Whilst here we filmed Jane doing various crochet techniques for quick snippet videos to feature in our #techniquetuesday. Technique Tuesday will be the day we share a different video or instructional step by step guide. A little something for you to look to for advice, it could be knitting, crochet, cross stitch or patchwork!

Today we have a helpful video for crocheters. Jane covers how to change colour and how to weave in your ends in this easy to follow video. For anyone taking part in the Spice of Life crochet along this would be really useful too.

Spice of Life Crochet Along – Week 1

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Spice of Life CAL | Posted on 25-09-2015

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The first Spice of Life Crochet Along pattern was released into the world on Tuesday. The popularity of this crochet along has been phenomenal! As I write this email we have a whopping 3,431 members in the dedicated Spice of Life Crochet Along Facebook group. That is a lot of blankets currently being crocheted all over the world. If Black Sheep Wools staff are anything to go by the number of blankets could quite easily be double that of the members. Many Black Sheep staff are already starting their second blanket as they are itching to get their hands on the next pattern after completing week 1 so fast.

On the Facebook group we have a world map where you can pin your location. This is really interesting to look at and see how many people are hooked on this incredible crochet along blanket.

CAL Members map

This week I have staff colour choices and the first progress report (week 1) to share. It is pretty much all we have been talking about all week. Lunch breaks are starting to become more of a crochet break than a time to eat. Earlier in the week Stacey was deciding on colours and Lesley brought a big bag full of her yarn and blanket to lunch today. We have all gone CAL crazy!

Lesley has chosen a selection of Stylecraft Special Dk shades for her Spice of Life blanket. Lesley chose the colours by standing in front of the Stylecraft Special Dk and picked 13 colours that made her feel happy.

stylecraft special dk

Here is Lesley’s blanket after week 1. Looking good so far!


Emily who works in customer services is fairly new to crochet. Her previous experience has been making granny squares. She is looking forward to learning new stitches as the weeks go on. Emily’s colour choices are a mixture of both Rico Baby Classic Dk and Sirdar Snuggly Dk. A lovely muted palette chosen to complement her bedroom.


Emma has opted for Stylecraft Life Dk, originally bought with the Stylecraft Lily Pond CAL in mind. With a bit of swopping and changing Emma has settled on this pretty colour palette.


Janet has decided to use fewer colours than the suggested 13. She is making the blanket in Sirdar Supersoft Aran and plans to make it larger to use as a rug for her grand-daughter who is due in November.


Stacey is going for Stylecraft Special Dk for her Spice of Life CAL. This is what she had to say about her chosen colours – ‘I think I have my colours sorted, those on the left. The spares are on the right. I’m thinking of giving it to my son who just started Uni. His rooms are all shades of grey with claret coloured notice boards & cerise accents in the bathroom. Not sure whether to include black somewhere, my favourite (non) colour.’
Wrapping your yarn around pegs is a great way to organise your colour palette.


One Spice of Life blanket isn’t enough for Sara. She is now cracking on with her second blanket, keeping up with the weekly pattern release. This time she is using Sirdar Cotton Dk.

saras colours

Here is how it looks after week 1!


How are you getting on? Don’t forget to use the hashtag #spiceoflifecal when you share your pics on social media.

British Knitting Awards – We’re Winners!

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Company News | Posted on 24-09-2015


We have exciting news to share today. The results of the Let”s Knit – British Knitting Awards are in and the exciting news issss…….We are winners! Yipeee! We have won, not one, but two awards – Best Yarn Shop Day and Best Independent Store North of England for our wonderful Craft Barn. We are all over the moon to have won these awards and would like to thank everyone who took the time to vote for us. :)


 If you didn’t make it to our Yarn Shop Day take a look below at our video of the day. We had all sorts going on including sock knitting courtesy of blogger Winwick Mum, arm knitting with Black Sheep Stacey, crochet amigurumi with Emma Varnam amd dyeing & spinning with Cathy Wright! Phew, it really was a fun packed day.

A huge thank you to – Christine Perry, Black Sheep Stacey, Emma Varnam and Cathy Wright for making the day special with all of your amazing demonstrations, sharing your enthusiasm for your craft.

One more thing, we also came 3rd place in the Best Online Shop category which is a fantastic achievement.


Stylecraft Carnival Sweater – #tryittuesday

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in #TryitTuesday | Posted on 22-09-2015



Stylecraft Carnival Chunky is a new addition to the Black Sheep Wools yarn portfolio. We are gradually increasing our Stylecraft stock and this yarn is not one to disappoint. The yarn is 100% premium acrylic with a soft texture similar to other premium acrylic yarns in the Stylecraft range. We have 8 different kaleidoscope shades to choose from all named after a colourful carnival from around the world, with names such as Rio and Notting Hill. The pattern is 9087.

stylcraft carnival chunky

This week I was lucky to have four of our glam Black Sheep ladies ready to try on the Carnival sweater. It had lots of positive comments from customers shopping in the Craft Barn too. An easy to wear shape that will knit up in no time at all on 6mm needles.


Lesley was up first trying on the sweater with her blue blouse underneath, which works quite well, with the contrast in colour.


On to Barbra who I caught quickly whilst she was cutting fabric!


Collette liked the snuggly feel of the sweater.


Stacey already has some of the yarn clicking away on her knitting needles. She tried on the sweater layered over a long sleeve t-shirt.

A Free Blanket Pattern from Rowan

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Free Patterns | Posted on 18-09-2015

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A free pattern on a Friday? Why not, hey? We currently have this amazing crocheted blanket by Sarah Hatton ‘Ray Graduated’ as an exclusive download from Rowan. The design is made up of beautiful granny squares that have been worked starting from the corner, as opposed to the centre. Sarah has used a tonal colour palette of Rowan Pure Wool Super Wash Worsted yarn that suits the design. We have the blanket on display  in the Craft Barn at the moment and it really is a striking piece. The finished blanket is quite weighty, although with 16 100g balls I guess that’s A LOT of yarn!


Download the pattern from our free patterns page.

ray graduated rowan blanket

Spice of Life Gauge Swatch

Posted by Sara Mulvey | Posted in Spice of Life CAL | Posted on 16-09-2015



If you are planning on taking part in our fantastic Spice of Life Crochet Along with Cherry Heart, then watch my video on gauge before you begin. The first pattern is released next Tuesday (22nd September).

We also have a Facebook group set up for the CAL where you can go for advice and chat with others who are taking part – including me and other members of the Black Sheep Wools team. Find the group here or by searching for ‘Spice of Life Crochet Along‘.

Designer Q & A’s – Mr X Stitch

Posted by Amy Dagger | Posted in Designer Q&A's | Posted on 15-09-2015



We are very excited to be hosting an event with Jamie Chalmers aka Mr X Stitch at the Craft Barn in October. Jamie will be hosting two workshops and one presentation on Saturday 24th October. Take a look on our website for more information. There are places available on the AM workshop and PM workshop. It is set to be a day full of fun and cross stitch!

To coincide with the event we asked Jamie a few questions to find out more about his cross stitching and being Mr X Stitch.

mr x stitch grey

How long have you been cross stitching?

About twelve years. I was late getting into it, but I’m glad I found cross stitch in the end!

What inspired you to get into the craft?

I was looking for a pastime for a long-haul flight, found an art nouveau cross stitch kit in a shop and thought it would be funny to try such a traditionally “old lady” craft. As it turns out, it’s a brilliant thing to do and I fell in love with it – the rest, as they say, is history.

Where is your favourite place to cross stitch?

My lounge at home is definitely up there, as are Florence and New York, but more often than not I’ll end up stitching on planes and trains – cross stitch is an ideal craft for travelling and as long as your scissor blade length is under 4cm, there’s no bother with airport security.

What is the last project you finished?

The irony is that I’m so busy being Mr X Stitch that I don’t get a lot of time to do stitching. I recently finished a cross stitched version of the Nirvana album cover, which took quite a while to do – there’s a lot of blue stitching in there!

nirvana Mr X Stitch

Do you listen to music or watch TV whilst stitching? If so, what?

I like stitching while watching the TV, as I feel like I’m slightly wasting my time otherwise. Recently I’ve stitched my way through the latest series of Orange is the New Black, which was ace. Pretty much any telly is good for stitching, unless there’s subtitles..!

Are there any other crafts that you enjoy?

I’ve tried my hand at a fair few crafts, and enjoyed carpentry while I was doing it. I get a lot of enjoyment from cooking, and that’s something I’m definitely trying to improve on.

What is the most unusual design you have ever stitched?

I did a cross stitch of one of my ninja cats, stitching a black animal on black canvas. It was pretty tricky to see at times but I’m glad with the results.


If you could give us one crafty tip what would it be?

Make sure you’ve got good light! Eyesight is important, so don’t abuse it!

Whose work / designs do you admire?

There are loads of great needlework designers, but one that immediately springs to mind is Hannah Bass, whose needlepoint designs of city maps are really fresh with great colours.

Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

I’m in an enviable position to have seen thousands of pictures of embroidery over the seven years I’ve been Mr X Stitch, so I’m never short of inspiration. Trying to find an original idea when I see people doing such amazing work, now that’s the challenge!

Do you have a piece of work that you will treasure for ever? What is it?

I’ve been lucky to have collected some great embroideries over the years, swapping with people and buying the odd piece. One of my favourites is a needle felted tentacle that I got from Zoe Williams, an amazing artist from New York. It lives in my lounge and I love it.