Crocheted Dishcloths – Guest Blog Post

Posted by Amy | 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.

A new look for UK Hand Knitting

Posted by Juliet Bernard | Posted in Guest Blog | Posted on 07-12-2015

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Have you seen the new UK Hand Knitting website that has just launched?  It’s packed full of really useful information with a google map so you can find your local knitting group, a list of charities looking for knitted and crocheted items, lots of news and a very popular blog that we look forward to each week.

And it’s not just the website that has changed; UK Hand Knitting has a stylish new logo.  So why all the changes? “We are the association that represents wholesale yarn producers in the UK so our job is to promote hand knitting to as wide an audience as possible,” explains Emma  Mychajlowskyj, Promotions Chair at UK Hand Knitting. “In the last 5 years things have changed a lot in the way we communicate with people.  Social media is more important than ever and our website was getting more and more traffic from people looking for information.  So we decided to develop a fresher look with a new logo, one that reflected better what we are all about. “We really like the new design.  The colours are bright and cheerful and as you can see the central ball of yarn also looks like the union flag!

“Once we had decided on the logo the look of the website followed quite naturally.  We wanted it to be clean and easier to use so people can find information they want faster.

So far the reaction has been fantastic and the number of people visiting our website has already increased.”

The new UK Hand Knitting site is here – make sure you bookmark it and sign up for their newsletter.

ukhka

A Pairfect Pair of Socks – Part 2 – by Winwick Mum

Posted by Amy | Posted in Guest Blog | Posted on 03-11-2015

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Part 2 of Winwick Mum‘s guest blog post………..

In my last post (read part 1 here), I told you about the new Regia Pairfect yarn that I’ve been trying out.

regia pairfect

Black Sheep Wools have six colours in stock: Cinnamon Colour, Wood Colour, Fresh Colour, Waterfall Colour, Moor Colour and Oriental Colour.  They’re all striped in exactly the same way and are suitable for either men or women, which makes them pretty versatile.

I mentioned last time that I was following the guide on the ball band for a pair of size 6 socks.  The ball band doesn’t give you a pattern so you will need to know how to knit a pair of socks (and don’t forget that there are free tutorials on my blog at www.winwickmum.blogspot.com that can help you, so don’t be put off!) but it’s helpful to have the ball band guide so that your socks and stripes line up.  And boy, do they line up!  I am seriously impressed!

The ball band says that with a 64 stitch cast on, you will knit 5cm of the first colour.

regia pairfect socks

Look at that!  You’re impressed too, aren’t you?  And wait, there’s more.  The ball band also says that after the cuff there will be seven stripes of colour before the start of the heel.

regia pairfect socks

Seven stripes exactly and I was ready to start my heel!  The rest of the sock is plain colour knitting which is less exciting, but I raced down the foot of the first sock eager to find the yellow marker that would tell me where to start my second sock.  It was easy to find in the centre of the ball – you just finish off your sock and then keep pulling the yarn out until you find the yellow yarn again.  Then you find the point where the yellow ends in exactly the same way as you did with your first sock and off you go.

I was interested to see just how close a match these socks were going to be.  I was very careful about where I started both socks, but even so, I expected that it might be just a little bit out – after all, dyeing yarn isn’t an exact science … or is it?

regia pairfect socks knitted by Winwick Mum

It would appear that it is!  I was stunned and, being a stickler for matching socks, delighted to see how well they turned out.  I would definitely consider using this yarn again – it’s certainly an easy way to get a Pairfect pair of socks!

A Pairfect Pair of Socks – Part 1 – by Winwick Mum

Posted by Amy | Posted in Guest Blog | Posted on 26-10-2015

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Super sock enthusiast Christine Perry, aka blogger Winwick Mum has been testing out the new and ingenious yarn from Regia – Regia Pairfect. Read her guest blog post below……………

One of the things that I have always liked about Black Sheep Wools is that they listen to their customers.  You only have to look around the Craft Barn to see how it has evolved over the years to provide the best service; up-to-date yarns and patterns, luscious fabrics, a café with fabulous cake, workshops on a wide range of crafting subjects and more cross-stitch kits than you can shake a stick at – Black Sheep Wools really want to meet their customers’ needs.

So it is no surprise then, that when a particular customer asked about the range of sock yarn a lot (ahem – mentioning no names but you can probably guess who that was!), Black Sheep expanded their range quite considerably to shut her up meet the demand for quality sock yarns from an increasing number of new sock knitters.

Their selection of yarns is ideal for beginners and more experienced sock knitters alike, and one of the most popular brands that they stock is Regia.  My first pair of “proper” socks were made with Regia yarn and I’ve been a fan ever since.  Regia produce some fabulous self-striping yarns, which means that the yarn is striped within the ball so that it changes colour all by itself – no uncomfortable joins on your feet! – and come in various colour mixes from subtle to bold and even in Norwegian Fair isle-style stripes.  There’s no shortage of choice!

However, with those stripes comes a whole new debate – to match or not to match?  I am very definitely a sock-matcher and hyperventilate at the thought of putting odd socks on my feet.  In fact, I have been known to spend a ridiculous amount of time getting my yarn just right so that my socks will match – so Regia’s latest yarn is right up my street.  They have developed a yarn called “Pairfect” which makes it easy to match the stripes on your socks, or so the yarn band claims.  Naturally, when my friends at Black Sheep Wools threw a ball in my direction, it would have been rude to not to catch it with both hands and cast on straight away!

regia pairfect yarn

How does it work, then, this idea of easily producing two identical socks from one ball?  It sounds too good to be true!  According to the ball band, you use the yellow yarn as a guide and follow the instructions printed inside.  This does involve removing the ball band which I don’t usually tend to do as the ball will quickly unravel if the end is not secured, and once removed, I think the ball looks a little like a hot air balloon, or perhaps an old fashioned fishing float, but it’s not a big problem to tuck the end in safely.

regia pairfect yarn

 

Having made many pairs of socks, I’m about to do that “I don’t need to read the instructions” thing that my husband has often been guilty of, but on closer inspection, I’m glad that I did.

regia pairfect yarn

This is where the Pairfect yarn comes into it’s own.  First of all, it tells you exactly where to start your pair of socks – which is just as the yellow yarn ends – and it’s easy to see where that point is.

regia pairfect sock

Next, and most helpful of all, the ball band tells you how many stitches to cast on for the size of sock you want to make.  It’s never an exact science as the number can change from yarn to yarn even if it is the same weight, so it’s very useful to have this guide.   I’m making a size 6 pair of socks so will be casting on 64 stitches.  In my next post, I’ll show you how I get on!

First Therapeutic Knitting Workshop – Guest Blog Post

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

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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.”

What is a CAL?

Posted by Amy | Posted in Guest Blog, Spice of Life CAL | Posted on 08-09-2015

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To coincide with the launch of our exclusive CAL collaboration with the wonderful blogger Cherry Heart, we asked the talented lady behind our blanket design to help explain what is a CAL?

Find more information about our CAL over on our dedicated Spice of Life Crochet Along page and on Cherry Heart‘s latest blog post!

cherry heart crochet along

What is a CAL?
It’s short for Crochet Along. A Crochet Along is a group of crocheters who decide to work on a particular pattern at the same time and share their progress with each other. CAL’s are a great way for crocheters to chat to each other, compare pattern notes, ask questions and encourage each other to finish their projects. Usually a CAL will focus on one particular project, like we are doing here with the Spice of Life Blanket, but some are broader and crocheters work of a type of project or the patterns from a particular designer or book together.

Who can join in?
Our Spice of Life CAL is open to absolutely anyone who would like to join us in making the Spice of Life Blanket. You don’t need to sign up to anything to become a part of the CAL. Just join us each week for the new updates and you can follow along. Of course, it makes it much more fun if you share your projects and join the groups too. But you can join in as much or as little as you would like.

How can I get involved?
The joy of a CAL is sharing your own work and seeing everyone’s projects, not to mention joining in with the general chit chat and checking on are on the right track. You’ll be able to do that by joining the Spice of Life Facebook Group which we’ll be opening soon and by sharing your progress pictures with us on Instagram, using the tag #SpiceofLifeCAL.

What skills do I need to have to take part?
This CAL pattern is aimed at beginner crocheters who would like to learn a little bit more. So if you’d managed a couple of granny squares and are ready for the next step, this is the project for you. Of course, more experienced crocheters are very welcome too, you might already know the stitches but we hope you’ll enjoy working up the pattern with us all the same.

Will you be doing any more CAL’s soon?
Well there is nothing planned just yet, but maybe if this one goes well… who knows?

Garden Route Blanket By Emma Varnam

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

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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.”

Sarah Shrimpton aka Annaboo’s House

Posted by Amy | Posted in Guest Blog | Posted on 14-05-2015

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Today we have a guest bog post from Annaboo’s House blogger – Sarah Shrimpton.

“Well, hello there!
It’s so nice to be somewhere new, for a change.
The lovely people here at Black Sheep Wools asked me to write a guest post, so I thought I’d tell you a little bit about me, my crochet and my blog.

Me? I’m a wife and mother of two, who once upon a time had a real job as a primary school teacher. And I loved it. Crochet? No. I’d never tried it. Knitting? Disastrous. Let’s not go there.

But obviously I did learn to crochet. It was just before Christmas 2010; we had relocated to Sussex the year before and I had given up my career to be a full-time mum. I was in desperate need to keep my brain active and so decided to learn a new skill. I’m a fairly creative person and decided on crochet, having been totally swayed by the cute crocheted toys I had seen online! And so, I armed myself with a few good books and taught myself in the evenings.

It was fairly slow going to start with and I remember just making hundreds of stitch samples, trying to understand what I was doing. I found it difficult to count the stitches and couldn’t see where to put my hook. And then it clicked. I was trying to make a toy and realised I needed a stitch marker. That was it. From then on I could see the stitches and count them, too.

It was about that time that I decided to start a blog – Annaboo’s House. I had read lots and lots on my learning-to-crochet journey and so many bloggers had inspired me, that I wanted to join them. More as a way of recording my progress and keeping an online diary than anything else.

And from there, things happened.
I realised I could create my own patterns, and with a lot of trial and error I began designing new things and blogging about them. At the same time, people liked the things I made, so I started to sell them. This was great fun, but I eventually tired of making the same thing repeatedly. So I focused on designing and began to sell my patterns online. I continued to offer lots of free patterns and tutorials on my blog, too (and still do).

And this brings me nearly up to date. It was through my blog that my publisher found me and asked me to write ‘Beginner’s Guide to Crochet’. And it was through my Etsy shop that a magazine approached me and asked if I’d like to design for them.
My blog is a still a place to share what I’m doing. I don’t post as often as I did in the early days, but I try to keep it fresh and up to date and without it, I’d frankly be quite lost!

I’ve been lucky to work alongside Black Sheep Wools for quite a while now. Firstly, designing the ever-popular Winter Dolls, then last year, a big Christmas Tree and just recently a fabulous beach bag set! But it doesn’t stop there..

clutch2

On July 16th I’ll be at the Craft Barn, where I’ll be book signing and answering any questions, so come and say hi! And on the 17th I’ll be hosting an all-day workshop, where you can learn how to make a pretty crocheted clutch / purse. Spaces are limited, so remember to book early to avoid disappointment. I can’t wait to see you all very soon!

Wishing you all a happy week,
Sarah x”

slices

 

A sneak peek at the exclusive Black Sheep Wools projects by Sarah Shrimpton. Patterns coming soon!

Double Knitting (the technique)

Posted by Juliet Bernard | Posted in Guest Blog, Knitting | Posted on 23-04-2015

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I love to teach unusual techniques that produce intriguing results but are actually quite straightforward.  One of these is double knitting – a double-sided fabric that gives you a super-warm squidgy fabric that looks like stocking stitch on both sides.  There is no ‘back’ to your work and you can do complex intarsia or Fair Isle designs without ever having to weave in the ends.

You can use the technique for everything from hats to socks but in the workshop on 29th May we will be trying out double knitting using a specially designed coaster. I will be taking you through the different ways to cast on and off, create neat edges and master the double knitting technique.

Double knitting workshop

Some people use double knitting to knit two socks at the same time, one inside the other.  In Leo Tolstoy’s epic, War and Peace, the nanny knits a pair of socks in exactly this way so the technique has definitely been around for quite a while.

This way of knitting is particularly exciting.  As you knit each row you see the pattern emerge on both sides of your work, one side mirroring the other. Once you get used to thinking about the stitches in pairs (one for each side) it’s really quite easy and very addictive. I’d love to see you at the workshop and if you do book a place there is an extra free scarf pattern as my gift to you on the day. If you can’t attend, Black Sheep Wools have a great book for you called Double Knitting by Anja Belle.

Stuart Hillard GBSB Guest Blog Post – The Final!

Posted by Amy | Posted in Guest Blog | Posted on 18-03-2015

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stuart hillard

The Final

Another season of The Great British Sewing Bee came to a close last Thursday and the knives (and scissors and pins) were out. This year’s contestants were, I think, the most competitive bunch so far and the final was as tense as I’ve seen it. Three tasks, three finalists and one winner to crown…or give a golden dress form to.

Everyone seemed to pull everything they had out of the bag, including fairy lights and a pair of “skanklets”… no garment should ever have the work “skank” in it Neil, sorry old love. The final “avant garde”garments were, erm, interesting and certainly not what I was expecting… This season of the sewing bee has been unusual in that the contestants have been expected to draft a lot more of their own patterns and it’s certainly moved quite a way from the original show.

Over the last six weeks we have seen some truly exceptional sewing, records have been beaten (one contestant winning all three challenges) and some really amazing garments have been produced.

The winner, Matt, looked completely gob-smacked by the judges decision!

Photo credit - getreading.co.uk

Photo credit – getreading.co.uk