Yarn Shop Day 2017

Posted by Amy | Posted in Company News | Posted on 19-04-2017

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This will be our fourth year celebrating Yarn Shop Day in association with Let’s Knit and Let’s Get Crafting magazines at Black Sheep Wools in Warrington. Time certainly does fly by, it has hard to believe it was 2014 when Lousia Harding kicked off the first ever day of Yarn Shop Day celebrations at the Craft Barn. For those who haven’t heard of Yarn Shop Day, it is basically a day to celebrate and support your local bricks and mortar yarn store. Local yarn shops are not so common on the high street these days. If you are lucky enough to live local to one, whether it is the Black Sheep Craft Barn or further afield, wherever you live in the UK be sure to visit on 6th May 2017.

Over the years we have had so many well-known faces of the yarn world at the Craft Barn – Emma Varnam (crochet), Cathy Wright (spinning & dyeing), Sue Pinner (crochet), Beryl Weir (weaving), Winwick Mum (sock knitting) and Crafternoon Treats (crochet). Plus, demonstrations from our talented Craft Barn team too. We always like to mix it up with a variety of interesting folk who do various crafts with yarn. This year is set to be just as fun as ever with yet another fantastic line-up……knit and crochet designer, Sarah Hatton and crochet designer and blogger, Emma Varnam.

Not only do we have all of this planned, we will also have a glass of fizz for everyone on arrival! There will be fab raffle prizes (including the Stylecraft Treasure Hunt bundle) and 50 goody bags to give away to the first 50 people to spend £20 or more in store. All procceds from the raffle will be donated to Alder Hey Hospital.

Yarn Shop Day – Sarah Hatton

Sarah Hatton is a super talented (and super lovely with it) knitwear designer. You will recognise her name from being featured in many Rowan publications over the years and in her own books, most recently Modern Mini Knits. Garments from this book will be on display for you to discover Sarah’s designs. Sarah also teaches workshops too, having taught many here at the Craft Barn in Warrington.

Knitting Tips & Tricks | 10.30am – 11.30am | 1pm – 2pm
Sarah will be holding drop-in sessions where she will be showing knitting tips and tricks that will improve the overall finish of your knits, sharing her most favoured methods of sewing up and finishing. She will be happy to answer your knitting questions and help to advise on your next project too.

Knitting SOS with Sarah Hatton | 2pm – 3pm
Bring in your latest project for a quick once over. Sarah will be on hand to help with any knitting mishaps that you might have encountered recently.

Yarn Shop Day – Emma Varnam

Emma Varnam is a crochet designer and blogger who was part of our Yarn Shop Day celebrations back in 2015 (we won Best Yarn Shop Day Experience’ in 2015). Emma is back for 2017 with even more crochet delights. She has been busy designing gorgeous crocheted characters for Debbie Bliss and having her latest book published – Cute Crocheted Animals. Enjoy taking a peek at her designs and having a chat to the lovely Emma on the day. If you have already made one of her animals bring in store, Emma would love to see!

Amigurumi Crochet How to | 10am – 11.30am | 1.30pm – 3pm

Emma will be sharing her top tips on how to create cute features for the faces of your adorable animals. A slight slip of the stitch here or another stitch there can really change the face from being happy to angry. She will also be demonstrating working in the round and how to attach limbs.

Crochet in Caron Simply Soft

Posted by Sara Mulvey | Posted in Sara's Blog, Yarn Reviews | Posted on 12-04-2017

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Now as you now I don’t need much of an excuse to start a new project. Show me a ball of yarn and I’m away. So can you imagine what happened when I was presented with a box of 55 balls of yarn! Oh my giddy Aunt, I went new project bonkers and started two in one day!

The yarn in question is the incredible, and aptly named, Caron Simply Soft. An aran weight 100% acrylic yarn that you can machine wash and tumble dry. The 55 colours mean you can be a true artist and create any palette you like.

My first thought was granny squares. I went for muted berry tones and a starburst design. Because it’s an aran weight the squares grow in no time. The treble stitch shows of the subtle sheen of the yarn and I know the blanket will have a great weight to it. I made three or four squares before I changed my mind. (I told you I went slightly bonkers). The colours would look even better as a V stitch.

I love the V stitch design. I’ve used it before on both the ‘Spice of Life’ blanket and ‘Highland Heathers’. It blends the colours beautifully and crochets up in no time. I’ve only done a small sample of it so far but I love it. So watch this space as I think it will be a WIP in no time!

I was playing with these yarns on Mother’s Day which meant I had much more time to play. It was my first Mother’s Day at home for a few years; I’m usually away at a show. So I made the most of it and insisted on Matt & the girls doing everything. This meant I could crochet all day long, and I did.

The sun was shining so after a morning of V stitch I picked out six new shades that reminded me of spring and sat outside and started a baby blanket. I don’t need a baby blanket but that’s what the yarn wanted to be and who am I to argue. The granny squares are in a mix of five bright shades, pink, blue, green, yellow and purple and I will edge them all together in white. Wow! I love it! I’ve not got much time to do it at the moment but I’m about half way through and hoping to get it finished next week as I have a few days off. Watch this space!

Decorating an Easter Tree

Posted by Amy | Posted in Free Patterns | Posted on 05-04-2017

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An Easter tree is something I hadn’t heard of until very recently. A Christmas tree, yes, but not an Easter tree? The tradition for an Easter Egg tree originates in Germany, it is known as Ostereierbaum (Easter egg tree)Traditionally branches of trees and bushes outdoors are decorated with beautiful egg creations, with branches being brought indoors to display eggs too. It really is a bright and colourful affair with so many designs and patterns adorning the eggs. Take a look at the photo below and you can see what I mean. Our tree looks a bit sparse when you see this one!

In recent years many crafty variations of Easter trees have sprung up on blogs and  Pinterest alike. In particular knitted and crochet decoration designs. To celebrate Easter this year we wanted to have our own Easter tree in the Craft Barn, so I set about on the hunt for some ornament patterns. These projects all make fantastic stash busters too. There is something quite intriguing about bringing all of your oddments together and seeing the unusual colour combinations clash or compliment, yet somehow work. If you are after more co-ordination and a colour theme tying all of your ornaments together then why not try a cotton yarn such as Rico Essentials Cotton Dk or Stylecraft Classique Cotton Dk. Lots of colour choice and all in 50g balls too.

First up are the sweet little Easter eggs I found on In the Yarn Garden blog, a crocheted design that you can go to town with colour. Use one for the front, one for the back and one for joining. Mix and match your colours and make lots of variations.

I spotted this Birdie Decoration on Attic24 blog. Lucy has designed this crocheted bird which looks fab with added buttons and beads to finish.

Sardines for Tea have designed the cutest range of Easter bags and baskets for their knitted characters to carry their Easter eggs. This free pattern is available here. For more info visit Sardines for Tea Facebook page.

We don’t have these on our tree, but here are a couple more ideas for your Easter tree.

Purl Soho Easter Egg Ornament

Little Cotton Rabbits Easter Egg Decoration

Here is our tree full of lots of colourful decorations. You don’t necessarily need a tree, just a few loose branches grouped in a vase would work for a more rustic feel. If you are popping into the Craft Barn from now until Easter you will find the tree on display in store. Thanks to our very speedy knitter (and crocheter) Sue for making these ornaments in record breaking time. A selection of Stylecraft oddments have been used including Batik Dk and Special Dk.

If you make an Easter tree of your own please share away on social media. Tag @blacksheepwools and use the hashtag #blacksheepwools.

Knitting Starter Kit

Posted by Amy | Posted in Knitting, Knitting Essentials | Posted on 27-03-2017

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Before you embark on your knitting journey it is worth setting out on your quest with all of the essential knitting tools. Along the way you will probably add to this knitting starter kit or find you prefer variations, such as working with circular needles rather than simply straight pins. It’s all part of learning something new, settling with what is comfortable and works for you personally. Speak to any knitter and their knitting kit will vary from another. We have just created a guide to what we would suggest are the essentials for a knitting starter kit.

With these few items, all you need now is some yarn and perhaps a pattern if you wish to start making something straight away.

Knitting Starter Kit


The Essentials

 

Knitting Needles – a selection of knitting needles are always handy to have in your knitting bag when you enjoy working with various weights of yarn. The knitting needles you require will vary depending on what you are planning to make. If you plan to work with a DK (Double Knitting) weight of yarn then 3.25mm and 4mm will be your go to needles for most standard DK patterns. Knitting needles can be made of different materials too – metal, plastic, bamboo or rosewood.

Scissors / Snips – a small pair of embroidery scissors or snips are super useful to have in your knitting kit. It is a good idea to keep them in your knitting bag at all times, as you don’t want to have to go searching at that crucial point in your knitting. Snips are a great invention as you can put a lid on them to protect your rummaging fingers from the blade.

Tape Measure – a very useful tool to have in your knitting starter kit. There is always an occasion where you will need to keep an eye on the length of your piece of knitting. We’ve all been there and done that when it comes to knitting too much and having to pull it back. Staying on track and being aware of how your knitting is progressing is a good habit to get into from the beginning.

Stitch Markers – there are a variety of different stitch markers available, split ring, locking and ornamental. Many people find their own personal favourite as they become familiar with knitting.

Knitters Needle (Sewing up needle) – no knitter can be without a sewing up needle. A must have item whether you are making a project that requires joining together or even if you just need to sew in your ends. A handy tip would be tip keep it in a pouch or attach to a stray ball band so it doesn’t get lost at the bottom of your knitting bag.

Notepad & pen – a very useful pair of items to have to hand to make notes about the pattern you are working on. When you are following a knitting pattern, it is good to get into the habit of writing down where you are up to, so that you can easily pick up where you left off next time.

Crochet Hook it may sound strange and you might think you are now reading the essential items for a crochet starter kit, you’re not, it is still knitting. A crochet hook is a life saver if you drop a stitch in your knitting. Simply catch the stitch and crochet back up to the top.

Non – essential (but still useful)

 

Cable Needle – once you are confident with your knit and purl stitch and fancy tackling something new, such as a cable pattern, then you will require a cable needle.

Stitch Holder – if you are following a knitting pattern it will often require that you leave a piece of knitting on a stitch holder rather than casting off. You can then free up your knitting needles to knit the next section of your pattern.

Nappy Pins – are mini stitch holders really. Very good for when working on smaller projects, to hold small sections of knitting.

Row Counter – these little gadgets can simply be slipped onto your knitting needle, so that you can manually adjust the number after every row or stitch repeat completed so that you don’t lose track of the pattern.

Yarn Bobbinsare used for colour work. When you need small quantities of each colour you can wrap the yarn onto a yarn bobbin and use it from there. This helps to avoid any major tangles with full balls of yarn too.

Yarn Guide an extra piece of equipment that some knitters find helpful when doing Fair Isle. It helps to keep the yarn from getting tangled when working with two colours simultaneously.

Stitch Stoppers – attach to the tips of your knitting needles to prevent your knitting from dropping off the end when in storage.

Knitters Marking Pinswill help to hold your knitted pieces together temporarily whilst sewing up.

Sara has been looking in her knitting kit, sharing her essential items below on our YouTube channel.

The Latest Baby Blanket Patterns

Posted by Sara Mulvey | Posted in Sara's Blog | Posted on 20-03-2017

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Now you know I love a blanket and it appears I’m not the only one. Sirdar have launched some great new baby blanket designs for the Spring that make me want to find a baby to knit for! My absolute favourite is the Rabbit & the Bear Blanket (4759). Knitted in the smooch Sirdar Snuggly Snowflake DK, these are so great and they would make a perfect present.

There are always lots of designs for crocheted blankets but not so many knitted, well Sirdar are doing their best to change this. They have released one pattern with four completely different knitted baby blankets on them (4749). One features cables, the next is a leaf pattern another has a subtle diamond pattern on it, Last but not least is the square striped blanket, in fresh spring colours. A great design that would be perfect for a relatively new knitter too.

If you want a super easy blanket, take a look at pattern 4758. Knitted in the classic that is Sirdar Baby Crofter Dk, it shows off this yarn beautifully. It would be great to knit in the car (as long as you are not driving). No shaping, no counting – just perfect!

If these baby blanket patterns aren’t what you are looking for, then take a look at more of our latest arrivals from Sirdar.

Emma Wright at Black Sheep Wools

Posted by Amy | Posted in Company News | Posted on 16-03-2017

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On Saturday 25th March we have young knitwear (and crochet) designer Emma Wright coming in store, to the Craft Barn for a Designer Showcase day. Emma will be in store from 10am – 3pm, surrounded by lots and lots of her superb designs for you to have a nosey and a natter to the designer herself. Back in November we did a Designer Q & A interview with Emma. Read the blog post here.

Emma Wright has worked with many well-known brands, designing for – Debbie Bliss, West Yorkshire Spinners and Designer Yarns to name but a few. If you are looking for inspiration for a new project or want a little advice on a knitting query, Emma will be on hand to help. For adults and teens who would like to learn to knit, Emma will be hosting two learn to knit drop in sessions tthroughout the day. Why not pull up a chair and join in!

Learn to Knit Drop in Session
10.30am – 11.30am | 1.30pm – 2.30pm

Emma will be back on Thursday 27th April teaching her Cable & Bobble Hand Warmers workshop. The beautiful hand warmer pattern is featured in her West Yorkshire Spinners Illustrious book. Each participant can choose their prefered shade of Illustrious Dk yarn to use on the day. Emma will teach you how to do the perfect bobble and learn how to do cable. Plus, all full day workshops include a delicious finger buffet style lunch, refreshments and a scrumptious slice of homemade cake served late afternoon. All in all a fantastic day out that includes luxury yarn and cake too!

 

British Craft Awards 2017

Posted by Amy | Posted in Company News | Posted on 10-03-2017

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It’s time to celebrate folks! We are super excited to announce that we came 2nd place in the British Craft Awards 2017 for Knitting Retailer of the Year. It is a fantastic achievement that we are all very pleased about at Black Sheep Wools. Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for us and all your continued support. We have lots of new and exciting things coming up in 2017. Keep your eyes peeled for new yarny delights landing on our website very soon.

The winners in each category were announced at the Stitches exhibition in February. Take a look at theyarnloop blog post for full listings of all winners and runners up.

Kaffe Fassett & Brandon Mably at Black Sheep Wools

Posted by Sara Mulvey | Posted in Patchwork & Quilting | Posted on 03-03-2017

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As I write this blog post the legend that is Kaffe Fassett is sitting in Stephen’s office, listening to Radio 4, working on a needlepoint. How utterly amazing is that!

I remember hearing his name lots when I was a young Saturday girl in our shop in Sale, Manchester. As my own knitting & sewing skills have progressed my admiration of him has only grown. His use of colour is simply breath taking and his philosophy ‘keep learning’ is infectious.

I have been lucky enough to meet Kaffe a couple of times before this week. But nothing prepared me for his visit to Black Sheep Wools. I picked Kaffe and Brandon Mably, his design partner & studio manager, up from Warrington Train Station on Wednesday evening. I was so nervous! I made Matt clean the car (a rare occurrence) and drove so carefully. I had horrors of bumping the car with them both in it.

We made our way to the Craft Barn and their reaction to our beautiful shop was amazing. They both loved it. The fabrics were inspirational and they had never seen a yarn collection like it in the UK. It all boded well for the next day.

Julie and Jayne in their Kaffe Fassett aprons

Kaffe & Brandon ran a patchwork colour workshop on the first day. It was about inspiring people and being confident in your colour choices. Big bold patterns were called for and the designs that the group came up with were breath taking.

In the evening we had booked Kaffe to do a ‘Lecture in Colour’. He talked us through his inspirations and life, both were fascinating. He takes his inspiration from so many different places, a world traveller with an eye for detail. From paint pots to Irish steps, pebbles on the beach, to paint disappearing down a plug hole – wow, wow, wow!

He is a natural orator. I have heard him speak three times now and each time it has been completely different. The round of applause was loud & long, I think we have all been inspired. The talk in the shop today has been of colour and creativity. I want to go home this weekend and make! Just the cleaning & the ironing to do first!

If you need some inspiration take a look at his books and fabrics on our site, I will be thumbing through ‘Quilts in Italy’ tonight if you need me!

Counting down to Kaffe Fassett

Posted by Amy | Posted in Company News | Posted on 01-03-2017

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Preparations are well underway in the Craft Barn for the arrival of Kaffe Fassett & Brandon Mably tomorrow. New fabrics have been added to our already extensive selection, fabulous knitted garments from Kaffe’s latest collection with Rowan are out on display – a general theme of vibrant colour is filling the Craft Barn.

There are a couple of bits and bobs to add in today, then we are ready for Kaffe’s Diamond Quilt workshop, followed by his Glorious Colour lecture in the evening. Then on Friday Brandon Mably will be teaching his Persian Poppy knitting workshop.

If you didn’t manage to book a place on one of their workshops or the lecture this time around; worry not, they will be back at the Craft Barn in July.

 

 

 

 

Knitting Needle Conversion Chart

Posted by Amy | Posted in Knitting, Knitting Essentials | Posted on 23-02-2017

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When learning to knit one of the first hurdles is understanding knitting needles. There are so many different sizes to choose from for various thickness of yarn, it is important to clarify this before you even begin choosing yarn. Knitting needles can come in many different guises from many lengths of straight pins to double pointed needles (DPN’s) or circular. Have you been given someone’s old set of knitting needles and can’t quite fathom what all the numbers mean? We are here to help!

In the UK and Europe most modern knitting patterns now use metric terminology for all knitting needles. Therefore all knitting needles are sized in milimetres (mm).  This is quite easy to understand as the higher the number in mm, the larger the needle thickness will be.

If you were to find yourself a vintage pattern then you will notice a big difference. Needles were once sized differently, the higher the number, the smaller the needle size, e.g. what we now class as a 2mm knitting needle was actually a UK 14. A UK 14 was the smallest available, with the numbers decreasing all the way down to a 10mm – UK 000.

To add another spanner in the works there is just one more set of needle sizes to keep an eye out for, US sizes. On US knitting patterns you will see needle sizes listed from 0 upwards. Zero is the smallest size knitting needle, in metric a 2mm.

It is always helpful to have a quick reference tool to look back on, so we have created this useful knitting needle conversion chart.

Knitting Needle Conversion Chart

Metric UK US
2mm 14 0
2.25mm 13 1
2.5mm    
2.75mm 12 2
3mm 11  
3.25mm 10 3
3.5mm   4
3.75mm 9 5
4mm 8 6
4.5mm 7 7
5mm 6 8
5.5mm 5 9
6mm 4 10
6.5mm 3 10 ½
7mm 2  
7.5mm 1  
8mm 0 11
9mm 00 13
10mm 000 15
12mm   17
15mm   19
20mm   36