Introducing A Spicier Life Crochet Along

Posted by Amy | Posted in Company News, Crochet | Posted on 14-09-2017

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Today we have exciting news to share. Do you remember the Spice of Life crochet along from 2015? If you do, then prepare yourself, something amazing is on its way. For those who don’t, hop on over to Instagram and search #spiceoflifecal or visit our Facebook group and you will see what all the fuss is about. We were all captivated by the original Spice of Life blanket, it’s hard to believe 2 years have gone by since it launched. It was a phenomenal success and is still continuing to be a popular make amongst all levels of crocheter today.

It is time to announce Spice of Life part two – A Spicier Life Crochet Along. We have once again teamed up with crochet super star Sandra Paul (Cherry Heart blogger) to bring you yet another fabulous crochet along project. Secret talks with Sandra have been going on since early 2017 and we are soooo happy to be able to share our news with you after all this time. Sandra has hand picked four colourways for this CAL. The original colourway in Debbie Rialto DK – Jaipur, with an alternative in Stylecraft Special DK – Jaipur. There are 2 more options both in Stylecraft Special DK – Taj Mahal and Bollywood. All of the colour packs are available to purchase on pre-order. Take a look here.

If you are joining in with A Spicier Life Crochet Along, don’t forget to use the hashtag #spicierlifecal on social media so we can see your progress. We have also set up a new Facebook group – A Spicier Life Crochet Along.

Before full details are released on Tuesday 19th September 2017, we caught up with Sandra to find out more about A Spicier Life Crochet Along. Read our natter with Sandra below.

How did the popularity of the Spice of Life CAL affect your world of crochet?

Well the whole experience was completely surprising in so many ways and the way it took off in the crochet world was the most amazing thing.  I really didn’t expect people to react so well to it and enjoy it so much, although of course, I’m so happy they did.  I ended up learning a lot from the experience which is always useful and it brought more attention in a way I’m not used to.  Luckily though the crochet world is a pretty kind and wonderful place and I got to meet some lovely people as a result of the CAL.

What is the inspiration behind ‘A Spicier Life’ crochet along blanket design?

I really wanted something that would relate to the original Spice of Life blanket and I still had plenty of ideas for stitch patterns that I would love to use, so in a way it all came together quite easily this time round.  The colours, my usual starting place for any project, were definitely influenced from the ‘spicy’ name of the original and I immediately starting thinking of what, for me, represent some more far off and exotic places in the world like India.  The imagery that I found captured that idea perfectly are also the reason behind the colours and names of the yarn packs.

There are so many gorgeous stitches in ‘A Spicier Life’, lots of texture and pattern, which is your favourite stitch?

I always find it hard to pick favourites, but I’m really enjoying the more textured stitches at the moment, so I like the Victory Puffs because they are so soft and I love the Bobbles for the little pops of colour.

What skill level is required for the Spicier Life CAL? Is it suitable for a beginner?

It really overlaps quite nicely with the Spice of Life on the skill level, starting with easy stitches and then working up to intermediate ones and then taking things a little further. I’ll be introducing some new stitches and even a few slightly more advanced ones.  I wouldn’t recommend this pattern to absolute beginners but anyone is confident with the basics and working back and forth in rows should be able to give it a go as there will be extra help to explain all the new stitch patterns.

How did you find the Debbie Bliss Rialto DK to work with?

An absolute joy!  It’s a wonderful to the touch, so soft and bouncy and it glides over the hook like a dream.  It’s also the perfect choice for a project like this as the merino means that any slight changes in tension as you work through the different stitch patterns can just be blocked out and disappear away at the end.

What other projects have you got on at the moment? We spotted you on the home page of Ravelry a couple of months back. That must have been exciting!

The Ravelry front page was a real surprise and I must admit, I felt quite honoured to be featured!  Just lately I’ve been catching up on some commission work, as it’s easier to fit a little crochet in than find computer time during the summer holidays, but hopefully I’ll be able to get back to writing up a few new patterns soon.

What is your creative process? Where do you enjoying working?

My process tend to vary depending on what project I’m making.  In an ideal world I like to make up samples to test out ideas and check I’m getting the look and feel that I’m after before I take things further but sometimes it’s a little more off the cuff than that.  I do like to keep a note book where I sketch out ideas though, sometimes my hook can’t keep up!

I spend most of my time up in my ‘Craft House’, a little space that I have at the end of the garden.  The reality is that a lot of my time is spend at the computer desk I have up there these days, but of course I’ve made sure I have a cozy corner for those special occasions when I do get to play with yarn.  It’s nice and near the window so I can take advantage of any sun.

Do you have any future crochet plans in the pipeline that you can share? A sneaky peek, perhaps?

I have a couple of projects using Batik DK that I’m having fun with at the moment and I’m looking forward to those coming out.  One is for a magazine feature and one will be on the blog in October, I can give you a little glimpse of those!

Cute Comfort Knits Book Party with Jem Weston

Posted by Amy | Posted in Company News | Posted on 01-09-2017

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Next Tuesday at the Craft Barn we are having a tea party in our fabulous Rowan area. Jem Weston will be stopping by at Black Sheep Wools on her book tour from 11am – 3pm. She is visiting various yarn shops (find more info on her blog) taking all of the cute creatures and accessories from her latest book – Cute Comfort Knits along for the ride. There will be tasty party nibbles and a glass of bubbly for everyone!

Jem’s latest book is an absolute delight. Page after page of enticing design, you will find your knitting to do list grow as you flick through the book. Thoughtfully styled photography will have you wanting to jump into the pages and be surrounded by all of the tactile knits. It would make a fantastic gift for a knitter, maybe with a few pages bookmarked of the items you would love 😉

 

 

Knitting after a stroke

Posted by Amy | Posted in Knitting | Posted on 25-08-2017

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A couple of weeks ago I was introduced to an amazingly inspirational lady in the Craft Barn. A lady called Jean Brammer, who was in store for a fun day out exploring the Craft Barn with her knitting group – The Stroke Association Macclesfield Knit & Natter. Eight years ago Jean had a stroke and was left paralysed in her left arm. For a knitter like Jean this was devastating news, to learn that she was no longer going to be able to enjoy her favourite hobby. An avid knitter, Jean has made allsorts over the years for her children as babies, through to adulthood and then grandchildren. Knitting after a stroke didn’t seem like an option but Jean had other plans.

With four great-grandchildren Jean was determined to find a way to knit again. Jean searched online for advice but to no avail, a replacement for her left arm was what she required. This was where she had the idea of using a clamp to hold her left needle still whilst she manoeuvred the yarn and knitted just with her right hand. At first Jean tried to use an artist’s vice, but this was not strong enough to hold her needle and stay put. She then purchased a Stanley workman’s vice, which worked! Members of the knitting group Jean attends sent in a selection of photos. See below Jean with her vice in action knitting after having a stroke.

Jean’s great-grandson all snug and cosy in his new blanket.

Jean’s top tips for anyone who has suffered a stroke and is in a similar situation to herself –

  • Make sure that you get a decent vice that is strong enough.
  • When sewing up pin garment pieces to a memory foam pillow and sew up with right hand.

Jean was extremely patient in the process working out a new way of knitting. After much perseverance it took only a few months for her to be able to knit again. Starting off with simple dish cloths Jean soon built up to knitting blankets and many more baby makes once again. She even finished off a cardigan for her daughter that she was part way through when she had the stroke.

It was a pleasure to meet such a strong and inspirational lady. Thank you to Jean for letting me share your story. Here is a photo of Jean with a baby shawl she knitted for one of her great-grandchildren.

 

Meet our Rowan Consultant – Melanie Boocock

Posted by Amy | Posted in Meet the team | Posted on 18-08-2017

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We are still very excited about the Black Sheep Craft Barn becoming Rowan’s Flagship Store of the North of England. Our Rowan area is just delightful, we can’t stop talking about it! This week I interviewed our Rowan Consultant, Melanie Boocock to find out a bit more about her love of knitting and crochet. Melanie is in store every Wednesday and Saturday on hand to help with all of your Rowan queries, offering advise to help choose your next Rowan project. Next time you are visiting why not pop over and say hello.

On Wednesday 23rd August we are having a mini celebration in store for the arrival of new season Rowan yarns and books. Why not pop in for a glass of bubbly and chat to Melanie from 11am – 2pm to discover what’s new from Rowan.

Let’s go back to the very beginning….when did you learn to crochet / knit? Who taught you?

I learned the basics when I was very young from my Mum and my Nanna. My Nanna and Great Nanna were always knitting and crocheting. I wasn’t very interested then. I wish I’d taken more notice. I didn’t take it up again until much, much later. I then became totally addicted to knitting first, then added crochet.

Can you remember the very first thing that you made?

Not really. I do remember knitting with really big, wooden needles and chunky blue yarn. I think it was probably destined to be a dolls blanket. I don’t remember what happened to the knitting but I still have the needles.

We have enjoyed having you here at the Craft Barn teaching Rowan workshops, it was great to hear the news that you were going to be our Rowan Consultant. How are you finding your new role?

It was very exciting for me too. I love it. Who wouldn’t enjoy working in such a beautiful environment, surrounded by so much inspiration?

What does your role as Rowan Consultant involve? What do you have planned for Black Sheep Craft Barn customers?

I’ll be available to help choose projects, select yarn and put colours together. I will offer tips and advice about knitting and crochet techniques. I’ve taught Professional Finishing for years so I can help with seams, picking up stitches etc. If you fancy trying out a new technique I can help you get started and answer any pattern queries. Look out for events and demonstrations in the future. I am hosting some sessions for the Lisa Richardson Crochet along throw which started on 3rd August. Join me at the Craft Barn on 16th and 26th Aug between 10.30-12 (more dates will follow).

Difficult question, but if you had to pick just one which would you say is your favourite Rowan yarn?

Too hard. I really love Summerlite 4ply. It’s a beautiful, soft cotton yarn.  My favourite cardigan is Armandier by Martin Storey. I wear it a lot. My favourite techniques are fairisle and lace. For those I couldn’t live without our gorgeous Felted Tweed or really luxurious Kidsilk Haze. For crochet I really love Cotton Glacé.

Do you have a colour that you are always attracted to in yarn?

I love colour, in particular blues, pinks and purples. That could be jewel tones or pastels and everything in between.

What is your top knitting tip and top crochet tip?

It has to be take the time to make a tension swatch. This will make sure you have a fabric you are happy with and a finished item that fits.

You have already seen the new yarns and pattern books coming up for autumn winter 2017. Can you give us an idea of the things that we can expect to see? 

There are beautiful, jewel tones and softer blues and neutrals. The collection for Autumn/Winter showcases some very luxurious fibres. Techniques include fabulous cables, gorgeous colour work, pretty lace and beads. I particular like the styling in Rowan Magazine No. 62 and a collection of designs for men by Martin Storey. There are some lovely patterns for accessories too, perfect for gift knitting. Look out for Georgia Farrell. I think her designs are stunning. There’s also a cute collection by Jem Weston to look forward to.

What projects do you already have on your to-do list for autumn?

I will be doing the Lisa Richardson Crochet along throw in Felted Tweed. I also plan to knit a lovely little cardigan, designed by Martin Storey, in one of our select yarns. I have my eye on a long cardigan using Kid Classic. Crochet, with Felted Tweed and Kidsilk Haze held together, may also feature. In Autumn I start my present making. There are some accessories that will be perfect. That’s probably enough to be going on with………

Where is your favourite place to knit or crochet?

I knit or crochet anywhere and everywhere. At home I sit on my sofa or in the garden. I knit in cafés, on trains, buses and boats. I was once knitting in a beautiful café in the Museum of Scotland, in Edinburgh. I got up to go and tell my husband something. I took my knitting with me. Unfortunately I left the ball of yarn behind. I managed to wrap yarn around various tables and people in the café. Long car journeys are very productive. I knit in parks, alongside the canal, on the beach but my all time favourite place to take my knitting/crochet is Whitby Abbey. I can always find a peaceful corner and the views are spectacular.

Melanie wearing her ‘William’ jumper knitted in Rowan Felted Tweed

Melanie at Whitby Abbey

How many WIP’s do you have on the go at once? Are you very methodical with your projects?

I have a number of projects on the go at once, both knitting and crochet. At the moment I have 3 active WIPs and a couple that have been on the go for a while. I once challenged myself to work on one project at a time. I kept that up for a year. I made much less that year than I normally do. I like the variety I get from having a few things on the go at once.

Jampa by Marie Wallin in Rowan Softyak Dk & Fenay by Ann Kingstone in Fine Lace

Sara’s yarn review – Debbie Bliss Rialto

Posted by Sara Mulvey | Posted in Sara's Blog, Yarn Reviews | Posted on 10-08-2017

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Watch my latest video on our YouTube channel to find out what I have been making with Debbie Bliss Rialto 4ply and Debbie Bliss Rialto DK. I have been knitting a cardigan / jacket with Rialto DK and crocheting a vibrant baby blanket with Rialto 4ply.

Take a closer look at my blanket here. Keep an eye out to see the finished article very soon.

How to knit garter stitch?

Posted by Amy | Posted in Knitting Essentials | Posted on 04-08-2017

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To begin your knitting journey, the best place to start is with garter stitch. For anyone who has never knitted before and is wondering what exactly garter stitch looks like, then take a look below……

This is what garter stitch looks like as a knitted piece. The effect is created when you knit row after row continuously, I would describe it as a raised texture of interlocking loops. Garter stitch can also be called ‘knit stitch’ or ‘plain knitting’. So if you are reading a pattern in the future keep an eye out for the different terminology.

What do you think? Would you like to give it a go? We have created a step by step photo tutorial and easy to follow video. The video is worked at a slow pace with exaggerated movements so that you are able to follow the steps. Once you become comfortable with garter stitch you will find your own way of holding the needles and keeping tension that is just right for you and your knitting. Many knitters prefer to keep both needles tucked under their arms or just one needle tucked under. It really is personal preference and before you know it you will have a scarf knitted ready for winter. If you haven’t seen any of our Knitting Essentials blog posts before, make sure you take a look at our How to cast on video before you begin.

How to knit garter stitch?

With the desired number of stitches cast on keep the needle with all of the cast on stitches in your left hand. With the other needle in your right hand insert the needle into the front of the first stitch.


Push the needle through this stitch with the yarn from the ball ready to work with in your right hand.

Bring the yarn around the back of your right needle and down in between the stitch on the needle.

Keeping the yarn in between the needle (not too tight) carefully bring the right needle back and up through the loop of the stitch. Make sure that you don’t drop the stitch at this point (you’re nearly there).

Slide the stitch off the left needle onto the right needle.

Now repeat steps 1-5 until you have knitted the desired number of rows.

Yarn used in video is Sublime Evie Prints.

Rowan Flagship Store

Posted by Amy | Posted in Company News | Posted on 27-07-2017

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Black Sheep Wools are proud to announce that our award winning Craft Barn in Warrington is now THE Rowan Flagship store of the North West. We have a dazzling display of all Rowan yarns and books nestled within the Craft Barn. Enjoy snuggling up on our sofa in the cosy corner and soak up inspiration for your next project. If you can’t make it to the Craft Barn, the good news is that all of the Rowan products can be found virtually on our website too.

Another new addition will be our instore Rowan Consultant, Melanie Boocock. Melanie has been a Rowan workshop tutor for many years and we are delighted that she has joined us as our Rowan Consultant.  Melanie will be in store two days a week – Wednesday’s and Saturday’s to advise and help with all your Rowan queries. If you have fallen in love with a Rowan yarn, but don’t know where to begin in finding the perfect pattern, Melanie is your lady. With exciting plans for drop in sessions and crochet support for the new crochet along, Melanie will always keep you up to date on all things Rowan. She has recently set up an Instagram account @rowanatblacksheep where you can take a peek at the delights in our Rowan area from a far. Keep an eye out for an interview with Melanie on the blog, coming soon.

New Rowan autumn winter yarns, shades and pattern books will be released in August and to celebrate we will be having a day celebrating over in the Rowan area. On Wednesday 23rd August enjoy a glass of Prosecco (while stocks last) while you peruse the delectable latest additions.

On 30th September we will be hosting a special launch event to celebrate becoming a Flagship store. Two of Rowan’s finest designers, Martin Storey and Lisa Richardson will join us for the day to share their passion and expertise. There will be goody bags for the first 20 customers, a charity raffle, glasses of bubbly, and lots of yarn to squish and admire! We’d love you to join us, pop the date in your diary today.

Sirdar Competition

Posted by Amy | Posted in Knitting | Posted on 19-07-2017

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If you could have any sweater design, what would it be? Time to get your thinking cap on as Sirdar have just launched a fantastic competition. They are asking for entrants to design a winter sweater. There is a sweater template for you to work on, so there are no drawing skills required just the mind of a knitter. The winning design will get made up by the Sirdar design team on display at the Knitting and Stitching Show in London at Alexandra Palace in October. Not only that, everyone will be able to make the winning design, with the free pattern being available to download on the Sirdar website.

Below is a more detailed run down of the competition from Sirdar themselves.

“To coincide with the launch of our gorgeous new yarn Sirdar No.1 we are launching a fab competition for you to design a winter sweater! Your winter design could be anything from a novelty Christmas knit, to an oh so stylish Alpine sweater. All you have to do is sketch your design on to the template,  including as much detail as you can to really make your design come to life!

The Sirdar No.1 colour palette is incredible and comes in 18 shades, so we ask that you only choose colours from this range for your designs. Visit the Sirdar website using the link below to view the complete range.
http://www.sirdar.co.uk/…/classics/dk/Sirdar_no1_F047/shades

To submit your entries please e-mail a copy of your design sketch to socialmedia@sirdar.co.uk. The closing date for the competition is the 7th August, with winners being announced on the 11th August.

Now for the bit that you have all been waiting for, the prizes!

1st Prize – judged by Sirdar Head Designer Julie Langham
– Your design will be made into a leaflet which will be available as a free download on the Sirdar website.
– Your design will be knitted up by the Sirdar design team and showcased at The Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. 
– You will also win 2 tickets to attend the show on Saturday 14th October, so you will get to see your finished knit on the Black Sheep stand.

2nd Prize – judged by Sara Mulvey of Black Sheep Wools
– 2 tickets to attend The Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace on Saturday 14th October.
– A Sirdar goody bag.

3rd Prize – judged by the Sirdar social media team
– A Sirdar goody bag.

Good luck!”

Rainbow Yarn

Posted by Amy | Posted in New Products | Posted on 05-07-2017

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Recently I noticed our Instagram looked like a rainbow, an illuminating array of rainbow colour. Seeing this has inspired me to write this blog post and share what delights there are in the world of yarn. Not just self striping, multi – coloured hanks, individual balls of colour too, that you can create your own rainbow with.

Over the past couple of months we have taken in a new brand – Caron. The first yarn to join us was Caron Simply Soft, with over 50 shades to choose from. This one really is an incredible rainbow of colour. With so many colours to choose from this yarn is a must for anyone who enjoys making colour palettes. The way the yarn has been displayed in the Craft Barn flowing through the colour spectrum is just too tempting. There is something quite therapeutic when methodically arranging yarns in according to their hue.

Eve is a Saturday girl at the Craft Barn, her Grandma has crocheted a rainbow blanket in Caron Simply Soft for her to take to Leeds festival this summer.

Then Caron Cakes arrived. A swirl of colour wound temptingly into one large cake of yarn. Now cake and yarn are two of our favourite things, so combining the two is amazing! The colour combinations in these beauties are gorgeous. There are 18 shades to choose from, some tonal, others complimenting colour combinations. If you are looking for rainbow yarn then look no further than the shade ‘Rainbow Sprinkles’.

Debbie Bliss always has a good colour range and Rialto DK does not disappoint. A sophisticated shade range to entice your knitting needles or crochet hook to venture into a new project. Choosing colours is part of the process and very much a fun task it is.

Now who couldn’t resist a rainbow yarn sock? These cheery colour combinations from West Yorkshire Spinners are sure to make you smile. Their Signature 4ply is very popular amongst sock knitters. There are one shade, striped and bird inspired options to choose from. However, if it is rainbow yarn you are after then ‘Rum Paradise’ is the one, or feeling more pastel – ‘Sherbet Fizz’.

Debbie Bliss has recently taken Botany Lace under her yarn umbrella. Take a look at the shade ‘Ronda’, a gorgeous rainbow yarn.

Sirdar’s cake yarn – Colourwheel DK has a fantastic aptly named yarn called ‘Follow the Rainbow’. As you can see it does echo its name quite accurately.

If we’re talking a rainbow of yarn then you can’t miss out Stylecraft Special DK. All those shades to choose from to make your bespoke rainbow. How about Sue Stratford’s Rainbow Blanket crochet kit?

It’s not just yarn, we also have fabrics that are bursting with a rainbow of colour. The Freespirit Designer Solids range has all the colours you need to make a vibrant quilt.

British Knitting & Crochet Awards 2017 – Nominations

Posted by Amy | Posted in Company News | Posted on 23-06-2017

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Super exciting news! We are very pleased to announce that we have been nominated in FIVE categories in the Let’s Knit British Knitting & Crochet Awards 2017. We are very grateful for everyone’s support so far to get us to this stage. It would make one happy flock of sheep if you voted for us to win. 😉 Plus, when you vote you are entered into a prize draw with prizes worth up to £750. Pop over to the Let’s Knit page to vote.
Voting closes on 30th August 2017.

British Knitting & Crochet Awards 2017 nominations –

  • Best Online Shop
  • Best Website
  • Best Crochet Store
  • Favourite Knitting Blog
  • Best Local Independent Yarn Store – North of England