Sara Interviews Winwick Mum

Posted by Amy | Posted in Knitting | Posted on 14-06-2019

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We are very lucky to have so many well-known names from the world of knitting and crochet local to us in Warrington. From time to time you will catch them discreetly shopping in the Craft Barn or meeting up with a fellow designer for a cuppa and slice of cake in our tea shop. Quite recently we spotted Winwick Mum and Lynne Rowe meeting up for a natter.

Lynne Rowe and Winwick Mum

In this fabulous yarny emporium (our Craft Barn) we have made friendships over the years with these familiar faces. Continuing to keep in touch, enjoying reading their blogs and updates on social media. Also working with them on various projects and inviting them to spend time with us on Let’s Knit magazine – Yarn Shop Day and other events in store.

Earlier this year we heard on the grapevine that Winwick Mum was soon to be releasing a yarn collection with West Yorkshire Spinners. Eeeek! Exciting news! She is the blogger everyone turns to when sock knitting, full of advice and encouragement so that you don’t give up. Christine already has two Sock Knitting books under her belt. Full to the brim of detailed information, guiding you through your sock knitting journey, from choosing the right needles to casting off your last stitch. She really does take you through every step! If anyone were to be having a sock yarn collection in their name, Winwick Mum would be your first choice.
Say hello to four new additions to the West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4ply family…….

Winwick Mum Signature 4ply | Black Sheep Wools

Image: West Yorkshire Spinners

Not only did Christine come up with new shades of Signature 4ply she has also designed patterns for an accompanying sock knitting book.

We invited Christine to the Craft Barn for a spot of filming with Sara. I found it really interesting listening to Christine chat with Sara, learning about how she chose the colours, knitting socks and blogging. A lot of work goes into being a Blogger like Christine, it isn’t just something that happens overnight. She is always creating engaging content for her readers, producing free patterns and detailed how to guides along the way. It is lovely to see her dream coming to fruition with the West Yorkshire Spinners collaboration.
We nearly didn’t start filming as we all went off on a tangent talking about cleaning products! I’m not entirely sure that chatter would have been well received. We hope you enjoy watching a relaxed, informal interview with Winwick Mum. Stay up to date with all of our latest videos by subscribing to our YouTube channel.

Toy Knitting Top Tips

Posted by Amy | Posted in Knitting | Posted on 31-05-2019


We had a chat with the lovely folks at Sardines for Tea to get their toy knitting top tips. Knitting toys is quite a satisfying project to tackle. It’s small, requires just a couple of balls of yarn (if that) and a spot of toy stuffing. Not too costly or time consuming. If you don’t end up keeping them all for yourself they make a lovely gift.
Sardines for Tea design a whole host of lovable knitted characters. From seasonal favourites such as Rudolph the Reindeer to the glamorous Olivia the Ostrich and cuddly Alfie Alpaca. Their patterns are always flying off the shelves and we are lucky enough to have all the gang on display in our Craft Barn, kindly knitted by the designers themselves. When Lucy receives a parcel in the office for a new character launch, we are all excited to see who’s hiding inside. The yarn choices for their patterns are always considered for the toy, opting for some fabulous faux fur effect yarns from Sirdar – Touch and Alpine, which adds to the charm of these jolly critters. An added bonus is that their patterns are available to buy either digital or paper!

Alfie Alpaca | Toy Knitting Top Tips

Rudolph | Toy Knitting Top Tips

On Saturday 6th July the Sardines for Tea team will be in store for the day. Showing off an exclusive reveal of a new design and a free pattern for a new summer design. They will also be sharing their advice on knitting toys. Why not pop in and show them the different Sardines for Tea toys you have knitted! I’m sure they would love to see them.

Sardines for Tea | Toy Knitting Top Tips

Toy Knitting Top Tips


First things first…..Where did the name Sardines for Tea come from?
Our name came from the book ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ As a little girl I absolutely loved this book (I still do). If you know the book, then when Lucy first steps through the wardrobe into Narnia she is met by a faun who offers her… sardines for tea. That’s it! It’s a bit mad but people really remember the name, it seems to work!

What type of knitting needles would you suggest using for toy knitting?
We don’t use any special knitting needles to knit our toys, they disappear down the sofa far too often for us to be fussy. We tend to use metal ones, but that’s just personal preference rather than any fantastic technical reason.

For the complete beginner, which critter would you say is a good one to knit first?
We try to design all of our characters to be easy to make. Most of our toys are great for beginners – even if the only thing you have made before is a scarf. To recommend just one, then Hector is a good one to start with. He is made with Sirdar’s Touch yarn which is lovely to knit, he’s done on nice thick needles (6.5mm), and he is super quick to knit using simple techniques. Also, if you make any mistakes along the way and need to pull your work back, it doesn’t take hours to get back on track as this yarn knits up so fast. Touch is very good at hiding any sewing up errors too, so if you’ve never made a toy before, or in fact never sewn anything up before at all then no-one will ever know!

How do you join the pieces together? What method should you use to sew up toys?
To make up our toys we always use mattress stitch, this allows you to stuff as you work along. We also stuff each part as soon as it’s knitted. We have done a little photo tutorial that will hopefully help.

Toy Knitting Top Tips - Mattress stitch1

With right side of work facing, join yarn to bottom edges of both sides and proceed as follows.

Toy Knitting Top Tips | Mattress stitch2
Working 1 stitch inside side edge, insert the needle from the front, sliding under 2 rows of work as shown.
Toy Knitting Top Tips | Mattress stitch 3

Pull needle and yarn through.

Toy Knitting Top Tips | Mattress stitch 4

Pulling yarn until edges meet.

Toy Knitting Top Tips | Mattress stitch 5

Move to the opposite side.

Toy Knitting Top Tips | Mattress stitch 6

Now working from opposite side.

Toy Knitting Top Tips | Mattress stitch 7

Pick up 2 rows on this side as before.

Toy Knitting Top Tips | Mattress stitch 8

Pull yarn through.

Toy Knitting Top Tips | Mattress stitch 9

Ready now to repeat this process.

Toy Knitting Top Tips | Mattress stitch 10

Continue until piece is complete.

Is tension important when it comes to toy knitting? Why might it be different?
Another great reason to knit a toy – tension doesn’t matter a jot! Unlike knitting a garment that needs to fit, it’s really not important how big or small your toy turns out.

Any tips on how to perfect the face?
This bit is important, during the design process we change the eyes/nose position several times before we think it’s sitting just right. The face really does give your little toy it’s own personality, so its worth taking your time to get it just right. Use coloured pins to place your eyes and nose if it helps before finally sewing in place.

How do you know how much stuffing to use?
Stuffing your toy depends on which yarn you have used. Touch takes very little stuffing as it’s a thick and fluffy yarn to begin with. Double knitting will take a little more, as will larger toys. We think that when stuffing knitted toys, less is more. Over stuffing can make the stitches stretch and the stuffing visible, and the toy will end up looking messy. We also say that as you complete each individual part, sew and stuff it before you move on to the next bit. This helps at the end, it fells less of a task to put the toy together if each part has been stuffed already.

Any other tips that will help with toy knitting?
As well as stuffing each bit once it’s knitted, we use a Pony sewing needle to help in two ways. We use this long needle to sew up, especially for toys that have jointed legs (Walter, Winnie, Betsy, Barnaby). It is also good at pushing stuffing into tricky areas too. Great for thicker yarn too as this needle has a really large eye.

Sewing needles | Toy Knitting Top Tips

Left: Pony Knitters Needle | Right: Pony Wool Needle

Toy Knitting Top Tips | Black Sheep Wools

With only the legs left to join proceed as follows.

Top Tips | Black Sheep Wools

Place needle through top of leg, from inside leg to outside.

Toy Knitting Top Tips | Black Sheep Wools

Working with a long length of yarn.

Toy Knitting Top Tips | Black Sheep Wools

Pull needle and yarn through.

Toy Knitting Top Tips | Black Sheep Wools

Place leg in position.

Toy Knitting Top Tips | Black Sheep Wools

Pass needle back through leg.

Toy Knitting Top Tips | Black Sheep Wools

Then keeping the needle as straight as possible, pass through the body.

Toy Knitting Top Tips | Black Sheep Wools

Now through 2nd leg.

Toy Knitting Top Tips | Black Sheep Wools

Pull yarn through all sections.

Toy Knitting Top Tips | Black Sheep Wools

Now go backwards and forwards through all pieces until yarn is finished.

Do you have a favourite Sardines for Tea character? Or is it like asking to choose a favourite child?
Oh picking a favourite is really hard!! I think I’m a bit of a fan of Ronnie (I’ve wanted to do a fox for ages!), I like knitting aran too, Mum loves Mabel and Margot – she does love cats and handbags though!!

Margot the Cat | Toy Knitting Top Tips

Is there one toy in particular that took many prototypes to get just right?
There is no formula here – how I wish there was!!! Some things come together instantly – and they really do and this is so, so satisfying. However – some things really, really don’t and this can be incredibly time greedy and incredibly frustrating, especially if we feel it’s worth persevering with. Ronnie our new little fox was a great example of something that came together without too many alterations and this may be part of the reason I like him so much, not much pain involved!!! However our newest designs to be launched at our Black Sheep visit in July took a great deal longer – they are fab now they are done, but we have been back to the drawing board and knitting needles many, many times with them. Sometimes changing one very small thing makes a huge difference.

Ronnie the Fox | Toy Knitting Top Tips

Are there any new knitted toy patterns on the horizon? What can we expect to see from Sardines for Tea in 2019?
What a question!! We have just too many ideas and not enough time!! Lots of new animal ideas on our design list, as well as new clothes designs for our two little dolls, Stan and Mary-Ann. We’ve a few design ideas that are away from toys and we would love these to be ready before we exhibit at our second Yarndale in September. We are also beginning to work with new designers, adding to our Sardines family which is really lovely – so hopefully lots of new things to come. Meeting our customers at exhibitions and shows is awesome. We are hoping to take Sardines to larger events in the near future, Alexander Palace and Harrogate Knitting and Stitching shows are definitely on the list. We love suggestions though, we’d love to hear your ideas…

Sardines Seagulls | Toy Knitting Top Tips

 Pssst….this seagull pattern will be a special freebie (exclusive to Craft Barn customers) when Sardines for Tea visit on 6th July!

Knitted Borders

Posted by Amy | Posted in Knitting, Knitting Essentials | Posted on 01-05-2019

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Do you prefer adding knitted borders or a crochet border to your project? Very often when you have knitted a blanket, washcloth or any project really, you might want to finish it off with a border. If you are able to both knit and crochet, then you might opt to put down your knitting needles and get out a crochet hook to crochet an edging (if crochet is your thing then take a look at our crochet borders post). A good idea for some, but not everyone can crochet and sometimes that isn’t the effect that you want to achieve. Knitting can create such a different
There are occasions when a knitted edging must be considered before you begin as it is worked into the design as you go. Please be aware of this when you look at the selection we have to share in this knitted borders blog post.

We asked three designers to share a knitted border / edging that they enjoy using on knitted projects – Heike Gittens, Carol Meldrum and Graeme Knowles-Miller. They were all given two contrasting shades of Scheepjes Our Tribe to play with and these are the fabulous knitted borders they chose.

Heike Gittens – Knitted Border

Heike has worked on various projects with Black Sheep Wools over the years. She was our Blogger of the Month back in June 2014 and now teaches workshops at the Craft Barn. She also designs some gorgeous shawls. Pop over to her blog Made with Loops to find out more.

Heike says – 
There are two things that I frequently use in my designs, stripes and I-cord edgings. I love the versatility of the I-cord, as it can hide unsightly ends and finishes off a shawl or garment in neat and unfussy way.

I-Cord Border

In the swatch Heike sampled she cast on 45 stitches, this will vary depending on what you are knitting.

Cast on 45 stitches with the main colour and knit one row.
Row 1 (WS): With main colour knit to 3 stitches from end, slip 3 stitches with yarn in front (wyif).
Row 2 (RS): With contrast colour knit 3, then knit to end with main colour.
Row 3: With main colour knit to 3 stitches from end, with contrast colour slip 3 stitches wyif.

Repeat rows 2 and 3 until swatch measure 15cm from cast on. Make sure to twist yarns to avoid holes.

I-cord cast off:
With RS facing and using contrast colour: *Knit 2, knit 2 together, slip 2 stitches back to left hand needle; repeat from * until all stitches have been cast off.

Fasten off and weave in ends.

Knitted Border | Black Sheep Wools | I-Cord Edging

Graeme Knowles-Miller – Knitted Border

Graeme is a talented knitwear designer who we have previously interviewed here on the blog. He teaches workshops at the Craft Barn and has designed some incredible garments for baa ram ewe and many other yarn brands. We recently added an exclusive mitten kit to our website, designed by Graeme. Take a look at the Blå Votter Mittens.

Graeme says –
When working a Fair isle project it sometimes seems a waste to put a boring plain rib, and other times you don’t really want it to pull in at all but need a neat edge. This is the perfect time for one of my favourite knitting edges, corrugated ribbing. It is worked the same as any other ribbing but uses two or even three colours at once to give fantastically defined straight lines. When working a 1×1 as shown the blue is only ever knit and the white is purled, this means that there is no pull between the stitches providing a textured surface rather than the usual smooth stocking stitch. This edging looks so good it can even be used with the wrong-side facing out and looks just as good. 

Corrugated Ribbing Border

Row 1: *Knit 1 in color A, purl 1 in color B; rep from * to end.

Row 2: *Knit 1 in color B and purl 1 in color A; rep from * to end.

To work the same pattern in the round, repeat row 1.

Knitted Border | Black Sheep Wools

Carol Meldrum – Knitted Border

We have enjoyed having Carol Meldrum at the Craft Barn for many years now teaching a great selection of workshops. Carol also has a number of her own knitting and crochet books, including Freeform Crochet with Confidence. Last year we did a series of knitting how to videos with Carol that were featured on our YouTube channel and blog.

Carol says –
This neat little bobble edging is an easy way to add a spot of texture to your knitting.You simply pick up stitches along your chosen edge, work a few rows of knit, then make the bobbles and cast off at the same time. The bobbles can be spaced out by casting off more stitches before making the bobble, and you can change the size of the bobble by increasing the amount of times you knit into the front and back of the stitch -the more stitches you increase by the larger the bobble will be, but remember to take care when passing the stitches over and off your needles. It makes a great alternative to the picot cast off.

K knit
st(s) stitches
rep repeat
RS right side
WS wrong side
RHN right hand needle

Special Abbreviation
MB make bobble – Knit into the front and back of the next st 5 times,pass the first 5 loops on RHN over and off the first loop.

Bobble Edging

Pattern note
Bobble edging can be worked along any outer edge fabric.The edging is worked using a multiple of 3 sts. When picking up stitches to make the edging ensure that you use this multiple.If you want more space between your bobbles, pick up a multiple that matches your spacing.

With RS facing pick up and knit a multiple of 3 sts along chosen edge.
Rows 1 and 2: Knit to end.
On the next row, you will cast off and make a bobble at regular intervals.
Row 3 (WS):Cast off first st,*MB, pass rem loop on RHN over and off, cast off 2 sts, rep from * to end.
Fasten off.

Bobble Edging | Knitted Borders | Black Sheep Wools

We hope you find these knitted borders helpful additions to creating a decorative finish to your projects. If you do give them a go and are sharing your photo, remember to tag Black Sheep Wools on social media and include #blacksheepwools then we ca see how you got on.

Mindful Knitting and Crochet

Posted by Amy | Posted in Crochet, Knitting | Posted on 04-04-2019

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Mindful knitting and crochet are fantastic ways of practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is already a huge part of many people’s lives these days. Taking time to come back to the present and focus your mind away from your busy everyday life, no checking that mobile phone every 5 minutes, mindfulness can help to relieve stress and tension.
Knitting and crochet have been proven to be a tool to improve wellbeing for many years now. Betsan Corkhill, founder of Stitchlinks has written a book Knit for Health and Wellness, which is not only a great read for those who wish to practice therapeutic knitting it is also a resource for clinicians and teachers to refer to. Lynne has co-authored a book with Betsan called Knit Yourself Calm, which includes patterns and info on mindful knitting.
We invited Lynne Rowe to do a series of videos exploring the benefits or mindful knitting and crochet. Lynne chats to Sara in the two part video discussion covering techniques to try and talking about how useful she finds mindfulness. Lynne also has the most soothing voice which will relax you, add in her meditative mantra and you will be ready to try out mindful knitting or mindful crochet for yourself. I could listen to her for hours!

Watch part 1 below….

Take a look at Mindful Knitting and Crochet Part 2…….

Lynne has shared with us her ‘Beginners Guide to Mindful Knitting and Crochet’. Helpful hints and tips to get you started.

  • Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.
  • Sit comfortably, following the guidance below.
  • Focus on the cool air as it enters your body and the warm air as it leaves; visualise your breath making you feel lighter and brighter.
  • Watch your hands as you knit or crochet; marvel at the way you turn yarn into fabric.
  • Try lighting a candle to bring calm and help alleviate tension.
  • Sit on an upright chair and push your bottom towards the chair back so you lower spine is supported.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor and legs uncrossed with your knees slightly lower than your hips.
  • Bring your work up towards the top of your body to avoid slouching.
  • Lift your head slightly and tuck in your chin a little.
  • Imagine your head being slightly pulled by an invisible thread.
  • Don’t worry if your mind wanders; gently bring your attention back to your knitting and counting.
  • Try listening to meditative music.

Find more information from Lynne Rowe on her website –

Lynne is hosting two workshops at the Craft Barn on Saturday 29th June 2019 – Mindful Knitting Morning  and Mindful Crochet Afternoon. Book a place on our website today!

Knitting a ZickZack Scarf

Posted by Amy | Posted in Knitting | Posted on 22-03-2019

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When Black Sheep Sara started knitting a ZickZack scarf earlier this year, she caused quite a stir on our Black Sheep Make-A-Long Facebook page. Sara had spotted this stylish scarf on a friends Instagram post and just had to cast it on the needles herself. Straight away she knew which yarn she fancied trying out on this zig zag striped scarf design. It had to be Stylecraft Head Over Heels All Stars yarn. Sara chose the shades Red Pots and Splash, quite the contrasting colour combination, but when knitted together they work beautifully.

Knitting a ZickZack scarf in Stylecraft Head Over Heels All Stars | Black Sheep Wools

The ZickZack scarf pattern is designed by Christy Kamm and is available free from Ravelry. It was published on Ravelry in 2014 so it has been around for many years and you could well be reading this having knitted one or two yourself.

Sara enjoyed knitting her ZickZack scarf and found the pattern really easy to follow. It was a great project to pick up and just know what comes next without having to concentrate too much. Watch Sara talking about knitting the scarf in the video below.

We shared a photo of Sara’s ZickZack scarf on our newsletter and Sara got lots of great comments from everyone. It wasn’t long before many knitters in our Facebook group had cast on too. Many people are half way through their ZickZack scarf, but we asked if anyone wanted to share a photo for this blog post. Take a look at how different this scarf can look when you combine varying stripey or plain yarns together.

ZickZack Scarf | Black Sheep Wools

Sara’s ZickZack scarf in Red Pots and Splash.

ZickZack scarf | BlackSheep Wools

Brenda – Stylecraft Head Over Heels All Stars – Worldgate & Saltaire.

ZickZack scarf | Black Sheep Wools

Jean – Fyberspates – Peach Bellini and Peak District yarn for the contrast.

ZickZack scarf | Black Sheep Wools

Jean – Stylecraft Head Over Heels – Red Pots and another shade which Jean didn’t keep the ball band.

Knitting a ZickZack scarf | Black Sheep Wools

Karen – Sirdar Baby Crofter 4ply.

Knitting a ZickZack scarf | Black Sheep Wools

Brenda – second scarf in Stylecraft Head Over Heels All Stars – Pool and Ossie.

Knitting a ZickZack scarf | Black Sheep Wools

Rosa – Sirdar Heart & Sole 4ply – yellow/green and pink/purple.

Have you knitted a ZickZack scarf? What yarns did you use?

Temperature Blanket

Posted by Amy | Posted in Knitting | Posted on 01-02-2019

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What is a temperature blanket?


A blanket that you knit or crochet with the shades chosen dependent on the temperature outside each day. Choose a selection of colours and create a key with the shades coordinating to temperatures. Depending on how many shades you want to use it can be a good idea to go up in 2 degree increments, e.g. 5°-6°c. Every day knit or crochet a row in the corresponding colour to the temperature that day. By the end of the year you will have a fabulous, unique blanket!

The idea of a temperature blanket is quite a fun way to crochet or knit. If you love stripes but never know what shade to choose next, then the temperature blanket will choose it for you. Allowing your blanket to evolve with your chosen colour combination. Another option is to make a temperature scarf. This probably wouldn’t last a whole year, but depending on the finished length you wanted and thickness of yarn used then you could do it over a couple of months or take a weekly average. It is completely up to you, you make the rules with a temperature blanket / scarf.

This post was inspired by the lovely Maria, customer and ex-colleague of Black Sheep Wools. Maria was our Customer Services Manager for many years, always on hand to help with queries and an avid knitter and crocheter herself. She posted a photo of her completed temperature blanket for 2018 in our Facebook Make Along group (if you haven’t already, please do join us and share your makes). It was such a beautiful blanket we had to share it on social media. The adulation this blanket was met with sparked the idea for a blog post.
Maria chose a range of blues and purples in Stylecraft Special DK (White, Parchment, Silver, Duck Egg, Storm Blue, Sherbet, Cloud Blue, Bluebell, Wisteria, Parma Violet, Mushroom, Pale Rose, Soft Peach, Apricot, Vintage Peach, Shrimp). This is knitted in garter stitch with 4mm circular needles, 308 stitches.

Temperature Blanket | Black Sheep Wools

If you are planning to make your own (even though we are a month into the year) search on google for temperature blankets and you will see some fine examples. Take a look below at some yarn suggestions that you will have a varied colour choice.

Temperature Scarf Yarn Ideas

Scheepjes Namaste – a chunky yarn that’s a blend of wool and acrylic. A mix of pastel and bright shades to choose from.

Baa Ram Ewe Pip Colourwork – there are 15 shades of this 100% British wool 4ply to choose from.

Rowan Baby Cashsoft Merino – a great selection of shades to make a beautifully soft scarf, with a touch of luxury.

Temperature Blanket Yarn Ideas

Sirdar Snuggly DK – not just for babies this yarn has plenty of shades to opt for. Making a machine washable blanket.

James C Brett Double Knitting with Merino – this yarn doesn’t have a broad range of colours like some of the others, but there is enough to choose from. It is a really cosy yarn and lovely to work with.

Stylecraft Bellissima & Stylecraft Bambino – mix and match with these two treasures from Stylecraft. The composition is the same, which gives you that few more colours to choose from.


Betwixtmas Make-A-Long | More Tips

Posted by Amy | Posted in Knitting | Posted on 24-12-2018

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Have you already cast on the Betwixtmas shawl? Could you not resist that sumptuous hank of Fyberspates Vivacious 4ply? There is only so long that you can stroke and stare at yarn before it simply has to be on your needles, we understand. If you are waiting for the Betwixtmas period (in-between Christmas and New Year) well done for resisting!
Before you do begin, have you read the shawl designer, Bronagh Miskelly’s guest blog post? For anyone who is unsure about knitting a flat piece of knitting on circular needles, it is really easy to do. You use your circular needle like it is two straight needles. Watch our video of Barbara below.

If the yarn has caught your eye it is King Cole Riot DK that Barbara popped on the needles for this demo.

If you haven’t already, it might be worth practicing the cast on method with a half ball /oddment from your stash. Prior to casting on with your chosen Betwixtmas shawl yarn. We have put together a little video to give you an idea of how this should look when you are doing it too.


Don’t forget to join in the chat for the Betwixtmas shawl on our Black Sheep Make-A-Long Facebook group.


What is a Make Along?

Posted by Amy | Posted in Knitting | Posted on 21-12-2018

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A make along? Whatever is this, you might ask? Many of you will have heard this term in the knitting and crochet world and for others it something completely new. Let me try and explain what a make along (sometimes Make-A-Long) is all about. Here goes…..
A make along is when a pattern is released with all of the details required to make the design, along with a start date. Usually a blogger, yarn company or yarn store will do this and set a date for everyone to begin their project together. There will be a yarn suggestion and opportunity to purchase said yarn prior to the make along commencing. It brings a community spirit to a project, allowing people from all over the world to join in and make something, knowing that others are doing the same somewhere else in the world. More often than not you will find a dedicated Faecbook group or Ravelry group to share your progress and discuss the project with fellow crafters. A bit like going to a virtual knit and natter group, but you can go at any time of day. If you have a question you can ask away, or you may find that someone else has already asked when you scroll through the group. It is nice to have a browse of what yarn or shade others of chosen for a spot of inspiration. Even if there is an end date on a make along, it doesn’t really end because you can still cast on at a later date (so long as the pattern is still available). Plus, you don’t need to rush and makes mistakes because everyone works at their own pace. It is a friendly and relaxed way of coming together as knitters and crocheters.
You may have also heard – knit along and crochet along. A couple more alongs to add into the mix. These are normally projects where the pattern is released in sections over a period of weeks or months. For example our crochet along blankets with Cherry Heart Spice of Life and A Spicier Life. These patterns are still available and a few years on we still enjoy adding new members to the Facebook groups who are just about to begin the blankets.

We have picked a selection of examples of make along projects that you might find of interest, including a rather special one that is just on the horizon.

Obviously, we have to start with the Black Sheep Betwixtmas Shawl Make-A-Long. This is a free pattern to download, designed by Bronagh Miskelly and it is knitted in Fyberspates Vivacious 4ply.If you would prefer to use a yarn from your stash or an alternative 4ply, then you can do. That is the great thing about a make along it is relaxed and inclusive for everyone. This make along starts on 24th December 2018. Find more info on our Betwixtmas page.

Betwixtmas Shawl Make-A-Long 2018 | Black Sheep Wools

Lilla Bjorn blogger and designer, Tatsiana released her make along the ‘Esja Sweater‘ in November this year. A crochet make along in Scheepjes Our Tribe. Tatsiana chose to break the pattern up into weekly sections, but the full pattern is also available to purchase. Tatsiana has a Facebook group where you can go for advice and support whilst making the sweater.

Lilla Bjorn Image

The Scheepjes and Canadutch make along earlier this year was fab because it gave both knitters and crocheters the opportunity to join in. Designer and blogger Canadutch came up with a shawl design that could be made in a knitting pattern – Read Between the Lines and crochet – Crochet Between the Lines. The patterns are available as leaflets by Scheepjes and you will need two balls of Scheepjes Whirl.

Betwixtmas Shawl Top Tips

Posted by Amy | Posted in Knitting | Posted on 13-12-2018

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Have you seen our Betwixtmas shawl? It is a delicate lace design, combined with simple stocking stitch, knitted in a hank of Fyberspates Vivacious 4ply. This is a project to cast on in between Christmas and New Year.
The designer of the shawl is Bronagh Miskelly. She is kindly put together a blog post with her top tips on knitting the shawl. We would recommend having a practice of the crochet cast on method with scrap yarn before you commence knitting the shawl. With Bronagh’s hints and tips to hand you should have all your questions answered. Don’t forget to share your progress in our Black Sheep Wools Facebook Make-A-Long group. We can’t wait to see which shade of the delicious Fyberspates Vivacious 4ply yarn you have chosen.

Betwixtmas Shawl Make-A-Long 2018

Betwixtmas Shawl Top Tips
Guest Blog by Bronagh Miskelly


Getting started with your Betwixtmas Shawl

If you haven’t made a triangular shawl before, there maybe a couple of things that you aren’t familiar with, so here are a couple of tips to help you along.

But don’t worry, there is nothing complicated in this shawl, if you can knit, purl and put your yarn over a needle you are ready for anything in the pattern.

Getting started

The first thing the pattern asks you to do is to crochet a chain of 4 sts in some spare yarn and place these on you knitting needle before knitting them with the main yarn.

Betwixtmas Shawl Top Tips

Betwixtmas Shawl Top Tips

This is a provisional cast on method, which is a way of having stitches at both ends of a section of knitting. Once you have worked a number of rows (a total of five in this case) you unravel the chain of crochet to reveal live stitches at the bottom of your piece of knitting.

If you are worried about dropping stitches when you unravel your crochet, us a spare needle to pick up the stitch loops before you remove the spare yarn (as shown below). It is a good idea to use a smooth yarn for your crochet stitches so it is easy to remove.

Betwixtmas Shawl Top Tips

Once you have revealed your stitches from the provisional cast on, they work just like any other stitches. In this case you knit the three original stitches, pick up some down the side of what you have knitted so far and then knit the three from the provisional cast on. This means you have worked stitches round three sides of your piece of knitting creating a small curve that forms the centre back of the shawl that you will work outwards from.

Betwixtmas Shawl Top Tips

Stitch markers

The pattern sets the position for three stitch markers. It may feel quite crowded to have three markers when you only have 9 or 13 stitches.

Betwixtmas Shawl Top Tips

However, these three makers help you put the yarn over increases in the right place and rapidly become more spaced out because the yarnovers add four extra stitches on every right side row which is what makes the shawl grow.

Betwixtmas Shawl Top Tips

Checking your shawl shaping

I recommend using a circular needle for this shawl even though you are working in rows. This is partly because you end up with a lot of stitches but also because it is difficult to see the shape of the shawl developing and to check your yarnovers are correctly lined up.

Here the start of a shawl is spread out along the cable of a circular needle. This allows us to see that the garter stitch sections at each end in fact create a single long side of the shawl and that the centre set of yarnovers create a spine down the centre of the shawl to the final point.

Betwixtmas Shawl Top Tips

As your shawl grows the shape will become more obvious and it is important that your yarn overs always line up.

DIY Knitting and Crochet Tips

Posted by Amy | Posted in Crochet, Knitting | Posted on 05-10-2018


What do all of these items have in common? They can all be there to help you out when you don’t have the correct knitting or crochet tools to hand. Sometimes you can discover that a household item that you use every day, actually lends itself to crafts more than you realise. One day it’s in the kitchen cupboard, next it is taking pride of place next to your project bag. A collection of DIY knitting and crochet tips.

DIY Knitting and Crochet Tips | Black Sheep Wools

We asked our Facebook followers – Do you ever find yourself using household items to help with your knitting and crochet? 
Along with Black Sheep staff too, there were some brilliant suggestions made. Crafters are a resouceful lot, thank you to everyone who shared their tips. It only made sense to pool all of our DIY knitting and crochet tips together in one blog post. We have probably only really scratched the surface of what super ideas you crafty lot use. If you do think of any more please comment below this post.

DIY Knitting and Crochet Tips

Highlighter tape / Post it note

Handy items from your stationary draw, highlighter tape or a post it note. These will be there for you when you are following a chart (also good for a complex row on a pattern) and want to keep track of the row you are on. Move the tape / post it up a row every time you have completed a row. So simple, yet very helpful when you are deep in concentration. A post it can also double up as somewhere to write down where you are up to on your pattern when you are putting it away for the day.

Paperclips / Safety Pins

Paperclips or safety pins can be a saviour when you just can’t put your finger on where you put that tin of beautiful stitch markers you bought. Not as pretty, but do the job in your moment of need. Another good suggestions is a scrap of contrasting yarn. We all have an old scrap of end of balls at the bottom of our project bag!

Hair Clip

This was a fab suggestion from a Facebook follower called Marie, use a hair clip to keep your ball of yarn neat and tidy. Really helpful when you are making a blanket or something that requires multiple shades of yarn being used at once. There will be no excuse for tangled yarn with this top tip.
A hair clip can also be handy for when you are transporting a project on the go. Use the clip to snap onto where you have just stopped working to help prevent any unravelling.

DIY Knitting and Crochet Tops | Black Sheep Wools

Nail Clippers

As a knitter or crocheter you will know that although sometimes you think your fingers can withstand snapping the yarn it is just not possible without nearly injuring yourself. With scissors no where in sight, but a pair of nail clippers to hand they will do the trick. Also, nail clippers are ideal to carry with you if you don’t won’t to have sharp scissors.

Bamboo Skewer

Maybe not for too many stitches, but a bamboo skewer could be helpful as a temporary stitch holder.

Plant Pot / Teapot / Colander

A yarn bowl is a great invention for your ball of yarn to bob up and down in gently rather than thrashing around your feet as you knit. Not always so dramatically, but we’ve all had a rogue ball of yarn that won’t sit still. An actual yarn bowl has been designed with a lip of holes to feed yarn through. A make shift yarn bowl can come in many guises – a plant pot, teapot – feeding the yarn through the spout or a colander – so many holes to choose from and plenty of space for a large ball of yarn.

Cocktail Stick

When you are knitting a pair of socks or rather fine needles a cocktail stick makes for a good cable needle.

Supermarket Beer / Wine Carrier

A Facebook follower called Chris, suggested a supermarket beer / wine carrier as multiple use yarn holder. When you are crocheting (or knitting) with 6 to 8 balls of centre pull yarns all at once, all of the balls can sit snuggly in the beer / wine carrier without any tangles.

Pegs and Washing Line

Black Sheep Lucy, blocks her lightweight shawls by pegging them on the washing line. With lots of pegs the weight will help to block the shawl out to your desired shape. It saves you having to find a flat area large enough to pin it out and block.

DIY Crochet and Knitting Tips