Saturday, 10 September 2016

Head over Heels - Stylecraft Sock Yarn

Some of you may have seen a few sneak peaks of the new Stylecraft Sock yarn, Head Over Heels via social media recently.

The Stylecraft Blogstars have been lucky enough to have had a preview of it to play with and we haven't been able to resist sharing a few snippets...

...And it's lovely stuff.

I've been very busy with loads of other projects, but I've made a start with a pattern I'm working on for a shawl- this seems the perfect stuff to try it out.

The shade I've been working with is called Eiger (they're all named after famous mountains) and it has long runs of colour. I'm really enjoying the way the colours wander in and out of each other. 
Other colour versions, like Everest below have shorter colour changes:

Ok. So here's the details:

  • Stylecraft Head over Heels
  • Sock yarn / 4 ply
  • 75% Superwash wool, 25% Nylon
  • Machine washable and tumble dryer-able
  • 100g (good sized ball)
  • 400m / 437y (a lot of yarn here)
  • 2.25 - 3.25 size needles 
  • 28 sts and 36 rows over 10 x 10cm / 4 x 4 ins

I have to say, I'm impressed with it so far: the yarn is soft and smooth to crochet with, and the colours work really well and are varied throughout the range. Superwash wool and nylon also means that this will keep you warm, but be able to be washed and tumble dried, too. It really seems perfect - great for socks (obviously) and fab for shawls and scarves, too. And retailing at around £6 - £7 per ball, is really good value for money.

So, to kick you off straight away, here's a fantastic free knitting pattern (released today!) for some gorgeous (beginner-friendly) socks by the awesome Helen from The Woolly Adventures of a Knitting Kitty:

AND another Blogstar, Heather from The Patchwork Heart has written all about the pattern for this beautiful crochet blanket, with a wonderful giveaway, where you could win £25 to spend on Stylecraft Yarn!

Why are you still here?
Go! Go!

Enjoy the yarn,
Sarah X

Monday, 22 August 2016

Quest for a stitch

Ages ago I saw this image and fell in love with that stitch.

Image from here

Can you see how it looks like a cross? And it creates quite a dense looking structure, too. On closer inspection it looked a bit like a double crochet (US single), but it certainly didn't look like mine...

I followed the links and searched around, but alas, the pattern no longer exists and my search ended.

Then, I started to see this stitch in lots of places- often used in baskets, but again, despite scouring the web, I couldn't find any mention of how this nice little stitch was created.

Image from here

Eventually I found a vintage pattern, where the baskets clearly show the crossed stitch.
So I bought it.
Yayyyyy!! Its secrets would be revealed. 
I would be making that stitch in no time at all....

Pattern from here


The pattern, although very clear and thorough, just states to use a plain old double crochet. No more details.
Another dead end.

It was obviously something to do with the way I crochet- perhaps the people who can make this stitch hold their hook differently, or at an angle. Perhaps it was a yarn-feeding-thing, or a tension-thing.
So I gave up.

Then, whilst searching for something completely unrelated on YouTube, a moment of inspiration struck me. All I needed to do was find a video of someone who crochets in this way. I could learn from watching them do it.

And I did. I found a pattern for a little amigurumi here.

And I watched. And I gasped at how ridiculously easy it was. And how the way I make a double crochet (US single) just needed one, teensy, tiny change...

Here's how:

1. Hook into stitch as usual, pull up a loop.

2. Instead of yarn over hook and pulling the yarn through the stitch, twist your hook over the yarn and pull the yarn through .
3. Complete the stitch in the usual way- yarn over
4. And pull through both loops.

And that's it. 
Changing the second step completely alters the stitch, twisting the yarn and forming the cross that I wanted to achieve. 

Here's some comparisons between a 'normal' dc (US sc) on the left and the new cross-dc on the right:

The 'normal' dc creates a slightly larger, looser shape, with bigger gaps between the stitches. The crossed dc is more sturdy, with a far denser construction. It also produces that amazing crossed stitch I've been searching for.

And so my quest is complete!
I shall be using the cross-dc for those projects where I want a little more structure- I'm thinking simple baskets and bags and it might even feature in some of my amigurumi designs in the future.

Enjoy your week,
Sarah x

Sunday, 17 July 2016

The Stylecraft Blogstars

Imagine all your favourite knit and crochet bloggers getting together for a weekend with a rather well-known yarn manufacturer and you've got a pretty awesome combination.

Let me introduce you to the Sylecraft Blogstars:

From left to right, back row:
Sandra Paul (Cherry Heart), Julia Marsh (Hand Knitted Things), Helen Kurtz (The Knitting Exploits of Josie Kitten), and me.

Front Row: Kathryn Senior (Crafternoon Treats), Heather Leal (The Patchwork Heart), Phil Saul (The Twisted Yarn), Lucy (Attic24), and Sue Pinner (Shropshire Scrapper Suz).

And not forgetting the three who couldn't be with us: Jane Crowfoot (Janie Crow), Emma Varnam (Emma Varnam) and Angela Armstrong (Get Knotted Yarncraft).

And so what did we get up to, I bet you're wondering?
Well, first I had to make my way to the Mill in Yorkshire, where we were treated to a tour by Richard Brown, owner of Stylecraft and its subsidaries.

Gorgeous views in every direction

Ever wondered how yarn is spun?
It starts off like this in huge squishy bundles:

ENORMOUS vats of yarn
And is spun through a series of the most enormous, noisy machines:

I thought these were sweets at first...

Richard, showing us how the yarn is twisted during manufacturing.

It's steamed to remove the twist, until it resembles something fine and beautiful like this:

This is one of the test rooms. I want a wall like that in my craft room.

It was so interesting to see manufacturing on such a large scale.

As if that wasn't enough, we were then invited to see the new collections of yarn. Here's one of the mood boards for the new collections. It's called 'World Marauder'. I love the colours.

And this is one of the new ranges, inspired by the colours:

It's called Batik and is wonderfully soft, with 80% Acrylic, 20% wool content. I can't wait to try it (I have lots of ideas already!). And check out Sue's blog, where she has links to lots of patterns using this yarn.

And this lovely stuff is called Yarn Stories. A beautiful, premium 100% wool, available in Merino or Merino and Alpaca and made in good old Blighty. The colours are amazing and it is sooooo squishy.

We were also told about some new exciting yarns and projects to come, but my lips are sealed. It's top-secret stuff.
You'll have to stay tuned.

So what's to come from the Blogstars?
Well, we'll be working on new projects for you, and there will be a blog tour in October, where we will reveal our patterns (in plenty of time for you to be planning those Christmas* projects). There will also be giveaways a-plenty.

*yes, I did mention the c-word. Yes, I know it's only July. Sorry about that.

The gorgeous and sparkly ' Cabaret' DK

So do pop along and check out the other bloggers. Lots of them are far more organised than me and have already blogged about their Mill visit. And they've got so many gorgeous projects to inspire you.

Enjoy your week,
Sarah X

Sunday, 10 July 2016

The one with a very little giraffe

Teacher gifts.

The one thing I always leave until the last minute (and I should know better really - I am a teacher, after all).

Imagine my delight when the little one announces that I haven't made the giraffe I promised to make for her teacher. 

Despite having approximately a billion other things I should be doing, including working on 12 new projects for my next book* I decided to make a little giraffe. 
A very little giraffe.

* yes, I am writing a new crochet book. All is a bit secret at the mo, but I'll let you have some sneaky peaks soon.

If you have a last minute teacher-who-likes-giraffes gift to make, or just fancy your very own little giraffe, then here's the pattern in UK terms. (For US, dc is the same as sc and dc2tog is the same as sc2tog).

A Very Little Giraffe Pattern (UK)

ch = chain
sl st = slip stitch
dc = double crochet
dc2tog = double crochet 2 together**
sts = stitches
**to make the dc2tog stitch using the invisible decrease method:
Insert hook into the front loop of the first stitch.
Insert hook into the front loop of the second stitch (3 loops on hook).
Yarn over and pull yarn through the first two loops (2 loops on hook).
Yarn over and pull through both loops.

Finished size: 12cms (4 3/4 inches) tall

You will need:
Yarn and hook of your choice (any weight yarn and hook to match will work)
I used a 4 mm (US 6/G) hook and Rico Creative Cotton Aran in Vanilla (shade 62), Tangerine (shade 76) and Nougat (56) 
Toy stuffing
2 x 6mm eyes
Tapestry needle
Stitchmarker. Mark the first st of each round

Stuff as you go.

In Vanilla
Rnd 1: 6dc in magic ring or 2dc, 6dc in 2nd st from hook (6 sts)
Rnd 2: 2 dc in each st around. (12 sts)
Rnds 3 - 4: dc 1 in each st around.
Change to Tangerine
Rnd 5: (dc 1, 2dc in next st) repeat around. (18 sts)
Rnds 6 - 8: dc 1 in each st around.
Rnd 9: (dc 1, dc2tog) repeat around. (12 sts)

Insert eyes between Rnds 5-6, 6 sts apart.
Rnd 10: dc2tog around. (6 sts)

Fasten off and sew closed.

Ears (make 2)

Rnd 1: 4dc in magic ring or 2dc, 4dc in 2nd st from hook (4 sts)
Rnd 2: (dc 1, 2dc in next st) repeat around. (6 sts)

Fasten off. Sew to head

Horns (ossicones)*** (make 2)

In Nougat
Ch 4, 
Row 1: sl st 3, beginning in 2nd ch from hook.
Fasten off. Sew to head.

*** a giraffe does not have horns, but ossicones. Both male and female giraffes have them. They are made from bone, but not attached to the skull, to avoid injury at birth. Males sometimes use their ossicones to fight. Educational fact. Retain as valuable information for use in random pub quiz someday.

Neck, body and legs ****
(Leave long tail at beginning for stitching to head and stuff as you go)
Ch 6, join with sl st to first ch.
Rnd 1: ch1 (doesn't count as st), 1dc in each st (6 sts) 
Now in continuous rounds
Rnds 2 - 5: 1dc in each st.
Rnd 6: (dc 1, 2dc in next st) X 2, dc 2. (8 sts)
Rnd 7: dc 2, (2dc in next st) X 3, dc 3. (11 sts)
Rnd 8: dc 3, (2dc in next st) X 4, dc 4. (15 sts)
Rnd 9: dc 4, (2dc in next st) X 6, dc 5. (21 sts)
Rnds 10 - 13: 1dc in each st.

Front leg
Rnd 14: dc 1, dc2tog, dc 4, then cross over to the other side (see pic) and dc 4 back to stitchmarker. (10 sts)

Rnd 15: dc2tog around. (5 sts).
Fasten off and sew closed.

Back leg
Rnd 14a: 1dc in each st around. (10 sts)

Rnd 15a: dc2tog around. (5 sts).
Fasten off and sew closed. 
Stitch between the legs to close the hole.

Use the long tail from the neck to stitch the head in place.

**** not anatomically correct - this giraffe only has 2 legs. And they're a bit short.

Make a knot in the yarn and stitch it into place. Separate the strands to create the tail.

Cut a variety of different sized spots of out brown felt and glue or stitch into place.

And that's it.
Job done, happy teacher (I hope)

Sarah xxx

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Crochet T-shirt necklace

Inspired by a rather large delivery of T-shirt yarn from here, I decided to make this cute crochet necklace.
Fancy making one?

Those of you who know my stuff won't be surprised to learn that this project is super-quick and super-easy. 

AAAAAnd, I've included a step-by-step photo tutorial underneath the pattern for all you crochet newbies.
Cos I am nice like that.

Let's crack on..

You will need:
12mm hook 
T-shirt yarn in whatever colours you like (this is perfect for using up leftovers)
Tapestry needle

Pattern: (US terms in bracket)

Foundation chain: In colour A, Chain 13
Row 1: beginning in 2nd chain from hook, 1dc (1sc) in each ch across, 1ch, then pull through colour B for 2nd ch, leaving long beginning tail for tie.
Now working the other side of the ch, make 1slst in each st across.
Fasten off, leaving long tail of colour B. Weave in ends of colour A.

Photo tutorial:

In colour A, Chain 13:

Beginning in 2nd chain from hook, 1dc (1sc) in each ch across:

Make 1ch in colour A, then pull up a loop of colour B, leaving a long tail at the beginning:

Turn the necklace around so you can work along the other side of the chain. You'll make your stitches into those unused loops:

Make 1 slip stitch into each stitch across, keeping your tension quite loose.

Pull the yarn tail through and make an invisible fastening-off as follows:
Stitch the end through the loop of the next stitch...

...and then back through the last slip stitch.

Turn the necklace over and stitch this tail through the back of the stitches to create one of the ties:

Weave away the yarn tail from the foundation chain on the other side:

Knot together the remaining two ends and weave away colour A, leaving colour B as the other tie:


Job done. 

Enjoy, lovely peeps!

Sarah xx