Sunday, 29 May 2016

Substituting Yarn

 photo used with kind permission from Marie Wallin:

As part of the Crochet Circle Podcast, Fay and I are both making a crochet garment to (hopefully) wear at Yarndale.

I found it quite difficult to find a nice crochet top that I really liked, and the only real option for me was something from Marie Wallin’s book called 'Filigree, collection three', which I bought recently. I love 'Aster' which is a cropped style top and uses quite a large mesh stitch, so it’s very open and will be worn over a camisole or t-shirt.

I’ve chosen this because it suits my style – quite a simple shape – like a t-shirt, and modern. I may wear it over a dress or a blouse, so in choosing my design I’m thinking ahead as to how I will wear it. I have some potental yarn in my stash for this, which is another reason for choosing it.

Then also as if by magic, through the door this week popped Inside Crochet with a fantastic jumper that I really like by designer Annelies Baes, called Lisa Sweater. I also have some potential yarn for this, so I'm now thinking I'll make 2 crochet garments.
photo credit: Inside Crochet

Sometimes the yarn recommended in a knitting or crochet pattern may not be the yarn that you want to use. You may want to use up some left over yarn from your stash instead, or you may wish to use a different type of fibre.
I've written this blog post a guide to help you choose an alternative yarn.

Step 1:
Once you’ve chosen your pattern, check the materials section to identify what yarn has been used in the pattern and also the hook or needle size.
Step 2:
Look at the weight of yarn recommended – is it lace-weight/4-ply/DK/aran/chunky/super chunky?

For Aster, I need a  4-ply weight.

Next, look at the fibre cotton – is the recommended yarn wool/synthetic/cotton/bamboo/silk. If you want to match the fibres exactly then you already know what to look for.

For Aster, I’m looking at a 4-ply yarn that is 100% cotton. I like the finish of the garment I want to make – the Rowan cotton used (Summerlite) looks soft and smooth with a matte finish and will give a study, firm and slightly weighty garment on a 4-ply - so I’m sticking with the recommended fibre.
So I need a 4-ply cotton with a matt finish (so not the more shiny mercerised cottons that have been through a process to give them a slight sheen).

However, if I'd wanted the finish to be more light and airy – so I could change to a light mohair or if I wanted a more drapey finish I could change to a silk/bamboo/viscose based yarn. An animal fibre
would create a warmer garment or one with a fuzzier finish – in which case you could choose a 4-ply weight pure wool – but make sure that neither you or your recipient are allergic to animal fibres.

Once you’ve decided on the finish that you want, you can now look at yarn of the right weight and find options that match the tension provided (use the knitting tension on the ball band as a starting point).

Step 3:
You can then limit your search to those yarns that to suit your budget or you could start by mooching in your stash – or you could visit your local yarn shop. They’re usually really helpful and you can also squish the yarn and they often have tension squares or garment samples hanging up so you can see the stitch definition and finish, or feel the drape. You can also search online. There’s a great website called yarnsub where you can type in the recommended yarn and it gives you a list of alternatives. 
Once you’ve chosen your yarn, if it’s from your stash you can go ahead and make a tension square.

The pattern will tell you how many stitches or patterns repeats should be in a defined measurement (I've talked in more detail about tension squares in a previous blog post here). If you’re buying yarn – perhaps buy one ball first and make a tension square to make sure everything is working as it should, before buying lots of balls or skeins.

I hope that helps you to feel confident about substituting yarn and I'd love to hear from you if you have any more useful hints to add.

Happy crafting,
Lynne x

Friday, 27 May 2016

Yarn Review - Manos del Uruguay Marina

Last month, Rooster Yarns sent me a gorgeous sample of Manos Del Uruguay Marina yarn to review. For those of you who haven’t heard of Rooster Yarns – they’re a family run business based in Cheshire, UK, and they are distributers of their own brand of Rooster yarns and also Manos Del Uruguay yarns. You can see their full range of yarns here:

Manos Marina is a Manos del Uruguay yarn, which is produced by a Fair Trade, not for profit organisation aimed at providing jobs for women in rural areas in Uruguay. The women spin and dye the yarns and every skein includes the name of the artisan who made it. The wool is local and the dyes are made in small pots heated by wood or gas. It’s a sustainable process and means that the artisans are able to provide for their families without having to move to the larger cities.

You can read all about the Manos del Uruguay organisation here: Manos del Uruguay

About the Yarn:
Manos Marina is kettle dyed which means that the skein is laid out in a shallow dish filled with hot water and vinegar and dye is add to sections of yarn and left to simmer until the dye is dissolved and the water is clear. When you wind off the skein into a ball, you get a multi-coloured effect. Some skeins are tonal colors (different tones of the same colour) and others are multi-coloured.

My skein of Marina is shade:
Shantung N7165 and it’s a mix of colours ranging from the deepest purple, through to deep red, a rich teal, light teal, pink and peach.
photo credit: rooster yarns
The colours are rich and have great depth, and I enjoyed watching the colour change as I worked with it.
It’s fascinating how the colours change from blocks of colour on the skein to short strips of colour when you wind it off – to make it a variegated yarn.
As well as the gorgeous skein that I have, the colours are beautiful – I love the tonal colours – there’s a gorgeous skein of teal tones called Calypso and one of deep and rich reds called Sangre.

For Crochet – I used a 4.5mm hook with Marina, even though it’s a lace-weight yarn, I wanted to achieve a more open stitch. I’m testing out a new shawl design – aiming to achieve something very simple but lovely too. I know that many new crocheters are fearful of trying patterns that look over-complicated or fussy, so I’m aiming for something that they can create with confidence, using the simplest of stitches.

 I love the softness of the yarn and the drape created by using a larger hook. With the stitch I’ve used I love the way the colours pool together in small patches, rather than in lines– so it’s a very different pattern to the knitted sample which creates more traditional lines of colour that you get when knitting with variegated yarn. With knitting, you tend to notice more the colour changes – mainly because you have lots of stitches on your needles and you can see all the different colours across the stitches. For my knitted sample, I used 2.75mm needles (you can use between 2-4mm like all lace-weights). The knitted sample was beautifully soft too – and despite my fear of lace-weight yarns (they’re so very fine!!!) I enjoyed knitting with it too. I thought the colours in the crochet sample seem to have much more depth than the knitted sample, so overall I prefer my crochet sample, and as soon as the shawl is finished I’ll share it with you.

Fay who is co-presenter of The Crochet Circle Podcast, also prefers the colour distribution in her crochet sample.

See the full range of Manos Del Uruguay yarns here: Manos yarns
I hope you've enjoyed my yarn review and would love to hear your thoughts or experience of Manos del Uruguay yarns.

Happy crafting,
Lynne x

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Explaining Crochet Tension

In Episode 3 of The Crochet Circle Podcast (link is here), we chat about Crochet Tension, so I thought it would be helpful to follow this up with a dedicated blog post, as it's something that I'm often asked about when I'm teaching crochet.
Crochet tension, (sometimes referred to as gauge) is the number of stitches and rows using a particular stitch or stitch pattern in a defined square of crochet fabric, usually 10cm (4in). It is determined by the size of hook and yarn you are using, and can even be influenced by the way you are sitting, or by your mood. So if you're feeling stressed for example, you're more likely to crochet tightly which can affect the size of your stitches.
The tension required for a pattern will be listed at the beginning of the pattern, and you need to match it to get the correct size. It's important to remember that every crocheter works to their own tension, so there's no guarantee that yours will match that of the pattern.
It's essential therefore to check your tension before you start your project – otherwise your finished item may be too large or too small and you will have to unravel your work and start again. However, for accessories, tension isn't crucial as it doesn't matter too much if a flower or a bag isn't quite the right size.
A tension square should be slightly larger than the area you are going to measure. So, for a 10cm (4in) square you should make a square measuring at least 15cm (6in).
To make a square, make a foundation chain of the length required and then work in the specified stitch or pattern until your crochet piece measures 15cm (6in). Fasten off the yarn, then block the square. Blocking the square will relax the stitches for more accurate measurements.
To measure tension:
On a flat surface, with the right side facing you, and using a hard ruler or metal tape measure, measure 10cm (4in) across a row of stitches. Mark each end with a pin.

Next, measure 10cm against the vertical rows, and mark each end with a pin.

Now count the number of stitches (and half stitches) between the two sets of pins to obtain the number of stitches and rows within the 10cm square.
The tension of some patterns is measured by the number of pattern repeats in a 10cm (4in) square. In this case, count the number of repeats, not the number of stitches and rows.
To amend your tension:
If you have too many stitches and rows then your tension is too tight (and your stitches are too small). Make a new tension square using a hook one size larger than recommended in the pattern. So if the pattern recommends a 4mm hook, try 4.5mm instead.
If you have too few stitches and rows then your tension is too loose (and your stitches are too big). Make a new tension square using a hook one size smaller than recommended in the pattern. So if the pattern recommends a 3.75mm hook, try using 3.5mm.

The main thing now is to keep your tension square and label it so that you can use if for reference in the future - this is really useful if you use the same type of yarn regularly. I bought my tags from Knit it-Hook it-Craft-it  and you can find all the details here: Stash Tags

I hope that helps and you have any tips I'd love to hear them.

Happy crafting,
Lynne xx

Saturday, 2 April 2016

New beginnings

image credit: Woman's Weekly Knitting and Crochet
I started the year with great optimism and January was a positive month, which saw the start of my Crochet-A-Long Blanket for Woman's Weekly Knitting and Crochet. You can read all about it here, including a free video on how to make the central flowers, by the talented Freddie and Monika from the Woman's Weekly team.
But then I have to admit that February and March were rather too hectic for my own good. I could say I'm not sure how it happened, but that would be a little white lie. It happened because I don't like saying "no" to clients I've been working with for such a long time. Often their proposals sound really exciting and spark my own creativity, but for the sake of my own health and family, I realised I needed to scale down a little and give myself a little bit of breathing space. And I soon realised that this doesn't mean that I have to say "no" all of the time - just some of the time. And the result? well I now have breathing space to think, plan and work on developing my own brand as well as maintaining great relationships with my clients.
I have a sketch book full of ideas which I'm mulling over and planning out, plus I have hundreds of patterns on my computer which I need to share with you all. I've been organising my stash, sorting out yarn for projects and have borrowed a light box from a kind friend. So with my new branding and artwork, I'm good to go with my own designs. I have one pattern for sale in my new pattern template, and many more in the pipeline. Plumley Penguin cuts a lonely figure in my Ravelry shop here, so he needs a few friends for company.
That said, I do have a couple of really exciting things to share with you. There are 3 things in total but 1 remains a secret for now.

Firstly, I was delighted to be asked by editor Hugh Metcalf to write a one-page column for his new magazine Crochet Now - sister magazine to the fabulous Knit Now which is edited by the lovely and equally talented Kate Heppel. 

The theme of my column is my use it or lose it campaign, which involves mooching around in my stash and making something lovely out of the yarn oddments that are lying around in The Woolnest. My column is called Stash Diaries, and I'm honoured to be part of Hugh's fantastic new crochet magazine. So far, I made bowls, washcloths and a purse for the column and I had some great feedback from Hugh, which is always a relief (as well as rewarding). I'm looking forward to designing more quick projects for those odd balls of yarn that we all have lying around. You can read all about Crochet Now here.

My second exciting news is the launch of a new crochet podcast called The Crochet Circle, presented by myself and good friend/yarn-mad colleague, Fay Dashper-Hughes.

I taught Fay to knit and crochet about 18 months ago and we've enjoyed a great friendship ever since, which is one of the benefits of teaching. Fay has recently started a new company that will sell craft-related products that have been carefully sourced. I'm really excited for Fay and her products are really charming as well as useful and beautifully made.  In our first Podcast  we introduce ourselves, talk about Erika Knight's gorgeous new yarn called Studio Linen, talk about this month's crochet magazines and much more.
We interviewed the vivacious Erika Knight recently at a Trade Show and Erika talks about sustainability, her new Studio Linen yarn and collection, knitting British, Manufacturing and her experiences in the fashion and yarn industries. Erika is such an interesting and lovely lady, and this interview will always remain one of my favourite moments from my own yarny adventures. You can read all about Erika's new Studio Linen yarn and collection here.
We also interviewed Sara Mulvey from Black Sheep Wools on Yarn Shop Day and we recorded our third episode last week. So if you'd like to listen to Fay and I chatting about crochet, you can find our podcast episodes here (note - the interview with Erika was recorded at a very busy Trade show so there is some background noise):
We'd love to hear any feedback, especially if there's something specific you'd like us to chat about.
In the meantime, happy crafting and see you soon,
Lynne x 

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Book Review - Laura Strutt "Modern Crocheted Shawls & Wraps"

Around a month ago I received a couple of lovely books from CICO BOOKS to review. One of these was Laura Strutt's latest collection of 35 beautiful patterns for Shawls and Wraps, ranging from simple crochet wraps to larger shawls. Designs include pretty lace-patterned shawls which are great for draping around your shoulders, chunky capelets to add a layer of extra warmth and brightly coloured throws with contrasting borders to brighten up your home. Some are comforting and cosy, whilst others are delicate and elegant.
Laura uses Granny hexagons and stars to make giant rectangular wraps and throws, and uses puff stitch to add texture and weight. There are lace-patterned shawls and  there's even a stash-busting wrap, so you can dive into your stash and use up your favourite left-over yarns to create something beautiful.

There's something for every occasion - from parties and picnics to walks in the woods. You're definitely spoilt for choice with Laura's modern and stylish designs. My favourites are:
Stash-buster Stripes, page 12
Pretty in Pink, page 16
Emerald Puff, page 38
Golden Glow, page 48
Shades of Blue, page 94
Laura has kindly shared the free pattern for the cosy stash-busting covermount project on her website - click here for free pattern
So if you want to improve your wardrobe then look no further than Laura's latest collection. The Book is published by CICO ISBN 978-1-78249-311-2 and RRP is £12.99. For more information see:

I hope you enjoy making and wearing these beautiful shawls.
Happy Crocheting,
Lynne x