Friday, 21 October 2016

Thrifty Knitting & Crochet

When Crochet Now magazine was launched just over 6 months ago, I was delighted when Editor Hugh  Metcalf approached me to write a column called "Stash Diaries". Each month I write a small column around a specific theme, which leads nicely into something you can make with your stash. This is usually something you can make with oddments of yarn (I generally class oddments of yarn as under 25g).
I've been really surprised at what I've been able to make with small bits of left-over yarn, and I've even used my stash to raise money for Charity. So I thought I'd take this further on my blog, with a feature called "Thrifty Knitting & Crochet".

My aim is for "Thrifty Knitting & Crochet" to be an interactive process, so I'd love to hear your own thoughts and views on making your knitting and crochet activities more thrifty and ultimately more sustainable.
The sustainability aspects of crafting are already widely covered by other bloggers who talk about the impact on animals, people and the environment. So I'll round up the information available on sustainable crafting and provide links so that you can read/hear more from those individuals who have carried out a lot more research in this topic area.

For Thrifty Knitting & Crochet, here is a list of topics that I will be covering over the coming months:
Keeping on top of your stash - is your stash out of control? Then fear not, I will walk you through the process of grading and sorting your stash and reducing it down to more manageable levels, as well as giving you ideas on what to do with the yarn you no longer want to keep. We'll use my "Use it or lose it" rules as a starting point.
Using your stash - I'll start by giving you some ideas on how to use up those oddments of yarn. We'll find a use for those full balls, part balls and tiny oddments. I'll be covering both knitting and crochet, so there's no excuse not to join in. I'm intrigued to see what I can make with the smallest oddments.
Sourcing second hand yarns - I'll suggest some great places to source second hand yarns, where one persons discarded yarn is another person's treasure.
Reusing yarns - I haven't tried this myself, but happy to give it a whirl and test it out.
Crafting for Charity - how to use your knitting & crochet skills and stash to help others.
Supporting you local yarn shop - I'm not suggesting that "Thrifty Knitting & Crochet means that you stop buying yarn, as that wouldn't be good for your local yarn shops, so we'll chat about how to buy the correct amount of yarn, rather than too much or too little, and look at other activities that many yarn shops offer in addition to selling yarn.
So if you don't want to miss out on my "Thrifty Knitting" series you can subscribe to my blog by entering your email address into the box at the top of the right-hand column.

I'm looking forward to getting going with my new feature, and will be back very soon with "Keeping on top of your Stash".

Happy knitting and crocheting,
Lynne x

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Book Review - Knitted Animal Cozies by Fiona Goble (CICO Books)

Some time ago (I confess it was a few weeks), CICO sent me a few lovely books to review, one of which is "Knitted Animal Cozies" by designer Fiona Goble. It's been patiently waiting up in The Woolnest for me to put some time aside, have a good look through and tell you all what I think about it.
Please note: The book itself was provided by CICO books. This review contains my own thoughts and words and I haven't been asked to write anything specific.
I do love Fiona Goble's designs, and own a few books of hers already, including "Scarves and Cowls" and "Knitted Animal Scarves, Mitts and Socks" which I reviewed here. I've donated that particular review book to Alison at Woolgathering, Sandbach (which is the knit group I go to) as she fell in love with it too, and has a few grandchildren that she loves to knit for. I've been really chuffed to see the cute little scarves and mittens that she's made. Applying my "use it or lose it" ethos has really paid off, so instead of being stuck upstairs in The Woolnest, the book is being put to great use and enjoyment.
In her latest book "Knitted Animal Cozies", Fiona has transformed our favourite cute creatures into useful woollen cozies, designed to brighten up your home or workspace. They're also great to give as gifts and some are really quirky and fun - destined to bring a smile to even the most serious of faces.
There are 35 woolly cozies to keep your special gadgets safe and warm, including moose and puffin egg cozies, a sleepy fox hot water bottle cover, a charming baby owl tea cozy, and a woolly sheep that wraps herself around a cafetiere to keep your coffee hot. An octopus apple cozy protects your apples and prevents bruising and there's even a baby papoose with a bear cub hat, a panda mug hug and a meerkat e-reader cover to name but a few.

The cozy creatures are divided into four chapters - In the Kitchen, At Home, In Your Bag and On Your Desk, so there really is something for everyone, from old to young. I'm pretty sure they'll warm the heart of the most sceptical of knitting recipients.
Best of all - the patterns are really easy to follow and there is a full techniques section at the back of the book which includes everything you need to know to knit your own cozies.

So get out your needles, raid your stash and get knitting your Christmas gifts - you know you can't resist a bit of fun knitting, and before you know it you'll have knitted a cute and cozy zoo.

Link to Amazon: Knitted Animal Cozies
Thanks for visiting and see you soon.
Happy Making,
Lynne x

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