Saturday, 31 December 2016

My Knitting and Crochet Highlights of 2016

As 2016 draws to a close, I somehow feel a little deflated and not my usually positive self. But looking back over 2016 has cheered me up because I did some really amazing and creative things.



Firstly, I started the year by creating The Crochet Circle Podcast with Fay from Knitit-Hookit-Craft-it. Our first ever interview was with the wonderful Erika Knight. We were quite nervous but it was an amazing interview despite it being quite noisy as we were at a Trade Show. We then went on to interview more brilliant and inspiring people from the crafting world, including the amazing and talented duo Arne & Carlos, Hugh Metcalf (Editor of Crochet Now), Cara Ackerman (DMC Creative World), Verity Castledine (Truly Hooked) and Sara Mulvey (Black Sheep Wools). 15 episodes later, I left the podcasts in Fay's capable hands, as I was struggling to find the time required to do my fair share of the work, due to my self-employment work commitments. But don't despair - you will be able to hear me on my own podcasts which will be less frequent and much shorter, so I will still be sharing my knitting and crochet adventures with you along with lots of tips and advice. My first recording is here.


I was also approached by Search Press to author a new knitting title called "Knit Yourself Calm" along with Betsan Corkshill from Stitchlinks. Betsan is an expert in the therapeutic benefits of craft and it was great to work with her and learn how knitting can really help relieve stress and improve wellbeing. I designed 16 projects for the book that all link to Betsan's research and recommendations. Knit Yourself Calm will be published in June 2017 and I can't wait. It's already listed here on amazon and you can pre-order which means that you will get it at the cheapest price that it's offered before publication.

I also embarked upon a self-published book with Fay. We called it "TAKE TWO Collection 1 - Crochet". Printed copies will be available early in January 2017 and we both really pleased with our first self-published book and how it turned out. You can pre-order the printed version here. Alternatively you can buy a download version here.


My teaching has continued which is great. I love to pass my skills on to others and see my pupils really proud of their new skills. I hope my classes are popular too in 2017. My classes are run by a local Adult Education Programme and you can register here.

One of the things I've enjoyed the most this year is writing a monthly column for Crochet Now magazine called "Stash Diaries".


Each month on the back page, you can find a little reflection from me, along with a pattern for a quick or small project that will help you to use up your yarn stash. I've written about local artisans, recycling, upcycling, my favourite yarns, tea and favourite toys and I've had great fun designing the mini-projects. I'll be sharing some of them with you over the coming year as free patterns on my blog.

My design work has continued, which is fantastic - I design regularly for quite a few magazines, including a beginners section for Woman's Weekly Knitting and Crochet as well as designing for Let's Knit, Let's Get Crafting, Art of Knitting, Art of Crochet, Beginners Guides to Knitting and Crochet and more. There will be more of this in 2017 and in addition I have designs waiting to be worked up for Inside Crochet and Love to Knit and Crochet - I'm going to be a busy bee.

On top of all that, my tech editing work is growing and  it's been a pleasure to edit some brilliant knitting and crochet books during 2016 as well as editing some monthly magazines.


So I'll be doing all of the above and more in 2017 - I have a couple of new ideas that I want to take forward so you'll hear more about these throughout the year. They're top secret for now though.

Have you have a productive and creative 2016? I'd love to hear your plans for 2017 - maybe you'd like to learn a new skill, or a new technique? Feel free to leave a comment below, or you can tag me on social media if you prefer. I'm @thewoolnest on Facebook and Twitter and the_woolnest on Instagram.

So that's my review of 2016 - thank you so much for reading and I hope you'll join me again soon. You can subscribe to my blog in the right-hand column to make sure you don't miss a post.

Bye for now and see you next time.

Happy crafting, Lynne x


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Knit, Breathe and Relax with Anfeald Cowl - a free knitting pattern



Welcome to my latest blog post that has a little something extra - you can now listen to my blog as well as reading it. I'd love to hear what you think of this idea. I'll be adding audio to my future blog posts so that you can listen or read, whichever suits you best. Just click on the play button below to listen.



This week I'm happy to share with you a free pattern for my 'Anfeald Cowl', which is a really simple garter stitch cowl. Garter stitch is where you knit every stitch on every row – so it’s just the knit stitch repeated over and over again. It’s perfect if you've just learned how to knit and want to make something easy for yourself or a friend. 'Anfeald' uses up every bit of yarn, so there's no waste whatsoever - perfect for my thrifty knitting and crochet theme.

Garter stitch is really squishy so it creates a warm, dense fabric which is ideal for a cosy winter accessory. Even if you’re a seasoned knitter, this cowl is the perfect project that you could use for relaxing and knitting, because it is repetitive and rhythmic, you can almost lose yourself in the stitches and empty your mind, which in turn can be great for stress relief. You could knit 'Anfeald' whilst watching you favourite programs because there is no real pattern to follow.


KNITTING TIP
Slip the first stitch (knitwise as if to knit – just insert needle as if to knit but then slide it to the opposite needle without knitting it). This creates a really neat edge to the knitting.

If you're new to knitting, you may find that the first stitch of each row seems a little loose and this will create a messy edge, so slipping the first stitch avoids this. Even if the pattern doesn’t tell you to slip the first stitch – you can just do this yourself.

I used Drops Eskimo which is a chunky yarn. I bought my yarn from The Wool Warehouse who often have a sale on Drops yarn, which is great value for money.

I cast on 21 sts and knitted up 4 x 50g balls on 8mm needles, leaving enough to cast off and whip stitch the ends together. My rectangle measured 162cm which is long enough to wrap around your neck twice.

There are other options – if you only have 100g of chunky yarn you could knit a shorter cowl that just goes over your head and you could add a line of buttons for decoration. If you only have one 50g ball each of 2 colours you could work in stripes of 2 rows one colour/2 rows the second colour. Endless possibilities really.

To substitute yarn, simply look at the ball band or yarn info on a website. You’re looking for the information on number of stitches and number of rows per 10cm. Also check the type of fibre that the yarn is. Use those 2 pieces of information to choose an alternative –  something that has the same number of stitches and rows per 10cm and a similar fibre content. Don’t be put off if you can’t find the recommended yarn or want to use your stash. I’ve written a full blog post on substituting yarn here.

You can download the free pattern here:

If you make your own Cowl I love to see it. so don't forget to tag me if you share it on social media. I'm @thewoolnest on Facebook and Twitter and the_woolnest on Instagram. You can also add you finished cowl to the project page on Ravelry here.

I hope you enjoy making your own Anfeald cowl – if you have any problems or questions you can contact me through my blog or leave a comment on the blog post. If there’s anything in particular that you would like me to chat about then let me know and I’ll do my best to oblige. So that it for this blogcast – thank so much for listening and I hope we’ll get together again soon. Bye for now and see you next time.

Happy crafting, Lynne x

Disclaimer: This blog post is not sponsored; all of the views and comments are my own

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Book Review - Crocheted Scarves and Cowls by Nicki Trench

Here's a book that will keep you busy for years to come.

'Crocheted Scarves and Cowls' by Nicki Trench is a collection of 35 colourful and contemporary crochet patterns. Ranging from simple to more advanced, this is a versatile collection showcasing a huge variety of crochet stitches and techniques.

If you're a beginner, you can start with something simple like the soft and chunky Lagoon pom-pom scarf (page 40) then move onto more complex designs as you build your confidence, such as the Samphire scarf (page 52) which has a pretty beaded edging.

If you're more experienced in crochet, the simpler designs are perfect for relaxing. The repetitive nature of simple stitches means that you can lose yourself in the rhythm and calm your mind, which is perfect after a stressful day's work. When you feel like a challenge you can make a start on one of the more advanced designs.

My personal favourites are the Jewel Cowl, page 84, the Carousel Scarf, page 104 and the Coast Scarf, page 42.



This inspiring book has something for everyone - from bright scarves and cowls, to muted shawls and neckwarmers. You can put those oddments of yarn to great use with many of these beautiful projects.

Nicki's book reminds us that scarves are not just for Winter - with the huge variety of yarns available, scarves and shawls can be worn the whole year round.

Until 20th. November 2016, CICO books are offering my readers an exclusive 30% off all books on their new website called MAKEetc. where you can buy their crafty books, find free patterns and fab tutorials. Enter code MAKE30 at the checkout.
Shop here: MAKEetc

Thanks for reading and don't forget to follow me on Instagam (the_woolnest), Twitter (@thewoolnest) and Facebook (@thewoolnest).

Happy Crafting,
Lynne

Disclaimer: Thanks to CICO book who provided me with the free review copy. All of the views above are my own.

Monday, 14 November 2016

A new website for Crafters and a whopping 30% off until 20th. November 2016




I've been reviewing Craft books by publishers CICO books for a while now so image how excited I was to hear that they have just launched a brand new website called MAKEetc. where you can buy their crafty books, find free patterns and fab tutorials.
 
To celebrate, they are giving my blog readers 30% off all books in their shop with code MAKE30, until the 20th November, 2016.  

Just enter code MAKE30 at the checkout.

Here are a few of my knitting and crochet book reviews:
Fiona Goble: Knitted Animal Cozies
Laura Strutt: Modern Crocheted Shawls & Wraps
Mrs. Moon: Simple Chic Knits
Fiona Goble: Knitted Animal Scarves, Mitts & Socks
Fiona Goble: Scarves and Cowls

So what are you waiting for - head over there now and start your Christmas shopping.

Shop here: MAKEetc

Happy crafting,
Lynne                                                                              

Saturday, 29 October 2016

A Yarn Review of Shropshire Ply DK produced by Ewe and Ply, Shrewsbury - Thrifty Knitting & Crochet #2


When I was given 28g of yarn to test for review recently, I have to admit I was a little bit flummoxed as to what I would make with it, other than just crochet a test square and make notes on how it felt, handled and crocheted up. However, with my "Thrifty Knitting and Crochet" hat on, I wondered if there was something useful I could make out of this small amount of yarn. I have lots of half balls in my stash and they come in really handy for colourwork - I love a good crocheted stripe or a bit of knitted Fairisle. 

The yarn was sent to Fay as part of a Crochet Circle podcast yarn review, from Ewe and Ply in Shrewsbury and it comes in a great range of shades. It's called  Shropshire Ply DK. Becca and Teri who own Ewe and Ply have started to produce their own yarn from local pedigree Shropshire Sheep and the yarn is spun and dyed in Yorkshire. So for those who like to use British wool, this is a great option. It retails at £12 per 100g/247m.
 
 
Up in The Woolnest, I have a cute little teapot which was a charity shop find, and it's the perfect size for a good mug and a half of mint tea - my favourite flavour is Buttermint, which is like drinking a murray mint. So the idea popped into my head to crochet a mini tea cosy from the Shropshire Ply DK.
 
I used a basic V-stitch pattern to create 2 halves, which I shaped at the top and stitched together. I have the idea to cover it with lots of flowers, so I found some similar yarn in my stash and happily sat making pretty, rustic flowers. However, after sewing them all on, I realised that they made the cosy look far too top heavy, so I carefully removed the all so that I could re-use them on a different project and instead I attached just 3 flowers and 4 leaves. I called my tea cosy "Glen" - because it looks like a little fairy glen and also it's a little woolly tribute to Glen from The Walking Dead (it was so sad to lose him).


Here are my thoughts about the yarn:
The first thing I noticed was the smell, which is really pleasant and fragrant. When I squidged the yarn, it felt crispy and a bit crunchy and I was a little worried that it may be slightly rough on my hands as I have sensitive skin. I'm pleased to say I was wrong, and it felt much softer when I was working with than I'd anticipated.

It created a firm, sturdy fabric with crochet and was perfect for my tea cosy. I used some oddments of a similar wool to add a splash of autumn colour to the top of the cosy with leaves and flowers. The yarn is quite rigid and wouldn't stretch over my tea post, so I added a button fastening to one corner of my tea cosy for ease of use.
 
I love the yarn and could see myself using it again for slippers, cushions, amigurumi and accessories. I imagine that it would make the most gorgeous blanket - either knitted or crocheted - and would be great for felting. I grew to love the yarn whilst I was using it and I would definitely use it again.
 
I had such fun designing something small and useful from an oddment or too of yarn, and I'm so delighted with my finished project. It's been put to good use already up in The Woolnest, keeping my drinks nice and hot. I'll be sharing the pattern soon, and  I hope you agree that this has been a great "thrifty" project using some beautiful yarn.
 
See you all soon,
Happy Making,
Lynne x

Friday, 21 October 2016

Thrifty Knitting & Crochet #1


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, and I know that many of you already apply this ethos to your crafting, 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 using 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 my part-balls and 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, so we'll chat about how to buy the correct amount of yarn, rather than too much or too little and buying when you need it, not in case you need it. We'll also 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 towards the top of the right-hand column. I'll be sharing some of my simpler patterns for free, so if you subscribe you won't miss out.


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: www.mariewallin.com

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  http://www.insidecrochet.co.uk/

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

 
Crochet Tension is something that I'm often asked about when I'm teaching crochet, so I thought it would be helpful to follow this up with a dedicated blog post. Tension can also be referred to as Gauge - particularly in US patterns.

Getting your tension right is just as important in crochet as it is for knitting and I hope my step-by-step guide helps you to achieve the perfect tension.

What is Tension (gauge)?
Crochet tension is the number of stitches and rows, using a particular stitch or stitch pattern, in a defined square of crochet fabric, usually 10x10cm (4x4in). 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.

Where will I find the information I need?
The tension required for a pattern will  usually be listed in the information section at the beginning, and you need to match it to make sure that your project turns out to 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. This would mean that if you crocheted a jumper without checking your tension first, it could turn out too big or too small, and all those hours of crochet would be wasted.

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 some accessories, tension isn't crucial as it doesn't matter too much if a flower or a bag isn't quite the right size.

What do I do next?
First, you will need to crochet a square of crochet in the main stitch pattern being used. A tension square should be slightly larger than the area you are going to measure. So, for a 10x10cm (4x4in) square you should make a square measuring at least 15x15cm (6x6in). 

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 the same height as the width (so that you have a square). 

Fasten off the yarn, then spray the square with water to dampen, and pin in out flat to dry (also known as blocking). Blocking the square will relax the stitches for more accurate measurements.

How do I measure my 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.

What if my tension doesn't match the specified 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.

You may need to work up a few tension squares with different hook sizes until you ultimately achieve the correct tension to match your pattern.

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 hope that helps you to work out your crochet tension.

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