Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Getting Ready!

The first patterns for the Lily Pond Blanket Crochet Along (CAL) project will be available for you to download for free from the Stylecraft Yarns web site on the 7th April.

The response to the project has been incredible – we sold out of our original yarn kits in just 2 days and many other retailers here in the UK had a similar situation. We now have mixed yarn kits in stock, but only have a few left. The global response has also been amazing – the patterns are currently being translated into Dutch and we have had lots of interest from crocheters all over the world.

With less than 3 weeks to go until the launch of the first patterns I thought it would be a good idea to give you a bit of information about what you can do to prepare for the CAL so that you can start working on the project just as soon as you have downloaded the first set of patterns.

Choosing your yarn:
The patterns have been written for Stylecraft Life DK. This is a true DK weight of yarn that knits to a tension of 22sts and 30 rows on 4mm knitting needles. If you have found a substitute yarn then check the ball band for the knitted tension information. Most yarns give the tension for knitting and not for crochet – you will find information on the crochet tension further down this post.

Stylecraft Life DK comes in 100g balls and has a length of 326yds/298 meters. If you have chosen an alternative yarn please make sure that the length is as close to the Life DK as possible. Yarns that have a different fibre content or a slightly different yarn twist can have varying lengths of yarn, even though they weigh the same. If you are using Stylecraft Special DK instead of Life DK you do not need any extra yarn as there is only a tiny difference in yarn length per 100g ball.

Crochet Hooks:
I used a 3.5mm, 4mm & 4.5mm hook in the project.
The 4mm hook is used for the majority of the project, but it is important that you do have all 3 sizes as using the incorrect hook size will affect the appearance of your piece.

I am a big fan of Clover Amour hooks. They have a elastomer handle which is slightly squishy and stops your fingers from slipping. The ergonomic design of the hook also means there is a flat area for your thumb to rest on.

There are lots new hooks on the market now, many of them have a plastic type handle and I can vouch for the fact that a sturdy handle really does help if you struggle with sore wrists or fingers when you crochet. You could take a look at the Knit Pro Waves, Prym or Clover Soft Touch as an alternative to the Clover Amour.

Other Accessories:
Along with the crochet hooks, you will need a few extra pieces of equipment when working through this project.

Stitch Markers:
In order to help you through the making up process of the blanket I suggest within the patterns that you use stitch markers to denote certain stitches or help when you are joining your seams later on.

I tend to use small locking stitch markers – these look like little nappy pins and are really safe as the stitches cannot escape. Locking markers are especially good for holding crochet pieces together while you sew up seams. I have suggested you use a stitch marker to mark every corner stitch on the square motifs, of which there will be a total of 21 pieces. If you mark each piece with 4 markers and plan to leave them in your work the whole time then you will need a total of 84 markers. This is a lot of markers, so you could mark your stitches with spare pieces of yarn or small pins if you prefer.

Knitters Sewing Needle:
You will have a lot of yarn ends to sew in as you work through the project. It is my suggestion that you sew in all your ends as you go along so that you don’t end up with a massive making up job once you have completed all your crochet. The blanket will be crocheted together using double crochet, but you will need a sewing needle to sew in all the loose ends.

I use a Chibi bent tip needle. These are great for sewing up knitting and crochet projects. They come in packs of 2 needles and have a handy little container too!

Other bits and bobs:
You will also need a sharp pair of scissors and a tape measure.
You might also want to sort out a dedicated bag for your project. I like to make sure that I don’t muddle up my yarns with other things or misplace any of them - canvas bags or baskets are great for this.

Stitches Used:
This project is aimed at an intermediate level of crocheter. It is important that you know your stitches and have a good grasp of techniques. If you are planning to use this project as a learning tool then it is a good idea to make sure you know your basics before you start.

The project is written using UK terminology. I have posted a table below with US stitch equivalents for the stitches used in the project:

If you already have your yarn and the correct hooks then you are ready to work your tension pieces.

Taking the time to work these blocks can seem like a pain, but it is REALLY important that you are sure you are working to the same tension as the tension the patterns are written for. A failure to work to the correct tension will mean that your project will come out a different size and that you will use a different amount of yarn.

If you are using Life DK or Special DK and have full 100g balls you will have enough yarn in almost all of the shades to work your tension pieces and still have enough to complete your CAL project. When I completed the project I had at least a 3rd of a ball of all shades except the Fern and Teal left over – I only had approx. 20g of these 2 shades left so I would suggest you don’t use these for your tension pieces.

When working a tension piece it is a good idea to work on more stitches and rows that the suggested tension. I used 28 or 29sts and worked at least 4 more rows of the stitches so that I could measure a true tension within my pieces. See my images below for a guide.

Double Crochet – dc (US single crochet – sc)

Using 4mm hook
Tension = 20 sts and 22 rows

Treble Crochet – tr (US double crochet – dc)

Using 3.5mm hook
Tension 20sts and 10 rows

Please note the hook sizes above – a smaller hook is used to achieve the treble crochet (US double crochet) tension

The tension is taken from unblocked swatches – I stuck mine down to the work surface with double sided tape (being careful not to stretch them) so that they were less curly and easy to measure.

If your tension is different to mine, then change your hook sizes accordingly and try the tension swatches again.

If you have a loose tension use a smaller hook
If you have a tight tension use a larger hook

Charts and Images:
I am really pleased to have been given the chance to work along side Stylecraft yarns on this project, especially as they have taken over the checking and layout of the patterns. The patterns have been checked and double checked and I have tried to write them in a way that makes them easy to understand.

The patterns include step-by-step images to help guide you through the making process. All step-by-step images have been taken on my little camera as I worked through the project. My images have not been photo shopped (other than to brighten them up a bit) and where applicable I have not cropped out the edges. I think that images like this can be really helpful and are a great alternative to charts (which are not included in the CAL patterns this time) and I feel it is important that you see how the pieces look as they are worked on, even if they look a little curly and uneven.

Yarn Usage:
As I have said earlier on, all yarns have a varying amount of left overs, with Teal and Fern having the smallest amount remaining once the project is completed.

It is my advice that you keep hold of all your yarn until the end of the project – by this I mean all the pieces you might undo and any pieces that look a bit frayed. Don’t be tempted to use any of the yarn for any other project until you have completed this one and make sure you keep everything in a safe place.

For those of you who have bought the original or mixed yarn kit via the Janie Crow web site we will be sending you a free download pattern for a bag that you can make to use up your left overs. The pattern will be sent to you from the 7th April via email, but please don’t be tempted to make it with your project yarn until you are sure you have enough left over!

Help is at hand:
Stylecraft and I want you to enjoy this project and we will do our best to make sure that any queries you might have get answered as soon as possible. The easiest way for you to make contact is via the facebook pages. You can find the Stylecraft one here and the Janie Crow one here.

You might find the answer to your question within previous blog posts or facebook postings, so do take the time to read through all the information we have given you.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Crochet Along 2015 - Inspiration and Design

We have been overwhelmed by the response to the new Crochet Along project (CAL), which will start on the 7th April. We are really excited about this project and are now counting down the days to the launch.

Global sales have been so high that Stylecraft are now out of stock of some of the Life DK shades used in the project. We have sold out of our original kits, but have a limited number of mixed yarn kits available to order via the web site. The mixed yarn kit contains 12 balls of Life DK and 2 shades of Special DK. The substituted shades are as follows: 

Special DK Sherbert in place of Life DK Mint
Special DK Turquoise in place of Life DK Aqua 

The new mixed yarn kit is on sale at a price of £39.50. Original yarn kits are on pre order with expected delivery date as late April/early May.

Our kits contain all the yarns, a JANIE CROW sew in label for you to attach to your completed project and access to a downloadable extra free pattern for an exclusive bag project which you can make using your left over yarns. The sew in label and bag project pattern is only available with our yarn packs and will not be available through other retailers. 

If you wish to source your own yarn, here is a list of yarns used: 

Stylecraft Life DK
14 x 100g balls
326yds/298 meters
75% Acrylic and 25% Wool

1 x 2357 Aqua
1 x 2319 Cranberry
1 x 2305 Cream
1 x 2394 Daffodil
1 x 2344 Fuchsia
1 x 2417 Lily
1 x 2342 Mint
1 x 2301 Rose
2 x 2311 Fern
2 x 2302 Olive
2 x 2416 Teal 

Design Inspiration:
I love looking through interior design magazines and follow the interior trends closely. Most of my knit and crochet design work is for items for the home, such as cushion covers and blankets, so following interior trends rather than fashion trends is more logical for me. Interior trends do tend to reflect many fashion trends and the trend that really stood out to me for 2015 is the botanical trend, which focuses on a colour palette of greens, aqua blues and bright pinks and oranges. The trend is possibly more tropical than my design ended up, but I think the blanket sits nicely in this theme never the less. The mood board I used as a focus for my design is below: 

The Finished Design:
I start every project with very little planning. It is only once I have a completed motif or stitch formation that I am pleased with that I then start to plan a completed design. This design started with a small flower, which reminded me of a pond lily and finally became one of the motifs in the layout process. 

Once I had the idea of designing a project based on a Lily Pond my design began to move away from the themes on my initial mood board (this is something that tends to happen to me a lot – I get so carried away with colour combinations and stitches that I stop looking at my initial inspiration and start designing in line with the first few pieces I create). The first lily motif reminded me of Monet’s lily pond paintings and, although I didn’t then look at the paintings from Monet’s Giverney garden, I had them in mind when designing the rest of the blanket. 

I have designed every block from scratch - I don’t use blocks designed by other people or work directly from stitch directories, so each of the motifs within this project are not available elsewhere. For this CAL I wanted to create a project that would appeal to novice and experienced crocheters and I felt very quickly that the Lily Pond theme could work really well for this. I hope that the first few pieces will help crocheters with their basic stitches and will focus on working in rows. These pieces are meant to represent the water in the lily pond, the ripples and small waves and the fish and plants swimming and growing below the surface. Later pieces (the flower motifs) are worked in the round and they start easy and progressively get a little harder, some of the lilies are just opening, so are small and easy, whilst others are in full bloom with a few layers of brightly coloured petals. 

I am really pleased with the design and will be able to show you images of the completed blanket very soon. The completed blanket measures approximately 110cm square

The patterns:
The patterns will be free to download from the Stylecraft web site from the 7th of April. The patterns will be published fortnightly and there is a total of 8 patterns. As I said above I have tried to design the pieces so that they get progressively harder and hopefully this means that crocheters can use the CAL as a learning tool. The patterns will focus on one motif or block every fortnight and you will need to complete an average of 4 motifs/blocks per set. Most of the blocks are 15cm square, although others are slightly bigger.

The first block focuses on basic stitches and we have put in step by step photographs the whole way through and have tried to include an image for most steps of the making process for each block.

The project can be put together as you go along, with the first finishing instructions appearing in pattern set 4. Putting the project together as you go along saves you a massive job at the end and means you can enjoy your blanket almost as soon as you have crocheted the last piece, although I have added a lovely shell border that will take a little bit of time!

I will be giving more information about things you can do to prepare for the CAL over the next few weeks so do make sure to stop by and check up on anything new! You can follow Janie Crow and Stylecraft on facebook and twitter.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Crochet Along

I am really excited to now be able to tell you about my new Crochet Along (CAL) project which I am launching in association with Stylecraft yarns.

The project is not a mystery and you will be able to see from my pictures and the images that Stylecraft themselves will publish soon exactly what the lap blanket/throw design looks like. Stylecraft will be publishing the patterns for you to download free of charge via their web site in 8 parts between 7th April and 14th July and I will be doing blog posts to help you along the way should you wish to have a little more help alongside the written patterns.

I am really delighted that Stylecraft have put their faith in me and supported me with this project – they have done a superb job doing all the bits I don’t like doing and have had their experts check and layout my patterns. Having the support of Stylecraft has meant that these patterns will be available to you free of charge, something that I would not be able to offer without their backing.

Stylecraft is an independent company based in Keighley, in the heart of West Yorkshire. The company is a 100% UK owned family business and the present owner and his daughter have day-to-day involvement in the running of the company. Supporting UK business is something I feel really strongly about, but from past experience I also felt it was time I created a project which is more affordable than my previous kits and club projects and therefore within the reach of far more crocheters, be they novice or expert. I have chosen to use Stylecraft’s ‘Life DK’ for this project and the yarn cost works out at just £42 for the complete project.

How the CAL works:
The complete design of the CAL has yet to be revealed, but if you like the look of the taster images for the 'Pond Lily Blanket', which has finished measurements of approximately 110cm square, the first thing you need to do is source your yarn and make sure you have the correct hooks. You can order a kit from us if you wish and more information on how to do so is below.

The first of the eight patterns will be ready to download from the Stylecraft web site on the 7th April. More information about how to download and save the patterns will be given on the Stylecraft web site and I will also explain it on this blog when the first pattern is released.

Order a Yarn Kit from us:
We have put together an exclusive project pack that you can pre order from our web site. The pack contains all the yarns, a JANIE CROW sew in label for you to attach to your completed project and the pattern for an exclusive bag project which you can make using your left over yarns. The sew in label and bag project pattern is only available within our yarn pack and will not be available through other retailers. The design for the bag pattern will be revealed just as soon as I get it finished!
Please note that the pack does not contain the patterns for the project as these will be available for you to download every fortnight from the Stylecraft web site.

We have calculated the price of our yarn kit based on recommended retail price per ball of yarn and the 2 extra items in the pack come free of charge. We also offer free UK 2nd class postage as standard on our web site. In addition to this we are offering a reduced postage rate for all destinations outside of the UK until March 31st. Postage rates for these destinations will be added to your pre order at checkout.

Order now to ensure that your yarn kit will be included in the first batch of kits that we will dispatch so that you receive your kit in time for the beginning of the CAL on the 8th April. To pre order a kit click here

If you want to add crochet hooks to your kit order you can also do this at check out.

The Yarn Palette:
I will admit to being a total yarn snob, by this I mean that until recently I have stuck to designing with yarns with very little man made fibre content and a much higher price point. My belief has always been that the more you pay and the higher the natural yarn content, the better the yarn must be, after all, why spend loads of time completing a project only to find that it washes and wears badly? I will also admit to being skeptical about the quality of the Stylecraft Life DK, especially when considering the low price point, however, I am now a real convert to this yarn – not only does it have a really nice sheen and feel, it is also really nice to crochet with and doesn’t have that squeakiness that a lot of acrylic mix yarns have. The range of 28 shades, including mixtures and marl effects, means that you can choose pretty much exactly the colour you want and the wash and wearibility of the yarn is really good.

The yarn shades and amounts used in the project are as follows:

Stylecraft Life DK
14 x 100g balls
326yds/298 meters
75% Acrylic & 25% Wool

1 x 2357 Aqua
1 x 2319 Cranberry
1 x 2305 Cream
1 x 2394 Daffodil
1 x 2344 Fuchsia
1 x 2417 Lily
1 x 2342 Mint
1 x 2301 Rose
2 x 2311 Fern
2 x 2302 Olive
2 x 2416 Teal

Level of experience needed:
If you are relatively new to crochet and want to use the project to improve your skills then I suggest that you do a little practice prior to staring the project so that you don’t spend lots of time unpicking errors. It is important that you know basic crochet terminology and have a relatively good grip of the basic stitches – the download patterns will use UK terminology, so it is a good idea to be sure you know the difference between UK and US.

More Information:
My next blog post will tell you more about my design process and will give you more information about how to prepare for the CAL, including tips on tension, equipment needed and any other bits and bobs that you may need to do to be ready for the first set of patterns.

The complete design of the CAL will be revealed very soon, so to keep up to date with all new news you can follow Janie Crow and Stylecraft on Facebook and Twitter.

I leave you for now with this very lovely quote from Annabelle Hill - Sales and Marketing Director at Stylecraft:

"We are really excited to be working with Jane on our first crochet along. Jane is a very talented designer and the Lily Pond theme that she has chosen for the CAL makes a beautiful romantic piece”

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Back to Reality!

We have been home from India for a week now and it already feels like a distant memory - it is amazing how quickly life returns to normal and routines and habits kick in isn't it! I think Im driving everyone mad with the number of times I start a sentence with the words 'When I was in India….', but I have so many amazing memories and things I want to tell people about and I really don't want to loose the excitement I felt on the trip so can't help but say it over and over...

I was back at my desk for four days last week to try and get on top of my correspondence and commitments, but by Sunday I was really pining for an Indian 'fix' so Andy and I drove out to the Shaminarayan Temple in Neasden and had a really lovely couple of hours looking at this amazing building inside and out! It's an incredible place and very much worth a visit if you get a chance - I'm already trying to work out when I can get there again!

I have so many India inspired ideas for projects I want to work on and have already started collecting yarns together for things I have in mind, but my priority at the moment is putting the finishing touches to the CAL project I have designed in partnership with Stylecraft yarns.

The CAL will launch when the first free pattern will be available to download from the Stylecraft web site on the 7th April. I am really excited about this project and can't wait to tell you more about it over the next few weeks and show you the design. We will be selling yarn kits for the project via our new web site and should have these ready to pre order some time next week. As soon as we have everything in place I will post the information here and on Facebook.

Working with Stylecraft has been really great and they have been incredibly supportive of me and taken over many of the aspects that I dislike about my crochet design, such as pattern checking. They have given me free reign to design exactly as I please and the result is a blanket called 'Pond Lily' which uses 11 shades of Life DK and features 8 new block designs, each one designed from scratch so you won't find them anywhere else!

Stylecraft are really at the forefront of great crochet design and their yarn palettes lend themselves fantastically to the craft. If you haven't done so already, then you should be following them on Facebook as they are always updating their page with great little offers, info and prizes. The UK based yarn company are currently running a great competition where you can get to choose some yarn shades to be added to their Special DK range - you can find more info about this on the Attic 24 blog and if you haven't visited Lucy's blog before then where on earth have you been?

One of the things I really love about the Stylecraft yarn range is the choice of bright shades and the fact that the yarns are so affordable and hard wearing makes them perfect for homeware designs such as cushions and blankets. Sue Pinner designs a lot of the crochet projects for Stylecraft - you can find her blog here and some of her current designs within the Stylecraft range are shown below:

I have a busy week ahead of me, with a weekend workshop at Missenden Abbey on the horizon - its a knitting weekend so I need to brush up a bit on my skills - last time I picked up knitting needles I had a moment of panic wondering what on earth to do with them!