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!

Monday, 16 February 2015

The Big Trip - Part Four Mumbai

We arrived in Mumbai on Wednesday. I really liked it there, the city is cleaner and the inhabitants are incredibly proud of their rich heritage, including the days of the Raj and their British history. The city is home to many of the Bollywood stars and it is a much richer city than many of the places we have visited.

Soon after we arrived we went to a tailors to drop in some fabric for alterations that a couple of the ladies in the group wanted doing. The pictures below are of the street side tailors shop - there were 8 boys in a very small space all working on different projects. The boys ages ranged between 15 and 22. Look closely at the image and you will see how old the sewing machines are and notice the iron the boys are using - cast iron with hot coals inside - like a relic from the Victorian era!

The pictures are a little yellow as it was quite dark outside and they were working under strip lights.

The image below was taken in a near by dress shop. If you take an interest in ANYTHING then the guys who work in these stores will promptly open up about a hundred choices for you until you have seen so many dresses your head is swimming! I'm not really in the market for a ball gown or a prom dress - but this is certainly the place to shop if you are!

We ended the night with a bowl of Falooda at the ice cream parlour - an amazing mix of Kulfi, milk, noodles (which I think are made from arrowroot) and nuts. Being presented with the bowl reminded me of that scene in Indiana Jones when Indie is given a bowl of soup with eyes in it! 
I'm joking of course - it was totally delicious!

On Thursday we got on a ferry and took the one hour journey out to the Elephanta caves. These 2000 year old carved stone caves are very important to Hindus as they are one of the earliest representations of Shiva. The caves are on an island and there is very little else there, but they are well worth the trip! 

The local people arrive on the island in much smaller boats - I love the picture of a group walking the pier onto the island:

The carved stone statues inside the caves are amazing - I have added in an image with some of the group in it so that you can see the scale of them.

The trip to the caves took most of the day, but we had a couple of hours site seeing in the late afternoon. We were shown the British Architecture - most of which looked like a cross between Harrods, St Pancras Station and The Natural History museum! Below is my Mum standing in front of The Taj Mahal Hotel

We visited Dhobi Ghat - a place that the tour guide described to us as 'the human washing machine'. This is a pretty big area within the slums of Mumbai where men wash the uniforms, bed linen and towels of the Mumbai hotels. Its an incredible place - and once again a place that made me feel really lucky! The men work 7 day weeks and rarely have time off. They sleep in rooms with between 15 and 20 other men and get paid a pittance and they wash and scrub all day long. The images below show the tanks that are used to soak the washing.

And the washing hanging to dry - it is hung on twisted rope and is incredibly clean!

We have seen so much slum area in India and sadly I have to admit that I have become a little immune to it over 3 weeks - it was such a shock in Delhi and Agra at the beginning of the trip, but then we have seen it pretty much every day since in every place we have visited and so it has become the norm, but visiting the Dhobi Ghat really made me realise just how poor the majority of people in the country are and how hard their lives are.

Below is an image of people queuing for Kerosene and a couple of Barber shops (these weren't taken in the slum):

After a couple of days in Mumbai we came to Dubai. 
We have done the things I imagine most tourists do when they come here - we have been on a desert safari, smoked shisha and have had a camel ride. We have looked at the huge gold necklaces and elaborate saris in the meena bazaar and have peered up through coach windows at incredible sky scrapers and driven along the Palm Jumerah, but to be honest, it all seems a little surreal - there are no signs of poverty, just opulence and monuments to wealth. It's proximity to India makes it feel obscene, fake and self indulgent to me so I have decided not to post any images of it on this blog, despite enjoying a couple of quiet days here and having a laugh in the desert!

A final note about the 'Big Trip':
My wonderful Dad, Roy, paid for us to take this trip and even supplied us with spending money! So I just want to say via the blog just how grateful I am to him for allowing me such an amazing chance to visit the land of wonders and exotic geraniums - love you always Daddy! x x

Monday, 9 February 2015

The Big Trip - Part Three

After seeing some of the 'nitty gritty' of India in Delhi, Ahmedabad and Rajkot, we took a couple of flights down to Goa to see the side of India you see in the holiday brochures - the lovely sandy beaches, the palm trees, the gated resorts with the pools, the spas and the barbecues.

There is no doubting that Goa is beautiful and the views, the food and the weather is as lovely as you imagine, but it is hard to believe that it is just a couple of hours away from some of the poorest places in the country. Of course Goa has the tourist trade and until 2 years ago it exported iron ore so was a prosperous place, however it is now seeing a huge decline in the number of tourists coming - our tour guide told us they have seen a drop of 80% in tourists arriving from Russia since the strength of the ruble dropped and, as Russians made up most of their tourism income, this is likely to have a big impact.

Goa was colonised by the Portuguese in the 16th Century and did not formally become an Indian state until 1987. Goa has the most churches in India and the most practicing Christians. We visited the Basilica in the old town.

And we walked around some of the streets in the capital. The colours of the buildings are amazing - bright pinks, lime greens and purples set against faded olive shades and weathered oranges.

From Goa we flew to Hyderabad. We are here until tomorrow when we travel to Mumbai. Hyderabad is inland and is locally known as 'the rice bowl of India' and as such it is famous for Biryani!

We visited Hyderabad Fort - an incredible walled city dating back to the 13th Century. 

The fort was amazing, but my focus for my photographs always ends up being the people around me. These 2 ladies agreed to pose for me after they asked if they could take pictures of us. As I think Ive said already, Mum and myself are a bit of a novelty!

From the fort we made a short journey to the King's tomb complex. This place left me totally gob smacked. The size and beauty of these incredible tombs was breath taking.

The tombs are currently bring restored. The first image above (where the masonry is creamy white) is a restored tomb.

Whilst here in Hyderabad, we have also visited the Chowmahalla Palace which still belongs to the Royal Family. Built at the end of the late 19th Century it is a show case of opulence and can now be hired as a wedding venue - indeed preparations for a wedding were taking place during our visit.

The images below were taken in the thrown room. Incredible chandeliers!

These ladies were sat peeling hundreds of onions and cucumbers ready for the wedding feast.

These guys are polishing the huge copper serving dishes:

There are galleries surrounding the thrown room showing some of the Royal collections. I didn't enjoy the sword and knife room particularly, but did find a few pieces of inspiration in the china cabinets!

From the palace we walked through the busy market streets to the Charminar (Gate Of India). The streets were packed solid with bikes, motor bikes, tuc tucs and barrows. Walking through in the throng of people was both enthralling and terrifying at the same time and I have to admit to counting my blessings that we all made it out safe and sound!

Once again I am going to attempt to upload a video so you can see just what the Charminar area is like on a quiet Sunday afternoon!


We have been in India for 16 days and each new day seems to fly at a faster and more alarming rate. Really looking forward to seeing what Mumbai has in store for us, but wishing the days would slow down just a little so that I can really take in all the amazing things I've seen and done!