Monday, 26 September 2016

Delft Blanket and Willow Blossom

I have wanted to design a project based on Delft pottery for a long time and so today I am really pleased to be able to tell you about 2 new patterns which are hot off the press! The projects are both blankets - one is quite large and is called Delft Blanket and the other is a cot blanket called Willow Blossom.

I remember lots of blue and cream pottery from my childhood so it has always brought back nice memories and then a few years ago lots of Delft Ware inspired items began to crop up on the catwalks and I really fell in love with dresses like these below by Preen.

Preen Pre Fall 2012
Preen Pre Fall 2012

Around about the same time (2012/13) blue and cream pottery inspired knitwear began cropping up too. If you have never seen Persian Dreams by Jenise Hope then prepare to be amazed at it's beauty - the original is multicoloured, but there are some amazing blue versions around like this one below:

© liesbraam

When I was a child we would often visit my elderly Auntie for afternoon tea and were used to seeing the 'Willow Pattern' on sandwich plates and tea cups. The Willow Pattern featured an elaborate chinoiserie pattern that was popular towards the end of the 18th Century. Despite having an oriental style of design, china featuring the Willow Pattern originally came from Stoke On Trent in the UK, but a lot of pottery featuring the design also came from India via the East India Company.

Check out these Willow Pattern inspired socks by Lisa Grossman. They are called Willow Ware and you can see images of them on Ravelry. Lisa sadly passed away last year, but you can still see all her amazing sock designs on line.

© Tsarina of Tsocks

Delftware from The Netherlands, which also features cream and blue designs, was in existence far earlier than it’s Stoke On Trent counterpart. Delftware often features flowers and birds and is famous for it’s quality and intricate designs. 

As I already said I have wanted to use Delftware as the inspiration for a crochet design for a while, but until now it wasn’t easy to find enough good shades of blue within a yarn range, so I was really pleased to see so many blues make an appearance in the Millamia range. This beautifully soft Merino yarn, with it’s slightly matt appearance and quality feel is just perfect for the design and I am so pleased with the outcome of these blankets.

The patterns for Delft Blanket and Willow Blossom are available to download via our web site and via the Love Crochet web site where you will also find a yarn pack for the Delft Blanket and the Willow Blossom Cot Blanket to accompany the design. Love Crochet have very kindly offered a fabulous reduction on the retail price of the yarn if you purchase the packs - you will get a 10% discount on the Willow Blossom pack and a whopping 25% discount on the Delft Blanket pack - yay!

Both blankets will be on display at The Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace next week so if you are planning to come along do pop onto our stand to take a look - we will be in the Textile Gallery this year and our stand number is TGD10.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Sunshine & Showers

For the last 6 months I have been designing and making a blanket project for the new Crochet Now magazine. The blanket is a mystery crochet along project, the patterns and tutorials for which feature monthly in the magazine. The blanket is made sampler style in that it is made in continuous rows and not as motifs which are put together. I have named the blanket project Sunshine and Showers as it is based from month to month on the weather here in the UK.

Sampler blankets are a great way to learn new techniques and of course can be really lovely to make and consequently own. You can find some great sampler blankets on Ravelry, such as 'As we go Stripey Blanket' by Hannah Owens pictured below - as you can see it is stunning in lots of colours and just a few - the red version is so Christmassy isnt it!

Image © Hannah Davis
© Crealyt

Another example of a sampler blanket is shown below - this one is by Kirsten from Haak Maar Raak. This is an absolutely stunning blanket and it is a free pattern that you can find by following the link here. The blanket uses 34 balls of Stylecraft Special DK so it is quite an undertaking, but I am sure you will agree that the blanket is totally gorgeous!

© Haak Maar Raak
© Haak Maar Raak
Another really lovely sampler blanket is called Spice of Life and it was designed by Sandra of Cherry Heart. This crochet along project was released by the lovely guys at Black Sheep Wools last year - unsurprisingly I think they had thousands of people do the project with them!

© Cherry Heart
© Cherry Heart
So - as you can see there are already some really lovely sampler blankets already out there in crochet land so I wanted to design something that was a little different and had a design theme, hence the fact that I made my version a seasonal CAL. When I design things these days I almost always have a mood board or design theme in mind before I start, partly so that I don't get distracted and end up doing something completely off piste! When designing the CAL I also wanted to design it in a way that would appeal to those relatively new to crochet so that they could build on their skills and learn new techniques.

The first part of the Sunshine and Showers crochet along project was published in the May edition of the magazine (The 1st edition in April featured a 'Getting Ready' article). As May is pretty much the turning point between spring and summer it was a good place to start and I designed the first piece of the blanket to reflect the rolling hills and lush grass of the British countryside.

I chose 15 shades of Stylecraft Special DK for the project and yarn packs are for sale on the Janie Crow web site, although I know that lots of people are using the project as a lovely stash busting exercise!

For June I wanted to capture the idea of small emerging flowers in the garden so came up with a design that uses puff stitches to create flower shapes.

For July it was (predictably) all about the sunshine and so I designed a section that I hoped would emulate the sun setting (or rising) on the horizon.

For August I wanted to create the edging for the blanket as I thought it would be lovely to have a pretty flowery border. It is a little bit time consuming to create this edging in different shades of yarn - but I really love the outcome.

To this point the blanket was made in 2 sections - so each pattern was worked through twice to create 2 pieces. I designed it in this way so that the blanket will match at both ends from the centre outwards, but also because I wanted the darker shades of autumn and winter to be at the middle of the blanket, so for September I started a new strip and based the design on idea of the last flowers of the summer sitting amongst the wooden trellis fencing in the garden.

That brings me up to date for the first 5 months of the crochet along project. As I said already the patterns are published monthly in Crochet Now magazine. Past issues are available, except for Issue 3 which is only available in download form. You can find more info by browsing the magazine web site here.

As this is a mystery crochet along I cannot show you anything more of the design except a sneaky peek of October which is above - I based the design on a field of pumpkins ready and waiting to be picked for Halloween! I am a massive fan of crochet bobbles so this was an absolute must for me!

I am looking forward to showing you what the next 6 months have in store and hope that you might join me on the mystery crochet along at some point - its not too late to join in - you cold always start with the September patterns and work through to next summer…..

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Carousel CAL

The first set of patterns for the Stylecraft Carousel crochet along project were released today and I managed to find the time throughout the day to work my way through the pattern. I am hoping to keep up with the CAL project and blog my way though it, but as show season is on the horizon, with Yarndale just over a week away and the autumn Knitting & Stitching Show just a week or so after that, finding spare time is proving to be a bit of a challenge!

My efforts to keep up with the Lotus Moon Tiles CAL have failed dismally as I have yet to complete all my main motifs (I need to make 20 of them) and still have the squares and triangles to do - I have to admit that part of my failure to keep up is down to the fact that the designer of this beautiful CAL has come up with a really great new colour way so I am now wishing that I had waited before choosing my colours! Polly Plum of Every Trick on the Hook is working through the CAL herself using a really lovely palette of purple, greens and cream shades. If you haven't taken a look at this wonderful pattern yet the link to the Ravelry page is here and you will find a dedicated Facebook group for the CAL here.

So - back to the Carousel CAL!
Designed by Sue Pinner, patterns for this project will be free to download via the Stylecraft web site here. I am working through the Batik version, but the pattern is also written for Special DK.

The first motif will be the central part of the Carousel Blanket. The motif is relatively straight forward, but I did struggle to get the tension right - unfortunately the only measurement given is for the completed motif so I only really knew that I had got it right once I had worked the whole way through and blocked my octagon!

The motif starts with an unusual centre - a padded round of double crochet stitches which was fun to make!

Below is an image after the popcorn round (Round 3) - my motif measured 8.5/9cm at this point.

At the end of Round 5 my motif measured 15cm - that's 6 inches if you are still working in imperial measurements!

After Round 6 there is a note in the pattern to tell you that your motif is likely to form a cup shape for a few rows - mine certainly did, but then it more or less flattened out by the end of the final round.

After Round 9 my motif measured 19.5cm at the widest point and I was beginning to worry that it wasn't going to be big enough as the completed measurement is listed as 30cm.

In the end my completed measurement was a little short at 27.5cm at the widest point, however my motif does appear to have blocked out to 29.5cm so I think I am going to stick with it and not change my hook for a larger one. The pattern doesn't say whether the measurement is pre blocked or blocked, but I am hoping for the latter and looking forward to the next pattern release in a fortnight's time.

If you fancy having a go at the CAL we have a few yarn kits left in stock on the Janie Crow web site, but it is also a great opportunity for using up your bits and bobs from your stash. There are some fabulous colour ways already appearing on the dedicated Facebook group so why not take a look!

Hope you are all healthy and happy!
Janie x

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Lotus Moon Crochet Along

I published my first Crochet Along (CAL) project in 2011 after encouragement to do so from my friend knitwear designer Debbie Abrahams who has herself run a Knit Along blanket club for the last 10 years. I have always loved designing CAL projects as I tend to get a bit bored with repeated blocks and love the challenge of adding lots of different elements and techniques to a design.

Crochet Along 2011

Since my first Crochet Club in 2011 crochet along projects have become incredibly popular - indeed my 2 most recent CAL projects, Lily Pond Blanket and Frida's Flowers Blanket have had thousands of participants world wide and my designs are just a drop in the ocean in the world of Crochet Along projects as there are so many fabulous CALs to choose from. My current favourites include Sophie's Universe, which, more than a year on from the launch of the the CAL, has me totally in awe of Dedri Uys's expert stitch construction and the Last Dance on the Beach CAL from Scheepjes.

Despite the fact that I love these designs, there are very few CAL projects that I have the time to work on even though I would love to spend my days working through other designers projects! However in the last few weeks I have fallen head over heels in love with 2 current Crochet Alongs - one is Sue Pinner's Carousel CAL which you can find a link for yarn packs for by following this link. The CAL starts in September (I am planning to follow it using the Batik yarn) and it has a really fun theme of circuses and travelling fun fairs. there are 2 colour ways to choose from, or, as the patterns will be free via the Stylecraft web site you could choose to use up yarns from your stash.

The other project that I am really keen to have a go at is the Lotus Moon Tiles CAL by Polly Plum from Every Trick on the Hook. To join the CAL you need to purchase the wonderfully in depth pattern via Polly Plum's Ravelry page (the link is here). Then you can join the Facebook group, which already has almost 2000 members, to see other people's interpretations of the design and especially really great ideas for yarn colour combinations.

The pattern is written for a Worsted Weight yarn, but I am going to do mine using Stylecraft Special DK and part of the reason I want to work through the whole project is so that we can work out yarn amounts and have dedicated kits on the web site - with the kind permission of Polly Plum of course! The CAL runs until the 19th October with weekly updates on the Facebook page.

I have already worked through one complete main motif using shades from the Stylecraft Special DK range, but to be honest the colours are not totally doing it for me and so I am going to do the blanket in a slightly different choice of shades. Below is an image of the original colour way which I want to emulate. I am happy with my first 2 colour choices - cream and yellow - as I don't think I can go too wrong with these!

The first stage of the CAL and therefore this week's task before the next stage on Monday is to make the first 3 rounds. The original pattern (for Worsted weight yarn) is for 12 main motif, but as my pieces are going to come up smaller because I am using DK weight I am going to make 20. I am also using a smaller hook.

I have sat this evening and worked through a couple of motifs. I need to work through about 3 or 4 a day to keep up with the pace of the CAL so hopefully I will get a little more spare time tomorrow - I am doing a workshop all day so perhaps a can squeeze a few sneaky rounds in during my lunch break? Anyway, I will let you know how I am getting on and will post again about the CAL next week.