Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Lily Pond CAL - Block Three

You can download the third set of patterns for the Lily Pond CAL from the Stylecraft web site today by following this link.

The patterns this time are for a small flower within a block which I have called Lily Bud. The flower is supposed to represent a brand new lily flower which is just beginning to bloom on the surface of the pond water, with the green of the leaves sitting behind it. This block is made in a very similar way to the Tiny Lily which was the focus of the last set of patterns, so you may want to follow this link to a place further down on the blog where I talked about the techniques used within the block.

Things have been really busy for me over the last fortnight with lots going on here at Janie Crow. We have had a delivery of beautiful Hamanaka Crochet Hooks direct from Japan. You can read my blog about them and a tutorial for how to make lovely crochet bullion stitches by following this link.

Below I have posted the step by step images for the Lily Bud so that you can see them larger than in the pattern should you wish to. Instead of putting all the images on the blog I have picked those where you may need to see a technique in close up, such as changing yarn shade or working into a stitch on a previous row:

Adding the new shade on Round 3

Where to put your hook at the back of the work to make a frame work for the next round

The work after Round 8 - sewing your yarn ends in as you go along keeps things nice and neat!

Working a treble crochet (US double crochet) into a stitch 2 rounds down

Completed Block

You need to make a total of 4 of these motifs and so far you have been given the patterns for there following pieces:

Block One - Make 4

Block Two - Make 4

Block Three - Make 4

If you have seen this month's copy of Inside Crochet Magazine you will probably know that they have a preview of a later block which is a larger Lily motif. This will be available to everyone in a couple of months so don't worry if you've missed it. 

I hope you enjoy working through the patterns this time, a new pattern will be launched in a fortnight's time for Block Four which features one of my favourite stitches called 'Pin Wheel'. This is a relatively easy stitch that can look so effective, especially when you play around with colour combinations. 

Pin Wheel stitch has been used in the exclusive bag project I designed to accompany the kits we sold via our web site and I have used it in projects from my book 'Kaleidoscope' which Debbie Abrahams and myself published a few years ago. Below you can see an image of my iPad cover which uses a beaded pinwheel stitch.

Kaleidoscope features 24 knit & crochet projects for the home and is available from our web site. 

So that is it for another fortnight, in terms of my CAL blogs anyway! I try to blog a couple of times a week as things crop up, so do try to keep an eye on the blog and on my Facebook page if you have a bit of spare time over the next few weeks. I am off to Wadenhoe at the weekend to tutor a workshop with Debbie and the following week I am heading to Black Sheep for an afternoon tea event. There are currently just 4 places left so you need to be quick if you want to come. You can find more info here.

I will also be tutoring a workshop at the Stylecraft Mill at the end of next week (on Friday 15th May). Participants at the workshop will be provided with the pattern, yarn and bag handles to make the Lily Pond Bag project (pictured below). 

Despite lots of chat about it and a previous indication from me that this pattern will be released for sale in the future, I have now decided that this pattern will not be available as a download for sale in the future. The bag pattern will only be given to participants at a CAL workshop or it may be available in relation to special offers every now and again. 
This being the case, the Stylecraft workshop is one of your few chances to work through this project and the added bonus is that you get to do it in the surroundings of the Stylecraft Mill in Yorkshire. You can find more info about the workshop and book palace by calling Emma on the following number 01484 848430

Happy Crocheting!
Janie x

Friday, 1 May 2015

Knitting & Crochet Guild Design Competition

A call out to you all you budding knit & crochet designers - here is your chance to enter a fabulous competition and support The Knitting and Crochet Guild. Read on for more info about the competition and how to enter.

The Knitting & Crochet Guild Archive is an amazing resource with knitted and crocheted samples going back to the 1830s as well as a huge collection of pattern leaflets and every kind of knitting needle and crochet hook you can imagine.
The Yarn Stories brand believe this is an historic collection, arguably larger than the Victoria and Albert Museum and one that should be treasured, so they have come up with a very special design competition for knitters and crocheters from all around the world to enter.

Yarn Stories have gathered together a selection of inspirational images of items in the archive on Pinterest and they would love you to design a 15 cm blanket square in DK yarn inspired by the archive, which can be created in either knit or crochet to become part of a blanket design. You can read more from Yarn Stories and see extra images by following this link too.

The competition is now open and closes on 5th June. A judging panel including Debbie Abrahams, Jane Crowfoot and Angharad Thomas from the KCG archive, as well as members of the Yarn Stories team will choose 10 finalists by the middle of June. Then Yarn Stories will throw open the judging to knitters and crocheters all over the world to vote for their favourite square during July and August.  

The overall winner, announced on 4th September, will receive £100 of Yarn Stories yarn and each finalist will receive two balls of the Yarn Stories yarn of their choice.

But the excitement doesn’t end there. All the finalists’ squares will be put together into a blanket pattern that will be available on the Yarn Stories website with 50% of the revenue going towards the continued protection and support of the archive. The finished blanket will be at The Knitting and Stitching show in October for you to see.

You don't have to be a guild member to take part, but it is an organisation we highly recommend you join. You can find details of your local groups here and can join by following this link.

Amanda Crawford, Head Designer at Yarn Stories says: “I have been lucky enough to visit the Knitting and Crochet Guild Archive and it is such an amazing collection. We wanted to do something to support this vital piece of history for knitters and crocheters everywhere. Our competition is a fantastic project and we are very proud to be able to help the archive.”

Entries for the Yarn Stories competition should be sent to
Yarn Stories/KCG competition
Spa Mill
New Street
Huddersfield HD7 5BB

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

New Found Love - Bullion Stitches

The response to the Lily Pond Crochet Along has been incredible and there are people all over the world currently working through the project. I could never have dreamt what an amazing response we would have to the project or just how busy we are as a result of the CAL, however, in between all the pond related stuff I am working on new designs and of course teaching workshops. I started designing the Lily Pond CAL project more than 4 months ago and was working on it over Christmas so now I am working on designs ready for the late summer and autumn.

I love my design work, but also love getting out into the big wide world and teaching workshops. On Friday I was lucky enough to be invited along to assist on the Learn to Crochet workshop run by Woman's Weekly magazine (they are running more of these and you can find the details here) and on Saturday I tutored my 'Fun with Crochet' workshop at Herts Craft Collective. I love this workshop, which focuses on how to work in a freeform way, but one of the many techniques I show within this workshop, along with beading, making bobbles and textural stitches, always makes me feel a bit disappointed, not because of the way that it looks, but because of how hard it can be to complete in an effective way. I am talking about bullion stitch and those of you who have attempted this stitch will understand my frustration in relation to drawing a yarn loop through other loops on the hook in one easy manoeuvre.

A bullion stitch is made by wrapping the yarn around the hook, in the same way you would for a double treble stitch for example, but with many more yarn loops on the hook. Another yarn loop is then drawn through all the loops to create a stitch which I think looks a little like a woodlouse or a chrysalis. Sounds a bit odd I know, but it is a lovely stitch!

The problem is drawing the last yarn loop through all the others as the yarn always gets caught up on the second or third loop and I invariably end up picking the remaining yarn loops over with my fingers. Working in this way does not have an effect on the look of the stitch, but it does make it very time consuming to do, especially if you want to do a few.

Last week we received our first order from Hamanaka directly from Japan. I adore the products we ordered and was so excited when Andy started adding them to the web site and I have been carrying around my very own little set of hooks, stroking and purring over them ever since, but my like of them turned instantly to total adoration on Saturday when I discovered that not only is it incredibly handy to have a set of double ended ergonomic hooks in a smart plastic case, but that they are quite simply the PERFECT hook for making bullion stitches!

These lovely hooks have made me so happy over the past week and I thought I would share with you a quick tutorial on making bullion stitches in case you fancy having a go too. If you have any old crochet hooks in your collection you may find that you already have one that will work - the key is the shape of the shaft of the hook. If you look at the image of the Hamanaka hooks below you can see that the shaft of the hook is tapered from the handle down to the hook:

The bullion stitch I use takes up the same height as a treble crochet (US double crochet) so you will need to start with 3ch. Bullions work really well in a slightly hairy or soft yarn and I tend to use a larger hook than you would choose for the yarn. In my tutorial I have used Rowan Creative Focus Worsted, which is my absolute favourite yarn for bullion making!

Wrap the yarn around the hook 8 times, making sure that the yarn loops go up onto the thickest part of the hook, use your finger to guide them onto the hook and hold them in place if need be:

Insert the hook into your stitch, wrap the yarn round the hook and draw through. In my example I have inserted the hook into a chain ring, but it is the same method whichever way you choose to do it:

Make sure that all the yarn loops are on the widest part of the hook shaft.

Hold the stitches in place as in the image below:

Wrap the yarn around the hook again, making sure this time that the yarn sits in the crook of the hook as you turn it to catch the yarn:

Keep pinching the yarn loops on the shaft of the hook and draw the final yarn loop through all loops that are sitting on the shaft of the hook - you need to do this quite quickly and angle the hook vertically as you draw through:

Complete the bullion stitch by working 1ch:

The stitch doesn't look very impressive at this point, but once you have a few more in place they can look really effective:

If you fancy having a go at working some bullion stitches you can find loads of inspiration on the internet. I did a very speedy search on Pinterest and found these lovely ideas:

Beautiful Bullions by Prudence Mapstone - variegated yarns look so good in this stitch.

Bullions and Beyond - this is an image via Ravelry

You can make this lovely crochet floral fantasy Valentine heart by Cheri Mancini

The image above comes from canalblog which is a french site with lots of ideas and the amazing image below shows you just how creative some crocheters can be with their stitches - a link to the web site for the image below is here and there are many other really inspiring images on the same web site.

I hope my tutorial has inspired you to get to grips with bullion stitches. I haven't used them in the CAL and rarely use them in my design work because up until now I couldn't recommend a reliable hook. Who knows - now that I have discovered how efficient the Hamanaka hooks are I might just start to put these lovely stitches into some of my work!

If you would like to attend a Fun with Crochet Freeform workshop with me and learn some other techniques as well as bullion stitches the next one is at TAJ Crafts on the Isle of Wight on the 30th May.

Happy Hooking!
J x

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Lily Pond CAL - Block Two

Today sees the release of the second set of CAL patterns. You can download the pattern for free via the Stylecraft web site here.

The pattern this time is for a square block that is worked in the round. You will start by making a small flower, like a tiny new Lily, which you then add rounds of crochet to in order to make a square piece. The detail at the centre of the flower is added later on by sewing a few stitches in place.

Working in the round:
In the pattern for Block One you were instructed to work in rows, but this time you will need to work in the round. The first thing you are asked to do is make and join a chain to form a ring as in the images below. The chain ring becomes your basis for the next round and is covered up by your first round of double crochet (US single crochet):

You can choose whether you want to make the ring by working the chain method as shown above or by making a magic loop. If you are not sure how to make a magic loop I have pasted some images and a tutorial below to help guide you. You could also take a look on YouTube - there are loads of tutorials for this:

Take the yarn tail around your index finger from front to back

Cross the yarn over

Slide your hook under the loop on your finger and catch the yarn loop

With hook facing down, draw the yarn through the loop on your finger

Reposition the hook so that the hook faces up

Make a chain

Carefully remove the yarn loop from your finger

Make sure that the tail end of yarn sits to the left

Work your crochet stitches into the ring

Pull the yarn tail to tighten

Work your slip stitch to join

Joining in a new yarn when working in the round:
In the pattern for Block One I showed you how to change yarn shade on the final step of the last stitch of the row. When working in the round it is neater to completely fasten off one shade at the end of the row and rejoin the new shade at a different point. Working in this way means you get a much neater colour change, but it also means you have to check your stitch count after every round to be sure you haven't treated your slip stitch as a stitch.

Here is my instruction paragraph from the pattern:

Fastening off and re-joining yarn: You will achieve a much neater colour change if you complete rounds and fasten off the yarn, rather than joining mid stitch. When fastening off a yarn at the end of a round, the slip stitch that you have made to join can look like a stitch when you are working the following round. Make sure you count correctly and do not count the slip stitch as a stitch when working subsequent rounds.

The images below show the way to join in a new yarn:

The image above shows clearly where one yarn has finished and where another one is joined, joining in this way means that not all your yarn tails end up needing to be sewn in at the same place and thus makes it much neater.

Weaving in yarn ends:
Sewing in yarn ends can be a real pain, but you could choose to weave some in if you like. I tend to do this when Im working double crochet (US single crochet) as these are nice tight stitches and the yarn is less likely to work itself free. There are a few rows later on in Block Two where you could choose to weave in this way. I tend to weave one yarn end in at a time as 2 can be a bit bulky.

Once you have joined the yarn in, hold the tail end of yarn in line with the top of your work, making sure you are holding it to the back of the work

When you crochet the next st, work under the tail end so that it gets caught within the stitch

You can weave the yarn end in on every stitch until you are happy it is secure

Working into a stitch 2 rows down:
There are some images within the pattern to help guide you through working into a stitch a couple of rows down the work. I have posted the images below so that you can save them to your PC, laptop or note book and really focus in on the detail if need be:

Sewing in the details:
As with the above images I have posted the images I took of sewing in the stitch detail:

There have been many questions and discussions about tension and I really don't want to spend too much time talking about it here, but you do need to be sure that this block is going to fit in with your other pieces, so please make sure you measure and check as you go along. This piece should block out to approximately 15cm square. If you have a measurement close to this then the chances are you will be fine, but a good way to check is to measure this piece against one of the first blocks (Block One) to check that everything is going to fit. You should be able to fit the equivalent of 3 of the small blocks along one of the Block One pieces. You can see more about tension and what we have called 'The Rule Of Thirds' in a previous blog post here.

Blocking and Pressing:
Blocking and Pressing is the term used to describe the process of laying out your crochet pieces and then either steaming or moistening them with water in order to make sure they look neater and more even before you begin the process of joining your pieces together.

I think the term ‘pressing’ is extremely misleading as it implies that you should put something heavy onto your crochet and smooth out your stitches, in the same way that you would iron a crease out of a cotton shirt. In my time as a consultant and tutor I have seen many examples of knitted and crochet pieces that have quite literally been pressed beyond recognition. If you are not careful, pressing a crochet piece with a hot iron will destroy the fibres within your yarn and make your stitches flat and your yarn shiny – in some cases (when dealing with man made fibres) you could even melt or burn your yarn. Once the fibres within your yarn are flattened they will not recover, much in the same way as you can’t un-shrink something that you have washed too hot.

Working through my Crochet Along project you will put a lot of time and effort into creating your crochet pieces in order to produce what I hope you will think is a beautiful lap blanket, which you can take pride in and others can admire. With this in mind I suggest that you take plenty of time to make sure that all your pieces are finished in the nicest way possible and so, once you have sewn in all your yarn ends, I suggest you use the following blocking steps.

Prepare a blocking board:
A blocking board can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be. You can buy special foam jigsaw blocking mats, or pick virtually the same things up in a toy store at a fraction of the cost. You can use the top of your ironing board or a bath towel. I use a folded towel on my work surface in the kitchen. I have a chequered tea towel, which I then lay over the top.

Pin out your pieces:
When blocking out a flat piece, such as a a granny square for example, I would lay my piece face down on the tea towel, however, because of the 3D nature of this project I suggest that you lay your pieces the right way up so that you can see all the flower petals and leaves.

If you have a clean chequered or striped piece of fabric or tea towel like mine, you can pin your crochet pieces out in line so that you ensure they are straight. Use a tape measure to ensure that you are blocking to the right size. If you have a plain background you can mark out the size with pins, or even sew in a tacked framework.

Use long, large headed pins to pin the crochet piece out. You should stretch the piece very slightly and put the pins in as flat as you can – I work from the centre out, marking the central point of each side first, then working towards each corner.

Using steam or a water spray:
If you have a steam iron that you know you can trust and that can produce steam without spurting boiling water, you can steam your crochet pieces, but be sure to hold your iron a few inches above your crochet to ensure it doesn’t get too hot.

I use a cold-water spray. I have an old pump action hairspray bottle, which is filled with clean cold water and I spray my crochet pieces until they are nicely damp, but not soaking.
Once the yarn has taken in the water I leave the pieces to dry completely before I remove the pins.

Crochet pieces love to curl up so there is little point blocking each crochet motif as you complete it because by the time you come to put your pieces together they will have curled up again and will need re blocking.

A note on washing:
Stylecraft Life DK is a fabulous yarn – it is hard wearing and easy to wash, however I would suggest that you avoid machine washing this project if at all possible. The tumble and spin actions on many modern day washing machines can be quite destructive to hand made products and, if you put your completed crochet project in with other wash items, you could find that you get snags and catches caused by things like Velcro fastenings or clasps.

Once your project has been put together you may want to wash it. I find that washing a completed piece can make a really big difference to the finished appearance of it. Seams become flatter and stitches become more even. I always hand wash my knit and crochet items in a liquid specially formulated for that purpose, such as woolite or soak. It is wise to avoid biological liquids or powders as they can contain brighteners, which can destroy the yarn fibres, cause bobbles and shade changes.

Once the piece is washed I place it in a tied pillow case and give it a short spin in the washing machine to remove as much water as I can – don’t use a really fast spin as this can cause the piece to stretch and throw in a couple of bath towels at the same time to minimize the amount of movement the project will have, the towels will also help absorb water. Remove the project from the pillow case and lay your crochet project out on bath towel or large soft flat surface to dry. Don’t place in direct sunlight or over a radiator and do not tumble dry. If you have a trampoline in the garden this is an excellent drying place, so long as you keep your pets well away!

And Finally….
I hope you enjoy making these Tiny Lily blocks. I think they are really sweet and would look lovely all on their own in a project. I really like adding detail with sewn stitches; you could always sew the detail onto your lilies in different colour yarns or add some french knots of beads to make them look even prettier.

I am really enjoying seeing all the different colour ways and ideas for additions to the design that you are all coming up with. I'm so pleased that my design has captured the imagination of so many of you and I hope you will continue to send me your lovely images and comments. In the mean time, keep up the good work and happy hooking!

Janie x