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My last post featured my new blanket design for Black Sheep Wools. I hope you like the design – if you don’t crochet you might think, ‘ah, that looks pretty, I should get round to learning.’ If you are a crocheter, you might be thinking, ‘Should I start a new project?’, ‘I should finish the other 3 projects I have in my basket first?’, ‘I can see how many colours are used in that blanket, that is ALOT of sewing and weaving in ends.’

Let’s face it, some crochet projects are a breeze and others need dedication. What we need is a little psychological motivation and an eye on the prize. When I have a large project that I need to finish I have a couple of techniques I use to keep myself on track.

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1. When joining squares or hexagons for a blanket I always like to join as I crochet. It is not the easiest  method but certainly it ensures that you can see the blanket growing and the joins are robust and less likely to unravel. The Garden Route Blanket uses this technique and I have some photos in the pattern to help with this process.

2. Break the project up into sections. I either work in rows, or set myself a goal of how many motifs I will make in one sitting. Often when I am finished at the end of the day I might lay out my crochet on a chair and have a sneaky wee ‘admire’, before putting the project away in the basket.

3. Weave in ends as you go. For this latest blanket, when I got half way through joining the squares, I did all the weaving in of the ends. This ensured that it wasn’t a mammoth task at the end of the project.

4. Set yourself a fake deadline. My design work usually has a deadline. I really don’t like missing these dates, so I tend to set myself a fake deadline just so I can avoid missing crucial dates. Hopefully for you crochet and knitting is a relaxing hobby, where you can avoid the stress and time restraints of life. However we have all promised to make baby blankets that have been sat in the project basket way past the due date, and in some cases those babies have been toddlers before their blanket has arrived. Set yourself a realistic time-scale and a fake deadline.

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5. If you hate it – Frog it. (Frogging is ripping back a project). This is your hobby! If you are really hating a pattern, don’t get hung up about it, rip the wool back and make a pattern you do like. Life it too short to get hung up on a crochet pattern you are not enjoying and there are so many patterns you can get your teeth into.

6. Do a C.A.L. Lots of crocheters are loving the Crochet-A-Long projects. A new part of the pattern is released gradually as a surprise. By breaking the projects up into manageable sections many crocheters are finding this a better way of working. Why not try this kind of project to keep your interest alive.

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I am so excited that my new design, created exclusively for Black Sheep Wools is released today on their website. This blanket was inspired by and created on our family trip to South Africa and the colours were chosen to reflect the vibrancy of the colours in that amazing country.

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There is a guest blog post which you can read about the blanket and our trip here. There are also three colour packs available for you to choose which are exclusive to this design and they area amazing value! If you do enjoy making it, please pop by and tell me what your think.

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MissRC1  MrsH1I have talked before about the joy of sharing my love to knitting and crochet. I love going to a workshop or trunk show and just chatting with fellow yarn enthusiasts. Quite often I pick up a hint or trick from them. Now in terms of teaching beginners, I haven’t found much time to teach classes. However I have a few select people who I have taught to crochet and all of them are now crochet ninjas. The talented J, has had her original designs published in magazines. Babs will tackle complex and beautiful designs by Jane Crowfoot or Toft Alpacas. Little Miss RC is one of my first pupils. Look and this sublime zig-zag blanket from my Debbie Bliss Baby Blanket design. Look at that perfect tension.MissRC2

Then last night Mrs H popped round to show me this knock-out blanket. She used my granny square design from my book How to Crochet. However she decided to co-ordinate the colours to go with her interior. Not only is the tension and the accuracy spell-binding, but the colour combination is stunning. She credits the lovely ladies at Black Sheep Wools for their help and guidance making her yarn choice. Well I have always found them helpful and she has this gorgeous design as a perfect demonstration of her new skill. How it delights my heart to share these projects with these lovely people and to share them with you.

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If you have finished projects using my designs – do feel free to share them on my facebook page.

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pegdolls5I have some significant childhood memories which persist in my mind as being great ideas for the garden. The first is searching for Gnomes in my Grandma’s garden. Every time we came to visit she had move them into new spaces. I must have been quite a small toddler but I was always delighted to find them. Years later when we go to visit our local garden centre (Bud Garden Centre), the wonderful owner Brenda, has hidden little gnomes and animals amongst the plants. Even as quite a big kid, Little B loves to seek these old friends out. We all love a treasure hunt.

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Little B has begun collecting small sculptures and creatures to hide in the garden so that our younger visitor might enjoy finding them. This thrills my heart. This weekend I thought I would take it a step further and make a few little peg doll fairies that we could hide in the foliage. There is plenty of inspiration to be found on the internet. I sat down at ‘far-too-late’ o’clock on Friday night with the paints and wooden pegs. But then after a stressful week at work this is my crazy way of processing the working week.

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I used valuable washi tape as masking tape to create colourful trousers. Whilst this is an silly waste of beautiful tape, it did give me an idea…..

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So my little fairies all donned Breton stripe jumpers. Styling the hair was great fun, and amongst the collection there is definitely a Little B boy.

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None of them are perfect – they are just meant to be fun and if one gets lost or buried then never mind. I hope some little people find them dancing amongst the branches of our garden and it forms a delightful childhood memory for them to treasure in their adulthood.

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One of our number has been honoured today in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. My darling yarn hero and friend, Debbie Bliss has been recognised with an MBE for her services to Hand Knitting and the Craft Industry.  In my mind this is very well deserved. My own knitting and yarn journey was inspired and encouraged by Debbie’s designs. When I first returned to knitting in my mid-twenties it was because I wanted to knit Debbie’s creations. I have a wonderful hobby, past-time and semi-career thanks to Debbie’s inspiration.

She has set a style and a look which is very British, very cool and very desirable. Baby-wear and fashion has often followed her lead, if not recognising the fact. Well today I am grateful that the Queen has recognised her contribution.

So often we admire and love people in public life and more than likely don’t take time to say ‘thank-you’. We feel a little bit childish, a bit embarrassed, ‘well they probably know anyway’. Often they do not. Why not take time to celebrate your heroes today – whoever they may be. Thank you Your Majesty for recognising mine.

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I can be a bit naughty. Sometimes when I am introduced to new people by friends they will say with varying degrees of enthusiasm, ‘Oh Emma knits, you should see what she makes…’ Often the poor unsuspecting new person will look shifty and floundering for a follow-up comment say, ‘Oh do you do much of that?’, I will then reply, ‘Quite a bit….’

Depending on how much I can tell they want to be rescued from this situation I will either be kind and change the subject with, ‘What do you like to do at the weekend?’ or allow a long silence. Sometimes I meet people who have a genuine interest in craft. Lot of people want to rekindle the skills they acquired in childhood. Actually lots of people would love to teach their children these skills. As summer approaches the most consistent ‘follow-up’ comment of these fledgling knitting/crochet conversations is; ‘I can imagine knitting in the winter, but now as the evenings are warmer, doesn’t it get too hot?’ Well no my new acquaintance, that is the beauty of crochet, cotton is such a great staple of the lacy crochet style and there are so many patterns that you can make that won’t irritate your warm hands in summer.

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In the past few weeks, in between commissions, I have been adding to my summer household collection. Using my cotton stash to edge an decorate items to make outdoor lunches and garden parties pretty. I found a pretty embroidered tablecloth in a thrift store and decided to give it a new life by adding a zig-zag edge. I used Sara Singuilia’s book, Crochet. Such a perennial favourite with me. There are a couple of projects in this book which are ideal for summer accessorizing.

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For years I have meant to make tablecloth weights. Seriously for as long as I can remember this has been on my crochet ‘to-do’ list. Finally I have got my act together. I bought a bag of stones from the garden centre and then just started a basic amigurumi shape working in the round. I don’t think I could ever write up this pattern. You sort of need to work with the size of stone you have. However what I would say is that you can find the clips from Ikea in the curtain section.

I will also be getting out my napkin weight this year. A large flint encased by cotton crochet. Simple and effective and throughout summer almost in daily use for outdoor suppers.

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I do know that I am rather ‘dedicated’ to my craft, (there would be less kind phrases that could/have been used) but I can always find a little project to keep me occupied no matter the weather.

 

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romneymarsh3Sometimes I wish we were not quite so busy. Back in the early Spring we got an invite from Kent-based yarn company Romney Marsh Wools to go and experience their lambing season. We looked in the diary and just couldn’t make it work. DARN. So frustrating, both my boys love sheep. They have such cute faces and I think Little B is tickled by the thought that I spend so much time making their woolly coats into a myriad of objects/toys/clothes.

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Although I missed out on a trip to see the farm, I have been able to sample the excellent wool that they produce. This Romney Cowl uses the finest aran wool. I believe that natural fibres and neutral tones benefit from the simplest to stitch patterns. Allowing the texture of the yarn to sing. I used 2 balls for this project and made a simple rib pattern using a 5mm hook. The cowl is given a twist before slip stitching two ends together and then without even cutting the yarn length I edged the whole piece with an infinite shell pattern.

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A simple yet effective look.

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If you are looking for unusual and quality gifts you must go on the website. The sheepskin slippers are luxurious for little and big feet alike. I am also rather greedily looking at the wonderful woollen throws and cushions in neutral shades.

I am challenged constantly to ‘Buy British’ to think about where products come from. The little on-line book that tells the story of the farm is delightful and I would encourage you to read it and enjoy the fabulous images. Do pop over to their website, the cute woolly sheep set would be lots of fun to make! Perhaps I need to order one x

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When you have a serious hobby – you know like breathing, thinking, knitting – you need serious kit. I can’t say I am particularly faithful to one knitting project bag as opposed to another. As the ol’ cliché goes – ‘horses for courses’. If I want to be subtle I might wrap up small projects in a zip-lock bag and pop the whole caboodle into my grown-up handbag. A big holiday requires a cavernous bag of Mary Poppins proportions. It needs to fit yarn and notions of a huge quantity. Preferably it will have pockets to ensure that I can find things easily.

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However being an ‘ambi-yarnist’ (made that up – but fluent in both knitting and crochet) I have not found a needle case which suits and accommodates both my craft needs at once. This is until now! Oh yes, my yarny friends, the very fabulous Debbie Bliss has developed the perfect needle roll, making space for needles, rulers, scissors, crochet hooks, tapestry needle and the indispensable Sharpie pen. As we would expect it has the gorgeous graphic knitting pattern and very ‘on-trend’ lining. I am thrilled.

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Look it even matches my jacket. So going away at the weekend now is simple; yarn stored in an accessible and pretty pretty shopping basket and all the vital tools of the trade in the handy needle roll. Suits me Sir!

You can purchase this item via the Debbie Bliss Online shop along with many other beautiful products that will delight knitting/crochet and just utterly stylish people.

Disclaimer: I will make no excuse for promoting, exalting and purchasing items made or designed by Debbie Bliss and her family. She is a fabulous woman, an inspiration and a national treasure – Buy British – Buy Bliss

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garndensayinggardenmay15.6.jpggardenmay15.5gardenmay15.4gardenmay15.2gardenmay15.7gardenmay15.3gardenmay15.8gardenmay15.9If you have followed this blog for a while, you will know how much I love flowers and for a long time I have enjoyed visiting beautiful gardens. Last year we were fortunate enough to do some much needed landscaping outside our house. Suddenly the garden felt more like our own. A flood of enthusiasm and a real desire to get our hands dirty came over us. Last Autumn, my folks who area EXCELLENT gardeners, came to visit with a boot full of perennials from their little piece of Eden. Now in the Spring we can see the earth gradually being covered with new lush additions, along with some well established trees and shrubs. Watching my family garden I have come to the realisation that a garden is never ‘finished’. The joy must be found in the development, the alterations, the adding and the taking away.

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Have you ever thought it might me nice to see your crafty creations on the big screen? Well if you have a bit of time and would like a small challenge then your work could contribute to the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival.

The producers of a short film called Knit Me Some Happiness are looking for 25cm squares, either knitted or crocheted, in red or white by 1st June 2015. But you will need to be quick as the deadline is tight,  but if any of you can help, please contact juliet@ukhandknitting.com

All the squares will be made into larger blankets at a later stage for the charity Emmaus.

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