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Like so many people I returned to knitting when there were new cute babies being born to my friends. When I had my own little chap, I enjoyed knitting him cute hats to wear. The current issue of Let’s Get Crafting is packed full of patterns for babies and toddlers.

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With the yarn provided I created three little starter hats.

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There is a cute plum hat and once you have knitted that you could always turn to your stash and make a strawberry version with any red yarn you have left over. The pretty little girl is also called Emma – how cute is she?

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On the plum hat design I used the hat decreases to emphasize the leaves.I hope you like the patterns. They are classic styles which you can make as a perfect gift at a baby shower.

Other patterns which I particularly love are Lynne Rowe’s Walter Whale, a blanket by Wendy Mould and a very cute top by Christine Harvey.

 

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Yesterday I promised to chat to you about the Spring Summer Magazine by Debbie. When I know it is coming out I scour the newsagents. I have to really steel myself not to flick through the whole thing before I leave the shop. This issue has lots of love kids designs. She is such a good childrenswear designer. Lots of fun and great practicality.

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I just love this cowboy neckerchief. How much fun is that!

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I also really want to make this jumper for myself. I am not entirely sure whether it is the pale blue which is attracting me, or the moss stitch, anyway let’s make it in a bigger size!

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Now I can’t be too coy – but this issue has an article by me chatting about our experience at Gawthorpe Hall. In the next issue I will do an update about all of the inspiration and design processes which the designers went through to create their patterns.

I have a Pinterest board which is called – Kids clothes they should make for adults. I think I could go through most of the patterns in this magazine and add them all. If you get a chance to have a look through it is well worth a read. I loved reading about the designer Louisa Harding and I am very keen to read Debbie’s top picks. Beautiful as ever.

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I had a really wonderful evening this week in pretty Cheshire. With family arrangements made, I hot-footed it over to the wonderful Black Sheep Wools in Culcheath. I have no idea why it has taken me so long to discover this wonderful shop, but they have a huge ‘yarn barn’ which reminds me very much of the American model of yarn shops.

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Now I didn’t just go to shop, but I to see my gorgeous yarn hero and friend Debbie Bliss and her uber cool daughter, Nell. (We are bezzies now – nothing can separate us). Black Sheep were hosting an evening with Debbie and the Head of Designer yarns, David Watt. I was an incredibly glamourous affair with Bucks Fizz, canapes and nibbles. Now that is yarn shopping in style

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The yarn barn was packed to the rafters with the loyal Black Sheep customers. We had great fun listening to Debbie about her work, inspiration and plans. There was also time to hear the incredibly informative David Watt. I found his explanation of yarn spinning fascinating. If you didn’t get a chance to be there – do go onto to the Black Sheep Wools you-tube channel. There is an excellent interview with Debbie by the ever glamourous Sara, who owns the famous yarn barn. You can also find a really good interview with David. What you discover from watching those videos is how nice, funny and self deprecating these lovely people are.

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I had lots of fun catching up with my friends and larking about with Nell. She did this wonderful thing of trying on this beautiful Juliette cardigan on  lots of different ladies of lots of different sizes – including me. The whole process proved beyond any doubt that Debbie’s style is both timeless and incredibly flattering.

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I also got to meet some talented crocheters Sarah, who has a wonderful blog Gingerbread Bunny showed me her lovely shawl. I had been admiring it from at distance. Do visit her blog to hear how she enjoyed the evening.

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Worth mentioning is that the yarn barn has lots and lots of great yarn, accessories and patterns. They have just opened a new fabric room…so tempting…be still my beating heart.

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There is also a mighty fine cafe….finally I get to drink coffee with my knitting.

I must say that I really did enjoy meeting the folk at Black Sheep Wools, there is such a family atmosphere. I did a bit of mystery shopping, and watched some incredible customer service. I couldn’t have been more welcomed by the great fun Sara and Steve. I also got to listen to the behind the scenes genies, Lesley and Amy.

If you are stuck finding wools and needing a bit of advice why not pop along, or give them a call. Such nice people.

Tomorrow I will do my hot picks from the Spring Summer Debbie Bliss magazine – an absolute corker.

 

 

 

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Each year I get rather excited about Easter. In many ways I have more inspiration for handmade gifts for this celebration than say for Christmas. Christmas is a bit of a rush for all of us. With the anticipation of spring my mind gets going. For the end of term I turned to the wonderful star coaster pattern, matching the colours with a cheerful little mug I found and some pretty chocolate eggs.

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For my darling nephew and great niece I have decided that I would return to my recent pattern design for Lets Get Crafting Magazine. This so rarely happens. It is a funny old thing but the writing up of a pattern means that I mentally close a chapter and it can be years before I use the original pattern again.

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So I made these two chaps again……a few hours later they disappeared. Gone from the study. No sign of them whatsoever. Where could they be?

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My long experience of amigurumi in this house has taught me one thing. A midnight raid on Little B’s bedroom is the first port of call. My instincts were right, but only the cold hearted would prise the cheeky birds from his fists. So it looks like I might need to make two more for the Easter egg hunt. Luckily they are such a quick and easy make. I do hope you have had some fun making Easter inspired things.

Follow these links for Easter makes from previous years, 2011,2011, 2012 and 2013

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Recently a number of people have asked my advice about how to become a crochet designer or indeed how to improve their design choices. I started to make a few notes and eventually I thought I might share these thoughts with you here.

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Build your confidence

If you have been crocheting for a while you might have already started tweaking your favourite patterns to make the odd ‘improvement’ here and there. Don’t be afraid. These changes will ensure you build your confidence and start to discover your own design style. By adding or decreasing stitches here and there you can watch how a design can alter quite dramatically.

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If you allow yourself some freedom and invention time you will soon find yourself building up an brand new stitch or a pattern from scratch. Do remember a few well judged alterations do not make a brand new pattern. If you want to make your first original pattern my suggestion is to not refer to a book or pattern at all during the design process, and see where your invention takes you.

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Designing takes time

Most designers might take a few goes at getting a pattern right.  They will work up some colour and stitch examples called ‘swatches’ and ensure they know how many stitches and rows it will take to make a 10cm x 10cm square. In any pattern where you feel really unhappy about the final result don’t be afraid to rip it back. Be brave and keep going. You will be glad that you took the time.

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Choosing a colour scheme

Sometimes I can get stuck in a rut devising new colour schemes. I go back to my old favourite combinations and forget they might not be everyone’s cup of tea. When I need a little bit of inspiration I sometimes match yarns for a project with a birthday card or a book cover which I like. This way I can find some interesting and harmonious colour schemes which reflect current design trends.

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Always have a notebook

The times I have kicked myself that I didn’t make notes about a design as I was developing the pattern. Writing up a pattern after the piece has been completed is always much harder work than if you have notes written along the way. I also find that mistakes are more likely to creep in this way as well. Now I try to discipline myself to have a pen and notebook always with me (if only I listened to my own advice).

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BLOCK BLOCK BLOCK

The single most important stage in the finishing of your crochet design is blocking your work. Blocking is a technique where you dampen to relax all the fibres in the crochet, pin the work out to the desired shape and then when it dries the fibres align more uniformly and the item will keep its shape. There are several techniques to blocking depending on the yarn used or the size of the item and there are plenty of tutorials on the web to share with you the best technique. What I would say is that when people complain to me that their crochet doesn’t look like the finished items in books or magazine I always ask ‘Do you block your work?’, frequently the answer is, ‘No, I don’t have the patience!’ Well my biggest top tip is that blocking can transform your work and make it look much more professional.

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Take time to photograph

When you have spent hours of precious time designing and making your crochet, it is always worth taking time to photograph your work. If you can use natural sunlight and find a background which is appropriate to your design or at least won’t detract from your fabulous stitches. If you need to, ask a friend to model any items of clothing but take time to look at the details. Through the lens make sure hair styles, make up or clothing compliment the colours of your design. You don’t have to be a full-on professional stylist, just have an eye for detail and make sure your crochet takes centre stage.

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Inspiration can come from anywhere

The internet is a wonderful tool for inspiration but don’t forget to cast your net widely when you are looking for that spark to fire your imagination. I often wander into my local library when I am  looking for new ideas. I find looking in the gardening, interiors, and cookery sections really inspirational. (The photo above is from the fabulous Meringue Girls Cookery book) Also why not have a quick flick through children’s books or magazines, you will spot new cute trends.

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Find a friend

Finally if you have begun writing up your new patterns it is always best to find a friend with a beady eye. Few designers are able to spot the mistakes or the commissions they have made in their patterns (oh I wish I did). Sometimes you brain just makes an assumption and yet that means that the final written pattern doesn’t make any sense at all. If you have friend who has an eye for detail and can crochet ask them if your pattern makes sense to them. Catching these mistakes in the early development of a pattern can avoid frustration for people making up your pattern in the future.

These are only a few suggestions which I wish I had known when I started designing. But the most important thing is to have fun. If you enjoy your crochet this will be reflected in the end product and your joy and creativity will shine through.

www.deramores.com/blog-awards: This blog entry is my submission to the Deramores Blog Awards 2014. Deramores is the UK’s number one online retailer of knitting and crochet supplies.

 

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Dear Lovely Friends, thanks to the technical genius of my husband (who is very kind to me and patient) I was able to record my talk that I gave at Manchester Art Gallery and splice it onto the photograph presentation I delivered at the same time.

The result is not perfect – but if you have the patience you can listen to the little snippets of musings as you scroll through the images. You will need to press the arrow keys to jump to the next slide and hear the recording. Not all slides have a commentary.

All the opinions given were entirely personal and the recording was live and unrehearsed. So please do excuse the ‘umms’ and ‘ahhs’. However the presentation does give you some idea behind my inspiration and crochet journey – enjoy x

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Every year it takes me by surprise how much I love to be outside when the weather gets better. Yesterday we spent a couple of of happy hours in the garden. The much loved slide was washed. The playhouse was given a bit of a spring-clean. Dead leaves were cleared away from the beds and a little light pruning was done.  Ah how healthy and virtuous we all felt.

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For Little B and me, the biggest delight is that the bulbs we planted in the Autumn have come up. We were very fearful that the very naughty squirrels had nabbed the all. Ha! not so. We wisely but long branches of holly on top of our pots and it seems in some small way it worked. We are thrilled. Every year, without fail I kick myself that we don’t plant more bulbs. What is it about Autumn that prevents us from taking more time to pop bulbs in. Perhaps weeks of dark and inclement weather.

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So here we are the fruits of a little Autumn planning and the delight of Spring ensures that the first of the garden flowers can come indoors.

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Can you spot this delightful little table. Well this new acquisition has made me feel a lot better. A couple of weeks ago, the sweet little round table we bought when we got engaged broke. A leg fell off, and the brake was so bad that we knew there was no way that it could be mended. The significance of this small pieces of furniture made its loss a very sad occurrence. To add to the injury, it was the table which was sat at my side of the sofa, a place where all my crochet accessories are laid during the evening. How I missed it.  For a few weeks I have scoured the internet for a replacement. But the astronomical cost has prevented me committing to any one solution.

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On Saturday I felt I needed to resolve the nagging loss of the table and went to our local antiques market. Almost immediately I spotted this sweet round table and after enquiry I discovered I could buy it for about a quarter of the cost of any brand new replacement. Fabulous news and now this vintage find has a happy home in our house and I a place for my bits and pieces. Completely individual and very economical – happy days.

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Well you might wonder how the talk went at Manchester Art Gallery. I had lots of fun! There were so many talented crafters assembled in the foyer and as I arrived I am not sure I have seen so many people in that atrium before.

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The assembled group then toured the gallery  to look at the work of Joana Vasconceles with the wonderful curator Natasha Howes. I have admired Natasha’s work for a long time and she was a brilliant guide. I made a few interjections about the techniques used and my observations of the yarns etc.

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After a brief break we then stepped into the lecture hall where I shared a small presentation of images. I say small…. it took a while. Look at the size of the screen! We had a lovely wee Q&A session and all the while people sat working away at their crochet or knitting. Isn’t that the best way to enjoy a sociable evening.

I cannot tell you how happy I was to chat to people about crochet. I just adored the lively dialogue and afterwards I was able to physically man-handle some of the pieces people were wearing of making. As Little B would say ‘There were some serious SKILLZ’.

If it is possible I will share the presentation with you here – with the additional audio. One friend likened my accent to similar to Joyce Grenfell.Oh how I wish it was but it is an honour which I am aiming to develop more with age. So you can make your own judgement on that.

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For a while I have struggled to define my style. I can spot the crochet style of Lucy from Attic 24 very easily, I can also identify the work of Vanessa from Coco Rose Diaries in a trice. Mine? No, not really able to articulate that.

In my head I hope it is paired down, plain style, elegant. Yeah Right! When I un-packed my huge swag bag of ‘show-n-tell’ items the following day, I realised it is quite bright, a little bit cheeky and mostly just fun. That’s not too bad I think.

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It seems like a very long time ago that I was approached to contribute to this lovely book. If you are a visual learner and love the Dorling Kindersley book style of clean lines and illustrated explanation, then this is the book for you. I would susgest that it is ideal for the adult beginner or for someone who would like to expand their technique knowledge. This week I had the thrill of spotting a copy of this book in my local library – that was a nice feeling.

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I made two pieces for this book. A bright and colourful bobble stitch beret, a hat pattern I am really really pleased with. It is actually quite a fine line which divides a classic beret shape from a shower cap. I am happy with this one.

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I also designed three baby rattles, aren’t these fun? Just by changing the ear shape and the embroidery you can make an animal of your choice. The photos are so sweet. You can also spot the lovely rag doll designed by Liz Ward. Beautiful.

 

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mintyrockjam

I am really excited about my talk on Thursday at Manchester Art Gallery. I have just finished the first draft of my presentation, which was a little daunting. Hopefully I can share it with you online. I have put together a small collection of my most favourite projects.

So out of interest are there any questions you would like to ask if you were there – or even if you are miles away like my friend Mrs McM in Australia. If I can I will work them into the presentation.

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