teachingcrochetThank you to you lovely people who replied and gave me your experience of learning to crochet, it was fabulous to hear so many stories. There was a hidden reason for me asking. As part of teaching programme on apprenticeship I was asked to teach someone to crochet in front of hundreds of people. We chatted about how I had learnt to crochet and what my motivations of learning were. Then we were in to full demonstration mode. It was all a bit of fun and if the objective was to quickly learn how to chain stitch, then I succeeded.

But the whole process got me thinking. How easy is it to learn to crochet?

Firstly I think you have to WANT to learn, in my case I had seen something I wanted to make and was determined to work out how to recreate it. I had MOTIVATION.

Secondly, it is about finding the method of learning which suits your LEARNING STYLE. I am a self-directed learner. Ideally sat comfortably with a book. I am not such a big fan of video tutorials, but diagrams and photos work well for me. Perhaps this is a creative part of my life I don’t really want to learn in a workshop or classroom scenario. But all of this is about how I learn best as an adult, and is not true for everybody.

Thirdly crochet sits well with my SKILL/TALENT set. I have always been drawn to handcraft activity. I liked to sew, knit and draw as a child. I felt relaxed and inspired when I was creating with my hands. This has always been part of me for as long as I can remember. I can’t for instance sing like Ella Fitzgerald, I will never play the piano for relaxation, my ability to hit a tennis ball is laughable and the likelihood of me speaking fluently in any other language apart from English is very, very slim. But ask me to make a frog costume or rustle up a range of baby toys, and I am your woman and I will think of nothing else until I have completed the task.

So there you are, I think that just about anyone can learn to crochet, but their success will be based on whether they really want to learn, whether they choose the right way to the learn the skill and if they have some basic dexterity.

Finally from being a beginner to an accomplished crocheter, I would add a number of additional attirbutes which seem to help.

If you are a completer finisher – those people who see a project to the end seem to get more satisfaction in having a good stash of finished items.

Having an eye for detail will ensure you like to work out the complicated patterns and are not daunted by ripping back the mistakes you have made.

If you like patterns, perhaps even mathematical forms. I often find that some of my most logical and scientific friends are drawn to crochet. The formation of pattern appeals to their brains – they love to see the consistency in the patterns and this provides an additional joy in their craft.

Whatever your motivation – let’s not forget, craft is good for the soul, a joy to behold and ultimately fun – if you love it, share it and you never know you might be teaching the next top crochet designer.

It might be worth saying that teaching crochet on the big screen is not for the faint hearted – you cannot imagine how big my derriere looked as I got up on that stool.

Needless to say if you want to learn to crochet you could purchase this fine book (cheeky) or my tutorials for Crochet Now magazine are appearing here.

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sunshinemandala

So you might have spotted this mandala in the background of some of my photos in the last week. I was drawn to this Debbie Bliss Cotton DK a couple of weeks ago in John Lewis – the colour just called to me. So I bought just one ball with the intention of making a quick and easy Mandala. If you are just past the beginner stage of crochet you can whip this up in a mere evening. A great little ‘thank you’ pressie if you are visiting friends or perhaps an anniversary pressie.

The pattern is available free here on the Debbie Bliss website for you to download

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sample illustration

What do you think? Do you reckon everyone can learn to crochet? I am not sure I am the best judge – but it seems to me that there are three main ways to learn successfully.

a) in person – sitting one-2-one with someone who will patiently teach you, whether that is in a class setting or just at home

b) sat with a book – I learnt from books, alone, in my own time. I think this is my preferred way of learning and exploring ideas.

c) Watching video tutorials – a bit like the one-2-one tutorial you can watch the movement of the hook in real time, but also like a book you can go at your own pace, re-running things you haven’t grasped first time.

These are all good methods of learning a new craft, but perhaps more importantly I think your mindset has to be right. I have said it many times; I have been a very successful teacher of novice crocheters because I am a very fussy selector of pupils. I can spot an excellent crocheter before they have even learnt.

In the last few days I have been dwelling on what the characteristics of a successful crocheter or knitter might be. If you have some thoughts would you drop me a line?sample illustration

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Grannysquare2HTC

Dear Lovelies – if you are interested I have a guest blog post for Debbie Bliss online, talking about summer crochet ideas. Pop over to her blog-spot to look at ideas for the summer

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sunshinemandalaIs it possible to have a woodsmoke hangover? This morning I woke with the sense that the outside is very much inside. The whiffs of woodsmoke are throughout the house, my hair…well everywhere. Last night we had very two of our oldest friends over and even though the outdoor temperate was distinctly parky we were determined to have some of our evening meal outdoors.

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Both Varnam boys do not need much of a hint to get a fire going, so both the chiminea and the fire-bowl were roaring away in no time. I am going to be honest, the fire-bowl looks very cool. It is a focal point, a thing to watch and great fun for late night marshmallow toasting. But even the merest breeze and you can find yourself chatting through a fog of smoke. The heat is also quite dissipated and on an early summer evening you need to sit on top of it to feel the benefit.

On the other hand, the chiminea in my humble opinion does not look cool, or rather it look incongruous in our distinctly English garden. But it does what its name implies and the chimney funnels away most of the smoke. You also can feel the heat and don’t have to sit on each others laps in order to benefit from the warmth. I resisted buying it last year, for ridiculous style prejudices, but conceded last night that it is by far the most effective of our outdoor heaters.

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Within seconds of sitting round the garden table I knew that I should fetch the blanket basket. This used to be just a summer feature in our kitchen, but it seems to have taken up almost permanent residence. All my favourite crochet blankets live here, so that they can be dragooned into cosy comforting at a moments notice. I am sure that the blanket basket has extended the hours we spend outdoors throughout the year – we move from late sun to twilight very easily.

lymebayshawl2

Last night was the first outing for the Lyme Bay shawl – not worn by me but borrowed with style by my friend. I care not whether there is a bit of ‘Granny’ chic; a lovingly worked cosy accessory will never go out of fashion. However it might need a bit of an airing today – it does have a rather outdoorsy smell. But you know the best bit about finding ways to stay outdoors on a British summer evening is that it extends the time chatting and giggling with good friends, old friends, friends who know you inside out and love you for who you are – even it does mean that they leave smelling like a kipper. More evenings like that I say… Bring on the summer!

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lymebayshawl

Isn’t it a funny thing. I wonder if the summer is more of an inspiration for my crochet than the cosy evenings of winter. For most knitters, I think it is the other way round. This year I am becoming more inspired by crochet garments. A couple of weeks ago I was attracted to a number of Shawl patterns which I spotted on Pinterest. Specifically I love the designs: Nordic Shawl by The Rose Valley and Sunday Shawl Pattern by Alia Bland. I had a lovely ball of Rico Baby So Soft DK in Light Grey. This yarn is a great for crochet garments, it provides as they say in the trade – a lovely drape. I know I am being naughty, but I made up my own pattern as I went, and no I didn’t make notes. The whole purpose of this project was simply to enjoy the process of making with no restrictions. I matched the grey/marl tones with some indigo, denim and pool blues in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino. These shades were already in my stash and it was lovely to use up the odds and ends. In the end the shawl used up 3 x 100g balls of the Rico yarn, a very reasonable investment.

lym

The plan was to make a shawl which will be perfect for evenings outdoors on our summer holiday. I also wanted something to drape around my shoulders at the festival campfire. Needless to say, version 2 is already begun – this time in pastel tones of pink and cream but in an aran weight – we will see how that works out. Dreaming of sunnier days has meant I have looked out the light summer wardrobe and found this pretty cotton dress which I use at the beach. The simple flower embroidery delights my heart and I have repaired it many, many times. Well the beach adventures are still many weeks off so there is more time to add to my shawl collection.

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fridaflower

If you are an avid crocheter and reader of this blog, you might be mid-way through the fabulous Frida’s Flowers blanket by Jane Crowfoot for Stylecraft. Isn’t it the most beautiful design. So pretty. I just thought I should tell you that tomorrow evening, Janie will be doing a Q&A session about her design  – Tuesday 10th May 2016 between 6.30pm – 7pm (British Summer Time).

Excitingly the live chat will be using Periscope which you can download as an app on your phone. If you have a pressing question about the blanket you can send your questions now tocreative@spectrumyarns.co.uk

I think it is good news that a transcript of the Q&A session will be available on the Stylecraft blog afterwards. I love Jane’s work and I think this design is perhaps my favourite, so if I can find time during the bed-time routine I am hoping to check in.

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crochetnow5I decided I would update my tutorials page on the blog and I will add the links to the video tutorials I have done for Crochet Now Magazine as they are released.

Currently ‘how to chain stitch’ and ‘how to do a double crochet’ are available. I hope you find them helpful. Pop over to the Tutorial page and see what you think

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lightsabrecozy

We have had a really great bank holiday weekend. A fun packed family day in London town and a joyful Sunday which ended with a family screening of the new Star Wars film – The Force Awakens. This force awoke very early this morning. I like an early morning – when the house is still asleep. Stanley and I had some quality time together. I quickly finished off an commission and then inspired by the impending ‘Star Wars Day’ – May the 4th – I decided I would make something appropriate.

I spotted the lightsabre cosy for popsicles on Pinterest eons ago. This little project has been on my to-do list for such a long time. By the time Little B was downstairs seeking breakfast I had two handy cosies ready for a battle. If I am honest Big B and I had already battled in the kitchen. Stanley was singularly unimpressed with the noise, both the sound of lightsabres and giggles.

If only I used my crochet superpower for good….

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BabywearblogDB

Whether you are a seasoned knitter or a novice with a baby bundle on the way, new born handknits never have to be old fashioned. It was the designs of Debbie Bliss that inspired me to pick up my needles over a decade ago. Debbie has always managed to combine classic lines with fresh colours to create a covetable modern vibe.

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I am convinced that the high street designers have been inspired by Debbie’s work. There are two key books by Debbie that would never leave my pattern library. Firstly get hold of the original Baby Cashmerino book. Here you will find the go-to round neck baby cardigan. I must have knitted 3 or 4 version of this design for my son. They are perfect over a baby-grow for early morning play and will look super cute with a liberty print dress or dungerees in the summer.

Both Bonpoint and Boden have been attracted to Acid Yellow and Coral tones this summer. You can make your own handknit version using Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. I think I might be tempted to look to the Baby Cashmerino Tonal Collection and make a cardigan in Storm. This soft denim look will be fabulous matched with a pure white dress and matching knickers.

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Baby hat db

My second recommendation is Baby Knits for beginners. There are loads of great designs in this book from blankets to jumpers and scarves. Every new Mum loves cute hats for her new born. So many get flung out of the buggy that you can never make enough. I feel like I have made hundreds of these cute beanies over the years. They are a quick and welcome gift that attract admiring glances on the high street. If the flavour of the baby is unknown at this stage I think that duck egg, denim and navy go down a treat for a boy or girl. Once knitted you might just attain favourite aunty or uncle status.

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