Saturday, 13 January 2018

The Big Crochet Stayaway

Imagine a weekend spent in a beautiful converted barn in the middle of the stunning Herfordshire countryside...

Imagine a big Christmas tree, a roaring fire and a sprinkling of snow...
Pretty idyllic, huh?

Now add to that endless crochet, crafty workshops galore, enough yarn to sink a ship, a thoroughly knowledgeable and convivial host and you're getting pretty close to something I'd call Heaven. 
And I haven't even mentioned the amazing food, luxurious bedrooms or the blimmin' good company of terrific like-minded gals I shared it with.

THIS, people is the Big Crochet Stayaway.

A few months ago, I met the lovely Louisa of Komodo Krafts at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally. You can imagine my utter delight when she kindly asked if I'd like to be a guest at the December weekend. Well, I nearly bit her hand off with my enthusiasm. A weekend away? Without the kids? With ALL the crochet? I could not say no.

The Big Crochet Stayaway is the brain-child of Louisa. She lives in Hertfordshire with her partner and decided to switch her corporate career for something more crafty after the birth of her daughter. Within a short time, she began to run workshops and sell yarn and so Komodo Krafts was launched. As for the retreats, Louisa says that she fell in love with the idea of spending weekends with like-minded crafters and as there wasn't anything in her local area, decided to set up her own.

Now, for those of you who are a bit nervous about spending the entire weekend with a bunch of people you've never met before, you needn't worry. Louisa made lots of contact with us all beforehand, sending us a very full programme of events for the weekend and even set up a Facebook group so that we could chat to each other before meeting. 

And so, on the Friday evening, we all arrived at the barn for welcome drinks - and I have to say, the accommodation is absolutely spectacular. The barn is situated on a working farm and used to house the pigs! Thankfully, the only remaining porcine features are those in pictures on the walls. The living area is huge, with underfloor heating and plenty of comfy sofas and on the other side of the enormous fireplace, a large table for eating and working at. To the side of this are the huge kitchen, where our brilliant cook worked her magic and the large bedrooms, each with ensuite facilities. 

Once we'd all made our introductions and were settled with a beverage of our choice, Louisa showed  us the weekend crochet project: her beautiful Holly and Ivy table runner. 

This project was designed to suit all abilities and Louisa, an experienced crocheter who was taught by her nan when she was little, was on hand to provide support and advice on all manner of crochet queries throughout the weekend.

After a fab dinner, it was time for our first workshop - Spinning with Caz from Wulla

Caz is one of the Komodo Krafts team and is an indie spinner and dyer of big yarns with attitude. Now, I've never done anything like this before, so was totally enthralled by the whole thing. 

Caz is an amazing tutor and showed us how to spin using a drop spindle and then on her spinning wheel, which we were then invited to try. And if that wasn't enough, we we each given a goody bag with fleeces and our very own drop spindle. 

Saturday was a bright and beautiful morning and once a delicious breakfast had been consumed by all, we were joined by a day guest, who was immediately made to feel welcome and it was time for our first crochet workshop of the day and: another of Louisa's fab patterns -her Slouchy Sprig Hat.

Louisa's crochet designs suited the weekend perfectly - easy enough for a beginner to pick up, especially with all the support on hand, but challenging enough for even the most seasoned of crocheters. Louisa strives to design things that have modern edge to them,  'I spent most of my life being called "Granny" because I crocheted, so I think it's important that our generation of crocheters is standing up and saying ... actually we make really cool stuff!' 

The next workshop was embroidery, taught by Ellen from The Sewing Alchemist, who arrived with the biggest, most colourful selection of threads I've ever seen, along with lots of examples of her beautiful and quirky pieces. 

We were shown how to attach the fabric to the hoops and how to make the stitches over the template for our 'Merry and Bright' Christmas stitching. Embroidery is another craft I've never really tackled, but this was so enjoyable and very, very relaxing.

And after this, there were even more crochet projects on offer to anyone who wanted to try - Light-up Neon snowflake, anyone? 

This is such a fun project (free pattern here) which we made in Bobbiny Cord and threaded through neon lights, which made them absolutely amazing.

Now, what to say about Sunday? Well, we woke up to this:

Yep. About a foot of snow. 
Completely magical of course, especially for a Christmas workshop...
But this did pose some problems... it meant that our rag-rugging workshop had to be cancelled as the tutor couldn't actually get to us. Not that we were worried - we had Gingerbread Christmas Baubles to crochet (free pattern here) tea to drink and good company to enjoy (and enough yarn to crochet ourselves warm jumpers, if needed). 

But sadly, the weekend had to end. And so after lunch, and a little earlier than anticipated due to the weather, we packed our cars with all the lovely yarny things, said our fond farewells and made our way through the snowy landscapes back to our homes.

I have to admit, it was one of the most enjoyable, relaxing, fun weekends away I think I've ever been to. I felt thoroughly spoiled with the great variety of workshops, the generous goody bags (including hand-made stockings filled with brilliant presents) and the really fabulous company I spent it with. Louisa is a wonderful host who made sure that everyone was happy and her enthusiasm for crafting and crochet is infectious.

'I love watching people become friends, I love learning about different people. I also love a weekend away from my own home! I really enjoy everything about it; planning the agenda, speaking to guest workshop runners, sourcing items from small businesses. I strive to support other small businesses with my own and the retreat gives me so many opportunities to do that.'

If you're interested in attending a retreat with Komodo Krafts (and I thoroughly recommend it), or attending a day workshop or organising some private tuition with Louisa, then check out here for details of all events.

I hope you enjoy some crafty R&R
Sarah xxx

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Easy Knit Cowl

It's a well-known fact that us Brits are obsessed with the weather

Some people might find this strange, but we love to talk about it - how cold it is, how warm it is, how windy it is, when it might rain, how much it has rained, why it hasn't rained.... you get the idea.

The simple reason is that here in the UK, we can literally have four seasons in one day (apparently it's something to do with the cold air from the north pushing against the warm air from the tropics which does this).  Take today, for instance - snow this morning (the children were THRILLED) but now it's just damp and cold. Yesterday though, it was positively balmy.  

But with such bonkers weather, I often find myself feeling the cold throughout the year, which is exactly why I love ALLLLLLLLL the warm, woolly things, especially those to wear around my neck and is why I can never pass on an opportunity to make shawls, wraps, scarves and cowls.

And this one is no exception.
I was very kindly sent some chunky yarns from Sirdar to try and I couldn't resist this gorgeous Bohemia in Teal Appeal.

It's a fabulously super-chunky yarn (you know how much I love 'em) in 51% Wool 49% Acrylic mix and is a low-twist, single ply. The hank size is 150g/ 50m. And it's really, really soft. 
Now as much as I love crochet, I knew that to get the most out of a single skein of this glorious yarn, I'd have to knit it. 

Sirdar do have a free snood pattern but I decided I wanted something a bit more snug around my neck and I wanted to knit it in the round, cos I am too lazy to sew it all together at the end.

And so my version is super-quick 'n' easy and because it's in the round, you only need to make a knit stitch (seriously, if I can do it, you can, too).

Easy Knit Cowl Pattern

Finished size approximately 60cm circumference / 27cm tall

Here's what you'll need to know to complete the project (click on each for link to video):

You'll need:

1 hank of Sirdar Bohemia
20mm x 80cm circular needles (mine are from Woolly Mahoosive)

Tension isn't really important, but gauge is roughly 5 sts and 7 rows to 10cm x 10cm

Cast on 30 stitches using the Long Tail Cast On Method
Rnds 1 - 19*: Knit all stitches
Cast off loosely.

*or until you run out of yarn (leave enough for cast-off)

Sew in ends

That's it - it'll take about an hour of your time to make and will keep you warm and snug throughout the cold winter months.
And the cold summer months, for that matter.

Wishing you all a very happy and crafty New Year!
Sarah xx

BTW, to find out more about all things chunky-yarny, read my feature in Inside Crochet Issue 97.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Supersize your wreath

Honestly, this is one of THE speediest and easiest crochet projects I have ever made and perfect for a beginner, too.

It has been one of those projects I've wanted to make for ages, since I do love a bit of giant-yarn-action. And there's been plenty of inspiration online, so I am totally not claiming any points for originality here (check out Pony McTate's gorgeous wreaths on Instagram here)

If you fancy having a go, then you need a wreath frame (36cm / 14inch), and around 250g of giant yarn*. If you've got a 40mm hook hanging around, then use it, if not, try a smaller hook, or you can use your fingers.

And then, dear friends, you simply make UK double crochet stitches (US sc) around the edge of the frame until you're back to the beginning. 
It will take you under 10 minutes, I kid you not.

* I used a Wreath kit from Woolly Mahoosive available here which contains enough materials to make two wreaths) 

Fancy a step-by-step? Then check out my tutorial below, which shows you how to make it with and without a hook.

Happy hooking, crochet pals
Sarah xx

Friday, 17 November 2017

Textured coasters

It all started with the yarn bargain of the century...

Let me take you back to late September, when I'd been invited to Yarndale for the weekend by my pal and Supersize Crochet supplier, Andrea from Woolly Mahoosive. We had the most totally fab time,  I met the most wonderful people and I'm so pleased to say, many new friends, too.

Now, those of you who have been to a yarny festival before will know a bit about what to expect - lots and lots of different companies, both big and small, selling all their different wares - yarn in every colour imaginable, tools, patterns, baskets, accessories and just about everything in between.

I love it all.
Especially the yarn *sigh*
But, I already have lots of beautiful hand-dyed skeins (with soooooo many projects in mind,) so these days, I'm on the look-out for something a bit different.
And I struck gold this time:
These little balls of 100% wool at 50p each in the MOST gorgeously perfect autumnal colours!

Now, they're not the sort of yarn you'd want to wear - they're the sort of yarn you'd use to make hard-wearing, rugged homewares, so I decided (to start with) I'd make some sweet little coasters.

(As a person with two small-ish children and one excitable dog, I find yarn coasters to be the most brilliant thing, 'cos they don't break when they are inevitably knocked off the coffee table)

Anyhoos, here's the pattern. They're worked in the round, but with a few turns in direction to create the most lovely texture:

You'll need a small amount of any yarn you like with a hook to match - these will work in everything from double knit, worsted and aran weights to chunky.

UK pattern first, US below:

Textured Coasters UK pattern

Stitches to know:
sl st  - slip stitch
ch - chain
ch-sp - chain space
dc - double crochet
tr - treble crochet
FLO - front loops only
BLO - back loops only

To make the 2-bobble stitch, work two trebles in the indicated stitch, leaving the last part of each treble unworked. (Three loops on hook). Yoh, draw through all three loops.

To make the 3-bobble stitch, work three trebles in the indicated stitch, leaving the last part of each treble unworked. (Four loops on hook). Yoh, draw through all four loops.

Rnd 1: 3ch (counts as tr), 11tr in magic ring or 5ch (counts as 2ch + tr), 11tr in 4th ch from hook, sl st to 3rd ch to join rnd, turn.

Rnd 2: 3ch, 2-bobble in same st as 3ch, 1ch, *3-bobble, 1ch around; repeat from * to end, sl st to FLO of 1st tr of 2-bobble, turn.

Rnd 3: 3ch, 2tr in same st  BLO, 1tr in 1ch-sp, *3tr in next st BLO, 1tr in 1ch-sp; repeat from * to end, sl st to 3rd ch to join rnd.

Rnd 4: 1ch, 1dc BLO in each st to end.
Fasten off and weave in ends.

Textured Coasters US pattern

Stitches to know:
sl st  - slip stitch
ch - chain
ch-sp - chain space
sc - single crochet
dc - double crochet
FLO - front loops only
BLO - back loops only

To make the 2-bobble stitch, work two double crochets in the indicated stitch, leaving the last part of each dc unworked. (Three loops on hook). Yoh, draw through all three loops.
To make the 3-bobble stitch, work three double crochets in the indicated stitch, leaving the last part of each dc unworked. (Four loops on hook). Yoh, draw through all four loops.

Rnd 1: 3ch (counts as dc), 11dc in magic ring or 5ch (counts as 2ch + dc), 11dc in 4th ch from hook, sl st to 3rd ch to join rnd, turn.

Rnd 2: 2ch, 2-bobble in same st as 3ch, 1ch, *3-bobble, 1ch around; repeat from * to end, sl st to FLO of 1st tr of 2-bobble, turn.

Rnd 3: 3ch, 2dc in same st  BLO, 1dc in 1ch-sp, *3dc in next st BLO, 1dc in 1ch-sp; repeat from * to end, sl st to 3rd ch to join rnd.

Rnd 4: 1ch, 1sc BLO in each st to end.
Fasten off and weave in ends.

And that's all there is to it!

Happy crocheting,
Sarah xx

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Home Decoration in Crochet - a book review

It seems to be book review season here at the moment

And I'm not complaining, I'm really not - this particular one is a corker!

It's written by Tanya Eberhardt, a fellow crochet designer, who I've known for ages through her blog, Little Things Blogged and her Instagram account, Ltblogged.

It's a book packed to the brim with 25 colourful designs to brighten your home - everything you could imagine, from beautiful blankets to these adorable jar cosies *adds to ever-growing future projects list*

This is another of the projects which caught my eye - a vintage-inspired cushion cover.

And this stool cover is such a fun make, too.

But I've always been a storage girl at heart and I loved the simplicity and stitch definition of these sweet little baskets.
I had some cute little balls of yarn I'd picked up at Yarndale (for a bargainous 50p each) and thought they'd be the perfect match.

And they are!
The pattern was well written and very easy to follow and it even had a chart, too. I love the way this has turned out and am planning to make the other two sizes, too.

(I've just realised that I actually did not complete as many rows as Tanya's pattern states - that's what I get for crocheting late at night!) but I'm still just as pleased. I might make the taller version next.

I've really enjoying looking through Tanya's book - there are projects in here to suit everyone, from a complete newbie to an experienced pro and there's even a tunisian crochet project included. 
The patterns are written in US terms throughout and all have them feature a chart. At the back of the book there is a brief section containing descriptions of the stitches and techniques you'll need to know.

If you'd like to purchase Home Decoration In Crochet by Tanya Eberhardt, then it's available here.


Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of Home Decoration in Crochet for free. However, the opinions I’ve posted are my own.