Thursday, 27 November 2014

Thankful (that it's almost over...)

I have to tell you that it's been an 'interesting' week - yes, that's a euphemism - I can't help but wonder if there is some madness in the suddenly wintery weather. Regardless, in the spirit of my many Stateside readers enjoying a day of thanks I re-wrote this post to give it a more positive spin and I already feel a bit better - I need to include some points of gratitude in my daily journaling. So here we go... 
  • I'm thankful that I finished a mini hot water bottle cover using the Cosy Colourblock Shawl the day before Little Miss' eardrum went pop. She's fine now, but has been in a lot of discomfort. (This cute little version will be available as a written pattern on the blog next week and you can pick up the mini hot water bottles on Amazon for around £2 if, like me, you don't have many shops around.)
  • I'm thankful to Ysolda for her excellent summary of the "VATMOSS debacle and the possible options to work around it. If you have missed this, it's something that you should be aware of as it will be sure to have a significant impact on the knitting/crochet community and the way that we buy and sell patterns and digital content. It will inevitably lead to higher pattern prices for all of us 'Inter-Knitters'*.
  • I'm so very thankful for my lovely mum who walked the dog, took My Boy to school AND managed to do some test / sample knitting for a few of the new patterns that are nearing completion - oh yes, I've been busy! (Just not sure if I can afford to sell them - see point above!)
  • I'm thankful that there's a lot of exciting things to come in the next few weeks... if only I can catch up with myself. 
I do hope that all those who celebrate have had a lovely Thanksgiving.
*Is that phrase Cwtch-speak, or is it a 'thing'? It's shorthand for "Internet-savvy-knitters".  
Monday, 24 November 2014

Entrelac Part 1: What is Entrelac?

When Wink came up with the idea of an entrelac project for our "Unravel yarn" (if you don't know what I'm talking about, see this post) my immediate thought was that I didn't have a clue how to start knitting with this technique.  As Wink hadn't tried Entrelac crochet either, it seemed like the perfect excuse for us both to learn new skills. First I wanted to know exactly what it is... 
The most traditional modular knitting is Entrelac, which consists of rectangles laying at right angles to one another, creating a basketweave effect. The edges of the fabric are usually made up of triangles that nest into the top, bottom and sides, although these can be omitted to create an interesting serrated effect. The modules can be made in Stockinette, Garter Stitch or any other number of other stitch patterns, and /or in contrast colours.

So Entrelac (which literally means 'interlaced') is constructed in tiers rather than rows, and each tier slants in the opposite direction to the one below. This really interested me, and as there are lots of small rows within each tier, it's another great use for 'knitting backwards'. I decided the best thing to do to understand the technique would be to make a swatch, and I set about knitting this....

Entrelac swatch
Wishing to save the 'real' yarn for the project, I chose an inexpensive gradient (Drops sock yarn of some sort, I've lost the ball band so can't be more specific) so that it would be easier to see how the tiers are built up - I think you should be able to work it out from the picture from the changes as the colours blend from orange to black. The arrows in this version of the same photo should help to illustrate it further...
Direction of tiers in Entrelac knitting

Despite looking a little complicated, it turns out that it's pretty straightforward and after working on lots of other projects since starting this swatch, I'm now ready to get started with the "real" yarn. In the next post, I'll show you how to make the foundation triangles (illustrated in blue in the picture above) and tell you why I think knitting in the round is going to be quicker than knitting flat... which gives you a clue about my project! Hope to see you back here for that.

Don't forget to check out Wink's latest post on entrelac crochet, which can be found here.

Additional resources: (including some affiliate links)
If you can't wait to learn more about this technique, you may like:
Thursday, 20 November 2014

All I want for Christmas.... Giveaway!

It has become customary to do two things on this blog at Christmas - to publish a Festive Gift Guide, and to give some lovely things away! The FGG starts next week, but I am delighted to show you the gorgeous goodies that you can win if you are randomly selected....
CftC Christmas Giveaway!!!
I know many of you spotted the colourful KnitPro Marblz - limited edition - handcrafted needles which I used to photograph the Backwards Bobble Tutorial. They are part of a stunning interchangeable set I was sent to try out and which I will be sending to one lucky reader! The collection includes eight pairs of Marblz interchangeables ranging from 3.5 to 8mm, cables, cable connectors, a needle gauge and a lovely pen.
CftC Christmas Giveaway!!!
If you are familiar with KnitPro, you'll already know the quality you can expect. These come with black cables (I think they are the same as the Karbonz cables) and can be used with all your other KnitPro accessories, which are widely available. I hadn't tried acrylic tips before, and I'd heard that acrylic can be a bit 'squeeky' but I didn't have that experience knitting cotton/acrylic yarn for the tutorial - in fact the experience was very smooth. These needles are so pretty they might make you want to cast on a project in every size... in co-ordinating colours. They sell for £79.99 in my local shop, and you can get them for £59.99 on Amazon.

Of course, if you win them, you'll want something new to knit. I've chosen my very favourite shade of the incredibly soft and squishy DK Merino from the Yarn Stories range  (pictured) and you will get 2 balls of that with your needles - I'm not telling you which colour it is as it's always nice to have a surprise - you'll have to take a look and guess. Because good things should always come in threes, you can also choose one of the patterns from my Ravelry store.

To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is to leave a comment on this post telling me what YOU most want for Christmas! Be sure to leave your Ravelry user name or email address - if you don't do this your entry will not count. The closing date is Friday 5th December - which means that the parcel has a good chance of getting to *most* places before Christmas, provided I get your address quickly. If the winner is in the Far East, Australia or New Zealand it might be a New Year Gift instead.

Good luck everyone! 
Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Random Discovery of the Day (and trip-planning)

It seems that everyday I learn something new and interesting from "social networking", and today is no exception. Today I learned about this red lacquer box....
Source: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
If you haven't seen it before, the clue is in the caption. This box belonged to Vincent Van Gogh who kept a selection of yarns which he used to work out the colour palette for different paintings. If I ever knew this from A-level Art, it has long been forgotten (actually, most of it has been forgotten!) and I found it quite fascinating when @vikkipwillis posted a picture of the box on Instagram, wich prompted me to look up more information. I found lots of interesting posts like this,  this and this. (Thank you, Vikki!) 

The original box is still in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam which seems like another good reason to plan a trip - the last time I visited the city, the museum was closed. I now have a growing list of good reasons to go again, and feel I should start researching yarn shops there too. Have you ever been to the museum? Did you see this box? Do you have any recommendations for a 'yarn crawl' through Amsterdam?
Monday, 17 November 2014

Catching up!

It's been a weekend of catching up. Catching up with My Boy who returned from his first overnight school trip (he enjoyed that more than I did). Catching up with a husband who is always at work (so proud of him). Catching up with the laundry (urgh). Catching up with my projects (yay). There are a few things in progress at the moment, which only those following on Instagram might have seen:
  1. A hotwater bottle cover which I'm improvising from the Scheepjes yarn 'leftovers' from my Cosy Colourblock Shawl. It's only a small one but I like it enough to get more yarn for a standard sized version too, which perhaps defeats the purpose of using up my scraps, but that's the way it goes sometimes. 
  2. A new 'multi-purpose' design which should be ready to test later this week. It's a slight departure from my usual style with glamorous lace and sparkles - in fact, I felt compelled to paint my nails to start knitting one of the variants.
  3. The entrelac project I mentioned last week - which I will show you in a separate post, along with a tutorial.
    In fact the only thing I didn't catch up on this weekend was this blog (I'd planned to post this update yesterday)! Stay tuned as there are various things coming up in the next week or so, including a fabulous giveaway and the entrelac tutorial I mentioned. In the meantime I'd better get back to my knitting - those sparkles aren't going to knit and block themselves, are they?
    Thursday, 13 November 2014

    Free Pattern: Colourblock Shawl

    Last week I showed you my finished Colourblock Shawl, and I've finally had time to write up the pattern. It's a really simple design and the side-to-side construction means you can simply bind off whenever you want, and you'll have the perfect triangle shape. Because of this 'bias' construction, the fabric is stretchy and will wrap and drape beautifully. The Scheepjes Stone Washed XL yarn has been chosen to compliment the shape, and is incredibly soft and snuggly. 

    The shawl starts with a single stitch and gradually increases by one new stitch on every right side row, until it's to the size you'd like or you run out of yarn. When you're done with the knitting just bind off and add a fringe. 

    Following these instructions will give you exactly the same shawl as mine, but you can change the colours or change the stripes as often as you like to get your own unique shawl. I've added a project page on Ravelry in the hopes that you'll upload your pictures and I'll get to see what you come up with. 

    Edited: Numerous people have asked how to source the same yarn - Scheepjes Stone Washed XL is available from Deramores, for UK and worldwide delivery (find international delivery costs here).

    You will need: 
    • 1 x Scheepjes Stone Washed XL in Amazonite (Colour A)
    • 2 x Scheepjes Stone Washed XL in Smokey Quartz (Col B)
    • 1 x Scheepjes Stone Washed XL in Lemon Quartz (Col C)
    • 4 x Scheepjes Stone Washed XL in Coral (Col D)
    • For the fringe: 1 x Scheepjes Stone Washed in Moon Stone - note this is not the XL, but the sport weight
    • 6mm circular knitting needles at least 80cm long (used to knit flat)
    • Crochet hook for attaching the fringe
    1. Using Col A, cast on 1 st
    2. (RS) Kfb = 2 sts
    3. (WS) Knit
    4. (RS) Kfb, K to end = increase of 1 st
    5. (WS) Knit
    6. Repeat rows 4 and 5, changing colours as follows, 
      • Col A - work to end of ball, finishing after a WS row / 50g
      • Col B - work in this colour for 65g, finishing after a WS row
      • Stripes of Col C and B - work (4 rows of Col C, then 2 rows of Col B) four times, carrying the yarn along the increase edge
      • Work in Col D until the shawl is to the desired size or you have used 4 balls / 200g of this yarn (whichever is the greater) 
    7. Bind off loosely and sew in ends
    8. Attach fringe evenly along the bottom edges, as pictured

    I have hardly taken this off since it was finished (good job it can be machine washed), and it's had so many compliments (from both men and women, including strangers in the street). I really hope you enjoy making and wearing it too. 

    Copyright information: This pattern is free to use, download or print strictly for personal use only. For commercial use (including printing for shops in part or in full to sell or give for free, or making of kits using this pattern) the designer must be contacted in writing to arrange a copyright agreement. Thank you. 
    Monday, 10 November 2014

    Q: What's backwards and interlaced?

    Before I give you the answer to my question, I should tell you how this new project came about. Back in February when I went to Unravel with my friend (Crochet-blogger extraordinaire) Wink, we both bought the exact same skein of yarn (except hers was pre-wound one way, and mine the other). At the time we both happened to be wearing projects we'd made from Kauni Rainbow yarn - mine was the Whippoorwill my mum made "famous" and Wink's was a beautiful crochet shawl, which was completely different and equally eye-catching. Here they are together...
    The yarn we both bought was not totally dissimilar to the Kauni - another rustic 100% wool yarn with a gradient. But this time, much more subtle and only 100g. We thought it might be fun to make something similar with them, but on purpose this time...
    The yarn has sat in both our stashes since then, and we thought about what it might like to become. A little while ago Wink came up with the idea of something using entrelac. I hadn't tried it but thought it sounded fun and set about trying out the technique... which turned out to be perfect for backwards knitting! So over the next few weeks, my skein will be turned into something using entrelac knitting and Wink will be using entrelac crochet. At the end of it all we'll be publishing both patterns on our blogs for you (they'll be free). 

    Wink has written about our collaboration today too, and we'll post periodic updates on our progress, which will include some tips and tutorials (I'll be showing you how to incorporate the backwards knitting technique from this tutorial, so you don't have to keep turning the work). I'm really excited about this, it should be great fun - if you haven't tried it before, it is much easier than it looks! Stay tuned...
    Sunday, 9 November 2014


    Wabi-sabi represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete". It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence, specifically impermanence, the other two being suffering and emptiness or absence of self-nature. Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.
    Source: Wikipedia

    The term 'wabi-sabi' is new to me, but the concepts it describes are not. In the midst of our autumn, it is the perfect term to describe the beauty of nature and the fading colours which will soon give way to the desolation of winter.  When I learned this term, I immediately went back to tag many of the photos on my Instagram feed, as I realised I've been capturing moments of wabi-sabi for a long time without having a name for it. 

    You may have noticed that there has been no mention of novels over the last couple of weeks, and that's because I've been obsessively watching (streaming via Amazon) the TV show "The Big C ". That too is wabi-sabi. If you haven't heard of it (I hadn't) it's a comedy-drama about a 42 year old wife/ mother who is diagnosed with terminal cancer, and who - over four short series - seeks to live life to the full while she still can.

    With such a premise, it was never destined to have a happy ending but I found myself laughing, crying and generally loving the eccentric cast of characters which include stunning performances from leads Laura Linney and Oliver Platt. It's wabi-sabi in the way it captures the imperfections of family life and relationships and also in the portrayal of the inevitability of the life-cycle. Touching, uplifting and great TV, which has accompanied a great deal of knitting. I'd definitely recommend giving it a try. (The affiliate banner below will take you to a 30 day free trial of the streaming service I've been using. If you try it out, I also really liked the Amazon exclusive show Transparent - if you are not offended by adult themes and gender issues, that is another one to try out.) 

    There's a lot planned for the coming week including a new collaborative project which I'm pretty excited to tell you about. I'm also working on a sample for a new design which is distracting me from the reality of My Boy heading off on his first 'overnight' school trip - he's excited but I'm in a bit of a tizz. I'll be back soon to tell you about the new projects and in the meantime, I'd love to hear any wabi-sabi moments you'd like to share. 
    Thursday, 6 November 2014

    Colourblock Shawl Ta-dah!

    Overnight, the first frost of the year appeared and it is suddenly feeling very cold. For this reason I'm incredibly pleased to have finished this most snuggly of shawls (you can see the other posts about it here). My friend Charlotte kindly stood outside on a very cold and windy day (again) for me to take pictures - thank you Charlotte.
    I always intended that wearing this shawl would be like wearing a big hug, and can confirm that this is indeed the case.
    Deciding on the colour, size and location of the fringe probably took almost as long as knitting it. I eventually went with the sport weight Stone Washed in a contrasting colour and it has lots of movement which I really like, but wasn't very easy to photograph in the wind!

    The shawl worked up quickly and easily between other projects, and was very relaxing to make - it's designed so that you can just keep knitting until it's the size you want, and really I could have kept going as I was enjoying it so much. I love it!

    If you like it too, I'll be posting the free pattern here next week [on November 13th], but in the meantime I've been tipped off (by Chrissy - thank you) that the Scheepjes Stone Washed XL yarn I used is currently on offer at Deramores. If you're thinking of making one, this is the supplies list so you can stock up: 
    • 4 x Stone Washed XL in Coral 
    • 1 x Stone Washed XL in Amazonite 
    • 1 x Stone Washed XL in Lemon Quartz
    • 2 x Stone Washed XL in Smokey Quartz
    • For the fringe: 1 x Stone Washed in Moon Stone - note this is not the XL, but the sport weight
    • 6mm circular knitting needles at least 80cm long (used to knit flat)
    Incidentally, I noticed from this photo that there appears to be some variation in the colours (which were of the same dye lots) but when knitting it, photographing and wearing it, I didn't notice this at all. Perhaps it's a trick of the lense? If you are bothered by this sort of thing, it may be worth alternating balls every few rows on bigger projects... just in case. 
    Wednesday, 5 November 2014

    Tutorial - Knitting Backwards: Bobbles

    A few weeks ago I posted a "knitting backwards" tutorial. In it, I outlined the steps for knitting 'backwards', or in other words, purling with the right side facing you, so that you do not need to turn the work. This is a technique that my left-handed mother uses all the time -  she knits back and forth like a knitting machine - but I only taught myself to do when I was working on 'Miss Winkle' - a pattern which required frequent turns after only a few stitches. Since then, I have found myself using it for various different projects and thought that I'd share some of the practical applications with you, starting today with bobbles.

    For this example I'm using a bobble with the following instructions: "(k1, p1, k1, p1, k1) into the next stitch, turn, p5, turn, k5, pass four stitches one at a time over the knit stitch to finish the bobble". Without turning the work, it looks like this....
    Backwards knitting to make a bobble

    Backwards knitting to make a bobble

    Backwards knitting to make a bobble

    Backwards knitting to make a bobble

    Backwards knitting to make a bobble
    I've recently finished a project with lots of bobbles, and I can tell you that this made a massive difference to the overall speed with which I could knit them. It also saved the various colours I was using from getting tangled up with frequent turns. 

    I have a few other 'backwards knitting' tutes to share, but I'd love to know what else you use this technique for. Oh and if you're fancying those gorgeous knitting needles, they are part of a KnitPro Marblz Interchangeable Needle (Limited Edition) set which I'm going to be telling you about and giving away before Christmas, so stay tuned! 
    Saturday, 1 November 2014

    Handmade Christmas Decoration: Festive Candle Holder (Upcycle)

    It's November already and time to start posting some festive things! It's no coincidence that today's post is part of the Stitch Craft Create Handmade Christmas Decoration blog hop. It contains a short Christmas book review, a free pattern and some exclusive (affiliate) links with a £5 discount code and also a link to some free ebook downloads.

    Handmade Christmas blog hopAs part of the 'hop', I was invited to pick my favourite project from the book 'Handmade Scandinavian Christmas' by Hege Barnholt. There is plenty to choose from in a book designed to inspire family Christmas traditions, and it pretty much all appealed to me. I love the simplicity of the Scandinavian style and how items from nature are collected and brought indoors (you already know I love doing this, as evidenced in my most recent pattern) and used as decoration. The book evokes the kind of Christmas I like to imagine we will have - the realities of burned roasties and sprouts that accidentally get left in the pan until the dishes are washed are not a part of it at all.

    If you love walks in the forest, cutting and gluing, feeding the birds, making gifts, knitting, homemade food, beautifully wrapped gifts and making things as a family, then you'll probably love this book too - all of these things are covered. In fact there are over 120 handmade festive craft ideas and they are all relatively simple and inexpensive to do. Plenty are suitable for little helpers. As I type this, we have apples drying in the oven.
    Handmade Christmas blog hop
    Perhaps it's because I first read the book on a particularly cold and dark evening, but for my own project I decided to use the various "light and warmth" candle ideas as inspiration. This was my starting point...
    From Handmade Scandinavian Christmas by Hege Barnholt
    With a cupboard full of glass jars (I drive my family mad with them, but they are so useful) this was an easy choice. I love the way the light diffuses through the yarn but wanted to knit something. This is what I came up with...
    Festive Candle Holder
    I had planned to collect some holly or pretty berries, but as this Halloween was the hottest on record and the roses are still out, there was nothing suitable. You'll have to use your imagination for that! If you'd like to make your own, the following pattern is suitable for any jar which is 15 cm high, but can easily be altered for different sizes, simply by casting on more or less stitches (if using aran yarn and 6mm needles, cast on approximately 1.3 stitches per cm).

    You will need 
    Knitted candle holder
    • Standard glass jar  is 15 cm high (eg 500g Dolmio jar like mine)
    • Approximately 15g scrap yarn in Aran weight (I used 15g of Red Heart Soft)
    • 6mm needles
    • Needle for sewing up
    • Tea light  (the scented variety can be very festive)
    • Long matches or candle lighter 
    1. Using a long tail cast on, cast on 20 sts, leaving extra tails for sewing up
    2. (WS) Purl
    3. (RS) K2, *yo, k2tog; rep from * to last 2 sts, k2
    4. (WS) Purl
    5. (RS) K2, *k2tog, yo; rep from * to last 2 sts, k2
    6. (WS) Purl
    7. (RS) Knit
    8. (WS) Purl 
    9. Repeat rows 3 to 8 five times (or until the piece can be stretched around the circumference of the jar, if using a different jar)
    10. Bind off loosely leaving a long tail for sewing up
    11. Sew the cast-on and bind-off edges together (to make a tube) using flat stitch, do not cut the ends yet
    12. Fit the tube over the glass jar and use the tail ends to sew a running stitch around the top of the piece, fitting it to the jar
    13. Place a tea light inside
    14. Optional: tie on holly (or other lovely festive things) with ribbon or string
    You can find full details of the blog hop and the other blogs taking part here. If you like the look of the book, you can find it at the Handmade Christmas shop which includes lots of craft materials and gift ideas as well as ebooks and downloads. (You can also download a selection offree ebooks when you sign up for the newsletter!)  If you haven't shopped with them before click the link below and use the code SCC525 to get a £5 discount on your first order over £25.
    Stitch Craft Create

    If you're visiting for the first time as part of the blog hop, it's lovely to have you here. Before you go, you might like to visit some of my other popular posts via the patterns/recipes and  tips/tutes pages. Hope to see you again soon! 
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    DISCLAIMER: Crafts from the Cwtch is part of the Deramores, Craftsy, Etsy, Creativebug and Amazon Affiliate programmes and works with a few carefully selected sponsors. Where posts or projects are sponsored, the opinions will always be entirely my own. You can find out more about affiliate links and blog sponsorship here.

    Hello and welcome. If it's your first visit you may like to start with my most popular tips & tutorials, or the patterns. You can read more about me on the 'Hello' page and you may also like the CftC pages on Ravelry, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Etsy. I hope you enjoy your visit! Sarah

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