Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Today's post is brought to you by the colour pink

We are a couple of days into the spring holidays and life has slowed down considerably. We are taking things easy and enjoying the sunshine (and wind). Life is good. There has been a lot of time for cuddling and laughing but very little for knitting. On Saturday I started something new-ish...
Since I made the samples for my Sky Full of Stars pattern, Little Miss has been asking for her own version - but in pink. When I saw the chunky yarn I used (Sirdar Softspun Chunky) was on sale for £1.55 a ball, I decided to make her a child's version. Unlike the original design, this does not need to be multi-way as she only wants to wear it as a shrug, so it has a completely different construction but the same over-all effect. I think it's going to take just 2 balls of yarn and I'm almost at the end of the first, so hopefully I'll get to finish and block it soon - especially as she is on my case.

I also have two more projects that I also need to finish off before I can show you, but we'll have to see how the week goes. Right now, we're off for a picnic. 
Sunday, 29 March 2015

Fancy falling (back) in love... with your blog?

Have you seen the new challenge which will be taking place next month at A Playful Day? As part of 'An Inspired 2015' Kate is challenging everyone to fall in love with their blog in April.

A Playful Day
If you're someone who has a blog (or maybe you've abandoned it for a while and are not sure how to start again) there will be plenty to inspire you. If you haven't started your own blog yet, but would like to, this would be a great time to do it - the challenge is open to anyone who would like to take part, and there are just a few simple rules.

As well as inspirational weekly prompts, there will be interviews with some fabulous bloggers - you can read about why they blog, how they decide what to write about and what it has taught them. I'm thrilled to have been included and will be telling you about the inspiration for Crafts from the Cwtch and about finding my 'voice'. (I'll post a link to that in due course.)

As well as interviewing established bloggers, Kate will post a new blog prompt each Monday in April (the first one can already be seen here) which YOU can join in with. The prompts can be interpreted in any way you wish and when you've published the post, simply add it to the list so we can all find it.

Full details can be found here and you can also join the Ravelry group discussion thread if you can't wait to chat about it! The first prompt feels perfectly timed after  my (awesome) day with the 'Instagrannies' on Saturday. I'll be drafting mine tomorrow.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

The Natter-Knitting Project

As a visual person, Instagram (aka 'IG') is my favourite social app - I love nothing more than scrolling through to see lovely images of yarn, crafts, doodles (on paper and skin), the natural world and Schnauzers. Yes, the things that make up my feed are an accurate reflection of my interests. Through these moments, captured and shared with like-minded people, friendships are formed. This weekend I will be attending a meet-up of some lovely IG crafters. I have met one or two of them in person (very briefly at events) and have been following many for what feels like a long time - seeing glimpses of their homes and families, and of course their crafty endeavours. I'm really looking forward to a day of crafting together, eating cake (hopefully there is some wheat-free cake!) and plenty of real life chatter. What could be nicer? 

Of course this presents me with a certain dilemma, and it's one that seems common among the other attendees too. Which projects are best to take!? Which are best for 'Natter-Knitting'? I'm reading - and loving - The Rosie Project which has inspired me to come up with a few questions to help with my selection - have I missed anything?

The Natter-Knitting Project, Selection Questions
On this basis, I should probably ditch my initial idea of taking hexipuffs - they are small and portable but I'd have to take quite a lot of stuffing and different mini-skeins to fill an entire day of knitting. Also, as there are increases and decreases, I would have to count. Despite looking promising, they are probably not the best project.

I dare not take my enormous arm knitting (the yarn arrived and I'm itching to start), or the cowl design I'm working on. So this really leaves me with just a few sensible options. I should probably cast on a pair of vanilla socks, a simple hat or a cowl - unless you have any better suggestions....? 
Monday, 23 March 2015

Trend Spotting: Knitting without Needles

*This post is in association with Deramores and contains affiliate links*

I am delighted to be one of six bloggers asked to predict a key trend for 2015 as part of the Deramores Blog Competition 2015. Use any of the six trends as a starting point for your own blog post and submit it to Deramores for a chance to win a year's supply of yarn!!! Entry details can be found here and you can see the full list of bloggers and trends here.

My Trend: Knitting without Needles

Since reviewing Laura Strutt's book I've seen arm- and finger- knitting projects popping up all over the place. I'm not sure if they were *always* around and I just hadn't noticed them (like when you get a new car and you keep seeing the same one everywhere) or whether this is something which is just becoming "mainstream" - my non-knitting friends are talking about it too, so this could be the case. 
Arm knitting - screenshot from Anne Weir's class on Creativebug (links on blog)
Screenshot from 'Arm Knit a Throw Blanket' with Anne Weil 
Either way, I predict we will be seeing more of these simple-but-effective knits filtering through to the High Street for the Autumn/Winter season, and onto many craft blogs. You'll certainly be seeing more here as I'm in the process of putting together a finger-knitting necklace tutorial and will start arm knitting a project for the home (inspired by the picture above), just as soon as the yarn arrives. I can't wait! 

What you need to know
If you're planning your own needle-less knitting project, there are some considerations which may not be completely intuitive if you're used to more traditional knitting methods. Here are a few of the things I've been learning:
  • As the number of stitches must be limited to fit on your arms or digits, it is necessary to plan projects/designs accordingly.
  • Arm-knitting is worked back-and-forth so the right side is always facing. This requires some changes to your knitting, for example you need to knit and purl alternate rows to make garter stitch. A remedial 'half-twist' is also necessary to prevent twisted stitches in the finished object. 
  • To put your work down, you will need to place the stitches onto a holder (eg a broom handle, or a gift-wrap roll in the case of arm knits). For this reason, it's probably not something to try while your kids are painting or the dog has muddy paws. Having a holder to hand also means you don't have to finish the project in one sitting. 
  • You still need to swatch! Choosing the right yarn and keeping the stitches tight is the key to having your arm-knitting look like lovely knitted fabric, and not like a net, but knitting too tight might cut off your circulation so it's a good idea to practice before starting a huge project.
  • Finger knitting works in exactly the same way as using a lucet, you simply use fingers instead of the lucet prongs, but remember you're not limited to just two fingers. Find my lucet tutorial here.
  • Although these projects are quick to finish, they can eat yarn at an alarming rate. I'll talk more about suitable yarns in future posts but think it's worth mentioning these techniques are also a good use for DIY Yarn. Find my tutorial on making yarn from a sheet here - the same method can be used to upcycle soft fabrics such as t-shirts. 
Recommended resources
While these methods are relatively straight-forward it's worth taking the time to do a little research and practice before you begin. I've put together a shortlist of some of the resources I've been using, and which I would recommend for quality of instruction and presentation (there are lots of videos on YouTube, but the quality varies considerably so you'll need to hunt around). 
Trend spotting: Knitting without needles
Book: Arm and Finger knitting by Laura Strutt. If you read my full and honest review you'll know I didn't love all of the arm-knit patterns but the instructions and photos are a really great introduction to these methods. As well as the arm knitting patterns there are some fun and practical finger-knit projects too - I really like those.

Expert blogger: Anne Weil of Flax and Twine has a great 4-part tutorial for an arm-knit cowl on her blog (see below for a link to her online class which is where I discovered Anne). You can find the instalments, and download the PDF, here.

Online classes: Great video classes for finger knitting with Amelia Strader and arm knitting with Anne Weil can be found on Creativebug. These classes go into full detail and include trouble-shooting and lots of tips, working right the way through the project with you. If you are not a Creativebug subscriber, you can get an unlimited free trial for 14 days - see my review of the service for more information. 

So there you have it. I hope this post has given you food for thought and I look forward to reading your #DeramoresTrends posts! I'll post an update on my arm-knit project later this week. 
Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Knitted Circle Tutorial

Knitted Circle tutorial

It will come as no surprise to regular readers that I've been playing around with stripes and circles. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, check the last few posts.) As I don't see many knitted circles around, I wanted to share this technique, as it's a lot of fun and very easy to do. 

For the tutorial I'm using 3mm needles and Scheepjes Invicta Colour (sock) yarn. I cast on 21 stitches using the long tail method, before knitting three rows in garter stitch. All of these elements can be changed to adjust the size of the circle. Mine has a diameter of 30mm without any blocking.
Knitted Circle tutorial
Knitted Circle tutorial
Knitted Circle tutorial
Knitted Circle tutorial
I'll leave you to guess what I'm doing with them! 
Friday, 13 March 2015

New Project #2 - Experimenting (& Metaphors)

So far, I've lived my life as a 'by the rules' kind of girl (unless the rules are unfair or illogical, in which case a sense of justice prevails - I'll fight tooth and nail). I never got into trouble as a kid, I worked hard at school, worked hard in my career and at parenting, and generally did things 'right'. To use an analogy, my life has been spent colouring within the lines, even when I really didn't want to be. 

Lately, I've come to realise that it's ok to scribble, in both a metaphorical and literal sense. Recent 'artistic' endeavours (blogged herehere, and here) have taught me three valuable lessons which apply to my sketching and, perhaps more importantly, to life: 
a) experiment, without being afraid of mistakes,
b) have fun by adding colour, and 
c) keep adding more until it "works" and feels balanced
Seeing my sketchbooks fill up with interesting patterns and colours makes me want to carry these lessons into my knitting - and with my new rebellious outlook, why not?

Last week's circles or stripes dilemma made me decide to try something more experimental for this project. I usually sit down with swatches and a sketchbook when designing anything, and indeed when I ordered this yarn there was a very definite plan (and a sketch) in place. However I've decided not to follow it.  Instead, I've set myself just a few guidelines, and will keep adding colour until it feels 'right'. 

The Constraints:
1. Each RS row must decrease one stitch at the beginning and one at the end 
2. The stripes should not be in a regular/uniform position
3. Circles and stripes are a possibility
Invicta/Stone Washed WIP - experiment!
I'm using two lovely Scheepjes yarns - Invicta Colour (75% Wool/ 25% nylon) and Stone Washed (78% cotton/ 22% acrylic) and love the way they are working up although I honestly have no idea how it's going to turn out... I'll show you more next week.
Thursday, 12 March 2015

New Project #1 (& Things Knitters Do)

Fuchsia has been calling. It's probably as a result of the gorgeous project bag purchased at Unravel. In the midst of my longing, I recalled two balls of Fuchsia yarn which had been sent to me in error, and which were taking up very valuable space in my Cwtch - this happens to be the smallest room in the house and I really don't have room for much of a 'stash'.

Of course, I did the first thing that any knitter would do, and cast on. What could be better than using up two unloved balls, and clear some space? Plus the project wouldn't cost anything...
New project #1
... but then I stared knitting. I began to wish there were a contrasting colour too. Naturally, I did the second thing that any knitter would do... and ordered more yarn. So yesterday, two more balls of yarn arrived (I couldn't decide whether to go for mint green or silver grey, and I still can't - what do you think?).

The yarn is Stylecraft Life DK, 75% acrylic / 25% wool. Since making my crochet Granny blanket from Stylecraft Special DK, and not really liking the feel of it or the way it washes, I will admit to having a mental block about Stylecraft yarns. This wouldn't ordinarily have been my first choice, but I'm pleasantly surprised.

The project is something I'm making up as I go along. Nice simple knitting, nothing too strenuous. Just the sort of project I love having in my (matching) project bag. I have a vague notion of how it will turn out, but this is not one that's been planned, sketched and swatched.

While deciding on the next colour (and stitch pattern) to incorporate, I've also cast on another project - that one is a bit more experimental. I'll tell you about it tomorrow.  

Monday, 9 March 2015

Review: I caught the C R E A T I V E B U G !

Spoiler: After reviewing Creativebug, I subscribed myself and also joined the Affiliate programme. This post includes affiliate links (read more here) but as always, the opinions are entirely my own.

Considering I love subscription services with unlimited content (I use Amazon Prime, Netflix and Kindle Unlimited) and am a huge fan of online learning (most of my design and pattern writing skills, plus a whole load of techniques came from Craftsy), I am not really sure how Creativebug managed to escape my attention for so long. It's basically an unlimited subscription service - like Netflix - for arts and crafts, and has a truly A M A Z I N G line-up of instructors. If you haven't heard of it before, this short video tells explains it and gives a flavour of the class style:

There are various 'yarn' craft projects (knitting, crochet, macramé) but unlimited access to everything else has definitely encouraged me to look at the crafts I don't know so well. I've been watching jewellery making, sewing and papercrafts and there are lots of things I plan to try once I get a few supplies. There are 10 minute tutorials, five hour art classes presented in chapters, and everything in between. As the content is mainly project-focussed, there are plenty of entry-level classes and 'workalongs' where every step is covered in detail.  
There is a good selection of knitting projects (plus others for sewing, embroidery, quilting, crochet, jewellery and art) which can be worked 'with' the instructor. I watched Edie Eckman's faux cable sock class, and it is great - suitable for a knitter wanting to try a first pair of socks, or anyone who has made toe-up socks and would like to try a different construction (top-down). The PDF pattern is included and Edie walks through every step necessary to complete the socks. I've already made several pairs of socks but still picked up a few tips, including a great stitch marker tip that I will definitely be using!

Extracts from my sketchbook - using the Creativebug classes with Lisa Congdon
The instructor line-up includes many names you will recognise, such as Kaffe Fasset, Wendy Bernard, Gudrun Johnson, Amy Butler, Debbie Stoller and too many others to mention. I've been dipping in and out of the different classes but have mainly been working along with basic line drawing and sketchbook explorations, both taught by Lisa Congdon (I love her work and her blog). You can see some examples of the geometric shapes in my sketchbook as a result  - it's so much fun!

Classes can be accessed online and also via the Creativebug app for mobile devices and it is possible to download content to your device to watch when you can't access the internet. There is also a 'community' aspect - you can upload pictures of your projects and see what others are making. There isn't interaction with the instructor as per the Craftsy platform, but these classes are more economical and less technical, so that's not really surprising. The main thing missing from Creativebug is the option for closed captions. My mum is quite frustrated that I'm raving about something she isn't able to watch as she can't hear it. I hope that will change in the future.

As well as complete projects, there are various techniques and also some free content which you can try out. New classes are added each month too. For $4.99 I think a subscription represents superb value for money (unless you're deaf). You can start a free 14-day trial here - as with most trials, you need to add payment details but won't be charged until the end of the trial and you can cancel at any time. For each month you pay the subscription, you can choose one class to keep forever, which is also great value.

Yes, I've definitely caught the creative bug and I'm sure you'll be seeing more things inspired by these classes - if you've used Creativebug, let me know your favourites so I can check them out!  
Creative Video Workshops on Creativebug.com
Friday, 6 March 2015

For the weekend...

Yesterday's circles or stripes dilemma is still playing on my mind. I've decided to swatch both and decide from there. This is the yarn I'll be using...
New project.....
It's a combination of Invicta Colour (75% Wool/ 25% nylon) for the bright shades and Stone Washed (78% cotton/ 22% acrylic) for the squishy softness. Both yarns are from Scheepjes (I checked with Wink who introduced me to these yarns, and when she says it, it sounds a lot like "shape - yez"). I'll let you know how I get on with the swatching...

On Saturday, we are planning to make the most of the glorious Spring-like weather and will head to the coast, but if you're not as fortunate and are looking for something to do, here are a few links to keep you busy for a while...
Image source: A Creative Being.com
As I've mentioned Wink already, I'll start by telling you that she is having a sale on her Mandala patterns. You can get them from her Ravelry store with 75% OFF using the code 'winklovesyou75' but you have to be quick as it's limited to the first 75 people! Her mandala patterns are really well written and very clear - even I can easily follow them!
Image source: A Playful Day - click the image to find out more. 
Have you seen A Playful Day's project called "An Inspired 2015"? Its a bit like a knitalong, but it's not just for knitting, and it is running for the entire year. Each month, Kate announces a 'theme' to help focus creative efforts and people join in via the Playful Day Ravelry Group and social media (tag #aninspired2015). The theme for March is Location and Journey and I think it's a great one - you can join in (or just read along, if you're shy) by following the links above.
Source: Ravelry.com
There was a really useful post on Ravelry this week about searching within a 'source' - it's basically a way of using the ravelry database to search for patterns from a specific publisher. I have used this when I remembered seeing a pattern on a particular website but didn't recall the name of it, but it can also be used if you know the magazine/publisher but not the issue - very handy if you subscribe to a magazine but didn't add the individual issues to your Ravelry library. You can use this search to find something without flicking through hundreds of issues/pages. Find out how to use this very simple search on the Ravelry homepage this weekend. 
Screenshot from LoveKnitting.com
Following the Vatmoss legislation which came into force in January, LoveKnitting.com stepped in to help independent designers sell PDF patterns online. At that time the Love Knitting pattern platform was new and still not fully functional. I'm pleased to report that my 'most wanted' customer-facing feature is now live and it is now possible to search indie patterns by designer. So if you find something you love, you can click on the designer's name to see all the patterns they have for sale via Love Knitting. The site is very easy to use and, provided the designer has provided the relevant information, you can add the pattern and the correct yarn/ other materials to the basket from the pattern page, saving time and effort. (You can find my patterns here, and did you notice there's now a pair of mitts to accompany my Sky Full of Stars Shrug? Both these patterns are exclusively available via LoveKnitting.)

My final 'share' is nothing to do with yarn or crafting. You may have realised by now that my favourite designs are all simple shapes that can be worn in different ways, so when I was planning a new hairstyle last week, I sent the following video to my stylist. It's seriously simple - a short bob - and very versatile (you may have seen the result on Instagram already). Sadly I don't have the youth or face of the girl in the video, but I am loving my new short hair!

Whatever you're doing this weekend, I hope it's a great one. 
Thursday, 5 March 2015

Inescapable circles

Two things have been stuck in my head. The first is an incredibly catchy pop song (if you click the link, please remember you were warned). The second...? Circles! 
After doodling lots of circles this week (working along with the classes I mentioned here), I just can't get them out of my head. This wouldn't be a problem except that I already have plans for a new knitting project which doesn't involve any circles at all.

To clear my head before casting on my planned stripy project, it seemed like a good idea to knit up a quick plain hat - just some cheap and cheerful Drops Delight (colourway 13) and plain knitting - the only circles are the needles. I stashed quite a few balls of this yarn a few years ago and am still using it up - it's not the nicest yarn to work with as you would imagine for £1.60/50g but the colours are pretty and it comes in handy for projects like this.
WIP Thursday...?!
Incidentally, it's pictured with my Kindle because I spent most of the day thinking it was Wednesday and this would be a "WIPs and books" post - the book is quite good so far, if you're wondering.

So after I'd decided on my 'palate cleansing' hat project, a parcel arrived. A gorgeous parcel filled with goodies from my friend Gilly, including a handmade Japanese Knot Bag - perfect for carrying a small project to knit on the go (which I did on the walk to school). Gilly tells me that she made the bag for me last year, so the fabric really is a total co-incidence...
WIP Thursday...?!
Now I'm obsessing about how I can change my planned project to include colourful circles *sigh*. 
Tuesday, 3 March 2015

On finding inspiration

It's a seasonal thing, but I've been stuck in a rut. Looking back at the blog, almost everything I wrote about recently was planned before Christmas. My Journal has been neglected since the end of January with only a few pages written and not many pictures (those I've drawn look bleak and sad). Had I been paying more attention, what is unwritten is very telling - the truth is that I hadn't realised how uninspired I was feeling...  until I suddenly felt inspired again.

Firstly, flowers started popping up. Our slushy grey walks suddenly became punctuated with pockets of colour. Then I found myself wanting to write in my journal - just so I could use the letter 'g' (Little Miss had been reading to me from an Oliver Jeffers book and I love the lettering).  
On finding inspiration
Of course Unravel festival was a major turning point - after that I even picked up a spindle for the first time in months! You can see from my picture that I've been doodling too. In fact, last night I was inspired to start a couple of Lisa Congdon courses on Creativebug. They are jam packed with inspiration (and there's a free trial) so I'm planning to write a proper review (of the classes and the platform) in the next few days.  This quick little WIP made me very happy, and what's more it's totally whetted my appetite for more drawing and for incorporating more colour into my designs.

It is amazing how creating something - and really it might be anything - can make one feel inspired and it starts a chain reaction for new ideas and new directions.  I guess you could say I've found my inspiration in various places recently. Where do you find yours? 
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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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