Autumn is here. Yesterday we had the first real storm of the season with very strong winds, rain and hail. The leaves were coming off the trees with little resistance. Normally high winds would swirl the leaves into a neat pile by the back door, easy for me to move when the weather permits. We do have a nice little pile there, but this time the leaves also accumulated at the front of the house – all along the front in large piles.

As soon as the weather dries up a little I will be knee deep in leaves (literally) which I hope to tame into a few big tubs and then the compost bin.

With the changing season my habits change.  My cooking changes to winter warmers. This week’s menu will include cottage pie, tuna and pasta bake (the real thing, no packet mixes in this house!) and, my all time winter favourite, beef, Guinness and prune casserole.

Along with these warming meals, for me autumn also means longer evenings of crafting. Over the last 2 evenings I have made a beautiful cowl – a design called Cassia by Amanda Perkins and made in some glorious yarn by The Natural Dye Studio – Phoenix 4ply, colour Tarr Steps. You can find the yarn here: Phoenix.  And in the previous week I have made a small lap blanket in baby merino, a scarf in Willow Knits silk worsted and a cowl in Rowan Cocoon. All this crochet activity is a little more than normal and not just because autumn is here. I am working on a new ebook, but it is still at development stage so this blog post will not include any photos because I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

I hope you are enjoying the autumn and all the goodness it brings.

Happy knitting and crocheting xxx

Having been to Yarndale only a few days ago it was rather indulgent to visit a yarn shop but, when invited to join my yarny friends for a quick trip out to Black Sheep Wools, I could not resist, after all I am a self-confessed yarn addict! And I had visited Ovelha Negra in Oporto very recently – Ovelha Negra means black sheep – so I thought I should try an English one.

It was a fun time, we got lost going there and again coming back (the coming back was probably my fault – sorry Julie!). So when we arrived we were ready for a coffee, and in my case a lovely homemade scone with jam and cream, in the café. Once refreshed it was time to shop.

I didn’t need any more yarn but I can never resist. I had decided to make some slippers using a pattern in the new magazine #crochet which needed 2 balls of Rico Creative Cotton Aran, so I selected the 2 balls. I then found myself in the ‘yarn dive’ area which is full of bargains. I could not resist some Louisa Harding Sari Ribbon on sale at £4.99 per skein – this will be great from some Christmas seasonal makes but is also great for wrapping. Although Ruth did say I looked like a cheer leader holding up this sparkly yarn in both hands!

All those sparkles brighten up my day!

All those sparkles brighten up my day!

Black Sheep is an extensive yarn shop and includes other crafts. There is a good selection of fabrics and, with seasonal makes on my mind, I bought some:

Christmas fabric

Christmas fabric

One thing I didn’t buy at Yarndale was some more of the KnitPro Karbonz knitting needles. I bought a pair on my trip to Blackpool and they have become my favourite needles. I am using them at the moment for the Sunny Sail shawl (using yarn purchased at Yarndale) but I need to transfer to circulars soon. When Julie spotted they had sets for sale I really could not resist at all – so a set of 7 interchangeable needles was also purchased.

This set will help keep me organised

This set will help keep me organised

I enjoyed the trip out and I am sure to visit Black Sheep again, especially as their prices are very good. And the café does lovely cakes and food. Why is it that yarn and cake go so well together?

Happy knitting and crochet xxx

I bought some Rosarios 4 Bijou yarn in Portugal (from Ovelha Negra a wonderful shop). It is super bulky with a varied thickness and absolutely lovely to use. As soon as it was on my hook it flowed! So I wasted no time in making something with it which reminded me of our holiday in Northern Portugal.

Probably the best evening we had was the first night, it was pouring down with rain but we had the most spectacular view of the Luis I Bridge over the River Douro. It is known as the Eiffel Tower of Portugal, and is constructed from lots of grey steel.

The Bijou yarn I bought is a pale grey and as I looked at this photo of the bridge:

Luis I Bridge

Luis I Bridge

my mind started to think – simple steel structure, simple crochet stitches. This cowl is the result:

Luis Cowl

Luis Cowl

Showing the yarn beautifully

Showing the yarn beautifully

The stitch is simple and shows off the yarn beautifully, it is so simple it took only a few hours to make. It is also adaptable, I made it using Bijou but you can make it in any yarn as long as you use the correct hook size and start with a chain which is a multiple of 4.

The pattern is now properly written in English and US terms and is available here on Ravelry:

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/luis-i-cowl

Simple., beautiful and very useful. Thank you Portugal!

Happy crocheting xxxx

Here is the official Yarndale stash photo:

Yarndale stash

Yarndale stash

I had a fabulous day out at Yarndale but I had only recently returned from a holiday in Northern Portugal and my mind was still there.

The holiday was a short river cruise on the Douro followed by a short stay in a Pousada.

Prior to going I asked around on Ravelry to see if anyone could give me ideas of yarn shops to visit during my free time (a few hours on the first day) in Oporto. So I was fore-armed. Unfortunately things don’t always go to plan and my idea of having 3 hours free to wander Oporto on the day we arrived dissolved when we were whisked off for a coach tour of Oporto and a port wine tasting (and I love white port – so I wasn’t too disappointed!). However, the tour included 20 minutes of free time in an area very close to one of my ‘tips’. So I wasted no time in searching out ‘A Vida Portuguesa’. It is a lovely old shop with lots of beautiful items all made in Portugal. Unfortunately my enquiries drew a blank – I was advised they had no yarn.

As the time was ticking away rapidly, I felt quite low, my only possible chance of finding yarn in Portugal had diminished substantially…. or so I thought…. I unexpectedly I found a fabric shop/haberdashery on a street corner so took my chances and jumped in. After an interesting discussion consisting mainly of gesticulation, I was told to go around the corner and across the road (I have no idea how I worked this out as my Portuguese is extremely limited!). By now I had only 2 minutes free time left but I ran across the tramlines and into the shop……which turned out to be a fabric/haberdashery/yarn shop. It took only a quick peruse of the shelves to see there was no Portuguese wool – it was all acrylic. Nevertheless I asked and someone who could speak enough English let me know they didn’t have any local Portuguese yarn.

My first yarn hunt had drawn a blank but I was happily surprised at having found not one but two crafty shops in a small area of Oporto.

Two days later we visited Lamego – a small town famous for the sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies and its long staircase down to the town (685 steps and yes I walked down but I didn’t count them! Thank heavens they didn’t ask me to walk up!!!).

Lamego

Lamego

After the long descent (which reminded me of my last fire drill from the 24th floor of the building I used to work in!), we wandered through the main parts of Lamego and then took a side street and lo and behold I found Casa Das Las on Rua Olaria – yes a yarn shop!!!! After the usual gesticulations (I was getting used to this!) I found some yarn in hanks that was 50% Portuguese wool. I was surprised to find it was sold by weight and priced by the kilo. I chose 2 colours and found they weighed about 240g for a total cost of €9.37.

Lemago yarn

Lemago yarn

Suddenly I felt I had achieved my goal of finding Portuguese yarn.

Two days later we were back in Oporto, but again the timetable had changed and I found we had 1.5 hours free time. Filipa, the hotel/ship manager, had given me a map to find Ovelha Negra, a modern yarn shop in Oporto of which I had read some excellent reviews. I found it easily and found someone who spoke perfect English. She seemed surprised that someone from the UK wanted to visit a Portuguese yarn shop! She helped me find some Rosarios 4 yarn (a Portuguese brand) and I left feeling happy. The shop is very modern and much like many yarn shops we have in the UK

Ovelha Negra

Ovelha Negra

Apologies for the quality of this photo – it was taken on my phone and I made a complete hash of it!

Here is the yarn I bought:

Rosarios 4

Rosarios 4


I was now on a high and decided I would like to revisit A Vida Portuguesa as it was a lovely shop, old and characterful, and full of local Portuguese goods. I ascended the beautiful old wooden staircase and just at the top I found some lovely yarn! Just a few skeins in a basket but this was clearly handcrafted and gorgeous! So my second yarn purchase of the day – and only 8 euros!

Restosaria Beiroa

Restosaria Beiroa

The next day we visited Braga – a larger town. Again we had some free time ….did I tell you about the fantabulous pastries in Portugal? Well I went in search of one of the pastry shops, which are everywhere, and lo and behold almost next door to the first pastry shop I found was a wool shop, no signage but plenty of wool (on Rua de S Marcos). Again the language barrier was overcome with gesticulation and a clear love of La (wool) and I was shown a section of hanks of 100% wool. I chose a hank and this was weighed and priced as before.

Pure Portuguese wool

Pure Portuguese wool

You can imagine how happy I was by now – 4 yarn purchases in a few days!!!!

Our last trip was to Guimaraes, a UNESCO world heritage site with a beautifully preserved medieval centre. It has lots of characterful buildings, restaurants and shops….and very strangely I found 2 yarn shops, much the same as the ones in Lamego and Braga. I was extremely restrained and decided not to buy any more yarn, maybe the size of my suitcase helped in this decision!

But I thoroughly enjoyed finding yet more yarn shops and I also spotted some small handcrafted crochet shops, primarily baby clothes but definitely hand made.

Finally, I fell in love with Guimaraes embroidery – which I found everywhere. Traditionally in black, red, blue or cream on cream linen. The best shop I found was a co-operative and I was tempted to purchase a lovely embroidered pouch bag – I love how the drawstring is crocheted!

017

And this was small and flat, so fitted easily in the suitcase!

So Northern Portugal has been very rewarding for a yarn addict. It is clear that there are more plentiful yarn shops than in the UK (much more plentiful). I just hope it stays that way.

And I must thank my husband, he was very patient as I searched out all the yarnie goodness in Northern Portugal and I love him to bits!

Happy knitting and crocheting xxxx

PS I didn’t mention it but the prices of everything are excellent, I can’t recall ever buying a bottle of beer (Super Bock) for only 70p!!! Visit Northern Portugal now, before it gets too commercial.

PPS I have been working with some of the Rosarios 4 yarn and there is a cowl pattern almost ready to publish…. a fabulous reminder of my yarn adventure in Northern Portugal!

Today is International Crochet Day, what are you crocheting?

If you have nothing on your hooks then you may wish to join in the 2 CALs on my Ravelry forum (with prizes!) – the August Crochet Scarf:

August Crochet Scarf

August Crochet Scarf

and The Hexagon Project 2014:

The Hexagon Project 2014

The Hexagon Project 2014

Both patterns are available at 50% off their normal price today only (until midnight GMT) on Ravelry if you use coupon code ICD2014 here:

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/august-crochet-scarf-mcal

and here:

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/sources/the-hexagon-project-2014

Happy International Crochet Day xx

Perhaps I shouldn’t post this. The subject is something that is (or maybe now, was) destined as a Christmas present. A beaded crochet pouch that I designed, lined with felt and is now perfect for keeping jewellery safe, clean and comforted. It was fun to make.
Here it is:

Beaded crochet pouch

Beaded crochet pouch

And then someone suggested maybe we should have a beaded knitting workshop at the knitaway we are planning in Buxton. So I thought, how about doing knitting and crochet? What if I designed a beaded knit pouch that would be similar to the crochet one and then I could host a dual workshop – beaded pouch for knitters and crocheters?
I am craftidextrous – I love doing both crochet and knitting, although I confess crochet is my favourite (slightly).

So a spare afternoon yielded this:

Beaded knitted pouch

Beaded knitted pouch

What do you think?

Are they similar? Would you like to make them? Or one of them?

Togetherness....heaven

Togetherness….heaven

To me this was a personal challenge, and it feels fantabulous to have completed it! I think, at least on my own personal level, that I have proved crochet and knitting are both brilliant and can produce similar beautiful results. What do you think?

This is one topic where I am aching to hear your views.

Happy craftidextrous crafting xxxxx

I have been busy for the last 2 weeks, a little bit of designing but mainly ‘stashing down’. What is stashing down? For yarn-aholics like me, stash is the stock of yarn I have acquired over the years. So stashing down means using up lots of yarn so that my yarn ‘stash’ reduces. Now my stash is huge, so large that I keep a spreadsheet to help me manage it and I know how many balls/skeins I have. But it is so embarrassingly large that I can’t even bring myself to tell you what that number is! It does fill a tall built in double width wardrobe and overflow into numerous baskets in my yarn room. Did I ever mention I have a yarn room? Perhaps the less said the better – but it gives you an idea of how much stash I have!

I need to reduce this stash considerably and I decided to use quick simple crochet stitches (such as granny square stitches) that I can do with my eyes shut, and therefore speedily stash down. So I have used these simple stitches and crocheted like the wind. So far I have used 17 balls of my stash and made no fewer 8 gift bags (destined for Christmas wrappings).

The bags are varied, and mainly just improvised. I did start a couple of patterns but changed then, and after that I decided I could just make them up as I went. So here’s a selection:

Market style bags

Market style bags

Granny style bags

Granny style bags

You can tell from the photos that I haven’t used the best of my yarn stash for these bags. But there is a little glitter and silk in some of the yarns I used.

I have also started on some simple but luxurious cushion covers in pure silk. These are a simple granny square design – one for the back and 4 for the front. I plan to fasten them with buttons, so I will need to design a granny-style button flap.
I love the yarn and the colours complement each other well. Unfortunately this photo just doesn’t show the colours in all their glory, nor the beautiful sheen of the silk.

Granny cushion pieces

Granny cushion pieces

I’m also working on a few WIPs – one a second cushion cover to match this one:

Fresh Red cushion

Fresh Red cushion


This is a design from a few months ago, you can find the pattern here: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/fresh-red-crochet-cushion

In the next couple of weeks my stash down will be finished (for now) and hopefully I will have used more than 30 balls/skeins of yarn. Perfect for creating more storage space …….because at the end of September I am going here: http://www.yarndale.co.uk
And I am sure to buy lots more yarn – I guess that’s called stashing up!!!

Happy crocheting xxx

Hot news! The Zodiac Knitted Blanket Club is now available for purchase – you can find details here: http://www.thenaturaldyestudio.com/zodiac-knitted-blanket-club-2015—monthly-payment-option-437-c.asp

The club starts in January, so you need to purchase in advance, but there are several purchase options for you and, of course, you could always add it to your Christmas present list!

Happy knitting xxxx

What an exciting week it has been for me! First the MCAL on my Ravelry forum is going better than I had expected. I confess I was really worried about this MCAL, I wanted to make it easy enough for anyone to try but interesting enough for the mystery element. So I planned it in small chunks, and actually those small chunks really help to keep the mystery going. None of them are complicated themselves, but as you add them together it becomes more interesting. Best of all for me, everyone seems to like it and they are sharing progress on the Ravelry forum, even speeding away each time I publish a new clue! I do hope they like the final design… but in case they don’t I do have several options available …… ooooo, mustn’t give the game away!
The last clue of the MCAL is out later this week. Meanwhile, here’s some progress photos by kind permission of some of the MCALers – Sigrun, Elaine and Kerry:
shugoey

snowball

elaine77
I am so pleased that everyone has chosen lots of colour, the colours vary from bright to subtle, but are all very beautiful and I think will look excellent in the final design.
And here’s another photo I have to share from (another) Kerry, she hates sewing ends (I guess we all do) but by issuing this in chunks she has the opportunity to do sewing in between clue. Here is her Sunday morning production line:
kerrywallis

Also I have been busy on another major collaboration with Amanda Perkins of The Natural Dye Studio. Those who know Amanda know that she does the most beautiful crochet designs and recently has concentrated on some very special, unique blanket designs. This year she designed the Kaleidoscope mystery crochet blanket club, which you will have seen on this blog. Here is my August instalment, with apologies for the photo quality (it is very dull here today, difficult to get good light for photos):

August Kaleidoscope

August Kaleidoscope

For next year she is planning the Zodiac blanket club. Check out the club details here: http://www.thenaturaldyestudio.com/zodiac—crochet-blanket-club-2015-428-c.asp

Although Amanda designs crochet she is very aware that many of her customers knit. And she decided she would like to give them the opportunity to join the Zodiac club. Yes, this means she wanted to have a knit design as well, so she asked me if I could help. Of course, I jumped at the chance and several weeks later (and many swatches ranging from very easy to extremely complex!) we have found a knit design that fits well, or rather a component of the design because the overall design is the same whether knit or crochet but the components are different (naturally). I can’t give too much away but I am extremely excited about this! Very soon you will be able to find more details on The Natural Dye Studio’s website. I will post a link when it is available.

I did a lot of swatching to get this design right, and I really didn’t think I would enjoy knitting motifs as much as I do crochet (I think I am addicted to crochet motifs!), but I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed this. So much that when I hit on the final design I wanted to make more ……….. and more. I sense a new addiction taking hold.

Naturally one collaboration leads to another, and there is something else we are working on which is very exciting. I can’t reveal more at the moment, but it will be just as exciting!

So I have had a very exciting week, I hope yours has been equally exciting and enjoyable.

Happy knitting and crochet xxx

A few days ago I posted a photo of the little crochet beaded pot that I made with some leftovers. Here it is:

Beaded pot

Beaded pot

I thought you might just like the pattern. It’s a lovely quick project, and great for using up little bits of leftover yarn and beads. So here’s the pattern:

You will need:
Rowan Cotton Glace, 100% cotton, 50g/114m per ball (approx. 10g/25m used)
30 size 6 beads
3.0mm (US D/3) crochet hook
Tapestry needle
Sewing needle and thread

Tension/gauge
Tension is not important for this design, just ensure you have a nice tight finish..

Finished size will vary depending on your tension. My pot is 4.5cm in diameter and 4cm high (that’s about 1.75″ by 1.5″)

Abbreviations
Note – these are all English crochet terms but the only stitch in this pattern that is different in US terms is the dc – so just swap dc for sc if you want US terms
st = stitch
ch = chain stitch
ss = slip stitch
dc = double crochet
Magic ring = make a magic ring, hold thread in your hand and wrap working yarn around forefinger twice to create ring, slip ring off your finger and insert hook to pick up first st, 1ch, then work the necessary sts for round 1 and close the ring tightly by pulling the loose end.
bdc = beaded double crochet – insert hook into st, yarn round hook and draw loop through st, push bead close to hook, yarn round hook and pull yarn through both loops on hook making sure bead is trapped in the st.
BLO = work sts in back loop only
RS = right side
WS = wrong side

Instructions
Thread beads onto yarn (see tip below pattern)

Start with a magic ring
Round 1 (RS)
1ch (does not count as st), 6dc in ring, pull ring tight, ss to 1st dc (6 sts)

Round 2
1ch (does not count as st), 2dc into st at base of ch, 2dc in each st to end, ss to 1st dc (12sts)

Round 3
1ch (does not count as st), 1dc into st at base of ch, 2dc into next st, (1dc into next st, 2dc in next st) 5 times, ss to 1st dc (18 sts)

Round 4
1ch (does not count as st), 1dc into base of ch, 1dc into next st, 2dc into next st, (1dc into each of next 2 sts, 2dc in next st) 5 times, ss to 1st dc (24 sts)

Round 5
1ch (does not count as st), 1dc into st at base of ch, 1dc into each of next 2 sts, 2dc into next st, (1dc into each of next 3 sts, 2dc in next st) 5 times, ss to 1st dc (30 sts)

Round 6
Work this round in BLO, 1ch (does not count as st), 1dc into st at base of ch, 1dc into each st around, ss to 1st dc (30 sts)

Round 7
1ch (does not count as st), 1dc into st at base of ch, 1dc into each st around, ss to 1st dc (30 sts)

Round 8
Turn to work with WS (inside of pot) facing you, 1ch (does not count as st), 1dc into st at base of ch, 1bdc into next st, (1dc into next st, 1bdc into next st) 14 times, ss to 1st dc (30 sts)

Round 9
Turn to work again with RS facing, 1ch (does not count as st), 1dc into st at base of ch, 1dc into each st around, ss to 1st dc (30 sts)

Rounds 10 to 15
As round 7

Round 16
As round 8

Round 17
As Round 9.

Break yarn, fasten off and sew in ends.

TIP: Threading beads onto yarn
To thread beads onto yarn, first thread a sewing needle with sewing thread and tie in a knot. Loop the yarn through the sewing thread. Thread beads onto needle, along thread then onto yarn. Always thread more beads on than you need, as you may decide to adjust the size or you may make a mistake. It’s better to have unused beads left on the yarn rather than run out and have to cut and re-join the yarn if you do need to add beads.

Threading beads onto yarn

Threading beads onto yarn

Please note this pattern is my design and the pattern and photos are copyright.

I hope you like the pattern. And please share photos of any little beaded pots you make.

Happy crocheting xxx

PS I am human and can make mistakes, so if you spot a mistake in the pattern please let me know and I’ll correct it.

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