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It’s time to announce the Advent CAL 2018!  This is my third Advent CAL and is bigger than ever before.  It is called the 12 Gifts of Christmas and includes 12 patterns for items that can be made as gifts.   Advent starts on 2nd December this year and normally that is when I commence the annual Advent CAL.  However, if anyone decides to attempt all 12 patterns a start date of 2nd December does not give much time.  So I have decided to start the Advent CAL a little before Advent – on Saturday 24th November 2018.

On each Saturday from 24th November to 15th December I will release 3 patterns for the CAL.  Each week will be a different theme with the more time (and yarn) consuming being released first, as follows:

Week 1 Accessories – comprises 2 scarves and a neck warmer, all in double knit yarn and requiring between 225m and 400m, that’s from 100g to 200g of yarn.   You can use one colour or more, and there is some interesting texture:


Week 2 Homeware – comprises a cushion and 2 tableware items. The cushion requires chunky yarn (over 225m and several colours could be used) and the tableware items double knit (preferably cotton).

Week 3  Pretty and personal items – comprising a pin cushion, something for the shower and a gift bag.  The shower item is best in linen yarn – anything from fine to double knit, the other items need small amounts of double knit yarn and maybe a few beads!

Week 4 Quickies – 3 little things for decoration or tiny presents, these would work well in double knit yarn but anything will do, and they need very little yarn.

The 12 Gifts CAL will be provided in an ebook of 12 individual patterns – 3 being added each week.  It will be available on Ravelry only.  The price of the 12 Gifts of Christmas will be £12 but with a discount for early birds.   Only £3 (that’s a massive £9 discount!) for the first 24 hours (I’ll make this a little longer to accommodate those on different time zones), £5 for the following week and full price thereafter.  In due course most, but not all, patterns will be available as individual patterns at prices ranging from £1 to £4.

The CAL will be hosted in my Ravelry group. There will be prizes; anyone completing just one gift by the end of the year (and posting a photo on the FO thread in the Ravelry group) will be in the prize draw for patterns and those completing 3 or more different gifts will be in an additional prize draw with prizes including yarn and an ebook.  To be included in the prize draw you must buy or be gifted the 12 Gifts of Christmas ebook and be a member of the Ravelry group.  More details can be found on the Ravelry discussion thread which is where you can post any questions and chat about the CAL.

I do hope you join us – it will be fun 🙂

Happy crocheting xxx

November is proving to be a very busy month and I have so much to tell you, so be prepared for a flurry of blog posts!

First some exciting news about Festiwool.   Festiwool is a one day yarn show on Saturday 10th November – that’s only a few days away.  I won’t be attending, as you know I’m trying to avoid as many yarn shows as possible at the moment in an effort to control my stash!   Even though I won’t be there, you will be able to see some of my designs there.  I am so pleased to tell you that I have a brand new design for a lovely silk scarf called Silk Sorbet, this is available as part of a kit on WIllow Knits’ stand.

Anne at Willow Knits hand dyes the most gorgeous silk yarns.   The Silk Sorbet Scarf is a lovely airy 2 colour lengthways design and uses 2 x 25g skeins of beautifully soft 4ply silk yarn.  It is included in a kit with the yarn and a pretty stitch marker, for £10.   There are 4 lovely colourways to choose from as shown in the photo above.  This is a lovely kit which would make a fabulous present.

As well as the Silk Sorbet Scarf kit, Willow Knits also patterns and kits for the Queen of May Wrap and Ruby Lace Scarf, as well as copies of my book Cowling Around.


But that isn’t all!   You will also find some kits on Yarns From The Plain’s stand –  including the ever popular Sigrun’s Scarf for which Nic has just dyed up a new batch:

If you visit Festiwool please pop and see Anne and Nic, as well as the kits they have some fabulous squidgy yarn 🙂

Happy crocheting xxxx

What a lovely day I had yesterday!  The weather was kind, it was almost wall to wall sunshine which made the coach journey lovely as we could all see the views clearly.  As one friend remarked – one of the joys of a coach trip is sitting higher up than in a car and being able to see those views!   It wasn’t too hot though, so the layers I was wearing worked well.

As usual Yarndale was busy.  There were queues to get in but as we were on a coach and already had wristbands we could zoom straight in.  Even so it was busy from the moment we entered.  Although after lunch (our usual trip on the red bus into Skipton) it did seem a lot quieter than usual, this may be because of the Northern Rail train strike.

My first stop was at the Oxfam stand as I had a large bag of yarn to give to the Yarn Amnesty.  Then, very conveniently, virtually all my ‘must visit’ stands were on the same aisle – so I was able to do all my planned spending within the first hour.  Then I was able to wander more leisurely and enjoy the sights – here are a few of them:

I popped in to the Knit and Natter Lounge and had a lovely chat with Lucy of Attic24.  I remarked that it seemed lighter and she told me the whole of that central building had been demolished and rebuilt this year – so that made it lighter and brighter and provided a better layout.  All her blankets were displayed perfectly along the front railings and the Charity Sock Line (200 socks) was along the upper railings.

There were several pens of animals – the ones that let us use their fleece and fur for yarn.  I particularly love the angora rabbits – there were 4 in the pen, all different colours, but 3 of them were very shy.   I didn’t spot any alpacas this year but there is a large herd of them 10 minutes walk up the lane from my house so I do see them regularly.

The Exhibition Hall was very colourful.  As well as the usual bunting display (my word they need long ladders to attach that!), there was a very poignant poppy display by the Knitwick and Yarnhill knitting group (a huge cascade of knitted, crocheted and sewn poppies) and this year’s Creative Community Project of crocheted and knitted butterflies – one from each contributor was placed on large boards with the contributor’s name and home place below, the rest were available to be ‘purchased’ by a charity donation.   One of mine is on the board above and if you saw my previous blog post you may spot which one it is 🙂

I took my large Cheshire Bag with me and it was full before I entered because of my contribution to the Yarn Amnesty.  It was less full on the return journey because I was very good and did not over indulge.  Here’s my stash:


I was limiting myself to 400g of yarn but ‘overspent’ by 100g – so I need to crochet and knit faster.   The reason I overspent is because I found some new-to-my-eyes Shetland wool by The Border Mill – the gorgeous North Coast Tweed.  The photo above does not do the colour justice; it is deep blue, teal and green – just the colours I love.   The other yarn was planned purchasing: Triskelion Scylfing 4ply, Willow Knits 4ply silk and The Knitting Goddess Britsock Colour Wheel.  The book by Joy Macmillan was on my wish list and has some lovely quick knits which will help me ‘stash down’ quicker.  The fabric on the left is linen and will be used for little linen bags.  The wooden tube towards the front is a beautiful needle holder and the metal object is the smallest (and vintage) wool swift I have ever seen and perfect for knitting holidays as it packs down into a tiny box.

One of the things I love at these shows is that there is a lot less plastic use; most people use their own bags and if a bag is offered it is frequently paper (and sometimes recycled).  Other than the book (which came in a plastic sleeve) I took home no plastic. Together with the fact that I travelled by coach, I think this is one of the most environmentally friendly shopping trips I take.  However, I do wonder why there are so few coaches organised – we have fun on the coach, it is more relaxing, the views are great and it saves space on the road as well as fuel.

Overall it was a great day, I saw lots, enjoyed fondling yarn and absorbing the colours, collected a few leaflets and cards from businesses that I will buy from in future, and brought a lovely (mainly planned) stash home.

Did you go to Yarndale?   If so I hope you had a grand time too.

Happy knitting and crocheting xxx

The only yarn festival I am going to this year is Yarndale – and it is on this weekend. As it is the only one I am going to you can imagine the excitement is building!

I supported the annual community project by making some butterflies:


I am looking forward to seeing how they display the butterflies, I am sure it will be spectacular.

If you visit Yarndale you will spot me (and my fellow coach travellers) because we will be wearing our Knitsford Yarndale 2018 brooches.


This has become an annual tradition for Knitsford – this year I helped Jenny (who is organising the coach) by designing the brooches and hosting a prosecco afternoon tea where we made them (so apologies to any fellow coach goers whose brooch may be a tad wobbly!).  You may have seen us featured in Inside Crochet.

I will also be wearing a Ravelry name badge (my Ravelry name is vbracegirdle) – so please say hello if you spot me.

With 3 days to go I am getting organised.  I have  printed the floor plan and marked which stands I must visit.  There are surprisingly few ‘must visits’ this year and that is because I am working hard to keep my yarn stash under control.  I will not allow myself to buy much new yarn, only that which I can immediately think of a use for and I must be firm in my resolve!  However, I will allow myself to buy new tools, small items of haberdashery, pattern books and presents.  Yes this will be hard 😦  However, it does mean I can browse as much as I like and log the best things for future purchases (I’ll have a notebook).

The weather forecast is sunny but cold, so I will layer up as it is cold in the auction mart.  This blog post has other tips for Yarndale.

As you’ve probably worked out, I don’t have a stand at Yarndale, but if you want to see any of my designs then you will find some designs, patterns, books and kits at 3 different stands: Willow Knits (G103), Yarns from the Plain (J177) and Lynne Rowe Knitting & Crochet (J164).

Are you going to Yarndale?  If so I hope I see you there 🙂

Happy knitting and crocheting xxx

As part of my re-found love of kidsilk blend yarn I have designed another wrap.  This is Cloud Line Wrap:

It uses 4 balls of Rowan Kidsilk Haze, but any kidsilk blend yarn would work and you could mix and match them as I mentioned in this blog post.  It is designed to have an inbuilt fringe so that you have no ends to sew, which is a deliberate bonus! The yarn is so fine that the fringe needs something extra to give it substance and I thought there would be no better way than to add some beads because this also adds a touch of glamour.

I used 4 balls in my stash – colours Jelly, Liquer, Steel and Fern.  And I used approx. 100 lime green silver lined size 6/0 beads.  The wrap is approx. 220cm by 45cm (excluding fringe) and weighs only 100g.  The beads go so well with the colours, especially the Jelly colour, and I have 2 balls of Jelly left in my stash so I may well make another – did I mention it’s a great stashbuster?

The pattern costs £3 and can be found on Ravelry and LoveCrochet.  It is written in UK and US terms, and has some photos to help with the beaded fringe.

I would love to see this is other colourways – which colours would you choose?

Happy crocheting xxx

One of the most successful plastic reduction campaigns in the UK in recent years has been the introduction of the single use plastic carrier bag charge.  Sadly the UK was one of the last European countries to introduce it in 2015 (Ireland and Denmark being the earliest in 2003).   However, already the introduction has reduced single use plastic carrier bags from major UK retailers by 85% on previous levels and appears to have had a significant reduction (some estimates at 30%) on plastic bags on the seabed.

Long before the charge was introduced I was using reusable bags of many types – including hessian, fabric and crocheted.  Some of my bags are over 15 years old and they will last for many years to come.  So I do not often need a new shopping bag but when I do I always turn to crochet.  I find the best types of crochet shopping bags are those that can expand easily – so anything with a loose or netting structure works best.    This one is a favourite:


It is called the Cheshire Bag and is made using granny stitches.  You can make it any size you like but mine is big enough to take 2 blankets, try out lots of colours (even do some Stashbusting) and I can guarantee it will not be mistaken for anyone else’s bag!

You can find the pattern here and until midnight GMT on Sunday (26th August) it is on offer at half price, if you use the coupon code PLASTIC at checkout.

Happy crocheting xxx

I’m interrupting my mini blog series on plastic reduction to talk shawls, well only 2 and one is what I call a wrap (not a plastic wrap!).

The first is Queen of May which was published in Inside Crochet issue number 101.


This is a luxury wrap made with 4 skeins of Willow Knits  hand-dyed worsted weight silk yarn.  The pattern rights returned to me at the end of last month and I published it last week as a single pattern.  You can find it on Ravelry here.  And you will see the wrap at all the yarn festivals that Willow Knits is going to, including Yarndale, and a paper pattern will be available on Willow Knits stand also.

The second is a triangular shawl and I absolutely love it.  It is made in a kidsilk blend yarn which I have been enjoying working with in the heat this summer, it is light and fluffy and worked on a 4mm hook so it is perfectly airy.  This is Pluming Lovely Shawl.


Why is it called Pluming Lovely?  Well it is made with Willow & Lark Plume, available from LoveCrochet here.  You need just 3 balls of the yarn and you can choose whatever colours you like.   What I love about it is the weight – it weighs under 75g yet is lovely and warm, so is perfect for a holiday as it takes up no space or weight in your luggage!

You can find the pattern on Ravelry or LoveCrochet.

Happy crocheting xxx

PS normal blog series posts will resume shortly!







I would love to eliminate plastic from my life but I know this is impossible.  I have so much plastic in my home and my life already; trying to remove it would just release that plastic into the wider environment.  So what I will do with the plastic I have is use it and re-use it for as long as possible – it is there so using it is better than sending it to be recycled (which often doesn’t happen) or to landfill.

But I can take steps to keep new plastic out of my life and in this, my second, blog post about how yarn craft can help reduce plastic I will show you another small step that I take.  That step is with cloths, be they dishcloths or washcloths.   Microfibre cloths and manmade sponges are used frequently in cleaning; these are plastic based and, worse still, microfibre cloths release small microfibres into our water systems and ultimately into marine environments.  So making my own cotton or linen wash and dish cloths is one of those small steps which can make a difference.  Once they are used, they are  added to the washing which happens on a daily basis, so are sparkling and clean ready for the next use.

I have made dishcloths for a long time, usually out of cotton.  The simplest ones to make are just granny squares but it is more fun to play with stitches and that is what I do frequently.    Below are a selection of some of my cloths


The one on the right is a well used dishcloth.   It is a sample square for a blanket I designed 5 years ago – so it has been around for a while but wasn’t used as a dishcloth immediately.  Still it has had good use and been in the washing machine umpteen times.

The other 2 are shown again above.  On the left is one I made a few evenings ago – I just doodled with my hook and out came a pretty washcloth.  I haven’t written the pattern up, maybe I will soon.   On the right is an old washcloth pattern from 6 years ago – used in a workshop.   I had forgotten about this until I started thinking about this blog post.  The pattern was written 6 years ago, so I decided to release it and remake the washcloth in 2 colours.  It’s a sampler washcloth worked in rows. The lovely thing about a sampler washcloth is that it is a fabulous way to practice your stitches and if it turns out beautiful then it would make a lovely present – so win, win!  But if it turns out a little less than perfect it is still very useful as a dishcloth for yourself – so still win, win!.

You can find the pattern here.  And if you want to take a small step to reduce plastic use, then you can get the pattern free if you use coupon code PLASTIC when purchasing – this is available until midnight GMT on Sunday 5th August 2018.

Until I share my next little step…….

Happy crocheting xxx

Having worked through all my stash over the last few months during my Use it or Lose it campaign inspired by Lynne Rowe, I now know just what I have in my stash and I know that less than 10% of my yarn stash has any man made content. Actually I have 9 skeins only and I am pretty pleased with this because I am also trying to eliminate plastic use in general.   So, knowing how little I now have in my stash, I think I have my plastic use in yarn under control – if not yet quite out of my life.  I plan to stop using any of this once this small stash of acrylic and nylon blends is extinguished. I can hear some sock knitters shouting that socks need nylon! But they don’t; there are some pretty tough hardwearing natural fibres out there such as this from Triskelion Yarns.

There are other ways I can use my yarn craft to help reduce plastic use in my life and waste in general. So today I am starting a series of blog posts about how I use yarn craft to do this – maybe it will help you too.

Remember this blog post when I showed some dishcloths and a few cosmetic pads that I made from cotton DK.  I am pretty proud of the fact that I haven’t bought any cosmetic  pads for over 8  years – I have likely saved almost 100 packets of cotton wool pads – that’s a lot of landfill and a lot of plastic packaging.

If you have cotton yarn and a hook – then it’s pretty easy and quick to make these and think of the difference this can make. The thing I love about these is whenever I have a little bit of dk cotton yarn left over I can just make one or 2 of these – so it’s using those bits of yarn that are so small they may end up in the bin.  That’s exactly what I did this week when I used up some cotton yarn remnants.


The pattern is free and is available on Ravelry here, and it is available also on LoveCrochet and Craftsy.    I checked this morning and I have had thousands of downloads of this free pattern over the years.  And it made me think – just how much landfill and how much plastic has been saved by this little pattern?   So I did some estimating and, if only 1% of the people who downloaded the free pattern used it the same way as me, then I estimate it has saved at least 5000 packets of cotton wool pads – that’s amazing!   If everyone who downloaded it had done the same then that’s half a million!!!!! So my final estimate is somewhere between 5000 and half a million – not very accurate, but pretty inspiring whatever the number.

Just one little pattern has probably made quite a big difference, so if we all tried to do our bit to save waste and not use plastic think what we could achieve!

Happy crocheting xxxx

As promised in yesterday’s blog, here is the pattern for the little flower which I am calling Plume Flower.


Kidsilk blend yarn in colours of your choice, see yesterday’s blog for details of what I used
4mm (US G/6) crochet hook
Yarn needle

This pattern is written in UK crochet terms
St(s) – stitch(es)
Ch – chain
Ss – slip stitch
Dc – double crochet
Tr – treble
Dtr – double treble

The flower is made in 4 parts which are sewn together.


Centre petal
Start with a magic ring, but keep a tail of at least 15cm
Round 1: (2ch, 3tr in ring, 2ch, ss in ring) 5 times, pull ring tight, break yarn and fasten off.
Sew in your end but keep starting tail as you will need that later for assembling the flower.

Middle petal
Start with a magic ring
Round 1: (3ch, 3dtr in ring, 3ch, ss in ring) 5 times, pull ring tight, break yarn and fasten off.
Sew in your ends.

Outer petal
Foundation: 4ch and join into a ring with a ss
Round 1: 3ch (counts as 1tr), 14tr in ring, ss to 3rd ch from start [15tr]
Round 2: *3ch, 3dtr in each of next 2 sts, 3ch, ss in next st; repeat from * to end of round, break yarn and fasten off.
Sew in your ends.

Foundation: 8ch
Row 1: 1dc in 2nd ch from hook and in each ch along [7dc]
Turn to work along the underside of your foundation ch
Round 2: *1ch (does not count as st), 1dc in first st, 1htr in next st, 2tr in next st, 3dtr in next st, 2tr in next st, 1htr in next st, 1dc in last st; turn to work back along top of Row 1 and repeat from * once, finish with a ss to the first dc, break yarn and fasten off.
Sew in your ends.

Place all your pieces on top of each other, move then around until you are happy with their location.


Using the long tail from the centre petal, sew all the pieces together. And you now have a little flower!

Happy crocheting xxx

Please note:  pattern and photographs are copyright © Valerie Bracegirdle

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