Saturday, 4 March 2017

My favourite hooks

I am following the marchmeetthemaker hashtag on Instagram and today the prompt is 'tools', so I thought it was a great time to talk about my hook of choice. 
When crochet is a large part of your life, it is imperative that you look after your hands so that you can continue to craft in comfort. It's so easy to get into the crochet groove and, in a semi-hypnotic state, end up having a relaxing few hours (or days!) crocheting, but in the long run it isn't good for your wrists, elbows, back, or anything really! It doesn't really matter which type of hook is your favourite, so long as it is comfortable to work with. I always recommend to my beginners that they try out a number of different hook styles as everyone will have their own preference. Personally, I find that handled hooks make for an easier grip and therefore cause less strain on the fingers and so I would always recommend some variation of handled hooks to anyone who does a lot of crocheting
If you looked inside my hook bag, you would discover that my go-to hooks at the moment are the Clover Amour range. I have them all from 0.6 to 15mm and incase you are wondering, the 3.5 and 4mm are the most well used. The chunkiest - sizes 12 and 15mm - are my most recent addition. 
Handles are really useful on the very small sizes as they ensure you have a substantial shaft to grip onto, even with a small hook. However, it is also great that the Amours now go up to super bulky as it is amazing what a difference the rubberised handle makes, even on the large sizes. In fact, the handle section is contoured so that it is actually smaller than the hook, which definitely adds to the ease of use, as bulky hooks are usually quite unwieldy to hook with. I don't even mind the plastic hooks on the largest Amour sizes (over 6.5mm). Usually I am a metal hooks all the way kind of girl, as they are very smooth and snag free, but the plastic on these tools is very smooth and shiny, making the hooking action very nearly as good as the metal hooks on the smaller amour sizes. 
If I haven't yet persuaded you to give the Amour a go, you may be swayed by the gorgeous rainbow colours of the handles. It is amazing how a pretty rainbow can turn my head, and, yes, I may be superficial, but I just love using pretty hooks, especially if they happen to match my crochet! I especially love these neons in the chunky sizes. If all this talk about their good looks is making me seem a little shallow, I do have to point out that there is a practical side to the different shades, which is that it is easy to pinpoint which hook you need to use instantly, without needing to read the number on the shaft. 
So, these are my hooks, which now have chewed up ends, smudged handles and which I have used so much that they feel like an extension of my fingers. I'd love to know, what are your favourite hooks?  



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Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Heart Fair Isle pattern


I am sure I say this every year, but we don't really 'do' Valentine's day in our house and if cards or presents do get exchanged, they are often handmade. This is my offering this year to my two loved ones. I quickly whipped up a little heart Fair Isle pattern on some graph paper last night and set it into some card this morning. Simple! It didn't take long at all, in fact, I have drawn up the chart, so you could even knock one up today if you forgot to buy a card this year! And if this doesn't take your fancy, I also have a free heart pattern here.

Happy Valentine's day!


Monday, 13 February 2017

Late autumnal shoot



Just a quickie to say hello and post some beautiful images I have been meaning to share for ages from a shoot I styled and directed last autumn with the amazing photographer Leanne Dixon for Inside Crochet magazine. What a beautiful crisp day we had, just look at those colours and how they zing. The glorious sunshine today reminded me of this day and gave me the impetus I needed to post.

Enjoy!

Beret by Emma Friedlander-Collins, scarf H&M
Tunisian cardigan by Cassie Ward, trousers Dorothy Perkins
Waistcoat by Cassie Ward, top H&M, jumpsuit Matalan
Scarf by Rachel Atkinson, jumper M&S

Scarf by Rhian Drinkwater, Oversized Cardigan M&S
The projects shown were in issues 84 and 85 of inside crochet - you can get back issues from their website.
The hair and make up artist was Nicki Henbrey and the gorgeous model is Erian O'Neill.
Cowl at top of post is by Abbey Swanson. All images copywrite of Leanne Dixon.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Free Christmas Star Pattern!


In the Christmassy spirit of Advent, today I have written up a little pattern to share with you, using the very lovely Paintbox Yarns Simply DK. It is a very quick and simple pattern but includes a spike stitch and both working in the round and straight so I will knock up some accompanying tutorials for you as soon as I can. I will also publish a PDF version on Lovecrochet.com very soon.
I hope you enjoy making it, please do share your pictures of your own stars, can't wait to see which palette you choose!
 

Materials


Paintbox Yarns Simply DK 100% acrylic, 100g/276m/302yds 

Yarn A: Neon Pink, 156 x 1 ball

Yarn B: Buttercup Yellow, 122, x 1 ball

Yarn C: Rich Mauve, 144 x 1 ball

Yarn D: Rose Red, 113 x 1 ball

Yarn E: Washed Teal, 132 x 1 ball

Yarn F: Lime Green, 128 x 1 ball

4mm hook

Yarn needle

Toy Stuffing.



Tension

Exact tension is not essential.



Pattern Notes

Centre of the star is worked in the round. Points of the star are worked one by one on Round 6, but are worked back and forth, breaking the yarn after every point and rejoining the yarn to Round 5 to begin the next point.



Special Stitches

Cluster (cl): [yoh, insert in st, draw lp through] twice, 5 lps on hook, yoh and draw through all 5lps.



Method

Star (make two)

With 4mm hook and Yarn A make an adjustable ring. 

Rnd 1: 6dc in adjustable ring, pull tightly to close ring, sl st to first dc to close rnd – 6dc.

Fasten off Yarn A, join Yarn B to any st around with a sl st.

Rnd 2: 2ch, yoh, insert hook in same st, draw lp through, yoh and draw through all lps on hook, 1ch, (cl, 1ch) in each rem dc around, join rnd with sl st – 6 cl and 6 ch-sps.

Fasten off Yarn B, join Yarn C to any 1ch-sp around with a sl st.

Rnd 3: 2ch (counts as 1htr), 2htr in same ch-sp, 1ch, (3htr, 1ch) in each rem ch-sp around – 18htr, 6ch-sps.

Fasten off Yarn C, join Yarn D to first htr of any 3htr group with a sl st.

Rnd 4: 1dc in same st and in each of next 2 htr, insert hook down into cl from Row 2, yoh, draw loop through st and up to the height of current rnd, yoh and draw through 2lps on hook, spike made, *1dc in each of next 3 htr, spike stitch; rep from * 5 times in total, join rnd with sl st – 18dc and 6 spike sts.

Fasten off Yarn D, join Yarn E to any st around with a sl st.

Rnd 5: 1dc in each st around – 24dc.

Fasten off Yarn E, join Yarn F to any st around with a sl st.

Round 6 will be making the star points one by one as follows:

Star point:

Row 1: 1dc in this and each of next 4 sts, turn – 5dc.

Row 2: 1ch (does not count as st), 1dc in each st across – 5dc.

Row 3: 1ch (does not count as st), dc2tog, 1dc, dc2tog – 3dc.

Row 4: 1ch (does not count as st), 1dc in each st across – 3dc.

Row 5: 1ch (does not count as st), dc3tog – 3dc.

Fasten off yarn.

With RSF, rejoin yarn to same st of Rnd 5 that the last dc of Point One’s Row 1 is worked into, so this stitch of Rnd 5 will be worked into twice. Now work next point and each following point from Row 1 in the same way as the last, starting each following point in the last dc of the previous point’s Row 1.

6 points in total.



Finishing

Block pieces lightly to shape. Place two star pieces together with wrong sides facing.

Rejoin Yarn F to the top of any point and work evenly around the whole star in dc, working each dc through both layers of the star to join them. Before you reach the end of the round, stuff the star lightly to desired shape, then complete the round and join with a sl st to the first dc. Make 15ch, then sl st back down into bottom of the chain to make a hanging loop.
Hang on your tree and admire!
 


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Christmas Crochet Photoshoot

Sweater by Rhian Drinkwater, Image Kirsten Mavric, Hair and Make Up Nicki Henbrey, Decorations Pipii
As it is the first of December tomorrow, we can officially get Christmassy! So I thought I would share some images from the current issue of Inside Crochet, as I styled a rather festive photoshoot this month. The gorgeous shots are by by Kirsten Mavric, including some of a wreath and decorations that I designed for the issue.
Cardigan by Ruth Maddock, Image Kirsten Mavric,  Decorations www.pipii.co.uk

Wreath by me, Image Kirsten Mavric
Mini Wreaths by me, Image Kirsten Mavric, Decorations www.pipii.co.uk

Image Kirsten Mavric
Gloves Tracey Todhunter, Image Kirsten Mavric

Image Kirsten Mavric, Decorations Pipii
Hat by Rhian Drinkwater, Image Kirsten Mavric, Hair and Make Up Nicki Henbrey,

Friday, 4 November 2016

Reloved Magazine


This Summer, I made the difficult decision to leave my role as editor of Inside Crochet to spend more time with my daughter before she started school this September and so far it is proving to be the right choice. I am not only enjoying spending more quality time with my family but I also have the opportunity to contribute to other publications. One I have recently had some work published in is Reloved. It is a magazine devoted to upcyling and slow living, so of course its ethos is one I am very interested in at the moment, as I am both trying to encompass a slower lifestyle while at the same time trying to do up my new home on a budget and ensure that my daughter has a lot of craft and making in her life.
Image by Lucy Williams, Make up Nicki Henbrey, Styling Claire Montgomerie
I have had a feature in each of the last two issues. The series focuses on upcycling old sweaters, something I have been passionate about since my degree and MA in textiles. Reworking old clothes is a great way to extend your wardrobe on a shoe string, but in the first feature, I also give some ideas for other interior and accessories projects you can create with some felted knitting and a bit of embellishment, including these pictures.

Image by Lucy Williams,  Styling Claire Montgomerie
I had a fabulous old sweater, possibly from the fifties of sixties, which was sent to the charity shop because it had been felted in the wash. As its lucky new owner, I made not only a stylish hot water bottle cover from it, but also some cute cuffs and still had some lovely cabled fabric left over, which I need to decide what to do with! If you are careful with your knits and don't have any felted pieces to utilise, I also give my tips for successful fulling.
Image by Lucy Williams
In the second issue (out now!) there is an interview with me and I look at how to unravel old jumpers to utilise the yarn in new ways, creating a cute beanie from an old wool and mohair sweater. This way of upcycling is not new - people have been ripping back old knits for the yarn as long as we have been knitting. WWII was probably the last time the practice was performed in earnest due to the wool shortage cause by the war, but it is just as relevant now, with fast fashion filling our landfill sites at an alarming rate. I love the idea of a handmade wardrobe which is lovingly repaired and reworked with the seasons and fashions. I do love high street shopping, but I am much more thoughtful about my purchases these days and now I have more time on my hands, I am hoping to hone my sewing skills to match my knit and crochet ones to create more and more beautiful items for my family which will last a whole lot longer than some of the cheaply made items available in the shops contemporarily. If you feel the same, go pick up a copy of the magazine, it is full of great inspiration from wonderful designers like Annie Sloan, Kate Beavis and Charis Williams.

image by Lucy Williams, Styling Claire Montgomerie
Image Kirsten Mavric, Make up Nicki Henbrey


Monday, 31 October 2016

Maker Crafts: Hooked




I have been meaning to talk about my new book, Hooked for a while, but life has been getting in the way! Anyway, apologies for the delay, but here is a little preview of the loveliness inside, along with some of the work in progress sketches which I made while writing it.  
 
The book is for absolute beginners and the aesthetic is inspired by simple, modern, Scandinavian-style design and colours. I began by creating a mood board with inspirational images of the type of projects I wanted to include, along with the desired colour palette. 
  The designs needed to take into consideration the things I have learned from many years teaching people how to crochet – I wanted the range of patterns to be achievable for a beginner but also to appeal to more advanced crocheters, which I hope I have achieved. From there, I came up with some sketches and yarn swatches for the final designs in the colours and yarns I hoped to use. Using these sketches and swatches as a guide, I began making the projects. I usually design as I go rather than writing the pattern first, as this helps the project to evolve as you make it, allowing for unforeseen design problems or textures/stitches/colours that aren’t working. After ripping back and beginning again a few times, each project usually then progresses quite quickly and once complete, I can write up my hand scrawled notes into simple, clearly written patterns with as many tips for beginners as I can fit in.  
 Possibly my favourite project is the gadget cosies, as they are so very simple to make but the strong chunky stitch definition, simple double crochet stitch and the bold stripe of bright colour as a contrast to the neutral base really appeals to me. Plus they are very practical, so it is a good all rounder!
The how to crochet guide included everything you need to begin, but also to become a confident, competent crocheter. The three pattern chapters evolve in order of difficulty, beginning with Getting Started, moving to Growing in Confidence and finally, Hooked on Crochet!
There is another book in the series, Stitched! by the very talented Ros Badger, which is just as lovely, so I do urge all you budding sewists out there to check that out, too.  I am very proud of this book and I hope you will love it as much as I do, as well as finding it incredibly useful on your crochet journey.  The publisher, Parragon, have given me two copies of the book to giveaway!* If you want to be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is leave me a comment below, and if you want an extra entry, pop over to my Instagram account and leave a comment on the Hooked competition post. Good luck!
* Competition closes at midnight on Wednesday 30th November.  Prizes are as offered and are non-transferable, non-refundable, non-changeable. No cash alternatives are available. Only one entry for website and one for Instagram is permitted per person and the editor's decision is final. Entries received after the closing date of the promotion will not be considered. No responsibility is taken for entries lost or delayed, by way of technical errors including malfunctions via the website. The winner will be drawn at random. No correspondence will be entered into. The winner will be notified within 28 days of the closing date. Unless specified otherwise, if a prize remains unclaimed for six months it will not be awarded, provided reasonable attempts have been made to contact the winner using the contact details supplied.