New Book News

51BEIFL0JyL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_Well, here is the news – you can now pre order my new book directly from Search Press or from Amazon. Due for publication in January 2016, I am really excited to be finally able to share the news of this book – a whole year of my life went into writing, researching and making all the projects and swatches you’ll find inside.

I tried to write a book that suits beginners taking their first steps in crochet and those who are feeling more ambitious and want to try new skills and techniques. In fact, the book I always wanted to have on my own shelf.

I’ll be back soon to tell you more – and to give you a sneaky peek of what’s inside. But for now you’ll have to make do with a picture of the UK cover.

Dare I say this would make the perfect gift for the crocheter in your life?


Posted in Books, Crochet | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

It’s all about the socks

20151112_092415This month has been all about the socks (hand knitted of course), I realised today, as I cast off another pair, that since the beginning of this year I’ve only worn one pair of “shop bought” socks. Yes, my sock drawer is a motley assortment of colours and patterns all made by me.

Five years ago I declared I had knit my ” first and last sock”. It was a painful episode, cuff down, making the heel flap, turning the heel, picking up stitches and then to add insult to injury, a toe which had to be grafted using kitchener stitch before I could weave in the ends and finally wear them.

It seemed such a faff, I was obviously not a “sock knitter”, I would keep wearing my smartwool socks, supplementing them with socks bought at wool shows and never, ever would I knit another pair. No, sock knitting could be ticked off the list.

Lacy socks

Lacy socks

“But why don’t you try toe up”? A friend asked. A few hours “lost in the internet” and I had fully researched the whole “toe up vs cuff down” debate which seems to divide the knitting world. I settled on a simple pattern, pulled out a long circular needle,  learnt the figure of 8 cast on, knitted and knitted until I was ready to form the heel, discovered the simple and basic “fleegle heel”, increased, decreased, knitted the cuff, cast off and voila. A sock. No fuss, no faff, just “mindless tv knitting” and a pair of socks was born. I was a happy knitter.

Stripy socks

Stripy socks

Since then I have tried many different toe up techniques, but for a simple, basic “vanilla” sock, I stick to this tested and trusted method. It works for me. In those five years, sock knitting still divides knitters and there are endless debates about toe cast ons, stretchy bind offs and the perfect heel. I’ve lost count of how many books have been written, how many blog posts and podcasts devoted to the subject. It seems knitters just can’t get enough of socks.

Aran weight boot socks

Aran weight boot socks

I also realised this month that I have never crocheted a pair of socks – something I intend to put right over the Christmas break. I’ve bought myself a book (Rohn Strong’s “New Methods for Crochet Socks”, which is short, but full of different techniques and suggestions for customising along with some rather lovely patterns). Rohn has published several sock patterns and so I know I can trust this book to equip me with the skills I need to finish my first pair with little difficulty.

It’s only now as I write this post that it dawns on me, that despite knitting dozens of pairs, I have only published one sock pattern (in Knitting magazine, see the Ravelry listing here), something I shall put right in 2016. I’m also going to update that early sock pattern and release it again as I do love the simple detailing and have some gorgeous sock yarn here which will be perfect.

When you put all the effort in building a handmade wardrobe, you soon find that you put more effort into caring for your hand knits too, and so I am proud to wear my darned socks. In the photos below you’ll see I made no effort to disguise the darns, I think of them as battle scars on a much loved pair of socks (and a lesson that cashmere blends are amazing to wear, but not very hardwearing).

Well worn socks!

Well worn socks!

Mended socks

Mended socks

If you’ve never made socks (knitted or crocheted), do give them a try. Remember there is no right or wrong technique and no single “perfect pattern” Read around, ask your friends and then cast on. If you’re inspired to give socks a go, here’s a list of places that might help get you started:

Clare Devine Sock Anatomy (for knitters)

Kate Atherley Custom Knit Socks (for knitters)

Cat Bordhi so many wonderful patterns, techniques and inspiration (again for knitters – sorry!)

The Crochet Project – sock patterns – I love the Saunders socks (Yay! one for crocheters)

Links to techniques mentioned above:

The fleegle heel – a simple no fuss heel for toe up knitted socks

Judys magic cast on – links to Knitty article with instructions

The figure of 8 cast on – links to Knit Now magazine blog

Crochet sock tips – links to Interweave store


Posted in Crochet, Knitting | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Wovember: Small Batch Yarn

20151007_125641This week I wanted to write about the popularity of small batch wools. Like Gin, the profile  of small scale wool producers, who process and market their own product is on the increase. I’ve been really surprised this year by how many yarn bloggers and podcasters are featuring this “new phenomenon”. Small scale single breed production is not new, but discovering and accessing these yarns is certainly becoming easier and there is a growing market for wool with a local, traceable provenance.

In Cumbria we’re lucky to have the Wool Clip (which has been around since 2001), a co-operative of fibre producers, makers and artists, many of whom raise and process their own wool. One of my favourites is Ruth Strong’s Herdwick wool, a real bargain and it’s fabulous quality. If the Wool Clip name sounds familiar to you, it may be because they are the organisers of Woolfest.. But there are other small scale co-operatives and sources of small batch, local production wools if you know where to look. I’ve written before about the amazing quality and colours of Lily Warne wool, which I first discovered when the wool was featured in Country Living magazine. It’s definitely up there among my favourites. The felted wool bag, made a couple of years ago is still in daily use and is a real conversation piece. I love being able to tell people where the wool grew and who I bought it from.

lily warne bagFor a long time, the only way to discover local, single breed wools was to befriend your local Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers or to  visit local fairs. These days there are some brilliant online resources. My current favourite is the National Sheep Association, where you can find links to all the British Sheep Breed societies. Some, like the Jacob Sheep Society have a fabulous list of producers which make it very easy to track down  wool from specific breeds.

Malham Mule collarI must admit, a lot of the single breed wool I buy sits in a cupboard, part of a growing collection of mementoes from summer holidays, trips to woolly events and gifts from friends. But at Yarndale  this year I was thrilled to discover Malham Mule, a yarn which is raised and processed in Yorkshire. This “own brand yarn” is a new venture for Jane Ellison of Purl and Jane in Skipton. I couldn’t resist trying it out and I have tried knitting and crocheting with this plump, superchunky wool and I love it. I love it even more because I’ve watched the sheep graze, and knowing the story of how it came from field to shop is fascinating. You can read more about Malham Mule on Jane Ellison’s website.

The collar (Pictured above) took two hanks of Malham Mule wool and paired with some real leather straps it’s proper draught excluder. Sadly the weather has been too mild to road test it properly, but I’m off to Malham at the end of this month and I’m hoping for some “proper” weather to test it out. I may even get around to typing up the pattern for you all!

All through November I’m posting about real wool in support of the “Wovember” campaign and I’m pleased to say lots of other knitwear designers are getting involved this year too. Sarah Hazell has launched a Knitalong over on her blog featuring Wendy Ramsdale, which I wrote about in my last Wovember post – see photo below for a reminder of the lovely scarf (and lovelier model). Go and take a look at Sarah’s design and maybe join in?

wendy ramsdale scarf




Posted in British Wool, Crochet, Granny Cool, Wovember | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

New Pattern: Pumpkin Spice

pumpkin spice cowlI’ve just added a new knitting pattern to my online stores on Ravelry and Love Knitting. This simple knitted cowl is an updated version of the previous cowl knitted in Kidsilk Haze, this time I’ve used an aran weight yarn. I am rather pleased with how this one turned out, especially as I hand painted the yarn myself earlier this summer. The autumnal shades weren’t deliberate, I was bit like a kid in a sweetshop and the only reason it’s not just “muddy brown” was the result of great personal restraint with the paintbrush!

I’ve suggested a few suitable yarns in the project notes, and I would encourage you to raid your stash and find something you like (you could always use two strands held together if you can only find a dk yarn). Often a variegated yarn looks fabulous on the skein, but can be a disappointment once you start to knit – in such circumstances I always go back to garter stitch or reverse stocking stitch – these are friend of most variegated or self striping yarns.

I hand painted my yarn on a one day “special” organised by Jeni from Fyberspates, she recently moved to Chester and kindly ran a workshop for our knit and natter group. I’m told she’s also willing to run workshops for other groups and Guilds and I would definitely recommend it. I came away with some gorgeous  painted yarns, loads of advice and a rather full on obsession with hand dyed yarn (I think I ordered every book stocked in our local library!).

I think you’ll agree the cowl turned out rather nicely and photographed on a rather autumnal day, the name seemed appropriate! The pattern would be ideal for a new knitter, and if you’re looking for a festive gift for a new knitter, a skein of yarn, a pair of needles and this pattern would be perfect.



Posted in Knitting, Wovember | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Welcome to Wovember

buttonWell, it seems a long time since I first wrote about Wovember way back in 2012 and it’s great to see how it has grown and become a feature of the knitters calendar. Over on Instagram I keep spotting photos tagged and shared which celebrate Wool (and for this month only, I’m talking about wool from sheep, not animal fibres in general). Back then, readers of Baking and Making might remember the ongoing conversation with the Wool Marketing Board about the labelling of British wool, I have to say things haven’t got much better and still, the best way to to be sure the wool you’re buying is 100% British wool is to ask the producer or retailer.

In some ways things have got easier, the Woolsack is still a great resource for anyone looking for stockists of British wool and there is the fabulous online retailer BritYarn, where you can check out the fibre content and provenance of some amazing yarns (and Isla is super helpful too). Some of my favourite independent dyers have also added a specific British section to their websites, making it even easier to choose British (special mention here to Eden Cottage Yarns). I would still love to see the major yarn producers show a real commitment to British wool, but at least most of them have at least one British blend or pure breed wool in their range these days.

You can read all about this years competitions, what hashtags to look out for  and information on the background over on the Wovember website. There is also a dedicated Ravelry group. I am really interested in Louise’s Knit British British Breeds Swatch Along, which is a fantastic opportunity to explore British (or local) breeds and to share knowledge about single breed wools – do check out her podcast for the full details of how to take part.

wendy ramsdale scarfAs my commitment to Wovember this year I’m going to focus on British wool and I’ll be sharing some of my favourites here on the blog. To start the ball rolling here’s a photo of the simple granny square scarf I designed in Wendy Ramsdale. This a 100% British wool distributed by Thomas B Ramsden (it’s marketed as “born, bred and made in Yorkshire) and you can find it online and in lots of “bricks and mortar” shops. One of the things I love about this wool is how all the colours work together, making it great for colourwork. It is also incredibly soft and easy to work with.

I’m going to try and post a new yarn at least once a week in Wovember, so look out for more beautiful wools, British breeds and new projects celebrating all that is great about wool.

Posted in British Wool, Crochet, Granny Cool, Wovember | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Little Box of Crochet

I am such a fan of beauty and craft subscription boxes, it’s like a little present to yourself arriving in the post. The perfect pick me up or indulgence (and much better for you than wine or chocolate).  So, you can imagine my excitement when I heard that now there is a new one just for crocheters. I met Amanda Bloom at Yarndale (we bonded over a shared squish of Eden Cottage Yarns), and when I found out she lived just a few miles away I just had to arrange to meet her and find out more about this new enterprise.

The Little Box of Crochet launched on 1st November, and the concept is simple, you subscribe on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis to receive a surprise box every month. Each box contains everything you’ll need to make a cute project along with a few indulgent extras. You will need a little experience to complete the projects (they’re not a learn to crochet kit), but with a very supportive online crochet community and Amanda’s willingness to help and offer advice you should easily be able to manage if you’ve mastered the basics.

The gifts in each box will be a surprise, but this month Amanda has revealed the project and I adore it. Kate Bruning, the genius behind the beautiful Greedy for Colour Blog and the author of the inspired “Let’s Go Camping” crochet book has created three beautifully accurate toadstools along with sparkly thread so you can turn them into decorations. You’ll also find a few crochet essentials and a printed pattern, all beautifully wrapped and packaged. (If I sound a bit “Fangirl”, forgive me – I have been a huge admirer of Kate’s imaginative creations for ages!!!).


Starting at just £12.50 a month, the boxes are great value and would make the perfect present (hint hint Mr T).  Do pop over to the Little Box of Crochet website and take a look for yourself, I’m sure you’ll love them just as much as I do. You can also follow the Little Box of Crochet on instagram and facebook.

Photo credits: Images supplied by Amanda Bloom

Posted in Subscription boxes | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Ooh Snowflakes!

Photo from Bella Coco Blog

If you’re looking for a quick festive make, these cute crochet snowflakes might fit the bill. By making them  you can help Home Start, one of my favourite charities which helps children and families when they are at their most vulnerable. I’ve had a personal connection with Home Start volunteers and I know the great work they do. Their snowflake appeal highlights how special each and every child is, they’re fragile, unique and precious. It may sound corny, but believe me, a happy, safe family life is a gift. This year the Homestart Snowflake appeal is supported by Kirstie Allsopp,  Love Crochet.Com and Three Bears Yarn.

You can watch a short video (shared here from the Love Crochet Youtube Channel) where Kirstie chats to Sarah Jayne (from the Bella Coco blog) about why the campaign matters and what they’ll do with the snowflakes made as part of the campaign. Sarah Jayne donated a free snowflake pattern, which you can find on the Love Crochet Blog and it’s a very basic, simple pattern which makes it ideal for beginners. You can also find the tutorials and more details over on the Bella Coco Blog.

You can read full details of how to take part over on the Love Crochet website and if you prefer to make a direct donation to support Home Start’s work, you can do so here.

Kits containing the gorgeous 100% cotton yarn from Three Bears Yarn are available from Love Crochet ( with a £1 donation for postage). If you do make one, you can share your pictures on Instagram and twitter using the hashtag #snowflakeappeal

Posted in Charity Makes, Crochet, Granny Cool | Tagged , , | Leave a comment