Hello

Cold Hands, Warm Heart

It’s funny how those oft repeated saying from our childhood stay with us. I was reminded of after my swim this morning, struggling to fasten straps and pull jeans over hips in a chilly wind!

It’s the time of year when my hats, scarves and gloves sit in higgledy piggledy mountains by the door, ready to be pulled on every time I leave the house. This year I’m trying extra hard to add a little bit of style on my trips outdoors, maybe it’s the months of shielding and lack of socialising that have made every trip something of an “outing”! So, I have arranged my accessories in groups, picking out a particular colour in a hat to complement a scarf of a pair of wrist warmers, so at least it looks as if I’m trying to make an effort!

Wrist warmers are a great way to keep warm at this time of year, on their own they keep your pulse points warm while still allowng you to access your phone or keys. They are very useful to pull on over gloves when the wind is biting. Most of mine are in a single, solid colour and the All Buttoned Up Wrist Warmers have always been a favourite. It’s the buttons that realy make this project special. In reality they’re just two squares of double crochet, with a thumb slit and a shell buttonhole trim. But, add beautiful buttons and they’re transformed into something you could easily give as a gift. Why not make a few pairsfor friends and family this year? Or, put together a kit for those crafty friends? A ball of yarn in their favourite colour, a hook and of course beautiful buttons are easy to wrap and post. You can find the original pattern in issue 38 of Inside Crochet, or read all the pattern details and buy a single pdf here.

Buy My Patterns on Payhip

From this month, all my favourite crochet and knitting designs are available to buy as ad free pdfs on the Payhip platform. This is the simplest and most straightforward way to buy my patterns and you’ll find a great selection of designs for adults and children. Every pattern is priced at £2.00 until Christmas, so if you’re looking for some gift inspiration, this is the place to go. The Cavendish Hat and Wrist Warmers set is an ideal quick make for beginners and is ideal for everyone – we all need a beanie to stuff in our pockets! You’ll find a full product description along with yarn suggestions on Payhip.

Free Pattern – But Not for Much Longer

This week’s Friday Free Pattern is a day early because I’m busy packing for a much needed holiday! This is your last chance to pick this knitted cowl pattern up for free. When I get back it’s going up for sale on my Love Crafts profile. You can find the blog post with all the instructions by clicking here.

Get it while you can knitters xxx

Free Pattern: Colour Pop Cowl

Photo Credit: Kirsten Mavric for Tailor Made Publishing

The Colour Pop Cowl appeared in Issue 125 of Inside Crochet magazine and you can now download the pattern for free via  Eden Cottage Yarns. Victoria and her team have also put together colour kits for this design. It may be too early to mention the “C” word – but this would make an ideal gift for crocheting friends and family. The motif cowl is constructed using the “join as you go” technique and is simple enough for a confident beginer to follow. I had great fun designing and making this and I’m thrilled that the pattern is now available from Eden Cottage yarns, who initially provided yarn support. Collaborating with yarn companies, developing a design or collection is one of the joys of my job. Admin, dealing with pattern sales, enquiries and promotion are less fun. But they are essential to the success of my brand. Many of my patterns for Inside Crochet are available by purchasing back copies or digital downloads of the magazine, others are avilable from Love Crafts and designs commissioned by yarn companies are available directly from their website.

If you’re looking for other accessory designs, you might like the Cavendish hat and mittens set – which made the cover of issue 84 of Inside Crochet Magazine.

 

Workshops are Back

Well, it’s been quite a year – and it isn’t over yet – but I have started to make plans for 2021 and I’m very pleased that Learn to Crochet Workshops are back! All the workshops listed here will run in Cumbria, in a beautiful venue close to the M6 (transport can also be arranged from Penrith and Carlisle railway stations if necessary). In addition to day long workshops, next year I’ll also be running a two day “Crochet Weekender”, a chance to really immerse yourself in learning a new skill free from all the distractions of home. I may even save you all some of my hedgerow gin so we can toast the end of day one in style!

I have listed all these workshops as beginners, and the content has been designed for the complete novice. But, if you’re self taught or struggle with following a written pattern or feel you’re in need of a refresh then you’ll be very welcome to join us. Everything you need is included in the price, just bring a smile and a positive attitude. Our hosts Lucy and Liam will make sure we’re well fed and supply endless tea and coffee. They also have a gorgeous self catering house attached to the workshop venue, so you can stay on site if necessary.

Of course, there are bound to be some limitations to how workshops run at the moment, and I wanted to reassure everyone that as a “Post shielder” myself I’m well aware of the need for caution and careful planning. Classes will be smaller than usual to allow plenty of physical space between participants, which of course means extra opportunities for one to one support.  Depending on the weather, we may run parts of the sessions outdoors (in beautiful Cumbrian sunshine – we do get some occasionally) and we’ll make sure all Government guidelines are met.  I always complete a risk assessment for each class, and this will now include reference to Government guidelines on Covid – 19.

Times are changing, and the way I run my classes is bound to alter too, there will still be lots of laughter, encouragement and of course, cake for anyone who is willing to indulge!

You can find details of all the classes under the learn to Crochet Tab or click here for details. All classes can be booked directly with Lakes and Fells, but if you have any questions or special requests, then do get in touch with me. I have spent the last couple fo months reviewing all my course content. There will still be some “old favourites” like the flower corsages and storgae baskets that have always been so popular and there will be lots of new patterns and projects for you all to enjoy.

If you have a birthday coming up – or dare I mention the “C” word? These workshops would make an ideal gift (hint to my family – they run sewing classes too).

Now that I’m back at my desk and slowly getting back into my design work I’ll be back here regularly with patterns to share, a few helpful hints and tips and a special series of projects for those of you looking for gift knitting and crochet inspiration (there it is again – there’s no getting away form the fact that Christmas planning is almost upon us).

THanks so much for all your kind messages and for the likes and comments on my Instagram page. I am grateful to all of you and  the supportive community of crafters.

Happy Making

Tracey x

On Sabbatical

Due to the continued ill health of my husband I am no longer undertaking design commissions, book or product reviews. Comments, emails and enquiries related to Granny Cool Crochet or my books will be answered as and when I can.

Please accept my apologies for delayed responses to enquiries. I hope you will all understand my priority at this time has to be my family.

Thank you for your understanding x

Hearts and Flowers

Happy February. In a spirit of joy and optimism and I am declaring this the month of crochet hearts and flowers!

This is the month when the garden slowly bursts back into life, with bulbs appearing and shoots making their way through the chilly soil to promise colour and joy all through summer! For me this is a month definied by friendship and (of course) love!

Over the years I have published a number of different versions of my crochet heart pattern, I love the simple construction and the way it cleverly uses increases and decreases to create a recognisable heart shape. The verys first version appeared in Issue 33 of Inside Crochet magazine. Later I published a smaller version in the same magazine as part of a feature on crocheting for celebrations. It has also found its way into other publications and most recently as a motif on an embellished cushion (pattern pdf coming soon!) I’m always surprised that more variations of this simple technique haven’t appeared on blogs or Pinterest. With a little imagination you could add embroidered embellishments, crochet frills and ruffles. I think stripes or textured yarn versions would be such fun to create!

The basic “recipe” is printed below, and you can find more detailed versions of the pattern, with abbreviations lists and yarn suggestions  in my Ravelry or Love Crafts stores (see links below). If you do make a version of this, please share it on my Facebook or Instagram pages.

Another one of my “old favourites” is the heart shaped wreath, which usually hangs on my front door during February. I shall post a more detailed description of how I made this next week, but if you want to try making one yourself try this post.

Basic Heart Pop (this pattern uses UK crochet terms and abbreviations):

Make two the same for front and back.

With 3.5mm hook and dk yarn make 6ch.

Row 1: 1dc in second ch from hook, dc to end, mark centre stitch, turn. (5dc)

Row 2: 1ch, 2dc in first dc, dc to centre st, remove marker, 3dc in centre st, replace marker in centre st of 3dc, dc to last st, 2dc in last st, turn. (9dc)

Rows 3 (4): As Row 2. (17dc)

Row 5: 1ch, dc to centre st, remove marker, 3dc in centre st, replace marker in centre st of 3dc, dc to end, turn. (19dc)

Row 6: 1ch, dc2tog, dc to centre st, remove marker, 3dc in centre st, replace marker in centre st of 3dc, dc to last 2dc, dc2tog, turn. (19dc)

Row 7: 1ch, [dc2tog] twice, dc to centre st, remove marker, 3dc in centre st, replace marker in centre st of 3dc, dc to last 4dc, [dc2tog] twice, turn. (17dc)

Row 8:  ch, dc to centre st, remove marker, 3dc in centre st, replace marker in centre st of 3dc, dc to end. (19dc)

Fasten off yarn and weave in ends.

Making Up:

With wrong sides together, sew a whip stitch or make a dc seam around the edge of the hearts leaving a gap for stuffing, stuff to make a plump heart and sew gap. Slip a cake pop stick through the reverse of each heart and tie a small ribbon bow. A tiny amount of glue can be used to secure the stick.

Alternatively, a piece of ribbon can be stitched to the top of the heart and they can be decorated with beads and buttons.

Happy making x

You can find some of my heart patterns for sale online:

Heart Pops on Love Crafts or Ravelry.  You can find the free flower pattern I used to make my heart shaped wreath in this blog post. For versions in your back issues of Inside Crochet, take a look in issues 33, 64 and 111.

 

Why Blocking Matters

Metropolis scarf
The Metroplis Scarf, designed for Inside Crochet issue 121, using Eden Cottage Yarns Nateby 4 ply.

Well I’m back – with many apologies and few excuses! We finally moved house in December and I’m slowly unpacking, getting used to my new surroundings and writing exceptionally long “to do” lists! High on the list for some time has been “get back on the blog”, but it always seems to fall below “get out and meet people” or “explore the footpath by the river” and way, way below the usual admin of informing banks, utility companies etc that we have moved house, finding a new GP and working out how not to get lost when I drive to the supermarket!

Well, putting aside all the excuses I was prompted to write this post after a lady from Craft and Chat asked me about blocking. What is it, why do you do it and is it really worth the bother? The short answer is yes, it matters. The longer answer is  it depends… So let’s talk about blocking. Why it makes a difference and how to do it.

Blocking is a strange word for a very straightforward process. In simple terms, blocking is the process of finishing you work.  If you’re making something that has pieces which will be joined together, it’s made of wool or animal fibres or has a lacy stitch pattern, the chances are it will look far better if you block it. Sometimes I’ve noticed bloggers and podcasters referring to it as “setting” or “finishing”. Your aim is to produce flat, evenly shaped pieces that will sew together easily or allow the stitches to settle.

Garments which have pieces that need to be sewn together should be pinned out to their finished dimensions before sewing up – this allows all the peices to lie flat and be of the correct size. This makes it much easier to sew them together. Motifs which will be joined to make a blanket will fit together more easily if they’re all the same size.

The simplest way to block is to pin your pieces or motifs on to a flat, absorbent surface such as a thick towel, spray them lightly with tepid water and allow to dry. You can speed up the process by using a steam iron instead. Hold the iron over each piece after pinning out and press the steam button, but make sure the iron doesn’t touch your work. Acrylic does not like heat, the fibres can melt and become shiny, at worst it will leave a sticky black mess on the bottom of your iron. Wool can shrink or matt if too much heat is applied, textured work will be flattened and it’s possible the wool might be scorched. You can cover each piece with a damp cloth and then apply steam if you want to take extra care.

Wool and animal fibres always look better after blocking, either pinned out as described above, or after a short soak in wool or tepid water, sometimes called “wet blocking”. You can buy specialist wool wash liquids that don’t need rinsing, these are great and can also be used for washing your makes if you choose to hand wash them. Fill a bowl with water, add the recommended amount of liquid and put your knitting or crochet in the bowl for 10 minutes. Gently squeeze out the excess water and place on a flat, absorbent surface to dry. You can read a really helpful and thorough  article about wet blocking on the Kelbourne Woollens website. You’ll also need to block your tension square before making garments – the change in size can be quite dramatic and there’s nothing more disppointing than skipping the tension swatch only to find your finished sweater is baggier than you expected it to be after it’s first washing!

Wool loves to be blocked. The short soaking allows the fibres to “bloom” and swell, it gets softer and any residual dye left over from processing is soaked away. Hats, mittens, cowls and socks can be soaked for a few minutes and then wrung out gently before being placed flat to dry (my favourite method is to roll items in a fluffy towel and squeeze out the excess water).

Acrylic doesn’t always “like” to be blocked, so go gently. Cheaper yarns often sag and become floppy if they spend too much time in water, so I generally recommend pinning out and spray blocking with warm water – better still – steam blocking will “fix” the fibres and help even out any wonky seams. Acrylic always seems to respond better to steam blocking than to wet blocking or soaking.

Cotton and plant fibres also have a tendency to “grow” after blocking, they should always be dried flat as the weight of wet cotton can stretch the fabric considerably.

Are you beginning to think blocking is a complicated and difficult process? If yes, then you’ll begin to see why so many makers will tell you they “never” block!  Please, don’t be put off. You can find a simple guide to blocking in all my books and the links you’ll find in this post are all really helpful. Just as  your hair can feel smoother, have more body and  look sleeker after a professional blow dry than if you leave it to dry naturally; so your knitting and crochet can respond well to a bit of pampering!

Finally, in case you’re wondering – yes I always block – except when I choose not to – and yes, I always regret it if I don’t!

 

Interweave ( the US publishers of my book The Step by Step Guide to 200 Crochet Stitches) have an excellent guide on how to block crochet squares. My favourite online yarn store Tangled Yarn has an excellent guide along with great photos.

 

Easter Garland

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This garland might be a little bit brighter than my usual makes – but with Easter almost upon us I couldn’t resist adding a bit of whimsy to my kitchen shelves! The carrots are made using the chilli pattern (which is free on Love Crochet) I used to make this garland for Love Crochet magazine way back in 2014.

chilli string

I’ve given instructions for the daisy below and also added notes on making the carrot tops. To make the garland I simply made a 20ch, slip stitched into the first chain to make a hanging loop and then made a long chain, joining on alternate carrots and daisies every 15 chains by working a dc into one of the  petal loops or the back of the carrots. Once I had added all the flowers and carrots, I made 35ch, then slip stitched into the 20th chain from the hook to make another hanging loop.

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The colours I used are from the Yarn and Colours Must Have Cotton range (White, Sorbus and Peridot), most of the major yarn companies have suitable cottons in their ranges. Try Paintbox yarns cotton DK (Paper White, Blood Orange and Grass Green) Or Rico Cotton (White, Orange and Fir Green), but I encourage you to dive into your stash for this one (I did)!

I hope you enjoy this project, it certainly makes visitors to my kitchen smile.

Happy hooking x

Daisy Flower:

With orange yarn and 3mm hook make 6ch, join with a sl st to make a ring.

Round 1: 6dc into ring

Round 2: (2dc in each dc) 6 times. 12dc

Fasten off orange and join white to any dc.

Round 3: 1dc in same place as join, 9ch, sl st in same place as dc, (dc in next dc, 9ch, sl st in same place as dc) 11 times. Fasten off yarn, weave in ends.

Press flowers on the reverse once made.

To make the carrots, follow the chilli pattern in this free download. Use Orange yarn to make your carrots.

Carrot Tops:

Join green yarn to any dc on last round of carrot, 5ch, 1sl st in 2nd chain from hk, 1sl st in each of next 3ch, 1sl st in same place as dc, (1dc in next dc, 5ch, 1sl st in 2nd chain from hk, 1sl st in each of next 3ch, 1sl st in same place as dc) in each dc around. Fasten off yarn and weave in ends.

To make the garland you’ll need an even number of daisies and an odd number of carrots. Join a daisy first, then alternate between carrots and daisies, finishing with a daisy.

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Note: this post contains affiliate link, this means I earn a small commission on purchases made by readers clicking on these links).

 

Sofia and Sparkles

Sofia and Sparkles Family Group 2019.jpgWell hello – and thanks for stopping by! I want to introduce you to Sofia and Sparkles. Sparkles the mouse made her debut on Instagram before Christmas, but it’s taken me three months to write up and check the pattern, meanwhile she was joined by Sofia, a little bunny with an impossibly cute pom pom tail!

There will be a wardrobe of clothes for these little cuties –  I just need some decent light to photograph the samples – it’s so wet and grim here in Cheshire at the moment. Sparkles and Sophia were both made in Alpaca yarns, Sparkles is Whitfell DK in natural and Sofia is made using King Cole Alpaca in Grey. I loved using these yarns. Alpaca is so soft and it gives a lovey fur like texture. The clothes are made with oddments of double knitting yarns and Sofia’s pom pom tail is made from some leftover silk / mohair (Kidsilk Haze would be perfect). To stuff them, I used a natural wool fibre stuffing, which you have heard me talk about before. It’s so lovely to find an alternative to man made fibre stuffing. I buy mine from Wool Warehouse, but you can find other stockists.

Sofia Bunny March 2019 2

 

Both Sofia and Sparkles are ideal for beginners who can work into a ring. They are constructed using double crochet in rounds, with some increasing and decreasing for shaping.

While making these toys I also discovered my new favourite crochet tool – a felting needle! Because these amigurumi use all natural fibres, you can needle felt the ears and limbs into the most pleasing position and be sure they’ll stay put! You can also needle felt the head if it feels a little floppy. I am currently experimenting with adding  colour to my makes, spots, stripes and patches could be so much simpler than working colour changes whilst crocheting (which I know is something lots of my crochet pupils struggle with). To be honest, I often find the colour changes on such small numbers of stitches can look a little “clunky”, so using a simple needle felting technique might be the answer.

Sparkles Mouse March 2019

 

I hope you like Sofia and Sparkles, I imagine them getting up to all kinds of mischief and adventures. Both patterns can be downloaded now from Ravelry  or  Love Crochet soon. Look out for more clothes and accessories, which I’ll be adding here over the next couple of weeks.

Free Pattern: Wee Mousie

Hello Little Mouse!

one little mouse.jpg

I make no apologies for my current obsession with tiny cute things – making them is a joy – and being able to make something so quickly is definitely a bonus!

These little mice started life as a sample for a Learn to Crochet Class, I quickly realised that others might fall in love with them too. They’re much cuter than the real thing, which we occasionally spy scuttling across the patio!

Of course, I had to make three (in honour of the nursery rhyme Three Blind Mice).

Each mouse is made in a different shade of King Cole Baby Alpaca (I had oddments left over from some other projects, which you’ll see in print soon) and is stuffed with wool stuffing. You can use any yarn you like and as mice come in many shapes, sizes and colours, you can dive into your stash and come up with a unique little mouse.

I’ve used beads for the eyes, but you could use embroidery if you prefer. The trickiest part is the whiskers; it was so hard to come up with a colour and texture that looked attractive. In the end I went for a combination of cotton yarn and sewing thread.

I’ve listed this as a free pattern, which means it hasn’t been tech edited. It has been tested by some of my pupils and proof read, but mistakes can still sneak through. If you spot an error please let me know and I can fix it. You’ll find a full list of crochet terms and abbreviations here.

I always like to start working in the round with a crochet ring, if you prefer an adjustable or “magic” ring, feel free to start that way instead. Remember, the only rule in crochet is there are no rules!

To make your mouse you will need:

2.5mm crochet hook, oddments of dk yarn (about 18m) and approximately 6g of toy stuffing or wool scraps. Two beads or black embroidery floss for eyes.

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Pattern starts here: (written in UK crochet terms)

Make 2ch.

Round 1: 4dc into 2nd ch from hk. 4dc

Round 2: (1dc, 2dc in next st) twice. 6dc

Round 3: (2dc, 2dc in next st) twice. 8dc

Round 4: (3dc, 2dc in next st) twice. 10dc

Round 5: (4dc, 2dc in next st) twice. 12dc

Round 6: 1dc in each st around.

Round 7: (3dc, 2dc in next st) 3 times. 15dc

Round 8: (4dc, 2dc in next st) 3 times. 18dc.

Rounds 9 – 18: 1dc in each dc around.

Stuff head and body.

Round 19: (4dc, dc2tog) 3 times. 15dc

Round 20: (3dc, dc2tog) 3 times. 12dc

Round 21: (dc2tog) 6 times. 6dc.

Make tail:

Row 1: 1sl st into next dc, ch16, 1sl st in 2nd ch from hk and in each ch across, 1 sl st in same place as first sl st. fasten off yarn.

Add more stuffing to body if required and close hole using long yarn tail.

Ears: (make two)

Make 4ch.

Row 1: 3ch, 4tr in 4th ch from hk, sl st in same ch. Fasten off yarn.

Sew ears to top of head (use photo as a guide).

Finishing:

Sew eyes, nose and whiskers using photo as a guide to placement.

two little mice.jpg

I hope you enjoy making these teeny mice – you can share your makes on my Facebook page, or on Instagram (just tag your photos #grannycoolcrochet). I do love to see your photos.

Happy crocheting!

 

Review – Weekend Makes: Stash Knitting

Weekend MakesThis week I have a new knitting book recommendation for you. Written by Emma Osmond, this is a fresh, modern take on the perennial stash knitting theme (and let’s face it, most knitters and crocheters have a sizeable stash of yarn bought for projects we never completed or simply loved too much to leave on the shelf).

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The projects are mostly simple, knitted in beautiful Rowan yarns (so lots of natural fibres and muted shades) and the styling is lovely. There are mug cosies, a hot water bottle, bags, blankets, scarves and hats all photographed with clear close ups of the stitches and shape. I particularly liked the technique section, which has pictorial guides to working on circular needles, knitting cable stitches and colour work. At the back of the book, a chapter on finishing techniques clearly explains, grafting, picking up stitches and sewing seams. So, although this isn’t a book aimed at beginners, it’s definitely a book I’m going to pass along to a new, not so confident knitter in my family. I know she’ll love the projects, and I’m going to put a great big post it note on page 94 – because I’m sure she’ll be able to manage the simple beanie in time for my birthday in October – I can even loan her the perfect yarn from my stash!

Each project includes the required weight for each yarn in grams and metres, so you can easily substitute a yarn from your stash. You’ll also find guidance about skill level, techniques and modifying the pattern to suit your taste and yarn available for every project.

I will definitely be making some of the projects in this book, but (and it’s a small but), I wish more of the projects were worked in the round or on circular needles. It’s the one thing that came up when I showed this book to the ladies in my knitting group. Although many knitters were raised on a diet of “knit flat and seam” patterns, there are a growing number of knitters (of all ages and experience) who like the option to knit in the round. It would have been nice if at least one of the hats (or maybe the wrist warmers) had been knitted seamlessly, particularly as there are three pages devoted to this in the techniques guide.*

Having said that, this is a fabulous book and with Mother’s Day approaching this might be the perfect gift for someone in your life. Whatever their age or experience they’ll find something that appeals and encourages a bit of stash diving!

Weekend Makes: Stash Knitting is written by Emma Osmond, published by GMC books and available now from your favourite book store.

ISBN: 9781784945121

Price £14.99

  • The baby booties and chunky basket are both started flat and then switch to circular needles or DPNS.