Thursday, 12 June 2014

How to tie a slip knot

"Let's start at the very beginning..." Maria was a sensible girl if you ask me. I thoroughly agree that it is a very good place to start! But rather than Do, Re, Mi, in Crochet we generally begin with a slip knot. There are other ways to start when you are working special kinds of crochet but for your granny squares, doilies and blankets, a slip knot is what you will need to get started.

Some of you will have no problem mastering this while others (like myself once upon a time) will have a bit more difficulty and end up with a knot that doesn't slip, or a slip that won't knot! I have photographed every stage I go through when creating a slip knot and hopefully it should give you a fool proof guide to that most important crochet fundamental! This is my first Crochet School instruction so if anyone reads this and finds it is not helping I am looking for feedback please!

STEP 1: Use the right hook for your yarn
Before you start to crochet make sure you have the right yarn for your project and the right hook for that yarn. Don't do as I did and pick up any old yarn and hook combo, then wonder why your granny square looks like a holey lettuce leaf! All yarns have a label which gives needle size information. Just switch this for your crochet hook.

Hook Size Charts
Yarn Weight Charts

STEP 2: Make a loop at the end
Now you are ready to start crocheting. Have your hook ready but for now just make a loop in the end of the yarn like I have here.

If it helps to start with, place it down like I have so you can compare with the photo. Sometimes it all looks a bit different when you hold it up in the air. That comes with practice and you will soon be wondering what all the fuss was about!

STEP 3: Pull up through the loop
Next, take the top strand (connected to the ball) and pull a loop up from under your first loop.

STEP 4: Insert the hook in the centre loop
Pop your hook under the new loop and over the old loop as shown.

STEP 5: Pull short end to tighten knot
Pull the short end of the yarn to tighten the base of the knot. Keep hold of the hook as you do so and the main loop (it is referred to as the working loop in patterns) will stay quite loose.
STEP 6: Pull long end to tighten onto hook
Pull the long end (connected to the ball) of the yarn whilst continuing to hold the hook and it will tighten the working loop onto the hook. You are all set and ready to begin crocheting!

Practice this several times to get used to it. If you have done it right you should be able to slip the knot off the hook, pull the short end and the whole thing will come undone so you can do it again.

I hope that you have found this post useful. If you are a beginner crocheter and want to ask my advice about anything hooky related please comment or email me and I will do my best to help. Think of my as your crochet Agony-Aunt - The one with the blue rinse and the Werthers Originals in her handbag!

Please feel free to use my tutorials to help in any way with your crochet projects. I am happy for you to share them, just make sure to link back to my site by way of acknowledgement.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Blog Hop

It's time for a blog hop! "And what might a blog hop be?" I hear you ask. It is a sort of digital trail of discovery - a great way for bloggers, and in this case creatives and makers, to expand their reading lists, find new inspirations and like minds, and generally have a great round of mutual back patting! 

This particular blog hop concerns makers, crafters, artists and creatives and these are just the sort of people who's blogs I love to discover. The idea is that each participant tags three more people so that the cycle continues endlessly one would hope, although that magic number has somewhat eluded me this week!

I was asked to take part in the hop by lovely lady Alice who wrote her blog hop post last week. Take a look back at hers and you can follow the trail back and forward from there too. I was so pleased to be asked and looking forward to writing my post. However, the last week has been a frantic flurry of emails and messaging to recruit my three other bloggers. And now, on the eve of my scheduled post I have had to admit defeat with just two bloggers at the end of my post. I hope this doesn't upset the equilibrium of the blogosphere! I will introduce you to them at the end of my post.

And now to the post itself. I was asked four questions which I will answer as best I can below and they should give you a bit of an insight into my process, such as it is!

1. What am I working on? 

While I am interested in all craft and am in awe of sewers and printers and knitters, it always comes back to crochet for me. Maybe one day I will pick up a needle and thread or try my hand at papercrafting but there is always something else to try - a new thickness of yarn, a new stitch, a different approach to working with colour or texture - so that crochet still holds me in thrall.

At present I am working on a mass of squares of all colours of the rainbow to cover an armchair I adopted and named 'Dorothy' and in whom I am sitting in whilst writing this post. The scale of the project is somewhat daunting so it is something I come back to every now and again in between other things. Maybe one day you will see a Ta-dah post with the culmination of my efforts showing Dorothy in her dazzling new coat of many colours!

By contrast I was asked this week to write a pattern for a little Pumpkin Amigurumi to be featured in a catalogue in September for Stitch Craft Create. I will also be posting it on my blog as it has been a while since I featured a free pattern. I worked it up yesterday afternoon and am thinking about making him some friends with different expressions on their faces now. Short and sweet!

A couple of months back I was asked to write a pattern for a great book about making accessories and decorations for your bike. The book is called Craft Bomb your Bike and is out in August but available to preorder now. Another of my patterns featured in 101 Ways to Stitch Craft Create Vintage earlier this year and I am pleased to say that both patterns were the featured projects on the front covers of their respective books!

My brain is always ticking away with new things to try and that small selection does not cover all my WIP's and UFO's such as a tapestry crochet cushion cover, a handbag and more, all hidden away in my drawer of doom! All will be resurrected at some point but I am a little excitable about new things and less so about finishing off old things!

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

I would say that whilst individual aspects of my work fit in with other examples of their genre, the fact that I am never content with just one kind of crochet, one application, one colour palette or one source of inspiration keeps my work fresh. 

You wouldn't be able to visit my blog knowing exactly the sort of thing you are going there to see, apart from it being crochet related! In general I prefer bright colours but I have even been known to use more subdued colour palettes so there really is no tying me down! Whilst I am in awe of the makers who are able to churn out beautiful blanket or bootie sets one after another, I don't think that is something I will be able or willing to do anytime soon! 

3. Why do I write/create what I do? 

I have always enjoyed the creative process - I used to love drawing and making and creative writing as a child and apart from a short break while I was busy being a teenager and early twenty-something, I have continued this obsession into adulthood. Paintings and stories have become graphic design and blogging, clay modelling and straw dollies have become crochet and so on. I think it is safe to say that I will always want to make something and then tell the world about it!

4. How does your writing/creating process work?

Inspiration strikes from so many directions that it is hard to keep up with it! For example, I could start researching something for work then spot a reference to a new method or find an unusual colour palette on pinterest or instagram and then suddenly I am away, trying something out, writing it all down, photographing it and sharing it on instagram, and then when I have finished the item and am ready to proudly show it to the world, I will either write it up as a pattern or tutorial or just as a final reveal if I am feeling precious about it, and up it pops on the blog!

Time is a huge constraint for me however, I wish I could make and write full time but I work full time as an Art Editor for a craft publisher and online craft store (which is brilliant BTW!) and when I am home, even without children in my life I find that there is a lot of boring stuff taking up my time. I love that I stay busy - I would be bored without every minute spoken for in some way but it would be great to have a few hours a week I could devote to dottydoily. Maybe one day...

I will finish off by introducing my fellow blog hoppers:

Jijihook is a French blogger who designs crochet amigurumis. She shares free crochet patterns and all her creative ideas on her blog. Since she is also fond of granny squares and artjournal, she has launched two linky parties that anyone can join at any time: the Granny Love Challenge (the idea is to crochet at least one granny per week) and the "Artjournal et Gribouillages" Challenge (the idea is to make one page of artjournal on a different theme every week). She also has an Etsy shop with English crochet patterns and I love her instagram feed @loisirspassion_jijihook

Jennifer is a full time teacher and part time mum, wife, gardener and crochet geek (not necessarily in that order). She took up crochet two years ago when her youngest child left home for art school and has not been able to put her hook down since! She blogs refularly and can be followed on Twitter as @JennyHSkye

I hope you enjoy reading their posts which will be out next Monday 16th June.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Beginner Crochet

This area is strictly for newbie crocheters looking to pick up a hook for the first time or those who know the basics and want to add some new stitches to their repertoire. I aim to build a library of photo tutorials and possibly video instructions (if I work out how to set up the tech), working through from that first slip knot and endless string of chains (which you will not be able to stop making once it clicks!) to all the usual stitch suspects and the different ways of working crochet. I will add in some information about yarn weights and hook sizes along with anything else I can think of that I had to go and hunt down somewhere on the internet when I was a beginner crocheter.

There is a TON of information available to anyone learning to crochet these days, with youtube videos and blog tutorials aplenty, there is hardly cause for me to reinvent the wheel here! And yet I feel the urge to give something back.

Here are some of the great blogs and resources I found inspiration and instructions from when I started out crocheting...

Attic24 - My first project was Lucy's Summer Garden Granny Square

Crochet Geek - All kinds of crochet tutorials with clear instructions

the Purl Bee - Great patterns and tutorials for crochet and more

Annaboos House - Cute, quirky and original patterns with clear photos and instructions

I started my crochet journey with a video here and a tutorial there, all available for free thanks to the hours of time given up by crochet guru's the world over who have blogged and recorded all their tips and tricks to help me and many others get to grips with a new craft. However, I Googled and Pinterested my way around the web to find each piece of relevant information I needed in a way which suited my style of learning so my hope is to create a cohesive source for beginners, free of charge and easily accessible right here on my blog, to save all that searching. I will include links to other brilliant bloggers and free patterns which I benefitted from in my early days as well as my own content, because part of the fun of learning is reading about different methods and tips which will vary between people.

Your comments are always invaluable to me - if I start putting stuff out here and it isn't helping at all - let me know! Or if you are just confused by one step or your work isn't turning out the same as the picture I show, get in touch! I will try to answer your questions as quickly as possible. It will take a while for me to build up this collection of information so bear with me and please ask if you are looking for a tutorial I haven't written yet - I will point you in the right direction if I can.