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As I write this it is tipping it down with rain here in North London after a week of amazingly warm and sunny weather. The typically temperamental British weather made me think of featuring my Sunshine and Showers design in this newsletter as it seems to be the perfect fit for this month!
My Sunshine and Showers CAL project was first released in Crochet Now Magazine in 2017. The patterns have since been published on my archived blog and you can also purchase the patterns as downloads by following this link.
The inspiration for the design was the seasonal weather here in the UK and each section of the design reflects a different seasonal theme. For example, in July and August the design was based on sunny skies and flowers, whereas in January the focus was grey snowy weather, which I represented by using crochet puff stitches.
Like all my crochet along projects I tried to design this one in a way that made it a great learning tool. It gets progressively harder so that crocheters can build their skills. All patterns include step-by-step images and detailed instructions throughout.
The blanket is made in rows, so is a sampler style and it would make a great stash buster!
The download patterns are available in 12 single pieces or as one bundle and you can find them on Ravelry, Etsy and via the Janie Crow website.
I am still waiting for confirmation of when my new CAL design 'Indigo Dreams' will be published in Inside Crochet magazine. I think the current plan is for it to be released early in the autumn. As soon as I have any more news I will let you know.
I usually try to plan my designs so that I am working about a year ahead of the release date of a new project, but the lockdown restrictions over the last year and the knock on effects of having to deal with a different workload has meant that my planning has gone out of the window! With the delay of the most recent CAL project I am a bit concerned that my project releases may end up being a bit like London buses - none for ages and then a steady stream! At least we have been a bit luckier with the yarns that are arriving at the studio over the last couple of weeks and have finally been able to make up some kits. We have Magic Circles blanket kits in Life DK in stock on Andy's Just Knots website. You can find them here.
Lots of versions of the Magic Circles design have been cropping up on Instagram lately and I just love the two images below via Lizzie Montgomery and Karolyn Smalls. Click on them to be taken to the Instagram feeds.
I have been sent a few fabulous 'out in the wild' images that I want to show you this month. Below you can see a gorgeous version of my Bohemian Blooms design, which has been made by Gera Zuydeweg using the shades from the Love Is Enough version of the Fruit Garden blanket. I think Gera has made an amazing job of this project and I love the way the orange and mustard yellow give it such a great colour pop!
Cheri Meeker sent me a couple of shots of some runners she has made using the Climbing Rose Wrap pattern and The Blue House design.
Cheri has made the Climbing Rose runner one motif narrower than my original design and I think she has done a great job combining pretty shades of teal and peach/coral when making her Blue House runner.
Are you a 'Friends' fan? If so, do you remember the one where Joey auditioned for a role as a gameshow host and the game was called Bamboozled? Well, this article has absolutely nothing to do with that and instead is about the production methods used to make bamboo yarn!
In my quick catch up email a couple of weeks ago I spoke about my desire to use more natural yarns in my forthcoming designs. Within the piece I mistakenly referred to a yarn with a bamboo content as being 'natural'. I later received an email pointing out my error, which prompted me to take another look at bamboo as a sustainable fibre.
The problem with bamboo is that although it is a natural substance in the first place, in order to make it into a fibre it has to undergo a long production process that involves lots of chemicals and energy, so it is, in fact, a manmade fibre. Manmade fibres have a bad track record and many people feel that natural is better. Micro fibres are the hot topic at the moment (rightly so) as is the amount of energy it takes to produce many yarns, but it is an absolute minefield if you start looking at things like water consumption, land use, fertilizers and the way workers (and animals) are used in the production of natural yarns too!
There is a very good article here that presents both sides of the good/bad bamboo fibre debate. It concludes by saying that bamboo yarns sourced in the right way can actually be a ‘step up from polyester and conventional cotton’, depending of course on the initial source of the bamboo.
I have to admit that my research ended up leaving me a tad 'bamboozled' as there are so many arguments for and against its use. There is another good article here that you may find interesting. Personally I think a great plus point is that bamboo is biodegradable, usually breaking down in a year or so if placed in compost (wool can take up to 5 years) and it is a fast growing crop that requires no pesticides, chemicals or fertiliser to grow. Given the amount of processing that goes into the production of so many things these days I think I err on the side of positivity as far as bamboo goes, but maybe the links within this piece will help you make up your own minds. Big thanks to Lorraine for picking me up on this in the first place...
We have managed to put together a couple of kits for Marina's 'Aladdin' cushion, which is based on my The Blue House design. You can find a link to Marina's free yarn substitution document here. A link to the kit here and a link to the original paper pattern here. You can also find the pattern as a download in my Ravelry and Etsy stores.
Marina's amazing re-working of the Blue House design uses 17 balls of Anchor Creativa 4ply plus 4 shades of Debbie Abrahams Beads. For the kit we have included one bag of beads to allow you to just use a single shade of your choice instead of 4. One bag will be enough beads for the whole cushion. The beads are an optional addition to allow you to use some from your own stash if you wish or you can choose to make it without beads. If you have never added beads to your crochet and want to find out how to so, you can find a video here.
I have been testing out some cupcake recipes lately and came across this fabulous one from Shannon Michelle. The recipe is vegan so has no eggs and uses vegan butter, something I have to admit I was pretty sceptical about, having spent years baking with butter and dairy based fats.
These cup cakes are possibly the best I have ever made. The cakes are light and fluffy and the buttercream is just so yummy! Honestly, it is far superior to buttercream made with dairy butter, which I think can be a bit greasy. I used the Flora Plant Butter which comes in paper wrapper, so is another small win in terms of waste.
I managed to make 12 large cakes from the recipe and used good quality jam in place of the fruit puree, the instructions for which looked like a bit of a faff if I am honest!
I am a total convert to these lovely little cakes and have now made two versions - one batch were raspberry and black cherry and another batch were elderflower and lemon. Both flavours were truly scrumptious!
As it is Elderflower season I started a batch of Elderflower Liquer on Monday. The Kilner jar is now stowed away in the dark for 2-4 weeks, but there is an image above of what it looked like before I packed it away in the wardrobe and you can find the recipe I used here.
I have made this liqueur before and it is so good, especially if you add a splash of it to a glass of cold Prosecco or Cava. I think it is the perfect summertime drink, but if you don't fancy making it you can buy St. Germain liqueur instead. Cheers!
I am not sure that our garden has ever had as much attention as it has had this year and it certainly shows, as there are buds and blooms bursting into life everywhere and the veg patch is decidedly rampant! It has been so good to give the garden and our little house some much needed attention this year, especially as we have been shamefully neglectful for quite a while! Below is the first progress shot of the new lean-to that Andy is adding onto the summer house at the end of the garden. Rain has stopped play for a while, but hopefully I will pop some more images in the next newsletter.
I have been looking at the interior design forecasts going into 2021 and it is no surprise that the biophilic story continues to be the biggest trend. According to Wikipedia, Biophilic design is ‘a concept used within the building industry to increase occupant connectivity to the natural environment through the use of direct nature, indirect nature, and space and place conditions’. There is a blog post on the Homes and Gardens web site here that explains this in more detail, but it basically means that the interior designers are continuing to 'bring the outside in' with the emphasis on greenery and plants.
Whilst I love my garden, I am not great with house plants and tend to stick to a vase of cut flowers every couple of weeks and some orchids, but as I think I am going to really miss the garden come the autumn I am considering investing in a few leafy houseplants.
I came across this 'Glasshouse' when doing a bit of research. The potted plant prices seem high, but when you read their 'about' statement on their website you will understand why. It sounds like a great initiative and there is more information on their blog, and anyway it seems to me that house plants are far more pricy than they used to be, so I might well invest a bit of my pocket money!
Have any of you been watching the series 'Halston' starring Ewan McGregor? We have lined it up on our watch list as I have heard it is really good and that the sets and costumes are great. Apparently McGregor was taught to pin, sew and drape fabric by costume designer Jeriana San Juan, who was moved to tears when the actor presented her with a pair of perfectly stitched trousers he had made. You can find more about Ewan's stitching journey by following this link or clicking on the image below.
A couple of weeks ago I rewatched the amazing McQueen documentary. I am a massive fan of Lee Alexander McQueen's work and of the collections produced by Sarah Burton, creative director at the fashion house, since his death a decade ago. The film always reminds me of being an art student and takes me back to my younger days when I produced my degree collection. McQueen studied at St Martins and I came across an article about the most recent graduate student fashion show on the Vogue blog last week. You can see it by following this link.
Carrying on the fashion theme, you may have seen in the news this week that a recent report revealed that a really high percentage of clothes are still being made from new plastics. You can find the report via the BBC by following this link. I haven't bought any new clothes for months, but Summer and I have made a plan to hit the shops tomorrow, so this report has certainly reminded me that I should look at the labels in any garments we might try on!
Andy has headed off to a test music festival this weekend, so Charlie and I are home alone! I had hoped that I might get to visit The Living Arts & Crafts Show at Hatfield House either this afternoon or on Sunday, but the rain seems set for the next few days, so I might have a rethink! Of course there is the comfort of the settee, the lure of the TV and a lovely little crochet project on the hook to use up some of my time, so as usual I am looking forward to the weekend, despite being a tad sad that the rain has knocked all the heads off of my glorious peonies in the garden!
I hope that wherever you are in the world and that whatever you have planned for the next few days, you have a good time and stay safe.
Quick catch up
new in blankets lifestyle blog videos explore
Welcome to a quick catch up with Janie Crow. We hope you are all keeping well and have been able to indulge in lots of crafting time. Here in North London the weather has swiftly changed from being incredibly wet to beautifully sunny and warm over the last few days so the big outdoors has become inviting again.
'And since all the loveliness cannot be Heaven, I know in my heart it is June' Abba Woolson
One of our biggest pieces of news is that we have finally managed to put together some kits for the Night & Dusk colourway of The Fruit Garden blanket. We have just 10 yarn packs in stock and have no idea when we will be getting more, so if you want one you will probably need to be quick! Click the link here or on the image below to be taken to the web site.
If you follow my newsletters then you probably already know that we have been having trouble getting all the yarn shades in Life DK to make up the range of Janie Crow kits. Life DK has a percentage of wool, which creates a lovely drape when crocheted, so it has been a little frustrating not being able to put kits together. As stock of Special DK, which is 100% Premium Acrylic, remains healthy at Stylecraft we decided to make up some limited edition kits using this yarn instead. The shade swaps are almost identical and the yarn usage is pretty much the same too.
We have kits for The Blue House Blanket and we've also put together many other kits using Special DK including Persian Tiles, Fields of Gold, Mystical Lanterns and Delft. We've also restocked Sunshine & Showers, Lily Pond Cherry Blossom and Sussex Gardens. You can find all these kits for sale over on Andy's web site at Just Knots.
It continues to be a challenge to source yarn for kits at the moment as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are still impacting on the supply chain. There's an interesting article further along in this quick update, which helps to explain some of the worldwide issues.
Looking on the bright side though, what a great opportunity we now have to do some stash diving! I think it is really exciting to discover that you have just the right yarn in your stash for a pattern you've just come across in a magazine or on the web. If you have crafty friends you could always compare stashes and maybe even have a swapping session!
As I just said, now is possibly one of the best times for knitters and crocheters to focus on stashbusting projects and Mystical Lanterns is perfect for using up yarn where you have just one ball, or many oddments of lots of different shades. The pattern is available in different versions, to make a blanket, scarf or shawl. You can find the downloadable patterns in the Janie Crow Ravelry and Etsy stores or the printed booklets by following this link.
As I mentioned in my last couple of newsletters I recently designed a vertical half motif for this pattern. I have posted this on my blog so that those of you who want to make a project with straight vertical side edges can do so. The blog post includes step-by-step images and instructions, but you will need the original pattern to make the main Mystical Lanterns motifs and the horizontal half motifs.
You can find some great ideas for colourways for this project by taking a look at the Mystical Lanterns hashtag on Instagram too. I particularly like the image below from Fifisofia.
Despite promoting our own online business we do recognise the importance of bricks and mortar yarn stockists and want to support our local yarn shops, especially now that non-essential retail has been allowed to open again.
So, if you need craft supplies and you have a local retailer, do consider supporting them if you can. If you're not sure if there is a yarn shop local to you there is a great look up tool at ukhandknitting.com.
Last month Gemma ran a poll over on the Janie Crow Facebook page to find out people's preferred yarn when it comes to crocheting blankets. 535 people voted and 59% stated they prefer using natural fibres such as cotton, bamboo or wool.
There are many factors that go into yarn choices though and some of our followers pointed this out. If, for example, you are making a blanket for a baby then soft acrylics are so easy to wash and dry that they are the ideal choice when ease of care is important. Cotton is heavier than acrylic or wool and so might make the final weight of a project too much. You can't beat real wool for warmth, but it can be itchy and some people are allergic to it. Affordability is also a factor and natural fibres tend to be more expensive. On the other hand acrylics have an environmental cost with tiny plastic micro-fibres being shed every time they are washed. Perhaps this means that blends with a percentage of natural fibres can give you the best of both worlds and are easier to care for too.
Here at Janie Crow we are planning to head more and more towards stocking natural and sustainable fibres and are so pleased to see that affordable Organic Cotton DK and Bamboo + Cotton mixes are now available via Stylecraft, who also have a new (and very exciting) 'eco' yarn on the horizon. Many other yarn companies are also becoming aware of the need to be a little more 'green' when creating yarns too, which cannot be a bad thing.
We know that you all make your yarn choices based on your own beliefs, which is why we currently try to cater for lots of different tastes, so it is really interesting to see that the outcome of the poll was quite evenly split between the want for natural and man-made fibres.
One thing to consider when choosing yarns for a home project such as a blanket is that unlike a garment it will not need repeated washing. It is likely to remain in your home for many years to come and might even be passed on as an heirloom to another family member or friend. In that way, we think that crochet blankets, made from whichever yarn you choose, could well be the exact opposite of fast fashion!
We would love to know what you think too, so please hit reply and let us know.
Gemma has been experimenting in the kitchen again this week and she has suggested this recipe for Roasted Cauliflower Tagine as a really quick and easy midweek make.
Gemma has a weekly veg box delivery and thinks that one of the best things about it is that it makes her far more creative in her cooking. She says that rather than being stuck in a rut of making the same meals over and over she has to be inventive to find meals to fit the veg that arrives in the box!
Here at Janie Crow we are all veg box converts and we get our deliveries from Riverford, but there are now lots of other choices of provider available. If you are lucky enough to have local market then even better!
As mentioned above, sourcing yarn to make up kits for Janie Crow projects has been (and continues to be) a challenge recently. We came across an article from The Crochet Crowd, based in Canada, which summarises some of the key issues affecting the supply of yarn to retailers across the world. The blog post is written from a North American/Canadian point of view but many of the things mentioned in the post are relevant to us here in the UK. Click here or on the image below to read more.
We also came across this article from The Crochet Society on why mindful crochet is so good for you. We don't really need any convincing though, do we?
Stepping away from anything yarny, if you fancy a bit of fun this weekend, why not have a play at the Blob Opera. It's strangely addictive!
The Janie Crow Catalogue, full of beautiful colour images of my projects, is available as a download from the homepage. A printed copy can be added to your basket at no extra cost if you are ordering from the website or for a small postage contribution without any other purchase.
Having a bank holiday on Monday has meant that I have spent all week feeling out of sync with my days. On Tuesday I thought it was Monday, but by Thursday I thought it was Friday, so I am relieved that the weekend is here yet again and I can fall into my usual routine for Saturday and Sunday! We are hoping to spend most of our weekend outside....
I think June is the very best month in the garden. Everything is springing into life and you can almost watch it grow. The planted pots are looking so pretty and our new vegetable patch is coming along nicely, even if the slugs and snails think we have planted all the seedlings out for their delight!
You may remember me telling you a few months ago that we are planning to build a wooden lean to on the summer house at the end of the garden. Well, we had big issues trying to source the wood as there seems to be a global shortage of that too, but it finally arrived about 10 days ago. Unfortunately it was soaking wet thanks to the amount of rain we have been having, so it has been left to dry out in the garage for a bit - if all goes to plan we hope to start work on our project this weekend.
I have put together a Pinterest board of images that have inspired the design of the wooden lean to. I think that Pinterest boards are such a great way of saving ideas and I use them for lots of projects to help me keep motivated. I adore our garden in the summer months as it makes us feel like we suddenly have a lovely extra room added to the house, so I am hoping that the lean to will create a good space to sit and relax on summer evenings. I hope it will look stunning with twinkly fairy lights and comfy cushions, but of course it is all dependent on our fabulous British weather!
We know we are really lucky to have a garden and be in a position where we can get out and enjoy some sunshine. I hope that wherever you are and whatever your situation you are able to take a bit of time out for rest and relaxation over the next couple of days too.
STOP PRESS! I will be tutoring a workshop in aid of Knit For Peace in December. The workshop, which will cover both hand knit and crochet techniques, will take place over 4 days within the amazing setting of Gladstone's Library, Hawarden. You can find more information and a form to register your interest by following this link. You can find the Knit For Peace web site here.
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Welcome to my blog. Here you will find my email newsletter archive alongside any other general musings or information about events or new pattern releases that I wish to share with you!