The clocks have changed and the weather is decidedly autumnal here in North London, so we have been making the most of any bright weather and getting out for some local walks. The fields and countryside around us are still looking really beautiful as not too many leaves have dropped yet, but it is getting pretty cold in the evenings, so it has been good to snuggle up with my crochet and knitting projects on the settee in the evenings!
This week I have something REALLY exciting to tell you about as I am finally able to reveal the outcome of my most recent collaboration with the wonderful Lucia Dunn of Lucia's Fig Tree AND I am also able to showcase my beaded crochet Christmas decorations, which featured in Inside Crochet Magazine this time last year, as the pattern has now reverted to me.
If those two things are not enough to make you want to read on for more information, then hopefully something else within this email will catch your eye!
I love seeing my designs worked in alternative colourways and so when Lucia Dunn of Lucia's Fig Tree asked for permission to recolour my Persian Tiles blanket to create her amazing Eastern Jewels version a few years ago I was really pleased. A few years later Lucia worked her magic to create a version of my Frida's Flowers design too, so I was really excited when we caught up in the spring and she told me that she wanted to make her own version of my Fields of Gold blanket.
Lucia is the queen of recolouring - you may have seen her fabulous version of Tinna's gorgeous Amma CAL - and so I adore this new brightly coloured version of my blanket, which Lucia has come up with. It is just so gorgeous!
Lucia has named her version of the blanket Fiori and, to make this collaboration even more exciting, she has very kindly included the Janie Crow logo alongside hers on the balls of gorgeous Fohen DK yarn which make up the yarn packs for this project. Fohen and Fohen Tweed yarns are a really gorgeous soft and bouncy DK weight, which is a merino wool rich mixture in fabulously vibrant shades.
We have been waiting very patiently for the yarn to make its way over from Italy over the last couple of months and we spent last week making up the kits for this project, so I am really excited to finally be able to give you the link to nab one of these limited edition kits.
The yarn packs contain 31 x 50g balls of exclusive yarn, a sew in Janie Crow label, the original pattern for the Fields of Gold Blanket and a printed yarn sub brochure for Lucia's Fiori colourway. All our yarn kits have been packed re-using the original plastic bag packaging from the yarn supplier rather than new bags.
You can find more information about the project by following this link.
Please note that the Fiori colourway is only available as a kit and that the yarn substitution document is not accessible separately. We have a limited number of these kits available. Our order came in a little short, so we will have a few more kits towards the end of the month/early December, but it is pretty much a case of when they are gone they are gone!
You can find a lovely introductory video that Lucia has made about this blanket collaboration by following this link.
From Thursday 7th through to Sunday 10th October we were showing our wares at the Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. Our stand was in the Textile Gallery. There were fewer stands than usual to allow for more social distancing between everyone, but there was a great turn out and kits pretty much sold out, along with needles and hooks, which were flying off the shelves!
There were times when it was very busy on the stand and (aside from the very annoying difficulties with wifi and the card machine connection) it was great to see so many of you out and enjoying the show.
With his 'Just Knots' hat on, Andy has taken a stand at the Harrogate Knitting & Stitching Show in a couple of weeks time (18th to 21st November). He will have knitting needles, crochet hooks and lots of other accessories. He will also have a lot of reduced yarn - so do pop over to see him and say hello if you are going to the show.
A couple of Mondays ago (24th October) I was the featured designer on shopping channel Yarn Lane TV. I had such a great time chatting all things crochet with presenter Rebecca Reid. We focussed on my Persian Tiles & Summer Palace blankets and also had a quick chat about The Fruit Garden Crochet Blanket Book. During the hour long show I did a couple of little crochet demos, so there might well be something that interests you. You can find the video by following this link. If you want to check out more demo videos on the Janie Crow YouTube channel you can find it here.
It has been fabulous to start seeing your Indigo Dreams blankets taking shape. With part two of the pattern on the horizon I realised I hadn't managed to write a blog post about how to prepare for the CAL - in particular how to achieve the correct tension, so I managed to get one posted this week. You can find it by following this link.
I can never quite get over the ongoing appeal of my Persian Tiles blanket, which continues to be my biggest selling design, but I love to see the various colourways that people put together. This week I discovered two new versions made by the team at Yarnplaza. They have named these colourways Lavender Fields and Christmas and you can find more information by following this link.
After our move from the studio at the beginning of last month we are still trying to get ourselves sorted out. There are lots of boxes left to unpack at home, but Andy has been very busy sorting out the office and storage space that we have found locally. It was quite a shock to see just how much stuff we had accumulated over the 5 years we were at the studio!
he pattern for my beaded Christmas decorations, which also features a beaded crochet masterclass, are new to the website this week. The pattern originally featured in Inside Crochet magazine this time last year, but it is now available as a 16 page paper brochure in both UK & US terms or as a download version via Ravelry or Etsy.
The decorations were inspired by Russian Folk crafts and, as they use very small amounts of yarn, they are the perfect stash buster. I think they would look great hung on the tree or threaded together to make bunting. Or maybe even a festive themed corsage? You can find more information by following this link.
Images with thanks to Leanne Jade and Inside Crochet magazine.
We also have patterns for my Festive Decorations, shown below. These are proving really popular at the moment as they are another great stash busting project. I think they would look great made in purple, red and gold shades, but I love the frosty feel of the grey and cream I used in the original designs. Perhaps adding some light blue shades and silver lurex would make them look really sparkly and snowy?
You can find the paper pattern for these decorations by following this link to the website, where you will also find links to downloadable copies via Ravelry or Etsy.
You can find my crochet stocking pattern, which would make great table or tree decorations as they can hold little tree presents such as chocolates for an extra special touch, by following this link. Along with the pattern for the Oonagh knitted cushion covers, which feature lovely sparkly beads, for a real festive feel.
I am looking forward to seeing your festive makes on social media. Please share any projects using #janiecrow on Instagram so that I can see what you have been making!
There wasn't a huge amount of sun to ripen the tomatoes in the garden this year so when it became clear that green was the colour they were staying, Gemma decided that tomato chutney was on the cards!
Unlike many other chutney recipes this one from Lovely Greens doesn't use cooking apples and so Gemma says it was easy to knock up on the spur of the moment with ingredients already in stock. Delicious with cheese and biscuits!
We realised it had been a while since we had a 'show and tell' on Facebook, so we asked you to show us what you have been working on, whether that be the new Indigo Dreams crochet along, another Janie Crow project or something different entirely! You showed us your beautiful work, from Climbing Rose Wraps to Persian Tile blankets and much much more. Here are some of the highlights:
Sharon Marks showed us her recently completed Persian Tiles, in her own colourway:
Tracy Hellam has been crafting with string as yarn and wool aren't easy to get hold of in Central Zambia!
We love the tassels on Purdy Garcia's Primavera version of Frida's Flowers. They work so well on the points of the hexagons:
Ellen Preston is getting in the mood for Christmas with her very lovely Percy Poinsettia, a Lalylala design.
Eliza Dee Dee has been making the Summer Palace blanket in her own colourway, even using yarn bought by her mother in the 1960s to knit her a cardigan with! Impressive stashbusting:
Thank you to everyone who shared photos - we love seeing your makes :-)
The first part of the Indigo Dreams crochet along was published and many of you got straight to work! The dedicated Facebook group for the Crochet along has been going from strength to strength with over 2,200 members now. There has been much discussion about the difficulties some of you are having with the tension of the chambray squares but there has been great support from both the group moderators and other members alike. On the subject of gauge the brilliant 'Golden Loop' video from Esther of 'It's All in a Nutshell' is well worth a watch, especially if you are struggling to get the correct tension on UK treble (US double) crochet - are you a yanker, rider or lifter?
Don't forget that you can take a look at my tension themed blog post here.
Here at Janie Crow we are avid recyclers and so it was good to see in the news that in Co-Op supermarkets around the country it is now possible to recycle a much wider range of plastic packaging such as pet food pouches, crisp packets, bubble wrap, cling film and much more.
Other supermarkets have been running schemes to recycle such items for a while now. On the RecycleNow website you can enter your postcode or town to find a store near you that collects these items.
That said, there has been a lot of talk recently about how many big companies, especially large supermarket brands, are using 'green washing' tactics to make consumers think that their ethics are far greener than they actually are. Whilst any effort to cut down plastic use and free recycling schemes are good news, what we need to see is far less use of plastic packaging in the first place and more conscious decisions about the origin of the ingredients in our food.
A good place to start is by being aware of where the palm oil in our food is sourced. Palm oil is used in so many foods these days and much of it is from unsustainable sources. Making a habit of looking at the ingredients in our food is a great way to tackle 'greenwashing' so look out for products that say the palm oil is from a sustainable sourse - if it doesn't say it's sustainable then it probably isn't!
You can find more information about global brands and their use of palm oil (and why unsustainable palm oil is bad news) via the WWF web site here or by clicking on the image below:
This week I came across this handy little food calculator via the BBC which can give you an idea of the carbon footprint of foods you most regularly eat. For us the big surprise was chocolate, so we are going to be more careful about which brands we buy in the future. We do love a bit of choccy here at Janie Crow, but perhaps we should cut down a little too?
As we move into the colder months of the year here in the UK it's probably true to say that many of us will be spending more time crafting during the dark evenings. Hours of crocheting can take its toll on our hands, arms and shoulders, so we thought this blog post from Inside Crochet magazine would give us all a good reminder of the importance of taking breaks from time to time, as well as doing exercises to prevent repetitive strain injuries. The thought of not being able to crochet is not one we like to contemplate!
After the madness of September, with the move and then the shows in early October, it was almost inevitable that we would get poorly. I went down with a sniffle (not covid) on the day after Ally Pally and it has taken me a good few weeks to feel back to normal. Andy has started with a cold this week too, so it has been a month of not feeling quite up to speed for us. We have been making sure we get plenty of fresh air, sunshine and vitamin C in the hope that we will now have a lurgy free winter, so we are hoping for some bright weather over the weekend so we can get out and about.
I am planning to attend the COP26 march in London tomorrow. If you would like to join an event, but you're not sure if you have a local demonstration, you can find a list of worldwide events by following this link.
I have quite a few projects to work on in preparation for some forthcoming workshop weekends, so over the weekend I will be keen to set up camp on the settee in the evenings to get on with those. We have been adding lots of programmes to our watch list on the TV, so hopefully we can indulge in a few good movies too!
Unfortunately my Stephen West MKAL project has had to take a bit of a back seat and I am still only on clue 2, but it has been great to see finished projects out in the wild. I am still working on my Stylecraft ReCreate tank top though and hope to have that finished very soon. If you are looking for a fabulous knitting project to see you though the next month or so, then I can really recommend you take a look at Julia Marsh's Wee Houses design, which will be the Stylecraft make along project this month.
I think that the scarf or cowl would make a great festive gift. You can find lovely shots of the projects on Julia's Hand Knitted Things instagram feed and the MAL Facebook group here.
The season of family festivities, bright lights, shimmering candles and good food is officially here! Happy Diwali to those of you celebrating this week. May your lives be filled with new hopes for the future and new dreams for tomorrow. Joy, light and love....
When designing crochet along projects one of my aims is to pass on my knowledge of crochet stitches and techniques to as many crocheters as possible so that they can build on their skill set and push the boundaries of their own creativity. Crochet is by nature an organic process, and I love how creative I can be without having to do lots of forward planning. Crochet can be very forgiving and, unlike knitting, it can mask small mistakes and inconsistencies – something that is incredibly handy at my sampling stages. That said, it can be quite a different matter when following a pattern, as making frequent errors or changes to the project can mean that a design will look different than intended and can also mean that more or less yarn is used than expected.
One of the first places crocheters can come unstuck when following a pattern is if they achieve a different crochet tension to the one suggested. Many crocheters simply assume that they will achieve the correct tension. This is a totally logical conclusion to make; after all, the information on the ball band or within the pattern is based on what the ‘standard’ tension is. In practice, however, many crocheters do not naturally attain the correct tension and therefore do not achieve a tension that sits within the ‘standard’.
Working a tension piece:
Once you have your yarn and the correct hooks you are ready to work your tension pieces. Spending an hour or 2 to work these blocks can seem like a waste of time, but it is REALLY important that you are sure you are working to the same tension as the patterns are written for.
When working a tension piece it is a good idea to work on more stitches and rows than the suggested tension. In the following examples, I used 24 stitches for both samples shown lower down. The tension is taken from pre-blocked swatches. It is really important that you measure your tension to at least 10cm when working the test swatches – if in doubt measure over a larger piece, say 15cm or even 20cm just to be sure. Putting the groundwork in at this stage can save you a lot of heartache later on.
I have used the Indigo Dreams CAL blanket project as the basis for my tension swatches.
I have measured the tension over samples made using Stylecraft Life DK. If you choose to make your tension pieces using yarn from the requirement list of your project you need to make sure you keep your tension squares in a safe place or immediately unravel the yarn in case you need to reuse it later on in the project.
The pre-blocked tension you are aiming for is as follows:
Double Crochet (UK) using 4mm hook = approximately 20/21sts & 24 rows to 10cm (4in).
Treble Crochet (UK) using 3.5mm hook = approximately 19/20sts & 10 rows to 10cm (4in).
How to make your double crochet tension sample:
Double Crochet (dc) (US single crochet – sc)
Using 4mm hook make 25ch.
Foundation Row: skip 1ch, 1dc into each ch to end, turn. (24sts)
Row 1: 1ch (does not count as a st), 1dc into each st to end, turn. (24sts)
Repeat last row until a total of 26 rows have been worked (including foundation row).
Lay your sample on a flat surface. Using a tape measure place pins 10cm (4in) apart along a central row (horizontally) and count the stitches between the pins. You can see from the image below that I have achieved 20sts to 10cm.
Using a tape measure place pins 10cm (4in) apart along the central point of the swatch vertically and count the rows between the pins. You are looking to achieve a tension of 24 rows for the Indigo Dreams blanket.
How to make your treble crochet tension sample (US double crochet – dc):
A size smaller hook is used to achieve the treble crochet (US double crochet) tension compared to the double crochet (US single crochet) tension. This is because the space between stitches grows depending on the length of the post of the stitch.
Using 3.5mm hook make 26ch.
Foundation Row: skip 3ch (counts as 1tr), 1tr into each ch to end, turn. (24sts)
Row 1: 3ch (counts as a 1tr), skip st at base of 3ch, 1tr into each st to end working final st into 3rd ch of 3ch made at beginning of last row (tch), turn. (24sts)
Repeat last row until a total of 12 rows have been worked (including foundation row).
Lay your sample on a flat surface. Using a tape measure place pins 10cm (4in) apart along a central row and count the stitches between the pins. You can see from my image that I have achieved 20sts to 10cm.
Using a tape measure place pins 10cm (4in) apart along the central point of the swatch vertically and count the rows between the pins.
What to do when you have achieved a different tension to the pattern:
If you have done your tension pieces and achieved more stitches and rows to 10cm (4in) this means you are working too tight. Rather than trying to change your crochet method by consciously crocheting looser, simply change up to a size larger hook. If you are still too tight then try another size larger. Make a note of how many sizes you have had to change by so that you are sure to make the swap for each of the hook sizes.
If you have done your tension pieces and achieved fewer stitches and rows to 10cm (4in) this means you are working too loose. Rather than trying to change your crochet method by consciously crocheting tighter, simply change down to a size smaller hook. If you are still too loose then try another size smaller. As above, make a note of how many sizes you have had to change by so that you are sure to make the swap for each of the hook sizes.
Pre-blocked and Blocked Tension:
The measurements given in most of my patterns are for pre-blocked sizes throughout. Measuring to a pre-blocked size rather than a blocked size is more accurate as you could over stretch your work in the blocking process.
Once the project is complete I do advise you to wash and block it before using it. This process will alter the tension slightly and will make the yarn appear smoother and the drape will improve.
Factors that can affect your tension:
Many things can make a difference to the tension you achieve. I have listed 5 of the most common below:
1. Your level of expertise:
If you are a newcomer to the craft of crochet you may well find that your crochet tension will change as your ability improves. When launching into a project like this it is worth making sure you have put in enough ground work to ensure that you are working in the right way and that you have the ability to work consistently.
2. Your mood or situation:
If you are a bit stressed or have had a bit of a tough day you may find your crochet tension is affected. Equally, having a few glasses of wine or watching a funny or enthralling movie whilst crocheting can also cause your tension to differ. As a general rule try to crochet in the same kind of situation whenever possible to ensure that everything stays as it should.
3. Hook size:
Make sure you are using the correct size hook.
For the most part of the Indigo Dreams project, for example, you will be asked to use a 4mm (US G/6) hook. Please check that you have not mistakenly used a UK 4 (imperial size) or a US 4 or 4/E.
4. Number of stitches:
It is quite common to achieve the correct tension on a swatch only to find that it is not correct over a larger piece. This is because tension can change as we relax into the rhythm of a repetitive crochet action. Measure your tension at all the places I ask you to within the pattern just to be sure you are continuing to work at the correct tension.
Having trouble with your tension over treble crochet (US double crochet)?
Look at the way you work the stitch:
Because of the nature of a treble crochet (US double crochet) it is common to find variances in stitch length and width even if the correct hook has been used in relation to the one used to achieve the correct tension over double crochet (US single crochet)
When we make a treble crochet (US double crochet) we wrap our yarn around the hook first and then work 3 movements, drawing yarn loops through others to create the stitch. The tension achieved over each of these movements and the angle at which we hold our hook can have an impact on the tension of each step of the stitch.
Why you need to change hook size when you are told to:
The reason you will need to change hook size is to do with the tension achieved over different stitches. When you make a fabric using a dense stitch like double crochet (US single) you have very little room between the posts of your stitches, whereas when you work with stitches that have a longer post, such as treble crochet (US double) the space between the posts of the stitches gets bigger.
I recommend the use of a 4mm (US G/6) hook for the majority of the crochet within the Indigo Dreams project, but there are places where you will need to swap down to a 3.5mm (US E/4) or up to a 4.5mm (US 7). As a general rule, look out for hook changes when working treble crochet (US double crochet) and slip stitches.
Changing hook sizes can be a bit of a pain, but it is made easier if you have colour coded hooks – even a dab of different shades of nail polish on your crochet hook handles can make the process of identifying hooks easier.
If you still cannot attain the correct tension:
When working in rows it is more important to get your stitch count right rather than your row count.
If you have spent a little time attempting to get the right tension and are correct for the stitches but still find that your row count is short, simply add in a few rows of extra crochet. In the case of Indigo Dreams – Chambray pieces, you could easily add a row or 2 extra, keeping the stripe sequence correct. Doing this could slightly affect your yarn use for the project but, as attaining a tighter row tension means that you are working a little tight anyway, it shouldn’t make too much of a difference. It might be worth making sure you do not use too much more of the shades that have tight yarn usage though.
If you find that you have the stitch count right but have too many rows, then simply undo a few rows so that you have the right measurement for the swatch.
I hope that this information has gone some way to help those of you who might be struggling a little with crochet tension, or those who do not understand why it is important!
Don't forget that the main target of crocheting is to have fun!
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