Welcome to this week's Friday Feature Newsletter - the Janie Crow equivalent of a Sunday supplement magazine....
I have been teaching at Missenden Abbey School of Creative Arts for the last couple of days. Both my workshops have been hand knitting orientated - one on colour work yesterday and finishing techniques today - and I have to admit it has made a really nice change to be working on some knitting projects and I have noticed that it really got my brain working after such a long absence away from knit design. I am really looking forward to getting back to my crochet hook next week though.....
I am finding it hard to believe that I am writing the August newsletter already. The weeks seem to be flying past and, with the recent change in weather here in the UK anyway, I have to say it's beginning to feel a little autumnal round here. Fingers crossed some brighter and warmer weather might make me feel otherwise over the next month or so.....
I have a few new things to tell you about this month - so be sure to check out the 'What's New' feature lower down. I also have a colour palette suggestion, an Instagram favourite and a tip of the month, so I hope you are in a position to take a 5 minute break and catch up with the world of Janie Crow before the all important weekend gets underway....
'The English winter ending in July, to recommence in August'
- Robert Byron -
The most exciting news for me this month is that we have a new addition to the Janie Crow team in the shape of Gemma Biggs, who started working with us this week. I am so pleased to have Gemma on board after my call out for help a few weeks ago. Gemma and I have some great plans, including really getting to grips with the Janie Crow Ravelry pages, sorting out some 'proper' social media campaigns and giving Facebook some much needed TLC.
"Hi! I am Gemma and this is me in a nutshell - After being made redundant in 2011 from a highly stressful job in the City I settled down to a quiet family life as mum to two brilliant daughters. Life is a bit complicated as they both have disabilities, but it's never boring! In 2017 I learnt to crochet with a local community charity and have not looked back (ok I've become a bit obsessed)! As well as being great stress relief it has led me on to other crafts such as sewing, which I enjoy when I can. I'm thrilled to be joining the team at Janie Crow!"
The first pattern for the Climbing Rose CAL will be published in Inside Crochet magazine NEXT WEEK and so I have another teaser image to show you that I hope will get you in the mood for the project. The image below shows my initial mood board that I based on the autumn fashion trends as well as some photocopies of original William Morris designs.there are also some images of fabric patterns inspired by his designs too, such as the Molly Blue design by Fryetts, which, alongside William Morris's famous design 'The Strawberry Thief' were the real catalyst for the CAL design.
Yarn kits for this project are currently in stock at Just Knots, Deramores and Black Sheep Wools. The design uses Stylecraft Bellissima, Bambino and Batik, all of which are DK weight yarns. Images are courtesy of Inside Crochet Magazine and the muliti talented (photographer) Leanne Dixon.
The winners of the Delft colouring competition were revealed in Simply Crochet magazine and on my web site a few weeks ago and the free downloadable colour substitution documents, beautifully designed by graphic designer Luise Roberts, are available as free downloads on my web site to coincide with the big reveal. The image above shows all 5 finalist blankets - I think they are all really lovely!
If you think you might want to make one of the new versions of the Delft design you will need to purchase the original pattern, which is available in UK and US terminology and in the Dutch language. Flagship store Just Knots has yarn packs in stock for all 5 new colour ways.
Discovery of the Month
I really struggled to think of a new discovery this month as I have been keeping away from on line shopping and shops in general and have not been alerted to anything new and amazing (!) and then last night in bed I remembered the lovely gift that my fabulous friend crochet designer Jo Smith gave me earlier on this week......
Jo crocheted a lovely sun key ring for me and she had wrapped it in a homemade (recycled) paper bag. The key ring is stunning and I popped it straight on my handbag as a charm, but the exciting discovery was not the key ring, but the way in which Jo had made the gift bag.
Jo had used pages from Vogue magazine to make the little bag my key charm came in, but you can use any paper you have left over or specialist 'pretty' wrapping paper or craft paper. Jo perfected her bag design using the Flow Book for Paper Lovers.
If you click on the image above you can link to a tutorial to make a simple bag like Jo's. If you want to make one with folded sides you can find a video here. Thank you Jo for the inspiration!
Colour Palette of the Month
I visited the Weavers of the Clouds exhibition at the Fashion and Textile museum this week. The exhibition focuses on Peruvian Textiles and is well worth a visit.
The traditional woven and knitted fabrics from Peru were stunning and had a common colour theme so I decided to use one example as the basis of this month's colour palette, although I now see that I have chosen almost the same browny red shade twice!
Maker/Instagram of the Month
Last week I discovered the hashtag for the Persian Tiles Blanket on Instagram - I told you about it in last week's newsletter and featured some images of amazing versions of the design - so I felt that the maker of the month for August had to relate to Persian Tiles.
I have chosen the blankets and cushions made by Cora (chingola_cgj on Instagram) as I love the fact that she has made the matching cushions in just one colour and that one blanket is a direct colour swap compared to the other.
If you want to find the pattern for my original Persian Tiles design follow this link.
Cora also doubles up as my Instagram Favourite this week as I am totally smitten with her feed - it makes me want to run home, pack a suitcase, grab my passport and go off on my travels every time I look at it!
Tip of the Month
Blocking and pressing is the term used to describe the process of laying out your crochet pieces and then either steaming or moistening them in order to make sure they look neater and more even before you begin the process of joining your pieces together.
I think the term ‘pressing’ is extremely misleading as it implies that you should put something heavy onto your crochet and smooth out your stitches, in the same way that you would iron a crease out of a cotton shirt. In my time as a consultant and tutor I have seen many examples of knitted and crochet pieces that have quite literally been pressed beyond recognition. If you are not careful, pressing a crochet piece with a hot iron will destroy the fibres within your yarn and make the stitches flat and your yarn shiny – in some cases (when dealing with man-made fibres) you could even melt or burn your yarn. Once the fibres within your yarn are flattened they will not recover, much in the same way as you can’t un-shrink something that you have washed too hot.
Working through your projects you will put a lot of time and effort into creating your crochet pieces in order to produce beautiful items that you can take pride in and others can admire. With this in mind I suggest that you take plenty of time to make sure that all your pieces are finished in the nicest way possible and so, once you have sewn in all your yarn ends, I suggest you use the following blocking steps:
Prepare a blocking board:
If you want to block your motifs as you go along you may need to make yourself a blocking board this can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be. You can buy special foam jigsaw blocking mats, or pick virtually the same things up in a toy store at a fraction of the cost. You can use the top of your ironing board or a bath towel. I use a folded towel and have a chequered tea towel, which I then lay over the top.
Pin out your pieces:
When blocking out a flat piece, such as a granny square for example, I lay the piece face down on the tea towel, however, because of the 3D nature of this project I suggest that you lay your pieces the right way up so that you can see all the flower petals and leaves.
If you have a clean chequered or striped piece of fabric or tea towel like mine, you can pin your crochet pieces out in line, ensuring they are straight. Use a tape measure to check you are blocking to the right size. If you have a plain background you can mark out the size with pins, or even sew in a tacked framework.
Use long, large headed pins to pin the crochet piece out. You should stretch the piece very slightly and put the pins in as flat as you can. I work from the centre out, marking the central point of each side first, then working towards each corner.
Using steam or a water spray:
If you have a steam iron that you know you can trust and that produces steam without spurting boiling water, you can steam your crochet pieces, but be sure to hold your iron a few inches above your crochet to ensure it doesn’t get too hot. You may want to cover the pieces with a light tea towel or muslin cloth to protect them from the heat and to avoid the absorption of too much water when steaming.
I like to use a cold-water spray and have a pump action plant spray bottle filled with clean, cold water. I then gently spray my crochet pieces until they are slightly damp, but not soaking. Once the yarn has taken in the water I leave the pieces to dry completely before removing the pins.
Crochet pieces love to curl up so there is little point blocking each crochet motif as you complete it because by the time you come to put your pieces together they will have curled up again and will need re-blocking. however if you are making repeated blocks you could use one of the new style crochet blockers as the one made by the lovely Dedri of Look at What I Made and shown in the image below:
Caring for your project:
After putting a huge amount of work into crocheting your project it is important that you care for it properly. I would recommend that crochet projects are washed as infrequently as possible and would advise hand washing rather than machine in order to avoid stretching, bobbling and colour run.
The tumble and spin actions on many modern day washing machines can be quite destructive to hand made products and, if you put your completed crochet project in with other wash items, you could find that you get snags and catches caused by things like Velcro fastenings or clasps. Many machines also leave the item sitting in water during the wash cycle – this is something that can encourage deterioration of the yarn fibres and can cause colour run between yarns and felting. Avoid getting the project wet if at all possible and do not hang in one position for too long as this can also cause stretching.
I suggest that you store your projects in a sealed plastic bags between use and that you are particularly vigilant in regards to the common clothes moth, a creature which can be incredibly destructive to woollen fabrics in particular. Moths are attracted to dirt and will target areas where there are spills or dirty patches so make sure you always treat affected areas quickly. You can use mothballs, lavender bags and pieces of cedar to discourage moths, but if you do find them they can be difficult to get rid of.
It's nearly the weekend!
I am heading home from Missenden later on today and am looking forward to spending some time at home over the weekend. We have some old school friends visiting on Saturday so as usual have our fingers crossed that the weather is going to behave! I think Sunday will be a lazy day - my favourite kind of day!
I am looking forward to some design time in the studio next week and am really looking forward to the launch of the first CAL patterns on Thursday so I will be back here next Friday with more information on that.
I hope that whatever you have planned you have a great time over the weekend and I look forward to seeing you here again next week!
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