Sunday, December 11, 2016

Top 5 most read blog articles

I've published 250 posts on this blog to date. Wow - that seems like a huge number. I thought for my final post of 2016 I'd give you a list and links to my top 5 most read posts of all time.

1. Five reasons to join a CAL August 2016
2. How to locate a yarn store while away July 2016
3. Butterfly Garden Cocoon Shrug January 2016
4. How to substitute yarn October 2015
5. Peyton Heart Project August 2015

I'm taking a little break from blogging for a while. I have a new research client so I need to free up some hours starting January! I'm an independent market researcher as well as a crochet teacher. It's all fun! Knowing me I'll miss writing and posts will start up again before long!

Anyway, please don't feel bereft - you can still reach me and see what I'm up to in the wonderful world of crochet on TwitterInstagram, Facebook and Ravelry. I'm @craftyescapism Please do get in touch! I really would like to hear from you.

Have a wonderful holiday y'all!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Christmas & charity crochet hats

Occasionally I come across a pattern which I adore and just want to make over and over again. It's called Reversible Strands and has been favorited on Ravelry almost 8000 times so evidently other hookers are loving this pattern as much as me! The swirling lines of the cable / front post stiches are very pleasing to me.

At my charity crochet group Yak & Yarn we have decided to move onto making hats for the homeless this winter as well as scarfs so I was looking on Ravelry at crochet men's hat patterns and came up with this one. The designer, Nancy Smith, is particularly talented with crochet cables. Looking at her website, NLS Stitchings, I discovered that she is friends with the amazing Margaret Hubert and has two stunning patterns in one of Margaret books which is also one of my favorite crochet books: The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet (2nd edition) 

I haven't exactly followed the pattern, I almost never do, but I am very happy with the resulting hats that I will give as gifts. The bright one is for one of my dearest friends in the UK and I made a more manly one for my brother. I will make more with my Yak & Yarn group for charity.

Crochet cables seems very on trend right now. The Fall edition of Interweave Crochet focuses on crochet cables with 10 cable projects and even tutorials for those new to cables from experts.

I have also flicked through a copy of the recently published Celtic Cable Crochet by Bonny Barker in the yarn store where I work. The Lavena Poncho on the front cover is even making the knitters want to learn to crochet! It is fantastic!

Let me know if you've been making anything with crochet cables recently. And have a great week y'all!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Review of Simple Crocheting by Erika Knight

Last year my children treated me to a shopping spree in Half Price Books for Mother's Day. I cleared out almost the whole crochet shelf. One of the titles that I selected on sight was "Simple Crocheting" by Erica Knight, bought because I'd seen a copy at the yarn store where I work. The books there are carefully curated and there aren't many on crochet so I knew it had to be worth buying.

This year I heard Fay and Lynne from the Crochet Circle podcast interview Erika Knight, their "icon", followed by Vickie Howell interviewing Erika for her Craft-ish series and realized just how famous and talented Erika is. It was time to have a look at that book that was sitting on my bookshelf still unopened. I hadn't even realized Erika was British like me!

The book, written for complete beginners, has three main sections: Materials and Techniques, Stitch Library and Project Workshops. There is a fantastic personal narrative running through the book giving advice and tips from Erika herself. I particularly like the pages on controlling the yarn in the technique section by the Index Finger or Middle Finger method and the note on tensioning the tail. I will use this information for my students.

The choice of stitches to put in the stitch library is pure genius. I own a number of stitch dictionary books containing hundreds of possible stitch patterns to choose from but Erika has picked her favorites (and they are fantastic) and then given examples of the types of yarn and projects that suits the specific stitch pattern.

There are twenty wonderful projects in the final section varying in difficulty. The color choices for the projects are fantastic. I'm sure everyone would find several projects that they would like to make. I made a modified version of the fingerless mittens for my sister in law as a Christmas gift in festive red.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Review of Yarn the Movie

I hadn't expected to be able to watch this film at a local movie theater but yay, Yarn the Movie came to Houston TX this week as part of the Houston Cinema Arts Festival. A friend of mine shared details of the upcoming film to my Facebook page. I would have completely missed it!

This documentary, made by Montreal-based Icelandic director Una Lorenzen interweaves the stories of four inspiring artists who work with yarn. The film is as visually gorgeous as I'd expected. It starts off in the best way possible with Icelandic lopapeysa sheep (I love sheep, don't you?) and then moves from Iceland to many different locations worldwide showing examples of the four artists' fantastic work. I was already familiar with two of the featured artists: Brooklyn-based Polish crochet graffiti artist Olek's and Japanese artist Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam who makes amazing giant crochet playgrounds. The film also features the charistmatic Icelandic graffiti artist Tinna Thorudottir Thorvaldar and Tilde Björfors, the founder of the Swedish circus company Cirkus Cikör. The best part of the film was listening to these amazing women talk about what yarn meant to them. There was too much to digest in just one viewing so I'll be putting the digital pre-order on my Christmas wish list.

There was a discussion afterwards with Mary Goldsby, founder of Urban Yarnage, a Houston-based group of knitters and crocheters who design and develop fiber street art projects. The audience, having just watched the film, were eager to hear how they would go about yarn bombing Houston. Last year I was lucky enough to see their Buffalo Bayou project created in celebration of International Yarn Bomb day June 11th 2016. Gorgeous!

I'd love to know in the comments below if you've seen the film and what you thought!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Making Christmas is underway

I'm underway with gift-making for my handmade Christmas. Living in Texas with family members in England, Scotland and France I need to get a wriggle on. I fell in love with overlay crochet technique and my staple gift this year is the Starry Dream Hanging Ornament by Tatsiana of Lilla Bjorn Crochet. I have been making these in large quantities using cotton yarn from my stash.

I love this pattern and the photo doesn't do the star justice. The overlay crochet technique makes these stars three dimensional.  After crocheting two identical stars, I join them together with single crochet in the back loop. The yarn ends are on the wrong side and I don't trim them but leave them long to give the stars a little padding. And I have a guilty admission to make - I am knotting the yarn ends together and leaving the tiny knots on the wrong side too. I tell my students to never leave knots but they can't be seen and it's making the colorwork so fast and easy. Perhaps that's why I am so addicted to making them! Here are my stars in a more traditionally festive colorway.

I'd love to know how your handmade Christmas making is coming on. Have you made a start? Do you have a go-to pattern? Let me know!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Lining my peacock tail bag

I have finally lined my peacock tail bag! Hurray! I put it off for several weeks after the CAL ended making up ridiculous excuses because I'm not as passionate about sewing as I am about crocheting. I have made so many crochet and knitted bags over the years and I just don't use them as much as I should because they are not fully functioning bags without a lining. It wasn't going to happen this time. Of course, I ambitiously decided to insert a zipper making the exercise even more daunting and leading to further delay. 

The lining is leftover Kaffe Fasset material purchased five years ago from quilting shop Poppy Patchwork in my old neighborhood of Westbury on Trym in Bristol. I bought this glorious fabric to line a knitted Debbie Bliss cable bag that I made in 2011 Fiddly Fushia Bag. This was the last and only other time I have lined a bag!

I told my Friday workshop students that I was going to line the bag making up a whole host of excuses for the delay and they teasingly told me "challenge yourself" - a phrase that I am very fond of saying to them! My sweet crochet friend Jodie who writes the wonderful Lupey Loops blog also encouraged me. I do find telling fellow crafters about my plans stops me from procrastinating quite as much! 

I started with the peacock tail bag cal lining tutorial from Lilla Bjorn Crochet for a general idea and then visited my local sewing studio Thimblefingers to buy my interface and zipper so that I could get a few more tips on how exactly I was going to go about making the liner with the zipper. The best tip from the extremely helpful owner was where exactly I should attach my liner. I had envisaged sewing it an inch or so below the opening but I was told that the seam would be more robust if I chose the existing natural seam between the colorful rounds and the band around the top. My lining isn't perfect but I am very pleased. I know that I will take my bag out far more now that it has a zippered lining. I even added a cellphone-sized inside pocket. Go me!

I found two helpful online tutorials for adding zippered linings to crochet bags if you're feeling inspired to have a go. Fab crochet designer and blogger Stephanie of All About Ami has a tutorial for a lining with a zipper and a circular base: Crochet Zipper Pouch. Stephanie gave a link to a second helpful photo tutorial from super crochet designer Jesseyz of Chocolate Mints in a Jar Zippered Lining Tutorial.

Well now that I've achieved this I'm feeling confident enough to make a project bag or two. I'm going to use this super cute project bag tutorial from the talented Sam, crochet designer, blogger and podcaster from Betsy Makes.

If you'd like to tell me about your experiences with lining a bag, please do let me know in the comments below. Anyway, do have a wonderful week y'all.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Crochet Podcast Roundup

I love, love, love listening to podcasts. I haven't shared any of these with you for a while so here's a little roundup of recent crochet podcasts for your listening pleasure.


I just discovered a super new-to-me crochet podcast from Potter and Bloom which started back in May this year. Late to the party again! I am currently binge-watching these video podcasts. I spotted the #crochetgirlgang hashtag on Instagram a while back and Emma Potter, the podcaster, is the head honcho of this movement. How cool! She's a freelance crochet designer, maker and teacher. Emma has great taste and is a little cheeky in a very good way. 

And I found another fantastic new crochet video podcast Crochet Cakes which started in June. Clarisabeth is a super sweet crocheter who lives in tropical Puerto Rico. She likes to crochet and bake hence the name Crochet Cakes. I am so enjoying seeing what she makes because we also have hot weather here in Houston. When we moved here from the UK four years it was a real issue wondering what people crocheted and knitted in hotter climates.

And of course I continue to listen to the truly marvellous monthly Crochet Circle podcast which I reviewed on this blog back in May. I just love listening to the always entertaining Lynne and Fay. They are hilarious and highly interesting ladies. 

And while I'm at it here are some one-off crochet podcasts which I've enjoyed in recent months:

Vickie Howell, knitter, crochet and craft designer based in Austin, Texas interviewed Twinkie Chan on her podcast Craft-ish. Twinkie is a crochet food designer - isn't that the best job title EVER? You must have seen her designs! My most favorite recent design of hers is the Giant Donut Floor Pouf. It's it great?

Kara Gott Warner, self-described Obsessed Knitter, Podcaster, Maker and Mindfulness Junkie, in her Power Purls podcast which is usually focused on knitting has recently interviewed two crochet designer greats. Yay! You don't want to miss these: Dora Ohrenstein and Robyn Chachula

Well, that should keep you going for a while!! If you've heard/watched any other great crochet podcasts recently I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Mainly hooking crochet borders

Recently I have been hooking crochet borders for a program that I taught earlier this month at my local knitting guild: Houston Knit at Night for the Chicks with Stix chapter. There were 20 odd ladies - the largest number I have taught in one go but as I reminded myself they were all learning the same thing. My regular weekly workshop involves helping up to 12 students with their own specific requirement on the individual crochet (or knitting!) project that they are working on. And I also teach one-to-one lessons.

I did A LOT of preparation for the program. As well as watching Edie Eckman's wonderful Craftsy class on borders (reviewed here on this blog), I made samples, wrote a handout and just had to buy three books on borders: 

My favorite was probably the book by Edie Eckman. I like the way she provides border design charts as both horizontal borders as well as actually going around the corner. Edie doesn't leave you guessing what to do. Kristin Omdahl has a very modern take on borders and edges in her book and unlike the other two has project patterns which include the featured edgings. One of these is the incredible Memphis Bag which I am just going to have to make. It's gorgeous! Linda Schapper's book contains the largest number of borders of the three and I love how Linda categorizes her borders into different types. If I wanted a shell border I could look through dozens of patterns to find the one I like best.

For my samples I picked out single color borders from my new books, trying to show a range of different types of stitches (picot, shell, post stitch, bobble etc.). I also prepared square samples of simple border stitches on knitted squares: single crochet, picot, shell and crab stitch.

I gave the ladies prep work too: to bring a knitted square to add a crochet border to. I was impressed that almost everyone had actually done their homework and arrived with their squares ready to learn.  By the end of session I was admiring many pretty shell borders. Marvellous!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hill Country Yarn Crawl to my nearest store

On Thursday this week I travelled with two of my Yak & Yarn group friends to our nearest Hill Country Yarn Crawl participating store: WC Mercantile in Navasota, Texas. I had to wear my cowboy boots of course and take my overlay crochet Peacock Tail bag which I've been showing off a lot lately.

The staff were lovely and the store spacious with lots and lots of wonderful yarn to touch, much of it local. I put my name down for a door prize, picked up my two exclusive patterns: the knitted Lampasa Cowl, crocheted "Balcones Escarfment" and started squishing... As I type this I've just received messages in my Ravelry account for the patterns so I have hard copies AND they are also now in my library. Thank you SuperSteph!

I was so happy with my haul! I bought two skeins of Gussie by Austiana  (merino/silk light fingering weight, top left). This was a local featured crawl yarn with 25% off. Along the bottom of the photo are my three skeins of Tahki Yarns Cotton Classic Lite mercerized cotton in Christmas colors to make overlay crochet stars. My friend Erin who is fantastic at working out which colors go together helped me chose. And finally I couldn't resist Wild and Wooly Woolworks and Mountain Colors Bearfoot sock yarn. Crochet socks are ALWAYS a good thing.

Lunch was a yummy chicken sandwich at the Java Hot Spot Café and we visited Martha's Bloomers Garden Store and Tea Room too. I didn't even get my crochet hook out of my bag despite being a passenger - far too much chat! And we timed our road trip to perfection making it back to Houston for kids finishing school. Can't wait to get started with my new yarn!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A new technique - Tunisian Simple Entrelac

I'm always trying out new crochet techniques. It's one of my favorite things. And last week I decided to have a go at Tunisian Simple Entrelac stitch. There is a written description and a chart in my favorite crochet bible: The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet by Margaret Hubert I am usually pretty good at reading written patterns and charts don't freak me out either but this stitch had me totally flummoxed. After an hour or so of trying to figure it out I went to google for a video. Mikey of the Crochet Crowd has a extremely good one on this technique: How to Tunsian Crochet - Entrelac Blankets in Rows and this did the trick. I was once more diving into my donated yarn stash and here's my rather seasonal charity blanket. It's all about the pumpkins right now in Texas.

I found making these cute little textured squares incredibly absorbing. I've had a little go at Tunisian before but I didn't fall in love with the technique. It was one of the required swatches when I took my second Craft Yarn Council certificate back in late 2014/early 2015. I recall taking the longest time to figure out what to do with the edges of my swatch. I'm not quite sure what I was doing. I just wasn't happy and ripped it out half a dozen times. I did like the texture of the completed swatch a lot though when I finally got there.

Three things that I now know about Tunisian Simple Entrelac stitch are:
  • You can use a standard crochet hook rather than a Tunisian hook for entrelac since you only have at most 7 loops on your hook (well for a six stitch wide square).
  • You must chain the number of stitches you want for the whole width of your blanket before you get started.
  • You use a crochet hook two sizes larger for Tunisian crochet than a standard crochet hook because the resulting fabric is extremely dense.

There is an amazingly gorgeous top I might try now I that have mastered entrelac technique: Yoga Top by Elena Fedotova  Take a look at it. I'm sure you may well be tempted too!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Book Review of Indispensable Stitch Collection for Crocheters

This summer I was bitten by the crochetalong bug and took part in three CALS, one after the other. CAL #2 was an interlocking crochet scarf designed by Maria Segares for the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) Summer CAL.

Many CALs have prizes, chosen randomly from those who complete the project and post a photo of it. And I was absolutely stunned to find out that I was a winner. There were several prizes for the CGOA CAL and I won Melissa Leapman's Indispensable Stitch Collection for Crocheters 200 Stitch Patterns in Words and Symbols. If you check out my blog post where I wrote about the CGOA CAL Five Reasons to Join a CAL this was the prize that I wanted most.

I firmly believe that everyone who crochets should own a stitch dictionary. It's an essential resource if you're a designer. And even if you're only getting to grips with basic crochet stitches this book would be perfect for expanding your crochet skills.

Each stitch pattern is described in written and charted form and accompanied by an appealing brightly-colored crochet sample. Some of the stitch designs are familiar, many are unique to this book and some just jump out at me from the page saying "make me now!" I know this is going to be a book that I return to again and again.

There is a wide range of stitch designs to appeal to crocheters of all skill levels. The stitches aren't rated by difficulty but you generally figure this out by looking at the written pattern, specifically by looking at how many words there are in each row and the number of rows there are in total. The Stitch Collection is grouped into: Simple Solid Patterns, Shell and Fan Stitch Patterns, Openwork and Lace Patterns, Textured Patterns, Colorwork Patterns and Edgings. Reversible patterns are helpfully highlighted with a special symbol if you're making a project where you'd see both sides. The resources section includes super information on abbreviations, a glossary of symbols, tips on reading crochet charts and diagrams of how to do basic stitches and stitch variations.

Melissa suggests trying out the patterns you like by making six inch squares and in the process creating an assortment of spa washcloths or useful dishcloths: the perfect gifts with holiday time approaching. I'm going to get hooking right now!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Bobble Blanket

The charity blanket-making continues in my Yak and Yarn group. My latest make is the Bobble Blanket. One of the other members of my group gasped "that would drive me crazy" but I found the repetitive bobble-making extremely soothing. Yarn over, insert hook, pull up yarn, repeat, repeat....... When my life is complicated and overwhelming sometimes mindless making in cute colors with my hands is the perfect antidote.

The bobble stitch is one of the nine squares from the Sampler Blanket that I designed this summer and wrote about a few weeks back here. I am slowly editing the Sample Blanket pattern as members of my Yak and Yarn group make their own glorious versions and give me their feedback along the way. I am hoping to publish the pattern on Ravelry at some point too. Well that's the plan! Other things with a higher priority keep getting in the way. The bobble was a favorite square so I decided to make an entire blanket in this stitch. Each one of the nine squares in the Sampler Blanket could feasibly be used to make a blanket.

Bobble blanket method:
Please note that I am using US terms and Craft Yarn Council standard abbreviations

To make a bobble: *Yo, insert hook in next st, yo, draw yarn through st and up to level of work. Rpt from * 3 times in same st, draw yarn through 7 loops on hook.

Ch a multiple of 2 + 1 (each multiple will give you one bobble)

Row 1: Sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc to end.
Row 2: Ch 3, *skip one st, booble in next st, ch 1. Rpt from * to end, bobble in last sc.
Row 3: Ch 3, *bobble in ch st, ch 1. Rpt from * to end, bobble in last ch 3 space.
Rpt row 3 as required. 
I used mainly worsted weight but did double up a lighter weight yarn for one of the off white sections. I used the yarn I had, stash-busting my donated yarn, so had to improvise a little. My blanket has 50 bobbles per row and measures approximately 34" x 34" It's a square which surprised me because I thought I'd made a rectangle before I got out my measuring tape. The stripes create an optical illusion. I made five stripes in three colors of 12 rows each: off-white, bubblegum, rosewood, off-white, bubblegum.

The one downside of the bobble is that it is extremely yarn hungry and I used up A LOT of our donated yarn stash. But it looks great and this particular blanket has been donated to an upcoming charity raffle. I am sad to see it go because it's cute stripes and fun texture made me quite happy. I can always make another!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Review of online class

I took my first ever online class this month: Fantastic Finishes, Edgings and Borders by Edie Eckman. I've been asked to teach a crochet program at my local chapter Chix with Sticks of the Houston Knit at Night Guild. (I'm wondering how I get myself into these things!) I've decided to teach crochet borders for knitted projects since the majority of the members are knitters and this is a popular request from the knitting folk in the yarn store where I teach. And now inevitably I feel compelled to become a master at crochet borders. And to do this I have to learn from a guru in this field and for me that would be Edie.

I already have two Edie Eckman titles on my bookshelf: Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs and Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs  And when I signed up to take my Craft Yarn Council knitting certificate I was assigned Edie as my master teacher. How daunting! She assessed my knitted swatches and interviewed me over the phone. (I passed but I'm a better crocheter!) 

Anyway the Craftsy class did not disappoint. It was really comprehensive and even had a section on crocheting on knitted borders. Perfect! I learnt A LOT. For beginners there are close up shots of Edie adding borders. She demonstrates two simple and three fantastic advanced borders. The written patterns and charts for these are provided in the class materials to print out. It was easy to pause and move through the lessons. There are also Q&As down the right hand side of the screen for students to ask questions and Edie replies. How useful!

I like the fact that when I returned to the Craftsy website I was right back at the place where I left off. There are seven lessons in this class and the longest ones are almost 30 minutes in length so you're not going to go through the whole course in one go.

So online classes get a big thumbs up from me and thank you to Edie for continuing to share her knowledge and skills. I'm now confidently hooking up border samples for next month's knitting guild program...

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Overlay Crochet technique

I couldn't help myself from jumping on the CAL (crochetalong) bandwagon again. This time I'm making a bag (or purse as they call it here in Texas) designed by the wonderful crochet designer Tatsiana Kupryianchyk aka Lilla Bjorn Crochet  from the Czech Republic. I'm on part five and having such fun learning another new technique - overlay crochet. 

In one of my recent book purchases Crochet Master Class (I wrote a book review here) there is a section devoted to this technique by Melody MacDuffee. She writes:

"I had always wanted to create something in the medium of crochet that looked like a mandala or stained-glass rose window. When I eventually found my way into this technique, I knew I was there."

The book describes Overlay Crochet far better than I could:
"densely textured cable crochet with color changes on every row or round...long stitches cover up horizontal rows or concentric rounds behind them...unwanted ones disappear like magic"
Tatsiana's CAL pattern is well written with very clear photos and video support. And I'm extremely impressed that this CAL has been translated into Dutch, German, Spanish, Swedish, Finnish, Danish, French and Hebrew. Following the hashtag #peacocktailbagcal I can see versions of this bag being made all over world. So cool! I find myself leaving comments "beautiful", "wonderful colors"... and wondering if the recipient can read English but Instagram helpfully has a translate function.

In my mind I can visualize overlay crochet as the perfect technique for a Christmas tree ornament. And Tatsiana has three gorgeous ornament patterns for sale. My favorite is her Starry Dream design.  Now if I can resist another CAL I might just make some as gifts.

Have a great week y'all and please do let me know if you've tried overlay crochet before or if you're feeling tempted!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Hill Country Yarn Crawl

Woah! Look what arrived in our post this week - a yarn crawl on the front cover of our AAA members magazine (that's breakdown cover). Fantastic! My husband commented "I can't escape!"


The 10th annual Hill Country Yarn Crawl takes place at 19 different yarn stores in Central Texas from October 7th-16th. I really need to start planning how I can get myself along to at least a small part of the action.

I have never been on a yarn crawl before but according the website it works as follows: purchase a Yarn Crawl passport for $15 either on the website or at a participating yarn store. With this you receive a commemorative stitch marker (and bag for the first 1000 participants), two exclusive patterns at each store you visit and a 25% discount on the yarns for those patterns. There are prizes and the more stamps you collect (one per store) the more opportunities you will have to win. And if you're on Instagram there are prizes for those posting photos with the hashtags #hcyc2016 and #crawlhawl16 I love it!

I am excited about seeing many of the lovely folk that I met at the Houston Fiber Fest in June this year. Independence Farmstead Fibers are offering private tours of their mill for the first time to the crawlers this year. WC Mercantile will be hosting Blue Bonnet Alpaca Ranch both weekends of the Crawl. You know I can't get enough of alpacas and Navasota just happens to be my closest stop.

Anyway do head over to Hill Country Yarn Crawl website for more details. There is also a Yarn Crawl Facebook page. I just checked out the hashtag #hcyc2016 on Instagram and the stitch marker looks amazing. I can't wait for mine to arrive! And there are already lovely photos of the mystery knit along and crochet along on there. I have just bought the latter and will be playing catch up!!

Enjoy the yarn crawl y'all!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Yak and Yarn is back

My Yak and Yarn group resumes it's meetups this week after a big summer break. I have so missed these sweet crafting friends. In June we moved our daytime meet up to the yarn store where I teach. Our coffee shop venue had become far too busy during the day. I finally decided a change was due after hearing that one of our group had driven around the parking lot three times and then returned home. The back room at Nimblefingers is a peaceful and welcoming space surrounded by beautiful yarn. Aaaaahh, what better? Bliss!


I designed a sampler crochet baby blanket and distributed patterns modified for two different yarn weights before we broke up for summer. I do tend to give myself these self-imposed deadlines. So we will see how everyone is getting on with these! They are my test crocheters and I'm interested to hear their feedback. I haven't yet completed joining my nine sampler blanket squares or decided on a suitable edging but I must do this before the meeting. I know I will be presented with several more gorgeous baby blankets for our charity cause and as the fearless leader of the group I need to keep up!

I had such fun choosing which nine stitch patterns to use in my sampler blanket. One of the great joys of crochet is the huge number of stitch pattern possibilities. It's impossible to ever get bored. I selected patterns from two of my favorite resource books: The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet by Margaret Hubert and The Complete Book of Crochet Stitch Designs by Linda P. Schapper.

My criteria was that they had to have a similar amount of open space to match, be suitable for advanced beginners, have a small number of repeats to easily convert the pattern from worsted to sport weight yarn and have straight edges all the way around for easy joining. On our very first joint charity project, where we all made single crochet squares, joining slightly different sized squares (because everyone works to a slightly different tension) was difficult since single crochet is a dense stitch. Doing the initial joining of my sampler I can see that these more open squares are forgiving and stretchy.

Anyway, do let me know if you'd like a copy of my sampler blanket pattern and once I've had feedback from my group and updated it I'll email you a pdf copy. You can send me a private message via my Crafty Escapism Facebook page or @craftyescapism on Twitter or Instagram.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

I love road trips!

A road trip and a crochet project go together perfectly in my mind. We have just returned to Houston, Texas after a whopping fifteen hour, two day road trip from a week in the mountain biking and waterfall mecca of Brevard, North Carolina. We drove through five further states: South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. I spent a large proportion of the trip just looking out of the window at the countryside, quite different from that of my home country. My hubby and I take turns driving too but I still managed to complete almost a whole shawl, starting the foundation row the day before we left and having just a few rows remaining at the top to complete.

My shawl is Humphrey by Joanne Scrace of The Crochet Project. It's my second make from their Shawls Book Two. I've become quite a fan of The Crochet Project recently. Their tagline is "Think Differently About Crochet" and their mission is to design, write and promote beautiful, modern crochet patterns. 
The first Crochet Project shawl, Missed Kingfisher, was made as a gift and I was quite sad to part with it. Having a photo isn't quite the same.


Next time we go on a road trip I am determined to combine shopping along the way. Ravelry has a tool for just this purpose: The Road Trip Planner. It's on the tab "Yarn" on the left hand side half way down just below the search box for finding a shop. Type in your starting location, your destination and specify how far you're willing to detour. Planning when to stop en-route is my department so perhaps I could coincidentally find a dog park or café next door to a yarn store. Somehow I don't think my family will be fooled for a second.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Five reasons to join a CAL

This month I've been taking part in a fun Crochet-a-long (CAL): the Crochet Guild of America CGOA Layers of Texture Infinity Scarf by the wonderful Marie Segares. And I thought I'd tell you the reasons why I really love being part of a CAL group.

But first, here's a definition of a CAL from 25 Crochet Terms Defined on Kathyrn Vercillo's Crochet Concupiscence blog:

CAL: As the name suggests, this is a project in which a number of people each crochet the same pattern at the same time, often from different locations. It’s a great way to gain a sense of community while crocheting and to create some deadlines for yourself.
1. Improve your skills
My main reason for joining a CAL is to learn a technique that I don't already know. I'm always looking for ways to build my skills. The Infinity Scarf is made in intermeshing crochet which I've never tried before. This technique is also called interlocking crochet and it's very similar to double filet crochet too. Last month I took part in a crochet sock CAL by Rohn Strong in his Crochet Sock Addict group. (I've been a little obsessed with mastering the crochet sock this summer! If you've been following my blog you'd know about this!)

2. Get help if you're stuck
In a CAL you have an opportunity to ask questions. My current CAL has a Facebook Group and a Ravelry thread for this. If you're too shy to ask questions, you are quite likely to find your answer looking at the issues that other people had and the solutions they found. It's also a valuable experience for me as a crochet teacher to see what difficulties people have and how they overcome them. It helps me support my students better when they get stuck. 

3. More likely to finish your project
Another reason to join a CAL is that you are more likely to actually finish your project. Seeing other people post their progress photos is wonderfully motivating! I was having such a hard time finishing a sock (I kept starting new ones) but last month's sock CAL did the trick. The CAL has a deadline that everyone works to. 

4. Being part of a group is fun!
I love the camaraderie of being a part of a group of people who are into the same thing as you are! It's fun to share your photos and see how other people are doing, look at their color combinations, like and comment on each other's progress...

5. And there are prizes too!
Everyone who finishes by a certain date goes into a prize draw. The haul for the CGOA CAL is pretty impressive. I'm not sure if one person gets the whole lot or several people get one prize each. Of course, rather inevitably, I've seen a book that I'd like to buy among the prizes (Indispensable Stitch Collection for Crocheters: 200 Stitch Patterns in Words and Symbols by Melissa Leapman published by Quarto Group)

Here's a super article on how to find and join your first or next crochet-a-long by Marie Segares on her Underground Crafter blog. Why not give it a whirl?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

My podcast debut - woohoo!

This week I made my podcasting debut!! Woohoo! My audio review of the Houston Fiber Fest has been spliced into The Crochet Circle's monthly podcast (episode six) as part of a Shore to Shore Fiber Fest comparison review. It went live on Friday and you can listen to it here: Crochet Circle Podcast How exciting!! I hope you enjoy it.


It all started when I wrote a review of the Crochet Circle on this blog back in May. The Crochet Circle podcast launched the month before and Fay and Lynne the hosts are so fun to listen to. The podcast is about crochet with a little bit of knitting on the side. It's wonderful!

I tried really hard to record my review in one go but I just couldn't pull it off. It was holiday time and my kids were at home. They are so good at keeping quiet while I'm on a client call but this took far longer so I ended recording it in my tiny walk in closet and even then the dog came wandering in looking for me.

I have put a whole load of photos of the Fiber Fest up on a Pinterest board if this is the kind of thing you're into!

And there is a short written review over on the Crochet Circle Podcast Ravelry group on their Fiber Festival Reviews Thread.

So please do head on over, have a listen and let me know what you think.

Have a wonderful week everyone!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Self-sabotaged socks

I have self-sabotaged my latest pair of crochet socks - July's Bluebell from Rohn Strong's 2016 Sock Club by carefully swatching but then putting the wrong sized, too large, but similarly colored hook in the project bag and then getting on a plane from Edinburgh to Chicago and making almost a whole sock without realizing my mistake. Arrgggh! Here is the resulting still wearable, extremely cozy but tad too large sock #1.

I was introduced to a brand new stitch - linked double crochet which seems to lend itself well to sock construction. It's as stretchy as double crochet but dense like single crochet and makes quite an attractive horizontal ridge. The yarn is WSK Western Sky Knits - another wonderful hand-dyed marvel purchased at the Houston Fiber Fest. How I do love scrummy yarn from indie dyers!

And fantastic news - I actually managed to finish TWO pairs of socks since I wrote about my serious case of crochet sock startitis. Writing that article somehow spurred me onwards to completion.

My FIRST ever pair of completed crochet socks are Cabled Socks by Karen Whooley.  As a crochet sock newbie her extremely clear instructions helped me get my head around sock construction for the first time. Thank you Karen for showing me the way!


My second completed socks are Ribbed Socks by Rohn Strong, a crochet sockalong for July in his Facebook group Crochet Sock Addicts. Being part of a Crochet Along (CAL) motivated me to keep going.

I've written more notes about my completed crocheted Socks on Ravelry: Cabled Socks and Ribbed Socks if this is of interest.

I have now developed quite an addiction to crochet socks and I'm feeling ready to start asking family members for their foot measurements! I remember joining the sock club thinking - "one sock a month, surely I won't feel like making them as often as that..." but I've found crochet socks to have just the right amount of challenge, to be the most portable of projects, quick to complete and the resulting handmade sock is so pleasing!

I started the summer looking for the ultimate crochet sock pattern and have discovered there isn't just one pattern but many and perhaps the ultimate crochet project is a sock, well for me anyway!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

How to locate a yarn store while away

I get rather agitated when I'm packing to go on holiday. I panic about being separated from my stash and running out of yarn. It takes me several days to decide on what projects to take whereas the clothes are decided upon in a stress-free half an hour. Of course I am NOT going to run out of yarn. I don't sit around crocheting all day long on holiday. There are other holiday activities taking place. And I also assume I will crochet at ten times my normal rate which I don't. But just in case, it's good to be able to locate a nearby yarn store and it's also fascinating to have a little nosy around the different yarns that they sell. 

  • Ravelry is my usual go to place to locate a yarn store. Once you've logged in, click on the "yarn" tab and on the left hand side half way down there is a search box entitled "local yarn shop directory". 
  • Knit Map is a second searchable database for locating yarn stores worldwide which allows readers to rate, review and update yarn store information. 
  • Find a yarn shop on the UK Hand Knitting Association website is another site for UK shops.
Marie Segares on her Underground Crafter blog has a great article on How to find great yarn stores on your next trip with lots more tips and two more sites to search for stores in the US: 
I managed to persuade my family to do a city tour of Norwich which included visits to two yarn stores Crafty EweNorfolk Yarn AND the haberdashery department of the John Lewis store. Restocked!

Hope these resources are helpful if you are travelling this summer. Craft on everyone!