Sunday, November 4, 2018

Coastal Crochet

Hello! I'm back with another blog post!  Feeling refreshed after our half-term holiday in North Cornwall with my hubby, the kids and the dog. We spent cold but sunny days hiking different parts of the gorgeous coast path, enjoying views of the dramatic cliffs, exploring secluded beaches, rock pools and caves at low tide, cooking on a Rayburn stove in our cosy cottage and visiting a number of dog-friendly pubs. We used to visit this beautiful part of Britain every year in the Fall/Autumn before we moved to Texas. It was so good to be back after seven years! Our kids can certainly walk a lot further now!

Cornwall was a very fitting location, as Socktober's SockCAL2018 came to an end, for reading, reviewing and starting my first project from Coastal Crochet, a collection of crochet patterns inspired by the west coast of the United States, written by my friend and talented crochet designer Karen Whooley. 

I first discovered Karen when I started making crochet socks and have made several of her designs, socks and shawls, since then. I won a copy of her wonderful last book A Garden of Shawls listening to a live interview with Marly Bird. I test-crocheted Moonlight Socks for Karen, she gave me a discount for her patterns when I was teaching a crochet sock class at Houston Fiber Fest and most recently she kindly wrote a post for us for our Crochet Sock Blog Hop. Karen is wonderful. I could go on...

There are 12 gorgeous projects in Coastal Crochet - six shawls/scarfs, three sweaters/cardigans, a cowl and mitt set, a top and a hat. Each project has full written instructions, charts and a helpful schematic outline.  Karen has used beautiful yarn from indie dyers, which I love. And I've met two in person (and bought their lovely yarn) Karen from Round Table Yarns is from Texas and Nimblefingers hosts a trunk show for Sabrina at Anzula.

I would recommend this book for adventurous beginners or intermediates. The designs call for lace and fingering weight yarn so give fantastic drape but are more challenging to work with. And there are plenty of fun stitches and techniques used in the projects to keep things interesting - foundation chains, post stitches, cables and short row shaping. 

When I look at the designs I can tell that they are going to look even better in real life. I don't if you know what I'm what talking about when I say this. I want them to come out of the pages. I have started the first of the designs, Perspective, because I loved the look of the short row shaping and had suitable yarn in my stash - two balls of variegated silk merino lace weight yarn purchased from Nimblefingers just before we left this summer. 

My next two projects from the book, unless I become distracted which happens so easily, would be Tidepool, a cute hat made from post front double crochets with an intriguing hidden seam and Mist, a gorgeous cardigan constructed from three rectangles. Like Karen I love simple designs that look intricate.

Do head over to Karen's website for more information on Coastal Crochet. Karen sent me an electronic version of the book for free for this review (thank you Karen!) but I also bought a hard copy of the book on to support her marvelous work and I need it on my shelf - I'm an avid collector of the best crochet books out there.

Life is about to become very busy again (back to the day job and a side gig as a trainee crochet tech editor (!!)) so I might not be blogging or podcasting for a while but you can find me on all the social media Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and also on Ravelry as Crafty Escapism. Hope you're all enjoying Fall y'all!

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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Crochet sock making tips

Hello current and future crochet sock lovers!!! This is our first blog post kicking off a series of posts for the Sock Along which starts in two weeks time on Saturday 29th September. I’m sharing some tips that I’ve learnt while making crochet socks for myself and others and also teaching crochet sock workshops. Next week we will have a post from Fay on her Knit it Hook it Craft it Blog on Yarn Choice. 


1. START THICK Try making your first crochet socks with a thicker yarn and corresponding larger hook if you're not used to crocheting with fingering weight yarn. Lightweight yarn can be fiddly to work with and if you're new to crochet socks, having difficulty with fiddly yarn and getting your head around new techniques there might just be too much going on at once.
2. START SMALL If the idea of a full-sized sock is putting you off, why not start with a small sock? I designed a small sock for my students at the Houston Fiber Fest last year and this pattern is available for free during the crochet along. It won’t take as long, you only need a small amount of yarn and you will learn some of the techniques required. Then tackle a full-size sock.

3.   START TOE-UP In my opinion, it’s best to start with a toe-up sock because it’s easier to try it on as you go and make changes if you need to.

4.   JOIN A CAL The absolute best way to make crochet socks for the first time is to join a crochet along. Then you can easily ask questions if you get stuck. If you’re shy about asking, it’s more than likely someone else will ask the same question you were unsure of and you will benefit from lurking around. I made the first pair of socks that actually fitted me in a CAL. We have some very experienced crochet sock makers in Claudia’s Ravelry group thread, and we are setting up a bundle of recommended patterns. The chatter has already begun in anticipation so head over to the Sock It To Me thread and join in (or lurk).

5.   READ YOUR PATTERN Take some time to read the whole sock pattern through thoroughly before you start. You need to visualize the anatomy of your sock before you begin. When I first started teaching my open project classes one of my students asked me about the sock gusset and I realized I hadn’t a clue where or what it was. I had to quickly educate myself. Karen Whooley’s first pattern in her classic book I Can’t Believe I’m Crocheting Socks are color-coded to show cuff, leg, gusset, foot and toe. What a revelation! I recreated this sock for my workshops and it is SO helpful.

6.   CHECK YOUR GAUGE. Like crochet sweaters, crochet socks have to fit well, especially if you want them to function as socks that you wear under your shoes. Your sock will be worked in the round (usually) so work your gauge swatch in the round. If you have too many stitches you’ll go up a hook size, too few stitches, go down a hook size. Hook that swatch again and check your gauge once more.

7.   MEASURE YOUR FOOT. The width is more important than the length since most patterns ask you to repeat until a certain length for foot and leg. Choose a size that is closest to your foot measurement. If in doubt, pick the size smaller than your foot, not larger.

8.   STITCH MARKERS ARE YOUR FRIENDS Use stitch markers to mark each side when working toes and short rows and place one at the beginning of your round when working in the round. Move it up each round. Sometimes I don’t have a stitch marker to hand and I think “I’ll just wing it” but no, it’s a big mistake. When crocheting in the round if you mess up you can count the number of stitches you have in one round if you have a stitch marker in the first stitch. Likewise, if you mess up you can rip back a single round to the stitch marker and try again. Without a stitch marker you’ll probably have to start from the beginning again.

9.   AVOID SECOND SOCK SYNDROME Work your socks two at a time. In other words, hook the cuff of sock 1, then the cuff of sock 2, leg of sock 1, leg of sock 2 etc. This helps you to avoid second sock syndrome. When you’ve made one sock you’ll be really excited, thinking “hurray I made a sock” but you may well have peaked and not have the emotional energy to make sock number two. Another very real danger is you are very relaxed making sock number 1 and then less relaxed when you make sock number 2 (or vice versa) and one sock ends up larger than the other. This has happened to me. The tension of your work changes depending on how relaxed or uptight you feel. You can wind your sock yarn into two balls, weighing them so that they are of equal size. Or I often just use the same ball if it’s a center pull ball, using yarn from the outside of the ball for sock #1 and inside for sock #2. It’s a bit fiddly really. Two balls work better.

10. SACRIFICIAL SOCK The first pattern you try might not work but persevere! Try out a number of patterns with different heels, toes and cuffs to find your personal favorite. Kathryn from Crafternoon Treats in one of her recent podcasts said that your first sock is often a sacrificial one! I’d agree. My first sock didn’t stretch at all. I realized single crochet (US terms) was not the best stitch for a crochet sock and made a better choice for my next pair of socks! It’s all part of the fun!

Hope you found these tips useful! I can't wait for the Sock Along to begin!
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Friday, September 7, 2018

My crafty British life to date

Have been back in the UK ten weeks already. If you're new to my blog I'm from the UK but have been living in Houston, Texas for the last six years (teaching crochet at my wonderful local yarn store Nimblefingers there for the last four). Now I'm back! Mrs Persuasion, Fay from the Crochet Circle Podcast, has asked me to organise a blog hop for the upcoming Crochet Sock Along she's running with Claudia from the Crochet Luna Podcast (for more details see this page) and my kids started school this week so it's time to reincarnate the blog and record my accompanying podcast. 

I have been seeking out crafty folk since I've been back, finding my tribe, that kind of thing. We have an old-fashioned haberdashers, Sew and Sew, which has a selection of wool, in the village where I live (see, I can call it wool not yarn). Very handy. I pop in for a little natter when I can and for the odd purchase. Bath is just 12 miles away so I've managed to visit the fabulous Wool Bath for a squish on a day trip with my kids. And my parents live just twenty minutes from Dundee and the marvellous Fluph store so I've been to visit Leona there. I just can't not go when I'm in Scotland.

There's a very active yarn addicts Facebook group for my local postal area. They have a regular meetup at a local café so I'm making friends there. I've also found another group Bristol Knititiative run by students from the University of Bristol. They make bright blankets for the homeless. I do need charity crafting projects in my life. Next week another group starts up at my local pub. I'll be there with my crochet and a cheeky pint of West Country cider!

And perhaps the most exciting of all - I attended my first British fiber fest - the Southern Wool Show in Newbury earlier this month. I had the most FABULOUS day meeting up with loads of until now virtual friends - including dear Helen, crochet designer and blogger at Making at Number 14 who I ran the Back To School Crochetalong and Blog Hop with last year and fabulous Fay (Mrs Persuasion again) had a stand at the show selling her amazing craft accessories Knit It Hook It Craft It. I also attended a drop spindle class run by the amazing Fiona from A Little Bit Sheepish. Now I can spin! It was the best day ever!! 

I'll be back, next week, on September 15th with the first of the Crochet Sock Along blog posts - my tips on how to make crochet socks. Start psyching yourself up for all things sock! 

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Friday, May 4, 2018

Packing frenzy

I have not been crocheting or knitting much recently partly because our move back to the UK is imminent and there is so much to do but also because I have a shoulder injury. Arrggh. I haven't exactly pinpointed how I injured it. I have been swimming a lot but I suspect it's just overuse and poor posture is a contributor too. I've been visiting a physiotherapist and have read the most incredible book while resting my poor shoulder: Knitting Comfortably The Ergonomics of Hand Knitting by Carson Demers.

Carson is a physical therapist as well as a knitter, spinner, designer and teacher. This book was SUCH a revelation. And although there are a lot of details about best practice knitting techniques I'd say the majority of the book is relevant to crochet too. In fact working on your computer at a desk is very similar to knitting so it's even relevant for non-crafters! Now I've changed the way I'm knitting and have switched to crocheting left-handed (I am soooo slow, it's hilarious to see) and I will also change the way I teach as a result.

A few simple take outs
(from a mass of superb advice in this book)
 that I've embraced are:
craft little and often
slow down
take breaks and stand up

I took part in my first twitter chat in April #hgdcmakersmoment takes place from 3pm-4pm CDT/9pm-10pm GMT run by a very cool young British Crocheter, Knitter, Sewer and Maker Heather Griffith. I loved it. I'm going to try to make it every week. Very fun! Heather also has a super vlog which she started eight months ago. I'm really enjoying it. Check it out: HG Designs Crochet on YouTube.

Since I last blogged, I have found a Facebook Group of fellow yarn addicts in the neighborhood I'm moving back to. I'm going to have some local people to craft with. Hurray! And one member is Alexandra, crochet and sewing addict and founder of Crochet Beginners Group on Facebook which has 90K members  - how amazing is that?! I'm going to be living around the corner from a crochet superstar! Her vlog is: Alexandra from Crochet Beginners Group on YouTube. It has weekly crochet tutorials and my particular favorite vlogs are those on local yarn stores: Wool Bath and Alterknits Universe which is in Cleeve. You know where I'm going!

Last month I also went on a day long craft retreat - the fourth time I've attended this retreat and I love it so. And inspired by the format, I've decided to put together a series of quarterly local workshops once I'm back in Bristol. I have lots of ideas on the content and possible themes. They will obviously be crochet-related, possibly knitting too. I need to find a suitable venue or venues. This will involve lots of visiting yarn stores and other crafty places. I need to start saying "wool shop". I just don't think I can though - wool shop just doesn't sound as sexy as "yarn store."

Anyway, I had better get on with the decluttering and downsizing. Our house in Bristol is quite a bit smaller than our place here in Texas. Being realistic. I'm not going to be blogging or podcasting for a few months with the move happening. So in the meantime you can find me on social media - I'm Crafty Escapism everywhere... Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Ravelry. Craft on friends!!

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Friday, April 6, 2018

We're repatriating!

It's official. I'm moving back to Bristol. Yay! We're repatriating to the UK in June. Our two year adventure in Houston turned into six years and it's the most bittersweet feeling. I've met so many lovely people here in Texas and I'm really going to miss them. I will miss my job teaching at my local yarn store Nimblefingers, my workshop students, my colleagues and inspiring boss lady Chris ....... I can hardly believe I've been teaching there for 3 1/2 years now! And then there are all the wonderful ladies in Yak and Yarn, my charity crochet group. Thank you Yvonne for taking over the communications! I promise to continue providing crochet design inspiration and guidance from across the pond!

Thank goodness I have lots of crafty friends on social media, and plenty of them live in the UK. I may even get to meet them in person! If I didn't have my virtual crochet community, I'd be untangling right now.

I have been doing a lot of decluttering and have virtually stopped buying yarn. I now have all of my stash yarn in four 27 liter plastic containers. Astonishing! Well, it is to me! Garments that I've made but don't wear I am giving away as gifts. Our house in the UK is smaller then here in Houston and I'm aware that our belongings have expanded to fit this bigger space. And yarn has become a much larger part of my life out here and consequently takes up a lot more space. 

I'm not quite sure what life is going to look like once we're back home but I'm determined to continue teaching. And I need a local group to be part of. And if there isn't one I'll just start one up. Oh and I may show up an odd yarn event ..... my crafty British friend Helen mentioned Yarnporium in November. I might have found a place to hide (whoops I mean store) new stash by then.

We leave in just over 8 weeks. I'm not sure if I'll manage to keep up with my monthly blog and podcast. I will try my best but I will be tweeting and posting to Instagram and Facebook and checking into Ravelry. I'm Crafty Escapism in all of these places.

If you're not doing social media or you just want to know when there's a new blog post and I'll keep you updated with the move.

And if you're in my Yak and Yarn group I've already signed you up and hopefully you're reading or listening to this! You can unsubscribe. You're not stuck on my list forever! I do hope we'll stay in touch though. Until next month...

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Friday, March 2, 2018

Hello March! Review of Crochet Kaleidoscope

Short February has flown by and thank goodness I can check my Instagram feed because I forgot to write a list... I've mainly been hooking a fabulous crochet blanket, joining in with the go go granny crochetalong run by super British crochet designer Rosina of the Zeens and Roger podcast. I was dithering a lot before the CAL began on my choice of project and then happy mail arrived from F+W/Interweave, a newly released crochet book for me to review Crochet Kaleidoscope by Sandra Eng who is @mobiusgirl on Instagram.

It's a book of 100 motif patterns and there are five projects at the end including a really standout blanket design which incorporates granny stitches and so qualifies for the crochetalong. The owner of the yarn store, where I teach, loved the design too so I've been hooking it as a sample for the store. Samples sell yarn!

If you don't have a motif book this would be a good one to buy. There is some fantastic color advice at the front of the book. Some people intuitively pick out colors that go together but not me I need a little assistance. It has appealing motifs aplenty in different shapes: squares, circles, hexagons, triangles and others. Each motif has written as well as charted instructions which is something I like to see. And there are several inspiring projects at the end of the book so you can see how to incorporate your favorite motifs into something more than a motif. Here is my Vintage Bauble Blanket in progress. I'm using lovely Queensland Collection United yarn which is a sport weight certified organic wool/cotton blend in the most gorgeous colors.

My #useitorloseit2018 campaign continues. I made the Lilla Bjorn Sweater in February using stash yarn taking part in another crochetalong hosted by one of my favorite designers Tatsiana Kupryianchhyk. I love this sweater and Houston Texas, like many other places, has had a colder than normal winter so I've been able to wear it often and show off.

From March 1st I'll be starting another crochetalong - the Different Designer CAL run by Fay from the Crochet Circle Podcast. Full details are in her Ravelry group but essentially you pick a pattern from a designer who is new to you. I thought I'd try some different crochet sock designers. Do join us in the group and/or use the hashtag #DesignerCAL if Instagram is your thing.

And finally...the kind publishers sent me two copies of Crochet Kaleidoscope so I'm going to offer one of them as a giveaway. Please let me know in the comments below if you'd like my second book and/or send me a message via Instagram Twitter Ravelry or Facebook - I'm Crafty Escapism everywhere! I'll run a little random generator in a week's time and pick one of you. Good luck and have a fabulous March. I'll be back with another combo blog/podcast on April the 6th.

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Friday, February 2, 2018

Stash Busting, Grannies & YouTube

The great thing about writing my blog & recording my podcast monthly rather then weekly is that I have so much content - too much in fact. Here's some of the best bits... The year has started out with me firmly focused on stash busting. This year I'm going to be even better at it than usual because I have Lynne Rowe's Use it or Lose it campaign running for the whole year. I love "-alongs" that go on for the whole year. There is less pressure of a deadline. Some of the rules are a little harsh like removing a pattern from a magazine only if you have stash for it and otherwise giving the magazine away. I just can't do it so I am modifying the rules (I'm a master at modifying to suit) and Lynne says that's OK fortunately. So I am keeping the entire magazine if it contains more than a single pattern and even for the single patterns I'm pulling out I'm kind of optimistically imagining that I have exactly the right stash yarn to suit. Once you get started it's almost addictive. I've got through all my magazines now and I'm putting them into categories in a folder - crochet patterns are sorted into garments/accessories/other and I also have other craft projects and techniques.There are more details on Lynne's blog here on how to take part and chatter in Lynne's Ravelry group. There's also the hashtag #UseItOrLoseIt2018 on Instagram. Lynne sent over a helpful image of how to handle those magazines. Give it a go. Decluttering is very liberating.

Still on the theme of shifting some of my huge yarn collection, the ultimate stash busting project has to be granny squares. And rather conveniently this week the Granny square CAL or crochetalong has kicked off. Yay! It's hosted by Rosina of the Zeens and Roger podcast. I plan to make motifs for a poncho or garment of sorts and also at least one huge granny square blanket to donate. My lovely Yak and Yarn group make products to give to local charities. There are details here on Rosina's blog, chatter in her Ravelry group and a hashtag of course #GrannyCAL18 on Instagram. I found this amazing magazine dating from 1974 while I was decluttering. This one I am keeping unless Rosina really wants it!

The most exciting thing that has happened this year so far ... I've started making instructional videos for YouTube. I am a teacher and I've thought for a long time that this is what I should be doing. I've only got one up there so far so don't get overexcited. My inspiration has been my 11 year old son aka SnakeBoy Dude who recently started his own channel.  I'm recording short clips showing how to crochet different parts of a sock - toe, foot, heel... and so on. I'm using the pattern I wrote last year for my class that I taught at the Houston Fiber Fest: The Leftover Crochet Sock. It's a small toe up sock designed to cover some of the key techniques. I think I'm into double figure subscribers now. Go me!

I hope the start of your year has been fabulous. Are you going to join me in the Use it or Lose it Campaign and/or on the Granny CAL? Do let me know what you thought of my first video too. Have a wonderful month y'all and I'll be back here on the first Friday of March. In the meantime you can find me doing my crochet thing on Instagram, Twitter, Ravelry and Facebook as Craftyescapism. 

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Friday, January 5, 2018

A Book Review of How to be a Craftivist by Sarah Corbett

I realized I was a craftivist three years ago discovering "Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism" by Betsy Greer on a "new and notable in the 700s" display in Houston Downtown Library. Shortly afterwards I was fortunate enough to hear Betsy speak, on the topic, at our fantastic Houston Centre for Contemporary Craft. (I love this place and really don't visit it often enough!) I know we even spoke briefly but I really can't remember what I said now. It was something disappointingly inane because I was feeling so inspired by the talk. The book and Betsy's lecture changed the way I viewed my craft. Craftivism is "using your creativity to make the world a better place" (Betsy Greer, I realized that I was making a difference and it was a wonderful feeling.

I teach crochet and knitting and I can see the positive impact this has on my students firsthand. I run a yak and yarn group where we hook items for local charities. I make items for larger craftivism projects to raise awareness of social issues. I buy local, independent and sustainable yarn whenever I can (that's a lot of buying). But I've realized I have become too comfortable with my definition of craftivism. So I supported and bought a copy of "How to be a Craftivist" by Sarah Corbett on Unbound because I hoped that reading this book would help me to become a more effective craftivist.

And it has been just the book to take my craftivism to the next level. It's a very practical book aimed at "everyone who wants to help improve our wonderful world in a beautiful, gentle and loving way". That's me! Yes!

The definitions at the beginning of the book are extremely useful. Sarah provides a valuable insight with her background in activism and the nonprofit sector.

I kept reading. So many ideas! Here's an excerpt from the book on Slow Activism. Read it! It's so good! The case study on #imapiece - jigsaw pieces crafted for the Save the Children "Race against Hunger" campaign was the one to convince me that craftivism can effectively tackle social injustice.

This amazing book has shown me that craftivism can be more effective and powerful than I'd realized. My advice would be to read the book, take it all in and join the collective too. Buy a hard copy here on the Craftivist Collective website or an Ebook edition here on the Unbound website. Then report back and tell me what you think! 

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