Crochet Tips for Beginners #1 and a Free Pattern

granny squareSo, you’ve successfully completed a crochet class, taught yourself from Youtube, or maybe a patient friend sat you down and showed you the basics. However you learned  to crochet, there are some things that only experience can teach you.

Faroe cushion frontThis simple crochet cushion is designed to give you some experience in the basics of crochet, choosing a yarn, making a tension square and following a simple pattern. Think of it as a spring board for your own adventures in crochet. Experiment by working in stripes, change the yarn and make a unique accessory for your home that will have all your friends asking where you bought it. You can find the free pattern here.

Let’s start with a few basics.

Choosing a pattern

This can be a daunting process. There are literally thousands of free patterns available on the internet, but remember you get what you pay for. A free pattern is unlikely to have been tech edited (so it may have mistakes), it may use terminology unique to the designer that can flummox a beginner or it might just be brilliant. Choose with caution by looking at patterns from reputable designers, sign up for free patterns on yarn company websites such as Rowan or ask your friends to recommend great blogs.

You can register on the Rowan website for patterns, tutorials and lots more inspiration. Look out for courses run by Rowan consultants at your local yarn store too.

Check out the free Pattern Tab to find my latest free patterns, many of which were first published in magazines, so have been tech edited and road tested by beginners.

Read the pattern through before you start

It sounds obvious, but reading the pattern allows you to highlight things you may not have come across before (such as the slip stitch seam on this cushion), you can look up techniques online, consult a book or ask a friend. Believe me, there’s nothing worse than settling down to an evening of crochet only to come up against a nasty surprise!

Here’s a great slip stitch seam tutorial from Simply Crochet.

Check your tension

Designers give a tension for a reason. If you work more or fewer stitches than the stated tension, this will affect the size of the finished piece and the amount of yarn you’ll need. For example, this cushion pattern gives a tension of 8 stitches to 10cm, if your tension varies, then your cover may be too big and sag or too tight. As a general rule of thumb, go up a hook size if you have too many stitches and down a hook size if you have too few. A point worth noting here is that in addition to the tension given, you must account for a seam allowances, which is why the cushion cover pattern instructs you to work rows of 26dc – slightly wider than 30cm at stated tension – but you’ll need a stitch on either side for  the seams. Making a swatch also allows you to practice techniques, such as the simple button hole on this cushion. You can then take your swatch with you when you choose buttons. That way you’ll get the right size and a great colour match.

Faroe cushion backMind your language

Check before you start whether  your pattern has been written in UK or American crochet terms. There really is no difference to how the stitches are worked, but they do have different names. A UK double crochet is the same as an American single crochet. Most magazines and books have a conversion chart, it an be useful to keep one in your project bag or stick it in the front of a notebook so you can remind yourself.  After a while you’ll find you become fluent in both UK and US terms and can easily convert in your head, but until then always check before you start and be clear on which stitch the designer means. A simple rule of thumb, if a pattern uses “half double crochet”, then it’s definitely written in American terminology – we simply don’t have that stitch name in the UK!

So there you are, a few things you were probably told in class and instantly forgot – you’re not alone – learning a new skill takes time and patience and the humility to admit you don’t know everything. That goes for the teacher too – we’re constantly learning and discovering new techniques – and it’s what makes teaching  so rewarding.

You’ll make mistakes, you’ll give up on projects half way through, falling out of love with the yarn or the pattern. You’ll experience the thrill of saying you made it yourself when someone compliments your scarf or jumper.  Before you know it, someone at knit group, or work or even a friend will say “Can you show me how you did that?” and you’ll be passing on your skills and enthusiasm to another beginner.

But first you have to make stuff. Go to your library and borrow a book, ask advice at your local yarn store, email your teacher and ask for recommendations or buy one of the great UK magazines that are filled with patterns, hints and tips. Have fun, be brave and let me know how you get on.

Happy making

T x

 

Come & Crochet a Beanie

I have just finalised the details of a special crochet workshop on 23rd November. Thimbletown, based at Blakemere Craft Centre in Cheshire are now stocking MyBoshi yarns and patterns and this is your chance to come along and crochet a beanie for yourself or for a gift. MyBoshi Beanies have designs suit all ages and fashion styles and are great fun. The yarn is a blend of wool and acrylic, a practical choice for outdoors. If you have teenage snowboarders in the family, I think this would be the perfect gift. I can even imagine my Mother in Law pulling on one of these to walk the fells.

Boshi is apparently Japanese for hat – and the two German ski instructors who came up with the concept are clearly on to something. MyBoshi yarns come in a fabulous range of colours and there are patterns to suit all skill levels. In fact, even if you’ve never picked up a crochet hook before you’re welcome to come along and try making one.

For all course details and to book, you can contact Pauline at Thimbletown on 01606 883232. This is a full day course, you can either bring your own lunch or buy something delicicious from one of the cafes on site. Thimbletown also stocks a great range of yarns (including Rowan, Debbie Bliss, Louisia Hardng and Bergere de France). I’m really looking forward to this special day on my workshop calendar and hope to see some of you there!

Crochet Class: design Your Own Cushion

2012-09-12 13.42.22On Saturday 15th June I will be running the first of several “crochet improvers” classes at Make with Mabel in Knutsford, Cheshire. This one is all about learning new stitches and the secrets of swatching, tension squares and exploring design.

During the class we’ll cover new stitches and techniques, makes swatches and learn how to design a simple square cushion, like the one pictured above.

All the materials you’ll need on the day are provided and there will also be advice on how to choose suitable yarn for your projects and a list of local yarn and haberdashery suppliers. Lunch and all refreshments will be included.

For full details contact Rebecca at Aunty Mabel’s Seat:

Tel: 01565 650 884 Email: info@makewithmabel.co.uk

Learn to Crochet Classes

2013-05-08 12.35.56I have two “Learn to Crochet ” classes booked at Make with Mabel in Knutsford, Cheshire. The first is an evening class running over 5 weeks, which starts on Wednesday 22nd May. There are still 1 or 2 places available.

Dates: Weds evenings 7 – 9pm: 22nd May, 29th May,5th June, 12th June, 19th June (this is a class for absolute beginners).

The second is a 1 day class on Saturday 25th May which runs from 10am until 4pm.

All your materials and yarn are included along with lunch and refreshments.

For details, call Rebecca at Aunty Mabel’s Seat on 01565 650 884 or email info@makewithmabel.co.uk

 

Make with Mabel

I am absolutely giddy with excitement to share news of a brand new craft studio opening in Cheshire next month.

Based at the Interior design studio “Aunty Mabel’s  Seat”  in Knutsford, a huge range of craft classes, workshops and crafty socials are planned. Rebecca, the interior designer behind the new venture has so many wonderful ideas it’s hard to know where to start to tell you all about it.I’ll be running crochet classes (day and evening) and one off workshops at weekends and weekdays covering all those tips and tricks that every crocheter should know. There will also be knitting (courtesy of my lovely friend Lynne), felting, lampshade making, rag rugging, papercrafts and activities for children!

I’m exhausted just telling you about it.

Launching on 11th May with a chance to meet some of the tutors and see the craft space for yourself, this is going to be the highlight of Cheshire’s crafty calendar! I am absolutely thrilled to be heading back to Knutsford, since the closure of Fibre and Clay, there have been few opportunities to visit and I miss the friendly people, the independent shops, the access to Tatton Park and the fabulous food and drink on offer there.

If you have ever looked at those beautiful craft workshops in magazines such as Mollie Makes, Handmade Living and Craftseller and wished there was one accessible to you, here it is. Just a 5 minute walk from Knutsford railway station and close to the M56, Make with Mabel couldn’t be more convenient for North West crafty types.

Oh – and did I tell you about the Hen parties and the Stitch for Men events? There really is something for everyone here.

You can follow Rebecca on twitter to keep in touch with plans, or contact the shop directly.

Watch this space for more details soon.

Happy crafting xxxx

A Crochet Success Story

The nicest thing about teaching is when you see a beginner come back with their first finished project. It’s fair to say M struggled to pick up the crochet basics and we spent a lot of time after her initial learn to crochet class (taught by the fabulous Sarah Hazell) getting this crochet cushion off the hook!

M is deservedly proud of her first cushion cover and I’m delighted she has immediately bought yarn for her next project. You could say she’s well and truly “hooked”.  My work, as they say is done.

Happy making to M and all of you who are new to the art of crochet!

Let’s Hear it for the Granny Square

The item most people want to make when they come on a Learn to Crochet Course is the granny square. We all seem to have memories of gaudy blankets from our childhood and the chance to create something colourful and useful such as a blanket is very appealing to someone new to crochet.

There are dozens of blogs out there with photos of the most colourful creation, showing that the humble “beginner project” can  be used to show off fabulous yarns and superb colour combinations. The granny square might be the workhorse of the crochet tool box, but is has the possibility to create something beautiful and practical. I’ve seen waistcoats, scarves, shopping bags,  even a coat made from beautiful hand dyed yarns on display in Connecticut yarn store (the owner refused to let me photograph it, worried I might ”steal” her design).

This year I’ve made several granny square blankets, (you might remember my post with photos of my dad’s and mine back in the spring). I currently have a  growing pile of lace weight squares sitting by my sofa (before you gasp in admiration I’m crocheting it “double” on a 3mm hook), no fine lace masterpiece, but gorgeously soft and luxurious nonetheless. I’m hoping it will leave home with “The Teen” next year, a little something to remember her dear old Mum. She’s growing up so fast and away so much just now visiting friends and enjoying the last weeks of summer freedom that I have an idea I’m going to be an unbearable “Empty Nester”.

Do you remember that book “Chicken Soup for the Soul”? I think crochet is my  chicken soup. Always there, reliable, trustworthy and won’t let you down. The gentle rhythm of trebles and chains, repeated each round is both comforting and exciting, when should you change colour, should you make squares or circles, or maybe even hexagons? Do you use yarns from your stash or buy in something new and colourful to match a favourite colour scheme? Even when you only have a few yards of yarn and a hook you can make a granny square, and even just one is the beginning of a treasured family heirloom.

So… tell me … what’s your unsung hero of the yarn lover’s toolkit? I’d love to know.

Tx

ps I’ve now added the baby blanket yarn and pattern details to my Ravelry profile and you can find a tutorial for making a granny square from the Rowan website.

Cool to Crochet?

When did crochet get cool? I noticed recently how many of my friends are learning to crochet and how quickly the Learn to Crochet classes at Fibre and Clay book up. Not to mention the requests I get to host crochet parties for Hen Do’s or Baby Showers. It’s lovely to see a blanket appear from an afternoon’s fun and gossip. Something a bride or new mum can treasure forever.

When I was a teenager in the ’70’s my Dad made us long fringed waistcoats, full length dresses with puff sleeves and our house had more crochet lace doilies than you could shake a stick at. But, then came the 80’s and I hid my multi coloured granny square blankets under the bed when friends came round and the only time Dad got out his hook was to make christening shawls or matinee coats for new babies in the family (whatever happened to matinee coats I wonder).

From the archive, made by Dad in the 1970's and still cool!

In the last couple of years I’ve lost count of the number of crochet garments on the fashion catwalk, discovered some  talented designers like Linda and Emma who make crochet fun, useful and above all stylish. Look out for their patterns in Inside Crochet Magazine (which incidentally has a great new blog, you should drop by and say hello).  For once it seems I was “ahead of the curve”, I’m making the most of it, because I’m sure it won’t last.
It made me wonder, have you recently discovered crochet? And, where do you go for patterns and inspiration?
Happy hooking
Tracey x