Natural Dyeing Workshop

We popped to Lytes Cary last month which is a beautiful National Trust property, and I picked up a leaflet about their Contemporary Craft Weekend in partnership with Somerset Art Works. They were running a series of workshops and one in particular caught my eye – Practical Dyeing Workshop and Foraging Walk, with Flora Arbuthnott. I’d seen something similar on Countryfile recently (apparently I’ve reached that age where people watch it, or maybe it’s the move to the country…), and it sounded intriguing. Little did I know that it was actually Flora who had been on Countryfile!


Anyway the workshop was so popular that I ended up on a waiting list, but thankfully Flora decided to do two workshops so I quickly booked a place. Last Sunday I headed back to Lytes Cary for the workshop set in one of the rustic barns on the property. Flora had brought along her collection of dried and fresh flowers and talked us through the colours we could get using them, some of which were surprising. For example buddleia makes yellow! She taught us about mordants such as symplocos which helps brighten colours, and showed us her copper and iron solutions made from soaking metal in water and vinegar. We used silk, and bundle dyeing using steam to ensure we could make a dyed piece in the time we had.

I couldn’t resist buying some extra fabric to compare the delicate silk with the raw silk so I made two separate pieces. Firstly in the raw silk which is a bit thicker, I used hibiscus, buddleia, rose petals, symplocos and copper solution (basically a bit of everything, I couldn’t help myself!).


And for the more delicate silk I used onion skins, sunflowers seeds and madder, which is a root that produces a gorgeous red colour.

After tightly wrapping the bundles and putting them on to steam, Flora took us on a walk through the gardens where she talked us through both the wild and cultivated plants that could be used for dying. From ivy, to tree bark, berries, to nettles and docks roots, she is a font of knowledge! The foraging walk was a real eye opener and has inspired me to gather more from my garden.


So back to the dyeing….the thinner silk didn’t take as long so I unwrapped that one first, and I wasn’t disappointed, the colours were amazing! All from natural plants and flowers found in the garden! A beautiful mix of orange and purple.


My raw silk piece could not be more different but turned out equally as well – a combination of mustard yellow, green, purply-pinks and even a hint of blue, darkened slightly by the copper.

My raw silk piece is third from the left, and my other piece is next to it on the right

The ease with which you can use plants from the garden for this is amazing, and it is such a simple process when you know more about it. If you get the chance I’d highly recommend going to one of Flora’s workshops (she’s based in Bristol) or take a look at her website www.wilddyedgarden.co.uk – you’ll learn more from one of her workshops than you could learn from a pile of books on the subject. 


I’ll definitely be trying this again at home, and I’m going to be gathering up flowers and plants from my garden – jars of petals would look gorgeous on a shelf, and why waste them? Silk scarves would make lovely presents, and I’m thinking of turning the raw silk I dyed into some lavender bags for Christmas gifts.

Xx

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HiyaHiya Crochet Hooks – Review

The lovely team from HiyaHiya Europe recently got in touch with me and asked if I would like to review some of their hooks – I’d seen them popping up on various websites but hadn’t actually tried them myself so this sounded perfect!

I regularly use all size hooks so they kindly sent me a 1.5mm, a 5mm and a 12mm – and I was immediately drawn to the 12mm – it’s sparkly! And purple! Truly gorgeous to look at, and as it turns out, really nice to work with. It’s acrylic so it’s lightweight, really smooth to use and glides easily through your work. I tested it out on some t-shirt yarn and whipped up this little hook pot, and I can honestly say it was a delight to work with – and did I mention it’s sparkly!😉✨💜

Next up I thought I’d give the 1.5mm a go….a bit daunting as it’s so teeny, but using 2 strands of embroidery thread I worked up this tiny granny square! I thought it would be quite tricky but the hook was really smooth to use. This would be perfect for adding a delicate lacy edge to a project like a tea towel or child’s clothing. (That’s a 10p coin there for scale)


Last but not least I gave the aluminium 5mm hook a go. Because it’s aluminium it’s very lightweight – I used it with some denim tape which isn’t always easy to work with but the hook made it simple (and now I want to make a whole bunch of these little denim stars!)


I should point out that I’ve not been paid to advertise these – HiyaHiya just sent me some hooks and asked for an honest review which I’m always happy to give. These hooks were really nice to work with and I’ll definitely consider them should I need more hooks in future – and the sparkly one would make a brilliant stocking filler (yes I’m already starting to think about Christmas!🙈🎄)

Yarn review 

‘Holly would you like to review some yarn for us?’……they had me at yarn! 

When Hobbycraft’s Knitcraft team got in touch and asked if I wanted to try out some new yarn how could I resist? (I’m pretty sure no one says no to this!)

So when a lovely squishy parcel arrived I couldn’t wait to dive in – these three yarns vary greatly, and it was nice to try something different to my usual go-to yarns. I’ve written a quick review below if you want to hear more…

(This isn’t an ad, I’ve not been paid for this but they did send me squishy yarn to play with 😉)


Phildar Myriade:

This is a fabulously glittery yarn! The loose chain of this yarn is easy to work with, isn’t splitty and not scratchy like some metallic yarns. It would be perfect for adding a bit of sparkle to an outfit with a glitzy trim, and it’s ideal for Christmas decorations!

Phil Flocon:

This is a gorgeous chunky yarn to work with – its fluffy texture is perfect for garments and the glacon shade is a beautiful icy green. It’s really soft due to the alpaca content…im envisioning a winter cowl with this lovely snuggly yarn!

Phil Nuage Legrete
This chunky yarn is a gorgeous blend of merino (72%) and polyamide, making it lovely and soft. It’s really snuggly but light at the same time – it’s like crocheting a cloud! The sable shade is a great neutral, I’d really recommend giving this yarn a try.

African Flower Blanket 🌸

I love crocheting African Flowers – they’re such a pretty design, and I’ve made a whole host of Heidi Bears designs using them – they’re also quick and easy to make in batches. 

My latest blanket is destined for a new baby girl, and they wanted something in pale grey, pink and white – we added in a pale yellow too as I find this design works best with four colours.

I used Paintbox Yarns Simply Aran yarn in Stormy Grey (4 balls), Blush Pink, Banana Cream, and Paper White (1.5 balls of each).

As the blanket is 6×6 squares I made them in batches of 6 at a time, with each group having a different colour combo in the middle/petals. By doing them in batches I managed to get this whole blanket completed in 2 weeks – a good job too as the baby has arrived!


If you’re looking for a good pattern to square off your African Flowers I can recommend this Made in K-Town blog post.

I didn’t get time to measure it before it was collected but it came out roughly 1 metre square and was lovely and cosy due to the Aran thickness.


For the joining I used a flat slip stitch join which have a nice neat finish. I went down a hook size to do the border (I used 5mm for the squares and then a 4.5mm for the border) which was made up of a row of double crochet (sc if you’re using US terms) but making htr’s (hdc) into the point where the squares join. I then followed this with a round of htr in the back loops only, of white, then yellow, then pink.

Anyway here’s hoping it is very loved in its new home, and keeps baby V all warm and snuggly….

‘Colourful Crochet’ Blog Tour

Welcome to the Colourful Crochet blog tour!

Last month the lovely Marianne (aka @marretjroos on Instagram and the lady behind the maRRose blog) asked me if I’d possibly like to review her brand new book – how could I refuse?!


Marianne’s new book ‘Colourful Crochet’ is an absolute delight. It has more than 20 new crochet projects, ranging from lovely cushions for the home, snuggly baby blankets and also fun items of clothing. Unlike some other books, these are all projects I would actually make and have in my home – there’s no ‘filler’ projects in there making up page numbers.

As the title suggests the projects are bright, colourful and cheery, interspersed with photos of the super smiley Marianne modelling her creations – it can’t fail but a bring a smile to your face!

The project that particularly caught my eye was Marianne’s ‘Inez’ Hexagon Blanket. Her colour choices are superb (you can see it on the front cover of her book) but what I really like is that she’s used a join-as-you-go puff stitch to join the hexagons together.  I’ve used join-as-you-go before but never with puff stitch and I think the effect it gives is brilliant. I’ve given it a go with a palette of purples but this pattern is so versatile it could be used with any colours and any size yarn.


The pattern instructions in the book are very clear and concise, and are all marked with a skill level of Easy/Intermediate/Challenging, so there really is something for everyone.


Some other favourites from the book (which have been added to my extremely long list of projects I want to make) are the chunky circular Boho cushion, the beautifully textured cobblestone blanket, and the stunning geometric triangle blanket.

Colourful Crochet is now available to buy on Amazon here – but Marianne has given me an extra copy to give away to one of you lovely lot! So to be in with a chance of winning pop over to my Instagram page to enter!

Wishing you all a colourful week!

Xxx

A Roald Dahl Quilt

I’ve made a few quilts before…the very simple, all squares the same size, then sewn together types…which are lovely but I always felt like I was muddling through it a bit, and wanted to learn how to do it properly. Well luckily after dropping (not so subtle) hints to the husband, he bought me a place on a Patchwork Quilting course! Ten Thursday evenings of learning how to make a proper quilt step-by-step, learning different quilt blocks and producing my first sampler quilt – I loved every second, and think I’ve caught the quilting bug! Check out the quilt course here run by Butterfly Bright in Sherborne, Dorset.

Here’s a couple of pics of my sampler quilt using Dashwood fabrics.


Anyway so after finishing this quilt, I wanted to get started on another one to keep those skills fresh in my mind…and with Pip’s birthday approaching I set about planning a quilt for her. She is a little  bookworm and we often find her in the morning curled up in bed with a pile of books she’s been reading after waking up too early. She’s got a real passion for it and despite just turning 4 this week she’s now at the stage where she can read children’s books to herself. We also listen to audio books in the car (we’ve had some long journeys back and forth to Dorset in the last year and the CDs have been a god send!) Through these she’s discovered the magic of Roald Dahl – I think we’ve actually read/listened to all of them now and she adores them – particularly Matilda who seems to have become a bit of a hero to her (well they’re the same age and both love books!) So when I discovered Ashley Wilde’s Fantabulous Roald Dahl range that was my mind up – they’ve captured all the classic stories we grew up with into a gorgeous range of fabrics – go take a peek! There are various stockists in the UK but I found most were only selling it by the metre, and as I only wanted to do one block per story it would have proved pricey…however I found sellers on eBay who while mainly selling it by the metre, also sold A4 size samples – perfect! Now it is a bit risky as you don’t know what part of the fabric you’ll get, but I only had to reorder one extra sample to get the centre piece I wanted.


Each story has a main fabric and a corresponding fabric e.g. James and the Giant Peach has a main fabric featuring James and the various insects and then a corresponding fabric of peaches. I wanted to use both so opted to use Churn Dash blocks for my quilt. I used a transparent 4.5″ square to fussy cut the centre piece for each block which made it really easy to line up and frame the picture. The stories I picked were

  • James and the Giant Peach
  • The BFG
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Esio Trot
  • Matilda
  • The Enormous Crocodile
  • Fantastic Mr Fox
  • George’s Marvellous Medicine
  • The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me


There’s also The Witches, The Twits and Dirty Beasts in the range but I only needed 9 for my 3×3 quilt (and they weren’t quite as pretty as the other fabrics). I added in pastel fabric to frame the churn dash blocks – pale yellow, lilac and pale green. And then for the sashing I chose Lewis & Irene Vintage Circus stars (I love the circus range and am now very tempted to make a circus quilt next!)


For the backing fabric Pip chose a gorgeous tropical floral print after visiting Butterfly Bright’s shop. Coincidentally also from Lewis and Irene, but from their Tropicana range.

For the quilting I outlined the centre of each block and the churn dash frame with a zigzag stitch in pale blue thread, before using Dashwood Studio’s Twist fabric in Honey yellow for the binding.


Despite moving house in the middle of all this I’m thrilled I got this finished in time for her birthday (with 5 hours to spare!) – her little face lit up when she opened it on Thursday and it makes the late nights of sewing all worthwhile. I see many years of it being used to curl up in with a good book…and I can’t think of anything better.

Anyway thanks for reading and look out for another post coming soon where I’ll be reviewing a brand new crochet book, and they’ve also given me an extra copy to give away – watch this space!

X

A pastel Sunburst blanket for my new baby niece!

Making blankets for babies is probably my favourite thing to crochet – in fact it was the first thing I ever crocheted, a giant granny square blanket for my future baby before I was even pregnant! There’s just something lovely about making a blanket to keep them warm and cosy after their arrival into the world, and I love giving them as presents to friends and family.  So when I found out I was going to be an Aunty again I think one of the first questions I had for my sister was ‘Have you got a colour scheme in mind? What kind of blanket would you like?’


Soft pastels of cream, yellow, pink and blue were decided on, and I had been itching to make a blanket in Scheepjes Stonewashed yarn so this was the perfect opportunity! The yarn is 70% cotton, 30% acrylic – it’s lovely and soft whilst also being durable and perfect for babies.  I opted for the XL weight (Aran I believe) – thicker yarn equals larger squares and that means you don’t have to make quite as many 😉 The colours I chose were Moonstone for the main background colour, then Citrine (yellow), Rose Quartz (pink) and Amazonite (blue). The stonewashed effect of this yarn is lovely and gives it a soft, almost vintage look.  I used a 5mm hook and the quantities I used were:

Moonstone: 11 balls

Citrine, Rose Quarts and Amazonite: 2 balls of each


The three colours meant as I was using 2 colours per Sunburst (the inner circle and adjacent round) that I could make six colour combinations e.g. Pink middle with yellow, yellow middle with blue, blue middle with pink etc. I then made 8 of each of these colourways giving me 48 squares, making a blanket 6×8 squares.


I also tried out my new blocking board for the first time with great success- it just makes them a bit more pointed and gives a slightly neater finish.


To join them I used SC (or DC in U.K. terms) with the right sides together, it gives a nearly invisible join on the front, with a ridge on the back which I quite like. I joined them all in strips horizontally and then vertically as well.  I wanted a fairly simple border, so first of all I did a round of SC in Moonstone, and where the squares met I made a hdc instead as I find there’s sometimes a bit of a dip and this bring it into line for a nice straight edge. I followed this with a hdc round in Rose Quartz before adding a shell border in yellow.



The measurements of my finished product blanket were 75cm x 98cm (including the border) with each square being approx 11 x 11cm.


And I couldn’t resist making a little toy to go with it…unicorn pattern by Kornflake Stew, made in Stylecraft Special DK, with Debbie Bliss Odin for the hair!✨🦄


I hope you like them little Kovah Willow, love Aunty Holly xxx

Christmas Crochet Wishlist 2016

Christmas is fast approaching – I can’t wait, it’s my favourite time of year and so much fun now with the children, and it’ll be Milo’s first Christmas so even more reason to celebrate!

I get asked a lot by friends and family for Christmas present ideas, most don’t have a clue about crochet. So I thought I’d do a blog post with some crochet christmas present ideas that might interest people, not just my friends and family but maybe yours too (send them the link!)  I did a similar post a couple of years ago and it was really popular so I thought I’d do an update for 2016. I want to point out none of this is sponsored at all – it’s my own genuine opinion on some great crafty gift ideas.

Let’s start with the basics….you can’t beat some good crochet hooks.  My personal favourites are the Clover Amour ones (I’d be lost without my trusty purple 4mm!).  They cost about £6 each and would be perfect popped into a stocking or as a set.

 

Another crochet staple is yarn….where do I begin! There are some great yarn colour packs or CAL (crochet along) kits available on sites such as Wool Warehouse, Love Crochet, Deramores etc.  These are great as they contain all the yarn and usually a pattern to make a project like a blanket.  Alternatively, and this is my current guilty pleasure….hand dyed yarn! This comes in skeins and is so beautiful and unique. It’s usually produced on a small scale by individuals, some of my current favourites are by Kate Selene and Norah George Yarns – check out this gorgeous example below! (Yarn and photo by Kate Selene)

   

Another idea is a subscription box.  There’s haberdashery ones out there, and sock yarn subscription boxes, but my absolute favourite (and which I have subscribed to for the past year) is Little Box of Crochet.  There is a different project each month created by a guest designer and in your pretty box you get everything you need to make it – yarn, hook, stitch marker and usually some little extras.  Here’s a pic of November’s box, a perfectly autumnal wreath designed by Just Pootling. One-off boxes are available in their shop or why not get a subscription and have a box of loveliness pop through your door each month!IMG_5221.JPG

If there’s a particular aspect of crochet you want to learn, if you want to brush up on your skills or if you’re a total beginner, crochet workshops make great presents.  I’ve both been gifted and also run crochet workshops and there’s usually someone nearby that runs them.  I can’t not mention my fabulous friend Jane at Tea & Crafting in London for any of you living in the capital (they run a whole variety of craft classes) and I’m currently putting some together in Sherborne at The Slipped Stitch for any of you who might live down here in Dorset. But wherever you live, ask at your local yarn shop or look out for knit & natter groups – many of whom crochet as well as knit, there’s plenty of people running lessons out there.  Not crochet related but there’s a fantastic local quilting course I’ve been dropping big hints about to my hubby 😉

Crochet books are another great idea – it’s worth checking if there’s a particular one your recipient is after but here are a few of my well-loved favourites as well as some I’m putting on my Christmas list (I’ve linked to Amazon for ease but obviously they are available elsewhere too)

Crochet classics:

Around the Corner – Crochet Borders (by Edie Eckman)

200 Crochet Blocks for Blankets, Throws and Afghans (by Jan Eaton)

For Amigurumi fans:

Edwards Menagerie

Edwards Menagerie Birds

Let’s Go Camping (by Kate Bruning)

Zoomigurumi

New this year:

Star Wars Crochet Pack

Corner to Corner Lap Throws (by Repeat Crafter Me)

Crochetterie: Cool Contemporary Crochet for the Creatively-Minded (by Molla Mills)

Alternatively how about a crochet magazine subscription- I currently subscribe to Simply Crochet which has a good range of projects and interesting articles with designers I admire and I love it arriving each month and sitting down with a cup of tea to read it.

Lastly how about a new crochet tool….there’s not as many crochet gadgets around as I’d like but here a few tools which are useful.

A yarn swift or winder – for any skeins you buy which need to be wound into cakes first, this little gadget is quick and easy to use.

 

Some people prefer the more traditional swift design:

 

Another handy item for your craft corner is a blocking board.  These seem to have become a lot more popular this year with various independent makers out there producing them.  These beautiful wooden boards come with pre-measured holes drilled into them, enabling you to block your crochet squares to the right size and make them perfectly uniform.  DaisyBoo are a popular supplier (from what I see on Instagram), and I’ve recently ordered one for myself from an independent maker on Facebook – R Hills Wood Turner, which I’m very excited about and I can’t wait for it to arrive (mainly because I have a WIP that’s been in a project bag for a year which desperately needs blocking!)

 

Another great item is a yarn bowl.  I have a lovely one made in Cherry wood, and there are gorgeous ceramic ones out there as well.  The idea being that you put your yarn into it while you’re working and it feeds out through the hole in the side, without rolling around all over the floor while you work.  Again Etsy is a great place to shop, and one shop I can’t help swoon over is Earth Wool Fire – each bowl is a true work of art – just look at this one below! (pic by Earth Wool Fire)

 

 And finally, I couldn’t not suggest some stocking fillers…

As well as hooks, another pocket size addition could be some cute stitch markers.  Instagram favourites Korutumi Crochet and Pedros Plaques make adorable ones (and also really unique polymer clay handled hooks)

 

And how about some pompom makers! I love the Clover ones but there’s loads of brands out there and they are really affordable, cute and useful item to have (no more cutting out cardboard circles like we did at school!).

 

I hope this has given you a few ideas – I’ll be sending the link to my hubby (just in case he hasn’t noticed those huge hints).  What would you add to the list? What’s on your crochet wish list this year – I’d love to hear!

Happy shopping!

Holly x

Last Dance on the Beach Crochet-along

I’ve seen some beautiful Crochet-along’s in the last few years but when I saw the first photos of the CAL by Scheepjes in memory of Marinke (A Creative Being) I knew I had to join in.  This isn’t the first one I’ve done (let’s not mention the Lilypond blanket I STILL haven’t finished from last year) – I think its the camaraderie and collective experience which make these special – it’s fascinating to see how different people approach the same project, especially those that have come up with their own colour ways.

The talented group of Marinke’s friends who designed the patterns put together three fabulous colour options – I was instantly drawn to the Dance in the Sea pack, a vibrant mix of green and blues, very me! But after pausing to consider it, I opted for the Dance in the Rain kit – the more neutral palette of greys, blues and browns suits our home colour scheme and there’s only so many blankets in my usual colour choices that I can have lying around the house. NThe Dance under the Stars kit was very bright and colourful and fun, and I’ve seen some gorgeous finished blankets on the Facebook group but I have to say I am definitely more in love with the cooler colours of the spectrum as opposed to the oranges and reds (maybe its because I don’t wear these colours as they clash with my red hair!)

Anyway I am so glad I ordered my kit early, this CAL proved amazingly popular and kits sold out all over the place!  I used the Colour Crafter kit which was lovely and squishy, but the merino looked gorgeous and I definitely want to work with it in the future (maybe when I don’t have small children with grubby hands! ).  The pace of this project was perfect – 4 (of the same pattern) squares each week, for 12 weeks, followed by a week for joining and a week for the border.  Producing 4 squares a week made it possible to work on other projects at the same time – I always have a multitude of projects on the go at any one time otherwise I tend to lose interest.  And thankfully that didn’t happen with this blanket! The textures and variety of patterns kept it interesting and exciting, and I couldn’t wait for the pattern release each Wednesday. So here are some pics of the squares – I ended up swapping the rib stitch square for Tinca’s square which was an alternative from the Facebook group and very pretty.

  

I chose to single crochet my squares together rather than use the flat slip stitch join…I loved the texture of the blanket and wanted a bit more of a defined divide between the squares, but I went with the border recommended – a lovely, simple linen stitch solid border – totally perfect to finish off this blanket!


And so the big reveal!….I totally love this blanket and I’m so pleased I kept up with the CAL, this is definitely a blanket to treasure. A big thank you to all the designers who were involved in this project. xx