Crochet, Lace Making

Homespun Comfort Shawls

crochet shawls

This review has been a bit delayed, but that has turned out to be a good thing. I like to be able to include my own photos when I am doing a review and the delay has allowed me to use much better ones than I had originally intended.

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

This book of “Comfort Shawls”, made using Lion Brand Homespun yarn, is very relevant for me at the moment as we are in the middle of winter here in New Zealand. As with previous Leisure Arts books I have reviewed, I was again very impressed with the range of different styles included in this book. There should be something to appeal to everyone.

Homespun Comfort Shawls

The pattern I was drawn to when I first looked at the book was the “Broomstick Lace Shawl” (the third photo above). I had heard of this technique before but had never had the opportunity to try it out. Fortunately one of our local yarn suppliers had the Lion Brand Homespun yarn on sale just when I needed it, this being the reason that the delay was a good thing for me.

IHomespun Comfort Shawls had originally planned on getting a light colour for my shawl, but was really taken with the wonderful rich colours in this darker one. While I still love the colours, I have found this yarn a bit of a challenge to work with. The dark colours and the boucle effect of the yarn make it difficult to see and count the stitches, particularly the setting up chain stitches, so it required a lot of concentration at the beginning. Having said that, I really like the way the garment is turning out, and the lovely soft, warm feel of it.

The instructions in the pattern I am using are very clear. I have found a bit of discrepancy between the instructions and some of the diagrams given, but I have found that sticking to the instructions has produced a good result. The book contains clear instructions and diagrams for all the patterns as well as a number of stitches and techniques, for example fringes.

This yarn and these patterns are a lot different to my usual projects, but I have enjoyed the challenges and learning some new techniques. For more pictures of these lovely shawls please check out the Leisure Arts website.

 

Knitting

Winter Birthday Presents

Winter Birthday PresentsJune is the official beginning of winter in New Zealand. I have recently finished a couple of winter birthday presents and sent them off, a bit belatedly, to my youngest daughter. There has been some very cold weather in the South Island, and even in the North Island, over the last few weeks, including enough snow to allow the early opening of some of the ski fields.

Winter Birthday PresentsIn March I made my daughter a pony tail hat which she seemed very pleased with. I thought it might be useful for her to have a few more, so I have just knitted another two. Hopefully they will help her keep warm.

I have also been waiting for an opportunity to try out a pattern I got a wee while ago for “Owlie Mitts”. I had a lot of fun making these for the most part. There was one problem though. I misread the pattern when I made the first one and, instead of doing 6 repeats of the 4 row rib pattern (ie 24 rows) I only did 6 rows. The result of this was that I had to make three mitts instead of two, which was the reason the presents got sent away late.

Winter Birthday Presents
Before Beads
Winter Birthday Presents
With Beads

I have included a few photos of the finishing process on the mitts to illustrate the difference that a bit of trim can make to a project. In this case it was the addition of black seed beads for the eyes of the owls. (See also “The Magic Of Outlining”.) The yarn I used was Opal sock yarn. While it may not have been the best yarn to show off the owls to best effect, I felt the colours were a good match for both the hats.

My next projects will include a scarf knitted in thick yarn and some light weight woollen singlets for the local neonatal intensive care unit.

Crochet, Karen's Korner, Knitting

What Is The Best Yarn To Use?

What Is The Best Yarn To Use?
Image courtesy of Flickr

How many times have you been stuck wondering what is the best yarn to use for your next project? There is such a wide variety of yarns available now that it can be a bit overwhelming trying to make a choice. My personal preference tends to be for wool, especially for babies, because it is a natural fibre that “breathes” and is very warm. The modern range of yarns, however, contains an ever expanding number of different fibre types, and also blends of different fibres.

What Is The Best Yarn To Use?
Image courtesy of Flickr

One of the first things to look at on your pattern is whether or not it is written for a particular unique yarn, or is suitable for one of the more general types of yarn like 4ply, 8 ply, 12 ply etc. If the pattern is very yarn specific then you are best to stick with that yarn for your project.

A lot of patterns are still designed for more standard yarn types. Obviously it is safest to use the yarn(s) recommended in the pattern, but if you want to use something different there are several really important things to consider.

Yarn Ply and Needle Size

Always make sure that you get the same ply/weight yarn as that used in the pattern. It is also essential to do a test square to check that your gauge is correct, and alter your needle size accordingly if it is a bit off.

Yarn Length

The composition of yarn can make a huge difference to how far it goes. A ball of acrylic yarn can be up to 30% longer than a ball of wool of the same weight. Cotton can be similar to, or slightly shorter than wool, and blends of acrylic and natural fibres will be different again. Always check the band on a ball or hank of yarn for the length and for the batch number. Make sure you know what the length of a ball is for the yarn used in your pattern and work out from that what you will need in the yarn you are choosing. If you are in any doubt err on the side of caution and get extra.

Crochet

Super Simple Summer Tops

Crochet Summer Tops

I have been putting off doing this review because I really wanted to at least get started on one of these tops before writing it. Unfortunately I have not been able to get the yarn I need yet so can’t add in any photos of personal projects.

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

I really enjoyed looking through this book. If you would like to see more photos please check out this link to the title on Leisure Arts website. We are well into autumn in New Zealand, but I plan to have a go at several of these tops for next summer. I think the lovely variety in this book will mean that most people should be able to find at least one garment which really appeals to them.

The project I was hoping to get started on is the “Ombre Tee” pictured on page 10 in the book and on the right hand side above. I really like the idea of using two strands of fine yarn so that you can use three colours to get a range going through five different colours. This increases the versatility of the pattern and encourages experimentation with different colour combinations.

As with previous Leisure Arts books I have reviewed, this book includes very useful information on abbreviations, hook sizes and yarn weights, and on some of the stitches used. There are some general tips, and some specific information on the yarns used in the project photographs. It was also interesting to have a bit of information about the designer, Melissa Leapman.

I am very happy to recommend this book. With projects ranging from the “Chic Tank” tank top to the elegant long-sleeved “Belle Tunic”, you can find a top for most summer occasions.

Knitting

How Much Yarn Will You Need?

How Much Yarn Will You Need?A very common question most of us will have encountered when starting a new project is “How much yarn will I need?” The obvious answer is to check your pattern, but this may not be as simple as it seems.

Patterns give the average quantities required by someone working to the recommended tension gauge and who is making their garment to the measurements stated. Hopefully you will have checked your tension (see “I Should Know Better By Now!“), but if you are adjusting the length of your garment, or using a different yarn to the one stated, it is a bit more difficult to estimate.

I am trying to use up some of the wool that has accumulated in my cupboard. Some of this yarn came to me from my mother’s “stash” some years ago, so quite a lot of it does not have current patterns available. Having worked in a wool shop many years ago, I am familiar with the importance of checking the yarn length in a ball as well as its weight. Some of the older yarn does not have the length on the wrapper so I have tried to check it online.

My mother gave me some very useful advice early on in my knitting “career”. She recommended making the back and one sleeve of a jumper first because this should use about half the amount necessary for the finished garment. If knitting these two items uses more than half your yarn then you have a problem. If you are working on a different kind of project it should still be possible to work out a similar way of dividing it up to help you get an estimate of your total.

How Much Yarn Will You Need? How Much Yarn Will You Need?The vest I have just finished (see photos) was a good example of this. I had originally wanted to make the cardigan but it became obvious halfway up the sleeve that I would not have enough wool. Consequently I pulled the sleeve undone and made the vest front instead. I am actually very happy with how it has turned out and it will probably end up being more useful than the cardigan would have been too.

Crochet, Cross Stitch, Karen's Korner, Lace Making

A Little Bit Of Everything Over Easter

A Little Bit Of Everything Over Easter

I was lucky enough to find time to dabble in a little bit of everything over Easter this year. I managed to get a few small crochet novelty items made for my grandchildren in plenty of time to accompany their Easter Sunday chocolate treats. Unfortunately the yarn I had available for the beaks of the chickens resulted in them looking more like ducks, but the grandchildren still seemed happy enough to receive them.

A Little Bit Of Everything Over Easter A Little Bit Of Everything Over EasterI have finally managed to make a bit more progress with my needle lace sampler (see “Update On Lace Sampler”). The next box is now about half-filled with “cloth stitch”. The lower third will have some variation worked in as part of the stitching and, once the background stitch is completed, the middle third will have some extra details stitched on top. It has been a lot slower than I had originally planned, but I am enjoying learning new things when I am able to spend some time on it.

A Little Bit Of Everything Over EasterThe third project I was able to get to was the fine cross stitch birth sampler that I also started last year (see “Two Extremes Of Cross Stitch”). It is a little easier to do now that I have upgraded my glasses, but I still struggle with it a bit. I can only do it during the afternoon in good lighting conditions which is quite a disadvantage when I am working. I will continue to persevere though as I think it will be well worth the effort once it is finished.

As if those three weren’t enough to keep me occupied, I also picked up a knitting project that I started early in the year. It is a sleeveless vest for me which I will post photos of once it is finished. I find it relaxing to knit in the evenings as it is something I don’t have to concentrate so hard on.

Easter is a very special and significant season for me and, although I was able to get quite a bit of craft work done, the most special times were spent attending church services and catching up with family. I hope you all had a very special Easter season too.

Crochet

Yarn Pooling Made Easy

Crochet Yarn Pooling **This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

The second Leisure Arts book I am reviewing is called “Yarn Pooling Made Easy” by Marly Bird. The second page of this book has several really good tips, the first of which is:

“It is highly recommended that you watch Marly Bird’s tutorial videos on planned color pooling to better understand how the body is made: http://bit.ly/2hoslgr_CrochetPlannedPoolingPlaylist

I would like to reinforce this recommendation and here’s why. I was really intrigued by this technique right from the start. I had a quick look through the book, including the tips on the second page, and then fell into the trap of picking up some wool and a hook and “having a quick play”. After several rather frustrating experiments I concluded two things:

  1. I suspected the yarn I was experimenting with was not quite suitable.
  2. There was probably a good reason for the strong recommendation to watch the video(s).

Consequently, I sat myself down at my computer and watched the “10 Secrets to Perfect Planned Pooling” video. Well! Suddenly everything made a lot more sense and I was able to follow the instructions a lot more easily – who would have thought it! (One day I might learn – see “I Should Know Better By Now!“) The video also confirmed my suspicion that I needed to use a different yarn.

Yarn Pooling Made Easy
Before
Yarn Pooling Made Easy
After

I have included a photo of my best effort at experimenting before watching the video and another of the sample I made after watching it. While the second sample is still not perfect, it is definitely a big improvement on my first efforts.

This pattern book contains a number of lovely designs with great photos and good instructions. Click on the link in the title of the book above to see more photos on the web site.

I am now hooked on this fascinating technique and would recommend this book as a great tool for getting started. Just remember to make life easier for yourself by watching at least one of the videos before you start experimenting. I also found the general instructions and yarn information at the back of the book very helpful.