Better late than never, Right?!

OK so I have a very real very serious condition – FOMO.

I have a complete fear of missing out, especially when it comes to all things yarn. I have a hugely addictive personality and I’m completely in denial with how much I can actually achieve in a day, week, month… Or in this case… A year.

So I began crocheting properly in Feb/March of last year after subscribing to a monthly crochet box. I loved these boxes and quickly wanted more content to fawn over so subscribed to the crochet now magazine.

It was made even better as the subscription had a gift that came with it. All the yarn to make a stunning blanket!

The celestial blanket. 😍 It was beautiful hexigons in semi pastel rainbows with mosaic designs! Annnnnnnnd it was made with scheepjes yarn (which at the time I believed to be the best yarn ever 😅 I’ve learnt a bit since, it’s still good but… Maybe I’ll write a blog about my yarn stash and explain).

So, it was a no brainer. The blanket pattern would be released in parts over the next year in the magazine and I was thoroughly convinced I’d have the blanket fully made by the time my subscription stopped.

Fast forward. A year.

I’ve cancelled my magazine subscription (I have nowhere to store them and they take up valuable stash space, let’s be honest!)

The yarn sits in my stash too, making me feel utter guilt that it’s not been chosen to be used. It’s seem many other lucky balls come and go over the year. It may even be a little depressed. Poor yarn 😔

I’ve made quite a few blankets over the past year and I’ve not been drawn to it, until now.

That’s right, a full year and a month late…. (drumroll) it’s on the hook! (cheer!) 😂

Now I’m. Not sure if it was time management or my complete delusion that I can get multiple subscription projects a month done (in knitting and crochet) or if its that half the time I sign up to extra one off boxes (I think I’ll do a post about these too 😂😂) thinking it won’t take long to do or that I then go and buy other yarn for my own project finds and start them before doing anything else… But my waiting list is longer than the NHS. 😬😬😬

But like I said, it’s on the hook, when it will be done is yet to be seen… Especially as I’ve lost one of the magazines since 🙄

What’s the point of this blog, a bit of self shaming I think and a bit of word vomit.

Anyway, here are some of my completed hexies… (it’s taken me 2 months to post this… 🙄🤦🏻‍♀️)

Much love! Xx Jess

Dyeing, Yarn Dyeing; sharing some stuff I know about it!

Hey! You may have seen on my Instagram over the past month I’ve dived deep into the dyeing pot and I’m actually a bit obsessed! So much so I’ve opened up my own Etsy shop! (shameless plug! 🤭)

I thought I’d write out a few things I’ve learnt so far! I know many indie dyers are slightly guarded about their processes but to be honest… I’m an open book about everything soooo I’m going to share.

So here are some of the things I’ve learnt in the past month. This is not all you’ll ever need to know as I am no expert! But it’s some bits I find useful to know.

Cold dye bath for cotton

There are two main types of different yarn fibres; Cellulose (plant fibres like cotton, linen, hemp etc.) and Protein (animal fibres such as wools). These two types of yarns need different types of love.

No one dye suits all. So there’s a TON of different types of dyes out there. Procion is the type I use currently, but you can use acid dyes, food colouring, natural dyes, liquid tie dye stuff… the list is endless. There’s honestly so many varieties it can be a bit overwhelming!

I’d say choose the type of yarn you want to dye before you choose the dye as it will eliminate some options and help you find the type you need.

Dye kit… You need a fair amount of stuff if you want to go all out. Dedicated equipment for dyeing only as the dyes and other chemicals can be caustic. I mean would you eat your lunch off a petri dish?! Eww.

A pot, tongs, gloves, washing up bowl, mask, measuring spoons and jugs, cups or bowls, bottles, spoons, zip/cable ties, kitchen roll, cling film/plastic wrap. I could go on but basically choose the type of dyeing you want to do next. If you just want dip dye then you will need less than if you want to speckle. But anything you use shouldn’t be used for food after. Excuse for some new kitchen gear?!

To heat or not to heat?! Well, it boils down (aha!) to what fibre you are using. Plants don’t need heat they need time (but heat can be applied), animal proteins do need heat to set the colours or the first time you go to wash it all of your efforts will end up down the plug hole. Which is a sad, sad thing.

Be prepared for the dyepot to not always go the way you want. Also be prepared to love it anyway! To be honest, it’s all experience and an experiment at the end of the day. Hand dyed is not perfect, but its those imperfections and subtle differences to mass produced yarn that makes hand dyed yarn so special.

When working with powder wear a mask, once the powder is dissolved you don’t have to wear a mask. I do however always wear gloves. It’s chemicals… and it stains too…

Dye stock solutions ready to use

Wash it. Wash it before (with clear dish soap) wash it after. Rinse it. Lots.

BUT…

Be gentle! Especially with animal fibres. You don’t want them to be agitated too much or they’ll felt! So during the dyeing swish or shimmy the fabric but don’t stir the pot. When washing press the fabric don’t wring it. This also applies to when heating the yarn, don’t let it have a rolling boil. With some wool that’s enough agitation to felt 😱.

Water. A lot of water can make a big difference. If you want the fibre to be able to move then have more water. The dye will then be able to move too. This is good for more semi solid colours or tonal colours. If you have a shallow pot the dye will not be able to move around much and so will attach to a smaller amount of the yarn but in a more concentrated colour.

Similarly, to speckle you would use damp wool that’s not in a pot as the lack of extra water stops the dye spreading.

So essentially the less liquid you have the less movement of dye.

Learn about the colour wheel. Or you may end up with a lot of sludgy yarn…

Last but not least… the order of dye, yarn and fixer. These differ from method to method depending on what result you want. The couple of examples below are for animal protein yarn.

Semi solids

For semi solid I’d wash and soak the yarn, add water to the pot, add dye then add yarn. Then heat and add the fixer like acid. Take out and let cool and wash and rinse.

For super tonal I’d wash and soak the yarn, add water to the pot add fixer and yarn and heat. Then add dye (as the wool has then had fixer first the colour will strike faster and some yarn will have less colour than other parts). Take out and let cool and wash and rinse.

Dip dyed (in pink and then blue)

For dip dyed I’d wash and soak the yarn. Add water to the dye pot with the dye and the fixer. Heat it and then slowly lower some of the yarn dipping it in and out and letting a little bit more yarn go into the pot each dip. This will give it a gradual colour. Some may even break into different colours. Then once all of the yarn is in the pot leave for 10 minutes on a simmer until the colour has all been absorbed. Take out to cool, wash and rinse.

Speckled over previously dyed colours

For speckled I’d wash, and then soak with the fixer. Squish to take out lots of the water. Lay it out (I spread it out a bit) on cling film (saves the surface but also for wrapping it later) put on mask, sprinkle dry powder gently over the yarn and let it sit for a bit (if you wrap it straight away the colours may squish and it won’t be speckled). Wrap it and then heat it in either a microwave for 3 mins (in the cling film on a plate/bowl) or in a steamer on the hob/stove. Let cool, wash and rinse.

Some useful terms…

Strike – when the dye hits the fibre, it can strike quickly or slowly.

Exhaust – when all the dye has been absorbed the dye pot will have exhausted.

Fixed – when the dye has been set with heat or acid etc.

Low/high immersion – the amount of water can be high or low.

Dye stock – a solution of dye powder and water. They can be kept in sealed containers for a while but some may need a stir if colours settle.

I feel like this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. I have so much more to learn and I can’t wait!

Have you given it a go? I’d love to hear from you and your experiences!

Or head over to Etsy and treat yourself to some of my lovingly crafted yarn here.

XxxJess

Crochet beginner; My top tips

Ok so you want to crochet. You’ve bought some hooks, you’ve got your yarn and you sit down and …. GAH everything on the internet is so confusing and nothing seems to be cohesive or make any sense! There are abreviations everywhere and they don’t match from one post to another, patterns are a minefield and you wish you’d just bought a scarf off etsy.

Don’t panic! Take a deep breath,

in……. out……

better?

Crochet is fun but there are a few fundamentals that you need to get your noggin around first. Here are the tid bits I wish I had been told before starting out. Tips I’ve picked up on the way.

Lets start off with a very basic tip:

GO BIG

So to start with try using the biggest hook you have to hand and the chunkiest wool or yarn you have at home. It sounds simple but the bigger the hook and yarn the bigger the stitch and the easier it will be to see what you are doing (also if you need glasses wear them…I didn’t initially, but it also helps seeing)

Prepare to… practice

It may sound boring but practice a bit until it starts looking uniform, you didn’t start walking without ALOT of practicing first, you need part muscle memory and part confidence which comes with practice. I’d chain 11 and start Double Crocheting (dc) or Half double Crochet (Hdc) back and forth in rows until it starts looking the same on every row. Don’t be afraid to undo it and start again until your little square is perfect.

(dont forget to chain 1 after turning your row to start the next one)

Count your V’s

So after the chain you need to count your v’s. Each V is one stitch. Ok challenge…how many v’s are above???

Did you count 10? YESSSSSSSS whoop. (I hope you didn’t cheat!)

So this is a bare basic, but at the start I had no clue and my starter chain would twist and it was a hot mess. So count, count again and then keep counting as you go. It will save you time in the long run as you won’t have to undo it and start over.

So the V’s are also important when it comes to your rows, your hook has to go under the V to make a stitch. I didn’t realise when I started out that I was only ever crocheting in one of the loops and making everything in a rib!! So V, love them, count them, they go on top.

Stitch markers – a good tip

A brilliant way to help see where your row ends is by putting a stitch marker in the first and the last stitch after crocheting it. When you get to the end of each row turn the work (picture 1 above), chain 1 and work the stitch with the chain 1 in it (picture 2) and move the marker from the stitch below up to that stitch just made (picture 3). Your lines will always be neat at the end as you keep moving the markers up!

It is a way of reducing the chance of adding extra stitches as you go. I still do this, especially for blankets as they are so long when worked in rows.

YouTube tutorials

I watched video after video when I started, pausing every other second to catch up. I’m a visual learner so I definitely have to see it before I can do it myself!

I have yet to find the courage to launch a youtube channel… never say never but here are links to my GO TO youtube channels for crochet BellaCocoCrochet https://www.youtube.com/user/sa8rah56/playlists and TLYarnCraft https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkO8yHEMmbvuw9Dgmuvwhsw/playlists

These ladies are the business on tutorials!

Yarn tension

This is a tricky one, you’ll see tension mentioned and gauge, these are to guide you on the rough size of the item you’ll be making. It’s worth measuring a practice square against the patterns gauge info to see if you are a loose crocheter or a tight crocheter. If you are loose head down a hook size as a standard and if you are a tight crocheter then you guessed it, head up a size.

It’s not massively important if it doesn’t bother you but it could effect fit of gloves, hats and other garments. Oh and how much yarn you end up using so recommended yarn could not be 100% accurate. And no one likes playing yarn chicken!

American and English terms

When I first started I had no idea that there was two crochet ‘languages’; normally the pattern will tell you if is US or UK terms so keep an eye out. A simple trick to spot the difference is US have single crochet (sc) and the UK don’t. So if you see a sc in your pattern you’re working in US terms.

Well, there we are… well done if you’ve made it to the end!! I hope this helps anyone looking for a few beginner tips. My main tip is just go for it! You will get it but you need to just keep going by chanelling your inner Dory.

Until next time Fiber Fam,

Jess xxx

Sleep, coffee, crochet, repeat.

Anyone else feel like they have entered the twilight zone? For three months we have been in fairly strict lockdown in Wales and to be honest, I do not know how I would have survived without crochet!

Everyday I have woken up, looked for a coffee (sometimes I have one as a temptation if Mike is bored of waiting for me to get up) I head downstairs (make a coffee if I don’t have one!) grab a project bag and the day, well it just disappears in a blink of mugs, coffee, hooks and yarn.

As I seem to have had a crochet hook surgically attached to my hand (coffee mug in other) I’ve had a fair few #wips and finished items and thought I’d share my five favourite pandemic projects with you guys.

Willowfield Mitts

By Toni Lipsey at TL Yarn Crafts

Sweet and fast these mitts were a perfect quick make at the start of lockdown when I reeeeeeeeally needed a quick win! These mitts feature my absolute favourite stitch; the star stitch. It’s easier than it looks. You should give it a go!

Bobble stripe blanket

By Sarah Jayne Fragola at Bella Coco Crochet

My first ever crochet blanket was a casual crochet along with Bella Coco Crochet on Facebook and in the early days of the pandemic having a group of crafters all with one goal was so rewarding. Love this blanket. It’s a brilliant starter blanket. It’s a very easy pattern to follow and looks ever so professional!

Alpine hat

By Ola Ogunlolu @therookiehooker

This was probably my first real colourwork pattern and I loved it! That and the ribbing, I don’t know why but I really like crocheting a rib, it’s a lot easier as a concept than knitting… Don’t you think? But I may be bias.

Summer Trifecta Tote

By Danielle Hall at Boho Dream Designs

Ahhh this lovely little tote is so summery it makes me want to go to the pool, drink cosmos, read crappy magazines and pretend I normally sunbath whilst my pasty leg’s tell a different story… Just me? OK well it would still make a great pool bag, project bag or bag bag.

Stacking Baskets

By Emma Lieth for the little box of crochet

So here are the sweetest little stacking baskets ever and my most recent finished items. This is a design created for the little box of crochet and it was just so fun. The stunning colours of the yarn with the pops of gold just make me feel so much joy. I have left over yarn and plan on making more, at some point.

So there you have it. My five favourite beginner friendly crochet projects that I have completed during lockdown. If you want to see more head over to my Instagram and see all of my chaotic crafting. And probably a bit more rambling.

Until next time fiber fam xxx