Monthly Archives: September 2015

Knitting and Stitching show – workshops

I love the Ally Pally show (Alexandra Palace Knitting and Stitching Show) and for the first time I will be running Learning Curve workshops, and a demo.

I received an email today, and it showed that over half my workshops are booked, and we still have 6 weeks to go!

If you are interested in learning some new crochet techniques this is a list of the courses2014-11-22 12.03.59

Weds 11.45 – Tapestry Crochet Bauble – a special pattern I designed using 2 colour tapestry crochet, we will be working in the round, using a chart to guide us.


Diana Bensted Broomstick Lace Crochet Scarf


Thursday 10.30 – Broomstick Lace Crochet scarf, a great technique using a knitting needle to create large loops which you then crochet off the needle, a very distinctive pattern.

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Saturday 3.30 -Tunisian Mug cozy – an easy stitch pattern made in Tunisian crochet, try either basket work stitch, or a honeycomb stitch (my personal favourite)

Diana Bensted Crochet Cable Cushion


Sunday 10.30 – Crochet Cable Cushion – a 2 hour workshop where we really get to grips with crochet cables using post stitches, using an original pattern.


All the one hour workshops cost just £12, with all materials and worksheets provided.  The two hour cable workshop is £20

A freebie is my demo in the Stitch by Stitch space which is all about Amigurumi!

I look forward to seeing you there, look out for a future post on how to get the most out of visiting a large knitting show.

10 tips when visiting Ally Pally (or other large shows)

With Ally Pally just a day away, I thought I would share my top 10 tips for surviving a big show.

1. Book in advance – a bit late now, but to save money it away pays to book in advance, for Ally Pally the group ticket is the best value, especially as it can be used in different ways, and you don’t need to book a specific day.

2.  Transport – think about how you will be getting to the venue, parking charges can bump up the cost, at Ally Pally, the parking is free, with courtesy busses up the hill, or if you are able – public transport links are great with courtesy buses from Wood Green tube (or Alexandra Park Station)

3. Big bag – It is useful to have a big bag that is easy to carry, everyone buys more than they think they will, and it is easier to pop everything in one big bag rather than carry lots of little ones from each stand.

4.  Workshops – it is better to book ahead for workshops, as many sell out before the show, however if you would like to be a bit creative, go early to the Learning Curve and see what is left – if you can, book for the middle of the day!  see number 6…

5.  Quietest day – Ally Pally especially gets incredibly busy, especially on Saturday, but there is usually a quieter day or two, for Ally Pally, Wednesday as a newer first day, Thursday late night and Sunday are all a bit quieter

6.  Early bird – in order to be able to browse at your leisure, be an early bird!  get to the show as soon as it opens, rest at lunch time, when the show is ultra busy, then wander around in the afternoon. as it gets quieter again.

7.  Use a map, I usually get hold of a plan as soon as I can – before the show if possible or as soon as I get there, I look up the exhibitors that I really want to see, and mark them on the map, I am then very disciplined (or a little ocd)  and walk the show in a grid so that I get to see everything.  I also make notes first time round, if there is anything interesting, and then go back later.

8.  Food – here we have two choices, we know food is expensive, so if you don’t want to spend out on food (and spend on yarn instead!) take a picnic and possibly buy drinks (they are heavy!) or decide to treat yourself and not moan about it!!

9.  Flat shoes! – There is a lot of walking involved – be prepared and wear your most comfortable shoes.

10. Finally – Enjoy it!  Take lots of photos, be inspired by the products, and colour, chat to the stall holders, in the main they love to have a chat about what they are passionate about!

I hope these tips will help you to plan and have fun on your visits.

How much are we worth?

I stumbled across this post yesterday.  it is a brilliant discussion about how we value handcrafts, follow the linky here  Please read first!

I found it really interesting.  When I was in the shop, I made a decision not to take crochet commissions,  I would make sample of crochet (or occasionally knitting) to show off a new yarn, or if I was going to a show, to exhibit.  People would ask if I would sell these samples, which of course I didn’t while I had the yarn in stock.  I did make some small things, the flower brooches above, were relatively quick and easy to make, sold at £7 (not minimum wage, and not including the cost of materials!)

When I closed the shop, I did sell off quite a few samples, but only at a cost that was just above what the yarn would sell for – the reason being I didn’t want to have all these samples hanging around at home, where they would not have a use.

However back to the first point – I wouldn’t take commissions because generally people would not see the worth in the time/skill that it takes to make the item.

So how much are we worth – should we think about minimum wage, about the standard of the crochet (or other craft) that we can produce?  How quickly can we produce that item?  Then we have people who just knit and crochet  ‘for fun’  this is great if you are giving away your items, but if you then sell them at really low price –  ‘just so that I can buy more yarn’   then are you devaluing other peoples work?  I have seen baby granny blankets being sold for £5 or less on ebay, but on etsy (which is an e-commerce website focused on handmade items) they are £25 – £40.

I think it is also down to the perception of the craft – if you are a sculptor or painter does that make you more of an artist?

I feel that I am an artisan (definition: a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand)

but I also design the things that I make, so am I a designer (def: A person who plans the look or workings of something prior to it being made, by preparing drawings or plans)

or an artist? (Def: A person skilled at a particular task or occupation)

I guess that relies on your definition of skilled…experienced, trained,  qualified, proficient,  practised, accomplished, expert, skilful, talented, gifted, adept, adroit, deft, dexterous , good,   competent.

So as a skilled Artisan/designer, could I receive the minimum wage? I have been crocheting for years, I constantly look to ways to improve my technique, and I practice (A LOT!) not qualified in crochet, but have studied textiles, including weaving, dyeing, and taken physical and online courses.

I don’t usually time myself crocheting, but recently have started.  The first item I did a calculation of time on was this blanket.

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So given that this is a finely worked blanket in 4 ply yarn which is mostly wool with a little nylon in, with a repeating motif, how much would you pay?  £10, £25, £50?   In Marks and Spencer a (machine) knitted throw in one colour is £69.  In Harrods a baby shawl (machine knitted) £79.95.  So a handmade but professional blanket, should be worth more – £100 maybe?

If I tell you that the yarn cost approx £40, and that it took me over 100 hours to make – at minimum wage (£6.50) that should be £690!  Would anyone pay that much for a blanket – however good it is?

If it was an artwork – painting or similar, would it be worth more?  and this is controversial is it because there is less value attached to something made in a female dominated art/craft? Is there more skill in a painting than a crochet blanket – or is it a perceived difference in skill?

Maybe the answer is somewhere in the middle –  I know there are many more questions than answers here, so what do you think?