Rainbow Project Bag CAL

Had to get on the Blog today as I am really excited about a design I created for Women’s Weekly, the Rainbow Project Bag, being featured as a Mini CAL (Crochet along) on Facebook!

You can follow the link here Rainbow Project Bag CAL. It is a closed group, but I am an admin on the page so can add peeps, I will also be keeping up with the questions.

I didn’t manage to take many photos of this project, but I have dug out my original samples, and the yarn that was used, and will be making the square again.

The Rainbow bag is a cube shape, with 4 sides made from the motif square and a double crochet square base, which are all crocheted together.  Then a border is made around the top of the bag, and the handle grows from the border.

The motif square looks tricky but isn’t really as it  is essentially a 5 row repeat.  there is a twist, in that the bobble row is worked from the wrong side so that they pop out and look – well bobbly!

I am also really excited to see other peoples take on this bag.  At the moment it is only available as a pack from the knitting network – please note I am not receiving any credit for the affiliate links!

*Updated to say that the pattern is available on its own, from the knitting network here

C2C workshop

Crochet Workshops at Olympia Knitting and Stitching Show – Broomstick and C2C

I had a wonderful time at Olympia, I gave 2 workshops at the Knitting and Stitching show, Broomstick Crochet and Corner to Corner or C2C crochet.

Broomstick crochet

The Broomstick Crochet is an old favourite – you use a large knitting needle, along with some 4ply yarn.  I think I have done it 5 times now, but there are always different questions, and of course different people doing it.  Sometimes I feel apprehensive just before we get started, but as I get into my stride I realise why I do it.  I just love watching other people learn something!

New one for me was the Corner to Corner Motif.  While it is not a difficult thing to do, there are a few tricksy bits.  Understanding that you work diagonally, how to mark off the pattern, using different colours in a graph – all make for interesting learning.

All the ladies did well, bearing in mind that you have to learn in 1 hour!  some just learned the technique for C2C, using one colour and others managed the whole square including a border!

The previous night, I made a video to show how to crochet the whole motif.  The complete video is just over half an hour, but does show increases, decreases, colour changes and following a chart.  I would love to hear whether this video helps, I have talked through the video, where my other ones are silent with subtitles.  Unfortunately I have had to divide into two videos, with limits on Youtube!

Here they are,,,Enjoy!

Diana

Happy New Year

Happy New year to all, have you made any New Year resolutions?  Have they been broken already?  I decided quite a while ago that New Year Resolutions were a bit of a misnomer, we can resolve to do something at any time of year.  It is just that a new year gives (some of us) a blank slate – It cant be as bad as last year…  this year I will – loose weight…   go to the gym…   learn a new skill…  quit smoking/drinking… of course there is nothing wrong in these, just that we so often fail, and then think that we can’t start again till next year – in reality we can start again the very next day!

But of course we should know that we can do this at any time.  For example I was told that I couldn’t have an operation on my shoulder as my blood sugars were too high.  So I quit sugar (I’m not an angel – I always start with good intentions) I have maintained this – at the moment.  But I started quitting sugar on the 16th July, it is a constant battle – I love chocolate! – but if I do have a bit, I try to make sure it is small, and if I have a bad day (I check my sugar daily now) then the next day I try to be extra good.

It is the same with the business as in personal life, we can start with the greatest of intentions and then ‘life’ gets in the way, I have never understood that, life is everything we do so we are just living it!

Working at home doing something I love to do, makes the blurring of the edges of business vs life even harder.  At the end of last year I did a month of Full time teaching in Primary school.  I decided after that (a resolution of sorts) that I did not want to go back to full time teaching.  I am much happier doing a couple of days a week.  or odd days of supply.  I also decided that I needed to earn more money doing the things that I do love to do, teach crochet, and design awesome patterns that are accessible to beginners, and which use as little sewing up as possible!  I also enjoy going to wool shows to exhibit, and pass on my passion about crochet.

Waltham Abbey Wool ShowOf course at this time of year my focus is on the Waltham Abbey Wool Show.  As part of our business it is one of the best parts of the year.  Kate and I are really excited about this year being our biggest and best show yet.  Dedri Uys is opening the show and judging the competition, as well as launching her new Sophies Universe book.  We have 10 new exhibitors along with over 30 favourites.  Nine workshops, free skein winding, and a new Charity – Knit for Peace, so lots to see and do.

So I have decided to blog more regularly, post more tutorials, and lots more patterns – I have quite a few in the pipeline, I’ve just got to get busy making samples, testing and publishing the patterns.

I have also been reading more about business, how to succeed, so will be putting some of that to the test too.

I hope you will join me on the journey.

Diana

😆

Am I a crochet designer?

I have been thinking about this for a while, and when I introduce myself at meetings and other places, what my job title is…am I a crochet designer?

I teach – Primary school Supply, but also crochet classes and workshops, at Missenden Abbey, Ally Pally, Olympia and Woman’s Weekly.

I write and design courses and workshops for crochet

I design patterns – this year for Women’s Weekly, DMC, Inside Crochet, Lets Knit and King Cole.

I write – this blog

I preach – I have been visiting different churches this year.

I have an online shop.

I am one of the two organisers of the Waltham Abbey Wool Show.

Since I had to design some business cards this week, I had to make a decision… Crochet Designer, Blogger and Teacher, kinda sums it all up,

I love the excitement of designing, I love receiving a brief and then some yarn, and turning it into something gorgeous, or starting from an idea/lovely yarn, to produce something that inspires me! I don’t mind the writing of the pattern, once I get started (procrastination is something I always work hard to defeat!) but quite like some of the technical work!

Sometimes I wonder about the designer bit, but I have been published in lots of magazines, and two yarn companies, so I can’t be that bad!  Or is this the typical British way of self depreciating what we do?  This year I have designed – A rug in chunky cotton, A blanket in aran weight merino, A rainbow granny square blanket, A motif cushion cover, a top and cardigan in 4ply cotton, A pair of rag dolls, a motif square bag. A cotton baby blanket, a tunisian crochet jacket and I am also planning an easter rabbit (I know sooooo early) a set of quirky amigurumi soft toys, a cardigan, a crochet along blanket, and some small amigurumi toys.  Phew!!

I love teaching crochet, it is always exciting to start a course, not knowing how it will proceed, whether people will pick up thing easily, or whether they will need a bit more help, I have also been told that I have a lot of patience and positivity when I’m teaching.

And the blogging part – I procrastinate faaaarrrr tooooo much, when I get down to it l love writing about what I do!  I love to share knowledge, give readers hints and tips, and share my passion.

so maybe my linked in profile sums it up better – Crochet Ambassador!

Summer crochet – catch up

Many people give up the yarn arts over the summer, not so the (ever so slightly) obsessed of  us, and so now is the time that we start thinking about autumn and winter knits and crochet.

Personally there is no time when I don’t crochet, and I have made a lot of cotton items over the past couple of months.  I can only give hints here until they are published, but I have designed a cardigan and top in King Cole Giza cotton, a rangoli rug for DMC in Natura XL, and baby blanket for Woman’s weekly in DMC Natura Medium.giza-top-pink-eml 2016-06-21-13-14-362016-08-15-15-42-47

The ladies in our knitting and crochet groups also keep knitting and crocheting over the summer and here are some of their projects

Trish is still going strong on blankets… this made in babette type squares sewn together – cleverly using a load of 4ply she was gifted with – two strands together, gives a lovely tweedy effect on some of the squares (the photo was taken in the Angel Pub so not the best!)

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Estella, has been quietly working away and has suddenly produced this gorgeous shell stitch blanket, with a really interesting colour effect…

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Finally Gwen, who knitted this baby blanket, then gave it a super ribbon edge – really nice for baby!

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For me there is always the opportunity for some Crochet out doors!

My Hubby and I went to see our son ride very quickly (over 170mph in places!) on his motorbike – around Snetterton Race track, you can see the pits where we were stationed!  Sunny day, smell of fuel and burning tyres, what’s not to enjoy?!

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This is a very famous place – where my Hubby swam along the river with a couple of hundred others – I sat and enjoyed the peace and quiet for a while.

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Here he is swimming in the river – he is far left of the picture taking a breath…

2016-08-14-11-44-49And this is a picture from the position that made this place famous – have you guessed where it is yet?

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Constable country – Flatford Mill is where the Hay-wain was painted!

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Although I like this photo better, just something about the plants, the bench (and I love an arched window) is very inviting!

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I am looking forward now to the Autumn/Winter season, with several shows, workshops to plan and deliver and  a few more patterns I am working on that I can sell myself… watch this space…

Yarn Order – Stylecraft Special DK

What excites you? For me it is the planning of a colour combination that I am creating, and making an order of yarn – Stylecraft Special DK has a fabulous selection.

2016-08-02 10.56.36So this is Just a quickie post, as I am sooooo excited… I have just placed a new order for yarn!  Stylecraft Special DK, I love the planning of colours and since creating my Rainbow Granny blanket pattern, I was not as happy as I could be with my colour selection – one particular colour stood out, but only in the photography – Meadow.  I wanted a more vibrant green, but Stylecraft didn’t have one.

A year later, and some limited edition yarns, which due to demand have now become part of the 66 colour range.  I have re- ordered, and changed 3 colours – I now have the (hopefully short) wait for the yarn to arrive.  In the meantime can you guess which other colours have changed and what I might have changed them to?

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I still have a couple of vintage packs in stock, (link to my etsy shop) and I have also ordered some yarns to make a Candy colour pack,  7 colours that are lovely and summery – I will announce them later!!!

Getting parcels – still feels a bit like Christmas!

Missenden Abbey – Crochet for all course

So I have had a bit of a blogging break, but I have been very busy this year so far planning courses and workshops, designing for a range of magazines, and yarn companies!  I have also been doing some supply teaching at a lovely school in Enfield.

I hope to be around quite a bit during the summer, and completing some designs that I have had on the hook for a very long time!

I am also teaching again at Missenden Abbey.  I am currently re-writing my course so that it is even more appropriate for mixed ability!  It will be based on the basics (?!), but I have designed my own squares for the ripple pattern, and 3D flower centre, with extra little hints and tips along the way.Ripple pattern for Crochet for All CourseIf you have never picked up a crochet hook before, if you have some experience, maybe with lots of questions, or want to know some tips to make your crochet look more professional, This is the course for you!

It is running from Wednesday 17th, 9am – 5pm, Thursday 9am – 5pm and Friday 19th August 9am – 3pm, with wonderful lunches, and breaks with homemade biscuits and cake!  (The crochet is great too!)

If you would like to know what goes on at Missenden abbey, have a look at this post from last years Learn to Crochet course.  This is the link for more details about the course.  I look forward to seeing you!

 

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?