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?

Missenden Abbey – the return!

Copy of 2015-08-18 13.59.51Tuesday was a new experience; I was an Artist in Residence at Missenden Abbey.  It was lovely to go back with a different thing to do, I set up a little stand with some of my work, and had a few bits and pieces to sell, and two courses to promote.  Then I sat alongside and started to crochet – I chatted with people as they came up to me and trying to catch people eyes as they came along to coffee (I know MORE coffee!) or lunch.

I was able to work on a new beginners course, I have to shorten my existing course, which was 11 sessions this summer, to 7 sessions for the weekend, I also realised that I was using other peoples patterns, when I could use my own!  So for these last 2 days, I have designed a simpler flower block, and a small ripple block that I can use to teach (the granny square is one of those patterns that if it was a poem would be by anon, most people that crochet know how to make one, so can’t claim it as my own!) I am also in the process of joining and making a border so that there is a project to be completed by the end of the course.

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I am also creating a design your own Amigurumi course where we will be learning how to make some basic shapes and then using these shapes to make our own animals, dolls, monsters or aliens!


I had some lovely chats to people, gave out leaflets, crocheted while people were doing their courses, had some lovely mushroom soup for lunch, and had plenty of coffee!

Sneak peek!

So today I was completing the beginners crochet project, and as I want to write this up, I thought you might like a sneak peek – do you like the colours?  There were one of two that I wasn’t sure about, but now I see them altogether, especially in the ripple, I am loving it!

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More details in a future post…


Linky post

So if you are new around here I thought I would point you to some interesting and useful posts

If you are looking for help to learn how to crochet – here is information on how to start, and how to make a granny square.

granny square round 3Slip knot and crochet chain

Granny square Round 1

Granny square Round 2

Granny square Round 3 and 4

And when you are learning, a great tool are these conversion charts as US patterns are written differently to UK patterns…starting out on Ravelry… others learning to crochet…

Conversion charts and US vs UK terminology2015-08-05 16.37.41

Ravelry – what is it and how to get started!

Missenden Abbey – My recent course, and how wonderful it is to teach in such a beautiful setting

And finally some inspirational posts

all colours

I hope you enjoy this re-cap, I am over 50 posts now, and looking forward to the next 50!


Day out – in town!

Had a brilliant day today, with my good friend Julia, We started at Blackfriars, and walked over the bridge to the Tate, Modern, I took a few artistic photos of a sample that I have designed for Women’s weekly, so unfortunately I can’t show you pictures, it was quite a simple design, but detailed so I am very happy to have completed it.

We then went to deliver the sample – and were invited up to the office, the Blue Fin Building is lovely inside,2015-08-17 12.38.55We chatted with a couple of people who work at Women’s weekly, and then we went up to the roof garden to have a cup of coffee.  It was a gorgeous day, and the view is spectacular! 2015-08-17 12.28.25 2015-08-17 12.32.23 2015-08-17 12.35.39 2015-08-17 12.37.02-2We then decided to go to the Royal Academy – via Green Park and lunch, we went to M&S and took far too long to decide what to eat!

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Unusual coloured broccoli/cauliflower – purple, yellow and green!

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Fabulous flowers in M&S

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Soooo colourful

We got the bus to Waterloo, and the tube to Green Park, I didn’t realise that you can walk straight up from the subway into the park!  We found a lovely shady tree, ate lunch, chatted and I designed a new crochet flower block!

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We then walked along to the Burlington House which is the home of the Royal Academy of Arts.  I have been a ‘Friend of the RA for years, but don’t usually go into town that often to make best advantage of it. 2015-08-17 15.23.30

So we saw this spectacular piece of art on the entrance stairs, we wondered how it was made, as it is a stone staircase, any hoo, we walked up, then got a bit confused about which gallery to go into, and ended up going via the lift, but an alternative route as it was out of order, it meant we were accompanied all around the back parts of the academy, where the public don’t usually see.  we went through the magnificent library with really old books.

We looked around the only exhibition that was there which was Joseph Cornell – Wanderlust, an ironic title as he never travelled, it was an interesting show, but not something that appeals greatly to me – I could appreciate the skill involved in some of the pieces, and quite liked a couple of the collages, but overall it wasn’t really my ‘thing’!  The stairs piece was much more interesting to me because of all the colour!

When we come out of the exhibition, we went to go down the stairs and we couldn’t – they were removing the artwork!!  It was fascinating to see this happening, and how they were pulling and scraping off the tape, lots of people all at once, and when we came back from having a coffee in the friend’s rooms, it was completely gone.  I could say something about the transitional nature of art, but it was just really interesting!

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Really lovely relaxing day out, a bit ‘ladies who lunch’, with a great friend, lots of chatting, coffee, and a little bit of crochet!

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The secret to professional results

So how do we achieve professional looking results from our crochet or knitting?  You really do have to follow all the guidelines!  There are no shortcuts… I know you didn’t want to hear that did you!

To start with if you are making a garment you really should make a gauge/tension swatch.  and especially if you are changing the yarn, even two double knits can crochet/knit in a very different way, then if you change the content of the yarn – eg from acrylic to wool or merino, they stretch in different ways.

You should learn how to sew up your items properly, mattress stitch is your friend!  whenever I have taught it, people think its almost magical the way that you cannot see the seam from the right side.  Although my USP (Unique Selling Point) as far as designing goes is to reduce the amount of time you spend finishing off the pattern – If once you have fastened off and sewn in the last end the garment-toy-item is finished it is waaaay more satisfying than having to then sew or crochet together many little pieces.

And finally you really should learn to block your items.  This is not step by step instructions, but just a gentle introduction!2015-02-11 10.29.32     2015-08-15 18.32.32I am showing you lots of examples here mainly of thread work like doilies, or lace which is equally fine, but it really is remarkable the difference when you do block.

2015-05-09 22.47.36   2015-05-09 22.51.50So what should you block? – anything that is flat! You cannot block toys/3D objects (as you stuff them the stitches are formed into their final shape, but garments, blankets, scarves/shawls, all have their differing methods.

DSC03558      DSC03565 Blocking just means that you use water in some form (washing, moistening or steaming) to re-align the stitches, making them as even as possible, and form the item into a good shape and correct size. DSC03573

You might wash the item (I do this most of the time as I find it the most reliable) You can steam the item, and then you can shape it – this might be a light blocking in the case of a garment which you shape to the correct size with your hands and leave it to dry flat.  It might be a stronger blocking like a lace scarf, which after you have crocheted might be quite a scrumpled up mess, but once wetted and stretched out with pins and/or wires, shows what a beauty it can become.  Or in the case of something like a blanket, you may wash it in the machine (on a slow wool wash) then fold and ease it into a good shape.

This is just an outline of how to block, there are many great websites that go into far more detail – one of them that I found recently is the Shibaguyz they have some brilliant technique postings – this link is to their blocking page.  So go for it, and have a professional looking piece

Life, crochet and Yarn

I had a really busy, but fabulous day, first to Rachels, for coffee, and crochet – we also had some delicious cinnamon buns,  I was finishing off a design project, but Rachel has done a wonderful thing for me – she blocked a shawl that I made as I didn’t have enough space to do it at home.  What’s blocking I hear you ask?  Well all will become clearer in a future post… but basically it is about the final wetting and shaping part of the creation process when what you make moves from home-made to hand-made.  This is a before picture – you can see that the stitches are sort of scrunched up, and although it is on the floor, it was not draping properly…
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This picture is a close up of the blocked stitches, you can see that they have opened up beautifully.   The picture at the top of this post shows how well it drapes now.

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So that was the Crochet part of the three things.

Life, I went to Maddies 18th party.  Maddie has just been accepted into university, and so this was a bit of a double celebration.  She didn’t want a huge party, but just to have friends, and other people that have shaped her life.  It was a wonderful if damp party with many different ages, from grandparents to youngsters.  A great time was had by all! (Don’t you just love the Giraffe Cake)

2015-08-14 17.27.50 2015-08-14 17.25.06 And later when we were playing the Game of Empire, I spotted this in Julia’s living room… A very interesting yarn holder, with needles!!2015-08-14 19.20.29

squeeeeee! Woman’s Weekly

I really felt like squealing today – In the post was a copy of Woman’s Weekly, The WEEKLY one!  I have had several patterns published in the Knitting and Crochet Monthly but this is the first weekly one, and it is the only knitting/crochet pattern in the issue.

I did get notified by tweet earlier in the week, but in my naivety, I didn’t realise it was the weekly one!

See in the bottom left hand corner…  That’s my pattern!

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And here it is on my mannequin,

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With a close up of the ripple pattern – which I designed from scratchmain body of ripple - bottom edge

So today is a good day!  Thank you Woman’s Weekly.