Hello and welcome back to the blog! So, over the course of this month, I’ve told you how thickness, texture and colour can impact your craft. However, I wanted to talk a bit more about colour before rounding off this section.
Being a teenager, I’m very used to school cliques - how teens split into friendship groups based on interests, fashion and other factors. For example, you have the popular people, the musical groups, the sporty ones, the geeks (the group that I fall into without a doubt) and many more! However, when it comes to colour, fashion and craft, I think we could all benefit from listening to artistic people, who define their style as “aesthetic.”
I’m sure you have all heard the term aesthetic before and in a sense, it means the same thing both to young and old. However, for some people, it’s more than just something that looks nice. It’s all about what shapes, colours and patterns draw you personally. For a lot of people, this means pastel colours or colours that are quite similar to each other but ultimately, aesthetic is a personal choice; nobody else can decide what you like. You may remember that in my first post about colour, I revealed that less than half of the respondents of my survey said that they wear their favourite colour often. This is why I think it’s so important to use this approach to find a style that is true and authentic to you.
But how exactly to you find your aesthetic? It sound like a complicated thing, finding out your entire style. However, it’s actually quite simple; all you have to do is look for things in your everyday life. As one of the participants of my survey said, colour is everywhere. I’ll give you a couple of examples of how I find colour schemes that I like.
Personally, I am a huge fan of nature. Every week, I go on a walk around my local area and even though I often go to the same places, I almost always find a new area or something that looks completely different depending on the season. Here are a few photos that I have taken both on walks recently and on trips out in the spring and summer.
I also like to get colour inspiration from food, whether that’s healthy and hearty meals, fast food or sweet treats. I haven’t cooked in a long time, but when I do cook I love to take photos and share them on social media because some meals can look really pretty! Here are a few photos and whilst not all of them are super colourful, they can still give me inspiration for shapes and patterns or if nothing else, looking at the photo just brings back happy (and hungry!) memories.
Alternatively, whilst it can be nice to be inspired by something specific, I often find I’m inspired by the most random things! One of these is flags (both country flags and pride flags) as the colour schemes can be surprisingly pretty. This interest sparked after a few of my friends noticed that some clothes that I had made matched the colours of some pride flags, completely by coincidence. Whilst I wouldn't particularly want to make a Union Jack jumper or anything like that, I would like to make some things inspired by the colours in some African countries' flags, as they are often very detailed but vibrant. You can also take inspiration from logos, TV characters, album and book covers and so much more.
Once you’ve got your inspiration and few photos, get looking for your wool! Pick out your favourite colours and search for wools in those shades online. If you have a lot of specific colours to look for, it can be quite challenging as once you’ve picked one brand, you’ll want to make sure that your other colours are the same thickness and fibre (or at least something similar). Here are a couple colour schemes that I have made based on some of the photos I put up earlier - see if you can work out which photos they go with!
When it comes to matching colours, here are a couple brands that I recommend which have a wide range of shades available.
If you’re struggling to find colour inspiration still, sometimes you have to use wool itself to inspire you. If you take look at our online store, you can find a wide range of both solid colours and multicoloured wool. Personally, I like multicoloured gradients best but as I said earlier, it’s your personal choice! Here are a few photos of multicoloured wools that I just love, as well as a photo of the Super Chunky cardigan in shades of pink that I recently finished.
Finally, I had to mention the app Pinterest. Personally, I've heard people talk about it a lot but have only recently downloaded it and I can tell you now, it’s amazing for finding aesthetics and colour schemes. If you want to see our colour recommendations as well as many other pins to inspire you, I suggest that you follow us, under the name Avicraft Wool, on Pinterest.
I hope that this has helped you find your aesthetic and discover the colours and patterns that you truly love. Now, I’m off to gather more ideas too!
Until next time, happy crafting!
Thick or Thin?
Hello again and welcome back to the blog! Today we'll be looking at the different thicknesses of yarn and I will be ranking my favourites (by which I mean I will rank them in order of general popularity and throw in the odd controversial yarn opinion here and there!). My rankings will be based on how easy the thickness is to work with, how useful it is (because let's face it, nobody needs a single ply vest with the UK's cold, cold weather) and also how much choice there is within the thickness. So let's start with the worst.
6th: 1ply, 2ply, 3ply and Sock Weight
I've decided to group these all together because they are the thinner options, so they are equally fiddly. They're also not very widely available - we have a fair range of sock weight yarn and some 3ply but very little that's thinner than that just because very few people choose to work with 2ply, let alone 1ply! Some people like thinner yarns though, which I understand as they can be used to make very dainty and intricate lace garments or crochet doilies. But for me, the main problem is that with thin yarn, you are not only more likely to make mistakes but they're also much more obvious. So, for that reason, I'm not saying that you should never use these thicknesses but I am saying that you should have full focus when using these and should never, under any circumstances, do your first project in 3ply or below! Here is a photo of a sock I tried to do whilst distracted - bad idea (I was doing magic circle and somehow managed to knit the wrong way)!
Again, I've put 4ply low on the list because it can be fiddly; having said that, it's much more pleasant than other skinny options. It's the standard baby garment thickness, so there are lot of 4ply options on the market. Whilst I'm yet to work with it, I particularly recommend West Yorkshire Spinners Bo Peep as it is a wool mix, making it that little bit better for the environment, and there's a great range of baby colours (click here to see). Alternatively, if you want to use 4ply for adult garments, Jarol Heritage 4ply has a great range of more adult colours - click here to take a look.
I have to admit, I have a bit of a controversial view on aran - I've just never seen the point of having a thickness that is thicker than 4ply and double knit but thinner than chunky. Then again, I am a little biased because I'm always either too cold and desperate for a thick jumper of too hot and trying to find the lightest thing in my wardrobe - I'm never anywhere in between so I rarely find a purpose for aran. Having said that, It's good for hats and scarves when you need something that's warm but not too bulky and tight around your neck (I know I like tight scarves but not many people do, so it's perfect if you need something more roomy). Also, there are some great colour ranges available in certain aran brands - just look at Sirdar Jewelspun Aran and see how pretty some of them are (click here)! Also with aran, you can get balls with 400g on, which are super cool!
3rd: Super Chunky
In my opinion, super chunky is the best thickness; however, I know it has its flaws and is not as great in some people's eyes. As a person with little patience, it's great for me as it knits/crochets up very quickly (though having said that, I've never crocheted with super chunky before, so I'm not sure whether it's something I would recommend). Also, I often find that mistakes in super chunky are harder to spot but easier to solve, which is something that is particularly important to me as I often do knitting whilst watching TV, listening to music, even when watching school assemblies and Q&As from home! However, I do get that some people find it far too bulky and it definitely isn't a good one to work with in the summer or even late spring as it is just too hot on your lap. At the moment, as I have been for what feels like forever, I'm working with Creative Smile Super Chunky, which has a great range of colours and is so, so soft, but I also really like the colours in Stylecraft Special XL and Creative Glow Worm (which also contains glass fibre - great for walking in the dark!). I would love to work with them some time.
2nd: Regular Chunky
I put regular chunky in second because it has the perfect balance of being quick to knit/crochet up and being nice and light in comparison with super chunky. Also, it's very widely available in a range of colours and yarn fibres. My favourite chunky yarns include Hayfield Spirit Chunky, Stylecraft Cosy Delight and Number One Chunky - you can find all of these (and more) here. Chunky is probably the thickness that I have worked most with; I used it when making my first scarf, my first jumper and my first crochet granny square - though I forgot to check the materials in my yarn first so did end up making a series of curling, oddly stretched squares. On that note, here is a picture of the first jumper that I made for myself - I still love it to this day
1st: Double Knit
In first place is double knit; it's the thickness that most people first learn to knit with (almost all kids needles are 4mm, the size used for most double knits) and the thickness that arguably has the largest ranges in colours and textures. Double knit is not only great for beginner items and spring/summer clothes, it is also great for toys as the stitches are smaller, meaning that the gaps between the stitches that could allow for stuffing to seep out are also much smaller. Whilst I'm not normally a fan of thinner yarn, even I know that sometimes it is important. Below is a photo a DK scarf that I did when I was younger using a basic lace pattern. It's gone a little fuzzy over the years but to me, the photo really show that only thin yarns can truly show certain patterns - it wouldn't have looked right at all in a chunky.
Last week, I mentioned Stylecraft Special DK, one of the most popular double knit yarns, but I also need to give a bit of recognition to a few other brands I love, including Sirdar Number One DK, Sirdar Snuggly Replay, Rico Dream DK Uni and Stylecraft Batik Swirl (in fact I love all of Stylecraft's DK yarn cakes). Click here to go and explore the wonderful world of DK yarn, or here to have a look at all our web shop options. And don't forget to check out our Ebay Shops or to drop us an email - go to the home page of our website for more info!
I hope that you enjoyed this post and that it gives you the inspiration you need to start a new project, whether that's something warm and woolly or something a little cooler for summer! Until next time, happy crafting!
*Note - the links in this post only take you to one shade of yarn for each brand of wool described. To find more colours click here.
Hello and welcome back to the blog! Today we will be looking at different textures, exploring the pros and cons of different yarn fibres. Until recently, I rarely looked at what was actually in my yarn and when I started to understand more about yarn materials, I was surprised by how important it was and how much impact your fabric choice can have on your garment. I hope this guide gives you a good insight into your yarn.
Now, there are a lot of different types of yarn fibres and it would take a long time to cover them all. Frankly, I'm very busy lazing about and avoiding social interaction, so I don't have time to cover them all. Instead, I'll look at the pros and cons of these five types of yarn fibres:
Acrylic is probably the most common yarn fibre, probably because it is very practical. For starters, it is quite cheap so if you're a knitter on a budget, it is definitely a go-to. Another reason that many people choose acrylic is because unlike pure wool, it does not contain common allergens. It's also machine washable, with colours much less likely to leak from acrylic than another fabrics, so it's a very good choice for a garment that you plan on using a lot. Because colours don't leak out of acrylic much, you can often get quite a wide variety of colours in acrylic yarns; for example, Stylecraft Special DK, a pure acrylic yarn that we stock and love, has nearly a hundred colours in the range and is slowly expanding their colour ranges in other thicknesses as well. Here are some photos of our Stylecraft Special colours.
However, these good qualities do come at a bit of a cost, particularly for the environment. One of the reasons why acrylic is so cheap is because it's made of plastic, which is made of crude oil. Not only is this problematic because it takes a long time to degrade (around four hundred and fifty years!) but because it is made of fossil fuels (which we are running low on as a planet), it will melt at high temperatures! It also is not very breathable either, meaning it can make you pretty hot. So, I would suggest that acrylic is great for anything that you want to be colourful but should be avoided if you don't plan on keeping what you make for long. Personally, I would choose to use acrylic yarn in toys and blankets rather than jumpers. Alternatively, if you want something as colourful as acrylic but would like to reduce your environmental impact slightly, you could try a yarn that contains a mixture of acrylic and another fibre such as wool. One that I recommend is Stylecraft Batik Elements, which you can find on our Ebay page or buy via Email or Telephone (for more guidance on how to buy from us, go to the home page of this website).
Another popular choice is cotton, which is often chosen as a more environmentally friendly alternative. This is because it is a natural fibre and takes around half a year to decompose after it has been disposed of. Also, similarly to acrylic, there are many colours available and it is often machine washable. What's more, it is much more breathable than acrylic meaning that it is better in the summer. At the moment, we are selling James C Brett It's Pure Cotton DK on this website, so do take a look.
However, cotton is not always the most environmentally friendly choice as is often grown with pesticides, which have a negative impact on the land that its grown on. It also requires large amounts of water to dye it, which some companies are better at disposing of correctly (i.e., not putting it in the sea or any other natural habitat) than others. Also, when exposed to rain or not fully dried after washing, cotton clothes will sag and stretch. Having said that, cotton wool otherwise lacks stretch completely, meaning that it can be a bit harder to keep an even tension with cotton, particularly if you are a newbie knitter. For these reasons, I would recommend cotton for summer tops but perhaps would advise that you steer away from cotton if - like me - you struggle with your tension.
If you're looking for the most environmentally friendly choice, look no further than bamboo. Being natural, renewable and biodegradable, it's a great option for looking after the planet. Also, there are a couple extra bonuses too. Unlike most fibres, bamboo helps to reduce bacterial growth, meaning that it reduces sweat and body odours. It's a breathable fibre too, helping to reduce heat and sweat even further. Moreover, it's the perfect option for anyone with sensitive skin as it is super soft and does not contain the allergens that wool contains. Whilst this is not a pure bamboo (it contains some wool), I have to recommend Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo (don't get it confused with regular snuggly please!). I have never worked with it but have felt it many times and desperately want to. There are also a ton of great colours too - click here and on the link at the top of this post to have a look.
Of course, no yarn fibre is perfect; bamboo is perhaps not the best option if you are a beginner or need a yarn that is particularly strong as it can split and break quite easily. Also, it's not the most widely accessible option; however, do keep your eyes peeled as, with the fact that it is much better for our planet, we are likely to see a lot more bamboo wool and clothing on the market very soon.
Sheep Wool and Alpaca Wool
I decided to group both sheep and alpaca wool as they have quite similar qualities. For example, they are both very durable and retain their shape easily but, at the same time, are slightly elastic, meaning that it is easier to maintain and control your tension on wool garments. Another thing about wool is that it is both warm and breathable, something which not many other yarn fibres manage to achieve. Moreover, wool is another great option for the environment because, just like bamboo, it is natural and renewable. There are many different pure wools on offer and I am pleased to say that one of my favourite yarns of all time is a pure sheep wool - click here to have a look (and don't forget to look at our profile to see all the shades)! Alternatively, if you want to try alpaca wool, here is a good place to find some - this yarn is not 100% alpaca but it is very close to it, meaning that it should have all the benefits. On the other hand, I understand why some people are not as keen on sheep or alpaca wool as it requires a lot of care (you have to avoid washing it in hot water and must do EVERYTHING you can to protect it from moths!) and it can be quite expensive. Also, be careful if you have sensitive skin and allergies as sheep wool contains some natural chemicals that can cause reactions; if you have any concerns about this, I would suggest going for alpaca wool only, as it does not contain these allergens.
So, what is the best wool? Well, it completely depends on what you are making. Here's my little summary of when I would use each type of wool.
That's all from me, so until next time, happy crafting!
Hello, and welcome back! This post is the first in this series all about mental health and craft. For the next five weeks, I'll be looking at different styles of material in the crafting world, particularly for knitting and crochet. So, where better a place to start than by looking at colour?
Personally, I love a bit of colour. Every day, you are surrounded it, yet it is so easy to take it for granted! Then, there are the more subtle meanings too: red being associated with energy but also anger; blue being associated with trustworthiness and in some cases being proven to relieve pain; even having colours represent minority communities. Having said all this, it is easy to be cynical and wonder "does colour really have any impact on my life?" For that reason, I decided to do a little research, looking into a couple ideas around colour online as well as carrying out my own survey amongst friends. So, today, I thought I would share my results with you and (hopefully) find the answers to all my questions about colour.
The first thing that I decided to ask people was about the colours that are in their bedrooms. I felt this was important because your sleep patterns can have a big impact on your wellbeing. Unsurprisingly, the most popular colour to have in the bedroom was white, with twenty of the twenty-nine participants saying that their bedroom contains white as a main colour. After that was cream, with ten people selecting this, followed by pale blue with seven people. But are these good colours to have in a bedroom? Well, because I only did my research among a few friends, my results were a little inclusive as to the impact that the colours had, but other research suggests that colours like white, beige and cream are good because of how pale they are but are quite under-stimulating, meaning that they can increase stress. Therefore, these colours are best when paired with other colours. Good bedroom colours are often cool colours, such as blue, green and lilac, and should be relatively pale as bright colours can distract you from sleeping. Another tip that is often suggested when picking bedroom colours is that we should avoid pairing bright colours with black, as, again, this is very vibrant and striking. The same applies with contrasting colours i.e. avoid having red and green, orange and blue or yellow and purple bedrooms. Having said this, these colour schemes are great for social rooms, kitchens or any room that you go into as soon as you wake up, as it can give you a colourful and refreshing start to your morning.
Then, I decided to look at what colours most people wear. Now, unlike with bedroom colours, there aren't any colours that I do or don't recommend as fashion is very subjective to opinion and different colours look good on different people. However, I thought I would share the five most popular colours to wear according to my survey.
1. Black - all 29 participants said that they wear black regularly.
2. White - 16 people said they often wear white, which surprised me as I will usually do anything to avoid it!
3. Dark blue - 14 people said that they often wear dark blue,
4. Red - this is one of the only bright colours that people said they wear regularly; 10 people picked this option.
5. Grey - 8 people picked grey as a colour they often wear.
How do these colour choices impact people? Do they have any affect at all? Whilst my results were a little unclear, there did seem to be a link between colour preferences and attitudes towards certain ideas. For example, I asked people whether or not they thought they are creative. Those who said they are often wear a wide variety of colour, with only two people in this category saying that they only wear neutral colours and/or dark blue, whereas nearly half of the group that didn't think they are creative wear almost only these colours. So, when you start doing some craft, why limit yourself to black and white when you have an entire rainbow at your disposal?
Arguably the most important question on the survey (apart from the question at the end asking for consent to use peoples' data, of course) was about peoples' favourite colours. Now that you have looked at what most people wear, be prepared to be shocked about what people prefer. Here is the list:
1. In at number one is dark blue, a colour which is known throughout society as being a firm favourite.
2. Dark green. This one was a huge shock, because in my experience, people who say that their favourite colour is green, particularly girls, are often seen as weird or lacking in taste. I'm glad that this is up here though because although it's not my favourite of all time, I definitely like it.
3. Three colours came in at third place: red, pale blue and lilac.
You may have noticed that unlike in other sections, I haven't told you how many people picked each one. That's because people picked such a wide range that even dark blue in 1st place only had six votes. This completely contrasts with what I said earlier about popular colours to wear, where all of the respondents picked black. In fact, only 14 of the 29 participants said that they often wear their favourite colours. But why? It may have something to do with a lack of self-confidence - over half of the respondents said that they don't like wearing clothes that draw attention to them. However, wearing colours that you like doesn't mean going everywhere in a violet body suit just because you like purple. Accessories such as shawls, gloves and socks or even cardigans in slightly more vibrant colours will not draw too much attention to you when paired with black trousers or a white t-shirt - it is definitely possible to wear colours you like without sticking out like a sore thumb. So why not try it? This may seem difficult if you are nervous about stepping out of your comfort zone, but the great thing about clothes is that you aren't stuck with them - if that purple hat just does attract too many stares for your liking, you can always change it! Maybe, if wearing colours that you like outside just is too big a jump for you, incorporating the colour into your life in other ways could be equally beneficial. One person in the survey said it very well, telling me that "[they] used to say [that their] favourite colour was pink until [they] realised that [they] don't have to be like everybody else."
Finally, I wanted to briefly mention the condition synaesthesia as one of the participants in my survey mentioned it, so I decided to look into it a little. Synaesthesia is a condition that means that when a person with it experiences one sense or concept, their mind responds by associating it with another. For example, some people with synaesthesia can associate words with tastes, sounds with textures and letters with colours. If you have the synaesthesia linked with colour, I would absolutely recommend utilising your ability when designing colour schemes or doing any craft. Even if the colours that you see are not the prettiest when put together, what your mind is doing is amazing and as a bit of geek, I think that the science of it is very beautiful! If you don't have this condition, don't feel like you are missing out, as there are so many ways to immerse yourself in sensory input and get colour inspiration based on this. If you ever smell food cooking, visualise it and think of the colours in that food (as you may have guessed, I am a huge foodie); listen to music and doodle as you listen, seeing what colours come to mind; find celebrities that you like and think of the colours that they wear. I also like to get inspiration from album covers and what I see when on walks.
So, from this, it's clear that different colours impact people differently; whilst there are some common favourites, it is important to know that everyone is unique. The best way to use colour to benefit your mental health? Incorporate colours that you like into your craft and into your life. That's all from me this week, so until next time, happy crafting!
A New Beginning
Hello, Happy New Year to you all! Apologies for not having posted for ages, but fortunately, I've got something very exciting planned that will hopefully make up for that - more on that later. 2020 was a year that can only be described as one thing: strange. But let’s not dwell on the past; I’m hoping that things improve for us all this year.
What are your New Year’s Resolutions? I’ve got a little list of things that I would like to achieve, but nothing too daring or life-changing. For me, my main goal is to try and look after my mental health and wellbeing – after everything that went on last year, we all need to look after ourselves, and totally deserve a pat on the back for ploughing on!
When I think about self-care and what makes me happy, crafting is one of the first things that come to mind. A few days ago, when I was feeling stressed and down, I decided to pick up a knitting project that I had just started, and as I knitted each stitch and row, I felt calmer and started to realise that things were going to be OK. I’m not claiming that it was a “miracle cure” but it definitely made things feel a whole lot lighter.
I know I’m not the only one. In his book Knit and Nibble, food writer and television chef James McIntosh talks about how, throughout his career, he experienced high levels of stress from how busy his life had become. One day, as a consequence, he was unable to get out of bed and find the joy in his life. He tried practicing meditation to boost his mental health; however, it was not for him. He felt at a loss – until he discovered knitting. As he started to knit, he noticed that his mental health was improving – in his book he says “a faint light began appearing at the end of that very dark tunnel.”
But why? What is it that makes craft such a powerful tool for wellbeing? Well, firstly, it’s linked to hormones – whenever you do craft, your dopamine (“happy hormone”) levels increase and your stress hormones, such as cortisol, decrease. As a consequence, craft can make you feel less lonely and can relieve symptoms of some mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. The concentration and repetition that many crafts require can also stop the mind from wandering and can make negative thoughts feel a little more quiet. Then, when you produce a final product, your feelings of self esteem may increase because you can see what you have made – and what you have achieved – in front of your very eyes. I know I always get a buzz of excitement and pride when I complete a project! What’s more, not only is craft great for your mental health, but it has even been proven to reduce chronic pain.
For this reason, I have decided to craft every day for a year as my New Year’s Resolution. Also, much more importantly, I will be doing a series of blog posts every week from today until the 10th July, with a focus on crafting (particularly knitting and crochet) and mental health, something that's very close to my heart. I’ve broken down the idea into six themes. These are:
I am so excited to start this little series – don’t forget to check in next week to see the first post! Also, I would love to hear from you – if you have any questions or want to show us what crafts you’re working on, feel free to drop a comment or message either here, on Instagram (@avicraftwool) or on Facebook (@avicraftwoolbromley). There will also be quite a few surveys and opinion polls throughout this, so do let us know what you think in those.
I can’t wait to write to you all next week, but until then, happy crafting!
My name is Sharon the Sheep, the owner of Avicraft Wool Shop in Bromley Kent..