Hello and welcome back to the blog. It's crazy to think that we've nearly finished this craft and mental health blog series! Over the course of around six months, we've looked at styles and inspiration and focused in on knitting and crochet, but now, I thought that it was time to take a deeper delve into the lesser known crafts. As part of my Duke of Edinburgh award, I decided to learn macramé, so today I thought I would give an overview of the craft and answer some frequently asked questions.
What is it?
Macramé is a type of craft which originates from traditional Arabic culture but has recently become popular across the world. It involves weaving and knotting cords or ropes to form patterns which can be made into items such as bags, belts, wall hangings, plant pot holders, jewellery and many other garments.
What do you need?
The type of equipment you will need will depend on what you are doing, but you will always need cord (we sell both cotton and thicker macramé cord) and something to hold it on e.g. a wooden dowel or D ring, both of which we have in stock at the moment. Also, you may want a flat clipboard-like surface such as piece of wood to peg it on to and foldback clips to help with tension, which you can get from many places including Avicraft next door to us. Arguably though, the most essential thing for macramé is instructions; whilst it is totally possible to make up your own pattern, it is very useful to have instructions as these can show you how to do a wider range of knots and will also tell you what other specific equipment you need.
Is it difficult?
Personally, I do think that macramé is a little difficult, but not a difficult as some people may think. The only thing about it that is challenging is getting the tension of your knots right, so that they are not too big and loose or tight and small. However, the actual knots themselves are not difficult. Therefore, whilst it may be a while before you end up making perfectly intricate garments, it will be no time at all before you are able to make something.
On the other hand, macramé is a long process. As it is quite small and intricate, it does take a long time to make something and it requires some patience. Therefore, if you are looking for a quick hobby, perhaps this isn't the one for you.
Is it expensive?
Macramé is a little more expensive than some other crafts because along with the yarn (which you need very large amounts of in order to do the knots), you may also need different equipment in order to improve tension and make it look neat as well as to make it a little easier. For example, I also bought cord holders, which allowed me to wind up all the cord at the bottom that I wasn't using so that it didn't get knotted up. Having said that, I didn't make many other extra purchases and whilst I think I may have been able to make it a little neater had I more money and space, I don't think that it would have had that great of an impact.
How did you learn?
Because of the lockdowns and the fact that nobody else in my family does macramé, I decided to teach myself it. I used a combination of YouTube videos, websites with images and books with diagrams in order to learn and once I had found the right ones with the clearest images and explanations, it wasn't too hard.
What did you make?
Over the course of three months, I made two garments: a small belt (which was very messy as I struggled to maintain the right tension at first) and a plant pot wall hanging. Here are photos of them.
Would I recommend macramé?
If you not looking for a new hobby to jump into and focus on at the moment, I perhaps wouldn't recommend starting macramé but apart from that, I really recommend it! I loved having something to focus on and it was really satisfying to teach myself and watch my progress. I also love how macramé looks as well - the texture of it is so intricate and pretty!
Next time, I'm going to look at needle felting, another less well known-craft. Until then, happy crafting!
Casting Off: Knitting vs Crochet
Hello and welcome back to the blog! I would wish you a happy summer, but the weather is pretty miserable at the moment. Then again, it's perfect weather for cosying up with a project. But which type is better: knitting or crochet? It's virtually impossible to come up with one definitive answer, but today I'll look at different aspects of both knitting and crochet and see which do better for each.
Easier to Start: Knitting
A lot of people argue that knitting is easier to start, as all it involves is putting your needle into a stitch which is already on a needle, looping around that and pulling that through. With crochet, the motion of putting the hook into the stitch can be a lot more fiddly at first.
Easier to Master: Crochet
Having said that, with knitting, there are many more techniques to learn afterwards in order to be able to make something, including purl stitch, casting on and off and increasing and decreasing. With crochet, there are a few similar things to learn but most of these use movements which aren't too different to the main crochet stitch.
Amount of Yarn: Knitting
Of course, this varies; if you are going to be making a crochet lace garment, you will end up using far less and if you are making your knitting extra bulky, you will use more. However, as a general rule of thumb, crochet uses a third more yarn than knitting does. So, if you are looking for a slightly cheaper craft, knitting may be your best option.
If you're looking for a quick project, crochet may be more for you as it is generally the quicker option. However. this speed comes from experience and practice, so people who do more knitting often find that they get pretty quick at it. In general though, crochet grows that little bit quicker, not only because the technique makes it bigger but also because it's less fiddly once you've got the hang of it, so you're not slowed down by that.
With both knitting and crochet, it is relatively easy to add some stripes. However, with knitting, you can do fair isle very easily, whereas with crochet it is a little harder because the stitches lean slightly. Below is a photo of some colourwork I have done with knitting recently (though I had a bit of an issue with the lighting so it's not the best of photos). Whilst I have a basic idea of how I would crochet it, I feel that it is much easier to knit.
In general, portability is more based on size; however, if you take your knitting project out, you run the risk of dropping stitches, which can be very fiddly to pick up. With crochet, you hook may come out and a little may come undone but this is much easier to rectify.
From this point on, I'm not going to declare a winner for each categories as these ones are more down to personal preference. The texture of knitting is much more uniform and smooth and it drapes very well, so if that's what you prefer, knitting is the best choice. However, if you would like something a little more dense and textured, crochet is for you.
With knitting, the direction is very logical - you just continuously go back and forth or occasionally in the round. Some people find this soothing, but for others this can be a little boring. On the other hand, crochet can be back and forth, in the round, in a 2d shape or in a range of other dimensions which can be used to make more 3d shapes.
As I said earlier, it's hard to come to a definitive answer, but personally I do prefer knitting. I started when I was young and then learnt the more complicated stitches over time, so I've got very familiar with knitting and have got pretty quick at it too from the experience. I also like the fact that it uses a bit less yarn as I like to make my projects oversized but don't have enough money or yarn to crochet tons of extra-large jumpers! I also love the texture and logical direction of knitting. Having said that, I really love the range of shapes that can be made when crocheting and the fact that mistakes are easier to rectify. If you are not sure which appeals more to you personally, I would recommend giving both knitting and crochet a try as different people gravitate to different types of craft for a range of reasons.
In our final section in this series of blog posts, I will be looking at some types of craft which are talked about less, but until next time, happy crafting!
Hello and welcome back to the blog! Now, anyone who knows me well knows that I am a huge fan of European culture, and the concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-guh or hue-gah for those who are wondering) is something that I absolutely love. Hygge is a Scandinavian concept which means "cosiness." It focuses on finding the perfect environment for comfort and serenity and is quite similar to mindfulness, although it is a little more sociable and does not involve any specific exercises or tasks. Think of Christmas, when you are sat with loved ones enjoying quality time, perhaps with candles, hearty food or a warm blanket; this is the perfect example of hygge, and people in countries such as Denmark and Norway will try and have moments like this as often as they can. Personally, I think it links really well to crochet as craft is often associated with warmth and can be easily done both alone and with others. Today, we will look at a few of the key aspects of hygge and how this can link to crafting.
Whilst you don't want to be in the dark, I personally believe that low lighting is much more serene. You may want to use scented candles or possibly a fireplace, though if you do, please make sure that you keep your yarn well away from the fire! If that sounds a little too risky, it may be better to install some less bright lights instead. In this weather, you could even knit outside in the evening - there is often a stereotype that hygge is only for the winter but the sunsets and warmth of summer can also be incredibly good for hygge too.
Your Hygge Space
Your hygge space is very important. Often, hygge will be done in a small area of the house (called a hyggekrog) containing many cushions, blankets and a variety of comforting textures. It doesn't matter exactly where this is - it could be near a window, by the TV or even in the kitchen - so long as it is comfortable to sit in. As mentioned earlier, if you have a fireplace, that's a bonus, and wooden furniture is also very popular for hygge but it's totally up to you - whatever makes you feel calm and cosy.
Food and Drink
Hygge is all about comfort and this includes comfort food. For many Scandinavian people, this will be native food, such as Danish smørrebrød (open-faced rye sandwiches) or Swedish meatballs but hygge food is any sort of treat, so long as it isn't too fancy. For example, a slice of cake or a bar of chocolate can be incredibly soothing. When it comes to savoury options, try something warm and rich, such as stew with homemade bread. Pair that with a coffee, tea or hot chocolate for ultimate hygge.
It is up to you as to whether to be hygge by yourself or with others. Often, hygge is done with just a few others such as immediate family and friends, meaning that it could be good to do with people in your household during lockdown. However, unity and equality are key aspects of hygge, so it's important to share tasks and ensure that no one person dominates the conversation. And whatever you do, don't take your "hygge" time as time to talk about Brexit or Coronavirus!
Your Crochet Project
Knitting and crochet can both be hygge; however, the reason why I think that crochet is a little more hygge is because crochet is often bulkier, meaning that it is incredibly warm and comforting. Personally, I think that when it comes to choosing a hygge project, chunkier is better; any super chunky yarn such as "Creative Smile, " "Lazy Days" and "Stylecraft Special XL" or anything soft is perfect. As for what to make, I have been looking at hygge crafts on Pinterest and some of the main suggestions are blankets, cardigans and wide scarves, though making socks and hats can also be pretty hygge. In order for it to be hygge, you will probably want to pick something relatively simple and familiar to avoid any frustration from mistakes. There are even some knitting and crochet pattern books specifically for hygge projects - here are just a few examples.
That's all from me for now. Next time, I will be rounding off by looking at both knitting and crochet and decide which is better once and for all. Until then, happy crafting!
Crochet: What Next?
Hello and welcome back to the blog! Last week, we looked at how to make crochet tension squares as well as a few of the things that you can use tension squares for. Whilst these can be fun, they can also be a little tedious at times and also, chances are, if you are making a tension square, you probably planning on making something else once you know your tension, so today I'll be looking at just a few of the projects you may want to try next.
1. Granny Square Blankets
I know what you're thinking - after talking about moving away from squares, why have I suggested making squares as a more advanced project? Well, classic granny squares are very different; you start with a circle then do clusters of treble stitches with chains in between in a specific pattern to make sides and corners, meaning it is a little more challenging but still very therapeutic. Also, because it starts in the middle, you can make it whatever size you like and use just one square rather than multiple to make your blanket. Last week, I finished one that I had started using Stylecraft Dreamcatcher in Tree of Life. Unfortunately we are out of stock in this colour but we stock many of their other shades and a variety of other colourful yarn cakes, which are super fun for making granny squares out of. Here is a photo.
2: Cases and Bags
Many beginner crocheters next move onto making phone cases and tote bags, make out of rectangles which are folded in half then crocheted together at the sides. Again, these are very simple but are a great way to learn new stitches and are also very practical. Then, you can also start to learn shaping from making bags with rounded bases. As crochet is often a little more bulky, I would definitely recommend crochet bags over knitted bags as when done in the right yarn, they are very good at holding their shape.
3: Shawls and Cowls
Because of the structure of crochet, crocheted fabrics can be very warm, making them perfect for things such as scarves and cowls. Alternatively, if you want to do something a little more challenging or are looking for something summery, you could try lace crochet techniques and make a light shawl. Once you get into the world of crochet blankets and shawls, you then may want to start a crochet-a-long, which is a pattern released (often on social media) in stages for you to do at the same time as many other fellow crocheters. People will often share their versions of the garment along the way and it can be a great way to learn new skills, get inspiration and connect with the community of crafters.
Personally, one of the first things that I think of when I think of crochet is toys, particularly with the rising popularity of amigurumi, the Japanese art of knitting and crocheting small toys such as animals or sometimes cartoon characters. These not only look adorable but are also pretty quick to make, and you can find many patterns and online guides for a range of skill levels. We stock many amigurumi pattern books from Rico along with the recommended wool, so if toy-making is your thing, I would definitely recommend checking these out. Below is a photo of some of our amigurumi books.
You may think that it is much better to knit jumpers and cardigans than to crochet them but that's not necessarily the case. Whilst I don't have much experience with crochet jumpers, I do know that there are many patterns for them available online as well as for lace tops, dresses and even bikinis. These use a wide range of techniques and you can find so many different styles of pattern and garment, so there is something for everyone.
One thing that is really important to remember when learning a craft is that you are doing it for you. Even if you are crafting for someone else, it is meant to be for your enjoyment; so, if you see something you like, give it a try! Chances are, you are more likely to get it right if it is something you want to do, so if you really want to make a jumper or a toy, as long as you find instructions that make sense for you there is no need to make a ton of shawls and bags that you won't enjoy beforehand. Making mistakes is inevitable in your project but you will probably be able to push through them a lot better if you are making something you want to make. For example, I recently had to undo something that I had nearly finished and start over again because I didn't have enough yarn and had made it way too big. At first, I was very frustrated because of how close I had been to finishing but now that I have started again, I'm actually enjoying making it because I picked a pattern that I was really drawn to.
Next time, we will be looking at a Scandinavian concept linked to mindfulness that I really love called hygge and how crochet can be linked to this. But until then, happy crafting!
My name is Sharon the Sheep, the owner of Avicraft Wool Shop in Bromley Kent..