Learning to Craft
Crafting has been proven to have many benefits - it can help you feel relaxed, allow you to express your emotions in a different way, give you a great sense of achievement and so much more. But where do you start? At the moment, we are not offering lessons; however, there are so many other ways of learning new kinds of craft.
Over the past couple months, I have mentioned the instructions that are on the Great Community Sew website and towards the beginning of lockdown, I shared my instructions on how to make fingerless mittens on this blog. The main reason I like written guides a lot is because anyone can make them and access them, whether that's in the form of a blog post like I did or just a few bullet points to help a friend. Also, whilst written instructions can be difficult to understand sometimes, particularly if pictures or diagrams are not used, you can take your time with written instructions without having to make the effort of rewinding a video or asking someone to explain themselves again. I find written instructions particularly helpful when sewing because I often use up a lot of space and would not have room to prop up a computer or tablet that is playing a video, whereas written instructions don't need to be in plain sight in the same way so are much more practical for this sort of thing. Additionally, I am quite new to using sewing machines so I need to go slowly and take extra care at the moment, which is hard to do when you are trying to follow along with a video.
Another popular option for learning how to craft is using video tutorials. YouTube is a great place to look; you can find tutorials on pretty much anything, not just craft. In the past, I have used it for computer programming (I am a huge computer nerd!) and general studying but, otherwise, I haven't had much experience with video tutorials, particularly not with crafting. So, to get a better understanding, I had a go at Macramé using this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-JUjQ-15ZE. I must admit, I wasn't the greatest at it but that was probably because I didn't have quite the right materials rather than due to the quality of the video. In fact, I felt that this video explained the steps really well and would love to try it again but with better materials. Below is a picture of what I made using this tutorial.
Personally, I do like video tutorials; it can be really helpful to have the steps played out in front of you and to be able to pause and replay certain steps as and when you need. The only reason I use them so little is because my parents know a lot about crafting, so I can always go to them for help.
However, everyone has a different style of learning and teaching, so you do have to experiment and find the right videos for you. When I was learning Macramé, I did come across one other video but I found it a bit harder to understand because it seemed to be quicker and it also had no voiceover (sounds fussy, I know, but I just find it so much more helpful). When looking for videos, I would recommend looking for ones that have lots of views or likes or ones that have been made by a verified account (an account with a tick next to its name) because this often means that the video/account is good quality and that many people have found it useful. At the same time, if you do find a popular video confusing, it does not mean that you are stupid or wrong; it just means that you prefer to learn in a different way. Also, it's pretty important to make sure that the video you are using comes from the country that you live in rather than abroad, which may sound strange but it is necessary because different countries use different terminology and it can be confusing.
Patterns and Magazines
In my opinion, patterns and magazines are not necessarily the best for learning new things as such but I do like to use them once I have learnt a new craft to expand my ability a little. For example, before lockdown, I knitted a lot but rarely crocheted. I had been taught when I was younger and had picked it up again but I could only do double crochet, which, let's face it, can get very boring, very quickly. This was until I was given a granny square book. The book itself didn't actually teach me the stitches so I had to look into that myself, but it taught me how to combine the stitches to make cool patterns such as bobbles, clusters and popcorns, which I later used for other things. Below are a few pictures of the crochet stitches that I learnt over lockdown.
If you want to try working with a pattern, we sell knitting and crochet patterns for £4.00 each or £3.50 if you buy it with the wool.
In conclusion, I actually don't have a favourite way of learning to craft as I have had good and bad experiences of all these different types. Having said this, I would, as a general rule of thumb, recommend written instructions if you are the sort of person that prefers to self-teach in solitude, videos if you liked classes or learning in groups before the lockdown and patterns and magazines for further practice once you have finished learning.
That's all from me today, so until next time, happy crafting!
Face Mask Face-Off
Now that lockdown restrictions are being eased and we are starting to reach normality, it's important to wear masks where possible so that we can continue to keep everyone safe. But what kind of masks should you wear? There are so many different kinds of mask on offer so today, I will be telling you what I think about just a few of them.
Face Masks Without Shaping or Pleating
Face masks that have no shaping are made of just two or three rectangular pieces of fabric and do not require any complicated additional features to allow it to mould it to your face. Instead, you just gather the sides before you put it on each time. These masks are a less well-known and less widely available option; however, I would recommend trying a mask like this, particularly if you are a beginner to making masks or you often feel uncomfortable or unable to breath when wearing one, because it is secure on the sides but has much more room inside. I also find that it does mould to my face quite well, but others that I have talked to disagree. Overall, I would say that this kind of mask is a bit like marmite - you will either love it or hate it.
Personally, I have not had much experience wearing or making pleated masks but I have had a couple medical appointments recently and I have had to wear pleated surgical masks for these. I find them a little uncomfortable and sometimes they don't seem to shape to my face fully. As well as this, I do try to avoid the single-use surgical masks where possible because reusable masks are better for the environment, On the other hand, I know that people who have particularly flexible ears prefer the straps that are in surgical masks to regular elastic. Also, these masks are more widely available and are pretty popular with people that I have talked to, so I would recommend trying them.
Our personal favourite in the shop is the shaped mask, which is very quick to make and feels secure and protective without being too restrictive. What's more, if you are a glasses wearer, this is perfect because from my experience, these shouldn't make your glasses steam up much. Because we love them so much, we are now selling them in our shop at £4.00 each, with a flexible wire in the nose for extra shaping. Above is a slideshow of the types that we have on offer at the moment. Alternatively, if you want to make your own, we sell fabric, elastic, thread and other haberdashery items.
As I wrote this blog, I held a vote between friends on what their favourite type of mask is, and the winner was the shaped mask, with over half the vote. However, shaped masks are not perfect for anyone. If you haven't found a mask that is comfortable for you, keep looking. Or, if regular masks are not for you, you can wear scarves, snoods or bandanas; as long as it covers your nose and face and is secure at the sides, it will legally pass as a face covering.
That's all from me today! Happy Crafting!
A Guide to Ball Bands
Now that we are open, many of you can start a new knitting or crochet project for the first time in what felt like forever. I could say that I missed this feeling but, to be honest, I have so many projects on the go or waiting to be started already that I didn't get a chance to! Nevertheless, starting something new can be exciting. That is until you start reading the ball band. There is so much valuable information on a ball band but fathoming it out can be confusing, regardless of your knitting/crochet experience. Fear not; today, we will look at everything you need to know before you start a project and where to find it. I will be using the Creative Smile Super Chunky ball band as an example, but the information is pretty much identical on all ball bands, albeit in a different layout. Below is a picture of the ball band.
The Main Section: Brand Details and General Information
This section is the part that bears slightly less importance when you are starting to work with the yarn, but it can be quite interesting to know these details. At the top is the name of the brand that makes the yarn (Rico in this case) followed by the name of the yarn itself (Creative Smile). This may seem stupid and obvious but it is so important that you keep these details in case you need to order in more - you may be sure that you have enough but there is every possibility of the tension being not quite right or the pattern miscalculating the number of balls you need.
Below this is the amount of grams and metres per ball. The amount of grams can sometimes be useful if you are doing a pattern using a different yarn to what it used originally but using the amount of metres is much more accurate because some wool can be very light, meaning you can get a hundreds of metres on a 50g ball, whereas that won't be the case for something thicker and heavier. In my last post, I explained how to calculate how much wool you need to use for a pattern if you are using something different to what it suggests.
Then, below this, it tells you what materials are used. This may not be a priority for you necessarily, but if it is, for whatever reason, then here are a few tips:
Finally, we have where the yarn was produced, which is pretty self-explanatory. A lot of wool is produced abroad, though if you are trying to reduce your carbon footprint by buying things that are produced locally, I recommend yarns from the brand West Yorkshire Spinners, which we do stock.
Tension and Sizing Information
Now we will look at the tension and sizing information, which is particularly important if you are following a pattern but not using the yarn that is recommended. The first symbol shows which needle or hook size (in millimetres) you should use when working with that yarn. Next is the tension square. When you are following a pattern, you should check that the tension is the same on both the pattern and the ball you are using. In the tension diagram on this ball band, you can see that, to make a 10cm by 10cm square, you need to cast on 11 stitches and do 14 rows. If I wanted to use this to make something that has the same tension or similar (eg. one more/less stitch or row). Then, to check that your tension matches the tension square, you need to try knitting it up. So, in this case, you would cast on 11 stitches using 8mm needles and do 14 rows. If your square matches the measurements that the ball band shows, your tension is correct and you are ready to start the project. If not, try bigger needles if it is too small/tight and smaller needles if it is too big/loose.
The bottom two diagrams are a lot less complicated and are not too important unless you are not following a pattern at all. These tell you how many grams you need for a certain size jumper. In this case, you need 700g (ie. 14 balls in this case) for a size 14/40inch jumper. Also, do note that not all ball bands have this diagram.
Finally, we have the washing instructions. I won't explain every symbol that exists because there are hundreds of them, but I will explain the ones shown here and a few others:
If you come across one not shown here, you can find it online by searching for images of washing instruction symbols.
And there you have it - you now know how to navigate a ball band! If you have a specific question about a ball band you have, do let us know in the comments!
Today I thought I would go through some frequently asked questions about knitting and the shop in general.
Q1: Why knit/crochet?
Personally, I knit and (occasionally) crochet for a range of reasons. Firstly, I love the fact that it is so free and creative; with the range of different stitches and kinds of wool that exist, it is easy to add a personal touch to your home through these crafts. As well as this, it is a great way to unwind and deal with stress. Whilst trying to learn while feeling tense might be a bad idea as it can take a little while to fully get to grips with it, it is easy enough once you know how it works. Some of my friends have found knitting to be very helpful when feeling anxious and for some, such as Irish chef and now author James McIntosh, it has even helped through episodes of severe depression. Sometimes, you can knit or crochet whilst watching TV, making it perfect for people who like being busy in some way. However, I wouldn't recommend this if you are trying a new and/or complex pattern.
Q2: Do you offer lessons?
bromleyUnfortunately, we can't at the moment because of everything that is going on. However, if it is safe enough, we will consider running classes in the new year. In the past, we have done classes in knitting, crochet, Tunisian crochet and needle felting. We do not arrange any courses until we get enough uptake, so if you are willing to take part in one of these classes, feel free to come in and give us your phone number so we can contact you and arrange a date when enough people have signed up and when it is safe to do so. Also, we are willing to teach children when it is safe but they must be ten years old or over.
If one-to-one lessons are more for you, we do have a teacher that comes in once a month. Of course, this has also been put on hold at the moment. If you are interested, do keep an eye out on our social media accounts (@avicraftwoolbromley on Facebook and Instagram) and our websites to see when this starts again.
Q3: What are your opening hours?
We are open from 10:00am to 1:30pm on Tuesdays-Saturdays.
Q4: What are the different thicknesses of yarn?
Here are a summary of different thicknesses (or weights) of yarn that are available
Q5: What needles should I use: wood, plastic, or metal?
This completely depends on your tension and what you are doing. If you are loose knitter or you are making a toy (which needs to be very tight or the stuffing will show), wooden needles are best as they help to grip and tighten the stitches. Alternatively, if you are a tight knitter, metal is good as it is much more slippery, meaning it cannot tighten the stitches in the way that wooden needles do. But mostly it's down to personal preferance
Q6: What is warmer: acrylic or wool?
Acrylic is warmer overall as it is very good at storing heat. However, wool - or any natural fibre - is better at regulating temperature.
Q7: Do I have to stick to the yarn in the pattern?
You do not need to, but there are a few things you need to check before you start:
That's all from me. I hope that this has given you all of the knowledge you need for your next project. If you have any other questions, do leave a comment below.
A Summer Update
Happy August! Today I wanted to give you a brief update of what we have been up to in the shop as well as the crafts that I have done this week.
You may remember that a couple weeks ago, I mentioned a few wools that are on sale. Now, we are starting to add these and other wools to Ebay. So far, we have added a range of yarn brands, including King Cole baby wools and super chunky yarns. We have also added Rico Dream DK and Stylecraft Batik DK to this website. Be sure to click Online Shop and have a look once you have finished reading. Below is my favourite colour in the Stylecraft Batik Elements, called Galium.
I have also started a couple new projects this week. On Thursday, I started making my own face masks. If you have wanted to do this for a while but have found it stressful, confusing or felt generally unmotivated, fear not - they are a lot easier than you would think! For beginners, I recommend buying a kit from us and using instructions from https://www.bigcommunitysew.co.uk/ as this website offers a range of variations for sewers of all abilities. Alternatively, if you have been struggling to find materials, we sell elastic, fabric, pins, needles, sewing thread and other pieces of haberdashery.
As well as this, I have started a long cardigan in one of our new wools, Rico Creative Smile. It is a multi-coloured super chunky yarn, meaning that it will come to great use in the winter months, though I have had to put it on hold for a couple days because of how hot it has been (35°C temperatures and thick wool are a terrible combination!). It costs £4.50 a ball, making it a bit of an indulgence, but an indulgence I would definitely recommend because it is incredibly soft and warm without being bulky.
That's all from me. Next week, I will be focusing on some frequently asked questions, so feel free to leave a comment, contacting us via our social media pages or using the contact us section of this site if there is anything you want me to answer.
Until next time, happy crafting!
My name is Sharon the Sheep, the owner of Avicraft Wool Shop in Bromley Kent..