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!
How To Get Your Kids Crafting
Parents, I bet you are overjoyed that home-schooling is over. At last, you don't have to try and teach your children things that you barely remember yourself or fathom out digital learning. However, the kids are still with you and, now that the summer holidays are here, schoolwork is not being set to occupy them. That means you have to come up with ideas by yourself for the next six weeks, right? Wrong! Crafting is the perfect way to keep the kids busy. "What about all the mess? Surely, my kids can't craft much without our help but I need to get on with paperwork/do things around the house/knit whilst watching a box set," I hear you cry (and before you start feeling guilty for feeling this way, remember that taking time out does not make you a bad parent). Well, fear not! Below are a few ways to make crafting fun for the kids without the need for any hard work on your part.
Some children, particularly younger ones, are naturally creative. When I was younger, I fell into this category, which was great as it meant I could keep myself occupied for ages. Having said that, it did also mean that my room was loaded with drawings or other crafts that had little purpose and often ended up on the floor or stuffed in drawers and never seen again. There is an easy way of preventing this: convert crafts into hanging ornaments. I would recommend having glue (which you can buy in Avicraft, the shop left of us) and ribbon (which we sell a wide range of, including ribbons with rainbows, Disney characters or plain colours) on hand at all times, so you can quickly hang up anything that your child makes somewhere in the house or even on the Christmas tree if it is a festive craft. Not only will it be out of the way and less likely to get damaged, but your child will also feel immensely proud. Alternatively, you could frame pictures, or stick magnets onto children's crafts and decorate your fridge or freezer with them.
Another way of avoiding mess around the home is by encouraging kids to make or decorate things that are useful, such as mugs, plates, bowls, bags and plain t-shirts. You can find lots of these online. I particularly recommend the website Baker Ross, which sells lots of plain items to decorate as well as other kits and materials. Decorating things may not seem like a great idea at first because it often involves paint and we all know that paint and small children can be a bad combination. Instead, I recommend paint pens, which create only a little more mess than normal felt tips. Below is a mug I decorated when I was younger.
Giving the Kids Freedom
,One of the main reasons why I love craft so much is because of the freedom that comes with it; you can make pretty much anything if you put your mind to it. Why should this be any different for children? Of course, it is important to keep them safe, so it might be a good idea to set rules on scissors and sharpeners for younger children. However, it is so important that you do not stop your child from being creative and even a little chaotic from time to time as it can help them to be more focused and organised when they need to be and ultimately, lets them be themselves, which is important at all ages.
A safe and fun way of letting kids be creative is collage. With collage, there is very little setup and you probably will not need to buy anything new - all you need are some old magazines/books, paper to stick things onto, scissors and a glue stick. You can also use felt tips, stickers, pieces of fabric, buttons, spare yarn or anything other craft materials that your child wishes to use. With collage, kids can be as neat or as wild as they like and you can also adapt it for the child's needs by cutting pictures out for them the night before or getting scissors that are less sharp or spring assisted. As a child, I used to spend hours making collages, though collage can also be enjoyable for adults too. Below is one I started recently. It looks a bit bare at the moment but I plan on adding a few picture of things I have knitted over the years.
Keeping Kids Interested
Most of these tips so far have been aimed at children who have a natural creative flair. However, some children do not and that's okay! Whilst I was imaginative as a child, I was very literal too and loved structure (and, to be fair, that has not changed). Below are a few suggestions to give you child next time they ask what they should do:
A Final Piece of Advice
All children are different, so keep trying with craft until you find what works for them. If these tips don't help or you need something more specific, you can find instructions for lots of crafts online (both in written form or as videos). At the same time, don't feel pressured to be productive every day - all that matters right now is that you and your child are safe and happy, whether that means getting creative or relaxing in front of the TV! Just keep enjoying yourself - you've got this!
Hello again! Apologies - I have been offline for so long because of my studies, but with the summer holidays underway, I hope to start posting much more regularly again.
For today's post, I have some good news: the shop is now open! We have had to make a few adjustments to the layout of the shop and the overall experience; however, if you can come down, I definitely recommend that you do. Today was my first day back and I felt that the day was both enjoyable and incredibly safe.
The first change you need to know about is our opening times. Instead of being open from 10am until 4pm, we now close at 1:30pm so that we can clean the shop at the end of the day. When you come in, you will be asked to wear a mask and sanitise your hands. You will only be able to stand in a small area of the shop that has been blocked off with screens, which means that you will be able see and to buy anything in our stock but browsing and handling wool is restricted for the time being. Therefore, I would recommend having a basic idea as to what you want before you come in. If you want to buy some new wool but you are unsure of what you want, below are a few of my recommendations. All of the yarns below are on discount.
Another important thing to note is distancing from others in and out of the shop. Only one person/family is allowed in the shop at a time, so if you see someone in the shop when you arrive, please queue outside on the markings so that you are socially distanced from others that join the queue.
We are doing are best to make your experience as enjoyable as possible but in order to benefit everyone, we have to prioritise safety too. For the safety of yourself, us and our other customers, please stick to these and the Government's guidelines.
Until next time, happy crafting and happy shopping,
When It Feels Like All Has Failed...
Crafters, I'm quite sure you all know how it can feel when a project goes wrong. A forgotten increase, a purl where there should be a knit or even a dropped stitch can make you feel down in the dumps for the rest of the day if you let it. However, there are ways that we can make things a little bit better when they do go wrong. For today's post, I have compiled just a few of these.
Starting Something New
Starting a new project might seem like the last thing you would want to after something has just gone wrong. You may be worried that the new project will go wrong too and that they will pile up or alternatively, you may just not feel up for it. However, if you do something simple and quick it can take your mind off of the mistake. Also, you may feel more motivated if you make something for a friend or family member. Here's a present I made for a friend recently. It was relatively simple, but making it felt really good and my friend liked it too. It was made using a kit from a company called Diamond Dotz.
Organise and Bag Up Your Crafts
Unless you are naturally organised, this may not be a great one to do straight after a craft has gone wrong. However, every once in a while, you may make a mistake on a long-term project, which may make you feel down in the dumps and not in the crafting spirit for a few weeks. This is when organising your crafts can be a perfect way to spend the time and possible persuade yourself to fall back in love with your project. Organisation means different things for different people but personally, I like to have projects that I take out of the house in knitting bags (ideally ones that have compartments for the other things I need) and projects that don't leave the house on shelves, in cardboard boxes, etc. Though, to be honest, I am not the best and getting round to organising them!
Watch a Craft TV Show
Right now, there are loads of TV shows about craft at the moment, with The Great British Sewing Bee (BBC1, Wednesdays, 9:00pm or on iPlayer), The Repair Shop (BBC iPlayer) and Grayson's Art Club (Channel 4, Mondays, 8:00pm or on All 4) amongst them. Notice that, with the competitive craft shows, almost everyone makes a mistake at some point - it's completely normal, even if you are an expert! You may be tempted to watch the show thinking that they are only making mistakes because of the pressure and that you have no excuse for your flaws. Instead, think about what you are going through - perhaps you are feeling a lot of pressure yourself at the moment, particularly with the lockdown. Even if it is a different type of pressure to competitive pressure, it will still impact you in a similar way.
Alternatively, if you were not feeling pressure until before the mistake, it is not your fault either! Mistakes are healthy - if you did not make them, you would make no progress. Often, the competitors that make mistakes are able to turn them around or if not, it is usually due to a lack of time. In real life, their are a lot less time constraints, so that is less of a worry
On the contrast, when watching craft shows of any kind, pay attention to the amazing things that can be created through crafts. The possibilities are endless; you can be as colourful or as plain as you like, it can be as quick or as slow as you like, and you can use pretty much anything.
Surround Yourself With Friends
If the other tips do not work for you, this one should. Talking about how you feel is great and if you have any friends that love craft, then that's a bonus. If not, don't worry. If you explain to your friend why you are frustrated, they will probably be able to empathise; we all know how it feels to work on something for a long time, put lots of effort and energy into it, then notice that we have made a mistake. Your friends can uplift you by reminding you that things will get better soon and can distract you in the meantime.
A Final Word...
Of course, different things will work for different people, so be not be disheartened if not all this advice works for you. However, I hope that trying some of the tips or even just reading this and knowing that you are not alone helps. Also, perhaps this doesn't just apply to craft. Right now, it can be hard to feel motivated to do a lot of everyday things. Therefore it is important that we care for ourselves. Hope that you had a good mental health awareness week and are feeling OK at the moment.
A couple weeks ago, I talked a little bit about upcycling and its importance. You can make almost anything using old clothes, plastic rubbish and even furniture, and by doing so you are helping to improve the environment and also your mood! Today I will go into a bit more detail about it, giving a few ideas of things you can make in the comfort of your own home.
Do any of you have lots of spare buttons around the house? I know I certainly do - I was doing a small clear out a little while ago and found loads of them. If you are a particularly avid crafter, chances are you come across buttons every day and sometimes in the weirdest of places! So, if you are looking for something to do with surplus buttons, then look no further. Here are the instructions for how to make some button bracelets and necklaces. This craft is perfect for all ages and abilities.
You Will Need:
I made this phone sock out of an old glove. This craft is a little more complicated than the previous one, but it still is relatively quick and straightforward.
You Will Need:
Here are a few other ideas of things you can make through upcycling:
That's all from me today. I hope you have fun trying a few of these.
Until next time, happy crafting!
How To Make Mini Yarn Stars
Happy Saturday and happy Yarn Shop Day! It is a shame that we cannot have the shops open to celebrate, but it is so important that we keep social distancing. Also, if you need any wool, you can order some by clicking "contact us" on this website.
I don't know about you but whilst on walks, I have seen lots of rainbows in people's windows. Perhaps you have one in your window yourself? If not and if you are unable to go out, you can find loads online by searching "NHS rainbows in windows." I also decided to make my own rainbows with a difference: they are made of wool and lolly sticks.
Here are the instructions for how to make your own.
You Will Need:
To start, tie a knot around one of the lolly sticks with the violet wool. Double knot it for extra security then trim the short end.
Then hold the stick with the knot vertically and put a second stick in the middle of it, leaving the loop at the top. After you have done that, wrap the wool round the stick on the right, turn the sticks anticlockwise then do it again. Do this until you have one loop on each part of the cross.
To fill the middle and secure it, loop diagonally between the two sticks a few times.
Then, go back to looping round as you were before until each stick has three or four loops. It should look something like this.
To change colour, tie the next colour around the first one.
Then tie the short end of the new colour, which in this picture is on the left, to the first colour, which is on the right, and trim the two ends (but don't trim the end you are about to use!). Then continue to loop and change colours until you have done the last loop of the final colour, which should be no closer to the end of the sticks than 1cm.
Once you have finished the loops, cut the ball off, leaving an end which is a similar length to the lolly stick. Thread this through the back of the star, where the knots from other colour changes should be, and double knot it. This is what the back should look like.
And here is what the front should look like.
You may have noticed that in the first photo of the post, not all of the stars look the same. This is because I varied them in a range of ways. Here are just a few ideas of how to make it look a bit different.
If you can, display them in your window or post them on social media (don't forget to tag @avicraftwool on Instagram and FaceBook!).
Hope you enjoyed this post and happy crafting!
My name is Sharon the Sheep, the owner of Avicraft Wool Shop in Bromley Kent..