Monday, 20 December 2010

Y is for Yarn

Y is for Yarn

An older woman visited my shop recently and expressed derision at my choice of language. "Yarn?!" she spat, "What an American expression. It's wool, surely?"
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And therein lies the rub. Most "wool" has absolutely zero sheep-related ingredients these days and hence 'Yarn' has become the more socially accepted reference term as well as being more agreeable under the trade descriptions act!

Although I have been a knitter for over twenty years, it was only when I started knitting for my son - and buying my own yarn rather than relying on my Nana's SABLE (Stash amassed beyond life expectancy) - that I discovered I was in fact knitting with 100% plastic. Not exactly what I wanted to wrap my precious newborn baby in, but I had no idea what the alternatives were or how they'd work. So here, I am going to share with you just a smattering of the information I've picked up over the years.


I frequently have customers in my shop who gravitate towards yarn they like and then ask, "What can I do with this?" and the best tool you can arm yourself with is the knowledge of what different weights (or thickness) of yarn you can get. I have tried to use the most common UK terms, but please me aware that the USA terminology is different and can be confusing.

Laceweight/2-ply - This is generally the lightest, thinnest yarn that you can get. I mostly see it used for shawls and scarflets.
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Sockweight/4-ply - Approximately 50% thicker than laceweight, 4-ply used to be the weight most commonly used for baby items. Nowadays, I mostly sell sock yarn at 4-ply weight.

Double knit/DK - This is a nice balanced midweight yarn. Thick enough for you to have quick results but thin enough to show detail.

Aran - Known of course for big sweaters with lots of cables and intricate detailing, aran is a fairly heavy yarn which knits up quickly creating a warm, thick fabric.. This is the weight of yarn that I recommend to beginners as there is an element of achievement with only a few rows.

Chunky - Thick yarn, knits up very quickly creating a thick but somewhat unwieldy fabric.

Super chunky - The yarn for lazy people! I jest, but this is pretty much the heaviest weight of yarn that I have ever come across. As with chunky, it works up very quickly but creates a very thick and unwieldy fabric.


Most commonly, yarn is sold in approx 25g, 50g or 100g balls. I say approx, as in actual fact most commercially available yarns are measured in meterage which is more accurate. Remember that the meterage in a 50g laceweight yarn will be vastly different to the meterage in a 50g chunky yarn!


Generally speaking Yarn can be divided into two sub-groups, those being natural or synthetic, but it is common to see either group diluted with a percentage of the other. For example, most sock yarns will have somewhere in the region of 25% nylon to give the yarn flexibility and stability when it is being worn.

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Natural fibres can again be broken down into animal fibres and vegetable fibres. The most common of the animal fibres is the ubiquitous wool, but other common animal fibres include alpaca, mohair and silk. In these modern times with knitting & crochet becoming far more mainstream, many new animal fibres are coming out including qiviut (from the adult muskox) and even possum which is promoted as ecologically friendly since possums are considered pests. The best known vegetable fibre is of course cotton, but again new yarns are being created from weird and wonderful sources including the renewable resource bamboo and the hippy's favourite hemp. Although this is not a universal rule, vegetable fibres tend not to stretch much and can create stress on the hands.

I hope this guide has been moderately helpful if somewhat info heavy! If you're a knitter or crocheter, I would highly recommend that you check out these websites as fantastic resources.
Ravelry - Just the best thing to ever happen to knitters & crocheters

Yarndex - A great website to compare yarn brands to substitute in patterns

This post has been written by Vonnie of The Life Craft.  The Life Craft have both an online store and bricks and motor shop offering a range of  sewing and knitting supplies as well as classes. Visit their site here:

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Looking back on 2010

I know this may be a tad premature but being as i'd like to have some time off over xmas and the New Year I've decided to do this post now.

Our stall at Sewing For Pleasure
I am completly amazed at how quickly The Sewing Directory has grown in the past 9 months since our launch in March, and how much it has evolved.  Believe it or not my original plan for the directory was merely a list of dressmakers - I hadn't even thought about articles, interviews, competitions, projects etc.  A lot of those ideas came as the site grew.  We've always tried to listen and respond to feedback so when people said they would like these type of things on the site we incorporated them in and now they are the most popular part of the site.

It's hard to believe that this time last year noone had even heard of The Sewing Directory, and in fact the site still did not quite exisit.  I was stressing out because the site was not ready, and anxiously planning the launch at the Sewing For Pleasure event in March, having no idea how the site would be received.  The great news is that you all loved it (yay!), we have had such amazing feedback and positive response to the site it made all the hard work and stress worthwhile!

There are so many people that I would like to thank for their support and input over the last year, firstly you the readers/site users who have made the site the success it is.  I could not have done it without you!  Secondly all our fabulous customers, advertisers and sponsors without whom I could not afford to keep the site running.  Please do take a second to check out our sponsors page to see all the lovely people who have helped to promote the site and provided a large amount of prizes for us to giveaway to you. Thirdly, i'd like to thank all the magazines who have given us coverage and helped to grow our fanbase, including Sewing World, Patchwork & Quilting, Sew Hip, Cloth Magazine,  Sew Magazine and The Quilter.  Forthly, a huge thanks to all the lovely people who have written articles & blog posts, been interviewed and provided projects for the site.  Thanks to Spindogs for designing the site and Inky Blue Design for designing our fablous logo and adverts.   Last, and by no means least, a big thank you to my long suffering husband who has put up with me working every single day for over a year (even during our holidays, romantic meals out etc....)!   

My supportive family:
son, husband and mother in law

I have no idea at all what to expect from 2011, as 2010 has been a total rollercoaster with everything growing so much quicker than I ever expected.  I've got lots and lots of plans as always so we'll see which of those come to fruition and which don't.  I hope all of you have enjoyed using the site and reading our articles and the posts here on this blog and that you all have a great 2011!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

X is for X Stitch

X for X Stitch

Cross Stitch is a form of counted thread embroidery, and is perhaps dated back to the 6th or 7th century. It was used to decorate household items using floral and geometric patterns, often in black and red cotton floss on linen fabric. Catherine of Aragon, the Spanish first wife of Henry VIII has brought blackwork in England. Blackwork is thought to have influenced the development of cross-stitch. Indeed, Catherine of Aragon herself, used to stitch the King's shirts. The most common cross stitching work were samples, and it was usually in a form of a prayer or a saying. In 1797 children from the orphans school near Calcutta in Bengal were given the task of stitching the longest chapter in the Bible, the 19th psalm.

Books with cross-stitch patterns were popular in Europe and America during the 17th century and they would feature samples. Cross stitch patterns were printed as black squares or dots, leaving the choice of colours to the embroiderer. The earliest surviving dated sampler was stitched by an English girl, Jane Bostocke, in 1598. Jane's sampler contains floral motifs, animals and an alphabet.

Here is a photograph ( Courtesy of the V&A ) of the sampler, and its inscription commemorates the birth of a child, Alice Lee, two years earlier. Jane Bostocke, who is known to have been a distant cousin of Alice's and was buried in the village where she lived, may have lived in the Lee family household. The motifs at the top of the sampler relate to their family crests. The sampler is from a period of transition in the practical use of such items - between the 16th century and earlier, when they served as a reference piece for a more or less experienced embroiderer, and what gradually became their nature in the 17th century: a method of measuring and recording the maker's skill. The embroidery is worked in cross stitch and back stitch but there are examples of work in more complicated stitches showing that the back stitch was intended to be a grounding for further elaboration. Other stitches include satin, chain, ladder, buttonhole and detached buttonhole filling, couching in patterns, coral, speckling, two-side Italian cross, bullion and French knots and beadwork.
Most cross stitchers still like to stitch and embellish items like dishcloths and household linens. It is now increasingly popular to stitch various designs, pictures and hang them on the wall for wonderful decoration. I myself love cross stitch, especially the lovely old fashioned sampler designs and am often on the look out when I visit flea markets etc. Here is one I have on the go, it very kindly given to me by a lovely friend who had had it herself for years, and thought I would like to finish it off, frame it and then display in my home.

Also, kindly sent by The Sewing Directory for me to have a go at, is this wonderful and modern Disney Eeyore Christmas cross stitch. A lovely christmas decoration to hang on the christmas tree.  The aim is of course, to get this cross stitch done by Christmas, there is nothing nicer than sitting by the log fire on a winter's evening with an old fashioned black and white movie on in the background, and with a little cross stitch to keep one happy, relaxed and for me, cross stitch is certainly therapeutic. If you have never had a go at cross stitch, you must, it really is alot easier than you think, and super fun too!

This Post has been written by Marry Fogg, crafter and blogger, who you can follow on Twitter here and you can view her blog here:

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Saints & Pinners Quilt Pack competition

Saints & Pinners Quilt Pack

As the last of our weekly competitions before Christmas (The Christmas & New Year competitions will run for longer than a week) this is a competition with a bit of a twist.

The lovely folk at Saints & Pinners not only have a great range of stunning fabrics but they have a great sense of humour too! They are giving away a Cloud 9 Forest Friends Flannels quilt pack in either pink or blue in exchange for a joke.

That’s right; in order to enter this competition we want you to post your funniest joke on either The Sewing Directory’s Facebook page by clicking this link or on The Saints & Pinner’s Facebook Page here. For more fun & fabrics make sure you like Saints and Pinners on Facebook too.
If you do not have Facebook you can send them through our competition entry form but we would prefer them to be on Facebook if you do have an account – to make everyone else giggle!

Terms & Conditions
Employees of The Sewing Directory or Saints & Pinners and their family members are not permitted to enter. Only 1 entry allowed per person. Winners will be determined using a random number generator. You need to send your address through within 2 weeks of the draw ending or another winner will be drawn. All entries must be received by 6pm on 14/12/2010. Prizes can only be shipped within the UK and Ireland. We reserve the right to use any jokes sent through the entry form on our Facebook pages.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

W for Workshops

W is for Workshops
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Are you keen to learn how to sew? Or, are you an experienced stitcher ready to take your knowledge further? more? Although books and their contemporary counterparts, such as craft blogs and YouTube videos, are useful learning tools, nothing can compare with some top-notch instruction from a patient, passionate teacher. Thankfully, a wide variety of workshops exist throughout the UK and cater to every stitching level, so there’s no time like the present to expand your skills!

Before you book onto a class, however, here are The Make Lounge's top five things to consider:

1. Understand your goals. Before you book onto a class or a workshop, think about what you’d like to gain from the experience. Are you looking for a week-on-week series of classes teaching a broad range of techniques? Or, if your time is limited, do you prefer to build your skills quickly by learning and completing specific projects in one or two sessions?

2. Read the class description. Always check the web site or course listing to be 100 percent clear about the level of experience needed for your particular class. t’s easy to overlook these details when you’ve found what sounds like your dream class, but arriving with too-little knowledge will prevent you, and everyone else in the class, from getting the most out of the sessions. Similarly, you wouldn’t want to pay for a class that covers familiar ground. If you're not sure if a class is right for you, ask the organisers.

3. Check the supplies list. Once you’ve signed up, you should receive a list detailing what, if anything, you’ll need to bring to class. Do you need to bring your own sewing machine? (Or, if you'd like to, is that an option?). Are sewing staples, such as fabric scissors and needles, included in the price of the workshop? If not, does the facility have a retail shop on site where you can purchase them, or will you need to source elsewhere prior to your lesson? If you're required to bring fabric and trimmings to class, don't wait until the day before class to shop for the perfect shade of lining or a specific width of bias binding as you might not find what you need.

4. Investigate the instructor. Find out what you can in advance about the instructor teaching the class, particularly if you’re unfamiliar with the organisation presenting the workshop. Keep in mind that an instructor with a roster of book titles under his or her belt may not necessarily be the best teacher. Leading a group takes a specific brand of passion, enthusiasm and patience; some authors lack this real-world experience. If the web site or class description doesn’t include information about the instructor, ring the sewing school to find out what you’d like to know.

5. Visit (virtually) the venue. Today’s sewing lessons have moved on from taking place in rented church halls or dark basement spaces to occupying airy, purpose-built venues. It’s a welcome change, since stitching requires good lighting, large workspaces for cutting, and plenty of room to spread out while sewing. Most reputable schools include photos of the venue and its work spaces on their web sites; a few mouse clicks can ensure you like the look and feel of the space. Although it’s not necessary to visit the venue before your class, do familiarise yourself with the location and public transport routes (or parking restrictions if you’ll be driving to class). And always arrive ample travel time - there’s nothing worse than arriving late and harried to class!

Jennifer Pirtle is the director of The Make Lounge, which offers more than 35 different stylish, social contemporary craft workshops, plus a retail shop stocking craft supplies and handmade goods. The Make Lounge,, 49-51 Barnsbury Street, London N1 1TP, 0207 609 0275.
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