Intergenerational Crafts by Zelna Oliver

Zelna Oliver is a Stylecraft Blogstar who blogs under the name Zooty Owl.

You can find more of her posts here.

My earliest and most vivid memories are of being engaged in some or other crafty activity with either my mom, granny, grandpa or my great granny.

Mom loved colour and flowers – we would sit for hours and colour in, cut out pictures, make collages, and look through her kaleidoscope.

My granny was a knitter, a great baker and flower gardener.

Grandpa grew vegetables and made all sorts of things for my cousin and me (beds for our dolls, a cupboard for our Barbies and mini kitchen dressers, etc)

My great gran was an expert crocheter and cake decorator.

Being engaged and included in these crafty activities from very early in life gave me a sense of purpose and belonging, and a strong character foundation to build on.    Besides the amazing skills that I learned from them, the stories and life lessons shared have provided me with a place of “wellness” (you can read more about the lessons my grandparents taught me in this blog post).

Having that place of “wellness” from which to approach life makes dealing with difficult situations much easier.

The beauty of this intergenerational interaction is that it is a two-way street. As I grew older and learned new things I was able to share that knowledge with my mom and my granny (sadly my grandpa and great granny died soon after I started high school).

When I had my children they were painting as soon as they were able to hold a brush. By the time they went to playschool their fine motor skills were already extremely well developed. Later, answering the tough questions was made much easier in that we were usually busy with some kind of crafty exercise when they arose – so the conversation was way less awkward!

My first little grandbaby is just six weeks old and I cannot wait to share my crafty knowledge with her!

‘Me Time’ by Catherine Bligh

When Stylecraft told us Blogstars that 2018 would be their year of well-being, they helpfully provided us with some suggestions about topics we might like to blog about. One of them was ‘me time’, and it struck me as ideal for me to talk about – not just because I strongly believe that we all need ‘me time’ in our lives, but also because I have an illness known as M.E., and quite frankly I couldn’t resist the word play!

‘Me time’ is time we take for ourselves. Maybe it’s a little bit every day, maybe it’s a few times a week, maybe you don’t take enough of it. It’s time we need to have in order to relax and refresh ourselves, time in which we can set aside all the demands of daily life and switch off from the world. It’s time we spend looking after ourselves so that when we pick up those demands again, we can meet them more easily.

It’s important for everyone, but when you’ve got a chronic illness, it can be even more important to carve out some space in your life to focus just on keeping yourself as mentally and emotionally robust as possible. So ‘me time’ can become an act of self-care that is an essential part of the overall picture.

Crafting is a great way of doing that. Crocheting or knitting something can bring your focus right down into a small area: your hands, your pattern, your yarn. I find it incredibly soothing to let all my other troubles fade away and just concentrate on making the stitches. Even when I’m particularly ill, I can always manage to crochet something, even just a simple granny square. The repetitive motions and counting of stitching can be a really good way to keep myself focused on resting and recuperating from bad patches. It’s very meditative, and I find it a really good way to let go of my troubles and focus on something creative and calming. The world is switched off and all I have to think about is the next stitch or few stitches.

It’s a wonderfully peaceful way to relax, and has the added bonus of producing something useful or pretty!

For more blog posts by Catherine Bligh, follow this link to her blog page- https://catherinescrochetcorner.wordpress.com/

 

 

“Me” Time

In our time-pressured world, it’s often difficult to find time for ourselves.  Whether you have a demanding job, are managing a hectic family set up, or both, life just seems to get busier and busier.  Add the pressures of social media, your tablet and your phone and you have the perfect recipe for STRESS. It’s all too easy to spend time juggling and forget about yourself and your wellbeing.

So how do you cope?

One of the most important things for your health, mental and physical, is to try and find a bit of Me time but that is not as easy as it sounds.

Why is Me time important?

Psychologists tell us that time to and for yourself can not only help you unwind but can reboot your brain, improve your concentration, help your relationships and even aid in problem solving. It doesn’t have to be about being alone (unless you want to), it is more important to do something you want to, rather than have to do.

This is where your craft is so important and beneficial. Just a row or two, losing yourself in a project, can make a huge difference to your outlook on life.  It can bring space and balance, and don’t we all need a bit of that? Taking the time to get you know yourself again by enjoying your knitting or crochet is a good thing.  Just think of all the amazing skills you have acquired and will continue to learn.

If you can, try to make your Me time a regular occurrence, maybe once the kids have gone to bed or before anyone else gets up.  Time with friends or like-minded people is another great way to relax so do try to find yourself a knitting or crochet group to join. Aren’t we lucky we have our craft to help us?

Most of all don’t feel guilty – you really aren’t being selfish by looking after yourself.

It’s All About The Colour With Stylecraft’s Second Launch Of The Season

Colour is key in our second launch for Spring Summer and we have lovely new yarns, new shades and a feast of new patterns just for you.

Linen Drape

Linen is the most beautiful fibre and perfect for Spring Summer.  Not only does it have a wonderful lustre, but the drape is very elegant.  Team it up with viscose and you have one of the most exciting yarns of the season – Linen Drape.

With a sophisticated colour palette of eight Mediterranean hues and a desirable collection of knit and crochet garment patterns, this yarn is already turning heads.

New Blankets by Blogstar Lucia Dunn

Lucia Dunn is one of our wonderful Blogstars, as you may know.  She has created two gorgeous blanket and cushion sets, especially for you.  Her monochrome design, the Hypno blanket, is very striking and her colourful Boho blanket pattern uses the interesting technique of crochet intarsia, floating the yarn through each row.

Classique Cotton

Classique Cotton is popular with crocheters and knitters alike because of its superior handle and the fantastic range of colours for you to choose from.  This season there are six new pattern leaflets to tempt, using a bright and optimistic palette in DK and 4 ply.  Our collection includes jumpers, cardigans and accessories with interesting ties, bold stripes and delicate textures and shoulder details.

Wondersoft Stardust

Wondersoft Stardust is the latest addition to the Wondersoft family in six pastel shades with an opalescent binder to give just a hint of sparkle.  There are six pattern leaflets featuring super cute jumpers cardigans, dresses and accessories – perfect for any little girl’s wardrobe.

We would love to see what you make from our latest collections so don’t forget to look out for our #CleverCrafters shout out on our Facebook page.

 

Heart, Art and Soul – By Angela Armstrong of Get Knotted Yarn Craft

It only takes a couple of seconds on Google to find a multitude of articles on Creativity and the benefits to one’s own wellbeing, but I think often we get lost in the terminology and science and we forget the major thing that is happening – IT JUST PLAIN FEELS GOOD!

Creating is scientifically proven to increase endorphin levels. Whatever aspect of it that appeals to you, whether it’s design, the joy of giving, the feeling of accomplishment when you finally finish or just five minutes a day where you aren’t thinking of the million and one things that society tells you that you should be focussing on … whatever fills your heart, make sure that you’re aware of it and try to tailor (no pun intended) your creativity towards that.

Indulging in Creativity can lower your blood pressure. Well, that sounds kind of opposite to the last paragraph, doesn’t it? I mean, you’ve got your endorphins pumping, so your heart must be racing right? Not exactly. Endorphins are your happy hormones. When your 18-month-old sticks her hands down the back of her freshly filled nappy, and shares the joy of texture with your walls, just as your frenemy rings your doorbell, and you realise that you’ve left the dinner on the stove and that the other strange smell is actually the meal that you will be scraping into the bin…. Well, let’s just say that the happy hormones aren’t exactly plentiful. But later on, you can sit in the lounge with your loved one, binge watching some absolute drivel while your hands work up a masterpiece without you even knowing.

You don’t have to be “talented” to be creative. Yep, it’s true. Think about it, how many times have you seen that line “Dance like nobody is watching”. What it really means is, don’t think about it, just do it! Don’t worry about whether it’s going to win you praise, or the Nobel peace prize. Just make something. People ask me how I got started as a designer. They always laugh when I tell them it was by accident, but that is the truth, I’m not being humble. I wanted to make a blanket for my nephew, and I wanted a solid square with no holes in the corners. So, I fiddled with stitches for three hours, trying to get those perfect “snap to” corners in a medium that is flexible. I had to keep cutting off lengths and chucking it out because the darn stuff got frogged so many times that it was shredded! But, that was my first pattern, because people asked me how I achieved it. Then I had an idea for a sheep square for a baby blanket, but first I needed a solid square that started with circles. So, there were patterns two and three (with a lot more discarded yarn). I don’t see myself as talented, just monumentally stubborn.

But the feeling I get, when I click that “publish now” button on Ravelry – it’s priceless!

So go on, give it a go, get knitting, get knotting, get creative like nobody is watching!

xx

For more blogs by Angela Armstrong, follow this link to her blog page- https://getknottedyarncraft.blogspot.co.uk/

On Creativity and Tortoises

Definition of creativity

the use of imagination or original ideas to create something;

“Being creative is what sets us humans apart.  It is the wellspring of wellness”, according to Betsan Corkhill in her book Knit for Health and Wellness.  This rich source to enhance our wellbeing is something that knitters and crocheters tap in to almost instinctively and without even realizing how they are benefiting their brain.

Have you ever wondered how some people are always brimful of ideas? The most creative people find ways around problems because they see them as opportunities and because they are ready to fail and learn.  But this isn’t something that you can necessarily train yourself to do, but rather something that we have forgotten.

So what goes on in your brain when you tap into your boundless creativity? Scientists know physically what happens in a brain when it generates ideas, but they have yet to come up with a way to train people to be creative.  A psychologist in the 1970s called Donald MacKinnon wrote that: “Most creative people get into a mood to allow creativity to function.” He suggests that creative people retain an ability to play and a childlike enjoyment in things.

Maslow, he of the Hierarchy of Needs, defined a link between psychological health and ordinary creativity, between cheerfulness and openness.  So it seems if we can get in touch with our inner child we can all be more creative.

As Pablo Picasso said; “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”  If you think of a group of young children happily painting or making something in the classroom.  They are all being creative in their own way, making decisions about colours and textures.  They are also problem solving which is something we all need in our everyday lives.  As we get older life gets in the way, we get scared of making mistakes, and the danger is we lose the ability, or opportunity, to be creative.  This is why taking part in craft is such a boon to us.

You don’t have to be able to design a pattern to be creative with your craft.  Simply choosing a pattern, the colours you want to use and anticipating the enjoyment you will experience are all highly creative processes.

My favourite theory is by comedian John Cleese.  He says that creativity is like a shy tortoise, tentatively sticking its head out to make sure it’s safe. Cleese suggests we all try to create a safe environment against the craziness of modern life – that’s what our craft can bring us.  A safe haven where we can be meditative, relax and allow our brains to unwind, be flexible and open to whatever life has to throw at us.

Blogstars Meet-up

Early February usually means we have some very special guests visiting our Yorkshire mill.

There is a buzz around the office as though royalty are on their way. On February 3rd we had our highly anticipated Blogstar meet-up.

This is where all of our Blogstars come and join us for a chat, lunch and usually a little workshop to feed their creativity.

The activities start on the Friday before when some of the bloggers arrive and we go on a visit to somewhere crafty. This time we visited The University of Huddersfield’s Textiles Department. Well known for its fantastic textile courses, we thought it would be the perfect place to take a bunch of textile loving bloggers. Two students called Liam & Echo showed us around where we saw samples, swatches, fabrics, machinery and yarn!

It was brilliant to see the inner workings of the department. They have around nine different courses from Textile Crafts and Art to International Fashion Buying Management. It was safe to say the Blogstars enjoyed their visit, apart from when the fire alarm went off and they had to stand outside!

That evening, the Blogstars all met for a meal where much eating, drinking and crafting was to be had followed by a good night’s sleep ready for an early start on the Saturday.

We all met at the mill for around 10am. Within seconds, the yarn from the Blogstars goodie bags was out and the mill went from being very quiet to being a hive of activity.

What’s this? There’s a new Blogstar sat at our table! Meet Helen Shrimpton, with a wealth of super crocheted blankets, motifs and knowledge, she is a great addition to the team.

We all said ‘hi!’ to our overseas Blogstars who were attending the meeting via Skype. We had Anne Schueler, Julia Marsh, Michelle Westlund, Polly Plum, Zelna Olivier and Angela Armstrong.

We began with a general chit-chat and a feedback session followed by the very exciting Spring/ Summer collection and new releases (shhh, top secret!) This always creates a buzz in the air as you can almost see the Blogstars conjuring up ideas of what to make with the new yarn! We discussed new competitions, giveaways (watch this space) and magazine articles, so keep a lookout for a Blogstar popping up on paper.

We got to meet Sandra of Cherry Heart’s Forget me Not Dots Blanket in person <3

Then we moved on to what some people see as the best meal of the day… lunch. We mainly like lunch as it gives us a chance to drink lots of tea or coffee, play with yarn and chat about yarn! Not to mention the lovely food and cake… yes! Cake.

With all the important things out of the way, it was time to move onto our relaxing Dorset Buttons workshop run by Juliet Bernard.

This was not too taxing with brilliant results.

The charm is that it isn’t very difficult to master. This is a great technique for making buttons to match your knitted or crocheted garment if you can’t find the perfect button. You can use matching yarn! Perfect.

It was then time to say goodbye, until the next time, Blogstars!

From left to right we have Emma Varnam, Sarah Shrimpton, Phil Saul, Helen Kurtz, Lucy Attic, Sandra Paul, Kathryn Senior, Helen Shrimpton, Lucia Dunn & Heather Leal.

Unfortunately, Jane Crowfoot, Catherine Bligh & Julia Marsh could not attend, but we hope to see them next time. We would also love to meet our overseas Blogstars in person one day too.

To find out more about our Blogstars, follow this link to their profile-  https://stylecraft-yarns.co.uk/blog/designers/

 

First New launch of the Year!

Welcome to 2018.  It looks like it’s going to be an exciting year at Stylecraft so we thought we would kick off with a quick look at the first of our launches for the spring summer season.  It may still be chilly and gloomy outside but we hope our new yarns will give you a taste of the warmer, sunnier days ahead.

Bambino

Bambino is a lovely new yarn for babies in a sophisticated, yet muted palette of eight gorgeous colours. The yarn is beautifully smooth and comfy for baby, is anti-pilling and of course machine washable, so super practical. There are 9 knitting patterns for jumpers, cardigans and accessories as well as some super-cute dungarees.

 Head Over Heels Boho

Head Over Heels was a big hit with knitters and crocheters last year and we have really enjoyed seeing all your projects across social media.  This season we are launching a completely new range called Boho, which features a monochrome faux Fair Isle strip in among the yarn’s characteristically fun colour stripes.  The 6 new yarns, all named after famous rivers, are supported by three free patterns – a lovely shawl, a baby jumper and a new sock design by Stylecraft Blogstar Josie Kitten, which you can get hold of from your local yarn shop.

Jeanie

Jeanie also launched last year with a range of traditional denim shades that proved very popular.  For 2018 we have extended this aran weight yarn’s palette to include four muted pastels to complement the existing range. The problem we are having is which lovely new colour to try first in one of the 6 knitting patterns for ladies we have designed – easy-to-wear garments that are sure to suit any wardrobe, with gorgeous textures including cables and lace.

An Interview with Betsan Corkhill

Welcome to the Stylecraft Year of Wellbeing.

As a knitter or crocheter, you probably know that your craft has lots of health benefits alongside being huge fun.  Over the next 12 months, we will be exploring the many ways that knitting and crochet can enhance your life.

There is only one place we could start the year and that’s with the amazing Betsan Corkhill, and the organization she founded called Stitchlinks.  It’s well worth having a look around the website to look at the research and the science behind therapeutic craft.

Betsan began her career in physiotherapy. “Until 2002 I was a Senior Physiotherapist, working in the community. Many of the patients I saw were so demotivated I knew they wouldn’t do the exercises I’d taught them or carry out the lifestyle changes I advised. Mrs Smith wasn’t getting out of her chair because she had no reason to,” she explains.  “I felt we needed to take a step back with these individuals. They needed to develop an interest in the world, an aspiration to improve their wellbeing and an opportunity to enjoy social contact before any self-management approach would be successful.”

She left healthcare to work in the magazine sector and it was there while pulling together Simply Knitting’s letter pages that she noticed one theme coming up again and again. Anecdotal evidence of how knitting had helped readers with stress, anxiety, depression, grief, pain and any number of other symptoms. The medic in Betsan was so intrigued she decided to find out more and Stitchlinks was born.

As well as publishing a number of books and helping to establish a clinical trial into the benefits of knitting for chronic pain sufferers, she also gives regular talks all over the world. She is off soon to Sydney to run a three-hour workshop for an audience of clinicians, academics and people living with long-term pain on behalf of the charity Pain Australia.

So why knitting or crochet? According to Betsan therapeutic knitting and crochet can deliver so many health benefits to everyone regardless of whether you have a chronic condition or simply want to improve their general wellbeing. We all have the power to change ourselves neurologically or biologically and therapeutic craft helps facilitate that change, which is such a hopeful message.

But persuading the medical community to take her seriously was the first hurdle she had to overcome. She had to transform the activity of knitting into a phrase that clinicians would take more seriously to get her foot in the door. Bilateral rhythmic psycho-social intervention is what Betsan came up with. Doesn’t that just trip off your tongue?  And it worked!

What her research boils down to is based on hard scientific fact. When we take part in craft we use our hands.  The simple act of bringing your hands together requires a phenomenal amount of brain processing power and strengthens links in different areas of our brains:  looking at, or picturing, a colour stimulates the visual cortex; thinking about the pattern you want to knit promotes forward planning, and links to your anticipation and excitement; completing a project gets the reward centres firing away.  Every aspect helps to improve your brain’s flexibility which is essential to everyone’s psychological resilience to help us through life’s ups and downs.

Craft, knitting and crochet, in particular, are safe, non-threatening, portable and can deliver a profound sense of success quite quickly, which is why Betsan is so passionate about them as a therapeutic solution.

She has just launched a new venture with Callie Lasch – a media professional who has curated many exhibitions exploring the hand brain link.  It’s called The Institute of Therapeutic Craft and Creativity and you can view some of Betsan’s talks there.  They are completely fascinating. Currently, she is doing some filming with BBC Wales for a live programme on ‘Making Wales Happy’, broadcast on January 23rd at 8pm-9pm.

It is hard to do Betsan’s work justice in a short blog post, but hopefully, you will want to follow the links we have highlighted, and we will definitely be revisiting Betsan’s ideas throughout the year.

So, next time you feel guilty about not doing the dusting and sitting down with your needles or hook, remember that your craft is not just your hobby – it can take care of your wellbeing in so many amazing ways.

Books by Betsan Corkhill:

Knit for Health & Wellness:  How to knit a flexible mind and more

Knit Yourself Calm

Crochet Therapy

Lucia’s Eastern Jewels Workshop at Poppy’s

When we were given the opportunity to attend a workshop by Lucia of Lucia’s Fig Tree, we jumped at the chance. Little did we know that it would be in the most perfect setting.

On Saturday 18th of November, we set off to a place only 5 minutes away from the mill, ideal. We were heading to Poppy’s, a yarn shop with a difference. This was no ordinary workshop, this was a retreat.

We pulled up at a rural farmhouse with magnificent views. We had a boot full of Stylecraft goodie bags for the other participants and headed into the kitchen where were greeted by Helen, who runs Poppy’s, with her husband Peter.

After a warm welcome and a little tour around, we could see this was going to be like no other workshop. We all met in the dining room for coffee and an introduction where we were told to make ourselves at home. We all introduced ourselves and Lucia told us what we would be doing over the next two days.

Lucia has become a crochet sensation after recolouring some of Jane Crowfoot’s designs, most recently recolouring Persian Tiles into Eastern Jewels. She is also a wiz with designing blankets and working with colour and texture.

We then piled into the living room where the fire was lit and Lucia’s blankets were piled high.

Along with the Stylecraft goodie bags, we also had a Poppy’s goodie bag which was most exciting! We really were spoilt! There were baskets of yarn and boxes with yarn wraps strewn all around us making us feel very at home.

Then it was time to begin. Lucia started by showing us her blankets and talking about border and joining shades and how it can have a huge impact in the feel of the blanket. She advised us to think carefully about the tone and shades – Alpaca yarn has a more muted shade, whereas Special is more solid and defined.

Lucia trained as an architect and has worked in interior design for many years, so choosing colours and texture is second nature to her. She brought some mood boards which she had made for a client to show us how she pics out shades, tones and textures which was very interesting. She had also brought along her scrapbook which showed us her ideas and how she plans a blanket. She showed us a blanket she had made for her bedroom by picking out colours in her curtains. You can clearly see how the blanket and curtain ties coordinate.

Lucia referred to the book ‘Around the Corner’ by Edie Eckman for great borders to use. She also suggested learning to read crochet graphs which enables you to read international patterns with ease. After the talk on choosing colours, we all began working on our Eastern Jewels blanket, surprisingly, there were not many of us who had started the blanket so many of us were new to the octagon. This kept us quiet and in deep concentration for the next half an hour or so.

Then, it was time for lunch! We headed to the dining room for a feast of sandwiches, quiche, salad and soup followed by all kinds of delicious cakes. After much chatting, it was time to get back to crocheting where many of us got sidetracked and wandered off into the amazing shop.

Poppy’s is a farmhouse which has had an extension built to hold crochet retreats, so although you feel like you are in someone’s home, it is purpose built, just for comfort and crochet. There is also a shop, but this is no ordinary shop. People who attend the retreats can use it as a normal shop but with the added bonus of being able to make many visits and swap things as you go, paying for it at the end of your visit. Although this shop is not open to the public, it is just as well organised and displayed. There is, however, an online shop which sells all of the wonderful things in the shop, and more, which you can find here.

The darkness set in and it was time to retire. The other ladies had another day of workshopping, lunching and crocheting, but unfortunately Stylecraft could not attend, but don’t worry, we got the lowdown and what Sunday had in store for them.

We asked the ladies to sum up Sunday and the overwhelming response was ‘Understanding the power of colour, making it pop.’

Lucia shared her design from her blog for November which she is making. Hygge is a blanket that was inspired by IKEA designs for clean living and the current craze for a natural palette. The girls then learnt how to get balance across the whole blanket and how to select the next colours for each square.

The lunch break as was a traditional Yorkshire steak pie and peas with mint sauce which was a great success.

The afternoon was a session that looked at different joining stitches; how to join the Eastern Jewels and how to join another of the patterns from Stylecraft the Batik Elements pattern by Annelies Baes that a number of the ladies were working on. It was concluded that the best description of how to do this came from another Stylecraft Blogstar, Heather from Patchwork Heart, a friend of Poppy’s and someone who had created a number of the pieces displayed in the shop.

Throughout the day there were plenty of one on one consultations in the shop with Lucia and Helen, to help select the wool for their next projects, here there was a real interest in learning to mix different wool types together.

Another successful day and a reluctant set of ladies leaving at the end of the day with bags of inspiration and wool to start their new projects.

The quote of the day came from one of the ladies, Louise, who said she felt inspired and empowered to be confident on her own with colours and shapes as there are no rules.