Bluprint Review and Some New Squares

Greetings, fellow hookers! I hope this week finds you well, and getting in some creative yarn time?

First up, regular readers may remember my excitement a few weeks back upon discovering Craftsy’s new subscription service. As I said, I happily signed up for the free 7 day trial, correctly figuring that there was nothing to lose and everything to gain by checking it all out. I browsed loads, chose a few classes, bought materials, and then paid my first month subscription. So far, so good.

I am a novice knitter, as some of you know, and happily embarked upon my first sweater with a highly recommended Craftsy class by Amy Ross. I ran into frustrating issues getting the gauge correct, and asked a question of the tutor. Having access to an interactive class and being able to ask questions was a big draw for me, so you can imagine my disappointment when over a week later I still had no response. I then struggled to find my original question in the discussion feed, quickly noticing that the time stamps made no sense, and that the feed itself is not user friendly. My own Bluprint feed was no help as it was showing activity from multiple other users, not just myself. So I contacted the customer support team using the Chat option.

A very speedy response explained how to make my Activity feed personal, so I could see my questions. However, it then came to light that there is an ongoing techincal issue which is preventing tutors from seeing / answering questions. Users have not been informed about this, and even more frustrating – no information is available as to when this issue will be fixed. So I was paying money for a time-based subscription, yet found myself unable to continue with the project until my tutor question was answered, and the service could give no estimate as to when that might be. The only response from the service rep was that I needed to understand that coding is a complex process!

So, alas I must report that, much as I have every faith in the quality of the Craftsy classes themselves, I have no trust in the (new to the market) Bluprint subscription service. I have been back into the forum today to see if my question of a fortnight ago has been answered, so at least I can proceed with the pattern for which I have purchased specific supplies, but I still cannot see any response. I have therefore cancelled my Bluprint subscription.

So disappointed to share this update with you!! Have you signed up? I notice that there are a few subscription services of this kind around right now. Have you joined any? Would love to hear about your experience!

Anyhoo. I wanted report back to you as promised, and there you have it. But there are worse things in this life than a poor experience with a subscription service, right?! One must simply move on. So, I’d like to end on a happy note and share with you the two new squares that I’ve hooked up this past week! This is ‘Star Crossed’ by Helen Shrimpton, a lovely free pattern on Ravelry. I added two rounds of surface crochet because I wasn’t mad keen on how my colours panned out at the end – happier now πŸ™‚

And this is ‘Paula’s Pendant’ by Margaret Hubert from her lovely publication, ‘The Granny Square Book’, extended by me to include four extra rows, thereby bring it up to 8 inches, for my ongoing blanket project:

Finally, I’m chuffed to share that I’ve got my design head on again and I’m working on a new square of my own, which I hope to share with you next week. Yah!

Until then, I wish you happy hooking πŸ™‚ ❀


Free Pattern: Frank Mandala

This week I’m delighted to share my new pattern, the Frank Mandala (named by my daughters, after my husband, who is of course wildly flattered!). Suitable for adventurous beginners as it includes bobbles (photo tutorial link supplied) and back loop stitches, it’s also perfect for any hooker who just needs a quick fix of happy! You can add it to your Ravelry queue here, or download directly here. Enjoy!

In other hooky news my square obsession has continued right through the past week, and I am playing swift catch-up on the block a month CAL in which I’m participating. I have learned something new from each and every one of these squares and I am so excited by the myriad possibilities that our glorious craft offers us, fellow hookers!

Each of these designers is very talented and they have all inspired me greatly in my own design endeavours. Check them out on Ravelry! Clockwise from top left:

Sunrise Beach by Jen Tyler (paid pattern)

Passion Flower by Karen Smith (currently free)

Grumpy Grandad by Sadie Cuming (currently free)

Macey Ann by Pam Knighton-Haener (currently free)

I have used Paintbox Cotton DK in all of the above projects. As a affiliate I am happy to promote this lovely, durable and versatile 100% cotton yarn which is available in no less than 56 colours! Check it out here ❀

I will be taking a crafty detour tomorrow and getting back to my knitting – hopefully I’ll be able to get beyond the gauge swatch in my first sweater and make some headway with it before Spring! What’s on your needles / hook this week? Do share, I love to read your comments and respond to every single one πŸ™‚

Mandala Designing and the Return of the Square Obsession

One evening I sat hook in hand and realised I had no projects on the go. What?!!

As July came to an end and with it an entire blanket of crochet squares and the publishing of my own square pattern, I found myself repulsed by squares and drawn to circles πŸ˜‚ I completed ‘Pebbles in the Pond’ by Haafner Linssen (pictured above) from her lovely book ‘Mandalas to Crochet’, and then found myself at a loose end after I finished my very first piece of knitwear, the asymmetrical scarf I shared with you last week.

One evening I sat hook in hand and realised I had no projects on the go. What?!! It was a very strange feeling after a few months of completing a great many wips, including four crochet blankets. I looked at my books but it was late in the evening, and nothing caught my eye. I felt lost, I don’t mind telling you. So I decided to just play around… and two hours later, well past my bedtime, the ‘Frank Mandala’ was born!

Within 24 hours the pattern was written and out with testers. The feedback has been great, and I’m happy to share that it will be released as a free Ravelry pattern at the end of next week. I had such fun creating it: a blur of joyful concentration. It would make a great first mandala project for a beginner who’s ready to go a little further, with back loop stitches and bobbles (link to photo tutorial included in the pattern). I’ll make the download available here too, so look out for it and do let me know what you think if you decide to make it.

In the midst of all that activity, my last pattern, the ‘Maya Square’, was tagged in the BAMCAL2018 Ravelry group in a member’s choice poll. After thanking them for considering my square – so very exciting for a new designer such as myself! – and looking at all the discussion and pictures in this ‘block a month’ project group, I decided to join in too. I didn’t think I’d be up for another blanket so soon, let alone one of squares, but I found myself powerless to resist! I’ve already finished one block and am almost done with a second. Below is ‘Maybelline’ by Polly Plumb, in progress. What is it with crochet squares that makes them so addictive?!!

I plan to make the group block plus the members’ choice block each month, then choose my favourites and do them solid or in different colourways, plus perhaps a couple of my own squares to bring the count up to 30 blocks. Of course it will be the height of summer by then, but never mind: I can join in the aircon! And I truly do believe that you can never have too many crochet blankets πŸ˜€

(As an aside, may I namedrop? Edie Eckman was a guest in that group, and I spoke to her, and she replied! I was a bit starstruck :D)

What’s your take on crochet blankets? Do you always have one on the go? Do you prefer huge intricate designs, or blocks, or rows?

Not Crochet. Knitting!

I have a confession to make. There has been no crochet at all around here this past week. I am a traitor to my hooks! I have gone over to the other side!!

I still firmly believe that I will remain true to my first yarn love of crochet, but the knitting bug bit me hard these past days, and I returned to and finished a knit wip in the space of a week. Such loyalty to one wip is almost unheard of, and I surprised myself!

I’d done another simple dishcloth and learned a lot along the way, but my heart yearned for the knitwear that inspired me to learn to knit in the first place. So I got brave and went back to a scarf that I was struggling with a few weeks ago. Happily my perseverance with the dishcloths paid off as everything did suddenly seem a lot clearer.

So I compulsively (powerless to stop!!) kept on keeping on with a free asymmetrical scarf pattern that I’d found on Ravelry and ta-daaaaaaa! Yesterday I walked out wearing my lovely new scarf in Scheepjes Stonewashed. Happy days!

So what of note have I have learned thus far on this learn-to-knit journey of mine?

  1. Cable keys are provided for a reason! If you don’t use the puzzling little key thingy to tighten your interchangable circulars before you embark, they will come loose, and you will lose stitches. Oops.
  2. I can now join a new colour properly, work in stripes carrying yarn up the sides, and weave in ends very nearly on both stocking and garter stitch fabrics. For help with all these I highly recommend Wool and the Gang YouTube tutorials. I am so happy I stumbled across them when I got stuck. They are very concise, which I love, impatient as I am to be getting on and doing.
  3. I know how to fix a newbie-knitter loose cast on when you realise a few rows up that it’s all starting to look like shit, without going back and redoing it. It is hard to describe, but I figured out you can use a darning needle to gently tighten each stitch from the end of the cast on row and working back to the first cast on stitch, and then undo the starting slipknot and simply pull to add the excess yarn to the tail. I am not sure how much sense this makes, but it worked, and I felt rather victorious πŸ™‚

In other yarn, and yes sorry still knitting, news, I have selected my first Craftsy knitting classes and ordered supplies. I am sooooo excited! I will let you know how I get on, both with the materials (Paintbox ‘Socks‘, who knew?! Oh. And suddenly now 50% off? Gah. That hurts a bit right after ordering!!); and the classes themselves.

For now that’s it from me, as the school bus is about to return and my #yarntime is up. I do apologise for any grammatical or spelling errors – usually I am fanatically pedantic about these things but I do tend to edit-edit-edit and it is so time-consuming. Today there just isn’t the time (people will want food etc, how every dare they!).

Are you steadfastly a hook only yarn person, or do you knit too? What are your top tips for beginner knitters? Can you recommend any Craftsy classes, or knitting books?

Next time it’ll be all about the crochet. Promise 😁

~This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commision if you choose to purchase a linked product~

Did You Know that Craftsy Unlimited is Now Bluprint?

Edit to update: I have now reviewed this service here (it’s not good…)

As regular readers know, I recently started out on my learn to knit journey. Pictured is my current knit wip, an asymmetrical scarf in Scheepjes Stonewashed, which I am loving!

Anyhoo, during the course of the school holidays I was researching knitting books to buy – will share those I chose in a future post; I now have some lovely knitting books on my crochet bookshelf! – and I remembered the crochet classes I found in the dim and distant past on Craftsy. I decided to have a look at the knitting offerings, and found out that Craftsy had a new subscription service called Craftsy Unlimited.

Online subscription of this kind is not such an alien concept nowadays. Most of us have Spotify or Netflix subscriptions and the like, and we enjoy the freedom and choice this mode of entertainment consumption offers us. However, could I gobble up knitting and crochet classes in the same way as I binge on Netflix? My mind immediately started weighing up the possibilities, cost and time factors…

However, I knew I wouldn’t have time to get stuck in to anything properly during the school holidays, so I put the trial on my To Do list for when term started. And here we are (oh yeah!!). And I have discovered that in the interim, Craftsy Unlimited has rebranded itself as Bluprint. Eh? But ok: the very same classes are still available on Craftsy. You just go to your chosen Craftsy class and click ‘Watch in Blueprint’ ; or you can explore class offerings within Bluprint itself. (You can find out more about the rebranding of Craftsy Unlimted as Bluprint here).

So, name change dealt with, and onward: I’d bookmarked a bunch of Craftsy knitting classes that appealed to me, and on checking them out, it seems to me that there is enough to keep me going, and be cost-effective, for a long time, on a subscription basis. For example, Save Our Stitches: Fixing Knitting Mistakes is 52.92AUD as a stand-alone purchase, but with Bluprint, all you ever pay is your monthly sub of 18.99AUD. Based on this, even if I only complete one class per month, the monthly subscription is well worth it (there is an annual subscription option too, but I’m going monthly initially just while I suss it out – and you can change to annual at any time).

So, conclusion: I have signed up! I am EXCITED! Craftsy has a great reputation for crochet and knitting classes. Since I last checked Craftsy out years ago I have come a long way on my crochet journey, and when I see names like Edie Eckman, Dora Ohrenstein and Tamara Kelly writing and hosting classes, I know I’m on to a good thing! I am not familar with the knitting ‘names’ as yet, but based on these greats within the crochet offerings, I am more than willing to give the subscription service a go as a learning to knit resource, as well as a means of advancing my crochet skills.

As part of the free 7 day trial package I also got 30% off the monthly price for the first 3 months. Thereafter it’s 18.99AUD per month and you can cancel at any time simply by clicking CANCEL in your subscription settings. To cancel before any billing starts, simply click cancel before the end of the 7 day period. Simples!

So, there you have it. I will be letting you know which classes I take, and how I rate them, as well as reporting back on my experience of the subscription service itself in terms of tech help and support, and any other issues that arise.

Are you familar with Craftsy? Have you signed up for Bluprint? Which Craftsy knitting or crochet classes do you recommend? Tell all! And meantime… happy hooking! Or knitting πŸ™‚

Free Pattern: Maya Square

Happy Tuesday, hookers! Or Monday night if that is where you still are πŸ™‚

I had planned a longer post today detailing the latest carryings on in my novice knitting journey, but instead I’ve spent my yarn-related time this morning publishing my new pattern on Ravelry, and closing out with all my lovely testers. Hurrah!

The Maya Square (named for my eldest daughter), is now available as a free PDF download. The file includes a full list of stitches used (US terminology), additional notes and clear, detailed pattern instructions.

You can add the Maya Square pattern to your Ravelry queue here or download the file directly by clicking this link: Maya Square.pdf

May I take this opportunity to draw your attention to my other free square pattern, the Winter Sun Square. Somewhere in the future I see an entire multi-block Hooks and Hills blanket in my mind’s eye! Of course, this will not happen overnight – oh real life, how you do interfere with my crochet life…! πŸ˜€ – but it all starts with a single square, right. And now I have created two πŸ™‚

If you make one or both of these patterns, please let me know how you go. I welcome all questions and comments. Enjoy ❀ πŸ™‚

Crochet Mum

It’s the second week of the school holidays and I’m writing my roundup of the past seven days of this crochet life on my phone. Because I know if I open the laptop at the table, little people will be upon me in seconds – what is it with that?! (And how the heck do people homeschool?! I always find myself asking this question at some point toward end of the school hols πŸ˜‚). Of course, there are many pluses to having no routine and spending lots of chilled-out time with my girls. However, they also bicker incessantly and I do struggle with having such little time alone (cheerful introvert talking). However, such is motherhood, and I have maybe ten minutes right now, for which I am grateful 🧑 So, here goes!

True to the spirit of the yarn-obsessed mother, I attempted to introduce some yarncraft to our holiday activites. It was traumatic πŸ˜‚. To cut a long story short, my youngest (5) was not interested, and my eldest (7) was too frustrated by the antics of her disinterested sibling to focus for long. I myself, however, can now french knit and finger knit (thank you. YouTube!). Heart above is shaped from my fingerknitted thneed 😁 Eldest daughter and I have decided to try again when youngest daughter is not present. And I am of course more than happy to sow the seed of yarn addiction πŸ™‚

In grownup yarn news, this week I impulsively purchased some Caron Cotton Cakes and made a Desert Winds Scarf. It’s a nice easy pattern for a good-sized triangle scarf; I’ve made one before in lovely Bendigo Woollen Mills Cotton 4ply. This yarn though…not so lovely: talk to me about Caron Cotton, fellow hookers? Was I just unlucky to get knots in both balls, including right on the colour change, plus hideous yarn vomits?! It was supposed to be relaxing quick make, and thus perfect for school hols. It turned into a lot of unravelling and rewinding, and I have a bunch of ends to sew in – not what you’re looking for in a variegated yarn, right?! Also, the colour changes are too abrupt for my liking. I’ve read such good reviews, so I was disappointed. Your thoughts?

In happier yarny news, I am 99% done with my three and a half year old blanket wip!! Am on the fourth and final round of the border (Edie Eckman #107 – will share deets next post, my time is nearly up – Muuuuuuum??) Yahoo!! Here are some progress pics. The colours make me oh so hApPy 😊😊 I hope to share the completed blanket with you next week. Until then, I wish you happy hooking πŸ’Ÿ

Squeezing in the Yarn Time

It doesn’t feel like a Tuesday because we’re now in school holidays, so we have no routine, only chaos πŸ™‚ The German (my husband) has the first week off so we’re enjoying some good family time, which is great. They’ve all gone down to the river in the village this morning though, while I get through the laundry backlog. So I’ve quickly bunged in a load, and here I am, pretending there is no ironing to do πŸ™‚ I have to catch my yarny moments while I can in school hols; I’m sure all crochet mums (and dads?) relate.

So, first up! An update on my longest running wip ever: a thirty block crochet blanket (pictured above) using patterns from the Look At What I Made 2014 Block A Week CAL, that I’ve been working on for three and a half years! I’ve finally joined all the squares and completed the base round. Now I’m choosing the border. I absolutely LOVE ‘Around the Corner Crochet Borders’ by Edie Eckman. It’s a book I return to over and over, not just when I need border inspo, but well, just to flip through and now then – so much pretty! Incredibly inspiring, too; I’m starting to feel the urge to design my own border one day, something which Edie absolutely encourages. The book not only contains 150 different border designs – including charts for each one as well as written instructions – it also contains lots of technical notes such as explaining stitch count maths – finally, I get it!! – and even tips on design concepts and troubleshooting problems. Five star review from me.

In learning to knit news, well…I can say I have persevered. I managed to finish a dishcloth, after a great deal of ripping and re-catching of stitches. I have since been assured that ripping and re-catching of stitches are very necessary knitting skills, so I suppose I am making progress? I bought ‘More Than A Dozen Dishcloths’ by Lisa Carnahan with the idea of learning new techniques and stitches in small, manageable projects. I have started and abandoned a few already truth be told, and I feel that this is not a book for beginners. Or at least not this beginner! While the patterns are pretty, and I will keep at them for sure, if you require any illumination at all regarding stitches or techniques, it is not to be found within these pages, you must go elsewhere.

So, in knit conclusion for this week, I remind myself that it took me many frustrating attempts to learn to crochet, and the key is to remain calm and persevere. So I shall continue to intersperse my obsessive crocheting with a little knitting, and we shall see!

Finally, as we all know, you can never have too much yarn, and I have been on a self-imposed ban since my pilgrimage in February all the way from here on the Mid North Coast, New South Wales, to Bendigo in Victoria, for the express purpose of visiting Bendigo Woollen Mills (1,376km by road; thankfully we flew!). It is therefore high time I added to my stash, no? πŸ˜€ I have been hearing great things about Paintbox Yarns, so I’ve now got some on order. Yah! I decided to give the dk cotton a try, cotton being my fave fibre here in the subtropics. I will report back. Have you used any Paintbox yarns?

I also couldn’t resist a wee browse on the Knitpicks site. They always have great yarn-related bits and bobs that The German for some reason deems absolutely unnecessary, but which add an extra ray of sunshine to my life, such as amusing tote bags and mugs. I also ordered a storage case for my new Knitpro Zing circular needles, as I don’t like the case they come in, and this one has extra pockets too. But I will share more about that when my happy mail arrives and I get a proper look at it all. I cannot wait!!

Final news for this week is that I have at long last designed a new 8 inch (20cm) afghan square. I loved putting it together and I’m super excited to say that it is being tested right now as I type, in several different countries, and in both UK and US terms. I hope to publish it via Ravelry very soon. Meantime you can download my other square pattern for free here. It is lonely there, I feel, my one little square to date. But, there will be more!

I think this has got quite long, so I shall stop now. I’ll be back next Tuesday with more happy hooking vibes. Remember you can subscribe via email (there’s a button at the top of the sidebar) should you so wish. Only one email per week, on a Tuesday, containing that week’s blog post.

What’s your longest running ever wip?

Do you knit as well as crochet? Which do you prefer?

Bye for now, and I wish you happy hooking! ❀

P.S. I have created a Facebook page for Hooks and Hills, if you are of the Facebook persuasion and would like to pop over and say hi. I am very active on Instagram too. Much more so than Facebook, but perhaps it’s easier to get a multiway convo going on a Facebook page? I don’t know. We’ll see πŸ™‚

~This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commision if you choose to purchase a linked product~


Novice Knitting & Crochet Plotting

I feel rather like a ten year old in Home Economics (showing my age there, I guess!), but the truth is I’m rather proud of my knitted hot water bottle cover, completed this week πŸ™‚ I’ve learned to cable cast on with needles, which was no small feat as I have only been able to cast on the regular way and with a crochet hook to date! I also managed to get to grips with increasing using the M1 method, both purl and knit, and the shaping also involved decreasing (a lot easier to master). I used oddments of lovely bright Nundle Chaffey. It’s a 100% Australian wool produced by Nundle Woollen Mills in New England, NSW; a lovely little working mill which I have visited several times and which is one of only three remaining mills in Australia. The pattern is from“Handmade Style: Knit” by Janine Flew.

Back in my crochet comfort zone this week I have been reflecting on June’s efforts, and planning for July. I finished no less than three crochet blankets last month (!!): a granny square blanket using a design by Margaret Hubert called ‘Blooming Granny” (from “The Granny Square Book”) in Stylecraft Special DK; the Hydrangea Stripe Blanket by Attic 24 n Stylecraft Special DK; and Sophie’s Universe by Dedri Uys in Patons Cotton Blend. Needless to say I did not begin all these in June! They were all started in 2018 though, unlike the block blanket wip which I began in 2015 and which I am finally finishing this week (maybe, haha).

While tweaking and joining blocks in the past day or two my thoughts have been turning to design once more. Searching back through my Instagram feed this very early morning (thank you, cat!) I found a square I finished designing but never got around to writing up last winter. It’s called ‘Winter in the Glen’ and I’m going to go through my notebooks and see if I can find my scribbles; failing that I’ll have a go at redoing it from the picture. Then I’ll be hunting out my pattern tester spreadsheet to find those lovely hookers who tested ‘Winter Sun‘ for me last year and said they’d love to test for me again, to see if they are still willing. And thus I hope to publish my second Ravelry pattern in the not too distant. I’m a bit excited πŸ˜€

Are you a crochet designer? What’s your favourite part of the design process?

Winter Crochet

I’ve had a break from blogging these past six months, but not from crochet! If anything I am hooking more than ever. Happy days! Both my young daughters are now at school and here toward the end of the second term, we are nicely settled into our routines of sports, play and learning. Having school-aged children is a brand new and exciting chapter for me, having been a stay at home mum to little ones for almost eight years. I am increasingly involved in the running of our family business, but otherwise I continue to be a happy and grateful stay at home mum with a HUGE yarn obsession πŸ˜€

I won’t harp on with a six months update but will instead begin where I am. June has been a month of seriously getting stuck into finishing wips, especially crochet blankets, here in the Australian mid-winter. One of my blankets is running at over three years now! And there were many more! I’ve finished two crochet blankets this month, and I also thought I’d come to the end of Sophie’s Universe (pictured above) but I’ve decided I might grow her into a rectangle, so there may be a way to go on that one yet. I’m also working to complete another earlier CAL from the Look at What I Made blog, the block a week blanket (or on average Block a Month if you’re me). I’ve made 30 blocks, decided on placement, and am now ready to get into joining them. You can see progress on both these wips on Instagram if you do so desire πŸ˜€

One completely new development is the beginning of my journey as a fledgling knitter. This is a whole new direction for me and I am starting from the basics I learned as a child (knit and purl) and turning to YouTube for all the rest! So there will some needles as well as hooks from here on in πŸ˜€ I’m drawn by the possibilities of knitted wearables. I keep seeing beautiful knit patterns and wishing I could…time to stop wishing!

I also plan to start designing again. I have published one (free) crochet pattern, the Winter Sun Square, details of which are here. There will be more πŸ™‚

I think that’s it from me for now. I’ve got some ‘no knead’ bread on the kitchen counter that needs a tiny bit of bashing, and I want to make some hummus, and bliss balls. Then on to my daily chores after a bit of business paperwork, and it will be YARN TIME until the school bell goes. Woot!