Tips & Tricks

It's that time of year again... welcome to our Xmas 2023 crafting round up!
Emma Haughton November 25, 2023

It's that time of year again... welcome to our Xmas 2023 crafting round up!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and crafter's thoughts naturally turn to seasonal gifts and decorations. There's still plenty of time to dig our your needles and hooks, and get cracking! We've picked ten of the most recent seasonal knitting and crochet projects - many are free, and all are gorgeous!  

1. How delicious is this simple crochet bauble from Elisa's Crochet? If you don't have the yarn and balls to hand, we've got you covered - we offer both a six-pack of polystyrene balls, as well as our super-economical Christmas yarn bundle, with one ball each of Cygnet Pato in red, white and green.

2. We're enchanted by this lovely Foxes and Fawns at Midnight knitting pattern for a seasonal stocking. Made with Aran weight yarn, it will knit up quickly and you can fill it with a good number of gifts.

3. If you fancy trying your hand at mosaic crochet, this charming Christmas Around The World blanket by Juli Gittinger looks like a great place to start. 

4. Up for a challenge? If you prime your hooks, we reckon there's just about time to crochet up this glorious Granny Square Christmas Tree by Patricia Wilson. Though we're not entirely sure where you'd hang your baubles! 

5. These brilliant little Yarn Wrapped Stars by Cami at Tidbits are top of our Christmas crafting list. All you need is a template, some glue, then any spare scraps of yarn you have lying around. Don't they look amazing?   

6. We've found the perfect Christmas jumper! This gorgeous Christmas Lights Sweater pattern by Manatee Squares is not only free, it's crochet, so that means it will work up in super-quick time.  

7. Who could resist these Tiny Tree Socks from the doyenne of sock knitting, Summer Lee? Perfect for using up scraps of yarn, you can give them as gifts, hang them on your tree, or string them together to make a stunning garland.

8. If you've got some felt and spare buttons, then you're good to go with this lovely project from Jessica at Cutesy Crafts. Simply adorable!  

9. With its clean and modern designs, this Santa Pillow by Kathy Lewinski at KnitPicks would make the perfect gift for anyone into Scandi style. Or just anyone, really.

10. Finally, we couldn't resist plugging our very own Twinkle Twinkle crochet star pattern. Grab yourself a set of wire USB lights, and you can easily make this up in 30 minutes flat. Not long now until we can get them twinkling!


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The One Tool No Knitter or Crocheter Should Be Without
Emma Haughton October 24, 2023

The One Tool No Knitter or Crocheter Should Be Without

What’s the single most useful tool you can have in your crochet and knitting craft space? A set of micro kitchen scales. I use them so often that I have two sets, just in case one breaks down!

It’s no exaggeration to say an accurate pair of micro scales transformed my crafting life. For instance, a couple of days ago I was knitting a hat with some leftover yarn, using an improvised pattern. However, when I finished the hate, it was way too small for my head. Instead of ripping back and hoping I had enough yarn, I weighed what was left of my ball. I then unravelled the decrease section, and weighed the yarn again. By subtracting the first weight from the second, I knew how much yarn I needed for the decreased section (around 4g). So I could then knit all the yarn I had left, except the last 4g, confident I had enough to finish the decreases for the hat.

For calculations like this to really work, you need micro digital scales that will weigh down to 0.01 of a gram (or an ounce if you’re using imperial measures). I like this one here. This level of accuracy makes a set of scales super useful in many knitting or crochet projects:

1. Stop playing yarn chicken. In any given project, you can calculate pretty accurately whether you'll have enough yarn to finish your project. Weigh your unused yarn (Figure A). Work a complete row or round, then weigh your unused yarn again (Figure B). By subtracting Figure B from Figure A, you have the amount of yarn used in that single row or round or repeat (Figure C). You can work out how many more rows or rounds or repeats you can do with the amount of yarn you have left by dividing Figure B – the yarn you have left - by Figure C.

2. Make use of every last drop of yarn when knitting socks. Weigh the yarn before you start your project, and divide that number by half (Figure A). Using a toe-up method, knit one sock up to the leg. If you’re not using a contrast colour for the rib, you can knit the sock until you get to the leg. Decide how many rows you want for the rib – say 12 rows. As you’re knitting the leg, weigh your yarn again after 12 rows – this is roughly the amount of yarn you’ll need for the cuff ribbing (Figure B). If you subtract Figure B from Figure A, you'll then know exactly how much yarn you can use for the rest of the leg before starting the cuff. If you’re using a contrast colour for the cuff, just keep knitting until you reach Figure A, then change yarn colour to finish the sock.

3. You’ve knitted one sock, and want to know if you have enough yarn left to knit the second, and you forgot to weigh the yarn ball before you started the project. Just weigh the sock, then the remaining yarn, and you have your answer. This can get a bit more complicated if you’re using contrast cuffs, heels or toes, but you can always weigh your contrast yarn before using it, then weigh the balls again once they are done, then you’ll know roughly how much of the contrast colour you used. If you subtract that from the weight of the sock you also know how much of the main colour you used.

4. In any instance where you need to divide a ball of yarn into half, micro scales are invaluable. Weigh the ball or skein beforehand (there is often a bit of variance in any ball or skein, so even if the label states 100g, it’s always worth checking.) Then wind off half the skein, using the weight on the scale to make sure you get exactly half.

5. If you’re making a project with regular motifs, say crochet granny squares or mitred squares in knitting, you can measure the weight of a single square and then calculate how many more you will be able to make from the yarn available. Don’t worry if you are joining as you go and forget to weigh that first square. Just stick the whole project on the scales, then divide by the number of squares you've done so far, and you’ll know how much each one weighs. If you’re only using one colour in a square, simply weigh your yarn ball first, knit or crochet a square, then weigh your yarn ball again.

6. If you’re making a garment, and you’re not sure you have enough for the sleeves or how long you can make them, weigh what yarn remains, then knit the sleeve until half is used up, then move onto the second sleeve. If you know you want, say, 10 rows of ribbing, weigh how much you use in 10 rows of the main sleeve, then you know roughly how much yarn you need to complete the ribbing.

7. With a really accurate set of scales, you can even calculate how much yarn is used in a single stitch. I don’t often do this, but it’s useful sometimes when you’re really unsure how much yarn you need in a project. Always do your calculations as an average – so if you want to know what one stitch weighs on average, knit or crochet, say, 20 or 30 stitches, then divide the weight of the yarn you’ve used by the number of stitches.

Top tips

Always round up to the nearest whole number. Remember your tension and gauge may vary, so err on the side of leaving a bit more than you calculate.

Make sure you have your scales on a flat, stable surface and that the batteries still have plenty of charge.

When weighing how much yarn you have left, put the project down next to the scales, and put the spare yarn on the scales. If you hold the project above, this will vary the weight according to how close or far away you are from the scales, and how much yarn is suspended.

It’s fun and useful to keep a log of your average yarn weight used, particularly in projects you make frequently. I make a lot of socks in 4-ply/fingering yarn, and I know on average I used 16-18g for contrast cuff, short-row heel and toe. So when using leftovers as a contrast, I can go into a project confident I’ll have enough to finish the job.

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A Beginner's Guide to Blanket Gauge
Emma Haughton June 07, 2022

A Beginner's Guide to Blanket Gauge

Far and away the commonest query I receive from people making up one of our blankets relates to gauge. So what do I mean by that? Gauge refers to the sizing achieved by the person writing the pattern – in other words, me  –  when they made up the original sample blanket. So in the Size and Gauge section of any of our crochet blanket pattern you’ll see a reference to the gauge – usually expressed as a number of stitches (and rows, if relevant) to 10cm or 4 inches, using the stated hook size and yarn.

Yeah, I know. You’re in a rush to get started and it’s so tempting to glide past the ‘technical stuff‘ and just reach for your hook. Been there more times than I care to remember! But if you’re expecting your blanket to turn out the same size as the one in the pattern, you have to match the pattern gauge, or compensate for the fact that your tension is different. So often people send messages saying they’ve done the required number of stitches, but their blanket is nowhere near the same size – often smaller (and there’s a reason for that, which I’ll get to in a moment).

What do I mean by someone’s tension? Your tension is how tightly or loosely you crochet, a combination of how you grip your hook and hold your yarn as it feeds into the stitches. If your tension is tight, your stitches and rows/rounds will be smaller and the fabric more dense. If your tension is loose, your stitches and rows will be bigger and more ‘gappy’. Neither one is intrinsically better than the other, but it will affect the measurements of your crochet. It’s not uncommon for people to have tension so different that their finished blanket is a third or more smaller than the stated dimensions on the pattern.

Does it really matter if your tension is different to the gauge? Well, yes and no. The beauty of crochet blankets is that they are, well, blankets, and so long as you’re crocheting evenly it’s not a huge issue if it turns out a little smaller or larger – unless it’s destined to cover a bed. Differing tension usually only matters in terms of how much yarn you use. If you’ve bought a kit, or the amount of yarn suggested in the pattern, and your gauge differs wildly from the one stated, you may not have enough to finish the project.

So what can you do if your gauge is different? I’m a relatively experienced and ‘looser' crocheter, so more often than not I receive messages from people who find their blanket is working out a good deal smaller than mine. This is a particularly common issue for people who are new to crochet – we tend to hold the hook and yarn more tightly when we’re not familiar with the movements we’re making; as you progress, you may find your tension relaxes. Your crochet tension can even change with your mood, or if you put a project down for a long time then go back to it, or even if you choose a different style of hook to the one you'd been using before.

There are two ways you can tackle tight tension. Well, three. You can consciously try to relax as you crochet and form bigger stitches, but that can be hard to maintain if you naturally crochet more tightly. So the second thing you could do is go with your own tension and adapt the pattern, adding more stitches to the foundation chain, for instance – most of our patterns mention the number of stitches in a repeat, to make this easier to work out - or adding more squares or rounds. Bear in mind though that adding stitches/rounds to a pattern will mean you use more yarn, and you may not have enough in your kit or stash.

The best and often easiest solution is to change your hook size until your gauge matches the one in the pattern, and that might mean going up (or down) several hook sizes. My sample crocheter is working on the sample for the upcoming Autumn Woodland kit, and she’s had to go up to a 5mm hook to work the blanket to the same dimensions as I get with a 4mm hook.

The standard advice is to work a sample square and measure your gauge, going up one hook size each time until you match the pattern gauge. Yeah, I know that’s a pain, but it’s the only way to ensure you get the right dimensions with the amount of yarn stated. Also, if you crochet tightly, you may find you end up with a fabric that is too dense and stiff and doesn’t drape very well – great for amigurumi (crochet animals and toys), but less desirable for something you want to be soft and snuggly.

A final word of advice – blankets are large projects, and as mentioned before, your tension can change over the course of making one. When I was creating the blue Campervan sample (above), I got about two-thirds of the way through before I realised my tension had radically altered, and my blanket was turning into more of a wonky trapezoid than a rectangle. Campervan crash!

Reader, I had to rip back and recrochet the whole darn thing. The moral of the story is check your work regularly – lay your blanket out on a clean floor or table, and make sure the sides are vertical and your rows nice and even. You have been warned!

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Ten of the Best Christmas Crochet and Knitting Projects
Emma Haughton November 21, 2020

Ten of the Best Christmas Crochet and Knitting Projects


When the weather gets colder, thoughts turn to Christmas, and for any crafter that brings a thrill of anticipation and excitement. Bring on the festive wips! We've picked ten of the best seasonal knitting and crochet projects to decorate your home and help you get into the festive mood. Many are free, and perfect for using up any yarn scraps you've got hanging around.

1. Candy-Coloured Advent Calendar 

We're so in love with this beautiful pastel crochet advent calendar by Esme Crick. Originally featured in Simply Crochet magazine, you can now buy the pattern on Ravelry for £3.50.

2. Mini Knitted Snowbuddies

How cute are these mini snowmen in their colourful scarves and hats? We want to make every single one of them. Perfect for brightening up shelves and mantelpieces during the winter season, or giving as gifts to little ones. The pattern by Esther Braithwaite is available as a free download on Ravelry.

3. Christmas Star Ornament

These gorgeous little stars are fun and quick to make, and perfect for hanging on your Christmas tree. Make them in festive red, white and green, or go crazy with the colour. The free pattern is available on the Truly Crochet website.

4. Advent Socks

If you've treated yourself to a yarn advent calendar this year, what better way to use up all those mini skeins than these delectable advent socks. The pattern creator, Natalie Sheldon, suggests knitting the cuff beforehand, then adding on one colourwork section each day in the run up to Christmas. Pattern available as a free download on Ravelry.

5. Crochet Robin

We fell instantly in love with this cute little amigurumi crochet robin the moment we saw him. Make one for your Christmas tree, or a whole round of little birds for decorating your house (yes, a flock of robins is known as a 'round', we discovered!) Grab the free pattern from Furls Crochet.

6. Julenatt Mittens

Who wouldn't love a pair of these heavenly Nordic-style mittens from Skeindeer Knits? Jul is the Scandinavian Christmas time, and natt translates to night, and these are perfect not just for Christmas but all winter through. Pattern available for £5.00 on Ravelry.

7. Christmas Lights Garland

We love Natasha J's riff on traditional Christmas lights, with no dodgy bulb sets or plugs in sight! Make them in traditional festive colours, or dig out all those little scraps of yarn and spread rainbow cheer throughout the house. Pattern costs $7.99 on Ravelry.

8. Knitted Lights Wall Hanging

Take creative crafting to a new level by knitting your own illuminated wall hanging! You can find sets of mini string lights for sale on Amazon or other online retailers, and some guidance from Leila Raven on Ravelry. We're sooo tempted...

9. Gnome Christmas Tree Ornaments

An adorable and easy crochet pattern from Ashley Parker. It comes in two versions, one using a faux fur pompom for the beard, the other using fauc fur yarn. You can find the free pattern over on The Loopy Lamb website.

10. Balls Up! Knitted Christmas Ornaments

Get your needles out and whip out a few of these gorgeous Christmas tree decorations by General Hogbuffer, better know for his beautiful and often intricate sock patterns. Available as a free Ravelry download.


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Ten Tips for the Perfect Crochet Blanket
Emma Haughton January 24, 2020

Ten Tips for the Perfect Crochet Blanket

Making a crochet blanket, particularly for adults, is not for the faint-hearted, and involves a big commitment in terms of yarn, time and money. Follow our top tips to make sure you enjoy the journey, and create something beautiful that will bring joy for years to come.

1. Tension

Not only do we all differ in our tension – the 'tightness' with which we form stitches as we crochet – but our own tension can vary within a project, particularly a large one like a blanket which can take weeks or even months to complete.

The good news is that individual variations in tension – or gauge as it’s often called - don’t matter hugely when making blankets. I crochet loosely, so even if I use the same yarn and hook as you, my blanket may come out a little larger. Unlike with garments, where that could make the difference between a good fit and a disaster, it doesn’t matter so much with a blanket or afghan. 

But variations in our own tension within a project DO matter, and it can alter, particularly if you come back to a project after a break. It's not uncommon to discover as you complete a blanket that one end is significantly wider than the other. While working on my Campervan blanket - pictured below - I eventually noticed that it was gradually getting wider. I had to rip back half my work to correct it. Ugh! Similarly if you’re crocheting a giant granny square or circle, you can end up with buckling at the edges if your tension loosens as you work. Yep, been there too.

Tension, as the word suggests, can even vary with your mood. If you’re feeling cross or anxious, this can affect how tightly you hold your yarn and form your stitches, compared with when you’re feeling relaxed. Quite often we start a project with a slightly tighter tension, which then loosens up as we become more familiar with the stitches and don't have to concentrate so hard. 

So what’s the solution? Simple. Regularly check your work as you go along. Either lay your blanket somewhere flat and check it by eye, or measure it to make sure you’re not going off course. If you find you do have a problem with changing gauge, you may have to rip back and consciously crochet a bit more loosely or tightly - as I did with the aberrant Campervan - or go up or down a needle size.

If you're the sort of person who has a lot of projects on the go at any one time, don't forget to make a note of what hook size you're using for your blanket. I've lost count of the number of times I’ve borrowed a hook from some languishing work in progress, only to find when I go back to it that I can’t remember what size I was using. I've several rather wonky blankets to prove that guessing isn't the best solution.

2. Yarn 

A blanket crocheted in thick cotton will have a very different weight and feel than one made from soft acrylic. If you’re working to a pattern, the safest option is always to buy the stated yarn to achieve a similar look and feel.

If you're choosing your own yarn, stick to those that will withstand a fair amount of wear and tear. Blankets often get a lot of love, especially from kids and pets, so it’s best to stay away from yarns that tend to pill or form bobbles. Soft natural yarns like merino will generally pill very quickly, whereas acrylic can go years without so much as a hint of fuzz. Believe me, you do not want to debobble a whole blanket; my attempt at that now lives in the dog basket.

3. Stitch

If you’re not using a specific pattern and the recommended yarn, it’s always worth going a test swatch to see how your chosen yarn works up in that particular stitch. Generally, if you want to use a stitch that tends to form a thicker or stiffer fabric, such as plain double crochet (US: single crochet), or waffle or star stitch, you can always compensate by using a softer, more drapey yarn. Or simply pick a lighter weight such as 4-ply (fingering), rather than double knit or aran

4. Purpose

Is this for a baby, or for a friend who isn’t familiar with caring for natural yarns? How do you feel about handwashing blankets? In all these cases, acrylic or cotton, or some multi-fibre blend might be a better choice than pure wool – even superwash treated wools are not guaranteed to withstand the rigours of a washing machine and tumble dryer.

It's also worth bearing in mind that acrylic tends to be softer and more snuggly than cotton and some more ‘toothy’ natural yarns, not to mention lighter too. I made this granny square blanket for my daughter in aran-weight cotton scraps - beautiful, but it weighs a ton!

5. Budget

How much do you want to spend? Acrylic is generally cheaper than cotton or wool and often comes in a larger range of colours. Remember blankets are very yarn hungry, especially if you use a lot of different shades. I once fell in love with this gorgeous Rowan Picnic Blanket by Marie Wallin, only to find that the suggested yarn would set me back nearly £250. No wonder the pattern refers to it as an ‘heirloom’ blanket!

6. Colour

You could write a book on this alone, and colour choices are very subjective. But in general, try to choose shades that complement each other – some colours, such as neons, tend not to play nicely with others and should be used with care.

If you don’t feel confident about colour, you’ll find a wealth of pre-selected combinations online that work well together. Lucy at Attic 24 is always an inspiration with her blanket colour choices, and you’ll also find lots of ideas on Pinterest.

If you have the yarn to hand, make up little swatches on clothes pegs or bits of card – you can then play around with them until you’re happy with the intended colour order. Bear in mind that unless you’re using scrap yarn, the more colours you include in your blanket, the more expensive it will be.

7. Commitment

How much time do you want to spend on this project? If you want something fast, go for a blanket in a simple stitch and a limited range of colours, and you’ll avoid the time-consuming elements of working more intricate patterns or constantly changing your yarn. Though granny square blankets and other ‘scrappy’ projects are a timeless classic, and ideal for using up odds and ends, they do involve constant yarn changes, and an awful lot of ends to weave in.

8. Borders

A lovely border can make all the difference to your blanket. Unless you’re a super neat crocheter, they're great for hiding slightly wobbly edges, or the bumps you tend to get where you’ve joined different yarn colours at the end or beginning of a row. Take your pick from ornate, lacy borders to the very simple, such as three rounds of plain double crochet (US: single crochet) - my go-to border for a neat and simple finish.  

9. Tassels

Tassels are the unsung heroes of the crochet blanket world, and are a brilliant solution for projects like Spring Woodland that require constant changes of colour.

Simply leave a longish tail at the beginning and end of the row, then tie them all together when you’ve finished. You might want to add a few more tassels in between if they look a bit sparse, but even so it will save you a lot of time weaving in ends, plus they look great too. 

Don’t forget the option of popping a tassel on each corner. They can give a blanket a lovely finishing touch.

10. Attitude

Blankets – at least adult sized – can be a big commitment. While this can seem daunting, if you avoid complicated patterns with lots of different stitches, making one can also be wonderfully relaxing and mindful, and has even been proven to lower stress and anxiety.

Few things are more soothing than working a crochet blanket while you're watching TV or enduring a long car journey (only if you’re not actually driving – top tip #11 is do not drive and crochet at the same time!) Remember, the pleasure is in the process; just enjoy the rhythm of the stitches and the rows, and your blanket will be finished much sooner than you imagine.

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12 Days of Christmas Crochet and Craft
Emma Haughton November 12, 2019

12 Days of Christmas Crochet and Craft

Get in the handmade spirit this Christmas with these cute and crafty makes that will brighten any Yuletide home or make gorgeous gifts for friends and family. 

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Changing Yarn Colour with the Magic Knot
Emma Haughton June 10, 2019

Changing Yarn Colour with the Magic Knot

The magic knot can a game changer in crochet and knitting, especially for yarns with a bit of grip and in patterns that require frequent colour changes.

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Five Crochet Hacks Everyone Should Know
Emma Haughton June 10, 2019

Five Crochet Hacks Everyone Should Know

The best hacks make your life easier - and crochet is no exception. Here's five of the most useful we've come across.

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