Feedback from the poll!

Hi everyone, thank you so much to all that took the time to vote in the poll that I put up a couple of weeks ago. I’m really heartened that 100% of the votes received were for the answer “Yes, but they aren’t readily available” as this gives me the will to continue building my blog up with more yarn and equipment reviews as I hope that they can be helpful to others.

A few changes I will be trying in the future which I hope will be beneficial is that I will include completed projects as often as I can with the review rather than just samples. As someone who also loves to knit from vintage patterns I will start to provide more details on things such as tension, WPI and needle sizing so that in the future if you have a pattern that asks for a yarn that isn’t available there is the resource to help match it up to something modern.

If there are any questions that you normally have when you’re buying your yarn online that you would find helpful answered in a review then the poll and feedback from is still open and I would love to hear from you. You can also comment on my posts with questions about the yarn and I will always answer as best I can.

All the best,

Katie

In Love With A Crafter Like You

Untitled

I have the hope that one day I’ll have tried, tested and written about so much yarn, equipment and books that my blog will become a useful resource for others. I like to buy yarn online but it can be a risky business. Aside from missing the pleasure of squeezing it in your hands you can’t actually tell the softness or structure of the yarn from behind the screen. This is why I wanted to write blog posts which give more detail of what it feels like to cast-on the yarn.

My main worry is that this is not something that is commonly felt and so these reviews are not very helpful to others. I have therefore put together a poll below, along with asking for your kind feedback, to help me to create what I hope will be a helpful site.

Even if you answered no to the above, I would still like to hear from you so please get in touch! I’ve written a few questions below as food for thought.

Do you think reviews should have both crochet and knitting in mind? Do you like to read text reviews or are you more likely to click if it’s in video format? Are the photos a big factor in reading a review and in what way? Do you expect the reviewer to have completed a project from start to finish or are samples enough?

Thank you, your time is really appreciated. I will be feeding back your feedback in a couple of weeks so why not click follow and see how your thoughts help to change Kitsch Squirrel!

All the best,

Katie

Yarn Review – Hayfield Bonus: Aran Tweed

Hayfield Bonus Aran Tweed
Hayfield Bonus Aran Tweed

This is a great way of getting enough yarn together for a average sweater in just two balls of yarn and for a reasonable price. The added bonus to this yarn is that it has 20% wool fibre!

The other 80% is made up of 74% Acrylic and 6% Viscose meaning that it is washable at 40 degrees which is also handy. The balls themselves are 400g and contain approximately 840m/920yrds each. As I say for just two of these you can make an average sized man’s jumper and it would have a percentage of wool making it quite cosy. I am currently knitting a cabled ‘fisherman’ style jumper for my mister and this yarn is knitting up wonderfully as you can see below where I’ve started the back.

Beginnings of a cabled jumper
Beginnings of a cabled jumper

This yarn has a slightly felted texture and because of this it has a rounded and solid feel but it also lacks elasticity which is a shame. I do like this yarn but it isn’t particularly soft, the tweedy nature of it makes it a little stiff in my opinion which has taken time to get used to when knitting cables with it. It sticks a little rather than gliding off the needles cleanly which becomes more of an issue with crochet.

However, on the positive side I think the cables look great in this yarn, they stand out clearly and the yarn gives great stitch definition. I really like the spots of colour as they jump out and would give a bit of interest in a plainer jumper.

Crochet Sample
Crochet Sample

I did work a little sample in crochet and as mentioned the stickiness and stiffness of the yarn was a pain but I did really appreciate the fact that this yarn doesn’t split at all. Even though it may stick, for me personally I find a loosely spun yarn much more frustrating to crochet with.

I crocheted the above sample on a 5mm hook and the fabric produced as a result is quite dense. If you wanted to work up a blanket, this would be perfect for a lot of reasons however I suspect it would be quite heavy. The stitch definition is just as good for crochet which has a nice cosy effect with the felted texture. The crochet ‘posts’ are nice and strong so would also make this yarn a good option for home wares such as cushion covers or pot holders as I think it would be durable.

Overall, a good yarn. The texture is a little unusual and it wouldn’t work for every project but for a cosy winter jumper on a budget, yes! This would be a staple for winter projects and one I would go for again certainly.

All the best!

Katie

Yarn Reveiw – Patons : Fairytale Colour 4 Me DK

Patons Fairytale Colour 4 Me DK
Patons Fairytale Colour 4 Me DK

This yarn is a delicious 100% wool. It is considered a baby yarn as it is very soft with only a touch of that tell-tell wool texture giving away its fibre content. It comes in balls of 50g each with approximately 90m and the tension comes out as 22 stitches and 30 rows on 4mm needles. It is machine washable at 30 degrees but the ball band recommends a minimum machine action so you may still prefer hand wash instead to preserve your items.

I have chosen a cool turquoise blue to work up a bed jacket ready for this coming winter. However, I first tried out the yarn with crochet and I will definitely be getting many, many more balls of Patons Fairytale to make myself a shawl too.

Sample crochet - The beginings of a granny square
Sample crochet – The beginnings of a granny square

The reason this yarn is so wonderful for crochet has a lot to do with it being 100% wool, of course. It is firm and squidgy making it just a joy to work with while producing quite a dense but light fabric. I like that it is smoothly spun so it glides over the hook easily and is quick to work up. However, the spin is also quite loose so be careful as the crochet motion untwists the ply just slightly.

With knitting it has the same ease of use, smoothly running off the needles and with great stitch definition. I’ve just started my bed jacket which is a vintage 1950’s pattern and so it took a little working out to get the tension correct. I have swapped out the recommended 4mm needles for 3.75mm but it is a very versatile DK yarn that would work well for a myriad of patterns.

Starting off my bed jacket - Knitting sample
Starting off my bed jacket – Knitting sample

I highly recommend this yarn and love the colour I’m working with – it’s very crisp! I think that as a 100% wool yarn it has a wonderful softness and a firmness which you just can’t get from other fibres. I think that Patons have created a lovely staple that can be used for all projects and all techniques.

Have you used Patons Fairytale before? What did you make with it?

All the best,

Katie

Product Review – Clover: Two Pack of Tatting Shuttles

Clover Tatting Shuttles Pack of Two
Clover Tatting Shuttles Pack of Two

Since my previous review of a basic tatting shuttle which I thought would be good for beginners, as I used it to learn with myself, I have been on the lookout for some more tatting shuttles. This isn’t just to add to my collection but to see how they differ in performance.

I found these shuttles and have been trying them out on one and two shuttle designs. They are post shuttles which have a sharp and curved point at one end to help with joining picots.

Shuttles with a curved point.
Shuttles with a curved point.

The pointed end works very well as a tool for picking up thread but also for undoing stitches and small mistakes much more easily than with a crochet hook as the point is surprisingly fine and sharp. I was dubious at first as to how well this would last, I was convinced it would break off within a few uses, particularly as the plastic seemed quite lightweight.

However, to my delight these shuttles are still sharp and working perfectly well months later and after many projects. In fact they haven’t taken any damage at all from being transported, left in the sofa or on the floor as is my clumsy way. They are remarkable for such good value shuttles.

As for using them, it took me a little time to get used to them having been spoiled with bobbin shuttles. I found that the point caught on the work at first as the shape of the shuttle is different to what I’m used to using. They are fairly flat for the length, but now I have a particular way I like to hold them which makes it comfortable for me and stops the point interfering. I’m sure if you were to try them you would find your own way to hold them that would be completely different.

Shuttle in use.
Shuttle in use.

As with all products, you have good and bad points. I was surprised that these shuttles don’t hold as much thread as the bobbin shuttles that I have can. This means that you may need to join yarn more often leaving more knots in a larger project but I’m sure this is the case for most post shuttles and not really a fault with this particular brand or product. I only thought it worth noting as it changed the way I approached certain designs.

Overall, these are lovely shuttles and surprisingly durable. They are lightweight and easy to wind on as the gaps at each end aren’t too tight. Good all-rounder and fairly inexpensive for two in the packet.

Have you used these shuttles before? What type of shuttle do you prefer – post or bobbin? Pointed or hooked?

All the best,

Katie

Adventures in Patchworking

This last week I’ve been learning to do patchwork using the English paper piecing technique. I’ve always been more of a yarn crafter with my love of knitting and crochet, but I do have a soft spot for sewing which I’ve been indulging in lately.

As a starter project I’ve been making some simple pincushions. They’re hexagons which are made up from triangles in alternating fabric. They are so fun to make and helped me with learning the initial tricks to patchwork without needing too much commitment.

Patchwork pincushions.
Patchwork pincushions.

I especially love the pink fabric with my pearl-headed pins but I plan to make a few in different colours just because I enjoyed making them so much.

I’ve now started to branch out into little 2inch hexagons which I plan to make a crochet hook case out of – my current case is one I crocheted many moons ago and it’s in need of replacement!

Tiny hexagons of happiness.
Tiny hexagons of happiness.

Below, I show the stitching that I use to attach the fabric to the templates I’ve cut, it works perfectly well to keep the fabric firmly in place. After knotting the end I stitch once through each edge and each folded corner with a double stitch to finish. By going through the same place twice at the end I haven’t needed to knot it which makes it very easy to remove after.

Tacking stitches.
Tacking stitches.

Some crafters suggest a running stitch but for these little hexagons just once is ample. I suspect I will need to do more after I’ve graduated onto larger hexagons for quilts!

I love hand sewing so I think I will always enjoy using English paper piecing but I would like to try using the machine to see how it differs.

Hands up my fellow patchwork and quilt makers! Do you sew by hand or machine?

All the best,

Katie

In love with lace

Recently, I have been considering moving Kitsch Squirrel in a new and exciting direction. I have fallen completely in love with the art of tatting and so, at the moment I am preparing for a new shop launch this coming Autumn.

The vintage style that I have so wanted to project through the business fits perfectly with this new venture into lace. More importantly, I only want to produce items that I know I have loved working on and that I would fill my own home with. I would like to share a sneak peek at what I am working on right now.

Pretty Pastels
Pretty Pastels

This isn’t to say that I won’t be making any hand knit or crochet items at all! I do still enjoy all the hobbies I do and I hope to include speciality items that will be hand knitted from original 30’s 40’s and 50’s patterns.

Another lacy addition to the shop will be a collection of wedding jewellery sets and accessories.

Pendant in progress
Pendant in progress

The jewellery will be made from 100% fine cotton and will be in sets of a necklace that sits on the collar bone, bracelet and earrings all with this beautifully delicate shell accent.

Happy crafting to all.

Winter Warmers Pattern: Squares in Squares

Hat, Scarf and Gloves Set in Chunky
Hat, Scarf and Gloves Set in Chunky

This lovely hat, scarf and glove set that I made for my mister is finally complete and keeping him snuggly warm. The texture on the set is known as ‘Squares in Squares’ and gives a fantastic geometric look to the accessories. I’ve written up the pattern which is free to download from Ravelry and given as adult size, unisex.

Scarf showing the pattern texture
Scarf showing the pattern texture

The set in the picture is made from Wendy Quasar Chunky, which I reviewed here but the pattern can be knitted in any chunky weight yarn. You will need 4 balls of 100g which should provide you with between 650 and 700m. Information on the gauge needed is provided in the pattern but I would strongly suggest working up a tension square as I changed the needles size from that suggested on the ball band.

When trying to size the pattern so that it would be suitable for both male and female hands and heads I have tried to give points where the pattern can be altered for your needs. The wide brim means that the hat is quite stretchy and fits snuggly but you may wish to add further pattern repeats if you would like the hat to hang down or if you have a lot of hair to tuck up inside.

Gloves with a single square on the back
Gloves with a single square on the back

The hand of the glove certainly fits myself and mister well but I made the fingers slightly longer to fit his hand and make it more comfortable for him to bend them. This is suggested in the pattern and as there is no shaping for the tip of the finger it is easy to tell when to stop and tie it off.

Hat with wide brim
Hat with wide brim

The hat starts to decrease while the pattern is still worked, I have given instructions so that it blends in and creates a row of triangles around the crown, the final shaping is then worked in stocking stitch.

I would love to hear your feedback and as always, if you would like to send a photo of your finished hat, scarf or gloves please do! It would be fantastic to build up a portrait of how the pattern works and which yarn you chose to use in the comments below.

Happy crafting!

Yarn Review – Wendy Quasar Chunky

Wendy Quasar - Chunky
Wendy Quasar – Chunky

A quirky yarn by Wendy which comes in 100g balls of 70% Acrylic and 30% Nylon. It is definitely an economical chunky with approximately 170m (185 yrds) on each ball which I have found goes a long way as, for example, only 4 balls of this lovely stuff is enough to make a hat, scarf and gloves set for an adult male.

The spin is firm with a slightly felted appearance which also gives the final garment a felted quality. The knitting sample below is worked on 6mm (US10) needles in stocking stitch and as you can see it creates a dense and squidgy fabric.

Knitting sample
Knitting sample

It has a slight halo of silvery fibre which may give rise to the name Quasar, as well as the colours – the rusty red in the photograph is called Plasma. In certain lighting it has an iridescent quality due to this interesting spin.

I have really enjoyed knitting with this yarn as it is solid, even and round – in fact while I was knitting I was reminded of strawberry laces as the yarn thickness is so uniformed and dense. There is no splitting to be concerned about at all and the knitting I’ve worked up so far springs back to hold its shape.

Crochet sample
Crochet sample

The crochet produced with this yarn is very thick as shown by the sample above but still with a reasonable amount of stretch to it. Although the yarn is made mostly of Acrylic which is generally lightweight I would imagine a crochet blanket of Quasar may be a bit on the heavy side.

When testing this yarn for crochet I again used a 6mm hook. Although the ball band recommends 6.5mm as the needle size I found smaller was preferable so I would advise a tension square if this isn’t already your habit.

I like to have a few ‘go to’ chunky weights which I find warm and comforting, this Acrylic and Nylon mix tops my list of economy yarns especially if natural fibre isn’t essential. It feels like a high quality spin and most importantly it’s very warm.

Happy crafting!

Book Review – New Tatting: Modern Lace Motifs and Projects by Tomoko Morimoto

New Tatting by Tomoko Morimoto
New Tatting by Tomoko Morimoto

I am still relatively new to needle tatting, I taught myself in the summer of last year (2014) and I really enjoy it. I’ve always wanted to have a go at shuttle tatting but I’ve found it difficult to teach myself as it is often hard to see how to handle the thread and shuttle together to create that ‘pop’.

I saw this book in the shops before Christmas and was excited as I so rarely see books on tatting let alone one with such modern and versatile designs. I was patient and asked Santa (A.K.A  Mum) to have this and a shuttle as my gift. The shuttle I chose is by Pony and is a basic plastic shuttle with bobbin and hook attachment. I have published a review of this shuttle and how easy it was to use for a beginner here.

This book is fantastic, the diagrams are clear in the initial few pages where it teaches you the basics. It also goes through everything you need to know, even information that I would find useful as a needle tatter such as thread gauges and brands as well as finishing techniques.

Example page
Example page

This page shows the layout for most of the instructions; bright thread colours are used to differentiate between what part of the work you are picking up and how it all fits together. The photographs are also nicely annotated and the written instructions are precise.

I like how the designs are separated by techniques and number of shuttles needed. You can easily build up your skills with this book and make some beautiful things along the way. Between each section of patterns more instructions are provided giving the book a nice course-like feel, you aren’t rushed through everything in the first few pages and left to judge for yourself if you’re ready to embark on that table runner at the end. It also utilises my favourite ‘gallery style’ for the patterns. What I mean by this is – you have a few full page pictures, showing the designs in use and at their best before the pattern instructions themselves.

Back Page
Back Page

I can proudly say that I am now a shuttle and needle tatter thanks to using this book. If you are starting out I would highly recommend it, even if you have tatted for years there are some beautiful designs which I am looking forward to having the skills to follow. I need a little practise but below is my first completed motif using shuttle tatting, it is also a design from this book. I like the way it provides different uses for the motifs and patterns shown, it helps to spark ideas of how to build on the basics.

My first shuttle tatting
My first shuttle tatting

I hope you find this review useful; I often find it hard to know if a book will be worthwhile as there are many great video tutorials and free patterns out on the web. I really enjoyed learning from this book and there are some beautiful patterns which make it a useful resource for the future too.

As always, comments are welcome – perhaps you got this book for Christmas too!