It’s been a while since I wrote a Wool Monkey blog, but winter is on it’s way again and the dark nights are looming, so I have recently found that I suddenly have the urge to create again!
Most of the last year or two have been spent moving house, landscaping my garden and generally working really hard. Wool Monkey has sadly been neglected.
But, as the creative urge is blossoming again, I thought it was about time I finally finished creating the Wool Monkey learning zone. Lot’s of people ask me for advice on learning to knit and crochet and it makes sense, to me at least, that there be a section on the website devoted to learning. The grand plan, eventually, is to fill the ‘Learning Zone’, with lots of useful info and videos and help for anybody out there who wants advice with their knitting or crochet adventures. The possibilities are endless and so I guess the ‘Learning Zone’ will be too.
To make a start, I have been busy creating a few beginner videos. (These will hopefully be on the website in a week or so).
OK. So, that sounds fairly straight forward doesn’t it? Well, everything was going fine until I realised, as I was using the zoom function on my video editor, that my hands are not so pretty anymore. There are some rather close-up shots of my hands and really, they don’t exactly look sparkling.
Lots of time spent gardening and years of rock climbing gives you very grubby hands. Mine are gnarled and battered and scarred. There is dirt permanently ground into my cracked skin. No amount of scrubbing or soap seems to shift it.
Unfortunately they are the only pair of hands I have and so I have no choice but to use them for my Wool Monkey videos. How else am I going to teach people how to knit and crochet without showing off my hands?
So, this blog is an apology in advance for my scruffy looking hands, which no doubt be in every single video in the learning zone. I hope you can tolerate them.
On the plus side though, they are very honest and hard-working hands and my garden is starting to look good too!
As you can see, he likes to relax on the sofa, with a whisky after a hard days work. Snoozing seems to be a common occurrence too.
We don’t often give each other serious presents, just joke ones mostly. But, for some strange reason, just for once last summer, I thought he might like a real present. So, a couple of weeks before his birthday I asked him if there was anything he would like.
And his response….
“I’d like my own blanket please. And I want you to make it for me”.
I was immediately delighted that my big brother wanted a blanket of my making, but then realised that there was no way I could make one in two weeks! I’m good, but not that good.
So, I warned him that I would make it, but it might be a Christmas present rather than a birthday present. I even let him choose his own colours from my stash. (I was pretty surprised at the colours he choose, but they worked well together actually).
I insisted on choosing the design though and decided upon a striped V-stitch style. (Quick and easy)
Then started it off, as usual, in the passenger seat of the car whilst my better half was driving us away on holiday. (It passes the journey time really quickly and gets loads done)
The work continued for months. Often whilst eating cake and drinking coffee at the Wool Monkey knit and chat groups.
(Also a common occurrence)
Until it became too big to take around with me and I was finally restricted to making it at home.
The advantage of this was that it kept us both warm whilst I was making it. (Me and my better half that is).
Eventually it was done. And just in time to be wrapped up for Christmas.
I think he liked it…
… I think he was even smiling.
He wore it all afternoon on Chirstmas day anyway.
The only awkward thing about the blanket was that I foolishly thought that my brother would share it with his other half, as she particularly liked the colours he chose. But no, he won’t let her near it. So now I have to make another one!
Here’s the finished thing.
And the V-Stitch?
It’s really, really easy. So easy that I think this is a beginner’s pattern. (Or a really relaxing pattern for those of you with more experience).
It’s also a definite winner as a man blanket and a Christmas present!
If you are interested in the pattern, it’s available from:
As you may have realised by now, not only do I love crochet and knitting, but I also love cacti and succulents.
So, I thought I would start to create some patterns to go with my cacti, as well as giving you a bit more information about the plants themselves. Whilst I was thinking about doing this recently an old customer got in touch with me completely out of the blue, to see if I had created any cactus patterns yet. What a pleasant surprise and coincidence.
She asked if I would create a pattern for an Opuntia. So, that was my plan, but then as I started to look around, I realised that there were so many knitted and crocheted cacti patterns already out there for free that it would perhaps be a better idea to just have a look at some of those instead and see if any were worthy.
First thing is first though.
I have to tell you a little bit about Opuntia. (Sorry it’s the cactus geek in me)
So, the cactus genus Opuntia contains many different species, with many different common names, such as the prickly pear, bunny tails, beaver tails and the barbary fig. You must have heard of some of them at least. It’s really widespread, originating throughout the Americas, but with man’s help has now been spread worldwide. In some places it is even considered to be a weed. They do grow exceptionally easily.
This is a cutting I planted in January this year. It was just a couple of paddle shaped leaves then, but started to sprout new segments straight away. (Sorry about the sideways picture). This is how much it has grown up to now (June).
It might not look like much to you, but it’s fast for a cactus.
Opuntia are easily recognised by their usually flat, paddle, oval or round shaped stem segments. The spines are often densely clustered on the areoles. These are the areas on the cacti where you usually see the spines coming from (the spotty bits on the pictures above) and trust me, you don’t want to touch them. They often look like soft, fluffy little pads, but really, they’re not that soft, they are composed of hundreds of tiny spines which will almost definitely get into your skin and they are really, really, really irritating! Some of them also have long, deadly looking spines in addition, as if they needed the extra protection!?
Like most cacti, they do have the redeeming feature of beautiful flowers and they come in an array of colours. Some of the species also have fleshy fruits, which can be harvested and turned into deserts, jellies, drinks and delicacies. (I think this is where the name prickly pear came from). In many places, especially Mexico, the flesh of the cactus itself is also eaten like a vegetable. I can’t say that I have ever tried it, but there’s a first time for everything…
(Images courtesy of Pinterest – please click links to original posts)
I love road trips. Especially road trips round Scotland when the sun is shining.
The best bit about road trips is that they give you the time to do new projects whilst in interesting locations and my crochet goes eveywhere with me.
So, this time, I decided that I would create a new kids poncho.
Off we go…
The best bit about journeys that take a while, especially if you have somebody else to do the driving, is that you have an excuse to sit and crochet (or knit) for hours at a time, just watching the scenery roll by. My new poncho grew quite a bit on the way to Scotland.
This is the life for me.
Wild camping in stunning locations.
The location was soooo good that the crochet slowed down a bit though, whilst we went to climb a few Cairngorms. (They are the hills in the background in case you were wondering).
…Daydreaming of sunny days on the side of the Loch…
So, back to the crochet. It has been one of those projects where I just set off with a hook and some yarn and see what comes out. It’s simple shells this time. The yarn I decided to use was some Louisa Harding Amitola which has been in my stash for quite some time. It’s self striping, so you get a lovely array of colours when you crochet with it. It is a little bit on the thin side though, so I tend to use it double stranded, to make it more like DK yarn. This has the bonus effect of giving a much wider range of colour blends too, where you get two strands of different shades blended together.
Back to Scotland…
Crochet here, crochet there, crochet everywhere. I love being on holiday and being able to crochet, it’s idyllic. No holiday would be complete without a few pints of good ale too.
Eventually we ended up camping on the shore of Loch Ness. It wasn’t part of the plan, but was a good place to stay. Nessie was in total approval of the crochet project too, which has to be a good omen.
And finally, time to head home and say goodbye to another road trip. Scotland is beautiful, there is no disputing this. I had only two balls of yarn left and the project would be finished too. I’d say it was a successful trip all round.
Back to the real stuff. The project!
So, it has become a very square poncho, with an opening for the neck and head to make it more versatile and easy to vary the size. My 6 year old adores it.
I think it should be an easy enough pattern for most crocheters to tackle too. very relaxing and grows quickly. (That’s why I managed it within a week)
Do get in touch if you would like more information, or if you would like a copy of the pattern it is for sale on Etsy:
Sometimes it’s a great idea to ask your kids what they think you should make next and sometimes it backfires, big time.
I made the mistake of asking my girls if they would like it if I made them a blanket each. I told them that it could be their own choice, unique to them. Of course they said yes and then promptly told me what sort of blankets they would like. The youngest requested spirals. Spirals! Once my brain had recovered from the panic of wondering how I was going to do spirals I naturally said yes, of course you can have spirals.
Hmmmm. Spirals. How shall I do spirals. Hmmmmm. Spirals. (This is how I spent the next day or so, pondering spirals).
After several attempts, and lots of frogging, I finally had a spiral in a square and a set of colours chosen by my 5 year old that would hopefully work. All I had to do now was create 23 more spirals!
I must admit, it doesn’t look very good does it.
Since then, I have been spiralling everywhere.
Spirals in the cafe, with coffee and cake.
(This is my favourite type of spiral)
Spirals at the sports hall during my kids gymnastics lessons. (It makes the lessons go really quick)
Spirals sat at my desk, when I am supposed to be working. (ooops)
Spirals in the pub. (Why not?)
Spirals sat on the sofa at home. (This is where most of them get done. I don’t actually have that much of a social life)
Spirals in a coffee shop. Again.
I think you probably get the idea by now that I have been doing spirals everywhere I have been recently.
I have been trying to get one done everyday, so that it didn’t become a burden and I still had time for other projects.
My youngest was pretty pleased last week with how her spirals were looking. Everytime I add to the pile she lays them all out on the floor. She says she is planning how they are going to fit together. Hmmm.
Four weeks later and I have a large pile of square spirals. Now begins the bit that I don’t really feel like doing – sewing them all together. Grrrrrr.
We laid them all out on the bed, trying to arrange them in such a way that meant all the colours were evenly spread out. This is trickier than you might imagine. Then, after a little deliberation I decided to use the slip stitch method to join all the squares together. It gives a nice neat edge to all the squares and is fairly quick. (Always a good thing).
Once they were all joined together, all that remained was the edging. Several rounds of edging as it turned out, but nevermind, I thought it finished it off nicely and sometimes it’s worth putting a bit of extra effort into the edging on a large blanket.
Here it is, the finished blanket. My daughter loves it and has used it on her bed every night. I was worth the effort I reckon.
If you’re interested in creating your own spiral blanket, then the pattern is available on Etsy:
I have often been asked the question ‘how much yarn do I need for a blanket?’ To which, of course, there is only one reply, ‘depends how big your blanket is going to be’.
Then of course the next question is usually, ‘how big does my blanket need to be?’ Sounds silly, but there are no fixed rules about how big a blanket should be, just make it to the size you want.
OK, so that sounds like a bit of a slack answer I know.
I have done a little bit of digging to find out what sort of sizes people generally consider to be standard. Or standard-ish at least. Some people have their own personal set of sizes that they tend to work to and others like to make it up at random. I know I have a rough guide in my head and I tend to vary it depending upon the project.
One thing to bear in mind, if you are making a blanket for a bed, UK bed sizes and US bed sizes are different!
So most of you will have at some point made a baby blanket I suspect. The sizes do vary a little bit, but most of them out there seem to fit into the same categories and approximate sizes.
Not necessarily for adults, but it just gives a different category from babies. These can vary quite a bit more, especially between the continents! So, I had a look at the bed sizes first as the standards seem to vary slightly. Here is a comparison between the USA and the UK. Obviously there are many other variations around the World, but there is a limit to how many I can list and these two seem to be pretty common.
When it comes to the blanket sizes, as oppose to the actual bed sizes there seems to be a lot more discrepancy as to how a blanket should fit a bed. Should it just reach the edges? Should it overlap the edges and drape down the sides? Should the top be long enough to cover the pillows? Is it just a decorative thing?
I still believe it’s all just personal preference. There are no right and wrongs, but here are some guidelines to what appear to be the most common blanket sizes out there. Most of them allow for some drape over the sides of the bed. This is NOT a definitive answer as to the size a blanket should be, NOR is it an instruction that you must create your blankets this size. It is simply what my research has found…
I hope these help some of you a little bit. If not my advice when making blankets is to make them big and just keep going until you’ve had enough of making it and then it’s big enough.
There are loads of lovely books containing patterns for blankets out there, but these are a couple of my favourites: (click on them to look inside and check out the latest prices)
Did you know that the USA and UK have exactly the same crochet stitches, but they are given different names?
I think the rest of the World uses either one or the other too. So, it’s useful to know how to convert them.
It can get a little confusing though, especially when downloading crochet patterns from the web as it’s not always obvious which continent they have come from.
So, here is just a little guidance, to help you easily convert between the two.
So, next time you get a crochet pattern and you’re not sure where it has come from, the biggest clue is that if it mentions ‘Single Crochet’ then it’s definitely North American. (There is no Single Crochet in the UK terminology).
Or, if you start to work on something and it really doesn’t look anything like the picture on the pattern, then maybe it is not from the continent you expected.
The easiest way to convert your pattern is to read through it and do a straight replacement. So, for example, if you are converting from USA to US, work through and find all the mentions of ‘dtr’ and replace them with ‘ttr’. Work your way through each of the stitches until you have replaced them all. But, beware, always work from the largest stitch to the smallest, otherwise you could get in a pickle. You could end up replacing all the ‘sc’ with ‘dc’, then accidentally replacing all the replacements you have already done with ‘tr’, which would make the pattern completely wrong.
Just a little warning, that some patterns may use different abbreviations to the ones above. Always check your pattern to see what abbreviations are being used before you start.
That’s all there is to it. The actual working of the stitches is exactly the same. I hope it makes sense to you. If not, get in touch and I will work through it with you.
If you would like a little bit more help as a beginner, then I found that this book is really popular and full of helpful hints, tips, stitches and great beginner patterns. (Click on it to go look inside it and check the latest price)
Here is just a quick post in celebration of the Wool Monkey knit and chatterers.
(I call them chatterers as they always have plenty to say and being quiet is definitely not one of their strong points).
The groups started when I originally opened the Wool Monkey shop. They started small in number but have grown in strength since. New members join from time to time, which keeps the group growing and keeps adding fresh ideas and new impetus. We have had many, many giggles, some cracking outings and some great gatherings.
These were from last years Xmas knit and chat, in the pub. The ladies are such great sports considering that I made them all knit with toilet paper, followed by a knit behind your back competition.
There are two knit and chat groups these days, Saturday evening and Tuesday mornings, both of which have continued long after the Wool Monkey shop has closed. They really are a great bunch of ladies. A somewhat eclectic mixture without a doubt, but very caring and very supportive of each other.
They go on outings together, (almost always involving some kind of woolly event of course), they’ve helped me yarn bomb on the odd occasion, they teach and inspire each other and they looked after me when I had to close my shop.
Oh, and they’re always up for showing off their knitting!
So, thank you ladies for being such a fab group, let’s keep it going. I am looking forward to seeing what sort of stuff we can get up to next year!
If you are interested in joining our knit and chat groups, do get in touch so we can let you know where we are meeting, newcomers are always very welcome.
You don’t need to know how to knit or crochet to join, we will teach you…
Well, the time finally arrived for the first Craft Creme workshop. I spent the whole day waiting for this workshop, mainly as I was really looking forward to a piece of cake from the Cafe. (Karen does do exceedingly good cakes). Of course I was looking forward to seeing a few faces I haven’t seen for ages too and getting stuck into a bit of crochet.
I must admit I didn’t know how exactly many people were going to turn up, so I just bagged up as much yarn as I could carry, with hopefully enough hooks and patterns.
I thought, foolishly, that I would get to savour my piece of cake and have a nice coffee before anyone turned up. I should have known better really. I knew Pat would turn up early, she always does. (It’s nice to see her eagerness though and it’s been such a long while that I have missed it). After that, they just kept coming…
We had a full room! It was a little bit hard trying to juggle the number of absolute beginners we had all in one go, but they did all go home crocheting. In a fashion. You all worked sooooo hard, I was very impressed. I think I need to spend more time teaching some folks, mentioning no names (Ja*** ), but that’s fine, we can work on it. I hope they will come and find me if they need a bit of extra help and there is always the knit and chat sessions, where you can get help and continue to learn.
I know some of you will have gone home and finished your first mitt straight away.
Here is the first one I have received a picture of this morning. Suprise, surprise it’s Karen’s and it looks fab!
So, who’s gonna be the first to fnish a complete pair I wonder? (Not counting mine, I’ve already done several).
I’m going to hopefully get around to posting some beginner crochet notes on the tutorials page over the next couple of days, to help those of you who have only just started, so, watch this space.
Despite the chaos, I think everybody had a good time, I certainly did. Here’s a big thank you to Karen for hosting the event and to all those of you who came along and made it a success. x
I’m looking forward to the next one, whatever we decide to do. If anybody has anything specific that they would like to do get in touch and let us know…
Sometimes the old fashioned stuff just works the best.
Just a simple granny crochet poncho, with a little bit of detail.
I created this little poncho number whilst I was running my Wool Monkey shop as I had a high demand for poncho patterns one winter. I thought there was a need out there for a really simple, kids, crochet poncho. I never expected it to be such a hit, but it has turned out to be one of my most popular patterns ever since.
I think on this occasion I owe a fair amount of credit to my youngest daughter. She chose the colours that I used to make the poncho and she did a very good job of modelling the poncho for me once it was finished. She looked super sweet and posed like a super star. Sometimes she is good like that. Sometimes she is far from it!
She has become quite accustomed to modelling things that her Mummy has made now, although often she thinks she will get to keep them afterwards. (This is not usually the case). Sadly she’s getting bigger though and even though she is still, in my eyes at least, very cute, she is far from being a photogenic toddler anymore! I could do with a replacement. That most definitely does NOT mean I will be having anymore children however!
I think I have made this poncho several times over now in many different yarns and colours, for many different children. It turns out that even boys quite like ponchos too.
It’s also quite an easy one to adjust the size too, just keep crocheting until it fits. It really is very simple. I guess it is still true that simple things often work the best. It’s been a while since I made one now, maybe that’s what I shall do this weekend. If you would like the pattern to make your own, it is still available on Etsy and hopefully will be for a long time to come.