CALS: WE’RE IN IT TOGETHER
A crochet-along is the perfect opportunity to learn some new skills, encounter like-minded crafters and end up with something beautiful. What’s not to love?
What is it about a crochet-along that’s so impossible to resist? Whether it’s the suspense of a design being unveiled piece by piece, or the pleasure of some crochet camaraderie, we’re simply smitten!
In this issue we launch our brand new crochet-along (affectionately known as CAL), with a twist! The Simply Crochet Hook ’n’ Learn challenges you to sample a new stitch every month for the next 12 months, and then master that stitch by using it to complete the next square in your blanket.
Lucy Croft is the creative mind behind our clever stitches Hook ’n’ Learn. “We received so much positive feedback on the subscribers’ CAL in 2016, mostly from people who had loved the challenge of learning new stitches and techniques that they’d not come across before,” she says. “We had the idea to take it back to basics and do a CAL blanket that explored some of the more usual, widely known stitch patterns in crochet.”
In collaboration with Scheepjes, it offers the option of two different, but equally gorgeous, Scheepjes yarns: a luxurious Stone Washed XL DK and a cheaper but brilliantly vibrant Colour Crafter DK. It’s up to you which yarn you choose, as we’ll include instructions for each of the patterns we release.
“We’re branding this a Hook ’n’ Learn, as you’ll definitely come away with a good repertoire of techniques,” says editor Sara Huntington. “The emphasis is on learning, with each issue of the magazine for the next 12 issues offering a new stitch project. It’s easy enough for any skill level.” As you crochet a square each month, using a different crochet stitch, you’ll consolidate your new skills, while creating a gorgeous blanket in luscious jewel-like colours.
As the crux of the Hook ’n’ Learn is all about honing techniques, there’ll be plenty of support to help you along, including a dedicated Facebook page at www.facebook. com/groups/hooknlearn, and monthly Yarniversity YouTube tutorials led by Lou Barnes. We’ll also be encouraging you to post your Simply Crochet Hook ’n’ Learn pics to Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag #SChooknlearn. To make things even simpler, yarn packs are available from Wool Warehouse, Black Sheep Wools and Deramores.
“In each of the blocks I’ve used stitch patterns made up of a combination of simple crochet stitches, but when they come together they create some fabulous patterns and textures,” says Lucy. “There are some really vibrant colours in the Scheepjes palettes so I wanted to design a blanket that would really showcase them.” The pattern will be revealed over 12 issues, starting with this one. “For the 13th issue in the run, we’ll guide you through sewing the blanket squares together into your beautiful finished blanket,” says Sara.
“I love the thought of everyone learning something together, while being part of something so fun!” she adds.
Our Hook ’n’ Learn blanket will feature an abundance of delicious stitches for you to get to grips with, including basketweave stitch, waffle stitch and cable stitch, “all of which use crochet post stitches to create three really quite different textures,” Lucy explains. “I’m hoping that by learning the basic patterns of these stitches, readers will go on to experiment with more unusual textures and patterns in their crochet.”
“I love the thought of everyone learning together.”
At Simply Crochet we’re fans of all kinds of CALs, so we were thrilled when the designers behind a few of our favourites were happy to take a few moments to share what goes on behind the scenes of a successful CAL.
Jane Crowfoot (www.janiecrow.co.uk) has long been known as the CAL queen. Her latest CAL is the Bohemian Blooms Crochet Blanket.
“I wanted to design a high-end crochet project using design inspirations including Charleston Farmhouse in East Sussex and the artists within the Bloomsbury Group as the catalyst,” she explains. “The project, which has echoes of an English Country Garden theme, uses yarns from the Rowan range and has what I hope is a painterly quality. Techniques involved include colourwork, beading and 3D textural work.”
Jane released her first CAL in 2011. “CALs really appeal to me because they break big projects up into bite-size pieces – I get bored easily with repeated crochet blocks,” she says. “I designed my first one on the advice of my friend, hand knit designer Debbie Abrahams, who runs her own mystery blanket project and was definitely a pioneering force in relation to these kind of projects.”
Sandra Paul (www.cherryheart.co.uk) ran her first CAL throughout September and October 2015. She designed her Spice of Life blanket when Black Sheep Wools approached her about launching a CAL. “I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to do it on my own,” she admits. “Now that I’ve done it and seen how much fun it can be, I’m really glad they did. As it seemed to go down quite well, we decided we wanted to do another.”
The first CAL Dedri Uys (www.lookat whatimade.net) participated in was the Block a Week CAL, hosted by Kimberly Slifer, in 2014. “It was the first time I’d seen a CAL, although I realise that they’d been around for a while,” she says. “I was very excited about crocheting along with thousands of people from all over the world. When it became apparent that many people joining in were beginners and were finding it hard to understand the more complex instructions, Kimberly asked me if I’d be willing to do photo tutorials for the trickier parts, provided that we got permission from the designers. I agreed and went from simply following a CAL to posting weekly photo tutorials.”
“CALs break big projects up into bitesize pieces.”
Dedri began designing her popular Sophie’s Universe blanket around the same time. “At the same time, Scheepjes approached me about working with them. I couldn’t believe my luck. Together, we launched the Sophie’s Universe CAL, which started almost immediately after the Block a Week CAL, and I haven’t looked back since!”
Naturally, the biggest workload associated with a CAL such as these is down to the volume of participants.
“Because of the number of people taking part, it can be hard keeping on top of pattern queries and so on,” Jane says. “Facebook groups and YouTube didn’t really exist as they do now when I did my first CAL years ago, but they have now made this aspect far easier to manage.”
The effort of keeping it all going can be exhausting, if satisfying.
“There’s an awful lot of work that goes into a CAL; not just preparing everything beforehand but while it’s going on too,” Sandra says. “It makes for some intense
weeks, especially when it comes to keeping up with everything on all the various social platforms, but it’s good fun. I’ll probably give myself a little bit of time off when it’s done!”
Being present enough is the biggest challenge for Dedri. “When I host a CAL, I want to be as responsive as possible,” she says. “I love seeing everyone’s creations, but there’s just no way that one person can see, and comment on, each and every photo or post shared about it. I always feel bad about the ones I miss – I worry that someone will think I don’t like their progress because I haven’t seen their photos to comment on. On top of that there is the time it takes to respond, in as much detail as possible, to people who are struggling and need help.”
The occasional negative comments are particularly difficult to deal with. “I do what I do because I want to spread joy,” says Dedri. “When people repay my hours of work with negativity, it’s quite hard to handle.”
Despite this risk, social media is crucial to the success of a CAL. “It’s massively important!” exclaims Jane. “Ravelry was the forerunner to Facebook groups and Instagram posts, but I think YouTube has really had a huge effect. We’ve just started our own channel and have help videos on there for my current CAL.”
The mass of participants is top of our designers’ list of things to love about CALs.
“By working through a CAL project, crocheters are not only given the chance to learn new techniques and increase their skills, but in many cases they can also engage in online discussions. They can form new friendships by working alongside others in virtual groups via personal blogs and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram,” says Jane.
Dedri agrees. “You get to meet so many new people. You get to see them grow in confidence and flourish. You get to be a part of their journey, especially when they tell you their story. There’s an amazing sense of camaraderie in most CALs that I’ve participated in, and I know many people who have forged life-long friendships by participating in CALs together.”
A positive response from the crochet community helps our CAL designers through all the hard work.
“It’s been amazing – far better than I would have ever dreamed it could be,” Sandra says. “So many people are excited to be a part of it and are joining in. There are even people that are planning on making two, three or more blankets, which is just great.”
Aside from the pleasures of learning new crochet techniques while creating something beautiful, there are plenty of other delights to be had from taking part in, and running, a CAL.
“The thing I really like the best about the craft of crochet in general is hearing the stories that people attach to their projects,” Jane says, “People tell me about how the CALs have helped them through difficult times emotionally, or as a tool for giving up smoking or getting over an operation. I love that blankets in particular are seen as a really nice gift to give someone with their association with warmth and love, so designing blanket CAL projects is something that I’m sure I will continue to enjoy.”
Lucy is really excited about the idea of the Simply Crochet Hook ’n’ Learn introducing readers to new possibilities. “There are so many intricate and varied ways to use crochet, but so often we all fall back on the usual double and treble crochet stitches to make simple projects,” she says. “I’m a big fan of a simple ripple stitch blanket but sometimes it’s nice to challenge ourselves a little and have a go at more complicated stitch patterns. This blanket is a fantastic way to experiment with different stitches. It’s made me think about what I can use them for in my next designs.”
As a designer, Lucy is looking forward to seeing some variety once readers start sharing their makes. “I think one of the most satisfying things is seeing readers who are proud to show off their versions of my designs,” she enthuses. “I love that it’s so easy to keep track of progress with Instagram and Facebook and even though it’s a long way off, I can’t wait to see the finished blankets.” Written by Judy Darley
You’ll find the pattern for our first Hook ’n’ Learn blanket square on page 47.
Jane Crowfoot’s latest CAL project is this cosily retro Bohemian Blooms Crochet Blanket.
A crochet-along is a great way of sharing your crocheting experiences with others.
The first CAL Dedri Uys participated in was the Block a Week CAL, which resulted in this beauty.
Sandra Paul’s second CAL was the A Spicier Life blanket, which took off in August 2017.