As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I’ve taken up crafting over the last couple of years (although Mr FFF says I’ve always been crafty!). I started with painting before investing in a sewing machine and beginning to explore the world of needlecraft.
I started last November after buying myself a sewing machine
for my birthday. At that time of the year, it was easy to practise my skills by
making a variety of Christmas-themed decorations for myself and my nearest and
dearest. But once the festive season had passed, I was a bit stuck for what to
Imagine my delight then when my mum decided to take up
knitting once again and requested a knitting needle case.
I found a pattern online, had a very enjoyable trip to Hobbycraft to pick some appropriate fabric and trimmings and got to work. It was a tricky little project and I considered giving up on it at one point, but I persevered and managed to get it finished in time for Mother’s Day. My mum was delighted with it and I’d honed my skills, learnt new techniques and enjoyed myself in the process.
As I’ve written about previously, I have been learning to crochet over the summer. A friend of mine, who also crafts, was visiting from the USA and had found a knitting and crocheting company, Toft, near to my house that she wanted to visit. So, being a good friend, I dutifully took her and was rewarded with being introduced to a real jewel of a place.
The TOFT Studio is home to the TOFT luxury British DIY knitwear and wool company, offering alpaca and wool knitting yarns and exclusive easy-to-make knitting and crochet patterns. TOFT was founded in 2006 by Kerry Lord, who is also the writer and designer of the Edward’s Menagerie crochet pattern series.
Their studio is at Dunchurch in Warwickshire where you can buy supplies, attend workshops, visit the lamas or just enjoy some of their fabulous cake.
The place itself is gorgeous. Set on the outskirts of the village, the studio is housed in a large, modern barn conversion. Exposed beams and brick, a polished concrete floor and display racks made from crates give it an industrial yet cosy feel.
I’ve now visited twice and on both occasions, the staff have been friendly and welcoming, happy to have a chat and offer advice. I didn’t feel pressured to buy and you’re quite welcome to sit with a cuppa working on one of your projects.
They sell a great range of products including easy to use kits which contain everything you need to crochet one of their fabulous patterns. The patterns they offer range from animals to dolls to scarfs and hats. There are plenty of sample projects on display around the shop so you can get an idea of how the finished product should look and each one has a tag on it giving all the information you need to purchase the materials you’d need to make your own.
Each of their kits is marked by level of difficulty so you
can easily choose a project to suit your skill level. Even better, they have a
huge number of videos available on their YouTube channel to show you how to how
to do the different types of stitch.
They have a number of pattern books including some where you
get to mix and match bodies, heads and limbs to create your own unique
creatures. A range of subscription services is also available including kits,
yarn and a magazine.
To top it all off, you get a complimentary tea or coffee
with each purchase.
I haven’t yet tried one of their workshops, but I plan to
get one booked in the near future.
I think I may just have found a new favourite place.
As I’ve written about previously, I’ve been keen to try new hobbies and develop new skills over the last couple of years. Having made some very simple sashes for costumes for a school play last summer and being reminded of how much I enjoyed sewing on the few occasions that we did it in Home Ec at school, I invested in a basic sewing machine and have been completing some simple projects to improve my skills (more to come on these in future posts).
But, having very limited time to fit crafting into my already busy weeks, I decided I wanted to try something that I could do in front of the TV in the evenings. So, inspired by the clever creations of a couple of friends, I’ve been learning to crochet.
I had a little one-to-one workshop with my extremely patient cousin who showed me how to get started (apparently this is called casting on) and how to do some basic stitches – chaining, single- and double-crochet. I kept practising the basics until I was able to cast on independently without looking online for a video to remind me how, but I still couldn’t count the stitches properly. It’s sometimes harder than you think to count to 10 which is a bit embarrassing to admit when you’re a teacher!
Then I had a friend visiting from the US who is also into crafts and wanted to re-learn to crochet. She’d found a local crochet and knitting company who sell everything you need to get you started that she wanted to visit and so off we went. With her encouragement, I bought a beginner’s Octopus Kit and gave it a go. I actually completed it using my ‘practise’ yarn rather than the stuff that came in the kit because I’m a bit of a perfectionist and wanted to make sure I could do it before I used the kit (yes, I am aware this is ever so slightly bonkers but hey-ho!).
I’m pleased to say that, with the help of my friend in teaching me to read the pattern, my mum who helped me to count stitches and several YouTube videos, I eventually completed the pattern. Now, there are some mistakes (a couple of the legs are back-to-front but that doesn’t make him any less of an octopus) but I’m really proud that I managed to complete it. I can even count the stitches fairly reliably now. Well, I’m getting there anyway.
The best thing was though, it’s definitely not something
that you can do whilst eating biscuits and chocolates. Although Mr FFF says the
best thing about it is that he doesn’t have to spend the evening listening to
the whirring of my sewing machine!
I’m looking forward to completing my next octopus using the actual yarn from the kit – if I ever get a minute to sit down and start it!
Do you crochet? What
are your top tips for a beginner? Let me know in the comments section.