Tag Archives: crochet

Camera Cosy

There is something about cold weather which seems to affect phone and camera batteries – they drain quickly only to revive again when back in the warm. Or is it just my technology?

The reason for mentioning this is that I have a new camera, courtesy of Father Christmas, and it didn’t fit into my old camera case. For a while, I took it out to play in a mere wisp of a cover, to stop the screen getting scratched. One particularly frosty morning, the battery registered full before I went outside only to threaten “no charge” when I was taking photos. This has happened occasionally with phones too. So I decided to crochet a cosy for said camera, utilising a tranche of my ever-growing stash and one of the buttons that came free with a magazine a while back.

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Using Tunisian simple stitch, and an envelope style with asymmetrical flap, the whole thing was stitched up using dc as an outside seam. My camera hasn’t complained of  cold since, even when I took it out on the one day of settled snow here in north London.

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First Attempts

Do you remember what your first crochet project was? Do you still have an early example of your efforts? I haven’t hung on to my first attempts and my first project was a scarf which turned out well enough to give away as a gift. At least, I gave it to one of my best friends for Xmas, and she seemed happy with it, but she may have been indulging me!

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My mum showed me a piece of crochet she did many years ago – I think it may even have been her first item, a doily done in thread cotton. I’m impressed – I don’t think I’d be able to work anything so fine. Time has unravelled it somewhat – maybe years of folding has worn it away at the creases, or perhaps it snagged on something in the cupboard. But there’s enough of it left that the pattern can be worked out. Mum said it was done in motifs and then joined together at the end with a border put round to finish it. It’s way too fine for me to copy, but I would like to try working my own version, possibly in 4-ply (the thinnest yarn that I’m happy to work with), or chunkier. Not sure what use I’d put a doily to, though. They are very old-fashioned (not that I pay attention to fashion!) If I needed a rug, I could do a massive version. Any suggestions for modern uses of doilies?

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Twelfth Night

The end of Yuletide has arrived and, with it, the end of revelries. Back to work in time for “Plough Monday”, and a return to normality. For me, it was an excuse to send a Xmas prezzie late, as I hadn’t finished it on time for December 25th. It hadn’t been a particularly difficult pattern, but I miscounted stitches a few times and had to undo rows several times. The pattern was Claire Montgomerie’s Fern Cowl from Inside Crochet issue 14 /Feb 2011 – it’s a pattern I’ve wanted to try for ages, and finally! got round to it..

100_7397I was pleased with how it turned out, though I’m a bit apprehensive that it might be too snug a fit.. What I wasn’t pleased with is my inability to get colour right in photos – I find it really tricky to get the colour of a garment the same in pictures as in real life. I gave the recipient of the gift a choice of hue – turquoise or.. well, I could only describe it as a kind of greeny-yellow, verging on the acid green. My instincts told me my friend would like the latter best, and I was right. When I went to the yarn shop to get more wool to complete the project, I asked the helpful assistant how she would describe it – she called it pistachio, which sounds more appealing!

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Centenary Stitches

One of my lovely gardening clients, who knows I’m a crochet addict, told me of an exhibition she’s heard about on the radio called Centenary Stitches. It sounded very interesting, and I was keen to go. Finding out it was in Lincoln, I figured it was a bit too far to visit just for an exhibition! But then I remembered I had some money-off vouchers from a delayed train journey in the summer, so I decided to use them to day-trip halfway up the country especially. And I’m glad I went – it was a small exhibition, but I spent nearly an hour and a half having a good ol’ rummage around.

The Centenary Stitches project grew from the costuming of a community film called Tell Them of Us. The aim was to create something centred around the war story of ordinary people, not celebrated already by fame or high rank. But these are the people about whom there is typically less documentation. However, one family – the Crowders from the village of Thimbleby in Lincolnshire – had maintained a comprehensive archive containing letters, memoirs and scrapbooks, photos and other items from the Great War years. From this family archive, a script and screenplay developed.

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If the stories of everyman are difficult to discover due to lack of records, costuming and clothing can be even more tricky. Fabrics are fragile, especially the woollens, being susceptible to moth damage or easy to repurpose, for example, through felting. Photographic evidence provides little more information, as these tended to record special events rather than daily attire. Knitting patterns from the era are a more reliable source, though these are problematic for the 21st century yarner thanks to the difference in culture; in the early 20th century, most girls were schooled in knitting and crochet, so patterns didn’t need the details required by many today. For instance, sock instructions could use the short-hand “turn the heel” and the reader could proceed without panic and you-tube how-to guides. Some of the items in this exhibition are clothes crafted for the film, but there are also reproductions of other items from World War One.

There are two woolly stories to be told here: one is military – how knitting affected the lives of troops at the Front; the other is social – the tale of women and how their clothing reflected their increasing emancipation.

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Military uniforms were not enough for the needs of the soldiers, and were supplemented with knitted accessories that came to be known as ‘comforts’. These were sent by women to their loved ones in the trenches, but also distributed by organisations like the Red Cross and Regimental Comforts Fund. Such items included scarves, gloves, balaclavas and smooth-seamed socks. Lord Kitchener, British secretary of state for war and the face of “Your Country Needs You” posters, is credited with the invention of an invisible grafted toe seam which helped prevent blisters – sock patterns of the time were made with a seam up the toe that tended to cause chafing. Among the more unusual knits were knee warmers, often worn over bandages in hospital, and rifleman’s gloves without thumb and trigger finger. Despite the value of their endeavours, many of the crafters put themselves down as being just a “Sister Susie”, and denigrated their war work , believing it to be a minimal contribution because  they did not suffer or don a uniform. But VAD nurse Olive Dent noted otherwise in her diary: “We nurses know how much the gifts and comforts are appreciated… Every stitch..meant a few minutes greater comfort – and correspondingly less pain – from an aching body tortured on our behalf, for our defence and birthrights.” She goes so far as to say that these Sister Susies performed “some of the most valuable war service”.

Kneewarmers

Rifleman’s glove

The process of women becoming more active participants in society, in roles that were previously denied them, meant that their clothes had to change. Greater freedom of movement became necessary. There was a shift from garments which needed to be clung to like the shawl, to those such as jumpers and cardigans. Women started to ditch the restrictive corset and this was hastened by metal shortages brought about by the war – metal, of course, was needed to construct the framework of corsets. Apart from maintaining a rigid, upright posture, corsets also provided an insulating layer  to the torso so all that would be required to stave off the chill might be a shawl. Without this thermal layer, those same garments enabling freer movement, the waistcoats etc, became fundamental for warmth.

The costume design for the film was based on original knitting patterns from the Edwardian period as well as photographs of the eldest Crowder sister, Grace, whose clothing was ‘reverse-engineered’ by specialist knitters. Looking around the exhibition, most of the items were knitted which is hardly surprising given that, traditionally, crochet uses more yarn, which isn’t conducive to the frugality that the war demanded. One of my favourite pieces was a knitted wrap waistcoat.

Knitted wrap waistcoat with crocheted embellishment

Its maker said she was excited to see the way garter stitch was used in this pattern because people usually think garter stitch is boring. It has a crocheted embellishment on the belt, which I liked. Other crocheted items included a bag, shawls and hats. The most surprising item was a tie done in Tunisian crochet, certainly an unusual technique today as I suspect it was then, too.

Tunisian crocheted tie

Commemorating a war through its woolies is an unusual venture, perhaps deemed too trivial in comparison with the horrors endured by the soldiers, or not dramatic enough to be considered. But knitting and crochet really did play an important, if understated, role.

 Further Reading

http://www.centenarystitches.wordpress.com

Jane Crowfoot, The Kitchener Stitch, in The Knitter, Issue 19

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Marionberry

Oh grr!! Another project bites the dust!  The finishing line was in view, so I tried on the jumper… only to find it was too small!  And I was so sure I’d been working to correct tension (more or less!) I’m the skinniest of people I know, so it won’t fit anyone else in my circles. I could keep going and hand the project in for my IDC course anyway, but I wanted to make something I would actually wear in that colour. And I can’t face attempting it again..

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The yarn colour intrigues me. It’s a warm purple, with more red in it than blue. The pattern was Kat Goldin’s glamorous Purple Jumper (issue 23 of Simply Crochet) and came under the general heading Blackberrying. I chose a different shade to the one specified in the pattern, and it’s called Marionberry. Now, I’m a gardener for a living, and I have never heard of this kind of berry! I’ve heard of Blackberry, of course, and Raspberry, Blueberry, Loganberry, Cranberry, Jostaberry, Tayberry, Cloudberry, Dewberry… But Marionberry? At first I thought it was just a fanciful name, but a quick search online showed me otherwise. Its a Blackberry hybrid, and is one of many types of berry which I now realise I never knew existed.. There’s Hildaberry, King’s Acre Berry, Sunberry, Tummelberry, even a Phenomenal Berry. The mind boggles.. and the taste buds salivate! Who’d have thought that crochet could teach me something about horticulture?

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Sock Block!

A friend recently told me she’d come to a standstill with her knitting as she always seemed make things she either never wore or had no use for. When it came to household items, she’d done enough cushion covers, and one throw was enough. On top of this, she’d made enough for friends and family that they were replete with knitted goods and also needed no more.  She said, and I quote: “I’m reduced to knitting clothes for my niece’s dolls although the doll always seems to be naked whenever I see it!”  I suggested she make socks, as everyone always needs socks!

This reminded me.  I still haven’t addressed my New Year Resolution to make socks. So I turned my attention to that in the past few days..  and got stuck on two different patterns!  Annoying!!

The first was a toe-up design which seemed simple enough – no fancy cables or anything.  But I got to the heel and couldn’t work out how to proceed.  I very nearly unravelled the whole lot in a strop, but stopped myself knowing that I’d regret it. If I could work out how the heel works from other patterns, I thought I might be able to muddle through.

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So..  I turned to another pattern to see if that elucidated things.  As a cuff-down pattern, working the heel would be a different method anyway. But I really liked the look of these socks, and was doing very well – until I got to the heel again!  Perhaps trying another pattern by the same designer wasn’t a good idea as maybe I just don’t click with his pattern-writing style..

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Meanwhile I’ve had a look at other sock patterns, but don’t really fancy having a go at them as they are lacy, which bring to mind the socks I wore as a schoolgirl! I guess the sock resolution will have to be shelved until I can get past this sock block.

 

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Fantasy Garden

Am a bit stuck on projects for the IDC..  again!  But I won’t bore you with the details.  Instead, here is a fun project I’ve busied myself with..

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It’s  a contribution to a charity yarn-bomb project for The Grange Range, to brighten up a local doctor’s surgery.  There’s still time if anyone fancies joining in.  Head over to: thegrangerange.wordpress.com

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I was in one of my favourite shops, Lush, recently and spotted this postcard as I was paying for my soap..

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Wool Against Weapons is part of a peace campaign aimed at banning nuclear weapons.  The request is to contribute a 60cm x 100cm knitted or crocheted piece (peace!) in … PINK!  My least favourite colour. Funnily enough, I was chatting to the cashier about it and she happened to be a knitter.  She said although she loves the colour pink, she doesn’t like knitting with it!  We laughed about how bizarre that is..

The crocheted and knitted rectangles will be stitched together to create a seven mile long peace scarf, to extend between two Atomic Weapons Establishments: Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire, unrolled and twined into place on 9th August 2014 (Nagasaki Day)  For more info about the event and how to get involved, visit: www.woolagainstweapons.co.uk

Here is my rectangle in progress:

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The suggested number of crochet stitches required to reach the right width is 75, but I found I needed 90!  Something I learned doing the IDC is that the taller stitches spread more than the lowly dc – obvious now I know, but I never observed it before it was pointed out.  So one of the reasons for needing more stitches was the type of stitch I’m using.  I’ve chosen something basic in order to  finish up quickly and without hassle(!) I prefer texture to colour work so I’ve interspersed trebles into rows of dc, creating simple bobbles.

I won’t have enough pink yarn to complete a metre..  No doubt I’ll end up with more left-over pink.. Groan..

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June 8, 2014 · 2:53 pm

It Passed!

Hurray!  I’m relieved to report that the shawl I’d been having difficulties with passed the assessment.  But as it turned out smaller than the pattern stated, another criteria (i.e. that one of our projects must follow a commercial pattern) has yet to be met.

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This project has taught me two lessons.  First and most importantly – SWATCH!  I’ve a bad habit of not tension swatching, and just hoping that the project turns out okay.  Often enough, my tension matches that of the pattern writer, but that was certainly not the case in this instance – the shawl was about 15 cm too short, even after blocking twice. (I thought the stitches might relax more the second time..)  Secondly, substituting yarn is more complex than weight and yardage.  My tutor tells me “Substituting yarn is always an interesting activity; there are many factors to take into account..  Variations in the way the fibres are spun and plied can also have a major effect on the finished result, even if the fibre content is the same, even different breeds of sheep produce different types of yarn.”  

Now I’m trying to decide on two garments (one to include fastenings and sleeves) and household project.  Honestly, that’s almost the hardest part of doing these projects, choosing things that best reflect Part One of the IDC without jumping ahead to elements of Part Two (e.g. half-trebles and working in the round).   I’m not the most decisive of people at the best of times!

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Inspired by Nature

Nature is a common theme from which designers draw inspiration.  Browsing some recent magazines, I noticed several people citing the natural world as their muse, whilst others named patterns after natural elements, whether a “gnarled bark” beret or a “birchwood” cowl.  Floral corsages or brooches are popular too, and the cover of a recent Inside Crochet magazine encourages readers to “Go botanical with our latest floral designs”.

This is by no means a modern trend.  An exhibition at the GardenMuseum (which ended last month – this post has been a long time in coming!)  showed how fashion over the centuries has copied nature and, intriguingly, how horticulture has sometimes emulated clothing.  Embroidery had an impact on gardening in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, particularly in Europe when the craze for intaglio took hold in the gardens of the elite. Evergreens such as box, hyssop and thyme were tightly clipped to form elaborate scrolls and knots which were very similar to those found edging clothes. The parterre de broderie literally means the embroidered parterre, and was pure pattern-work, involving no flowers.  The English, however, seemed keener to include blooms among these intricate loops and whorls.

Botanical realism was much more a focus in British clothing than in France and the rest of Europe, where depictions of plants were often stylized.  Around the time that Herbals were being printed, flowers started featuring on British clothing. They were a common motif throughout the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st and until the death of her successor King James 1st.  Hedgerow blossom appeared alongside imported newbies, from honeysuckle and pansies to tulips (originally from Turkey) and African marigolds.

pansy flower macro photography

The enthusiasm for floriferous decoration may have diminished for a while, but returned in the 18th century. During the period between 1720 and the early 1760s, when dress styles remained static, it was through patterns woven into fabric that fashionable variety was created.  Silk weavers based around Spitalfields, for instance, endevoured to provide new designs each year, and floral motifs were a recurrent theme.  Anna Maria Garthwaite and other successful designers even joined botanical societies and were able to view the latest species arriving on our shores.  No real surprise, then, that one of London’s biggest nurseries was situated next to Spitalfields.  Whilst Capability Brown’s stark landscape style came to dominate garden design, nurserymen courted the dressmaker’s interest, and a rare anemone was equally likely to be snapped up for the loom or needle as for horticultural use.

In the 19th century, Victorian innovation meant that colour became more vibrant, both in horticulture and fashion.  Technological advances in heating and glazing were instrumental in the mania for carpet bedding; half-hardy perennials, usually unsuited to our climate, could be started off early in the season and planted out en masse in garish patterns when the threat of frost had passed.  Bedding schemes changes yearly so gardens could change their clothes, so to speak, as often as a lady changed her wardrobe.  Meanwhile, a similar eruption of colour in fashion occurred as chemists discovered how to intensify hues and developed synthetic dyes.  A new language of colour emerged with Michael Chevreal’s formulation of the Colour Wheel, still in use today.  This classification of colour according to whether they harmonised or clashed was applicable in fashion and gardens alike.  In 1861, the article ‘Colour in Dress, Furniture and Gardens’  was publishes in the Englishwaman’s Domestic Magazine,  which explained colour theory and how to use it.

Eventually this fervour for vivid tones subsided due to a snobbish reaction to its prevalence.  Public parks created by philanthropists for the benefit of the poor meant that bedding schemes originating in wealthy gardens were now for the ordinary public to appreciate.  Likewise, cheap dyes became more readily available so bold colours were no longer the prerogative of the elite.  By the 1870s, more sedate hues created a soft haze in the herbaceous borders and, in clothing, white became a status colour.  It showed up dirt, so indicated the wearer was not a labourer.

Returning to the present day..  I’m looking forward to the completion of the Suffolk Collection by knit and hookwear designer Joanne Scrace.  The basis for stitch patterns and construction is the undulating landscape of East Anglia, and its colours and shapes, the countryside where she was raised and still lives.

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