Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Inspired by India

Hello folks, have you had a good weekend? Here in the UK we have just had our second May holiday weekend, for us a quiet time of pottering about, enjoying the garden and of course crochet for me.

As the weeks pass and summer comes closer I find myself thinking of days out, tea in the garden and picnics, especially picnics. I'd been thinking for a while that I'd like to make a summer blanket, perhaps in ice-cream shades or bright summery colours however I didn't get around to it early enough for this year. I still feel the need for something bright, colourful and new though so I had a think about it and came up with the idea of making bright crocheted cushions which would be much quicker to make for use in the garden and for picnicking.

I haven't ever been to India (yet, maybe one day) but I love the vibrancy of the colours I see in photos, magazines and film. What colours do you think of when you think of India? I think of vibrant colours such as cerise pink, turquoise, orange, lime green, yellow, purple, jewel colours, all these colours suggest to me brilliant hued saris, wending their way through the streets and markets of India on the backs of the women. This train of thought reminded me of the beautiful cushions I have seen made from pieces of sari fabric, those cushions are stunning so why not try a crochet version? What would the pattern be? For me it has to be the instantly recognisable kidney shape of the Paisley pattern. With this idea firmly in my head I set off.

A visit to my local wool shop allowed me to gaze at all the beautiful yarns and find inspiration before buying the yarn I showed this peek of a few weeks ago.

It's Robin DK acrylic in shades Bright Turquoise, Cordial, Fiesta, Sunflower and Marigold. I love these bright colours and using acrylic yarn means I won't be precious about it being used outside, I could never be that relaxed about a silk yarn. I brought it home and started playing around with it to develop a Paisley type shape. I worked out the pattern then tried it with both 4mm and 3.5mm hooks. In the end I decided to go with the 3.5mm hook as I tend to crochet fairly loosely and it just looked a better shape. The 4mm hook gave an elongated Paisley shape, however I preferred the curvier motif made using the 3.5mm hook. I have made this using double crochet and half treble stitches to keep it simple, do you like it?

I worked up motifs in different colour combinations to see how they looked,

 and laid them out to choose which ones I like best.

 I definitely like the yellow (Sunflower) and pink (Fiesta) and the turquoise and orange (Marigold) but haven't decided about the other colour combinations yet. What do you think of them? Is there one you are drawn to or a combination I haven't tried?

Once I have decided which colours to use I will make a smaller motif to go with these and work out how to join them. I'm using a 50x50cm cushion and I'm still deciding whether to do an all-over design, just a border, or a mix of designs for each cushion, I'll see how I get on with the first one. What would you do? I'd love to hear your ideas too.


Saturday, 16 May 2015

Crocheted Lace, Sea Horses and a Book Review

Hi folks, did you know that seahorses are sometimes red?
What have seahorses got to do with crochet I hear you ask? Well, it's all down to this book, 75 Lace Crochet Motifs.

I was browsing on Amazon earlier this year when I came across this book by Caitlin Sanio and fell in love with the little seahorse on the front cover. I'm not known for impulse buys so I went away and thought and thought about it but I kept being drawn back to it every time I went online. This book looked too good to stay on my wish list, I just had to make that seahorse. I duly ordered it and then spent a couple of excited days waiting for the postman to call. Eventually the knock on the door came, I was so excited, I love books so with anticipation I tore off the packaging and...it looked wonderful, even better than I thought it would be. Oh, the joy, a brand new book full of ridiculously beautiful little lace motifs to crochet and pepper projects with.

There are 75, a whole 75, beautiful lace motifs all done in size 10 crochet cotton with a 2mm hook. I didn't like the colour used for the seahorse in the book, that seahorse is just asking to be turquoise, right? I didn't have any turquoise crochet cotton though and I was much too eager to make this little fellow to order online and wait for crochet cottons to arrive, so I turned to the internet to find images of seahorses. A quick internet search of seahorses found  The Seahorse Trust  and  brought the information that seahorses can change colour to blend in with their surroundings and have even been known to turn red to match floating debris. They pair for life and also change colour during their daily courtship display which can last up to an hour each morning. It's amazing what information I come across when I get an idea in my head, whatever did we do before the internet?

 Hmm, red seahorses? I have red cotton, I used it to edge the baby shoes, so why not make the seahorse in red?


For each pattern in the book the author has given the length of cotton needed, it reminded me of tatting patterns where the required length has to be wound on to the shuttle before you start. It just so happened I still had a shuttle left from last year already wound with enough red cotton to make the seahorse. Out it came, along with a 2mm crochet hook.

 A short while later I'd made this.

 It looks a bit messy and twisty as it needs to be blocked and have the ends woven in.

 Aah, that's better, it's amazing the difference blocking makes to a piece of work, I'm a real fan of blocking. I adore this little red seahorse, I think he is going to become a bag charm and will live attached to my project bag where I can see him every day.

 I'm really looking forward to making more motifs from this book, perhaps experimenting with embroidery floss and different hooks as well as cotton. It is very well laid out and easy to use with pattern pictures and corresponding page numbers grouped by themes at the front of the book.


 I don't usually use charted patterns but even following the written pattern they do still help with these small motifs as they are very clear and you can see instantly where you have gone wrong if you make a mistake.

I think the shell and starfish will have to be next, then I'll need to find something to embellish with them. All the motifs in this book are beautiful but these three are my favourite, or perhaps it's the songbird and hummingbird? Decisions, decisions, however the seahorse is definitely my favourite.

I hope to get back soon to the bright yarn I showed you a peek of last week, unfortunately we had a bump in the car last week and I've been a bit too uncomfortable to crochet for long so I thought I'd share this with you instead. I hope you have enjoyed the book review and the little seahorse. Have you done any thread crochet? I'd love to know what you've made.

Til next time,

Friday, 8 May 2015

Unfinished Objects and Work in Progress

Hello there, how are you all? Doing well I hope and finding lots of inspiration to get you hooking.

Today I want to talk about unfinished projects, some people call them UFOs (unfinished objects) or WIPs (Work in Progress). I have had a few of these unfinished items on the go for a while now and though I'm itching to start a few new projects, I felt I really couldn't justify it until I had cleared the decks and finished some existing ones.  There is nothing like a pile of colourful new yarn to spur me on (bought last weekend, a holiday and time in a yarn shop, bliss).

First up is my blue stripey bolster cushion in Robin DK acrylic in shades Madonna, Royal Blue, Pale Blue and Cream.

I posted about this bolster cushion a little while ago as it really needed some colourful crochet to liven it up. As you can see it really does need something to brighten it up as it came with this plain cotton cover.

It lives in a blue and white room so I chose complementary colours from Robin and played about with some stitch patterns before deciding to do plain stripes. It was a nice, easy rhythm to crochet, especially doing a little each Sunday night to relax while watching the Mr Selfridge and Indian Summer TV programmes. I actually finished and blocked the individual pieces for this cushion weeks ago, around the same time the programmes finished, however I do tend to procrastinate when it comes to making up. There they have sat ever since, patiently waiting for me to pick them up again and finish the project, so finally I did.

I'm really pleased with this, it adds colour and texture to the room while not making it too busy or fussy with the other patterns in there (blue toile de jouy and a little gingham). It is worked in trebles, two rows in each colour for the stripes and needs a good, even tension to keep the edges straight on the main piece. The stripes give lots of practice joining different yarns and the end pieces are worked in the round so it would be a good project for someone fairly new to crochet to practise their skills. It could easily be used for a square or rectangular cushion too by omitting the round end pieces. On my cushion I have used only one row of trebles in each colour for the end pieces as I like the effect of the narrower stripes on each end. I worked the main piece to finish with two cream sections overlapping, avoiding the need for buttons or studs as closures and simply made a small seam at either end allowing enough space to slip the cushion inside.

I'm so happy with this, I often use the spare room myself for reading and sometimes day-dreaming too, I can see myself relaxing with this cushion often and am very pleased I won't have uncomfortable buttons digging into me while I read.

My second unfinished project hasn't been around quite as long as the cushion cover. It's a small cowl, made using Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in Dusky Mauve. My Mum chose this yarn from the  Karelia House stand, where I bought my merino lace, when we visited the Hobbycraft event back in March. She chose it specifically for me to make a small cowl. I'd made one for my sister last year which Mum liked so much she wanted one for herself. My sister's was made using Sirdar Hush, which although lovely, I didn't think would be soft enough for Mum so having suggested something softer, she opted for the Baby Cashmerino.

 I had used trestle stitch for the cowl in Sirdar Hush but being a completely different type and weight of yarn it wasn't suitable for the Cashmerino. This yarn was a dream to work with and felt wonderful being a mix of extra fine merino, acrylic and a whole 12% cashmere. I tried out lots (and lots!) of different stitch patterns using a 4mm hook which was really enjoyable with this yarn and eventually narrowed it down to these.

 Lacy Scallops

Crossed Stitches

 Puff Stitch

In the end I decided to go with lacy clusters using puff stitch, the colour is not as pink as it looks in the photo, unfortunately the light kept changing while I was working so the true colour is closer to the second photo of crossed stitches.

I really like this yarn in puff stitch, more importantly, so does my Mum. It does use an awful lot of yarn though, I got through a whole two balls of Cashmerino just making this one small cowl, it is a lot heavier than my sister's which is very lacy. I worked this cowl in the round and edged it with tiny shells, meaning the only making up I had to do was weaving in six yarn ends. This was so soft and warm I was reluctant to hand it over so I took a quick photo and gave it to Mum before I became too tempted to keep it.

 I like this type of project, you can guess why it was finished before the cushion cover. I plan to write up the patterns for both the cowl and cushion cover soon.

My third WIP is a tunic style top but as it is a winter top I've decided to leave it for now. Having created some space in my work basket I can turn my thoughts to my lovely bright new yarn and the merino lace I bought back in March. I already have several ideas of what I'd like to do with it, would you like a sneak preview of the colours I'll be using? You would? Ok then, here they are.

Do you like them? Can you guess where I'm going with these?

Have you got any UFO or WIP projects? What inspires you to pick them up and finish them? I'd love to know.

Have a lovely weekend folks.

H x