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Crochet Flowers for Memories

Flowers for Memories

I am getting increasingly excited about Yarndale this year, and one of the things I am most looking forward to is seeing the display of knitted and crocheted Flowers for Memories. Just as the mandalas did last year, these flowers are going to be breath taking, and given their significance – extremely moving.

The crafting community need little excuse to pull together and charities can be a powerful mobilising force. I was reminded of this last year when I saw The Knitted Flower Pergola and more recently the Craftivist Collective have introduced a #wellMaking Craftivists Garden.

It seems that the convention of floral tributes has been embraced by crafters and makers all over the world; those generous people who give their time, skills and resources to all kinds of good causes.

I wanted to contribute to the Yarndale project again this year, but also wanted to draw people together to work collectively on this. Making is always more fun with other people – and cake!

Rebecca at Norfolk Yarn very kindly offered to host a workshop, so yesterday I met with some lovely, generous women and we worked together on our collection of crochet Flowers for Memories.

We were gathered for all kinds of reasons and we all managed to finish at least one or two flowers. As we worked our conversation ebbed and flowed as some of us remembered our own family members who had lived with dementia

How many of the flowers made for this community project represent real people loved and lost? Perhaps they are all ‘forget-me-nots’ in their own way.

Thank you to everyone that came to the workshop, I loved meeting you all and I will be forwarding your work to Lucy at Yarndale – perhaps if you visit you’ll be able to spot your work…….

Crochet Flower Workshop

Crochet Flower Detail

flowers for Memories

If you’d like to brush up on your crochet skills or simply learn the basics, we’ve got a whole programme of classes at Norfolk Yarn this Autumn, and we’d love you to join us!

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Crochet Shawls, Strangers and other Norwich Stuff

Crochet Bohemian Shawl

If you head north east out of London for about a hundred miles, just before you get to the North Sea, you’ll find Norwich; a fine city. Once an impenetrable gated community, Norwich is now circumnavigated by the ring road and the crumbling remains of a city wall.

Like many people, my historical knowledge of the place where I live is sketchy, anecdotal and riddled with holes and questionable facts. 365 pubs (one for every day of the year) 52 churches (one for every week) rivers running red like blood (the madder dyes) and a cockerel as big as a donkey (on the top of the cathedral spire – according to my grandmother)

In geographical terms, Norwich is rather off the beaten track but it is possible to trace a route through history to a time when it was a city second only to London and a thriving textile hub.

Knowledge and evidence of our grand textile history has become rather threadbare over the years but I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently and I wonder how many of my ancestors might have spent long hours weaving in their dimly lit garrets, or suffered the dire consequences of working with toxic mordants in the dye houses of sixteenth century Norwich.

I wonder how they might have viewed the new community of ‘strangers’ –  the highly skilled Dutch and Flemish weavers invited into the city to mobilise and modernise the city’s ailing textile industry, and to escape religious persecution.

Like all new immigrant communities The Strangers brought with them many things that impacted on the City. The Flemish brought with them their pet canaries (canary breeding became so popular in Norwich we named our football team after them) and even the Norwich dialect is said to have been influenced by this community, who at one time made up almost one third of the city.

The greatest impact, perhaps, was made on our textile output. They introduced revolutionary technical changes, mixed fibres and improved finishing processes.

The Norwich dyers were also prized for the quality of their bright, clean, colourfast dyes. Red dyes were particularly prized and one red dye became known as ‘Norwich red’ produced from the madder plant which was grown locally and later important from Turkey.

The new fabrics were lighter, silkier and had strange names like camblet, Say,Tammy, Callimanco, mockadoes, Fustian of Naples, Bombasine, stamin, serg, and dornix. Collectively they became known as Norwich Stuffs.

As the fabrics became more delicate, like the fashionable ones on the Continent,  the need for a big warm shawl increased and Norwich was to become hugely important in the production of the very fashionable ‘Norwich Shawl’. Not to be confused with the Paisley Shawl – no really – don’t EVER make that mistake. I did once – and was told off very severely by a textile historian. Paisley is in Scotland. Norwich is in England. You see – they are different!!

Shawls were manufactured in Norwich from the 1780’s but by the mid 19th century Norwich was producing some of the most exquisite, and expensive shawls in the world – inspired by the beautiful textiles imported from Kashmir

Norwich Textiles

Image: http://locutus.ucr.edu/

Much of the history of Norwich is wrapped up in a beautiful wool shawl and I’m very pleased to see shawls, wraps and oversized scarves return to the contemporary fashion scene.

Shawls make the perfect knitting or crochet project if you’re one of those people who can never quite get the fit of a jumper right, or if you’re rather too impatient to work a third tension square….shawls always fit!

I recently added The Bohemian Shawl to my collection of crochet patterns and it takes more than a hint of inspiration from the textile history of Norwich.

Bohemian crochet shawl

I may wear it one evening soon and take a walk through the city, past Strangers Hall, the Maddermarket Theatre, The Woolpack, The Dyers Arms, Canary Way, and, finally, down Weavers Lane, and  think about the rich history of this very fine city.

I shall also be running a three part crochet masterclass in Norwich this Autumn where you can make your own version of this gorgeous shawl. We will cover a huge range of stitches and techniques and you can choose your own colours from a range of Debbie Bliss yarns at Norfolk Yarn wool shop.

crochet shawl design

Crochet shawl

Crochet Shawl Bobble Trim

Full details can be found here

Oh – and I’m going to include the instructions on how to work the lovely pom pom trim in the next issue of The Mercerie Post!

You can register here.

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Crochet Motifs: Pattern and Repetition

Crochet flower motifs

I’ve been rather busy lately, working on some new designs and planning some new crochet workshops. Progress has been slow though, mainly hampered by my inability to stay on task and focus on the patterns I’m trying to develop.

I just can’t help it though! How is it possible to stay on task when you’re presented with a myriad of pattern possibilities?

One of the things I love about making little crochet motifs is that each one is a small, but perfectly formed (*cough*) object of beauty and completion. It’s very satisfying to finish something – however small it might be but if you can make one – you can make one hundred and then you have the potential to create something absolutely amazing!!

A single object can be nice, good, interesting, beautiful even. But multiply it by 10, 100, 1000 and then you have something extraordinary, fabulous and magnificent and I just can’t stop myself playing with these thoughts.

crochet motifs

 

Crochet motifs 2

Crochet motifs 3

As humans we naturally seek out pattern, repetition and order. There is something inherently satisfying in placing things in order, in sequence, in a pattern –  it is this simple, primal urge that prompts designers to play, explore and repeat a motif.

If you study decoration from any historical period, and any culture and you will find yourself in the repetitive realm of tessellations, mirrors, rotations, drops and half drops. And I can lose myself for far too long meditating with the rhythms of pattern repetition

escher

islamic patterns

quilts

I’ve been thinking a great deal about how to explore these ideas in my own work, and how to answer the question I’m often presented with – ‘what can I do with all these crochet motifs; how can I join them together?”

So I’ve been working on trying to resolve this…and rather enjoying the results and the possibilities. (with a little help from photoshop!)

Joining Crochet Motifs

Joining Crochet Motifs 2

Why stop at ‘nice’? There’s power in numbers. Aim big, be ambitious, and make something amazing.

You just have to do the same thing again and again and again……

If you’d like to explore the possibilities of pattern repetition and discover exciting new ways to piece together your crochet motifs why not join us for a masterclass at Norfolk Yarn in Norwich on March 18th?

We’re also running a rather lovely flower class too…..

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Crochet Workshops

Crochet Bracelet

We’ll take you through the basics, and beyond, in these two crochet workshop at Arts Desire, Norwich. Find out how a few basic stitches can be used to create beautiful ‘on trend’ accessories and you’ll soon have the confidence to produce your own decorative, and unique, works of art.

Visit our events page for more details

 

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