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The Real Life Daisy Wrap Crochet-Along

On line CALs (that’s crochet-alongs FYO) are a fabulous way to create something beautiful and feel part of a community. We live in amazing times where we can work on a project and share our progress with people on the other side of the planet.

If the person sitting on the sofa next to you  doesn’t appreciate your  skill, tenacity and sheer hard work, you know there will always be someone online who will offer you support, advise and a virtual pat on the back for your efforts.

I have run 2 online CALs, and they have  been such great fun, and I’ve just loved seeing so many different versions of the Folklore Shawl and the Daisy Wrap. I’ve enjoyed them so much that I’m running a new one this Autumn – and I’m so excited about it.

However, you simply can’t beat meeting up in real life with like minded crafters and I want to share with you some of the amazing results of the ‘real life’ Daisy Wrap crochet-along I ran  at Norfolk Yarn, in Norwich last year.

The course ran over 3 months and we met once a month. The first class is the one where you get to choose your colours (we used Debbie Bliss DK Rialto) and this is always such a pleasure for me. There’s nothing I enjoy better than playing with colours and helping people find their perfect ‘combo’. There really were some absolutely stunning colourways; so feast your eyes on these beauties. I wonder what colours you would have choosen.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these amazing shawls. The pattern will be available here soon and it is also available, now, in my Ravelry store.

If you’re feeling inspired to take on a new project you might like to join in with my next CAL which will start this September. I’ll be running an online and a Real Life crochet along and we’ll be making something gorgeous in Rowan Felted Tweed.

I hope you’ll be able to join us!

with love

Sue x

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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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Glampsite Crochet: Crafting a String of Happiness

Life in the twenty first century is fast , and as a consequence our body clocks often feel out of synch with the natural rhythm of life. Subconsciously we chant the ‘YOLO’ mantra and strive to live life to the full; achieving, succeeding and consuming. We stuff so much into our lives they threaten  to burst at the seams.

The arrival of the school holidays announces that it’s time to take a break, slow down, and sooth our hectic lives with a brief oasis of slow living under canvas, in a field.

As I plan this years summer camps I am reminded of a brief glamping holiday we had earlier in the year……………

Just as my life was straining at the seams I was invited to take part in a group camp at the beautiful ‘glampsite’ Camp Katur in North Yorkshire. Would I like to come along to provide a crafting workshop and stay for a couple of nights in a bell tent or a yurt?

Um…..let me think about that. Yes please!!!

Camping and crafting are two of my favourite things. Neither can be rushed and I enjoy their slow, leisurely pace. Both require an investment of time and once surrendered to they can offer a refreshing antidote to the speed and stresses of modern, urban life.

Grabbing my little tin of crochet hooks, a basket of brightly coloured wool, and my children, I was ready for two nights of glamping heaven on the Camp Hill Estate in North Yorkshire.

I live in Norfolk, and the 5 hour drive through the fens and up the A1 provided me with plenty of time to think about the camp, my first of the season, and what we could make during the workshop. As I was driving my thoughts turned to a conversation I had recently with someone who shares my passion for camping and crochet.

She told me about her ‘camping blanket’ and how it was created with a group of friends over several weeks of holidays in North Norfolk.

The blanket is made up of a number of crochet squares worked in any spare yarns that the friends brought with them to camp. The squares are functionally, rather than aesthetically, stitched together and as a consequence the colours are random and the patterns are impulsive, giving the blanket  a playful, and naive quality. Normal rules of design don’t apply to this kind of blanket  – anything goes, as long as it’s made with friends.

The charm of the blanket lies in its creation and its group identity. No one wants to take it home, it wouldn’t really fit in. It belongs on site, like the campfire, the tin cups and the miss-matched crockery.

Things look different when you’re camping; everything is altered. With no clocks to watch, trains to catch or deadlines to meet, time slows down and opportunities arise for alternative pursuits, things you might not normally have time for.

The lazy hours spent watching a kettle boil over a camp fire, or time spent simply relaxing and breathing in the fresh spring air allow a space for creative thoughts to develop.

Crochet lends itself particularly well to camping as it is the most perfectly portable of crafts. With just a small, simple hook as its only tool, a few balls of wool in gorgeous colours and some time on your hands you have the potential to create something beautiful at your finger tips.

I’d had time whilst driving to plan a little crochet project for the group and we had just a couple of hours to work on it so I knew it had to be something small and achievable.

On our first day, after a huge breakfast (thank you Dawn!) half a dozen of us gathered around a wooden picnic table ready to start work. I’d brought with me a selection of The Mercerie’s beautiful British aran wool which has its origins not far from where we were camping; the yarn is processed and spun in a small Yorkshire spinning mill. It seems only fair that when you are crafting in a beautiful natural environment, the materials you work with should echo this, and be as beautiful and natural as your surroundings.

We each reached for a hook, and a different coloured yarn, and prepared to start crafting.

camp Katur 1 copy

We were going to make a little garland of crochet bunting; something decorative, pretty, and more than a little bit kitsch. A colourful string of bunting has the innate ability to bring a sense of frivolity and humour to any gathering. It is guaranteed to add a little vintage charm to the occasion and helps to turn any activity into a celebration and an event.

We took a simple crochet granny square as our starting point, and adapted it slightly to make it triangular. Worked with just trebles and chain stitches it is an easy pattern for a beginner to learn, and is a great way to play with, and explore, colour.

Between us our skills were varied. One or two of us were fairly experienced, or knew the basics; another had learnt to crochet as a child but hadn’t picked up a hook since she was 9 years old. One was a complete beginner whose enthusiasm for a new skill made her a fast learner and, as I recall, one was an observer, story teller and self appointed tea maker. We were joined, very briefly, by just one of the men, who made a good start but was soon distracted by his camera and a pheasants mating ritual which appeared to be taking place in the middle of the field.

As we worked we gradually got to know each other a little bit more. Crafting has a history of bringing people together and providing a hub for conversation and social exchanges. It draws people together with a common goal and a shared interest. Secrets get spilled, gossip is circulated and lives overlap during the making process.

There’s something about ‘busy hands’ and making things that encourages mental relaxation and easy exchanges. As we crafted the conversations ebbed and flowed as our concentration shifted, slipped away briefly, and then refocused on the task in hand. All our senses were engaged; feeling the textures of the materials, listening to the story telling, smelling the smoke of the campfire and pausing for a break to take in the natural beauty of the environment.

As we worked on our individual pieces we occasionally stopped to drink tea and sample the delicious homemade cakes that appeared around mid morning. As we compared and studied our work we saw that each little triangle was as individual as the person that made it. None were the same.

They were different colours and sizes. Some were worked to perfection and other slightly misshapen, but just as charming in their hand- made imperfection. The quirky individuality of the crochet triangles reflected the general homespun appeal of Camp Katur. Their makeshift beauty was in keeping with the recycled gas bottles that double as wood burners in the bell tents and the furniture fashioned from wooden pallets found in the yurts and safari tents.

Crafting by a campfire is a unique experience unlike working inside a studio. A mischievous gust of wind can carry your work away when you’re not concentrating, or cause the smoke to change direction rendering you temporarily blinded until it clears again. A brief shower of rain can prompt a dash undercover and an opportunity to stop and discuss progress as you scan the sky for blue.

The pleasure of crafting outdoors with old and new friends is unlike any other shared experience. Unlike sport, there’s no competition, and unlike cooking, there’s no consumption at the end.  It is a purely creative activity.

The items made on camp have a strange and charming allure. They are both souvenirs and functional, or decorative, objects. They are the handmade memoires of a particular place and moment in time. Kitsch and quirky they bear traces of the people that made them – the individuals and the group. The crafters have all invested in it – collaborative making is a way of giving and sharing, and the final object is worth far more than the sum of its parts.

After our brief crafting session, the crochet collective gradually disbanded. The lunchtime soup was ready, one or two people had work commitments at home, and the fire was beginning to burn down, so I gathered the little collection together to finish later that day.

With any craft project the ‘finishing’ is vitally important – this is what makes, or breaks the final object, and this is particularly the case with a group project such as this. It needs one or two people to pull it all together at the end, to stitch it, edge it and finish it, or it will forever linger in its incomplete state waiting for someone to tie up all the loose ends.

Later that day I found a solitary moment to lay out all the triangles, 13 in total, and I spent some time sorting and arranging them. Then with a bright blue yarn I crocheted them all together with a chain stitch and worked a little picot edge around each one to unify them.

Camp Katur 2 copy

They were brought out for our final meal together and we admired them as we ate; a little row of brightly coloured flags strung up to celebrate our shared experience.

The string of rather wobbly and slightly flawed ‘Camp Katur Bunting’ is currently strung up in my kitchen. It could really do with a good press, and it still smells a little of campfire smoke, but it makes me smile. It’s a little string of happiness.

As I look at each triangle in turn they remind me of the people that made them,  and prompt a recollection of the stories we shared as we crafted together.

It takes me a while to catch up with the pace of ‘real life’ after I’ve been camping, but for a few days afterwards I feel as though my body clock is set to the right time and I am more in tune with my life.

I’ve keep the Camp Katur Bunting for future camping trips and every time I hang it up I’ll smile and remember the delight of crafting with new  friends in a misty field in Yorkshire.

Camp Katur 3

Images by Eliza Boo Photography

If you’d like to make your own string of crochet bunting we’ll include a little pattern for you in Issue 15 of The Mercerie Post. 

Mercerie Post No.15

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Slow Making: A Blanket Investment

What is the point in slow making?

Why bother knitting, sewing and crafting;  investing all those hours spent sitting and thinking, making simple repetitive movements and watching the slow materialisation of something, inch by inch.

Is that repetitive act a form of meditation as your mind and body slowly relax into a natural rhythm?  What happens inside the mind as it splits and multitasks? One part is counting, doing the maths, chanting an internal mantra to the beat of numeric repetition. The another part splits off and travels far away meandering around past experiences, re-running events, re-writing conversations, making plans and analysing regrets.

And what of the other part? The third party that is busy attempting to tune in to some other external medium? A  radio play, a documentary or a fourth episode of Breaking Bad running at 1am with subtitles (so the children don’t hear)  as binge watching TV dramas on Netflix becomes the alternative to chemicals and caffeine to keep you crocheting into the early hours.

What is this addiction that deprives me of sleep and consumes my days, and nights? What is this compulsion to make, this madness that drives me to crochet 600 almost identical squares of merino for a blanket that I really don’t need?

The Happy Blanket Blog 1

Why, when I am convinced that there is already enough unnecessary stuff on this planet am I compelled to contribute to it?

It is quite simply, I believe, the urge to make something beautiful, meaningful, functional and lasting.

This particular project is all about investment; but this is a personal investment and one that operates outside the mainstream economy.

The interest rate is variable. The returns are negligible and there is very little collateral risk.

My thoughts turned, on many occasions as I was crocheting, to the work of the (tragically late) American artist Mike Kelly. I have long been a fan of this Californian artist who for a brief moment in time turned his attentions to the hand-made object as he examined the uncanny significance of the home crafted afghan, the hand knitted bunny or the ubiquitous sock monkey.

Blanket Blog Mike Kelly

Images:  www.whitney.org  www.theguardian.com  www.artnet.com

Doesn’t every crafter who lovingly hand makes an object invest it with sentiment or project onto it a gushing appreciation by its recipient?

Kelly’s work questioned the reciprocity of such hand made gifts. ‘More Love Hours than can Ever be Repaid’ tackles the guilt attached to the receipt of such gifts. I can remember the strange confusion that accompanied the receipt of toys knitted by my own grandmother. Knowing that I had to make the right appreciative noises whilst fighting the urge to immediately put it out of view so it’s strange button eyes wouldn’t follow me around the room.

Now I am the adult that makes, and with children of my own I try very hard not to assume that their enjoyment of a hand made object is in anyway related to the pleasure I have derived from making it. So I rarely make for them. I would know instantly when their polite “thank you’s” were hiding disappointment – or horror.

I only design products that I’d genuinely like to own myself, and I adore this blanket. When I look at it I catch glimpses of brief fragments of my life over the few months I have spent working on it.

I see the trains, cars and buses that it has traveled on – and the living rooms, bedrooms, cafe’s, bars, parks and tents that it has visited.

I hear ghost stories, a Book at Bed Time, afternoon plays and Women’s Hour. I see Breaking Bad, The Killing, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Down By Law and countless other films and dramas.

 

I recall the conversations it has overheard; the arguments and bickering, the bad jokes, the teasing, the laughter and the attention seeking behaviour as I became a slave to my addiction. I’m reminded of Boo, Tricia, Jodie and Marina who all contributed to the project and I’m grateful for their help and company,

The Happy Blanket Blog 2

So perhaps the point of slow making is that it doesn’t take up your time, it gives you valuable time; time to talk, and listen and think.

This blanket took a long time but I believe it will give back far more than it’s taken – and it’s value will increase with time.

It has been made to last.

And I hope it will outlive me.

The Happy Crochet Blanket

This crochet blanket now available in our online shop is available to buy as a downloadable pattern, a self contained kit or as regular ‘buy as you need’ installments.

 

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