Saturday, 26 January 2013

Sargasso Sea-Ripple

Some of you may remember me beginning my sea-ripple blanket back at the end of August / beginning of September last year, inspired by the constantly shifting colours of the sea that had struck me while by the coast, in Dorset, earlier in the summer. It all began swimmingly and I took, what I thought was a lot of care in sorting out the array of colours and arranging them in an order which I thought would work. It's a big blanket, (or will be), so, of course, it's yarn-hungry. I had chosen to use Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino primarily because, although it's expensive, it comes in the most wonderful range of nuanced colours and this is what I was after - the pale silver and white of a cresting wave or breaking ripples slipping onto sand, the eau de nil and translucent pale greens of shallow water, the deeper teals and turquoises of mid-depth lagoons and the whole range of blues, through to violets of the open sea in its different moods. Of course a lot of these colours I had to buy, but some I already had left over from other projects and in the cause of thriftiness, (or at least in opposition to downright profligacy!), I wanted to be as economical possible by using any colours already in my stash that seemed to fit the overall palette. With hindsight, this was, at least partially, a mistake.

To begin with, all went well and I fairly quickly hooked up the first run of stripes, two rows of each of the twenty seven colours and had even begun the first few stripes of the second run. My sea-ripple then became becalmed like the Sargasso Sea and not a breeze or breath of wind disturbed its hooky surface! I told myself that it was a "WIP" and that the reason it was not progressing was that I was "busy with other projects over the autumn". To some extent this was true as I was making a number of things as Christmas presents to give away and there are only so many hours in the day, free from work, in which Mrs T can hook away, but "being busy with other projects over the autumn" was not the real reason it had become becalmed.

I got it out again a couple of weeks ago, after months with nary a ripple disturbing its surface. Fortunately there were no eels in its sea-weedy folds, unlike the real Sargasso Sea, or mercifully any other livestock for that matter(!) but the depressing truth hit me that the real reason that it had become becalmed was that the Colours Were Not Working and on closer inspection there were specific colours that were playing out of tune with the rest. And yes, you've guessed it, the rogue colours were principally those ones that I had already had in my stash and thought I could eke out the new ones with. The worst offender was a soft heathery purple which I had had a slight reservation about originally but which I had suppressed. Unfortunately this colour had come early on in the run of stripes which meant that in order to remove it I would have to frog virtually the entire thing. Eeek!

But once I had seen the purple for what it was - a cuckoo in the nest - there was nothing for it. So frog it I did, much to the chagrin of Duck, my crochet mascot, who regards frogging as a dirty word and an even dirtier concept! He has a particular penchant for blankets and when he realised what I'd done to what he thought was a blanket almost a third of the way through, he was most upset, as you can see and did all he could to stop me frogging any more!

Here he is nursing what remained of the blanket at the end of the frogging, i.e. not a lot!

In the process of frogging my hours of work, I discovered that the purple was not the only "cuckoo" - the pale sandy colour, "String", also had to go and two greens that had, like the purple, come from my pre-existing stash had too much red in them and were jarring painfully with the blue tones of the rest of the colours.

Before frogging out the "cuckoos"
Although the frogging was rather drastic and, I have to say, filled me with dismay when I realised it was necessary, it's taught me quite a lot.

1 It is not always easy to predict in advance how colours will work together in a large scale piece like a blanket just from seeing the colours in the skein or ball, even when set out in the order in which they will appear.

2 Even colours that do seem to work together, play differently and sometimes unexpectedly in an overall run of repeated stripes.

3 If a project gets becalmed, it's probably because something fundamental has gone awry and it's worth fixing it rather than just ploughing on and not loving it. Having frogged out the "cuckoos", progress is now flowing again and much more easily and enjoyably. I like to have several projects on the go at any one time - small things as well as a bigger thing - but if the bigger project never gets picked up, something's gone wrong!

4 Thrift is a virtue which most of us are conscious of the need to cultivate but it needs to be deployed carefully. The waste of money, if I had simply never finished or enjoyed the sea-ripple, as it started out, would have been shocking. Better to bite on the bullet of the artistic requirements of a project and save up, if necessary, for what it needs, than spoil it, by cutting corners for parsimony's sake.

5 If your instinct tells you a colour is not quite right, it probably isn't!

6 Lucy of Attic 24, in her interview in Simply Crochet, a while back, which you can read about in her post here, made the point that for any crochet project - and I guess especially for a big one such as a blanket, - it matters that everything about it should make the heart sing - the colours, the yarn, the pattern. She is so right. If those things are not making the heart sing, the Sargasso eels may have the last word!

7 Frogging is not the end of the world. It cost a pang to undo so much but it hasn't taken nearly so long to make good again as I thought and not a scrap of yarn has been wasted. The yarn that failed to sing in the sea-ripple will sing elsewhere, I am sure, and everything else has simply been recrocheted back in place. So if your fingers are hovering over something that you think in your heart of hearts needs frogging, I'd say, "Plunge in and get the awful sense of unravelling over so that you can begin again!"

After recrocheting and omitting the "cuckoos"
And if your heart fails you, remember the literary queen of frogging in Homer's Odyssey, Penelope, who spent all her days while waiting for Odysseus to return home, weaving a beautiful cloth at her loom. Odysseus' long absence had raised the hopes of a raft of uncouth suitors who had taken over Odysseus' house and were hoping to pressurise Penelope into remarrying one of them, for surely after all this time Odysseus would never come back.

Penelope however, being a wise and canny lady, with no flies on her, in order to buy herself time, promised she would choose one of them when she'd finished her weaving. The suitors accepted this but what they did not realise was that every evening, by torchlight, Penelope frogged all the work she had done during the day thereby ensuring the weaving would never reach completion! Every evening for three years, unravelling the whole day's work - can you imagine?!

You might think the suitors would have noticed that the cloth never grew but luckily they were so befuddled with drinking the wine from Odysseus' cellar and making merry in his great hall that for three years she got away with it and they were only alerted to her ruse when one of her maids gave her away.

Fortunately for all concerned, at this point Odysseus does come back and the suitors' game is up. I like to think that in the peaceful aftermath of his return, as Odysseus sat by the olive-wood fire in his own hearth, drinking the dark wine from his Ithacan vines, out of his two-handled golden cup that Antinous, one of Penelope's suitors, had once rashly dared to appropriate, but never in the end drank from, he told the magical stories of his adventuring journey back from Troy and Penelope went back to her weaving. And instead of making a future shroud for her father-in-law, Laertes, which was the original purpose of her work, she perhaps turned it into a tapestry incorporating scenes and pictures of what she heard and she never unravelled a single stitch! And when Odysseus' storytelling finally came to a close, the tapestry was finished and was hung beside the great bed Odysseus had made himself, with a living olive tree acting as one of the bedposts, a glorious and triumphant riot of artistry and workmanship attesting that frogging never has the last word!

Anyway, now that progress is advancing happily on my blanket, I find I have more than made up for lost time. It is now again almost a third of the way through, although I may have to do more than my expected three runs of each set of stripes - taking out four colours from the original scheme in total means the blanket will be about 12"shorter than anticipated if I don't add some additional repeats.

But never mind! My Sargasso Sea-Ripple is no longer becalmed! And my frogging pales into insignificance beside Penelope's!

I am also happy because, inspired by Kat at Needles & Natter who has made lovely colourful handles for her crochet hooks - red and blue ones spotted with cheerful white polka dots and a fabulous stripy rainbow one too - and armed with her instructions as to how to go about it, I have turned my boring old grey aluminium crochet hook into a more sprightly, daisied version using some oddments of blue, white and yellow Fimo polymer clay. To be strictly truthful I think I should have made the handle slightly longer down the hook but the supply of available Fimo in the house was restricted to what H had left behind from a modelling fest a while back and I had to make do with what there was. It felt a bit strange using it for the first couple of rows but now it feels very comfortable in the hand and I just love the look of it!

The passage from Odyssey Book 19 in which Penelope tells the story of her cleverness at unravelling her weaving for three years to the stranger who will turn out to be her long absent husband. Homer in fact tells the story twice. The first time at the beginning of the Odyssey in Book 2 when the suitors indignantly recount the story of being hoodwinked by Penelope to Telemachus (Odysseus' son)  but I prefer the second account when Penelope tells the story herself!
Do you have any dramatic frogging experiences that give Penelope a run for her money? Or any becalmed projects? I'd love to hear any tips you have for dealing with them.

Happy Weekend Everyone!


  1. Very brave, but I have to agree, it was the right thing to is very difficult from the beginning to put colours together, as when you actually work with them, they can look very different when placed by other colours. I haven't frogged a lot, but it is very telling when you feel reluctant to pick something up, that it may need rethinking. I have certainly ploughed on with paintings in the past knowing full well they were out somehow....the process after going back and changing something is normally much quicker, maybe as it is a path previously taken....and you ave more enthusiasm for the reworked object.

  2. I couldn't see what was wrong until I saw the reworked version - sometimes a bit perfectionism is a good thing as this really is beautiful but such a lot of work!

  3. Dear E
    A difficult decision to make, but the right one - especially when you compare the before and after. If you are anything like me and had doggedly continued, the finished result would have jarred every time you looked at it and wouldn't have been used. It looks absolutely beautiful now. I am like that with my jewellery making and sometimes take a piece apart several times. If it isn't right, it isn't right, but when it is right, you know.
    I love your crochet hook handle too!
    Best wishes

  4. I have always loved the story of Penelope and anytime I have to undo something I think of it. I have been surprised often by the number of people who do not know of it, but perhaps that is because they have not read the Odyssey or if they did weren't much interested in what she was doing...weaving. Last night I 'frogged' a handspun silk yarn for the second time (second project). Twice I tried it as a shrug (to replace one I gave away). Now I think I'll try mitts. :) Hopefully I will not get to the third "rip it". Helen

  5. I have thought of adding the clay to my crochet hooks, but I bought one with a wooden shaft and did not like it at all, so I'm not sure I would like it. It may be how I hold the hook. Yes, I have to undo many projects. My motto with sewing is "The seam ripper is my friend." Your blanket is beautiful. And I must confess I've never thought of "frogging" in such literary, eloquent terms:)

  6. How sad to unravel that beautiful ripple blanket! But at the same time, I understand your reasons...If you feel something is off, it is better to follow your heart. Great lessons learned, and I will definitely take note.

  7. I agree if it isn't right your daisy handles, might have a go with mone one day...just not enough time in a day and only two hands lol
    Hugs xx

  8. oh well done on taking such a brave step! I know, it really knots the stomach up and gnashes ones teeth, but so worth the angst. You are right - if it doesn't feel right - it probably isn't!
    Thanks for the story too - I sadly lack education in this area and it is fascinating.
    Your clay hook is brilliant! Very professionally done - you must have a stall somewhere this year and peddle your wares!

  9. I think you've done the right thing - it looks beautiful now and the colours really work well together; before it had elements of a sludgy, estuarine sea - a bit more 'Thames Estury' than 'Carribean'. I think that frogging, although heart-breaking, is worth the effort - even if nobody else notices your mistake it will always be there in your subconscious every time you look at your piece of work. Lovely hook too - was it hard to get those flowers on? Judy.

  10. I am amazed at your artistic eye and color sense. I'm not sure I would have seen the nuances of color in the way you were able to, but I certainly understand the difficulty of completing a piece when something just doesn't sit right. I finished a very big capelet using expensive yarn and I plan to frog it sometime, when I have to the heart to do so. Also, I used to teach the Odyssey--your post brought back memories of my explaining Penelope's clever trick to ninth graders, as well as the living bed and how she uses it to test Odysseus to see if he is indeed who he says he is.

  11. Would love some details about making the crochet hook handles - I suffer increasingly from arthritis and find it difficult to hold the hook. Larger handles would help but how do you make them? Thanks

  12. I learned about frogging from my mother-in-law years ago as I watched her rip out the yoke of a sweater 4x until she got it just right. I always think of her when I have to rip back to correct a mistake. I really enjoyed your post and your blanket is beautiful.

  13. You are, of course, totally right. While I do like the heather and greens that you removed very much (they are just the sort of bright but muted shades I like) I can see that the blanket is so much more harmonious without them. Well done for trusting your instincts and going with it.

    I am planning a HUGE granny square blanket for my bed, big enough to cover it entirely, and so want to do it in Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino but I just can't afford it. But I am hearing good things about Stylecraft special DK and have ordered a colour swatch card.

    Gillian x

  14. A very brave decision Mrs T but ultimately the right one. My most recent one was a scarf for my daughter who had admired a brightly coloured striped one in a shop recently and I of course said I had plenty of wool in my cupboard and could knit her one . The pattern I choose and the one she envisaged didn't match! Now I am knitting her mittens - pattern and wool both agreed !

  15. P.s. I forgot to add I LOVE the crochet hook handles

  16. Your blanket is looking really lovely E and that hook is fab - I spied it in the first photo and was all 'ooohhh!'!!!!! I use a Clover Soft Touch which I love and imagine that it feels lovely to use. Very brave to bake it! Looking forward to the next installment of your blanket :) x

  17. How annoying, but the colours work so much better now so at least you know you did the right thing. As a teenager I must have undone yards of knitting for my grandmother. She could barely see but knitted all the time while listening to her talking book for the blind and she'd often say she thought she might have dropped a stitch so could I just unravel a "wee bit" and pick it up. Quite often that wee bit was a couple of inches on a jumper and as a teenager (who lived for the moment and couldn't bear to retrace my steps) it pained me enormously to undo all that work. Eventually I realised it didn't matter how long it took her to finish as it was the making and doing that was important to her and not the finishing. I still hate undoing work though and of course with knitting, I have to pick up all those darn stitches as well.
    Love the crochet hook handle - are you going to give us a tutorial?

  18. Thank you for all your kind comments - glad you agree that the frogging was worth it! Judy is right, the original colours were a bit too estuarine although I hadn't thought of it like that.

    The crochet hook handle was very easy to make. There are YouTube videos out there which give a more complicated method but I just softened the Fimo polymer clay - rather old in my case so took quite a bit of effort. New stuff should be easier. Then I just rolled it round the handle. Kat had made hers nice and chunky but I had to make mine thinner owing to lack of supplies! Just adjust thickness to suit your own comfort. The flowers were made from tiny scraps and I simply pressed them onto the outside, rolling them in slightly to weld them in place and then I baked the whole lot for 20 minutes or so at 130 C. Job done! Easy peasey! This one is actually a smidgeon loose-fitting but it doesn't seem to matter and it works like a breeze. But if you want to have a go, I'd just add, make sure the Fimo is as tightly pressed around the hook as it can be before baking to ensure a good fit. You can use either a metal hook or a wooden one as a base but not a plastic one obviously as even at the relatively low temperature you will melt it and fill the kitchen with nasty fumes!

    I made mine really because I loved the look not because I find an unadorned hook uncomfortable but actually I would say for crocheting over long periods the new handle is ergonomically better. Have a go! E x

  19. That was a very brave thing to do - but the end result is glorious! Lucy x

  20. I love your ripple colors. Mine are going along at a snail's pace.

  21. Oh your blanket is truly wonderful. I keep looking back at the photos and gorging on the delicious colours. They are my favourites, of course.

  22. Hello Elizabeth. I absolutely love your Sargasso Sea Ripple Blanket. I love all the beautiful colors of the Sea. I just learned a new term from you called Frogging. That gives me away as a Newbie at crochet, hey?? It will be a very lovely blanket reflecting the beautiful colors of the sea. I like the ripple pattern. Oh, BTW I am a big fan of B. Potter. I have many of her books and the movie about her. I fell in Love with the Lake District from this movie. Hugs Judy


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