Monday, 26 May 2014

May Days

This month has been very busy. Frenetically busy with work; busy with being a parental taxi-service and revision-support-unit at the start of H's GCSE exams. Busy most days to the point of being seriously stressful but I remind myself that "busy" is also "absorbing" and I realise (a tad reluctantly, truth to tell) that I am even more like the busy Mrs Tittlemouse of Beatrix Potter's story, than I thought I was. Sometimes I toy with the idea of chucking my job in and carving out a lot more time for myself. I cherish the notion that my days would become blissfully unhurried and more creative but I've come to feel that, actually, this is an illusion, as far as I am concerned. I like to be purposeful. If I am totally honest, I have to admit that I need the grit and grind of work, in some strange way, to fuel and be a foil to the rest of my life even if that grit and grind takes over sometimes and there are days when I wish it a thousand miles away. Strange how these things go. Everyone is different, of course, and what I have come to feel applies to me, may not apply to you. I am not remotely suggesting it should. Just coming to terms, I suppose, with the nature of my own Mrs Tittlemouse soul!

Anyway, among all the busyness, I have still been out in the countryside, especially in the early mornings and evenings, among all the green-and-white May flowers.

No wonder the World War II song, sung by the soldier to his sweetheart, has the line, "I'll be with you in apple blossom time." It's the time to be in England. Better than almost any other month. The countryside is ethereally beautiful and it's felt like the start of summer.

Of course it can also be freezing cold in May and even to the point of snow, but not this year. This year, the lanes and paths have been full of foamy, white flowers, swaying in warm breezes. Frothy white Queen Anne's Lace everywhere (I don't like the name "Cow Parsley"); beautiful and different in every light; although the smell can be off-putting after a time, if you pick it to put on your windowsill;

but also the heavily-scented, hawthorn blossom, (the eponymous May tree that superstitious souls know never to bring inside the house, lest it presage a death); the flounced, white, horse-chestnut candles tinged with pink-and-yellow wicks, in their pale flames;  starry, greeny-white, wild garlic

and the more sedate, creamy bells of white comfrey and white dead-nettle. A magical Spring world of green and pale in various shades and combinations.

Nothing is tired or jaded but fresh and hopeful. Inspiring and energising. I'll have a large helping of that, thank you very much. Inside as well as out. So where odd moments have offered themselves over the last few weeks, I've seized them and run up a little string of Queen Anne's Lace bunting in shades of pale sap-green, white and lemon.

The pattern for the lacy flowers is in Issue Seven of Simply Crochet from last summer but any lacy flower pattern would work similarly well if you feel a sudden urge for something similar but don't have a copy of the magazine.

I've hung it between two curtain rails over a little mirrored shelf in my bedroom with a single spray of scented white lilac from the bush in the garden.

The lilac is nearly over now but it has been so beautiful this year. Inside and out. Soul-soothing and tranquil. Good at the end of my busy and / or stressed days.

In other news,

1I have finally succumbed to getting a new sewing machine. My elderly Elna was just becoming too unreliable and was beginning to cut up rough over even the simplest tasks. My new one is a Bernina 350 known by me as "Hunca Munca". She's lovely and I can't believe how much easier she is to sew with.

2 Along with my more restrained green-and-white moments depicted here, there is another rainbow project on my hook. More on that shortly. Restrained, it is not!

3 I have bought a pair of pink flip flops. They are the pinkest shoes I have ever owned.

Wishing you all a happy Monday. It's a Bank Holiday here in the UK so, of course, it's raining, but for once, Mrs T does not have much that is purposeful on her plate and is proposing to spend it in a quiet uninterrupted corner with a hook and some yarn. She may even fall asleep, like her namesake does in Beatrix Potter's"The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse", when she finally stops bustling about!

E x

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

At The Foot Of The Rainbow....

... is a crock of yarn with the colours left over from an afternoon's sky-painting just waiting to be used.

Just in case you didn't know! 

I love rainbow colours; either the authentic seven, in the right order of the spectrum, or stretched to encompass more shades and not in the right order at all, but with the same sweep and variety of colour that sings through rain-clouds and darkness, (literal or metaphorical).

Trouble is I've found that rainbow colours, as one gets older, somehow seem less easy to integrate into clothing, or home decoration without being a bit over the top, in my hands anyway. But every so often a little rainbow opportunity presents itself and when it does, it's lovely to go for it.

Wandering along the highways and byways of the Internet, (as you do when you have a tricky piece of work to write and feel that a change of screen-scene might help productivity!), I found a fabulous rainbow crocheted nightdress-case. Even better, I found a tutorial for how to make it. Have a look at Oran's post about it here on her blog, Misty Mountain.  All thoughts of my tricky piece of work were immediately temporarily shelved and the pages of the tutorial were printing  and a little rainbow-coloured-stash-gathering seemed suddenly and pressingly urgent before you could finish saying "crock of gold".

The original is made up in thinner yarn than I usually use, in the most fabulous colours. As luck would have it, a bit of delving around in my various bags and boxes, turned up quite a few colours in the right weight and a teensy weensy purchase was made to complete a full spectrum - sixteen colours in total. Just looking at the yarn was a treat and hooking every single row was a delight.

Rainbow projects have a feel-good factor in their production that simpler, subtler colour schemes can't compete with, I find.

I followed the pattern for the front of the case pretty much as per Oran's instructions although I used a slightly different range of colours and I distributed them a bit differently. But the lovely thing with this pattern is that it invites you to do just that and of course you can adjust the sizing etc too if you want. The original size is perfect for a nightdress case but, as Oran's tutorial shows, you can easily adapt it to make a Kindle or iPad cover. The flap in Oran's original, is part of a complete circle that sits over the back and front of the case but I just made a semi-circle which I hooked into the top edge of the back panel.

A little bit tricky to work out how to anchor each row in the right place but I got there in the end (after a bit of trial and error!).

I've lined the case with some leftover, pale, blue lining fabric and, instead of flowers, I added a decorative button, which also functions to secure the flap neatly in place on the front.

I'm pleased with this button. I wanted something a little bit unusual and decorative and none of the buttons in my button boxes and jars seemed quite right. So I made my own.

There's a great tutorial for this in Mollie Makes, Issue 23.

You use any old button as the base and just crochet a cover over the top. You do need to use a really thin hook and very fine yarn, though, or the effect is a bit clumsy and clunky. And a convex button makes a better base than a flat or concave one. I used a 2mm hook and some green No 3 DMC Crochet Thread.

Once covered, you can add a little embroidery. I added a few French knots in different colours, and then a few more!

I love it - it's unusual, decorative and functional. Unique to boot, as well as giving a new lease of life to a has-been, old button that has seen better days.

I think the button, in fact, came off a 1960s raincoat belonging to my grandmother. Don't know what that black mark is but it certainly renders the button unusable in the normal way. But with a nice green crochet cover, it's a different story!

I had incorporated a button-hole into the final round of my semi-circle to allow for a button closure, although at the time I thought I'd just use a large, ordinary button. Fortunately crochet is forgivingly stretchy, as my homemade button is rather bulkier than the one I had anticipated using. But the corresponding button-hole in the (non-stretchy) lining fabric had to be much bigger - a good inch and three quarters / 4.5 cm long to accommodate the extra depth. Just a point to bear in mind, if you feel a little button-covering-crochet coming on!

Although the rainbow range of colours is a bit different from those in my first-ever crochet blanket, somehow it works OK with it.

And, perched on my pillow, it lifts my spirits every bedtime.

I recommend this as a therapeutic project for the soul!

Had a bad day? Cat been sick? Teenage angst and pre-exam tension filling the air and whatever you do or say is "wrong" because you're a parent and parents are always wrong? Work gone pear-shaped and stressing you up to the nines, even though you should have put it down several hours ago? Feeling too tired even to bother getting into bed and you might just fall asleep on your feet? Any, or all, of the above will seem less bad with this on your pillow! Trust me! I've tried it!

So thank you so much Oran for your beautifully clear tutorial and for sharing your wonderful inspiration!

Wishing you all crocks of yarn at the foot of your own particular rainbows and happy hooking!

E x

PS Apologies for including so many pics - I got a bit carried away, I am afraid, but I love the brightness and cheerfulness of them so much that I am leaving them in. Scroll through them quickly, if they're too much!