Tuesday, 3 February 2015

In The Winter's Pale

"The red blood reigns in the winter's pale" I love this image from Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale" (IV.iii.4) - it's a good reminder at this point in the winter, that under the surface, things are already beginning again. Life is afoot and beginning to reach for the thin sun; the washed-out world of winter pale is beginning to get restless for colour; sap and blood flow deep beneath the surface of frozen ground, in hibernating burrows and in the creamy, close-packed flesh of bulbs and roots.

I've needed a temporary distraction from my blanket-making - something quick and pleasing and if with a nod to the mood of the season, so much the better. So with "the winter's pale" hovering in my head I thought I'd hook up a "winter's pale" bowl.

Just because. I find crocheted bowls very useful - they hold balls of yarn, reels of thread, fresh rolls from the oven, letters to answer, pens and scissors, muffins, ribbons and candles. Not all at the same time, or in the same bowl, of course! I make them in mercerised, washable, cotton yarn so they can be easily washed if the rolls are floury, say, or sticky, purple, blueberry juice oozes from a muffin and the bowl's next use up, is for yarn or fabric pieces.

The pattern I use, as a starting point, is Jacquie's lovely crochet bowl pattern which you can find here but there are lots of similar patterns for crochet bowls if you have a little search - basically you crochet a circle, increasing the number of stitches in each round up to the point where you have the diameter you want and then carry on crocheting, without increases, to form the sides.

A few things that are worth remembering, if you fancy a foray into crochet bowl or basket-making yourself and haven't tried it. If you want the bowl / basket to stand up nicely without reinforcing you need to create a dense fabric with a bit of stiffness to it. To do this, you need to use a smaller hook size than you normally would for the weight of yarn, or, use the same hook size, but use the yarn double, which is what I do as per Jacquie's recommendation in her tutorial. You can use any crochet stitches for your bowl but I find the neat tightness of single crochet (double crochet in UK terms) works best. It's quite hard on your hooking fingers, working the yarn so densely though, so you may want just to do a few rows at a time.

I got carried away and made my thumb rather uncomfortably sore. You just don't know when to stop, Mrs T!

Alternatively you could use a single thickness of yarn and your normal hook size and then line the finished bowl with some stiffish fabric or spray it with spray starch. But I prefer the double strand of yarn method. Partly because it makes the colour changes potentially so interesting.

I change colours alternately so that each pair of colours pairs up with another pair in an overlapping kind of way. I use each colour for four rows at a time in total. If you use colours that are quite close to one another, you get an interesting shaded kind of effect which I really like.

The bowl is rather taller than I intended because the colours got carried away with themselves and wouldn't stop. But the result is nicely roomy which is no bad thing. Holds plenty of balls of yarn, even if here, it's lost one into the snow!

I've made another bowl in slightly warmer colours -

- the colours of rhubarb emerging from the papery, brown wrappings of its crown into deep magenta and crimson, fading as the stem gets taller to pale pink, mint and cream and with a sudden blush of cerise before its final, deeper green, umbrella-shaped leaves.

This too seems appropriate to the season even though the rhubarb in my garden is nowhere near ready to pick but it's there, beginning to show its pink stems and reminding me again that "the red blood reigns in the winter's pale."

It's pale and interesting outside today with the first proper snow of winter.

I know snow and ice can be a nuisance but I do like a bit of proper snow. The quietness; the clean strangeness of the landscape;

the stillness of the air; the pure blueness of the light in the early morning;

the swift delineation it gives to everything.

A day to make soup.

This looks pale and not very interesting but it's rather good.

Clean trim and chop a couple of leeks and a bulb of fennel and cook them in a spoonful of olive oil until softened. Add 1 cup of green split peas*; season with 2 tsps salt, some black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg; pour in about 2 pints of water and cook in a pressure cooker for 9 minutes until everything is really soft; then whizz to a purée in a blender with a dash of lemon juice and a bunch of fresh dill. Don't be tempted to omit the lemon juice - it needs it. Cheap as chips and more delicious than somehow it really ought to be, when made from such homely and humble ingredients!

*You can of course use yellow split peas, if they're easier to obtain. I like the green ones purely for the slightly glaucous, green colour they give the soup.

Wishing you a day of happy, pale inspiration!

E x


  1. The colors in your bowls look lovely! I really like the way of the color changes! Might add a crochet bowl to my hundreds of WIPs! ;)
    Greetings from Austria

  2. Great minds think alike Elizabeth....I too have been making crochet bowls!!! Needed a couple for my bathroom bits and bobs and they're so useful! Your snow pics are haunting .... would make lovely Christmas cards! xxx

  3. That soup looks delicious and I love the look of your crochet bowls - another one for the ever-increasing 'to do' list! x

  4. J'adore les culeurs choisies et enchainées des paniers ! tu me donnes des idées, merci !!! J'aime aussi le calme apaisant des paysages enneigés et je dois dire qu'ils me manquent .... pas de neige dans la région où je vis !! Bonne journée et bon crochet ! Amicalement, G.

  5. Love the bowls, the colours are a real delight in both. Soup look delicious perfect for this time of year.

  6. I love your crocheted bowls - beautiful colours and very useful. I sometimes use half trebles instead of double crochet when making a bowl. Still gives a dense fabric but slightly quicker.

  7. After your last crochet bowl post I got as far as finding the yarn and a crochet hook but after a fruitless half hour of trying to work out what went where, I gave up. I think I shall just admire yours. I love your snowy pictures, particularly the one across the rooftops. No snow here but it's cold and just the weather for soup.

  8. Dear Mrs T.,

    I love the crocheted bowls and there is some yarn in my very small stash of yarn that would be suitable! I have been crocheting a few snow flakes out of "100 Snowflakes to Chrochet" by Caitlin Saino as here in Alberta its been very snowy and pretty darn cold! My rhubarb hopefully is still fast asleep, keeping its head tucked under the ground where it won't be frozen! Its such a hardy plant and I'm thankful for that as our gardening seasons are so short and unpredictable. Thanks for the idea of a useful crochet project. Every room in the house can do with a basket or four! Bestest,

    Mary Lynne

  9. Love the crochet bowls. The changing yarn colours is very effective; I did a bag that way last year and it was fun... hard, but fun...

  10. Your bowls/baskets are beautiful!!! I love the different colours, so pretty. xx

  11. Thanks to your inspiration, I have ordered eight balls of YOUR colors from KnitPicks and they should arrive tomorrow. And since imitation is flattery, you should have your ears burning and be quite show-offy since now I can use your method of changing colors in making the bowls. I have not one bowl, so I shall be whipping up many, thanks to your nudge. Beautiful pictures, as always.

  12. What lovely bowls here: the soup bowl, the gorgeous crochet bowls! And the photos of snow...wow! Makes me want snow here, which doesn't look like it's going to happen this year.

  13. I have not tried bowl/baskets yet but may have to now. I am very grateful for your suggestion about the single/double etc foundation, I found several you tube videos and am practicing so maybe I will get it in my head and not have to look it up every time! :) The soup looks warm and inviting and I like your soup bowls as well as your crochet bowls! Beautiful snow photos and you quoted Shakespeare! fun!

  14. Dear Elizabeth, I really envy you having so much snow! We do not have one flake. But today the sun is shining, there is no rain, so I won't complain. your crochet bowls look really beautiful, I love the combination of colours a lot. I will make one as soon as I find the time. Maybe I should write a list of all the things I would like to do, there are just so many and time is short. Your soup looks delicious, I am also into soup at the moment, the children already moan. My favourite is pumpkin soup with fresh curcuma and ginger, hot and spicy, the best combination for cold weather. Have a beautiful week, Viola.

  15. Bonjour Elizabeth,
    Tes paniers crochetés sont magnifiques, et j'aime particulièrement celui qui est dans les tons de bleu...Tu me donnes envie d'essayer !
    Nous aussi, nous avons de la neige !...Il est tombé 10cm mardi ...cela complique un peu la vie mais c'est tellement beau !
    Love from
    (PS. Je vais poster une lettre pour toi aujourd'hui)

  16. I love your bowls/baskets they are beautiful. I love the choice of yarns you are using and how they blend together.

  17. Your bowls are beautiful and cheerful! I love your snow photos. I too love the quiet of snow, and the feeling of temporary isolation from the world, just being home with soup, a fire and maybe a jigsaw puzzle.

  18. Dear Elizabeth, the calmness that a snowy landscape can instill to the soul is incomparable. Unfortunately, I'm not so calm these days... maybe that's why we have just had sort of big flood here in Rimini!...Anyway, your gorgeous images both of the landscape and of your blanket and baskets make me wish to begin one myself!



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