Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Lily Pond Crochet

Have any of you found yourselves dipping your toes, or perhaps I should say rather, your hooks, into the Lily Pond Blanket Crochet-Along designed by Jane Crowfoot, in conjunction with Stylecraft Yarns? 

There is something very appealing about the idea of replicating a lily pond with a hook and yarn and I am afraid I just couldn't resist the notion. It's an entrancing project to work on, as the Spring shifts towards early summer and my own little garden pond beckons. Have a look here for the free pattern instalments and details of Jane's exquisite design. Jane's blog has some extra, and very helpful, notes here, if you're interested.

The blanket is designed to be hooked in Stylecraft Life yarn which is an acrylic / wool mix yarn in a fabulous range of colours. You can buy special packs for the project from Deramores and you can pre-order Stylecraft Life packs from Janie Crow here. I think there have been some supply problems with the Stylecraft Life but Deramores do a Stylecraft Special version, pretty close to the original pack.

But here I came face to face with a snag, caused, not by supply problems, but by my own prejudices and / or fussiness. I know this is a heresy in the hooky-blogging sphere and I may get disapproval / criticism for "letting the side down" and saying that "the emperor has no clothes on", but I generally don't like making blankets from yarn whose predominant fibre is acrylic - I find a lot of it is quite scratchy and not very nice to work with. There are exceptions, of course, as with everything, but generally speaking.

This is, quite frankly, a big, old nuisance as predominantly acrylic yarn is far cheaper; it tends to come in nice, fat balls, not 50g tiddlers you have to keep replenishing, and the colour ranges in something like Stylecraft Special, are, without question, first class. I've tried using it, but I always reach the same conclusion a few rows into whatever project it is - I don't like the feel of the finished fabric; I am not all that keen on the look of the yarn itself; and I don't much like working with it, to the extent that the sensation and sound of the run of it, down my hook, can set my teeth on edge. And if I am going to invest a good many hours in a project, I don't want to work with something that puts my teeth on edge all the time, or to end up with something that I don't like touching or looking at in the light. However cheap the yarn may be, or however extensive the colour range.

I know there are very many people who love it and who get wonderful results from using it, but it just doesn't work for me, so in the first instance I thought the Lily Pond blanket would have to be shelved as a nice idea, but not practicable to realise. While wandering along Deramores' virtual shelves, however, and humming and hawing about whether I could put aside my aversion to acrylic scratchiness, I found they also offer a version of the Lily Pond CAL colours in Stylecraft Classique Cotton.  This is a pure cotton yarn, un-mercerised and soft; it is a dream to work with and while the colour range is not as comprehensive as its acrylic-based Stylecraft siblings, it's nonetheless good and not too far from the palette required for the blanket. Aha!

So far, so good, especially as I had quite a few of the required colours in my stash and didn't have to buy the whole pack. But it wasn't quite as straightforward to make the switch to a different yarn, from that recommended in the design, as I'd hoped. The length of yarn in each ball is considerably shorter, for a start, so you need more balls of the Classique Cotton than the number specified in the pattern for the Life. Probably two, for each one of the main colours (the greens and teal at least). And the colours in the two ranges although similar, are far from identical. The suggested substitution of the pale blue "Sky Blue" (Classique) for "Mint" (Life), for example, just didn't work for me. I tried replacing it with the deeper and greener, "Tropical Jade" (Classique Cotton) but this had the effect of unexpectedly bringing out the yellow component in the other greens ("Leaf" and "Soft Lime" in the Classique Cotton) and gave the whole panel a most off-putting, sickly, yellowish tinge. The kind of colour, reminiscent of stagnant water, full of unspeakable sludge and suppurating duck-weed, that has been sitting in the sun without any refreshment of rain, for some weeks in a dry summer, and from which a heavy and unpleasant odour assails you, if you approach too close. Nasty! Certainly not what I wanted to replicate in my throw which I wanted to evoke a cool, clear, limpid pool into which you might, on a hot day, feel tempted to dip your feet. A few frogs and fish in there perhaps, to tickle your toes, but no rotting pond-sludge or decomposing waterweed, thank you!

In the end I have substituted the dark blue "Nocturne" in the Classique Cotton for the pale bluey-green Life "Mint" which is quite a bold swap as the two colours are quite different. It works though, I think. I much prefer it to the "Sky Blue" or the "Tropical Jade" anyway.

The pattern is being released at fortnightly intervals. The third instalment was released today. It's a lovely way of doing it, as you never face too much at any one time and so it feels nice and manageable. Of course you don't have to complete each stage in the first fortnight of its release, but if you want to, it's been well judged in terms of what it asks, I think.

In the first instalment you make part of the pond - rippling stripes of greens and blues to represent the water. Among the first few rows there are flecks of colour - to represent the goldfish swimming among the depths and perhaps the waterlily roots. I love the idea of that. The bright flick of a tail, caught by the sunlight through the water, before it disappears into the cool, dark shadows. So evocative. But here I've made another swap. The pattern instructs you to use pink for the flecks of colour which is fine for representing reddish waterlily roots, or budding leaves perhaps, but I'd got stuck on the idea of the goldfish and have you ever seen a pink goldfish? No. Me neither, so the pink had to go and orange "Seville" has replaced it. I am conscious that this also is a bold swap (which may backfire on me) because potentially I may have disturbed the harmony and equilibrium of the overall blanket by introducing a rogue colour element. Orange features nowhere in the rest of the design and it may stand out like a sore thumb, if I am not careful, sparing though the flecks of orange are. I may have to add a judicious hint of orange to some of the flower centres, perhaps. We'll see. Too early to tell as yet. But in a strange way these slightly unexpected colour conundrums are making the creative journey of the blanket not stressful, but rather exciting. Unpredictable, but alive, if you see what I mean.

I was so taken with the water panels I thought I'd make a waterlily to sit among them just for the sake of it. This isn't part of the CAL blanket but is a most beautiful three-dimensional design by Esther Chandler of Make My Day Creative. You can find her free pattern here.

I've made this in Cascade Ultra Pima mercerised cotton in "Pink Sapphire" and "Buttercup". The pad I made up myself and is in Cascade Ultra Pima "Sprout". I took the water and the waterlily with its pad outside to photograph on a mirror under the big cherry tree currently in bloom in the garden and I love the effect of the deep-blue, Spring sky and the foamy, white blossom reflected alongside my hooky efforts.

The second instalment of the pattern was for the first batch of lily-bud squares - I haven't quite finished these. They need some surface stitching in deep pink to highlight the petals.

But I love the way the frame-work, that surrounds the flower in each square, has a slightly lacy, fragile quality to it, while the outer rows are quite solid for joining to the other panels.

Today's instalment is for another version of the lily-bud square with a slightly bigger, more open flower. I am looking forward to starting it very much.

Has anyone else embarked on this project and made any creative adjustments? Do share, if you have. I find that part of creativity, and reading accounts of others' experience of it, fascinating.

E x


  1. So beautiful Elizabeth ... i love your use of the mirror! Totally agree about the orange ... I can almost see the goldfish peeping out! xxx

  2. It's looking beautiful so far, don't tempt me
    Clare x

  3. The retired vicar near my Mum is making it, and posts regularly on facebook. It looks lovely, and it will be brilliant when it's all done. Hope yours goes well as well.

  4. The lily bud squares are so pretty! I'm glad you've come out so vociferously about acrylic yarn - I was a bit tentative about it but felt I just had to say something. My mum always said that if you are going to put so much time and effort into making something, you want to be happy with the finished product. Judy X

  5. you're right, I also do not like acrylic, useless blankets with plastic, because plastic does not heat, maybe it can be nice to see, but not hot.
    I do not call it acrylic, I call it simply plastic!
    Your flower is beautiful .. and also your granny, I am reminded that spring is finally good week !!

  6. You have a lovely project going that I could not imagine even thinking I could complete. It is way above my pay level, and so proud you are making this creation. Never even heard of the yarn to which you refer. It sounds like a great choice for the Lilly pads.

  7. Hi, Elizabeth. You project and photography are so pretty. I have the picture of the froggies on the blanket as the background on my laptop, and my students have enjoyed the picture when it is projected on my Promethian Board! (I'm sure this picture has added to their perception of my as an eccentric knitting lady.)

    I am currently working to finish out a very trying school year and have been neglecting blogging, designing, etc. Hope to be refreshed and a bit more in touch when school is out. Jonathan graduates on June 11 and my students on June 12.

  8. oooh! I love those squares and have gone and checked out the pattern but will not allow myself to begin another large project without finishing at least one of the 'works in progress'! I have to be fairly firm with myself as I seem to have sort of ADD starting things tendencies! (you know - oh I could do that....too!) I don't remember if I thanked you for the tip about chainless foundations or not but did look it up and used it just recently and loved it!! Thank you! I have to admit I use acrylic blends for certain projects but try to always use the naturals for the big things and gifts, quite frankly I would have to cut back on my making as I couldn't afford to do it all in the expensive stuff! I do have a friend who is learning spinning and is willing to teach me so maybe someday....I wonder if the cats would mind being shaved every so often? ....anyway thanks for the tip on the pattern, now I will be hurrying on my other afghan! (sigh)

  9. You are doing a fabulous job, the blanket is gorgeous. I understand your view on acrylic yarn and I feel the same way. I just don't like the way they feel of the yarn in my hands or on my body when I cover up in it. I like the price and the color choices but I tend to us a wool blend or even a cotton instead.
    Hugs and good luck on the next installment.

  10. So much prettier than a stagnant pond. I agree about the acrylic yarn and don't knit with it all. I knitted a black tank top (shows my age) when I was fifteen, but the tension was so tight that it was like wearing a door mat. Not that I've ever worn a door mat. Love the lily bud squares.
    Just popped by here to find instructions for the washing line basket - don't know why this post didn't appear in my feed. Right, off to make a basket now.

  11. This is my first visit and I'm glad that I'm in time for this beautiful blanket, looking forward to seeing more.

  12. Such a beautiful pattern and with that lovely lily and the pad!
    I see so many lovely colourful products made with Stylecraft DK acrylic. I do have to agree with you about the quality of finished articles. I use mine mostly for decorative items like wreaths, flowers, etc. I have made cushion covers, but have been disappointed in the finished feel and the way it bobbles with use... I'm still looking for the perfect yarn to make a blanket... but they are mostly so expensive and there isn't such a marvellous choice of colours. Do you have anything you can recommend. I like to use a 4mm or slightly larger hook.

  13. I didn't know about this at all. It looks really lovely. I'm making a big cotton blanket at the minute so couldn't start another!


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