Thursday 27 June 2013

Granny Square Book Cover & Pencil Scribblings

I am just coming to the end of the notebook I carry around with my crochet and sewing projects and will shortly need to start a new one. This notebook has become disproportionately valuable to me and I would hate to lose it - it contains all my pencilled notes on the things I've made over the last few years - variations on patterns I've followed, but have adapted or tweaked (because I seem to be incapable of just following a pattern, exactly as it is given); lists of fabrics, yarn names and colours; scribbled references to blogs or books; hook sizes used to make particular things - almost the most useful info in the entire book, especially if I've put a project aside for a while and then returned to it and cannot remember what on earth size hook I originally used; templates and pattern pieces, cut from newspaper or the backs of Earl Grey tea packets, drift occasionally to the floor from its pages, as well as oddments of yarn, receipts and snippets of fabric; there are written notes, and little drawings, sketches and diagrams that all chart my hooky and sewing progress and the book's cover is now endearingly dog-eared. It's become a kind of friend who marks my creative life alongside me. Looking back through it, I can instantly recapture the mood associated with particular projects and times, even though it is by no means a diary and it only charts one very particular aspect of my life. I shall be sad to come to the final page but hopefully, in time, Volume 2 will be as precious to me as Volume 1.

I say "pencilled notes" because I only write, or draw, in pencil, in this book. Pencil feels creatively provisional to me - it is reassuringly easy to erase and rewrite - but in a way it's strange to have information that I really want to preserve, mapped in such an ephemeral medium. When I was at university, my tutor was very sniffy about writing in pencil and claimed it reflected a "lack of willingness to commit to a given thesis and a lack of confidence in what one was expressing". I didn't agree then (and I don't agree now) that that is always a bad thing.

There's a softness about pencil notes that makes the transition from thought in the mind, to arrival on paper, easy and because writing in ink always feels more definite, it can restrict experimental expression, whether written or drawn. Pencil invites the experimental -  it says, "Don't be afraid to try something, even if you decide it doesn't work and want to redo it or rework it." It says, "Why not push the limits, because you can always change your mind?" Ink is more demanding and less open to possibility and playing with options. It says, "Are you sure about this? Because if not, think again!" It says, "Stick to what is tried and tested rather than potentially make the mistake of playing around with what you don't know will work." Perhaps my tutor was right to be pejorative about a pencilled essay discussing Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics" but for notes exploring creative options and marking creative progress, the open possibilities of graphite, I find much more congenial and comfortable than the unequivocal definition of ink.

Anyway I digress. Notebook Volume 2 is waiting in the wings and actually has quite a pretty pink cover of its own already, but I'd seen Sue Pinner's pattern for a notebook cover in "Granny Squares" and it seemed like a nice small-scale project that would have the benefit of making the notebook distinctively difficult to lose or, (God forbid!), leave behind somewhere, and the nature of its construction would supply the book with two convenient pockets for all the things that currently have a tendency to drop out of the old one.

So here it is. Complete with the first pickings from my slightly-dilatory-but-getting-there, sweet peas whose colours happen to harmonise rather nicely with the granny square centres.

I experimented with the colours of the tiny grannies a bit and wondered about making them all different but in the end I restricted the number of centre colours to six and made all the outer rounds in this chartreuse green. The squares are worked on a 3.75mm hook and I've used Cascade Ultra Pima cotton yarn from my stash. I usually use a 4mm hook with the Cascade Ultra Pima but this time I went down a size to make sure the squares came out nice and dense.

I know it's bright, but I love the way this kind of lime green acts unexpectedly, almost as a neutral colour, setting off all the others, while still blowing its own bright trumpet. I used the same green to crochet all the squares together once I had them arranged as I wanted them. I just can't get on with joining-as-you-go, somehow - quite apart from getting the components lined up as I want them, which I can't always decide on happily in advance, my joining-as-you-go efforts always look lumpy rather than smooth and even. I know many of you hooky people swear by it as a method and it saves a lot of time, so I wonder if I am simply doing it wrong. Perhaps I must try again.

The button is a printed wooden one

- couldn't resist them when I saw them here.

The cover is held in place by two panels of straightforward (but deliciously stripy!) single crochet, crocheted onto the border of the outer cover, to make two "sleeves" at either end. Perfect for holding templates, small pattern pieces, yarn labels or other vital scraps as well as their primary function of holding the cover on the book.

And the loop for the button neatly holds a nice fat twiggy pencil in place, ready for use. I like these pencils. They are made from Indian Neem twigs. Not very practical to sharpen as they are too fat to fit any normal pencil-sharpener and when blunt, require the judicious application of a very sharp craft knife, but they remain useable for a surprisingly long time and their quirky, slightly irregular shape, sits in harmony with the invitation to irregular possibility, that writing or drawing in pencil offers.

In his rather grim poem, "Dolor", Theodore Roethke writes "I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils, neat in their boxes" and you may agree with Roethke, but I can't see it that way. As a school-girl of around eight or nine, one of my favourite rainy break-time activities was to wend my way along the long corridor that led to "Stationery" and visit dear, kind Mrs Pepper in her treasure-store. The little room was piled high with new exercise books, pink blotting paper, pairs of compasses (with inch-long stiletto points, that would now be deemed far too dangerous to allow in the classroom, but which we blithely wielded without the slightest anxiety, or indeed, injury) and boxes of beautiful, shiny new pencils, each tipped with a soft, new rubber, on one end. On production of a completed exercise book, or a note initialled by the teacher, you could collect new supplies, gratis, but you could also purchase items for yourself, for next to nothing.

"Stationery" smelt of paper and wood-shavings, coffee and filing boxes. It was a little hidden world in which no mistakes ever marred the white, squared pages of the red mathematics books (unlike mine, back in my desk, which was a sorry mess of painfully reworked sums, rubbings out and red ink crosses); creamy sheets of graph-paper waited expectantly for the perfect points of new "H" or even "2H" pencils to draw flamboyant, rainbow arcs against their checkered skies; ordinary "HB" pencils "neat in their boxes", held, not "inexorable sadness", but the promise of stories and poems waiting to be written and drawings that, you never knew, might give Picasso a run for his money; all was possible somehow and when the bell rudely ended my exploration of Mrs Pepper's wares, I never failed to return to the afternoon's lessons that awaited, without feeling re-energised and somehow encouraged to renew my efforts at intractable maths problems or whatever was on the timetable. I still love stationery shops and can happily wile away the odd half hour in them although they don't have the same evocative smell as the secret, paper-and-pencil-filled nooks of Mrs Pepper's hideaway, all those years ago.

Happy Hooking and Scribbling!

E x

Thursday 20 June 2013

La Vie En Rose

I always associate June with the colour pink. I instinctively notice it around me or deliberately gravitate to it at this time of year.

Pink wild roses in the hedgerows...

Deep pink, English strawberries, sold, within hours of picking, from the farm shop, to be eaten just as they are...

or turned into the first batch of this season's strawberry jam to be sampled while still warm ...

or in pale pink, homemade strawberry ice cream eaten, (of course!), in a bright pink bowl with a pink spoon...

Tiny pink granny squares for a little hooky experiment ...

A frivolous, pink, wrap-around skirt to be worn (with pink sandals, naturally!) when the day's work is over...

This skirt is evidence of my lack of self-control as I am supposed to be thinning my fabric stash not adding to it! But I just couldn't resist it's happy holiday mood when I saw the print in my local fabric shop a few weeks ago. It cost under £10 for a metre and a half, which was all I needed to turn into a little wrap-around, holiday-mood number, modelled on my old school games-skirt. This is no longer in the land of the living but I remember it very clearly and with the help of good old Sew What Skirts! I drew out a very simple pattern for a passing imitation of same. It's a bit longer than my old games skirt - on the knee rather than above it - but it has the same swingy freedom of movement about it. Very quick, very easy, very cheap - I like!

It's perfect for popping out in the evening sunshine for a walk along the hay meadows and the wild-rose-filled hedges, before cooking supper accompanied by a glass of chilled, Provençal wine - rosé of course! Feels happy and holiday-ish.

The rose in the pic is a Louise Odier from the garden - she is finally flowering and smells divine!
I am not on holiday; in fact, for work-related reasons, it is rather difficult for me to take proper holiday-time, but where opportunity presents itself, I shall seize those moments that epitomise some of that summery, care-free, holiday spirit and insert them into everyday existence as best I can and count myself "quids in".

This may be looking at life through rose-tinted lenses; in fact take out the "may be", it is looking at life through rose-tinted lenses. Quite deliberately so.

I've recently noticed a number of references in blogland to the fact that people sometimes feel uncomfortable when blogs apparently portray a too rosy version of existence, that seems to have the drab or darker bits of life edited out - the unreality can sometimes jar rather discordantly. Life is not all rosy. No life is perfect; no life-style is perfect; mine is certainly not and I hope, by focusing on good things, I haven't made anyone think it is; if I have, then I must apologise, because that's wrong, and I do; but one of the wonderful things about both writing in this space here and reading the blogs of other like-minded souls, is an opportunity to be mindful of what is rosy and to celebrate it, and that, I do try to do, without apology...

... for all sorts of reasons - because life is for living and I don't know what's around the corner; because I cope better and more patiently with the negative stuff, when it hits the fan, when it's balanced with feeling there's still plenty to appreciate; because viewing life as a glass half-empty all the time can become a bad habit, that's difficult to shift, and I want to set H an example of positive thinking not whingeing; because at the end of the day I believe we are responsible for choosing the colour of our own destiny and often, we find ourselves in macro-contexts that cannot always be transformed just how we would like them to be, but we can transform, how we approach them, on a micro-level; because I think happiness is not a goal that lies beyond us, that we must spend our lives striving after and waiting for, but is often within us and around us, and choosing deliberately to focus on what is rosy, in however small a way, gives that oxygen and helps it to grow, rather than the opposite.

So you won't find me writing stuff here through storm-coloured lenses (I hope) but I don't want anyone to feel that because I write about positive things, the negative or the dull don't happen in my neck of the woods - they do, frequently! And like everyone else, I have down days and weeks when everything just seems a bit (or a lot) too much. But I only have one life to live and I am getting to an age when I feel there is not infinite time to waste, so if there's a choice between dwelling on the rosy positives or the grey negatives, I am going for the rosy option. It's pink, for a start, and, as you may have gathered, I love pink!

Vive la Vie en Rose!

E x

Saturday 15 June 2013

Apron Love and Hooky Tulips

I don't know whether anyone else has been captivated by the front cover of June's "Country Living" but I am afraid I took one look and fell in love with the idea of sitting in a flowery, sunny garden in one of those lovely red aprons. I don't buy magazines very much any more but this issue was a must-have.

There's something about seeing images of aprons being modelled that I find both beguiling and soothing. I think it's because the subliminal message I absorb is that:
a) these are not cat-walk numbers but real garments that actually have an everyday place in my own lifestyle (I am usually to be found in an apron). Dwelling on the possibility of acquiring a new one is not therefore simply feeding impossible or ridiculous sartorial dreams but sensibly practical;
b) modelled in a bower of flowers, with the only mess around being artistic and somehow therefore desirable, I feel my own, considerably less artistic, mess is soothed away or at least put into soft focus by extension;
c) although my mantra of "a girl can never have too many bags or too many shoes" is always ready to be rolled out, occasional guilt creeps in at the idea of spending significant money on same, whereas an apron by definition can't be expensive and one does indeed need plenty in the drawer, if doing a lot of cooking, gardening, cleaning and other hands-on stuff, which I do.

I say, "an apron by definition can't be expensive", but this illusion was rudely shattered by discovering that the said red apron on the front cover of Country Living costs the princely sum of £48; (from Selfridges, if you're interested and have had a windfall recently). How disappointing. The article, in which the red apron also figures, inside the magazine,

featured, to be fair, a number of other, less expensive, aprons including some denim ones from Muji and John Lewis.

A denim apron... hmm... now there's a thought. Denim being robust and considerably improved by regular washing, I could see might have mileage as an apron. But dark blue denim on its own, while possessed of a certain minimalist chic, (especially paired with those spotty cotton kerchiefs, floaty voile scarves and vintage buckets of flowers in the photographs), still wasn't quite cutting it, as set against the sheer ebullience of that bright and soul-lifting, red linen number, I wanted so badly. I could forgo the pristine Hunter wellingtons (I don't think mine were ever that clean, even when they were brand new) and the enchanting, wide-brimmed sunhat and the model's beautiful, long, straight hair and the vintage gardening books; I could accept that the oases in my days are not always like the sunny idyll of the magazine photo-shoot, depicted among baskets of freshly cut flowers; but a bit like King John ("who was not a good man"), longing for a "big, red india-rubber ball" in A A Milne's poem, "King John's Christmas", I, (not a good man either, clearly!), did long for a bright, red linen-fabric apron!

But there was nothing doing. I simply could not bring myself to spend nearly £50 on an apron. It hovered however, tantalisingly in my head and peeped round the corners of my mind when it thought I wasn't looking. And in the way that sometimes happens, necessity generated happy invention. Delving into my fabric boxes there was (of course) no suitable red linen to run one up myself, but there were the off-cuts from making my denim skirts last year. "You really ought to throw these out!" I told myself, "you can't use denim off-cuts for much. Or could I? Yes, indeedy!" The red apron peeped one last time at me and gave way to a denim one, pieced together from nothing. But not just a plain denim apron, a denim apron blooming with hooky tulips, from a pattern I'd discovered here on Etsy by Greta Tulner of AterG Crochet. It's not free but the download only cost £2.41 so it was hardly bank-breaking and for such a gorgeous and versatile pattern, I thought, well worth it.

I've recently come really to love projects that combine fabric and crochet. Initially I thought the two media might not work terribly well together, but every time I've experimented, it's worked absolutely dreamily. And I am on the look-out now for more of such. (I've found a couple too, of which more in due course!)

Anyway back to my tulips and their background. The denim off-cuts were pretty motley in shape and size and so the apron really did have to be pieced together; "hodged" as my mother would say, meaning "made to work when really there isn't enough of whatever it is to make it work"! Because so many seams were needed to make up the apron shape, I was a bit concerned about them fraying badly in the wash, so I sewed the pieces together with French seams, with all the raw edges tucked away and my little old sewing machine, which I've been thinking about needing to replace, coped manfully with all the layers of thick fabric she had to sew through. She's earned herself a reprieve, I think, after that!

The crochet tulips are a joy to make - lots of happy colour changes and once I'd got the hang of the pattern, nice and easy to hook up in quantity.

I found I couldn't get on with making them, as per the pattern instructions, on a 2.5 mm hook and with a correspondingly fine yarn - just too fiddly for impatient Mrs T to manage. But having switched to a DK weight cotton yarn and a 4mm hook, we were away! The bigger size actually suited my apron-embellishment purpose better, too. I simplified the pattern a little and omitted the surface crochet details as I felt that the bright, beautifully gaudy blooms were just right as they were, without further additions but the pattern adds some extra outlining here and there.

To apply them to the apron, I pinned them in place and then tacked each one down, sewing by hand just slightly inside where they were going to be sewn properly, before using the sewing machine and a longer stitch than usual, to sew around the perimeter of each flower. It's worked perfectly, far better than I'd hoped or expected and the flowers look as though they've just grown out of the denim.

The patchworky construction seams are largely disguised and I have an apron that can give the beautiful red one, that I originally longed for, a run for its money any day, without spending a single penny. Actually that's not quite true, I did have to buy one or two additional colours of thread to match the perimeters of the flowers for sewing them in place so that the stitches would be invisible. Making do with an almost-but-not-quite-matching thread would have spoiled the ship for a ha'pp'orth of tar. Even the ribbon to make the neck loop and ties was in my sewing box, purchased ages ago for something and never in the end used.

Thrifty makes like this are just so satisfying. Something pleasing and useful for next to nothing and the huge delight in making it, to boot. Anyone feeling down at the moment? I detect quite a number of us are feeling a bit low here in the UK - I suspect the brief appearance of the sun quickly replaced by grey, cold and damp days that would fit better in early Spring than midsummer may have something to do with it. "Country Living" may have a headline saying "Here Comes Summer!" but that would appear to be a triumph of hope over experience at the moment. Anyway, if you feel you could do with a lift, I recommend a project like this for an instant feel-good and soul-lifting boost! Much more effective than retail therapy, I find!

If you want to give it a go, it's easy-peasy. Draw and cut out a simple apron shape using an existing one as a template. Don't forget to add on a bit extra all round when you draw it, to allow for the extra fabric you'll need for turning under the raw edges. Draw and cut out an additional rectangle or a square for a pocket or two, if you fancy. Omit, if you don't.

Raid your fabric stash or that bag of clothes you are sending to the charity shop and see what you can cannibalise. The overall shape can be pieced from few or many bits. Cut up old jeans or a denim skirt for a denim apron like mine; take your scissors to mens' shirts where the collars and cuffs have gone - these are a good starting point for lighter weight, fairly plain fabric; outgrown children's clothes may also provide enough fabric when deconstructed and pieced together.; look speculatively and creatively at any plainish off-cuts from a previous sewing project - cotton curtain fabric and curtain-lining fabric are particularly good for aprons. Just remember that each piece needs a seam allowance built in where it joins another piece and don't work with funny shapes - stick to linear ones, even if it means you need to use more pieces or you'll get in a muddle assembling it all.

And if your cupboards yield no treasures to cut up, and you have to buy something, a plain piece of calico, or similar plain cotton fabric, from which to cut the basic apron shape, will cost you almost nothing, certainly no more than a fraction of that eye-watering £48, although you won't have the peculiar pleasure, that is all its own, of making something out of nothing.

Sew the bits together so that you have a single apron-shaped piece of fabric. You can use ordinary seams or French ones. (Google for instructions on sewing French seams if, like me, you're not sure of how to do them) Press all the seams nice and flat. Turn under the raw edges all the way round and sew in place by machine (or by hand if you prefer).

If you are adding a pocket, turn under the raw edge of the top and stitch down. Turn under and pin the sides and bottom of the pocket piece but don't sew the pocket on to the apron yet until you've added your flowers. You may find it useful, however, to mark where the pocket will go on the apron, with pins, or tailors' tacks, so that you can see how the overall design will work when positioning your flowers.

Hook up a bed of flowers - tulips, roses, forget-me-nots or any other bloom that takes your fancy in a washable yarn, from whatever pattern and colours you like. I used Cascade Ultra Pima Cotton for my AterG tulips because that's what I had. I love that yarn so much - it's a dream to work with and the colours are just gorgeous.

Pin your flowers onto the apron and tack securely in place by hand, using running stitches.

Machine sew around the perimeter of each flower with a long machine stitch or, if you like hand-sewing, you could stitch them by hand, using small, neat oversewing stitches. Make sure your thread matches the yarn, whichever method you choose.

Now that all the flowers are sewn on, you can stitch your pocket(s) in place, machine sewing close to the turned-under edges of the sides and bottom.

Neaten off any loose threads by pulling them through and knotting at the back of the apron.

Sew on tape or ribbon to make the ties and the neck loop and go and sit in the garden with a cup of tea and a muffin.

Tea and muffin (or equivalent) essential! Hunter wellies, hat and long hair optional! Baskets and vintage gardening books, if you have some, desirable!

Of course, in such an apron, any mess will no longer really be mess, or not mess with a capital M; it will be artistic and intentional laissez faire "styling"! Must say that to myself every time I go into the living room and discover H has taken it over again with computer parts, school text books, DVD boxes separated from their discs, chocolate wrappers and sundry other nameless detritus. This has been trying my patience somewhat over recent weeks and I am not sure that calling it "laissez faire styling" instead of "this disgusting mess" will prevent Krakatoa blowing, when I next enter the room but we'll see!

As he so kindly took the photos of the apron on me, however, I shall turn a blind eye, for now!

Thank you, H, you are, despite any "laissez faire styling"in the living room, an angel!

Friday 7 June 2013

Gipsy Skirt

My Gipsy Skirt, which has been in various stages of production over the last month or so, has reached completion and she's a joy! She took a lot of sewing and quite a lot of fabric but she's worth every single stitch!

She began to take shape when a friend sent me some gorgeous fabric from across the Atlantic - a most beautiful purple and turquoise-blue paisley print and another small-patterned purple print, (the one in the bottom right hand corner of the pic).

I suspect the fabric designer may have intended them as quilting fabrics but for me they were just too beautiful not to make something to wear. But what? A shirt? A short summer dress may be? Or perhaps a skirt?

I wanted to use every scrap of the fabric I could and waste as little as possible in the cutting so the idea germinated of a version of the Gipsy Skirt, you know, one of those tiered, flounced skirts that we all wore in the late seventies / early eighties. Well, you might not have done, as you may be too young, but I did!

Had I (or my mother) retained a pattern for such a skirt ? Sadly not. But a bit of googling around on the old Internet and a consultation of "Sew What Skirts!" threw up some instructions and it became clear that the construction of a Gipsy Skirt was a relatively simple matter. You decide on the length of skirt you want and the number of tiers. You divide the length by that number and that gives you the finished depth you need for each tier. Add on seam allowances to that figure and an allowance for folding over the top of the first tier to make a casing for some elastic and another allowance for a hem at the bottom and bingo, a pattern is beginning to form and you haven't even drawn anything out yet nor have you expended any money on a commercial pattern. It is however helpful to make notes of the Precise Measurements You Need for Each Tier and Which Fabric Will Go Where, otherwise it's easy to lose track.

Each tier is a simple, shallow strip of fabric and each one is wider than the previous one, as you go down the skirt. It's simplest to work in numbers of widths of the fabric so the first tier I made was one width across, the second was two widths, the third was three widths, the fourth was four-and-a-half widths and the fifth I made six widths. The finished depth of the tiers in my skirt is 7.5" and the finished length of the skirt is therefore 37.5" long, which suits me, but you can obviously adjust to make the skirt as long or short as you like.

There wasn't quite enough of the American fabric to make the entire skirt but I managed to find a couple of prints that I thought worked well with the originals and we were in business.

Armed with my rotary cutter (of which I always feel slightly nervous - I swear you've only got to look at those things to cut yourself), a large cutting mat and a ruler, and measuring turned to cutting. A lot of cutting, even for a Happy Snipper like me! But because the shapes you need are so simple and linear, it's quite straightforward so long as you Keep a Check on the Measurements! (Measure thrice, Mrs T, cut once!)

Not much left over at the end of the cutting process is there?
Just enough for a lavender bag or two, perhaps.
You then sew your strips together at the short ends to make the shallow loops of fabric that make up each tier in the increasing widths and begin assembly.

This again is pretty straightforward but there is a lot of sewing so you need plenty of thread and several bobbins lined up, full and ready to go. You make gathering stitches along the top of each tier (apart from the first) with a long machine stitch. I found this easiest to do in sections especially with the lower tiers where the loops of fabric were so big.

Pin each gathered section on to the bottom un-gathered edge of the previous tier, right sides facing, and stitch in place. Simple! Make a casing for some wide elastic at the top and turn up a hem at the bottom (which you can whizz along with your sewing machine in a jiffy) and you're there, bar the shouting, by which I mean you're there, bar the top-stitching just above the seam of each tier. Because there is so much fabric in the skirt, the top-stitching is not purely decorative - it adds necessary strength to the construction so although I was tempted to skip this step, (I felt that I and my sewing machine had sewed a marathon and could do with a break), I made myself keep at it!

It is beautiful to wear in a non-visual sense, if you know what I mean. Despite the amount of fabric it contains, it doesn't feel heavy at all but is gloriously light, swishy and easy. If I were ever to lose my sight, I'd want to wear skirts like this always - it just feels so lovely that it almost doesn't matter what fabric it's in. Almost, but not quite, because I think this fabric is just so beautiful that looking at it gives me a huge burst of joy and I'm so glad I have managed to incorporate so much of it in one place!

Special thanks again to V for your wonderful gift that made this dreamy garment possible

and to S for being so patient in taking some swirly photos of the skirt in wear - just not possible to take of oneself and without them you can't see quite how deliciously swishy the finished skirt is.
The good news is that this is a pattern that you can adapt to suit yourself in every way - make the number of tiers fewer or more numerous; make the tiers wider or less wide; make a waistband, if you don't like the idea of the elastic waist; make it in matching or contrasting cotton prints or in lightweight needlecord; make it plain or multicoloured; make it for yourself, your daughter, your niece or your granddaughter; just adapt to suit the amount of fabric you have and the look you want. Wear it on its own or with a retro, lace-edged petticoat, peeping out from underneath; wear it with bare legs and bare feet, gipsy-style, in summer; or with boots and thick tights in winter.

I am wearing mine gipsy-summer-style as the sun has got his hat on and come out to play this week. All I need now is a tambourine and a sense of rhythm for a little gipsy dance. I have a tambourine somewhere, but sadly, no sense of rhythm, so must content myself with a little private twirl in a corner of the kitchen, when no one is looking!

Tempted to have a go at one yourself? Go for it! You don't really need to be able to do anything other than cut and sew in straight lines!

PS Note to anyone, like me, with secret Fabric-Junkie tendencies: "This may be the project that fabric stash of yours, bursting from its cupboard or drawer and attracting unwelcome comments from less-discerning members of the household, has been waiting for! Tee hee! Enjoy!"

E x

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Blue Sky Bunting

Thank you all so much for your kind and encouraging comments on my last post - I will stop worrying about posting snapshots of the landscape here from time to time!

On to other matters - bunting matters. (Yes, I do intend the pun! Bunting does matter!) Bunting always makes me happy, whether it's made from fabric, paper, wool, or anything else for that matter. It's cheerful, seasonally adaptable and can be made for any occasion or none. It's also very quick to run up, if you take the lazy route of simply cutting paper or fabric triangles, embellishing them with a catchy phrase, ironed on with Bondaweb coated letters in contrasting colours, and then stapling the triangles to a piece of ribbon or tape. I'd recommend this method to anyone suddenly bitten by the bunting-bug and wanting immediate results, but it's less good, obviously, for anything you might want to use in the slightly longer term and which, for instance, you may want to wash, after it's collected a bit of dust. Of course you may not get dust in your house but it seems to arrive rather frequently in mine!

Anyway for dust-proof, or rather, dust-busting, serious bunting you need to create slightly more substantial pennants that can go in the washing machine occasionally and this takes a bit longer in the making. I've wanted to make some proper-style, serious bunting for a while, (if you can ever call bunting serious!) There is a lot of inspiration out there and various tutorials and patterns depending on what effect you are after. Judy of I read, I sewed, I crocheted has a lovely fabric bunting tutorial here.

If it's hooky bunting you are after, then Attic 24's recent post about Bunting for Yarndale is a great starting point because the Granny bunting triangles work up nice and quickly and look so effective. Lucy is hoping to break a record for the world's longest bunting string and asking people to consider hooking up a pennant or two to contribute. Lots of people have already signed up and I shouldn't think the world will ever have seen as much lovely hooky bunting in one place before, by the time it gets to Yarndale, at the end of September! It's a lovely way too, for people who have benefitted from Lucy's amazing hooky inspiration, to give a little something back.

So, armed with Lucy's pattern, which you can find here, a 4mm hook and some Cloud Blue Stylecraft yarn, I set to. I was tempted to change colours every round and make multicolour triangles but the glimpse of blue skies and arrival of sunshine the weekend before last, made me hanker for something to replicate those sunny summer skies. Never mind blue sky thinking, let's have some blue sky bunting!

So blue sky bunting is where I've gone.

Cloud Blue triangles brightened with vivd summery flowers and vivid summery pom-poms. I based the flowers on Lucy's in her pic on the Bunting for Yarndale post. I am not sure if they are identical because I made a simple pattern up as I went along, but they look similar. Three rounds, three colours - as bright and summery as I could make them using oddments of left-over acrylic yarn.

If you want to make some the same, this is what I did:

1 Make a magic ring (or chain 4 and sl stitch into first chain to make a ring).
2 Chain 3 and then make 11 treble crochet stitches into the ring. (11 double crochet for US peeps) End off with a slip stitch into the top of the chain-3 or with a needle-join, which I've recently taken to using when crocheting in the round. (I learned the needle-join method from Suzann Thompson's book "Crochet Bouquet" but, if you're interested, there's a really clear on-line tutorial by Sarah London here. Makes a very neat finish.) (12 stitches)
3 Join new colour. Chain 1 and then make 2 double crochet stitches into each treble stitch. (2 single crochet stitches into each double stitch if using US terms) End off as before. (24 stitches)
4 Join a new colour with a slip stitch into any stitch. *Miss 1 stitch and then make 6 treble crochet stitches into the next stitch (6 doubles in US terms). Miss 1 stitch and make a slip stitch into the next stitch.* Repeat between **s around ending with a slip stitch where you began the round. End off, leaving a nice long tail to sew your flowers onto bunting pennants or what-have-you. (6 petals)

For a smaller size of flower, simply replace the treble crochet stitches with half-trebles, (half-doubles instead of doubles in US terms), in the first and third rounds.

This is such a simple flower pattern I'd be surprised if someone else hadn't thought of it first so please accept my apologies if, in what I've come up with, I am, however inadvertently and unconsciously, plagiarising anyone else's prior creation.

These (minus the apple blossom confetti!) will be going off to Lucy as a little contribution to her Yarndale bunting project...

... but once bitten, twice bunting-ed and I felt the need (as one does!) to make some more blue sky bunting to hang here.

For this I've been experimenting with some slightly smaller, more solid triangles, worked up in simple increasing rows of single crochet in Cascade Ultra Pima Cotton "Aqua" blue.

I've had to adapt my flowers slightly as the originals were a bit big for the smaller size of the single crochet pennants but I like the results, (or will do, when everything's properly blocked and assembled)! And I feel that even if summer 2013 turns out to be as grey and damp as summer 2012 or summer 2011 I shall have a little bit of blue sky and summer sunshine inside regardless.

Have a bunting-good week, everyone!

E x

Edited to add: You can make the second version, more solid, triangles in one of two ways; either by working from the top down, decreasing the number of stitches by one stitch each row (until you reach the last two and ending off) or by chaining two and increasing in each row until you reach the desired size and ending off. I used the second method as I wasn't sure how big I wanted my pennants to be until I saw them take shape. My final row has 30 stitches in it and I used double crochet stitches throughout (single crochet in US terms). There is a good pattern in Nicki trench's book "Cute and Easy Crochet" for the top-down method and an excellent tutorial on the bottom-up method here on Heather's lovely blog, Pink Milk. Hope this helps! E x