Monthly Archives: July 2015

A Brief Word

A very brief one because, well, chicken pox. And a vomiting bug. Our house is not a healthy place just now. In a few days’ time, I’m sure we’ll swap round illnesses, just to mix things up a bit.

But I just wanted to show you some progress on the big housey crochet project from before I got vomity. I’ve paused work on the garden to embroider some rambling roses all over the house, because no wonky ol’ cottage is complete without a rosebush scrambling up its walls. I used some Rowan Fine Tweed left over from this project. I’ve been studying rosebushes whilst we’ve been out and about, so I had a pretty clear idea of what I was trying to achieve. First, some thick old trunks: this rosebush is old.

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Here’s the branches finished:-

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I’ve got a couple of shades of green for the leaves, so I started with the darker shade:-

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…and then added touches of the lighter green:-

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It’s coming on: look!

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Now I get to embroider enthusiastically blooming red roses over it all. Or at least I will once I start feeling human again. Yup, this bug is so bad that I’m not even knitting/crocheting/embroidering. I really don’t recommend it.

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Summer

Woah, a busy few days carpe-ing the diem with my delightfully crazy aunt who came to stay (and then a couple of days at work). I love my aunt. Having a vegetarian to stay (aka a herbivore, in the Toddler Twinnage’s very carefully considered opinion after I explained that we wouldn’t be eating any meat/fish for a few days) was a happy excuse to cook lots and lots of curry stuffed with veg and chickpeas, and to drink sparkling wine and talk about love. Not that vegetarians/herbivores have a monopoly on wine or love, but that’s just how we rolled.

The Toddler Twinnage adore my aunt so much that they showed her all nine squillion pages of their various dinosaur books one by one, with detailed questioning of her understanding of each picture, just to make sure that she was paying due attention. Trust me, they wouldn’t do that for just any old visitor.

We also went out to admire the summer, and meander for miles through the countryside with the Toddler Twinnage on their balance bikes. I’m writing this whilst the rain is pouring in through the pesky cracks in the roof, but for a few days, summer looked like this:-

summer

Actually I was quite pleased with this picture, so I posted it on my personal Facebook page, at which point my artist friend Caroline Fox Betts took a liking to the image and decided to paint it. Want to see something wonderful? Seriously? Well look at these images. (She hasn’t quite finished, but like me, she wants to show you work in progress.)

So she began with an image on a screen plus a blank canvas.

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And then she began to work, adding broad areas of colour and mood:-

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And then, the beginnings of some detail;-

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And then this!

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Isn’t it fabulous? She says it’s not quite finished because she’s waiting for the paint to harden before she adds highlights, but isn’t it still just full of light and warmth and lazy days? Man, I wish I could paint. If you’re looking for the creator of this wonderfulness, Caroline is at cfoxbetts@gmail.com . And she’s at carolinefox.com, too.

Talking of works in progress, we now have a lawn for the crazy-house-project. It’s a little uneven, a little weedy, just like every real lawn that’s ever been under my care, and it’s involved about a billion crochet stitches, but it’s done. More photos coming…

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Knitting A Pond, Crocheting The Lillies

So yesterday, TheTwistedYarn passed the happy milestone of 100 000 views. I’m sure that a few of these were folks landing here accidentally and scurrying rapidly through the labyrinthine corridors of the ‘Yarn on their way in search of a site about molecular biology or how to mend vacuum cleaners. And that’s OK: we’re inclusive here, though not very informative about molecular biology. But hopefully, the vast, vast majority of these hits were by colour-loving yarn-wielders, and I really hope that some people have been convinced that with sticks/hooks and string, you really can make pretty much anything (as long as you practise new techniques on scrappy spare yarn first).

Anyway, a heartfelt THANK YOU to every reader and commenter. If it wasn’t too early in the day for drinking, I’d be raising a glass to y’all.

And now, a thought about circles. I’m working on crocheting the garden of the big crazy house project, and I decided to include a little round fishpond. The water is knitted, in order to give a smoother surface than I could manage with crochet. But how to knit a circle? Just in case you ever need to know the answer, I found a solution on catchloops.com’s blog: the formula for calculating the number of stitches on each row, as you work across the circle. It’s based on a combination of the formula for calculating the chord of a circle combined with calculating number of stitches based on gauge. Clever, huh?

So I got knitting…

Knitting a circle.

Knitting a circle.

 

And sixty rows of increasing then decreasing length later, I had myself a perfect circle! Wa-hey!

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One pond! Now it needs some water-lilies and some goldfish, don’t you think? Here’s a start:-

Crochet Lilly at TheTwistedYarn.com

 

I made up the lilly design. Using embroidery thread and a 2mm hook, I worked 5 loops each consisting of 5 chain stitches, with an anchoring slip stitch into the fabric below in between each loop. image

Then I worked up one side and down the other of each petal loop. I started at the bottom and chained 3, then worked a further 4 double crochets (US terminology, so trebles if you’re in the UK) to get to the tip of the petal. Then I chained 1 before working 5 double crochets down the other side of the petal. Finally I worked a slip stitch into the centre of the flower before moving on to the next petal. And so on:-

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And finally I sewed a few last stitches to anchor the petals in a sticking-up position. Done! Here’s a diagram:-

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And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m all about the goldfish…

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Crocheting In Somerset

I’ve always been a details-monkey rather than a bigger-picture person.* This is one of the many, many reasons why I’m not the millionaire CEO of some entrepreneurial shebang. I’d be too busy pondering the style of door knobs for the offices to notice that the business was falling over a financial cliff.

So when I say that we went away this week for a couple o’ nights to a Somerset village so that the Toddler Twinnage could have some bucket-and-spade time, I hope you’ll understand that I’ve brought back a muddle of details to show you, rather than an organised overview.

But look at this!

Dunster yarn market

The Yarn Market At Dunster

In a village called Dunster, we found the Yarn Market, built in 1609 by the scion-of-the-day of the Luttrell family, a clan that clung on to the local castle for five hundred years until the 1970s. The idea of this building was to shelter the villagers (or rather their wares) from the weather as they traded the yarn and later the cloth for which this village became renowned. Because really, would you want to buy some lovely yarn if a sodding great cloud had just dumped a tonne of rain on it?

inside Dunster Yarn Market

Inside The Yarn Market

The central pillar and low perimeter wall are stone, but otherwise it’s pretty much all wood, with a tiled roof. Much loveliness, no?

We stayed in a stone cottage that was similar in age to the Yarn Market, its rooms jumbled higgledy-piggledy together with little consideration for geometry or right angles, and its walls so thick that seats had been carved out in front of the windows. In the garden, the mombretia were in full bloom (in the rain, you’ll note: traditional British holiday weather being what it is).

mombretia crocosmia

I love mombretia/crocosmia because it looks highly strung and exotic, but actually it romps unfussily around the otherwise all-green hedgerows in north Wales, where I first learned its name many years ago. In fact, I’ve decided to embroider some in the garden of my big-house-furniture-secret-project.

We were in half-decent fossil territory too, although we didn’t get to do any fossil-hunting on this so-brief trip. But I noticed that someone had left a gryphaea (aka ‘devil’s toe nail’) in the garden at the cottage. (There were a lot of gryphaea in my teenage years: we lived near some properly fossiliferous Jurassic beaches. I’ve a soft spot for the gnarly beasts.)

Devil's Toe Nail. Clearly The Devil Needs A Chiropodist.

Devil’s Toe Nail. Clearly The Devil Needs A Chiropodist.

And tiny wild strawberries grew beside the path. Much small. Much tasty. Much micro-gluttony.

wild strawberries

And finally, in a second hand bookshop beside the sea, a 1987 book by Jan Messent. Look at this!

Jan Messant

She’s worked her knitted/crocheted gardens differently from how I’m making mine, but her pieces are so inspiring. Time to be a little more bold in the planning of my own project, I think. I’ve finished crocheting the front of the house and am now contemplating the garden. I’ve been busy with pencil and paper, and there are to be many colourful and bonkers details. I can’t wait to show you very, very soon.

*(Fortunately, it’s OK for psychologists to be into the details, so I remain employed.)

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Bricks. Mortar. Grass.

Goodness, I’ll never be a bricklayer.

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I’m getting towards the top of the wall of my big furniture-related housey secret project, and I am very nearly over this whole brick-mortar-brick-mortar-brick-mortar monotony. I’m looking forward to embroidering roses scrambling all over it. Mad, monstrous roses with no inhibitions.

Also I’m looking forward to starting the garden. Some of your comments on previous posts have given me ideas…. (Thank you.) I’m also wondering about possibly a little pond with lilly pads. But now, a moment of your serious attention please, fine folks. See the two stitches I’ve crocheted in the sample below?

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I’m thinking about the texture of the lawn. The toppish-leftish portion is plain ol’ single crochet (North American crochet terminology here.) Now I don’t know about your lawn, but mine does not look that neat and ordered and arranged in rows. So I had a scout around and found the other stitch in the sample. It’s called spider stitch, and although it’s exactly as higgledy-piggledy as our lawn, it’s neat and tidy to crochet. Here’s the pattern. (Obviously I’ll write/photo it out properly when I do the pattern. I’m STILL working on the pattern for the house-bag, though.)

Crochet spider stitch

But before I can play in the garden, I must finish off the house. We shall crochet in the car… (Thank you for doing the driving, Stoic Spouse.)….

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We shall crochet on the beach…

Crochet on the beach

And very VERY soon, I shall have something to show you that will either be a complete disaster or delightfully, cheerily bonkers. Or quite possibly both.

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Stylecraft Competition Winners

So.

<Adjusts posture and adopts important announcy sort of voice.>

You may recall from earlier in the year my cheery chatterings about co-judging the Stylecraft Special DK colour competition up in beautiful Yorkshire, with Lucy from Attic24 and Sarah Neal from Let’s Knit magazine. (Sarah is a woman who understands that sometimes you need to sit in a car park frantically finishing knitting a skirt for the meeting that you are about to take part in: let’s just say that I feel a lot of respect and gratitude towards her.) Much colourful fun was had by all at the judging event, I think it’s fair to say. But I have more news, my fine friends. The shortlist of ten shades that we good-naturedly debated over was put to the public vote and the winners can now be announced! Wa-hey!

Want to know which colours will be snuggling down in the shelves of your local yarn shop later this year? Well a shortlist of ten has been whittled down to a winner and two runners-up, thanks to your voting.

Way out ahead in first place, with an impressive third (33.5% if we’re being nit-pickety) of the 4920 votes was Duck Egg, submitted by Lorraine from Prestatyn. Here’s the beautiful entry she submitted (although the photo doesn’t do the colour justice), together with a Pantone sample of her shade. Get your needles or hooks ready, folks: here it is:-

Duck Egg Blue

Duck Egg Blue

In second place, with 11.7% of the vote, was a beautiful rich purply-blue, which Lucia from Glasgow labelled Lobelia. Look: she’s even illustrated how it would sit amongst the existing range:-

Lobelia

Lobelia

In third place, with a healthy 9.5% of the vote was Grass by Emma from Warrington. (I could really do with a few hundred grams of this for the garden of my current project, but I happen to know that the folks at Stylecraft are still busy beavering away arranging for its production, so I’m going to have to wait.)

green

So there we have it. Stylecraft have, I’m excited to say, decided to add all three shades to their range of Special DK. The prize for the for first placed shade is 100 balls of Special DK, and VIP entry to the Knitting And Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace in October. The two runners-up will receive some yarny loveliness too, I understand. Congratulations to the winners!

And later in the year, you’ll begin to see these beauties for sale, adding to the huge range of Stylecraft Special already available. And I hear a little rumour of a multipack, perhaps even extending beyond the top three shades…

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Go create something lovely with these new colours, people! Because more yarn is good, right? (But maybe make it a little more sensible than my bonkers projects.)

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In Which Life Imitates Art. Or Vice Versa. Or Summat.

Well, I’m back. Properly back, but more on that later.

The ridiculous thing was that in my IVF-befuddled state, I clean forgot to mention that my column is in this month’s Simply Knitting. Here’s a sneaky peek. I really must get on with writing the next one.

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Anyway, to the point of today’s post…

There comes a point in many big projects where the novelty of the early stages has well and truly worn off, but the end isn’t yet sufficiently in view to draw you closer. You just have to keep on keeping on. And on. And on. Especially when your project has eight different balls/bobbins working simultaneously and has turned into a sort of fiendish crochet intarsia. (I really don’t like intarsia.) Also, you have to resist the temptation to run off to the yarn shop and buy some luscious variegated merino with which to knit a lacy top.

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No, this isn’t a bungalow. I’ve just got a lot more upstairs and a tad more downstairs to do.

This is the very large and very adventurous furniture-related version of my house-bag, in its early stages. Quick mini-picture of the original because I know there are quite a few new readers around here lately. (Waves hello enthusiastically to y’all!) Those who’ve seen this a million times before, avert thy eyes sharpish:-

crochet house bag

Now I apologise for being coy about this new project. If it works, it will be the craziest and most fun thing I’ve done in a long time. So I don’t want to give too much away. And if it doesn’t work, my humiliation will be displayed here for you all to laugh at. I have no shame, me. It involves a large piece of furniture, and it’s going to have a garden all of its own. I’m thinking of this for the lawn:-

The lawn. Ready for planting.

The lawn. Ready for planting.

That’s a 400g ball, by the way. There’s going to be a lot of lawn. I’m busy designing the flower beds, which will annoy the Stoic Spouse no end when he reads this, because I ought to be out there designing our real flower beds in our real garden. But somehow it’s easier to design yarny gardens, and you can keep planting them whilst it rains.

I’m writing up the bag pattern whilst I crochet, and working this new house is a useful reminder of some of the finer points I need to include for the pattern. This time round, I’ve learned my lesson and am adding to a chart as I complete each section. No more trying to remember what on earth I did from a few illegible scrawls in a notebook.

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I’m working really hard on this project, so I hope to have it done pretty soon.

As I said at the beginning, I’m properly back to this blog, as of today. This is a bittersweet moment: much as I love the ‘Yarn, the reason I’m wholeheartedly back is that today was test day for my IVF and the result was a big fat negative. This was our last attempt, so we shall be sticking as a family of four. Don’t get me wrong, I realize how lucky I am to have the pesky, insomniac, food-averse, crazy Toddler Twinnage, but I still have a bad case o’ the broodies.

Of course I had to hide my sadness from the twinnage, so we went for a toddle around the village this morning, in order to admire the progress of summer. We met this chap/chappess: this was about to be a much cuter photo, until s/he realized s/he was being descended on by three over-curious people, and so did what hedgehogs do best and shut up shop.

Go away, humans.

Go away, humans.

And I’ve blogged before about the cherry-farming heritage of this village in times past. Though there are scant cherry orchards here today, the hedgerows are dotted with old trees, whose fruit is just getting ripe. Look! (Excuse wobbly photo but it was windy.)

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In Oxfordshire villages, there may as well be a by-law that your cottage garden must be filled with hollyhocks, so we admired beauties such as these:-

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…Which reminds me, I have some hollyhock seeds that I must plant in our own, real garden.

Time to keep on keeping on. And on. 🙂

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