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The Knitting And Crochet Guild

Given that you’re here, and assuming that you’re not right now scratching your head and thinking “Hang on, this isn’t the blog about oxy-acetylene welding that I was searching for,”* it’s probably safe to assume that you’re partial to looking at a bit of knitting/crochet. (I used to call it ‘yarn p♥rn’, but then I noticed that a few folk were landing here via some questionable search terms – and no doubt being deeply disappointed when they arrived – so I gave that up.)

One of the best places to look at yarn you-know-what is deep in the historical archive of the much under-publicised Knitting and Crochet Guild (KCG), up in West Yorkshire. If you saw my last post about our Stylecraft Blogstars meet-up last weekend, then you’ll know that we were very kindly treated to a trip to the archive on the Friday. I sincerely wish that you could have been there with us, because it was fascinating. But I did bring back some photos to share with you. Would you like to see?

The KCG archive houses thousands of knitted/crocheted items and patterns as well as knitting/hooking tools, dating from as far back as 1826, although most are from the twentieth century. They’re all tucked away in an unprepossessing industrial unit behind a housing estate in Scholes, West Yorkshire. And as I stepped through the door with the other Blogstars, I had very little idea of what to expect.

Irish crochet lace.

I should mention at this point that this is an archive and not a museum, and so what you see when you enter is mostly shelves (and shelves, and shelves) of boxes with intriguing labels such as Vogue Knitting, 1970-1990.

There are a very few items on display, such as the vintage Singer sock-knitting machine that caught our imagination, but what you really need in this place is a guide, or better still, three guides. Permit me, please, to introduce Angharad (third from left, navy jumper), Barbara (red jumper at the back), and Alex (far right, navy jumper).

Knitting and Crochet Guild

In the archive. From the left: Kathryn (Crafternoon Treats), Julia (Handknitted Things), Angharad (awesome KCG volunteer), Sandra (Cherry Heart), Sarah (Annaboo’s House), Lucia (Lucia’s Fig Tree), Barbara (awesome KCG volunteer), me, Jane (Janie Crow), Alex (awesome KCG volunteer). Photo credit: Charlotte @ Stylecraft.

These wonderful women are volunteers at the KCG, and from deep in the archives they fetched some choice exhibits to share with us. Do I even need to tell you how grateful and intrigued we all were? Would you like to see what they showed us? Yes? OK, take a pair of white cotton gloves from the box so that you can safely handle the artefacts, and let’s begin.

I’m guessing that a fair few of you will know immediately who designed this knitwear. Yup, you’re looking at Kaffe Fassett’s ‘Foolish Virgins’, circa 1989. One of the KCG volunteers is a rare genius at matching pattern to knitwear/hookwear:-

And here’s a granny square shawl from 1955, a Vogue Knitting pattern to be worked on 2.25mm hooks in 3-ply yarn. Somebody had a lot of time on their hands to make and join all 250 squares:-

Gorgeous, no? And here with the pattern:-

It was fascinating listening to the archivists talk. They told us about samples of Patricia Roberts’ stranded designs that were held in the collection, in which you could examine the reverse and see the knitter’s progression from clueless leaver of l-o-n-g floats to confident float-trapper and all-round stranded expert.

And just look at this crochet!

It was made in 1930 by someone with disturbingly exceptional patience, and it’s stunning. The yarn is mercerised cotton at some insanely fine gauge, and the tiny squares are sewn together. Here it is with its pattern:-

Just wow.

Oh, and see this below? This was made by Queen Mary, but we weren’t particularly encouraged to photograph it because it’s not very good!

There are also hooks, needles, and other equipment in the collection.

And if you thought that circular needles were a new idea, then think again. Here’s one from the 1930s. It’s rather springy and has a mind of its own:-

As the daughter of a patent examiner, I was fascinated by the patent declarations for strange and unusual innovations, such as knitting needles with measurements along their lengths:-

I do like this crochet hook:-

Here’s a very early 20th century yarn holder. (It’d be perfect for my walking-the-children-to-school knitting.)

There is so much that I could show you.

But I’m saving the best (IMHO) for last. Would you like to see what’s inside this box?

There’s no point in asking you to guess, because it’s THIS:-

Just look!

Now there are three reasons why, to me, this is the most amazing piece of knitting ever:-

  1. It just is. How stunning? How original?
  2. Only slightly behind knitting and crochet (and well ahead of running) in the list of stuff-I-love is geology. I’ve even let it sneak into this blog a little, eg here. My idea of a heavenly day out involves walking up a mountain and poking about in the strata. So, knitted rocks? I’m in love.
  3. This objet was knitted by none other than Jan Messent. Have you heard of her? She’s here. She’s more into embroidery than knitting these days, but I first discovered her when I found an old book of her eccentric knits/crochet in a second-hand bookshop. I was intrigued by her crocheted/knitted gardens, and they were part of the inspiration behind my ridiculous chair project. Look, here’s a shot of some of the work in her book:-

From Jan Messent’s ‘Have You Any Wool?’ (1987)

So yeah, I was very happy to see this stunning creation in the archive.

The Knitting and Crochet Guild website is right here. You can join for a mere £25 per year, and access a whole wealth of history, information, and expertise. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

 

∗In which case, you’d be better off trying here. You’re welcome.

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About A Chair

[whispers] It’s done.

Let me tell you a story.

crochet cottage garden ikea poang chair cover

Once upon a time (an embarrassingly long time ago), there was a young psychologist who lived alone in a flat in Oxford. She loved her home very much and was happy there, but she didn’t have much spare cash, so not being able to afford an antique overstuffed armchair on castors, she went instead to Ikea, where she bought a Poäng chair:-

The chair served her well over the years, and was sat in without obvious complaint by a long succession of friends, family, and a couple of boyfriends.

crochet ikea poang chair cover cottage

Eventually, she moved out of her lovely flat and got married. The chair came too. (Well, it didn’t come to the actual wedding: she didn’t love it that much.) Her husband grew fond of the chair, which was fortunate because for his bride, it was pretty much a case of ‘Love me, love my chair’. But the Stoic Spouse understood that, and all was well.

crochet ikea poang chair cover

The chair accompanied the not-quite-so-young-now couple through a succession of house moves, before coming to rest in their long-term home. And still, the faithful chair accommodated bottoms of all shapes and sizes, with almost no complaint apart from the occasional creak.

crochet embroidered yarn seagull ikea poang chair cover

By now, the definitely-left-their-youth-behind-some-time-ago couple had two small children, and the chair accepted its fate of being climbed on and used as part of a den.

crochet cottage garden ikea poang chair cover

Which brings us up to about a year ago. After so many years of loyal service, the chair was understandably looking the tiniest bit shabby around its edges. So like many things in the house – including the building itself – it fell victim to yarn-bombing. Frankly, anything in this house that’s not moving is vulnerable to being yarn-bombed. That’s why guests don’t tend to stay very long.

crochet cottage garden ikea poang chair cover cat pond

The let’s-face-it-middle-aged-now psychologist had once designed a crochet bag shaped like a cottage, and in a moment when reason abandoned her, she decided that it would be a good idea to make a larger-scale version to cover the chair. There was probably wine involved in this ridiculous impulse.

crochet cottage garden ikea poang chair cover

So she set about crocheting the cottage, and also a garden which would form the seat of the chair. (There were a few knitted bits too, such as the pond and the picnic blanket.) And when her hooks and knitting needles weren’t up to the job, she picked up her darning needle and embroidered flowers, and leaves, and little rows of vegetables, and a pigeon, and a door-knocker, and…

This work took some time. I have no idea how many hundreds (thousands?) of hours have gone into this chair cover. Then one day (yesterday, as it so happens), she was busy attaching a small embroidered seagull to the roof of the cottage. She fixed its feet in place, wove in the ends, and then she realized…

…It was done.

crochet cottage garden ikea poang chair cover

Not just the seagull (which had been fiddly enough – do you know how hard it is to capture the essence of seagull in yarn?) but the whole thing. Done. Finished. Complete.

crochet cottage garden ikea poang chair cover

She stood back to look at her work, and she thought, ‘That, my friends, is completely and utterly bonkers. I shall not be making another.’

crochet poang ikea chair cover

Just a chair… that I spent a year crocheting all over.

So shall we take a tour? The roof is crocodile stitch (see my tutorial), and walls are a brick stitch that I improvised, loosely based on equivalent stitches used by others. That rambling rose took flippin’ ages to embroider:-

crochet cottage garden ikea poang chair cover roses flowers

The garden was fun, and provided plenty of blog-fodder along the way.

crochet cottage garden ikea poang chair cover

The lavender came out quite well:-

crochet garden lavender embroidery

There was cake:-

crochet cottage garden ikea poang chair cover cake

And flower-beds and veg-beds that took an age to make.

crochet cottage garden ikea poang chair cover flowers

The rambling rose needed a sturdy trunk:-

And whoever was to sit on the picnic blanket needed a good book:-

And just to make it realistic, there’s a pigeon in the vegetable patch:-

pigeon

The pigeon is rather small, and was a tad fiddly to make:-

crochet pigeon

Want to see the back? It’s very plain:-

So, whilst I’m not about to rush off and make another one, I’ll grudgingly concede that this yarn journey has been rather a lot of fun.

crochet ikea poang chair coverMany of you have shown huge encouragement along the way. THANK YOU for your loyalty and kindness, you crazy enablers! I hope that the result has put a tiny smile on your face.

Meanwhile, I don’t know how much each tiny weeny little yarny stitch weighs, but the fact that the cover alone (minus cushion) weighs 2.5 kg (5lb, 6oz) should give you an idea of just how many stitches went into this beast. Quite possibly over a million.

All sorts of yarn was pulled into service, especially anything green. There’s hand-dyed merino and there’s mass-produced acrylic. But I do want to thank my friends at Stylecraft, because there’s a lot of Stylecraft Special in this thing, especially DK-weight amongst the flowers and pond, and their chunkier weights for the back of the cover.

crochet garden knitted

Anyway, to conclude this family saga, the psychologist showed the Stoic Spouse the finished chair, and encouraged him to sit in it. But although he admired it and said nice things, he refused to sit, claiming that the chair cover might get damaged if people used it. The psychologist pointed out that she’d made it practically bomb-proof, and it was designed to be used. Still, the Stoic Spouse refused. The psychologist, being a reasonable sort, offered him a choice between sitting in the chair, and divorce. The Stoic Spouse chose divorce.

But what he doesn’t yet know, is that in the divorce settlement, I shall make sure that the only piece of seating he ends up with is this chair, so he will have to sit in it!

The end. (We’re not really getting a divorce, by the way.)

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Rhubarb!

All right, all right, you lot. I can see how titling a post ‘Finished Object’ might have given the teeniest impression that I’d finally finished that project. Sorry. But your comments have also nudged me to get on with final push towards completion, so thank you. Though when I do weave in the last end, I’ll be posting under a considerably more hysterical title than ‘Finished Object’. Look out for a post titled OMG, OMG, IT’S DONE, IT’S DONE, IT’S DONE! SQUEEEEE!!!!!!!! Unless the finished job looks a bit rubbish, in which case you’ll find me sitting on the floor in the corner, nursing a bottle of gin.

crochet embroidered cottage house

A detail…

Anyway, thank you for stirring me back into yarny horticultural action. In case you’re new to this ludicrous thing, it’s… hard to explain. Far too long ago (I’m not even sure that Europeans had arrived in the Americas yet) I had one of those ridiculous ideas that really should have been taken out back and throttled immediately. But instead of thinking Nope, that’s a stupid idea, I decided to go ahead. You see, after designing/making this bag in the shape of a cottage, I started dreaming a little bigger. Because if you can make a small bag look like a cottage, why can’t you do the same to a large piece of furniture?

crochet embroidered cottage house

With a bit of manic effort, I got the cottage part done fairly speedily, but as many of you will know, I got a bit lost in the garden, for a while. No longer! Look, I’ve finished another flower bed!

crochet garden knitted

And just to add to the veg patch, I’m rather pleased with this rhubarb. (Stylecraft Batik ‘Raspberry’ is pleasingly perfect for the stems.)

crochet rhubarb

The problem is – and it’s a big problem – that as I finish each section, I look at previous sections and think Hmm, that could be better. So I started crocheting lily leaves for the pond, instead of the messy embroidered ones.

knitting crochet pond garden

And now I’m thinking, Hmm, I never really have been happy with the water. So I’m wondering about crocheting something in a colour that’s a little more murky. Meanwhile, I can’t leave this thing around without some small child parking their toy cars on it or moving diggers in to begin building work. Sigh.

But I have a target: it shall be done and shown here by the end of this month. There, I’ve said it out loud. I have a confession, though: there’s an even more ambitious idea swilling around in the fevered backwaters of my brain.

crochet garden knitted flowers

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Back In The Crochet Garden

Dear blog,

I’ve neglected your regular silliness business, what with all those giveaways and other stuff.

So I thought it was high time to drop in on a project that’s been slowly (very slowly) progressing in the background whilst I’ve been on here chattering about other things.

Yes, if you’ve been reading here a’while: you’ll know the one. The over-ambitious furniture-related one that began with a house, and which is now slowly (oh-so-slowly) acquiring a garden. It’s so close to the sewing-up-and-revealing stage that I’m starting to have even more ambitious ideas about how to embellish its craziness. Would you like to see the latest additions?

I’ve been crocheting all sorts of flowers and shrubs, making it up as I go along, but a lot of the leaves are longer-thinner/shorter-wider versions of this. Also, I’ve made lavender (using Stylecraft Batik, in shades that couldn’t be more perfect for lavender if they tried):-

make lavender with yarn

Planted in its new home, it looks like this:-

make lavender crochet garden embroidery

And stepping back for yet another gratuitous shot, here it is again with the picnic blanket in the background:-

crochet garden lavender embroidery

Would you like to see a little more around the rest of the garden? There aren’t many bare patches left to fill (which is more than can be said for my progress on the real garden that I’m supposed to be redeveloping). Here’s a selection of views, taken as we stroll across the lawn and beside the pond.

crochet knitted circle pond garden

The flower beds are nearly full:-

crochet garden embroidery flowers

…though this one is still my favourite:-

crochet garden embroidery flowers

And the vegetable garden is neatly regimented. I’m particularly proud of the cauliflowers:-

crochet vegetable garden cauliflower lettuce carrot

Let’s have one more shot…

crochet garden embroidery flowers

Meanwhile, there’s still time to sponsor me for the Oxford Half Marathon that I’m running on 9th October in aid of the wonderful Nasio Trust and their work supporting disadvantaged children in rural Kenya. More details are in this blog post. So how’s training going? Well… the good news is that I’ve already run the whole distance (13.1 miles / 21.1 km) in a training run a couple of weeks ago. BUT the less-good news is that I’ve had a horrid cold-cough for the last 10 days, and I currently can’t run very far without hacking a cough that suggests most of my disposable income goes on tobacco. (No, I don’t smoke.) I’m determined to complete the race this Sunday, and to do so running, but this one’s gonna hurt. I will, however, definitely be able to run faster and further if lots of people are generous enough to sponsor me for this for this fabulous cause. Any amount, large or small, will make a real difference to children’s lives. A huge THANK YOU to those of you who have sponsored me already from both near and afar. The page where you can do so is right here. Many thanks.

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On Running

I’ve taken some better pictures of progress on the big crochet project. But before I show them to you, do you mind if I go off-piste, subject-wise? Because some things in life interfere with knitting and crochet time, and I want to grumble, if you’d be so generous as to indulge me. Here goes…

I don’t like running.

I do it, on and off, because it’s a cheap and outdoorsy way of keeping fit. And because, for as long as I occupy what would otherwise be useful space on this planet, I will never, ever set foot in a gym or an exercise class. Not even if you put all the wool in Shetland and a case of the finest Chablis just across the threshold to tempt me in. Nope. 

But still, I don’t enjoy the cold, hard exertion of running. Or the lung-hurty thing. Or the sheer mental and physical effort required to haul my fast-expanding backside around the highways-and-byways of Oxfordshire. And I’m not much motivated by the potential to knock 0.003 seconds off my personal best time, either. Sorry-not-sorry, fitness app developers. Talking of running apps, I really hate the way they wait until you’re running past an entire bus-queue of people to shout out, “Distance: 0.1 miles. Pace: three hours per mile.” Yeah thanks for that humiliation in front of half the village. And yes, before I noticed all you people standing there and pretended that this sprint was comfortable, I had indeed pretty much slowed to a walking pace.

The Only Running-Related Object I've Ever Knitted.

The Only Running-Related Object I’ve Ever Knitted.

Frankly, I’d rather be knitting. (Frankly, I’d rather be filling in my tax return whilst licking live snails.) I’ve never experienced that ‘runner’s high’, the endorphin rush that people rave about. A friend of mine said that he used to come home from running on such a high that he’d want to go straight back out again to run some more. And this is a man who claims that in his youth, he enjoyed every illegal drug going, so he presumably knows a thing or two about getting high. But I just don’t get it. The only thing I feel at the end of a run is a dull sense of relief that I no longer have to run.

Before the twinnage came along, the Stoic Spouse and I used to run together, although these were the sorts of runs where we’d pause to stare every time we noticed a deer, or a hare, or a woodpecker, or an orchid, or a toad, or a vole, or a slow-worm, or a kestrel. (It was amazing how often I spotted distant specimens of wildlife that he just couldn’t see. Amazing, I tell you.) Also, the Stoic Spouse kindly shouted an endless stream of abuse in order to keep me motivated. He’s much better at running than I am. (Eight to ten miles once a week, the nutter.) He’s much better at verbal abuse, too.

Obviously now we have children, one of us always has to be home with the twinnage, so I have to run alone. And the wildlife around the village where we live these days is a bit rubbish (you’re lucky if you see as much as a rabbit). So I just plod on, with a dogged sense that this is all that stands between me and a plethora of future lifestyle-related ailments. There are moments when I wonder whether the lifestyle-related ailments might actually be more enjoyable than the running.

I’m just not very good at physical effort. Mental or creative effort, yes, but not aerobic, physical effort. So let’s stick to the heaven-knows-how-many-hours that have cheerfully gone into the various components of the crochet house furniture-related project so far, and show you some slightly better photos than I showed you yesterday. I’ve been busy in the flowerbeds since these were taken, trying to work out how to crochet rows of cabbages and bursts of montbretia.

crochet house in progress

Oh, and there’s this one too:-

knitted circle. the twisted yarn blog

And the window boxes were a lot of fun to embroider:-

embroidered window boxes flowers

BUT, I’m sharing this journey with you warts and all, and I think we have a failure. I tried to embroider some sneaky little plant growing around the paving stones of the path, and I just don’t think it works. At all. Agreed?

image

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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.

image

Here’s the branches finished:-

image

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

image

…and then added touches of the lighter green:-

image

It’s coming on: look!

image

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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