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Commitment and cables.

I’ve been a bit quiet of late. I have been doing some crochet but not very much just working on a granny square blanket and finishing up the little dark stars rainbow cardi (it’s been ongoing since the early this year!).

I have completed a big knit throw in cream, it was a present for a newly wed couple. I didn’t get a final snap before it was wrapped and gifted but I’ve asked if perhaps they will take a photo for me to pop on my Facebook page.
Here it is nearing completion.

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It is beautifully heavy and drapes really nicely. As usual excuse the poor picture quality (and the crayon on the wall “its ‘wainbows’ mummy!”) I don’t have a fancy camera I just use my ipod or ipad.

I confess I am feeling a little less productive than usual, I still have a million ideas and projects in my head but I’m really struggling to find/make time to work on anything very often. I still love and enjoy crochet immensely but it’s been a difficult time recently and that’s impacted on my ability to create anything.

I am a quarter of a way through a Big Knit throw for my living room sofa.
This is the casting on.

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I’m using many strands of DK instead of big yarn or fabric strips. It works really well but you have to be vigilant you always pick up all the strands as you are working.

My upper middle child was recently able to collect her finished exam pieces from Graphic Design GSCE. I absolutely adore them, not just because I like the actual final result but also because I know how very hard she worked preparing and practising her ideas for the final two day exam sessions. I’m very proud of her for her commitment, passion and creativity. I asked if she would mind letting me have them to frame and put on our wall above the settee. The throw is being made in colours that will compliment her work really well.

Whilst I have been working on my sofa throw she’s put in a request a for a bed runner for her newly decorated and refitted bedroom. I’ve got this idea in my mind I want to do a Big Knit throw in cables, her ideas for the colour work to match her new room and my urge to make a cabled throw seem like a really promising combination except……. My knitting is really basic and I don’t know how to cable.

Enter my marvellous knitting nan!

We’ve been trying to schedule a visit for ages now but first she was unwell, then I had commitments, then she was unwell again and finally this weekend we managed our weekend together.

We had discussed a visit to a new yarn shop for supplies so she can knit me a new cardigan and for her to teach me how to cable so I could make the new throw.

I’m glad despite my challenging week I kept to my commitment to have her come and stay because despite it being hard work we had a really lovely day on the Sunday (huge lovages for my wonderful Husband for helping facilitate that by taking care of cooking us all a wonderful stew so I got to spend lots of time with Nan instead of the pots and pans!).

Nan completed all the seaming of a sweater she started knitting for The Little Dark Star last time she came to stay. Its taken her a while as her 80 something year old hands sometimes don’t want to comply anymore and she can only knit as and when she feels up to it.

It was a lovely moment, her finishing up the last of the sewing and then seeing the excited toddler trying it on straight away and saying how it will be “warm for the garden” and “Thank you Nanny for my jumper” I know we made a lovely memory there for us both to enjoy.

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With the sweater done Nan set about teaching me to cable. We sat hip to hip on the sofa whilst she showed me what to do, then watched as I attempted it myself. Proud to say I picked it up fairly quickly but we had a lot of lovely giggles over my mistakes (how can a person suddenly forget how to cast on? Or do a whole row of knit instead of purl?).

Here’s a little line of cable I’ve made.

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My Nan comes originally from Germany so when she knits she hold her yarn in her left hand (like crocheters do) and kind of picks it up with the right needle, whereas I knit “English style” which means I hold the yarn over on the right and wind it around for each stitch. I’ve been fascinated by her way for a long time, it looks less of a big production, faster and more like what I’m doing when I crochet so I asked her if she would mind showing me how to do it German or ‘Continental’ style. She was really chuffed I asked and was incredibly patient with helping me work it out. I kept doing my yarn overs the wrong way round, which is what most people I have taught to crochet always do when very first learning the basics. I cracked it before she left and I have to say I really love the new way of doing it. My tension is much neater but it does make my hands ache more than my usual knitting style. Nan assures me as I find my own rhythm and my muscles get used to it the ache will subside. I wish someone had taken a photo of us sat there with each other and her patiently teaching me. I’d have treasured it forever.

I think most rewarding thing is hearing Nan say how chuffed she is that “someone will be knitting like me now even after I’ve gone” I think we both sensed we had made a special kind of connection that will last long beyond the immediate moment. I know every time I knit that way I will be thinking of my Nan. Not just our recent weekend together, I shall be thinking about the mountains of knitted things she has made for me and my brood that have been made with her Continental method of working. From now on as I make things using the same technique she does, my hands will be mimicking hers and she will be part of it. If anyone notices my method and asks about it I will talk about her teaching me.

Now both my grandmothers have given me a tangible skill and memory I can invoke each time I pick up a hook or knitting needles.

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Crochet! How old *are* you?

Over the last few years I have been lucky enough to inspire a lot of people to learn to crochet. They have either seen my crochet projects and felt motivated to learn or have asked me to teach them. It is so rewarding to see someone else falling in love with it all, have them message me pics of yarn stashes, their works in progress and talk about how much they love it. It can add another dimension to your friendship and gives you something else in common you can share.

One of my friends recently took up the hook and is learning to crochet. She tells me she has found it really relaxing. I was really chuffed. She posted on Facebook about her crochet and received a comment along the lines of “crochet? How old *are* you?”

I managed to bite my tongue but what I really wanted to say was “DOES IT MATTER?????”

What is this image of crochet (and quite often knitting too) as something just done by little old ladies in rocking chairs? Now I am pretty sure all the little old ladies (and maybe some big ones, lets not be sizeist) didn’t reach the age of 70 and suddenly pick up a hook and start crocheting. These women have probably been crocheting most of their lives, many will have learned as children, possibly at school or from their own mothers. They will have spent a lifetime making things for their children and grandchildren, their home, for gifts, for charity and so on.

Just to bust another stereotype of this being a female ‘thing’ my Nan tells me my Dad was taught to knit by his Dad because Nan knits “european style” (that is yarn in your left hand if you a right-handed, more like crocheters hold it).

If you read my earlier blog entry about my journey into crochet you will know I learned it as a child from my Nan on my mother’s side of the family. I didn’t instantly transform into some twee old lady on contact with a yarn and crochet hook, I’ve a life as a normal-ish teenager, a young mum and now a thirty something who is only just starting to look my age and sport some laughter lines.

So what IS this stereotype all about? Why is yarn craft seen as something ‘for old people’?

I follow lots of popular crocheters via social media and blogs, I subscribe to Simply Crochet magazine and almost all of the people I am reading articles about or reading columns, blogs or patterns by, are between the ages of 20 and 50 hardly what anyone would consider elderly at all. They seem like fun, trendy vibrant women with busy lives, huge amounts of originality and creativity and flair. Some of these women actually make yarn crafts their entire living by designing, blogging, teaching. These are definitely NOT octogenarians tucked up under a blanket in a rocking chair making lace doilies (not that I have anything against lace doilies, I actually rather like them) whilst waiting for God. Octogenarians are not all frail old ladies of a stereotype either, my nan is in her mid eighties now and very much an active busy person and hopefully with a lot of mileage left on the clock 😉

So, I am left pondering, when exactly did crochet (and other yarny things) become something only old ladies do, supposedly?

I have my theories, as I always do, and I can’t help but feel yet again this has a lot to do with the lack of value for handmade things. We live in a throwaway world, you buy cheap stuff and when you get bored you chuck it out and buy more cheap stuff to replace it. Stuff is cheap because it is mass-produced. No one want’s to spend weeks or months (or years!) making something they can just buy a mass-produced version of. They see making stuff by hand rather than just buying it as something belonging in the past, obsolete, no longer necessary.

There has been a change in what children learn too, so much time is spent being academic, cramming for exams and the like, that practical skills and crafts have become second rate subjects. In my short lifetime I have seen ‘home economics’ become ‘food technology’ the name change I guess an attempt to turn it into something scientific sounding from something far more practical sounding? I might be wrong, I often am and I am willing to be educated. It does feel like what once were essential and useful skills like knowing how to cook and bake properly, how to sew, how to knit/crochet are now seen as just ‘hobbies’ and indulgences for your spare time. It has been interesting watching some of these skills become ‘fashionable’ The Great British Bake Off has younger generations feeling trendy in a pinny rolling out pastry and its started becoming cool to sew thanks to the popularity of Cath Kidston-esque goods. It seems though when it comes to yarn it’s still very much tied up in its Old Ladies image.

Personally I don’t even care about what others people think, I crochet on the bus, in the park, on the train, on break times at work and I’ve got varying reactions. Some are fascinated, some come out of the yarny closet and tell you they love to knit/crochet but a lot tell you their granny does it, some eye you like you’ve pulled something dangerous from your bag and others snigger. My favourite reaction yet is the child of about 6 years old on the train who just sat there transfixed, eyes wide in wonder like I was performing some kind of witch craft. I guess it probably did look like sorcery seeing a hat appear right before his very eyes like that.

See basically I don’t care if people think crocheting makes me an old lady, I know there is this whole amazing fun crochet community out there keeping alive a skill that could easily be forgotten with the passing of our grandparents generation if it wasn’t for newer generations getting hooked and passing it on too.

What I do care about is people being made to feel bad about crocheting by people who think its just for old folk. Firstly I love old people and I don’t think its nice to use being old as some kind of insult and secondly I don’t want to see potential crocheters being put off by the ignorant comments of others.

I love my connection to my Grandparents through yarn just as much as I loved sitting on a bench in the garden yesterday with my 16 year old daughter as we both sat sewing in the yarn tails on our As We Go blankets. We aren’t just making blankets, hats, scarves and the like. We are making memories, real tangible physical ones that will exist long after my Nan has gone and I am gone. Crochet items are like leaving little stories about yourself and love notes to people you care about. What’s so unfashionable about that?

Well that’s my thoughts about it anyway.

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Rainbows

I’ve noticed a lot of rainbows in my life this last few months. Not only have I felt compelled to create them with crochet, like the toddler leg warmers (free pattern here)

dark star keeping snuggly in her leg warmers

dark star keeping snuggly in her leg warmers

but they just seem to be around me a lot. It stands to reason with all this weird weather which has included rain, rain and more rain as the constant backdrop to howling winds that when the sun did get a walk on part in the production, rainbows would follow. I think I have seen more rainbows in the sky in the last month than I have in the last two years.
 

Here is one outside my bedroom window a few weeks ago. 

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I have a beautiful crystal in my living room window to catch the morning light. We live on the side of a valley so we get less sunshine than ‘up the top’ the sun comes in a little later and leaves us much earlier. You don’t see a proper sunset here unless you take a walk through the woods up into the farmers fields, you can see the thin strip of woods that borders our valley in the photo above. It isn’t really a ‘woodland’ as such, I believe on the map it is labelled “Long Coppice”. It been many many years since it was used as a coppice though, it does its own thing now mostly it is a nice place for a walk and local children like to play there. I’m rambling (as usual) I could probably write a whole blog post about the place, I am really very fond of it.

Back to the rainbows…

The crystal in the living room was a gift at my blessingway held just two days before the Little Dark Star arrived Earthside. She loves “nonna’s rainbows” as we call them. Excuse the crayon on the wall!!

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I even have a crystal in the window of Sallyvan so that space too will be filled with rainbows at least once a day. Here is a picture of the Little Dark Star napping among the rainbows (and some butterflies!)on our recent trip away. image 

I adore rainbows I really really do. Rainbows as we all know from our school science lessons, are white light split into seven (visible) colours. It is stunning how each colour is different but yet belong together so harmoniously. Sunlight is a kind of colourless thing yet contained within it are these amazing colours. Rainbows remind me that there is beauty hidden around us all the time, we just need the tools to see it, just because something isn’t visible, it doesn’t mean it is not there, just like love I suppose.  

True rainbows created by rain and sun have always been a symbol of hope for me. Even though rain is falling there is something beautiful that can be made from it and I think this probably resonates with many of us because even as adults we still feel wowed by the sight of a rainbow, like children we will excitedly rush to see it and encourage others to join us. Rainbows are wonderous things indeed.

It was yet another rainbow sneaking in that compelled me to write this blog post. As you know if you have visited my blog before I am making the As We Go blanket and having a little crochet-a-long on FB. (you can read about that HERE) I decided to keep colour combos fairly random, I’ve just been mindful of not putting too many strong colours together or ones that are just not nice with each other. I’ve been joyfully hooking up the last few rows when I suddenly realised this had happened…

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Can you see it? Yes I have inadvertently made a ‘rainbow’ combination and I LOVE it! 🙂 Less deep and strong than the toddler leggings but oh so delicious! Feeling really inspired about combining these colours like this for the next project I have planned.

This week I also found my Nan’s crochet hook and I am truly delighted to hold it once again. You can read about my Nan and this hook in this previous blog post, I found it buried in a big ball of yarn of a project started quite some times ago (an adult star poncho) but never got back to.
vintage crochet hook As you can see it is a bit shorter than my regular hooks. It probably suited my Nan’s crochet hook hold perfectly, she tended to hold it like a pencil whereas I hold it like a knife. The pencil hold looks much daintier but I find I have better tension and control the other way.

I have had a lovely February what with my birthday, the As We Go crochet-A-long getting underway and having our first trip of the year in our lovely Sallyvan.

We had a weekend in Seaford, the van was a stones throw from the beachfront and we had some lovely weather. We also had some insane wind and some rain too at night but I love the sound on the rain on the ‘van roof and I could hear the waves crashing and receeding all night, it was almost womb like. The older girls got on well considering we decided forgo the awning due to the winds, so we were rubbing along in a fairly small space all the time. The upper middle child (we shall call her The Funny One from now on, because she is! funny ha ha that is, rather than funny odd) even helped Golden Hair with her maths homework whilst I sneaked in some rows on the blanket.

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not a manicured and swanky site but still lovely and very friendly

not a manicured sand swanky site but still lovely and very friendly

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The As We Go blanket.

The As We Go blanket.

Finally here is a peek at the as we go blanket again. Yummy Scrummy!

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Learning to crochet.

This blog post was meant to be about how I learned to crochet, read crochet patterns and how I ended up ‘hooked’. I think it turned into something else entirely. I like it though so its staying as it is…

When I first started crocheting it was sat with my Nan in her living room as she worked treble clusters into a yet another giant granny blanket. I never saw her make anything else, not ever, just those giant granny squares as presents for various grown up children or her grandchildren. We had scores of crochet blankets in our house, Nan never liked duvets so her bed was sheets with layers of big crochet blankets and a woollen blanket on top. I can’t sleep in a blanket bed now without being instantly transported back to snuggling in my Nan’s bed watching snooker on her little black and white portable TV. Yes, I know it makes no sense snooker on a black and white but Nan insisted she could see it better than the colour TV. She had many oddities like that. I loved them all.

I have gone off track already, I told you this would happen often. It was too delicious to resist though. Those times with my Nan were so special to me.

Nan never had any colour plans she would just use whatever yarn she happened to have to hand. I have no idea where it all came from because I have no memory of her ever visiting a yarn shop. I think maybe people would just bring her a few balls here and there they had left over from knitting project or had picked up in a charity shop. The colour combinations of those big heavy blankets were ‘interesting’, often quite ‘masculine’ looking for want of a better word, I recall lots of navy blue, maroons and greens. New babies always got pastels and white though.

I can’t remember exactly how old I was when she sat me on her knee and let me have a go with the hook. I just learned to work the trebles into the chain spaces of the big blankets. Sometimes she would let me have a long go and I’d sit for ages hooking away in her white painted wicker chair, sometimes I only got to pop a few trebles in whilst she checked on the dinner. Nan crocheted right up till she died even though she was almost blind in one eye and had limited vision in the other. I used to watch her and she did it by touch really it was like watching someone beating out a little rhythm, the stitches always sped up and slowed down at the same point of formation each time. Sometimes when I am working up a simple pattern full of repeats I catch myself sat watching TV and crocheting without really looking, I can feel my own stitch rhythm happening and I wonder if I too will be reaping the joy of making simple crochet blankets till I die? I hope so.

After Nan died when I was about 12 I did not crochet anymore. I am pretty sure one of hooks I have is one of hers though. I have no idea how it came into my possession and is still around. I found it in with some of my teenage belongings. It’s the smoothest hook I own and curiously short compared to all my others. I’ve not seen any like it in the shops. I try not to be too attached and sentimental about it just in case it really is hers because then if I lost it I would be devastated. If I let myself believe it was definitely hers I’d probably never use it for fear of losing it and I’d rather be using it and maybe using something she owned than treating it like a museum piece. Secretly I know it is hers because I have a memory of that hook in the sideboard drawer, I’m just trying to talk myself out of it, because it is in fact missing at the moment and as I seem to use it a lot when teaching others to crochet (its super smoothness and short size seems to make it ideal) I am hoping no one has accidentally taken it home.

I think I started crocheting again when my sister was born, I have a vague memory of making a simple trebles big granny sqaure blanket. I recently found a dress I had been making when I was about 16 for my sisters dolly. Considering I couldn’t read a pattern yet and only knew how to make a granny square I am quite impressed with myself. I don’t think I was hugely obsessed with crochet then though because the dress is unfinished.

My next foray into crochet happened when I was expecting my first baby. I decided to crochet her a ‘special blanket’ as my little sister had one and I felt it was a useful thing for babies and toddlers to have. After the ‘blankie’ was made I was hungry for more. With my little sister sleeping in her buggy I set off to Allders in town, they had a haberdashery department back then (don’t panic, there is a big age gap between my sister and I and I used to mind her whilst my mum worked). I found a blanket pattern I liked the look of and asked the almost stereotypical ‘little old lady’ on the counter for advice about what yarn and hook I needed. I had never read a pattern before so she explained it to me. I stood there at the counter with that little old lady for ages and she very patiently showed me how to make the first square. I could read my first ever pattern (well some of it anyway!).

I made about 30 squares before I gave birth, the pattern required 64. I’ve never completed it. I have this idea now I will finish it for my first born’s first baby, whenever that happens (not too soon please!).

After that my crocheting fizzled out due to the demands of life but has always been reawakened when I have been expecting my next baby. Babies two and three got made a ‘blankie’ I also made a big single bed giant granny squares blanket in yellow and green, I remember sitting heavily pregnant with baby number two in our first home and waiting for my midwife to come and visit and having to put my crochet down to answer the door.

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I made a filet crochet cot blanket when expecting number 3 (she still has it on her bed now). That blanket amazes me when I look at it. I had no idea what filet crochet was and that it was filet crochet I was doing. The internet wasn’t something anyone commonly had yet so I made it just from an idea in my head. When I look at that blanket I remember being in bed in the small hours watching cricket (why?) whilst my other two girls slept and being unable to sleep myself as my husband was working in London and only came back home two nights a week.

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The more I’ve reflected on it, the timing of the crochet and the intensity of it, the more I have started to feel that with the crochet I was actually renewing that link with my Nan. I feel like pregnancy is a time you start to want to feel nurtured, sometimes you kind of regress into feeling like you need a little bit of mothering. I guess in hindsight that’s what my crochet gave me at those times. It invoked memories of feeling cherished and loved. Memories of being held on Nan’s knee or stealing into her still warm chair whilst she tended the needs of her family by cooking or hanging the washing out. Just the feel of a crochet blanket draped on my knee is to be sat in that chair of hers sneaking in some trebles, hearing her singing to herself or whistling in the kitchen. To snuggle under a crochet blanket is to have my Nan by my side once more, snuggled in her bed, drinking strong sweet tea and watching TV together. Crochet always reminds me of how much she loved me and how fiercely I loved her in return.

I guess I must have needed her more than ever when I became pregnant with baby number four because this is when my now total obsession with crochet took hold. I knew I would make the now traditional ‘blankie’ for the baby but before I even started making that I was gripped by an urge to find my hooks and box of yarn (there was a failed foray into knitting previously so I had lots). It was hats that seem to start the total obsession. I had this need to make the baby a pixie hat. I kept envisioning the baby in it, so I made one. I went to the library and got books out on how to crochet and taught myself lots of new stitches and learned to read the language that is crochet patterns, it was pretty confusing at times but we now have the internet at our finger tips so I googled YouTube videos of stitches I wasn’t sure of. Then came the bootees, so very exciting and satisfying.

Most exciting of all for me was that people wanted to buy the things I made! I couldn’t believe my luck, a self funding hobby. At times I had more orders than I knew what to do with, I think the universe had a plan in making that happen. I couldn’t get around very easily due to a pregnancy related condition called Pelvic Girdle Dysfunction (sometimes known at Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction) and spent a lot of time immobile. The crochet orders kept my hands and mind busy even if my body wasn’t able to do much. More significantly crocheting probably brought my Nan back to me at a time I needed that feeling of nurturing. I think of her often whilst I am working, I think of all the baby blankets she made. Sometimes, actually often, I feel a deep sense of sadness she never got to make my babies a blanket, she loved babies (she must have done she had 9 of her own!), she would have loved my girls. I think though that really when you think about it she has made my children a blanket each, every time I made one she was there flowing from my heart into the work in my hands, crochet is what she taught me and I have grown to love it so very much that I can’t imagine my life without it. Everything I make has a little bit of her in it and though I cried several times writing this blog entry because I still miss her so much even after so many years, I also feel a real sense of joy and comfort knowing in some way she is still alive and connected to me every time I hold a hook and begin to work with some yarn. Every time I make something as a gift or someone buys a crochet piece from me it contains a little bit of that love and a happy part of my soul.

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