A long time coming

Those of you who have been with me for a while may remember me beginning work on covering my sofa with crochet (apparently, that was July 2014). I started well – I made a cover using a different design for each of the five large cushions that we lean on:

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phase 1 completed a long time ago

Next I planned to make a large rectangular piece to go over the seat cushions. The colours were the same, but this was stripy. I started, but I got really fed up with the very long rows and work ground to a halt. I also started to wonder whether it was the most sensible way to cover the seat cushions – would it move about to much when in use?. Boredom combined with uncertainty does not lead to finished projects and so it remained a work in progress.

When the beginning of this year arrived, however, I decided that I wanted to shift some of my unfinished projects – either I was going to complete them or they were going to go. So, once the woolly hug and a charity blanket were completed, the sofa cover was next on the list. I braced myself for long, dull rows, but actually it wasn’t too bad. On further consideration, I decided that the seat cushions would each need separate covers, but the stripy piece could cover the back of the sofa. So I crocheted on and finally reached a size that seemed suitable. I edged it with a single row of double crochet and here it is:

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those rows are SO long

Initially I was going to make some gussets for the sides, but actually it works really well (at least for the time being) as a simple throw. Of course, once the fancy cushions are in place, you can’t see much of the stripes, but I know they are there!

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stripes peeking out

So far all the work has been done using double knitting wool, but I’m going to progress on to something a little thicker now. Fortunately, New Lanark, who make the wool, do the same colours in aran weight and that’s what I plan to use for the seat cushion covers and the pieces to go over the arms… I probably need a sort of pelmet for the front too. This project is not over by a long way, but at least there aren’t any bits languishing around the house unfinished now.

Funnily enough, I’m not the only one celebrating the end of a long-incomplete piece of work… The Twisted Yarn seems to be in the same position today. Anyone else managed a recent big finish?

 

No goals for 2018

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Mr Snail’s Wellie socks #2

This time last year I was just getting going with 17 for 2017 – a list of goals for the year. This year I’m having a goal-free year, but if I was ticking off last years list I’d be doing well – I’ve knitted a pair of socks, baked a couple of batches of biscuits, darned three pairs of socks and repaired the pocket of a pair of jeans. I’ve even managed to play a game of Scrabble – something that proved impossible to do when it was a ‘goal’ but easy when it’s just what we fancied doing!

A friend of mine mentioned today that her word for the year 2018 is ‘creativity’ and I think I’d like my year to be especially creative too. Since completing Sophie I haven’t done much crochet, but my knitting needles have been busy… not only the socks but good progress on the jumper with lacy side panels:

I’ve also started reviewing my WIPs. There are five main ones: the sofa cover, two lap blankets, a cardigan and the Beekeeper’s quilt. So far, I’ve looked at two of these. The sofa cover piece is currently 74 cm x the width of the sofa (the white measure in the photograph is 100cm long). This piece is destined to be draped over the back of the sofa… I just need to bite the bullet and finish it and then I can start on the two seat cushion covers, which will be much more interesting (NB the main cushion covers were finished two or three years ago).

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oh, those long rows!

And then there’s this lovely lap blanket, which I ran out of steam with.IMGP4938 Once I pick it up again I know I’ll enjoy making it and I have someone in mind to give it to. The centre is made from yarn that was given to me, but the edging is all scraps.

So, no goals for 2018, but plenty to get on with!

Still hooking

Recently I have written little about yarn, but this does not mean that I have not been busy with my hook (no knitting recently, although I am about to start a pair of socks). So, as a nice relaxing post for a Sunday evening, I thought I would share the progress on the sofa cushions. This is not the only crochet that I have been working on, but two completed pieces are yet to reach their intended recipients and I don’t want to spoil the surprise in either case.

Like Wild Daffodil I have been having fun with African Flower crochet squares this week (thanks to Mollie and Claire for the inspiration). Eventually I decided that seven was enough to include in my final cushion and had to make myself stop. I used the blues and grey in a variety of combinations so every one looks different:

Sam gave the squares a final inspection - she thinks they are ok

Sam gave the squares a final inspection – she thinks they are ok

These and all the others now need to be edged in dark blue and stitched together (16 per side) to make the final cushion. Then I just have to wait for the buttons (they are being hand made for me) so that I can finish them off. For the time being, here is what all the work so far looks like:

The yarn is 100% wool from New Lanark Mill, it’s all DK and the colours are navy, denim, blueberry (not much of this – only in the small squares), iris, sky and limestone.

Now, excuse me whilst I retire with a glass of wine and a needle to weave about a million ends into the small squares!

A week of wool

Today is the final day of UK Wool Week, a celebration of all things woolly and a good excuse to go out and buy some local yarn. In fact, I have rather a lot of British wool in my stash, so I resisted the temptation and, instead, made a set of British wool squares, destined to become part of the covers for my sofa (it’s a rather long-term project):

Six squares in New Lanark Wool

Six squares in New Lanark Wool

I’d already made quite a few traditional granny squares to use, but then I was tempted by a recommendation from Phil over at The Twisted Yarn, and so bought this wonderful book which has instructions in it for the six squares photographed above:

Connect the Shapes: Crochet Motifs

Connect the Shapes: Crochet Motifs

What is particularly good is the instructions are both written and in the form of charts. It’s great and I can see that quite a lot of my crochet sofa is going to be based on patterns in this book.

So my UK wool week has been very productive… anyone else made anything interesting?

Sprucing things up

Looking around our house the other day I realised that you would never know about my obsession with fibre… other than all the work bags and baskets. You may be surprised to know that the place is not awash with afghans, covered with crochet cushions nor festooned with felt. There are a few things around… felt tea cosy and camera case, lots of knitted socks and a variety of hats and gloves, but not much that’s showy or obvious. Around my office, you can see a knitted Nessie, crochet snail, mushrooms and bacteria, but they are quite discreet. Much of my work has been given away, swapped or sold. Soon, however, the masterpiece will adorn our bed and I will start on my Bavarian crochet afghan.

It's all too easy to lose a dog in our sofa

It’s all too easy to lose a dog in our sofa…

But right now I have embarked on a big new project. Our sofa is nearly 14 years old. It’s still comfy and we don’t want to get rid of it (despite the fact that it eats hair grips, crochet hooks, scissors and, occasionally, dogs), but it is looking rather tired and Sam has decided in recent years that all the zippers on the cushions are especially yummy and should be eaten. We have a spare set of covers, but we are fast running out of covers that have functioning zippers for the big square cushions (five of them) that go along the back. Fortunately, Sam has not noticed the large zipper up one side at the back of the sofa, so the two big covers are ok. In theory, I could replace the zippers, but I don’t want to for two reasons: (1) I hate putting in new zippers, and these are right along the top of each cushion, so are fiddly to replace, and (2) Sam would probably just eat them again (sigh). Anyway, it seems like a great excuse to yarnstorm my own home.

... but it's still comfy

… but it’s still comfy

And so, blue yarn has arrived and crochet fun has commenced. I’m making the first cushion cover with Attic24’s Neat Ripple pattern as this was so successful for the cushion I made for my sis. Originally my intention was to make them all the same, but I’m tempted to use the same palette for them all, but different designs (would this be too much?) I have chosen five colours from the New Lanark range of double knitting wool: sky haze, iris, limestone, navy and denim. It’s going to require rather a lot of yarn and many hours of work, but I think that it will look great when it’s done. So often people throw away perfectly good furniture because it’s got a bit worn, so it feels good to put some work into reinvigorating  this sofa.

The first cover is progressing

The first cover is progressing

Getting organised

As well as getting rid of extraneous ‘stuff’ from around the house, I’m also trying to be more organised with the stuff that I do want to keep. This is a real challenge for me because I am just naturally untidy (I wish I wasn’t). Since I always have numerous craft projects on the go, I decided to start making project bags in which to keep them – each one neat and tidy and separate from the others. This also gives me an excuse to make yet more things! Here is my first completed one, containing the, as yet unfinished, hoodie in Jacobs wool (I’ve sort of lost the incentive to finish it quickly now the weather is warmer):

I adapted Lucy’s Jolly Chunky Bag pattern (Attic24) to make it the size I wanted and used New Lankark aran weight wool.

I photographed the bag last night with a chair as a backdrop and I was surprised to find Max underneath. I wonder if he felt he’d had a hard day:

In case you are wondering the wine is Cheverny – it’s French and very good.

British wool

I’ve been very busy over the past couple of weeks, mostly working with British wool. In my efforts to buy local, I have become interested in using Welsh wool, but this is easier said than done. You see, here in Britain, we have the Wool Marketing Board and, except in particular circumstances, all wool producers must channel their wool through this organisation. This means that wool produced locally gets muddled up with wool from other parts of the country. It even means that Falkland Islands wool (which has travelled a very long way around the world) is  part of the picture. The only way that you can guarantee exactly where the wool has come from is to buy yarn made from the fleece of a rare breed, because this is kept separate and can be marketed individually.* The problem with rare breed wool is the expense.

I have just had to accept that, in most cases, the best I can do is to look for ‘British Wool’. I don’t have any issues with this when I am making things for myself, but it is more of a problem when I’m working on a commission. First, I have customers who specify a particular colour. It’s really easy to get any colour in acrylic yarn and this is what customers have often seen – getting a match in pure wool can be more challenging. Second is the price – acrylic yarn is cheap (for your pocket if not for the environment) and this is a consideration in many cases. And third, lots of people actually don’t like wool – because of the texture, the washing or the fact that it’s from an animal (I have lots of vegan friends who won’t use animal fibres).

Chunky slippers made from 'Big Brit Woolyknit' yarn

Chunky slippers made from ‘Big Brit Woolyknit’ yarn

So, I’m trying to strike a balance – using British Wool where possible and trying to minimise the amount of acrylic I do use. Sometimes some man made fibre is essential: the most robust sock yarn that is also soft is generally 75% wool and 25% man made fibre. In many cases, however, wool is a good choice. For example, all the crochet slippers I have made recently have made use of hard-wearing, chunky British wool. Plus I’ve been using lovely New Lanark wool for the masterpiece edging and for the cushion cover for my sister. With the leftovers from the latter I have started making an Attic24 stripy bag (the original is in chunky acrylic, but I am using aran wool and adapting the pattern a bit).

In addition to the wool I choose, I have realised that when I need buttons, I can avoid plastic and buy ones made from natural materials, or at least use up some from my button box so I’m not buying new plastic ones. And, indeed, I was able to find four lovely buttons in my button box for my sister’s cushion cover… in fact they are antique mother of pearl and much nicer than any I could buy. Perhaps it’s just too easy to toddle of and buy new things when, with a little thought and effort, we can discover exactly what we need at home.

-oOo-

* Many thanks to Jude at Red Apple Yarn in Lampeter for explaining all this to me

The waiting game

My mum is currently in hospital having had an operation. When she comes out, she needs someone to be with her and had asked me if I would oblige. In theory she could have been released as early as yesterday, so I was prepared to set off in the afternoon to be at the house by early evening (it takes a couple of hours to get over there). I called the hospital in the morning and was told that she probably wouldn’t be released; this was confirmed in the afternoon. So, I’m still at home. Will she be released today? That remains to be seen… I need to phone again soon.

Preparing to make borders

Preparing to make borders

The upshot of all this is that I just haven’t been able to settle down to do anything… there is paid work to be done, but I can’t concentrate on that at the moment. There are diploma designs to work on, but my mind keeps wandering. So the answer seems to be crochet and an audio book. The arrival of the New Lanark wool for the masterpiece borders means that I have lots to do.

The squares are all supposed to be about 15cm (6 inches), but some are a bit bigger and some a bit smaller, so I need to ensure that each border makes the squares a standard size. To that end, I have made myself a cardboard template, so that I have something to aim at and I don’t have to keep getting a ruler out.

Squares with borders

Squares with borders

I can place the squares on the template and ease them into the right shape, quickly getting an idea of how much edge I need. Of course, the stretchiness of knitted and crochet work does give me a bit of leeway, but it will be good to have squares that are close to a standard size.

I’ve just read the latest post from Katrina at Crochet Crush in which she talks about making crochet flowers in spare moments whilst waiting to collect her eldest from school. So what do you do when you have spare minutes or, like me, unsettled hours to fill?

Forming an attachment

I have to go away at the end of the week to undertake some nursing duties. I don’t know how long I’m going to be away, but I want to take plenty of yarn with me to ensure that I will have something to do with my hands for several days at least.

Flower and meditation squares

Flower and meditation squares

If you have been keeping an eye on the Masterpiece page (do take a peek if you haven’t already done so), you will know that I have been a busy bee, creating ‘meditation squares’ – simple patterns that give me something to do with my hands whilst my mind is either relaxing with an audiobook or busily working through an idea or problem – and a few designs of my own allowing me to explore my creativity. It’s been rather nice not to follow a pattern and I am fond of the traditional style of granny square that I make when I don’t want to have to concentrate but I do want to increase my alpha brain waves (it’s true, take a look at this post).

The design squares

The design squares

All this means that I have quite a collection of squares now, including the nine that will form the central square of the blanket. Those nine each represent one of the designs in my portfolio… there are ten designs in total, and the complete blanket will represent my learning pathway design. It feels like my trip away will be a good opportunity to start joining them together. My plan is to crochet an edge round each square to ensure that they are all the same finished size and to give  a feeling of consistency and then to sew them together… yes I know I could crochet them together, but I like the idea of sewing and I think it will be neater (of course I might change my mind once I start).

Donated squares... I would still welcome more!

Donated squares… I would still welcome more!

And it is at this point that I have had to make the first purchase. I want the borders to all be the same colour and I don’t have enough oddments or wool in my ‘stash’ to achieve this. So, I have had to buy some. In the spirit of permaculture, I decided to support a small business – I couldn’t find what I wanted locally, so I have ordered some yarn from New Lanark Wool and Textiles. Originally I was going to use black yarn, but I was really taken with the heather shades that they sell, and so I have ordered some in the colour ‘Blueberry’. The wool itself comes from Yorkshire and is processed and spun at New Lanark, which is a World Heritage Site in Scotland. Fingers crossed it arrives before I leave on Friday.

If you would still like to make me a square, don’t be put off, I’d love some more. I just think that task of joining them needs to be spread out otherwise it will be too intimidating all at the end!

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