Bee Happy!

Today I have just been doing things for me and my family, well, apart from marzipanning a cake for a client. It’s my lovely husband’s birthday in a couple of days so before I go to Bridport for the weekend to tie everything up for the Big Move, I have baked and decorated this cake, which we will share with family and friends when I get back.

He is keen on getting at least one bee hive in Dorset, which we will be under the fruit trees in the little orchard we will own, so here’s a celebration of bees, of the productivity of our new life, and much happiness to come.

Happy Birthday to my beeloved!

PS He’s not 5! 5 is the number of our new home!

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Yarn Eater!

I’ve been wanting to try out Sarah London’s yarn eater pattern for a while, so I am using it for my latest cushion cover. It’s a really interesting stitch, and one section involves drawing the loop through 10 loops on the hook – reminds me of tunisian crochet or even knitting! I also checked out Crochet Dad’s great tutorial on the wheel stitch, a similar technique. The Sarah London pattern uses Australian stitch references which is the same as we Brits, I had to translate Crochet Dad’s.

It’s called yarn eater and its true to its name! And the stuff I am using here, the same Rowan alpaca/cotton mix I used in the bobble textured cushion cover and a beautiful 100% wool from Bridport Yarn, is not cheap! I am off back there on Saturday for another ball, and the back of the piece will have to be in plain old doubles!

I have gone against all the rules and used two quite different yarns, which has given this a highly textural, lump bumpy finish which I rather like! Check out this work in progress pic which gives a good idea of the pattern.

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Feeling edgy!

I have spent some time today working up samples and writing up patterns for my next Intermediate Crochet workshop at Make & Do. I say intermediate, as two of the trims I have chosen are a lot easier than they look and anyone beyond picking up a hook for the first time could manage them! The very useful and pretty shell edging will feature, along with this gorgeous ‘Hardy Lace’ edging. I have applied it here to a vintage guest towel I got in a charity shop for 50p, and the same stitch is on the little granny lavender sachet, creating a quite different effect!

Also on offer will be granny edging which will be slightly more of a challenge, with half trebles in the mix. But so pretty, and such a lovely finishing touch for a granny blanket, it fits in perfectly with the treble clusters and turns corners beautifully.

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I now want to trim all my tea-towels! Then I will not want to use them at all!

There are still some places left on the workshop, you get all the materials you need, and a tea towel and hook to take away! The date is 4 October between 7 and 10! Check out Make & Do’s website for more details.

Home Sweet Home

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I have just put the finishing touches on my latest cushion, the ‘provenance’ piece which I really loved making. I used handspun wool and silk yarn direct from the spinner and my own piece of handspun, hand dyed wool in the reddish shade for the cross stitching. The yarn came out of the skein very fine, slightly slubby and almost linen-like, so  I worked it on a 3mm hook in double crochets – nice and plain.  Across the envelope back I used little vintage leather buttons from a stash I inherited. I really am so pleased with this, it’s for my new home in West Dorset and I have enjoyed making this more than just about anything, which completely proves the point about the quality and beauty of the raw materials making such a difference to the final piece!

Later on I’ll be switching to crochet edging as I put together the patterns for my next Intermediate Crochet Workshop at Make & Do. News on this, and more photos, coming up!

Some more pics here of my newest cushions!

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Crochet Comfort

I am now busy making things for my new home in West Dorset – some of these things might be in storage for a while whilst we knock the place into the home we want it to be, but I have already decided that I want the colour palette to echo the sea nearby, in a subtle way, I won’t be having wooden yachts and lighthouses at every corner!

Here is the cushion cover I have just finished, its in a textured pattern with long stitches next to short stitches on some rows to create a bobble effect. I worked it in Rowan Alpaca Cotton which is a lovely, soft aran weight yarn, it’s pricey but its beautiful. Another cushion cover is coming up mixing the same yarn with a natural coloured wool from Blacker Yarns, bought at the sublime yarn shop Bridport Yarn, possibly the most fabulous purveyor of beautiful and unusual yarns ever. I love the way the handmade Dorset buttons on the back have turned out. They are such beautiful things to make, and allow you to finish your pieces in a totally unique way for next to no cost!

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And here’s what I call a provenance piece which I am close to finishing. This is from a skein of Portland wool and silk which I bought direct from the spinner at the Melplash Show in Bridport last month – she’s in the background on my Gravatar pic . It looks a lot like linen, undyed and slightly slubby but very fine, so I worked it plain with double crochet on a 3mm hook. I am working the cross stitch over the double crochets with some handspun wool which I dyed myself with a natural dye made from flower heads on a taster day with the Berkshire Spinners, Weavers and Dyers. So it feels really special to me, I know where each of the materials are from and who made them. Finished piece pictures coming up!

Handfasting!

Last weekend I was given the singular honour of standing priestess for the handfasting of my beautiful friends, working with the rather gorgeous Ray as priest. This was a blessing of their runaway legal marriage in Gretna Green a few weeks ago and was a time of celebration for the whole family and friends in the garden of their stunning new home. What a lovely day we had – it was simple and beautiful and filled with joy. 

Here’s Ray and I standing to welcome them into the circle – this was so spontaneous that we only prepped it an hour beforehand, so my hastily scribbled running order is clutched in my mitts! A man and a woman usually stand as celebrants, to honour the Goddess and the God in the union of bride and groom. I have worked ritual for many years but this is the first time I have done this in a handfasting – I loved doing it, helping to create something unique and personal to mark a very special time, and would love to do this again! 

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Here’s the moment when the couple’s hands were fast using the ribbon from the car at Gretna!

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And here are the happy couple, in their beautiful apple orchard, where the ceremony took place

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African Grey flies the nest!

Had a busy weekend acting as celebrant at a wonderful handfasting in the Midlands for two exceptionally beautiful people – photos to follow. I also gifted this towering creation as a wedding cake, whipped up in half an hour before the ceremony – but not before the African Grey Parrot cake flew the nest and went off to the customer who ordered it. Just had this lovely note from the new parrot owner! Pity they haven’t tasted it yet, but the same mix I baked for the wedding cake went down exceptionally well, with the bride and groom having to rush to cut the cake before the kids went mad with anticipation!

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“Thank you so much for the fantastic birthday cake that you made.

The cake is just brilliant, we are yet to taste it as my sister doesn’t want to cut it yet!

We had a wonderful evening, and it was made all the better when we sung happy birthday and brought the tasty looking African Grey out.”

Little bowl or bucket bag – free tutorial!

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Here’s a bit of a freebie – I have taught this method on Beginner’s Crochet classes as well – they are a great beginners project and the first things I ever made when my friend Boann taught me to crochet round the camp fire a number of years ago. I have written this pattern for complete beginners, so it might seem a bit Janet & John to some! 

This design uses three basic crochet stitches – chain, double and slip stitch which are the basis of many crochet patterns. Once you have mastered the little bowl or bag basics, you can make large versions in many different yarns, and add handles and embellishments if you wish. I have made them in coloured jute string to form a storage basket with a fold over top – you could make pen holders, plant pot covers, children’s play bags, handbags and even large shopping bags using this method – see the Liquorice Allsorts bag I made using this method at the end of this post. 

Essentially you are working ‘in the round’ which some beginners find easier to master than making a straight, flat piece. It demonstrates the versatility of crochet in making flexible, interesting shapes. 

You will need: 

  • a range of yarns in contrasting colours, or a tonal mix, or even just in one colour – you don’t need a lot and this is an ideal way of using up ball ends
  • crochet hooks to suit the weight of the yarn you are using (if in doubt, check the ball band!)
  • a knitters needle for darning in ends
  • a sewing needle for applying any embellishments

The Stitches:

Chain (ch in British patterns) – Bring the yarn over the hook from the back, wrap it round the hook so you have two loops on the hook – the original loop and the new loop. Slide the loops down to the hook end and use the hook to secure the new loop whilst you pull it through the old loop, leaving one loop on the hook. If you keep going you will end up with a series of little chains.  

Slip Stitch (sl st in British patterns) – Insert your hook into the place on the pattern where it tells you to make a slip stitch. Bring the yarn over the hook from the back, then use the hook to pull the new loop on the hook through the stitch you are slip stitching into and at the same time through the original loop on the hook. This is a smooth, single action and is a way of securing work which does not ‘make’ any more textile. 

Double Crochet (dc on British patterns) – insert your hook into the stitch or space as directed by the pattern. Bring the yarn over the hook from the back, wrap it round the hook and use the hook to bring it through the stitch below where you inserted your hook. There will now be two loops on the hook. Then bring the yarn over the hook from the back again and wrap it round so you have three loops on the hook – the original two and the one you have just made. Slide the loops down to the hook end and use the hook to secure the new loop whilst you pull it through the first of the old loops, leaving two loops on the hook. Then bring the yarn over the hook from the back again and wrap it round so you have three loops on the hook – the original two and the one you have just made. Slide the loops down to the hook end and use the hook to secure the new loop whilst you pull it through the both of the remaining loops, leaving the new loop you have just made on the hook! 

 Sounds complicated but it will become second nature as you work it over the over and see the piece growing! 

  1. Plan your colour scheme – first decide which colours and textures you would like in your piece, maybe also what trim and buttons or beads you would like on it too!

    Then get the hooks you need selected and your trims and other equipment ready. 

  1. Crochet your bowl

Round 1 – take the yarn you have chosen for the bowl or bag base then chain 4. Join with a slip stitch to form a ring. Then chain 2 which is your first ‘spoke’ in the wheel you are now going to make. Then double crochet into the ring 11 times. You will end up with a mini wheel with 12 ‘spokes’. 

Round 2 – work two double crochets into each of the stitches from the previous round until you get to the chain two on round 1. Join with a slip stitch. You can change colour if you want to now. To do this, cut off your yarn, leaving a long enough length to darn in afterwards, and pull it through the loop on the hook to secure. The join on your new colour, knotting it in as close as you can to the work. 

Round 3 – pull the new colour in by hooking it through from the back then start any new colours by working a chain 2, work two double crochets into the first stitch on round 3, then work 1 double crochet into the next stitch, continue in this way, alternating two double crochets and 1 double crochets all the way round. If you want to join in a new colour, follow the steps above. 

Round 4 – If you are working a new colour, start off with a chain two, then work two double crochets into the next stitch then one double crochet into the next four stitches, continue alternating in this way until you reach the end of the round. 

If you want to make a larger flat bottom, keep working like this, increasing the number of stitches after the two double crochets into the one stitch. You will get a feel for whether your increasing is correct by having a nice flat piece. If it starts to look wavy, you are putting too many stitches in the round. You can pull it back and work a few less in to get it right!

Round 5 – start to make the sides of the bowl by starting the next round with a chain two then working one double crochet into each stitch on the next round – you will see it start to curl up as go round – this is what you want!

Continue working like this up the straight sides for as tall as you want it to be – taller bowls look good with turned down tops. 

If you want to make a bag you can choose two methods – either join on some straps by working a set of new stitches into the top row of your straight sides then use the same stitch, double crochet, to make two pairs of handles – you just work the stitches back and forth to get long straight pieces – the textile will look slightly different to the bowl shape with more texture to it. Or you can do this:

Decide where to put your handle ‘holes’ along the walls of the bag, then make a chain, as long as you want the handle to be, count the chains then count the same number of stitches from your last row and join the chain back into the top row with a double crochet. Flatten the walls of your bag to work out where the next handle ‘hole’ will be – on the other side of the bag to correspond with the one you have already made. Mark the point you need to get to round the other side of the bag with a pin or marker, then double crochet as before until you get to the pin or marker. Chain the same number you made on the opposite side and join it in in the same way. Then carry on working double crochets along the row, working into the chains, as before until the bag is the height you want it to be. 

Use a knitters needle to darn in all your loose ends and snip off. You can decorate you bag or bowl if you want to, using beads, buttons or even a crochet flower if you know how to make them. 

Happy hooking!

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Tonight’s Embroidery Class – fresh produce!

Only two students tonight and what a lovely evening we had down at Make & Do with two wonderful strawberry brooches completed and one from a first time french knotter! I love the couching too with the late Winifred Clayton’s vintage slubbed yarn – well done, Claire and Kathy!

CAKE!

This weekend has been all about CAKE! I have baked about 13 of them in the last fortnight, and not eaten so much as a trimming! If you are a cake decorator like me, you will know the frustration when someone asks you for an extravaganza of a cake then gets all sniffy when you give them the price! These things are not from Tescos, they are handmade with the best ingredients going, then crafted in a totally personal and individual way! Four of the cakes I baked went into this just finishedImage African Grey Parrot Cake, possibly the strangest request I have ever had! A lot of work and thought went into this one. You can’t buy these in Tescos!