Tag Archives: Crochet

Shifting Sands

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Shifting Sands

Life has seemed turbulent lately. Many of you will know that 2016 was a phenomenally tough year for me, for so many reasons. 2017 started with moving house, so more upheaval. By February I was planning everything I needed to do to get back to my usual crafting and studying activities. And then the big one hit … my mum was very suddenly diagnosed with a brain tumour.

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My view, as I took in the news.

It was soon clear that this was not going to be a long illness. There was no prospect of treatment, other than palliative care. For one who likes to navigate by festivals, I find it extraordinary to think that mum was diagnosed on Shrove Tuesday, died on Passion Sunday, and the last time I spent with her on Earth was on Mothering Sunday (which, coincidentally, was also my birthday). We will gather to celebrate her life during Holy Week. By the time Maundy Thursday dawns, the end of life rituals will be done. The grieving will continue, and will mellow over time.

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Mothering Sunday flowers from our last day together. When I turned for a last look before leaving, I saw that my daughter had laid one of the daffodils on mum’s bed.

It’s hard to know what I could say about my mum that would do her justice. She was my my first and most important teacher. She’s the one who taught me to knit, who brought the enduring love of yarn and the simple pleasure of handwork into my life. She’s mentioned in the first paragraph I ever wrote on this site, and how could it have been otherwise? It couldn’t. So profound is her spirit within me that she is here in every word. She was the recipient of my first every story skeins: Sunset Forest and A Quarter of Sherbet. Clearly, her influence stretches far beyond me and my little niche of creativity, but I start there because it’s what I come here to write about.

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A rainbow over the hospice.

It was my mum who bought me the Hook to Heal book for my last birthday. I have made so much of the healing power of crafting over this short and difficult journey. I have stitched, and hooked, and sewn by her bed. I could be with her, in ways we had been together hundreds of times before. We didn’t need to talk if there was nothing to say or mum needed a rest. But we had easy companionship and the joy of watching a creation take shape. She asked my daughter to make her a bag to hold her prayer stones. We stitched it together on the journey to see mum. I finished my Elise shawl when mum was ill. I had worked on it beside her, and shown her the beautiful colours in the yarn, and the patterns I was creating. I’ll wear it to her funeral next week.

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Beautiful stained glass windows in the hospital.

Before mum’s diagnosis I had started Scheepjes’ Hygge crochet along. I treated myself to the kit as a post-moving house present to myself. I didn’t know it would take on a much greater significance. I stitched so much of that piece by her bedside. Although I worked on other projects too, Hygge was immediately special. It was calming and beautiful, and really engaged my mum who admired it and insisted on showing it off to staff and patients alike!

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Hygge to week 7. This project was and continues to be a blessing for me and my mum.

When her prognosis came through I knew she would not see it completed. And I knew it was by now far too special to be anything other than a tribute piece to her. When she died, as I was stitching week 7, I embroidered her initials and dates into the piece.

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JAB 1947 – 2017

Mum touched so many people’s lives in so many different ways. I could not possibly list them all here. But I think the common theme through her life is a true understanding of what it means to serve people, and a clarity about why our service to others is important; about why people – and how we treat them – are important. The way she lived taught me formative lessons about living the life you want in the way you want: enjoying and embracing the things that are important to you, under the guidance of a strong and generous moral centre.

My mum went to University in Hull and used to tell me about the librarian: Philip Larkin. When I came to study for my GCSEs, one of his poems was in our anthology. I’ve always liked the last line, and though I am taking it out of context, I’d still like to think about it here. Larkin talks of his Schoolmaster, who “Dissolved. (Like sugar in a cup of tea.)” Now, my mum was far too much of a strong woman to dissolve in life. She wasn’t one to stay in the background. But when I think of her influence I see that although she is no longer here, everything she’s done for the last nearly-70 years leaves the world a sweeter place. Although we have a journey of grief to navigate, eventually those rough granules will dissolve too, and what we’ll be left with are the sweet memories, and the knowledge that we have been the luckiest of families, to have such a person in our lives.

Goodbye mum. Love you always. xxx

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Using Art Yarn. Part 1: The Easter Chicks

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Using Art Yarn. Part 1: The Easter Chicks

The possibilities for art yarn, both creating it and using it, are limitless. However sometimes people struggle to know what to do with this yarn that may be bulky, irregular, highly textured, short of yardage and, above all, fun.

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“Easter Chick” art yarn by Taylor Made Yarns. Photo courtesy of Taylor Made Yarns.

I bought this amazing art yarn from Taylor Made Yarns, one of my favourite fibre artists, at Fibre East. It is an irregular bulky spiral-plied yarn with little chick charms plied into it. Like many special skeins, I needed to wait for the right project to emerge. As it happened, I won a skein from Cuddlebums: beautiful, subtly-speckled handdyed skinny singles. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had found the companion yarn for the Easter Chicks.

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I set about making a hyperbolic spiral scarf. I planned for gentle spiral ruffles, edged in wild art yarn. I used a 4mm hook to crochet a chain to my desired length, made a dc in each chain to form the foundation of my scarf and then started my increase rows. To create the spiral effect you need to increase stitches on each row in the following way:

  • 1st increase row: work 2 tr into each dc.
  • 2nd increase row: *work 2 tr into the first tr, tr 1. Repeat from *.
  • 3rd increase row: *work 2 tr into the first tr, tr 2. Repeat from *.
  • 4th increase row: *work 2 tr into the first tr, tr 3. Repeat from *.
  • Etc.

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The two yarns I used in this project were very different and I needed to find a way to integrate them. In order to work the thick art yarn into the edge I created an eyelet row using the finer yarn. My final increase row would have been a pattern of *2tr into first tr, tr 5, repeat from *. I altered this to *2tr into first tr, ch2, sk 2 tr, tr 1, ch2, sk 2 tr, repeat from *.

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These eyelets made an attractive edge and provided holes big enough to work a crocheted art yarn edging.

I was not sure that I would have enough of the art yarn to cover the whole edge of the scarf. I decided to split the art yarn into two equal parts and work from each end. I reskeined the yarn and counted 24 wraps of my niddy noddy. I wound off 12 wraps, cut the yarn and then wound off the 2nd half.

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I switched to a 10mm hook and started adding a border in a pattern of *dc into eyelet, ch 1, repeat from *. Here is the scarf with half of the edging worked:

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And here is the finished piece:

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There is so much glorious variety in this yarn, each ruffle is like its own vignette:

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And I couldn’t end this post without a close-up of the chicks!

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This was such a fun project to work on. I hope it’s given you some art-yarn inspiration.

Book Review: Hook to Heal!

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Book Review: Hook to Heal!

Hook to Heal! 100 crochet exercises for health, growth, connection, inspiration and honoring your inner artist.

By Kathryn Vercillo

Hook to Heal caught my attention from the first time I heard about it. It went straight onto my wish list and when my birthday came around this year, lo! the book arrived (thanks, mum!)

Hook to Heal held a lot of appeal to me, as it draws together a lot of seemingly disparate themes that for me, reflect very accurately the threads of my life. I say “seemingly disparate” because I’m not sure that many people make the connection between fibrecraft and topics such as health, wellbeing, challenge and personal growth, despite these being obvious to many of us deeply involved in this fascinating realm of creativity.

Hook to Heal uses the medium of crochet to provide the arena for thinking through and working on all sorts of areas of life. These include, but are not limited to: Self-care, Self-esteem, Facing fears, Relationships, Balance, Giving something back, and Artistic development. With such a comprehensive scope, you can see that this is no small task that Vercillo set herself when planning and writing the book.

I decided to work through her book this year, and as an act of sharing and community-building, I decided to open the process up as a read-along for anyone who wished to join. I studied the structure of the book and devised a 12-week program. I knew 12 weeks was a short time for such a book, but fortunately I’ve battled my perfectionist demons already, and won, so my aim was to cover roughly half of the exercises in each section. There were weeks of huge success with the process, weeks of what felt like terrible failure to engage with it at all, and everything in between. I documented this journey here.

Firstly, I have to say, this is a brilliant book. It challenged me from the outset because it wasn’t what I expected from a crochet book. There are no pictures! As I worked through the book I came to realise that this was a genius decision. Vercillo challenges us in every chapter with crochet exercises that get to the heart of a topic. What would pictures do? They would give us something to aim for, something born of someone else’s imagination and thought process. In this almost entirely text-only book, we are set free from attempting to mimic a result. We are able to use the exercises to question ourselves, to explore creation in all manner of ways, and to just see the outcome of whatever comes from that process without the burdon of expectation or comparison.

In my 12-week whistlestop tour I have acquired a host of new tools to help me with various issues. Some of the mindfulness and self-care exercises in particular have become well-used favourites already and I hope they will support my efforts at self-improvement long into the future.

Coming to the end of the read along, my overriding feeling is that this is only my first pass of Hook to Heal. There is so much more in there to explore, so much more depth I have not yet reached. Ideally I would use the same 12-part scedule, but instead of spending a week on each section, it would be a month. Then I could spend a whole year really exploring the questions Vercillo poses, truly making time for and looking after me. 

I haven’t yet read Vercillo’s previous book (Crochet Saved My Life), but have heard at least some of her story through Hook to Heal and through her writing online. I think her work is so important as a contribution to the understanding of mental health and the positive role of creativity in recovery and in everyday living. Vercillo seems like someone who has taken her experience of the most challenging of times, and turned it into a force for good. This book is her gift to all of us.