Flower Power: sugar pots and Rudolf’s summer garland

I can’t quite believe I’ve only been crocheting since my first lesson on 24th January. As I suspect so many have found before me – it’s an addictive hobby.

One of the easy little projects that I can pick up and do a few of in an evening, is making flowers. So far I’ve made flowers to decorate tiny jam jars (recycled from eating Lidl’s pate). The catalyst for this was creating decorative little sugar pots for the tables of the Make and Mend Community Cafe that was meant to open at the end of April, but of course ‘lockdown’ has put paid to that, at least for the moment. However, there’s a set of sugar pots waiting with the coffee samples, and I can knock-up a few more in an evening if it looks like we’re going to open. I fear though, that it may be September before that happens.

Then as a silly one day, I made one for Rudolf. You might remember that we bought my mother-in-law a wicker Rudolf for her garden and I knitted him a red string scarf in time for he and his scarf to be her Christmas present.

But of course, it’s too hot for him to wear it in summer, so it had to be taken off, and as a silly thing to do, I crocheted a pair of red string flowers of the same pattern as I’d used on the sugar pots. I thought these could be tied to his antlers… and initially they were. But between us, we got carried away, and I got some jute string of different colours from E-Bay and I made a whole series of them. When we gave them to Marion (my mother-in-law) for her birthday, she instantly garlanded them together round Rudolf’s neck, and he will remain so adorned for the rest of the summer!

String flowers for Rudolf
Rudolf with his summer garland!

By the way: I wouldn’t however recommend crocheting (or knitting for that matter) with string. It’s very hard on the fingers, and some natural jute string is easier to mould to shape than others!

Making and Mending – self-care and creating community

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The mending pile, before this afternoon.

Anyone else got a mending pile?

This afternoon I’ve done the simple things: a button on my husband’s shirt, and a new neck strap on a favourite cooking apron using some webbing inherited from my Mum; she’s been dead 24 years (who says I never through anything away?)!

There’s two pairs of trousers to be turned up after purchases in the sales, and a favourite skirt that needs a new elastic, but those are for another day.

In recent weeks I’ve also been learning new skills. I had a favourite ‘honorary’ aunt who could crochet, and I still have the shawl she made me, but I never learnt – until about 6 weeks ago. So, I’ve been working on my doubles, and triples, made a granny square, and guess what… a scarf!

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The first granny square, with a remnant bit of vari-coloured yarn from a knitting project

Crochet seems quicker than knitting to pick up, and easier put down instantly in my busy, interruptable life – and I’m enjoying it. I’m very grateful to the lovely lady at Pack Lane Wool in Basingstoke for teaching me the basics (after some failed solo attempts), to Bella Coco’s YouTube video’s, to the encouragement of my husband and knowledgeable friends who’ve introduced me to Ravelry and Attic24. I’ve even gone back and now have the yarn for a larger project.

Mending and making. Making… and … mending. There’s something really important about both skills for community life, and for Christians for their faith life. As a Christian I believe we are made to be creative – our creator God gave us creative skills to be used to enhance the beauty of his world, to give to and grace the lives of others, and to build community.

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Starting to sort out the ‘stash’, inherited tools, and the products of sale bins as I begin to set up some small activities that could be picked up off a cafe table and tried. (Photo credits to my husband – he wanted to show his Mum what I was up to!)

As I’ve alluded to previously, getting my creative streak back has become important to my post-training self, mending my state of mind, drawing me into a more positive place. There’s God in this too, the idea of reconciling us to be the very best of who God created us to be, being healed to a place of peace. If we’re in a better place in our selves, we’re more likely to have the mental resources to be there for others too – so it’s important to my calling too!

2020-02-12 Make & Mend, initial advertWithin all this, there is something else being created too, something that might create a space in one of the communities I serve (Eversley), in which people can not only make and mend in a practical sense, but also come together across generations to create a stronger community. I hope the opportunity to work with and in Eversley Village Hall will produce something of value to a community that boasts nothing similar by way of meeting places.

It will be interesting to see the results of both a larger crochet project, and this community project turn out as we move through the spring.

A warm winter – scarf-tastic!

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Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer – scarf knitted (and nose badly crocheted) in red string with added bells.

So I may have gone a bit overboard with the scarf knitting in the last few months.

The most notable were probably the red string (jute twine) scarf with bells on, that I knitted for the reindeer we gave my in-laws for Christmas (which also got a botched crochet red nose), and the Pride scarf I knitted for my God-daughter!

 

But there were others, by request and otherwise. So if you’re not into knitting, yarn, scarfs and crafts etc. I’d probably skip this, as it’s largely going to be a photo-log of scarves I’ve knitted in recent months.

As I mentioned previously, this all started with the need to rest my leg. There ended up being three scarves combining old Colinette mohair yarn with variously, Rios merino wool yarn by Malabrigo that I bought in Wyoming, and some other Colinette chunky pure wool, that I’ve long since lost the label for.

 

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Colinette mohair and one of their old chunkies of variable thickness – scarf the second.

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Colinette mohair and Malabrigo Rios scarf 1

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Scarf 3 – again Colinette mohair and variable chunky

 

October half-term in a fairly damp Exmoor saw me work on two, one for a child in Sirdar Wild (with tiny bells in the tassles), and one being my first foray into something other than plain and purl combinations – feather and fan stitch using Sirdar’s Hayfield Chunky Bonanza.

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Left: Sirdar Wild (which no longer appears in their collection) and the Hayfield Bonanza ‘Raspberry Ripple’ in feather and fan stitch. 

 

 

 

We also went to the wonderful Pannier Market in South Molton and picked up some Stylecraft Cosy Delight Chunky ‘Blue Mist’ which went on to produce another feather-and-fan-stitch scarf (which I appear to have forgotten to photograph before giving it to my lovely Mother-in-Law!)

Other scarves over the winter have included:

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Irish Moss Stitch ‘Pride’ scarf using Hayfield Bonus Chunky

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Dark Grey scarf in basket-weave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Finishing the Hayfield Bonanza ‘Raspberry Ripple’ with a candle-flame pattern

There was also another Sirdar Wild scarf in a deep purple, for the friend who bought me the wool for the Pride scarf as a Christmas present… what goes round comes round!

I still regard myself as a beginner (you note, no clothing yet) and as I’ve started to use Pinterest more to expand my repertoire of stitch patterns, I’ve come across the concept of ‘blocking’ – not something I’ve ever met before. I don’t remember either my knitting grandmothers or my Mum ever pinning out damp knitting! But many crafty social media friends have advised that this is a thing to do, to give it a smoother more even finish, so I guess I need to locate the appropriate pins, and get soggy with the candle-flame scarf, and one of the early mohair/wool mix scarves, neither of which have yet to find homes!

Next up? Some mending, and a first proper foray into crochet.

Update: Hopefully below is the ‘Blue Mist’ feather and fan stitch scarf I knitted for my Mother-in-law – though obviously the photo below is not of her!

Falling back into craftiness!

What is it that brings you alive, or helps you to a point of healing?

For me, over the last 6 months, it has been… knitting.

In the last two years since I concluded my curacy, it has been wonderful not to be writing essays, reflections or other proofs of my theological understanding and knowledge! In the years since I started Reader Training in 2006, I’ve spent 11 of them doing some sort of training that required essays – and I hate essays. It left me somehow injured, unable to settle to a healthier approach to life. To put no fine a point on it, the academic toll of training sucked the life out of me.

With brief and sporadic exceptions in holidays, I had little opportunity to do the various crafts that I’d previously enjoyed trying at various points in the previous 30+ years of my life; knitting, tapestry, cross-stitch, silk painting, stone and leather painting. Yes, I’ve gardened when I could and I’ve made the most of encounters with wildlife, but inside the house my hands had been focused on the keypad of the computer.

In August 2019 – a couple of days after my last wildlife blog post – at the beginning of a holiday in Wyoming USA, we visited Jackson and needing to find something to reduce the anxiety I’d encountered flying long-haul from the UK in time for the return flight, and a delightful little yarn shop called Knit on Pearl. Having checked with the airline first, I bought 1 set of wooden, circular knitting needles and some yarn. Not any old yard – it wasn’t that sort of shop – but some lovely autumnal coloured Rios merino wool yarn by Malabrigo. I could knit my way back to the UK. I spotted a few lovely shawl kits too, made with several different yarns, but out of my price range – their importance came later.

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When the yarn matches the bruises!

Buying yarn and needles was a prophetic move, which found me knitting far sooner than expected. That afternoon on Mount Rendezvous, one of the Teton Mountains, I slipped whilst photographing a grasshopper (yes really), something went ‘pop’ in my left shin, and to cut a very long story short, I spent the rest of the holiday (including around Yellowstone) in a wheelchair, on crutches…. or with my foot up, knitting! Thank you Lord.

 

I still saw some amazing wildlife though – but that’s for another post.

Whilst the yarn I bought matched the bruises nicely (as you can see), and though I wasn’t happy with what I created from my rusty knitting technique, it did re-engage the craftiness in my fingers. On my return home, I unpicked the initial attempt at a scarf. Then I found some Colinette mohair yarn I’d bought in their old factory shop by the WLR Station in Llanfair Caereignion about 15 years before. It went with the Rios yarn brilliantly, and I remembered the amazing multi-yarn shawl I’d seen in Knit on Pearl. So I came up with a random 225 stitch scarf creation of my own!

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Matching my new malabrigo yarn, to some old Colinette mohair bought many years ago!

 

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Deciding to convert from my grandmother’s stiff old circular needles to the new KnitPro one’s in interchangable lengths!

Knitting has moved on since my grandfather taught me squares before I was 10, and my grandmother knitted me numerous jumpers through my youth. I love the KnitPro laminated birchwood needles I’d discovered in the US, and that they’re available here too, and then discovered circular needles can now have interchangable lengths too!

 

I have to say that as the ruptured ligament has all too slowly healed in the months since, so my enthusiasm for craft, specifically knitting has increased. With busy hands, my ‘down time’ has been more creative, healing my soul of all those years of essays. I’ve made numerous scarfs, creating several Christmas presents in doing so, am learning knew stitches, and yesterday I attended my first crochet class!

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Merino/Mohair scarf – the first step to healing my craftiness!

With this has come to life an idea for a community project (revealed 1st March) that might yet form part of my parochial ministry – truly creative healing!!

 

But the detail of all that is for the future, because it might just be it’s brought my blogging back to life too!!!

And writing this blog post has meant I’ve tracked back to that first yarn, found the name of it in my photos, and found it’s available in the UK! Tonight, I’m a happy crafter.