Granny squares, but not as my Nan knew them

I learned to crochet when I was very little. My Nan started me off, as for some reason Mum couldn’t crochet. Nan died when I was 6, so after that, I learned from books.

I haven’t done any crochet for ages, but at the Knitting and Stitching show at Harrogate in November, I was tempted to buy a kit for a throw from Janie Crow.

It was partly the colours, but also the interpretation of the pattern. I made a traditional granny square blanket when I was a kid, but this is more sophisticated. It involves complications like changing the size of the hook, and doubles and half trebles as well as trebles.

Found I was making slow progress. There is a different colour every round, slight changes in the pattern, and the occasional change of hook. Reading the pattern carefully all the time was the problem. So I started doing it in stages, doing each round of the 16 octagons, 9 squares, 12 half triangles, and 4 quarter triangles, to avoid messing about.

I’ve been taking pictures as I went along, so here is a collage of the work as it progressed, and finished in situ. I think it is interesting how the volume of yarn in the basket.

Oh, and because I wasn’t bothered about the finished size, I didn’t check the tension. The octagons are supposed to be 29cm across. Mine are more like 23cm. So I’ve added an extra row down one side.

And I got bored with doing rows of double crochet round the edge, so I finished it with some shells.

Now, rather than adding the leftovers to the stash, I’m going to see if I can make something useful from them. I do like those colours!

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A natural dye rainbow

I have been doing a lot of experiments natural dyeing , and I decided to take a course, to get the knowledge in place systematically. So I’m doing a three module course with Justine Aldersey-Williams this year.

In module 1, on colour, we have been learning to make a rainbow out of three plant colours. Justine selected three of the oldest dyestuffs, as they stand the test of time: indigo for blue, weld for yellow, and madder for red.

My weld and indigo both worked well. As I was focussing on small samples, which takes a lot of faffing, I didn’t want to have a lot of due left to use up at the end of the session. I think I have been a bit stingy with the madder. The red is a bit pale.

I did three primary colours and overdyed with the same set of dye baths to get three secondary colours. Then I used modifiers to get a bigger range. I used white vinegar, washing soda, and an iron solution. One red changed so much that I thought it was orange. The weld seems to have dominated the reaction, as all the colours with any weld (yellow, orange and green) look practically the same.

The whole process took quite a lot of time. Normally, I would not have needed to record everything, and keep all the samples in the correct order. As a result, I left everything top dry in a foil tray. And managed to dry creases in. I knew perfectly well that was going to happen, but by the time I got that far I was too tired to think straight.

For the course, I had to show dyed samples in my dye journal, and also prepare a sample card. I’ve also done a small wall hanging to use a nail in the wall of the sewing room (left over from its previous use in my ex’s office). I have another set of samples, which I plan to turn into bunting, but I haven’t got that far yet…

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A flower foot for my sewing machine

Remember Spirograph? You put the point of a coloured pen into a hole in a plastic wheel, then rolled that wheel round the inside of a plastic ring to make a pattern. The two bits of plastic were held together by cogs.

Well, this is a similar principle. I disengage the feed dog, which moves the fabric in a straight line through the machine, fit this foot, and then off I go.

The notches round the foot rotates it as the stitching proceeds, so the stitching forms a circle. All sorts of embroidery stitches on the machine can be used to get different effects.

The size of the circle can be varied by adjusting the position of the tongue that goes across the middle of the foot. If you forget to tighten the screw, the vibrations of the machine move it gradually to the other end of the scale, making a spiral effect. Accidents are sometimes useful.

There is lots of fun to be had with this toy, although I will have to remember to stablise thinner fabrics. This piece of calico was 9 1/2 inches wide before I started to stitch, but the sides both shrank in by about 1/4 inch after I had stitched it.

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A new way of getting heat

I’ve decided to buy a toaster oven to use in the dye house (OK, it is a garage really). I like to work out there so that chemical things stay out of the kitchen, but also to keep the house smell free. I have been using slow cookers, but they don’t allow control of the temperature, only the time. If you want to use things like madder, control is key.

I also plan to use it for baking polymer clay, and heat setting silk paint. I’m happier doing this sort of thing in the kitchen, but sometimes there is an odd smell.

First problem I didn’t manage to plug it into the extension lead properly. Next problem – it has an inbuilt timer, which I assumed was an optional extra. Wrong. If the timer isn’t on, it doesn’t get hot.

At first I was fine, because the instructions said to set the timer for 5 minutes to get the hobs to the correct heat. As I need to heat gradually, and make sure nothing got above 60 degrees C, I was happy that things weren’t getting towards boiling point. But then I realised nothing was happening at all.

Then I re-read the instructions and realised my mistake.

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Japanese technique sampling

Here are some pictures of Hannah Lamb’s experiments based on katagami, Japanese dyeing stencils. The pictures were taken at the National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford, Lincolnshire.

Some lovely results, nicely displayed. And I like the copper wire bulldog clips!

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Wedding dresses through the ages

The Pump Room in Harrogate is always worth a visit, although I have never managed to sample the “health giving” waters. The smell is too much for me.

At the moment, there is another reason to visit. Until 15th September 2019, they have an exhibition of over 35 wedding dresses.

Grouped so you can see the back of most of them, they make quite an impressive display.

As ever with these sort of exhibitions, they have to have something arty included. In this case, that is two items: We fade to grey bra-ra dress, made of 59 white and cream bras that hav  faded with use, and To know a veil, which speaks for itself.

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A group gardening project

Members of the Richmond and Leyburn branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild are working on a project together. They are selecting typical pictures of Harlow Carr gardens, known as the Wisley of the north, near Harrogate, dividing them into squares, and embroidering one each. The first three panels are on display in the library of the gardens until 30th June. If you can’t make it before then, it is worth keeping an eye open for the next exhibition, which will surely follow, as they are currently working on the fourth panel.

They have printed the picture onto a finely woven fabric, and used that as a base. It is always interesting to see the different techniques people use to interpret their subject. As the pictures chosen show large flower beds, there are plenty of opportunities to compare the result of fine machine stitches, hand embroidery, and applique. Each photo is displayed beneath the embroidery.

Any artist will tell you that in is important to look carefully at your subject and then simplify what you see to show the important elements. This is another thing that can be seen in these panels. I particularly like the buildings on the skyline on the one with the orange flowers. One square shows the top of a greenhouse, because it is the main feature of that square. The neighbouring embroider had the corner of the greenhouse roof, a feature so minor in that square that it has been simplified out.

Here are WinterSpring, and Summer.  Autumn is on the way.

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Tie dye scarf

This scarf has a history.

In about 1986, I was in a production of The Boyfriend with the now defunct Moseley Operatic Society. I was issued with a costume for the fancy dress ball scene: a seriously bright yellow peasant top, with a matching yellow and black striped skirt, to represent a Mexican bandit. No headgear. In the 1920s? I don’t think so.

So one lunchtime, I rushed round Birmingham city centre and managed to find a lovely soft cotton scarf in exactly the right yellow. It was really cheap in the sale (nobody else needed such a loud colour), and tied round my head with the long ends trailing it was just what I needed.

I kept it, because the cotton was so nice, but it just wasn’t my colour. So I never got round to wearing it.

Then in 2001 I was in the chorus for La Traviata with West Riding Opera. Could we provide our own gypsy costume? I had one of those multi tiered skirts which I never wore, because white skirts just attract muck when I wear them. So the skirt and scarf went into some bright red Dylon to make the costume. I expected a red skirt and a toning orange scarf, but they both came out the same bright red.

So now I have dunked it in the indigo vat. I might just wear it now!

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WW2 silk escape map dress sold in Harrogate

Now I know I’m a bit slow, but I’ve only just found this on Twitter. A silk map designed to help prisoners of war to escape, made into a dress.

How would you like to have a silk map dress?

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The myths and meaning woven into Norwegian sweaters

Here is a fascinating article about the Sweater Detective, a lady who knows practically all there is to know about the myths and meaning woven into Norwegian sweaters.

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