Regular readers may remember that I have started to wave a crochet hook about in what I hope will be a productive fashion. I’ve made a few practice squares, hearts and circles and am halfway up a multicoloured ‘v’ stitch blanket but I’m also juggling two knitting projects and, like most of us, I can’t remember how many patchwork/dressmaking/commissioned thingies and various other craft projects I have on the go. When something catches my eye, however, I am very easily persuaded from my path and, when that something involves two of my favourite things – fabric and yarn – patchwork and crochet – that particular bull has to be taken by the horns and run with (or is that against the law now?)
So, in the manner of a fancy restaurant with a mélange of dishes gleaned from various parts of the world and calling it ‘fusion cuisine’, I am combining some double sided fabric squares with a border of crochet and making a fusion quilt – or, if I find it too difficult, a fusion handkerchief.
Here is a photograph from Fanny Lu Designs showing a corner of her High Tea Fusion Quilt which is where I got the inspiration (and the instructions!)
Detail of High Tea Fusion Quilt from Fanny Lu Designs – more photos and tutorial here
I went through a phase of buying charm packs (42 x 5 inch squares of coordinating fabrics for those not of the patchwork/quilting persuasion) and then never really knowing what to do with them so, although Tiffany uses 6 inch squares in her tutorial, I had two matching Moda charm packs in my stash all dressed up with no place to go so I decided to adapt, save some money and make some room in my stash at the same time – it can always be replenished later after all.
I also found a pack of 12 x 50g balls of Rowan organic cotton yarn that I had pounced upon like a woman possessed when it was laid on the floor along with numerous other packs of bargain yarns for knitters, crocheters and random passers by to rummage amongst in some sort of woolly rugby scrum. This was at some forgotten knitting/stitching show I attended at some forgotten time – I am more dignified these days 😉 Anyway, so much did I need that pack of 12 x 50g balls that I still have it, untouched, to this day. I thought, as it’s a quite nice ‘tea-stained’ colour, it would make a vintage looking border for my vintage looking fabrics and result in a pretty, vintage looking blanket (or hanky). Plus, as with the fabric charm squares, it would use up some stash and I would end up with a free quilt. ‘Free’ is a relative term when you are somebody who stockpiles yarn and fabric as you probably know if you have been interested enough to read this far.
Here is my first attempt. I quite like the colour but the yarn is a double knit and the Fanny Lu design uses a fingering weight (4-ply?) baby wool so it looks a little ‘thick’ and not as delicate as I might have liked. Also, that Rowan cotton is a mare for splitting and I didn’t fancy doing the whole blanket faffing about with split yarn, not at my novice stage.
So, I faced the fear and ordered a huge cone of ivory cotton 4-ply from eBay. I had it delivered to Mr. T’s office in London. When I spoke to him on the phone he asked me why I’d ordered a large spool of string. The fear returned.
I had a go with another pair of squares and the ‘string’ and I think this looks a bit more like the original idea of a delicate blanket with a vintage look.
I think the thicker yarn would also work – though not the splitty stuff unless you are a complete whizz with the hook and that stuff doesn’t bother you – but, obviously, it would give the finished blanket a different look.
Which do you prefer?
So, I’m going to make this a project I do with my sewing buddy on a Wednesday as we have ‘finished’ our Friendship Braid quilts we were making together. I say ‘finished’ but only the tops are done though we will complete the rest of it as individuals. Maybe. By contrast, this blanket can be made in small pieces and we can crochet the borders while having a chat and complaining about things in France and in general – at least I think that’s what we’re doing, my French isn’t perfect. My crochet skills aren’t perfect either – far from it – so I will probably get carried away from time to time moaning about French drivers (they don’t indicate – you’d think there was a tax on using the indicators or something), the lack of any decent restaurants round here (we’re in France for God’s sake!), the amount of dog poo on the pavements and anything else that takes us on the day and then I’ll have to undo what I’ve done and start again which, I must say, seems to be a lot easier with crochet than with knitting. Just as well as it’s not easy, putting the world to rights.
Time will tell whether I end up with a blanket, a table mat or a handkerchief or just lots of fabric squares with crochet borders waiting, at the bottom of a basket in a corner of my workroom, to be joined together which of course is yet another possibility.
A friend of mine has just started to learn to knit and it was her birthday last week so I knew just what to make her.
I went back to the pattern in ‘Stitch and Bitch’ that I’d shrunk down to make a roll for my new crochet hooks and made a full size one for her.
I didn’t leave my gorgeous knitting needles in though – I bought her some plain ones. I’m not that good a friend.
Possibly becoming adventurous beyond my burgeoning crochet ability I bought a kit from Black Sheep Wools who kindly deliver to France at a reasonable cost. I was tempted by those lovely colours. The yarn is James C. Brett DK Merino. It’s actually mostly acrylic – well, it is for a blanket that will need washing – but there is a 10% merino content so it feels lovely and soft and is great to work with.
I was daunted by the 162 chains as I’ve never yet managed to make even a small one without twisting it and then, getting my U.S. and U.K. terms mixed up, I did the foundation row in double treble crochet instead of treble but that is how it’s staying as I’m not re-doing that chain! It’s a nice easy pattern and perfect for me to get used to the whole technique of crochet.
This is it so far…..
….. and this is how I’m hoping it will end up.
Sara’s Highland Heather Blanket Kit – available from Black Sheep Wools here
Just in case you are thinking I’ve gone all ‘perfect’ over the weekend – think again.
It was Mlle. Tialys the Younger’s birthday on Friday and, flushed with success after making Nigella’s Madeira cake (feast your eyes here – no calories!), I had a go at her Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake (also from ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’).
If you think this looks a little like a pig’s breakfast, then you should see how it looked half an hour after it came out of the oven.
And you shall –
Nigella says the cake is so dense and damp it will sink a little when it comes out of the oven.
I don’t think she meant quite this much 😦
Some days I’m more of a domestic goddess than others.
I broke a few pieces off around the outside and it actually tasted good so I chopped it up into brownie sized damp, dense pieces and arranged them on a plate, sprinkled them with icing sugar and, because I couldn’t find the birthday candles, stuck a fancy straw in the top. Luckily my daughter is easily pleased especially when chocolate is involved. How fortunate was my friend who got a hand made knitting needle roll instead of a cake.
I Googled the recipe expecting to find loads of other, similar disasters but I didn’t. So, it’s just me then.
I know I have a follower who happens to be a baker and, if he’s managed to get past the knitting and crochet, perhaps he will have an idea of what went wrong. I think it was because I’m a lazy cow and, instead of creaming butter and sugar together by hand and adding the rest of the ingredients gradually, I did the whole thing in a stand mixer – although stage by stage and fairly gradually – so I might have beat too much air in.
Anyway, Sunday night we heated it up and had it with cream and it made a really nice dense, damp, chocolate pudding 🙂
Remember when I said that Kate over at Tall Tales from Chiconia was making a quilt from a Kaffe Fassett book that I had lusted after for some years? (If not, you can read my original post here ). Kate’s way ahead of me with her blocks but, then again, she started first and she’s making a quilt whereas I’m late to the party and am only making a wall hanging.
Here’s the version in the book that inspired us.
All my hatboxes are going to be made in Liberty of London tana lawn with various scraps of other fabric for the ‘wallpaper’ and ‘floor’ in the ‘cubby holes’ which each contain one hatbox.
We pledged to complete three hatboxes every month.
These are my three for February.
I used this gold/yellow tana lawn that I used to make a blouse some time ago although I seem to have quite a lot of it left. I like the backgrounds here – the duck egg blue is the predominant colour in my bedroom where the finished wallhanging will be displayed.
This was actually the first one I made but it went wrong and I was going to ditch it but, in one of my rare patient and resourceful moments, managed to peel off the appliqué, re-cut it, re-position it and salvage the block.
I need twelve blocks in total. Some might not make the final cut. Although I like the background fabrics in this block – especially the Tilda one with birds – the colours might be too overpowering to work with the others in the wallhanging plus I set the right hand side of the base of the hatbox a little higher than the others and it’s a bit on the wonk so we’ll see.
Here are all six I’ve completed so far which I’ve displayed on my design wall. I call it a design wall but, in reality, it’s a flannel sheet draped over a towel rail which the blocks are clinging to in the manner of a set of Fuzzy Felt – how I used to adore my fuzzy felts – and this is the extent of its displaying capabilities.
Eventually, the layout will be four hatboxes across and three down with sashing and, possibly, a border. Should be ready around May/June time.
Talk of Fuzzy Felt sent me off down a rabbit hole and I found myself looking at vintage sets.
I know I definitely had this one
and I had one with mostly shapes so you could be a bit freestyle.
I’m pretty sure I had this one
and I think I might have had this one………
………………although that might just be wishful thinking because I loved Noddy and – look! – they’ve got proper little faces and everything.
I know these were made in England but my non-Brit followers might have had them because, according to Wikipedia, since the creation of Fuzzy Felt in the 1950s, more than 25 million sets have been sold internationally and although Fuzzy-Felt reached its peak in popularity sometime in the mid-1970s, it remains an iconic children’s toy, still enjoyed by children who play with it and parents who nostalgically purchase it.
Don’t think I’m not tempted.
So – which sets did you have? If it was something like a My Little Pony set or anything else post 1980, don’t tell me as you are too young and I will become depressed.
‘What do you think of the newest kit in town?’
‘He’s alright I suppose but he’s not getting up here.’
My first crochet project has come to fruition.
After the teal boots…….
the teal shoes.
I just couldn’t not buy them.
About five years ago I spent a whole Summer teaching myself – with the aid of a book called The Happy Hooker – how to crochet. By the end of the Summer, I could turn out something like this little top.
Then I stopped.
A few weeks ago, I was milling about after lunch with a friend in our local medieval town – as you do – when I spotted this lovely yarn shop, a rare beast in these parts as I think they probably are in most parts lately.
There was a sign in the window saying that the owner did one on one courses for knitting and crochet and although I know there are tutorials galore on YouTube for free it is in my nature to knuckle down and do something if I’ve actually paid good money for it and so I did. Also good for my French.
These were my first efforts as I’d obviously forgotten everything I’d taught myself before – even how to do a decent chain to start off.
Anyway, newly inspired, I went home and sat in front of the computer, got hooking and progressed to these.
I had to go back to the shop for another session because she had (cunningly?) kept hold of my Happy Hooker so I thought I might as well learn, first hand, how to do another couple of stitches and amaze her all over again with the way I can’t seem to hold the yarn like she does and manage to turn the foundation chain mid-way every single time.
The reason she had kept hold of my book was to look at the conversion chart inside between U.S. crochet terms and English crochet terms which are different as, of course, are the French ones so for the first time ever I have found it easier to read a chart than written instructions because at least the symbols are the same in all languages.
Of course, I didn’t leave the shop empty handed and these will eventually become a pair of socks, though knitted ones as I am not so far along the crochet path even to consider anything other than a square, heart or doily shaped thingy.
As with any new (or renewed) hobby, it’s fun to start stocking up on what you need. I have a yarn stash that nearly equals my fabric stash (who am I kidding?) so I’m O.K. for that but I bought a couple of books and a set of hooks to get going with.
Of course I couldn’t leave those pretty hooks in the plastic box so that was an excuse to get my sheep fabric out and make a holder. Fabric with sheep on it! – surely it was meant to be.
I could almost join Kate’s Scraphappy Day with this hook roll because the flap and inner fabrics were leftovers from other projects but I confess the sheep weren’t scraps but entire 😉
So what with my lessons, my books, my hooks and my favourite crochet teacher on YouTube (Bella Coco) – watch this space for future creations. I don’t know what they will be as one of my problems with crochet in the past was what to make. I have enough of a hard time wearing the things I’ve knitted so I don’t envisage wearing any crocheted creations and I don’t like making toys (adorable as they are) because of the stuffing process and because my daughters won’t appreciate them any more. Any suggestions welcome.
Nothing to do with crochet but I made a madeira cake yesterday – I used the recipe from Nigella Lawson’s ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’ because I was in that sort of frame of mind – and it was blooming gorgeous with the requisite crevice across the top and all.
I’m not one for ‘gooey’ cakes so this sort is right up my street with a subtle lemony flavour and quite a moist texture. I did tremble a bit when I put all the sugar in but something’s got to kill you and I apologise if you’re doing ‘sugar free February’ or whatever it’s called but I actually consume very little sugar in the normal course of events and I didn’t have any sugar of the fermented kind all through January so I feel vindicated. Anyway, I only had one slice as the rest was consumed by Monsieur and Madamoiselle Tialys the Younger who needed a bit of a sugar rush to get over the shock of me emerging from my sewing room and baking something .
Even though the patchwork block swap I’ve been participating in hasn’t quite finished yet – there’s one month to go – I have actually made all the blocks I need to and I’ve already started getting withdrawal symptoms. Kate and Sue who have run the F2F (Foot Square Freestyle) swap for the past two years, have decided they need a break from organising duties and as I am more of a participant than an organiser I didn’t offer to take it over so, sadly, when Claire receives her 24 blocks from 8 other quilters around the world by the end of February, that will be it.
I found that participating in the swap really motivated me to improve my work, try out some new techniques and get things finished on time
So, what to do next?
I searched around the web for other swaps but the few I managed to find had either already started or didn’t appeal.
Kate has started making a quilt – unusually it will be for herself – from a book both she and I have had for years.
We’ve both been in love with one particular quilt inside it – I even made the templates for it and one block back in the mists of time – but never got any further.
It’s rows of vintage hatboxes made to look as if they’ve been covered in wallpaper, as olden day people used to do, and each one set in the angle of a little cubby hole with a floor and two walls. So, lots of design decisions to be made.
Kate has been busy with it for a few months now – you can see her progress here – and I decided I would join in with her and we would aim to make three blocks per month and publish them on our blogs at the end of the month. This will be my motivation.
I am making a wall hanging for my bedroom rather than a quilt – there is an empty wall behind the bed and I thought this might go well there rather than a picture. I don’t want it to dominate the room or anything so I’m not making it too large, just four blocks wide x three blocks high. If I make three blocks per month, it should be ready to start putting together in May.
Each ‘cubby hole’ is constructed by joining two trapezoids, one reversed, plus an 8.5 inch square which is set in to the angle of the trapezoids. Eek! I was so pleased when I got it right first time and then realised my perfect seam would be covered up with the hatbox appliquéd on top – still, that’s patchwork for you. Here’s a ‘blank’ just so you know I can do it.
And here’s the block after the hatbox has been added.
I decided to use scraps for the backgrounds where possible and Liberty tana lawn for the hatboxes. I realised too late that, because the tana lawn is so fine, you have to be careful what you put underneath it. You can see the stripes of my ‘flooring’ vaguely show through but I thought it sort of looks like part of the design on the box so I’ve left it.
This one is a darker print so I got away with it here but, for the other blocks, I won’t use that particular striped fabric. I am not usually an ‘appliqué person’ but Kate has got me trying several techniques I’ve either never done before or previously said I’d never do such as foundation paper piecing so here’s one more to add to the list. I am using Bondaweb to attach the hatbox shapes and then using a turquoise thread and machine appliquéing on to the background.
This next one had to be re-done because I had used light coloured tana lawn for the hatbox and the ‘floor’ was showing through and making it look as if there was a shadow across the box. I had to peel it off – a tragic waste of both Liberty and Bondaweb -and use a darker design. You live and learn.
I’m enjoying making these hatboxes but my workroom is a mess – strewn with fabrics over every surface as I audition them for ‘wallpaper’, ‘flooring’ , the hatboxes themselves and the bands. Decisions, decisions……
I will finish by proudly announcing that I have managed to complete Dry January without a drop of alcohol passing my lips – apart from that used in cooking which doesn’t count because all the alcohol comes off as vapour (boo!) . I never usually touch Pastis – the favourite aperitif of the French – because wine is my poison and the aniseedy alcoholic tipple makes me go woozy very quickly which is a feat in itself. However, Ricard (the favoured brand of the French when imbibing their favourite aperitif) make a version called Pacific which has no alcohol, no sugar, no calories, no nuffink apart from quite a few E numbers but I haven’t looked them up to see whether they are dodgy ones. As with the real stuff, you dilute it with 5 parts water but, unlike the real stuff, it is already a cloudy colour.
This, and Bucklers non alcoholic beer (which is really Lager if you are British) , kept me on the straight and narrow when temptation threatened to overcome me. I don’t know whether you can get it (or Bucklers) outside of France but, if you can, and you are the designated driver or want an alcohol free evening for any other reason, I would recommend it.
I am writing this at an ungodly hour of the morning because there were cats yowling outside from around 3.30 a.m. which caused our dogs to bark, which caused us to wake up and throw missiles out of the window which, as we thought to open the window first, caused a blast of frosty air to render us wide awake so we decided to give up the unequal struggle, get up and get on with things.
I don’t know which cats were making all the racket but at least I know it wasn’t this one who, since turning up on our doorstep shortly before Christmas, rarely goes out and sleeps a lot, usually in a cute fashion.
Anyway, in case you started following my blog originally because you thought I was a fellow dressmaker but have since been regaled with cat and dog stories, knitting projects, patchwork blocks and various other random ramblings, I thought I’d reassure you that I do still occasionally turn my hand to clothing of the fabric variety.
Some time ago, on a visit to the U.K., I bought some fabric at Ditto Fabrics in Brighton. The blue and gold ‘teardrop’ effect fabric caught my eye because it reminded me of African wax fabric but in a more ‘manageable’ small design though still with those lovely bright colours. I always had it in mind to make a plain, straight skirt with it but all my skirt patterns had ‘features’ and I thought the fabric didn’t need anything else going on with it being busy enough in itself. It was added to the stash and left to languish. ( I love the word ‘languish’ almost as much as the word ‘lush’ – but I digress)
I suddenly remembered that Pippa over at ‘Beads and Barnacles’ had included a pattern in my ‘Stitching Santa’ parcel at Christmas for a very plain skirt so I thought I’d sweep the patchwork rulers and itsy bits of quilting fabric off my cutting table and finally make that fabric up into something wearable.
I know I could probably have drafted such a simple shape myself but
I’m too lazy I like to have a pattern to follow so I can blame somebody else if something goes wrong. I usually have a trawl around the web to see who else has made any sewing (or knitting) pattern I’m contemplating before I start so that I can benefit from other people’s mishaps and not make the same mistakes. I found that Beth over at After Dark Sewing had blogged about making this skirt and she had found the pattern piece for the waistband to be between one and two sizes too small. As I was squeezing the skirt out of a metre of fabric, I didn’t really want to have to cut a second waistband so that was useful to know in advance.
My ‘me mannequin’ was brought into service as a model as it’s cold outside and I would have had to set up the tripod and faff around with the camera and this was quicker! Anyway, it looks better on her than me (bitch!!). I didn’t make a toile as I thought I’d just baste the side seams and try it on which I did and it seemed fine but it is actually a little big for me around the waist and I could have taken the hips in slightly too – in fact, I should probably have made a size 8 rather than a 10 and I will do that if I make it again. With a size 10, I had to cut the waistband between a 12 and 14 to make it fit the top of the skirt. (I’m talking U.K. sizes here btw)
The skirt has a back split which you can leave open or you can cut an extra pattern piece to get a sort of kick pleat effect, which I did.
I shortened the skirt at the cutting stage by 3 inches but I still think it might look a bit ‘office wear’ for me (as I don’t work in an office) and, as others have said, the pattern doesn’t have you interface the waistband but I think – albeit belatedly! – it would be a good idea. So, what with those things and the fact it’s slightly big on me at the waist and hips, it might join my pile of ‘never worn dressmaking projects’ which is a shame as I do like it and, to celebrate the resuscitation of my dressmaking mojo, I had treated myself to these gorgeous pattern weights.
However, as you can see, I am easily swayed from my purpose.
I hope my Liberty fabric sale ‘heads up’ didn’t cost any of you too much money but I’ve not got too much sympathy as I’m always spending money thanks to other people’s blogs Sheila over at Sewchet – whom we also have to thank for organising Stitching Santa – blogged about a lovely teal cardigan she’d made and put on a photo of some matching boots she’d ordered. Teal Boots!! Really!? But I’ve been looking for some for ages! (well, navy ones actually but teal will do just fine). Done deal. I love them, however, so thanks for that Sheila and I hope you are enjoying wearing yours and your dogs love them as much as mine seem to 😉
Right, it’s almost 6.30 a.m. now – it’s going to be a long day 🙂
A bit of culture for you today – you can’t say my blog posts aren’t eclectic.
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
from The Wasteland, T.S. Eliot (1922)
Yes, yes, that’s all very well but it’s obvious that Mr. Eliot had never tried ‘Dry January’ because I can’t tell you how glad I will be when the 1st of February comes around and I can have a glass of wine. Here are my own thoughts on which month has a lot to answer for –
January is the cruellest month, drinking
Water is dead boring, mixing
Syrup and lemonade, stirring
Dull concoctions without wine.
from The Wagon, Tialys (2017)
Just to be clear – I haven’t got a drink problem but I do like a glass of wine (or two) when I’m cooking the evening meal (and when I’m eating it) – but only at weekends, although I do count Friday as being the weekend.
I expect my liver will thank me but there are four weekends in January – one more to go! – and it has seemed like an incredibly long month. Now I know how to slow down time.
If you are a Liberty fabric lover I just thought I’d give you the heads up that they have a lot of their tana lawns and silk satins online now for 50% off.
Here is my stash so far
(the top gold bit is the paper wrapping!)
I can’t promise I won’t go back again for more – somebody needs to help me out here!! My
excuse reasoning is that I have a project in the wings for which I have decided to use Liberty tana lawns – it’s not that I haven’t got a stash of it already but I couldn’t resist a few more at that price.
If you fancy treating yourself , you can find it here but don’t say I didn’t warn you that the temptation is great .
Well, I knew the blogging community would come through for me. I now have answers to all my questions – some of which I hadn’t even thought to ask – so thanks for all your help and I have added the correct names to the list below in bold.
- This is all metal with a hollow top that unscrews and a hollow tube inside – a retractable pencil? A hole punch for adding a crocheted edge to fine fabrics.
- A flat tool with cut out shapes at either end – one slightly wider than the other – and a slit at each end. A ‘toothbrush needle’ for making rag rugs.
- A pointy thing that looks like a little awl. An awl.
- A pointy thing with a tiny hook at the end. A hook for crochet lace.
- A thimble (there are no flies on me)
- Embroidery Scissors (I’m getting good at this!)
- Needle Case
- Flat tool with one pointed end and one rounded with a slot. Threading Bodkin
- A little hook – but what is the proper name/use . Button Hook
- Mini Knitting Needles
- A doubled oval shape which is open ended. Tatting Shuttle
Judging by the amount of lace related items and the fact that, when you lift up the tray, there are some examples of lace inside, I would imagine this belonged to somebody that made lace .
”No shit Sherlock” I hear you say but there you go.
I hadn’t really thought about that little hole underneath the tatting shuttle but, as somebody pointed out, that would have probably had a little ribbon or hook to make it easier to pull out the tray.
Also – why the mirror? It had occurred to me that it might be to check one’s appearance but dismissed it as madness. However, apparently, such madness did exist in days gone by when people didn’t go to the supermarket and drop their kids off at school in their jammes, but refreshed their make up and did their hair in case of unexpected visitors or in case the husband came home from work early and surprised them in their state of disarray. If I get unexpected visitors when I’m in a state of disarray I just don’t open the front door.
Also, it has been suggested that this set is from the early 1900s which is probably not too far off the mark although it could be as late as the 1950s. Not sure.
Anyway thank you to all who helped me identify those tools – I think we’ve got them all now by a combined sterling effort.
Unless you know different, of course.