A most marvellous year with a somewhat crappy ending….

homemade mincepies

I hope you all had lovely Christmases, most festive Yuletides, Winter celebrations warm and merry, in the company of loved ones be they family,friends or furry and fluffy ones (and by that I mean animals rather than anyone particularly beardy)…

I can’t quite believe it’s the end of another year, this year more than any other I shake my head and wonder where on earth the time has gone….and I think that is one of the really nice things about keeping a blog, you have the chance to look back, not just skimming over notes,scribbles  or entries in a written diary (mine always end up looking like they’ve been written by Prince Charles with his spidery old scrawl), but you also have the picture prompts and straight away I’m remembering how cold we were that day going for a walk, the smell of the horses in the field, the taste of that elderflower cordial….

I always enjoy looking back at what I’ve been up to, not in a maudlin old way but remembering the high points, the happy times, the taste of jam made from hedgerow fruits and finding the kitchen invaded by the kittens from next door…….

So I’ve put the kettle on, made a pot of tea and am happily looking back and remembering the past 12 months……

January was all cold mornings, we had some pretty heavy frosts where the broccoli and herbs looked quite other worldy covered with a delicate silvery frost, and the marshes down the road flooded which was quite exciting when we went out for our Boxing Day walk…..I was determined to sort out the sides of my granny’s paperweight crochet blanket and made umpteen half hexagons to fit in the gaps on the top and bottom, actually I got right carried away making them and had enough to fill all the sides for a scarf I’d also been working on….another walk saw three graceful swans which were making no end of row as they were eating and snuffling about in the river, then bottoms tipped up, one, two then all three at once…

I got into my head to make a couple of cushions using the same crochet pattern and made two fronts….a year later they’re still waiting to be finished so that’s somethng on the New Year’s to do list….I also had a good tidy up in my work room and found some old floral embroidery testers I’d made a couple of years back.

I spent some Christmas money and bought Felicity Ford’s excellent Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook which is a wonderful and inspirational resource, it’s really to help you plan and design stranded colourwork but I found it a great read for patchwork planning too…

The first part of Februarysaw me still tidying up my work room, it never seems to take long to get all pickly and this time tidying I tried to make sure all the tins and boxes were opened to see what treasures were hidden away…and I found more embroidered samplers, some inspired more by beautiful fairisle jumpsers and tank tops than traditional embroidery samplers….the weather was still cold, we had some proper heavy frosts and the marshes seemed constantly half hidden under a low laying mist…baking cakes for Sunday afternoon tea and pack up is always part of my routine of a weekend, and never more so than in the Winter where a fat slice of cup seems much more appreciated with a cup of tea.

I bought a huge bundle of beautiful coloured tapestry wool, the little skeins were 10 pence each and the happiness a huge pile of them turned out on my worktable gives me is priceless., and some new to me vintage sewing needles, these what I prefer to use when I’m hand sewing, they seem to bend less and the points keep sharper……I also un-ravelled a whole load of crochet squares, I’d trimmed them with white originally but I decided I’d rather a blanket to match my granny square crochet scarf….

My boyfriend’s birthday is in February and one of the presents I made him was a tweed cycling hat, the pattern is by The Little Package company and both styles of hat are so nice to make….

For me the most exciting part of February was being asked to design a pair of baby quilts for one of my friends….lovely Darren who has The Little  Red Roaster (Norwich’s best coffee shop) is having twins and he wanted two quilts made for the new arrivals….

 

At the start of March new neighbours moved in next door and within a few days we met their two little cats, Bob and Izzy soon became regular visitors in our garden and although at first Bernard was a bit wary of them, he soon became great chums with Bob…most mornings start with a nose rub greeting, quick bottom sniff then Bernard and Bob wash each other….Izzy gets the odd look in.

The weather is getting nicer, blossoms and catkins seem to be out earlier that usual, and on days when it’s not too cold we head up to Little Tinkers, a small horse and donkey sanctuary which is just up the road, we tend to go the long route which is over the marshes so we’re generally quite out of puff and rather muddy when we get there.  I love the donkey’s and would one day dearly love one of mine own, but for now I’m happy to cuddle this gorgeous one, so friendly and loved being scritched behind the ears.

I found an old copy of Cold Comfort Farm in a local charity shop, it’s been on my must read lists for the longest time…..it’s so funny and very good reading.

Bread gets baked a couple of times a week and I use a natural starter that my friend Daisy gave me, it makes for a good, robust loaf which isn’t heavy and which smells so nice and homey.  I even used the natural starter to make hot cross buns which came out perfectly….the kitchen always smells wonderful on baking day.

Most of the month has been spent working on the quilts, designing the patchwork tops and choosing fabrics…sometimes having free rein is a bit overwhelming so Auntie Ally said Kate (Mrs Darren) liked stars…after that the designing was much easier.  To help me with the patchwork I painted up a series of patterened papers so I was able to make little paper patchworks…..playing really with moving the papers around, but I was able to see the designs much clearer than with just plain coloured shapes.

Spring has most definitely sprung, everywhere in the garden there are bursts and pops of bright colours….the cherry tree is a riot of gaudy pink, the raised beds are edged in soft blue smudges of forget-me-nots and cats eye speedwell….golden dandelions grow up alongside alpine strawberries through the cracks on the the patio paving and garden path….sitting out on the back door step often seems the nicest place to be.

Early morning sunshine is streaming in through my work room window and I pin up some patchwork as I prefer the softer, muted light this gives…I also like the shadows that some crocheted garlands cast.  Work on the quilts is progressing nicely, all the patchwork piecing and quilting is sewn by hand, so these were never going to be weekend makes…..holding the quilted tops up in the sunlight and the pieced fronts show through, all ghostly and reminding me of stained glass.

The bread proves and rises outside now, covered with a tea towel and placed in a warm spot, a few loaves get the odd poke from a curious paw but then cats are curious…..Izzy likes to hide up under our sprouting broccoli, she runs and sits there as soon as I open the back door, some days she lets me tickle her, stroke her face and ears, other days she’s back over the fence in a flash or peeps at me from around flower pots and watering cans.

One of my favourite walks each year is up the road to our local university, the woods that edge it’s grounds are a fair treat for the eye when the bluebells are in flower…the air becomes heavy and fragrant, and the scent of the bluebells soon has me all heavy eyes and sleepy…..I never fail to gasp as we turn the corner and our eyes are just flooded, overwhelmed with the most intense blue…….truly breath taking.

The forget-me-nots fill every spare bit of ground in the garden, huge swaithes of blue cover path and step edges.  Occaisonally a cat darts out from under it’s floral bower, disturbing any bees that may be taking their breakfast.  Flowers in the garden inspire me to embroider  lavender bags, made from an old linen shirt from Anne that I’ve tea dyed and weathered.

The quilts are finished, as the binding is carefully stitched into place, I say my goodbyes, wish good things and so much happiness for the twins…and I can’t help but wonder about how these quilts will journey, become snuggle blankets and sleeping comforts, toy beds for their favourite dolls, maybe be taken away to university, and one day get tucked around their own sleeping babes…….I’m a daft old thing and get very sentimental about my quilts.

I finally find some skinny coat hangers in a “tat” box at a charity shop so I can make dottie angels happy hanger tutorial….it’s nice for my fingers to work now with yarn and a hook rather than a needle and thread…..

Bernard is enjoyng the sunshine and warmer weather, he tends to nap upstairs, snuggling then stretching out on the quilt and blanket we have on our bed…..often you can hear him snoring while he sleeps, from time to tie his paws twitch….what do you dream of little trumpster.

Sadly this month I lost one of my oldest friends, my dear Rupert who was in his eighties and who I’ve known for some thirty odd years…him and his wife have been like grand-parents to me and my sisters and he had the best sense of humour of anyone I’ve ever met….their kitchen all pipe smoke and warm, a place of comfort with the kettle on for tea and a plate full of biscuits produced before your coat is barely off……

June sees the first of the hedgerow harvesting, baskets filled to the brim with billowy white clouds of elderflower blossom to make the sweetest cordial…even Bernard is half intoxicated by the sweet scent (picked while the blossom is all powdery and pollen rich, and before it begins to smell like tom cat pee)…the cordial it makes is so refreshing, and the bottles I make don’t last us 5 minutes.

The sourdough bread swells and grows enormous in the Summer, often looking more like neolithic fertility figurines than a loaf of bread….

The tiny wild strawberries in the garden are growing up everywhere, tiny berries which seem to taste different from plant to plant are scattered over yoghurts or are tumbled over puddings in the evening.

A plate of sausage rolls are made for my pastry fiend with tiny little leaves on top…

The meadows and pastures over the marsh are so abundant and full with flowers, and the colours seem to change from week to week…..one morning the fields are all golden with marsh buttercups and yellow rattle, a few days later a fine spread of ragged robin and rose bay willow herb….the wild flowers I’m seeing continue to inspire me with my botanical embroideries, generally I use vintage silks sourced from a local antique shop which sells all sorts of truck…most days see me head out for a slow amble over the marshes which are now sucha feast for the senses, the colours are glorious, the smell of the blossom is lovely and the sound of bird song and buzzing bees very soft and lulling …..

I also become somewhat obsessed with paper piecing hexagons…no piece of scrap fabric is safe and some thousand odd of tiny fabric wrapped papers are made and are sewn together with a series of small stitches… numerous cushions begin to appear on the sofa.

July was hot, a proper scorcher….. by mid-morning I felt all drowsy and and slow, cold drinks and sitting somewhere shady with Bernard seemed to fill my days.

The chives in the garden all flowered at once, huge purple pompoms of blossom which I used to flavour sandwiches or sprinkle on top of goats cheese pizzas.

Just down the road there are huge marchmallow plants, each year they get taller and talle and this year they were taller than me, huge blossoms of the softest lavender.

I bought a bag of the most brilliant blue threads, shiny silks that sew through linen like butter.

Last month I made hexagons, this month I can’t stop making ice-creams, slowly stiring egg rich custards and mixing in cherries from the wild trees just down the lane, or gooseberries from Jan’s allotment…..I made a lovely raspberry sorbet with last years berries I found lurking in the back of the freezer and even a small handful of the wild strawberries make an ice-cream so good I close my eyes and remember Summers spent down at the beach in Southwold.

We bought some little panibois “tins” to bake smaller loaves of bread in….oh my goodness, these are so nice to use and I felt all “artisan” and proper bakery when I opened the oven door and saw such pretty loaves baking in them.

Everything in the garden is green and growing, the beans almost grow while you watch them, and the lettuces are coming up as fast as I can eat them.

August too was hot and humid, nights were spent feeling all frazzled under a sheet and hoping that Bernard wouldn’t jump and cuddle leaving me feeling all sticky and sweaty when I woke in the mornings…..

The headgerows are fair heaving already with ripening harvests, most saunters out see me return with a basket filled with something to cook with….mirabelle plums and blackberries are picked and slowly covered with sugar and vodka to make warming Winter tipples…..

This was also the year I tried my hand at pickling walnuts …..I picked the walnuts too late so they weren’t a great success but I’ll have another go in 2016…..the Autumn Bliss raspberries in the garden are coming on a treat, already they are swollen and deep red, delicious picked all warm and popped straight into my mouth.

August also saw the start of my dress making obsession…I think I made about 7 dresses in around 3 maybe 4 weeks, I used the dottie angel pattern by Simplicity…..I tinkered a bit with the pattern so it fit me better, I guess I’m a bit of an odd shape as I have quite wide shoulders and a broad back but I’m a bit hollowed chested and the original pattern wasn’t doing me any favours…however post tinker and I’m very happy and every time I wear one of these dresses it gets a compliment.  Where possible I’ve tried to use vintage threads and notions when I’ve made the dresses (my darling boy bought me some vintage dressmaking tools for Christmas 2014 so I got to use those while drafting the pattern) and two dresses have been made from silky feeling sixties prints.

I also was nominated in August for a Liebster award, this was my first blog award and I really was quite chuffed….Zeens and Roger who nominated me probably didn’t expect quite the lengthy old answers that I gave but while writing them I unknowingly planted a seed that would soon come to fruition……

It seemed the sunshine was never going to end, September had some really glorious days, and often I’d start the day with a cup of tea sitting on the back door step with Bernard and Bob from next door keeping me company.

The little crab apple trees just up the road seemed their fullest ever, and I made several trips with my shopping basket in hand to pick the beautiful coral and salmon coloured fruits….where as last year there was such a bounty here of blackberries I wasin danger of turning into one myself, this year hasn’t been no where near as good, but the silver lining has meant I’ve looked elsewhere for fruits to make jam…..the hedgerows round abouts where i live are so laden with wild fruits, rosehips, and haws, rowans, elder berries and wildling apples and crabby ones……all delicious in jams and jellies and syryps.

One of the first jellies I’ve made was an apple one flavoured with vinegar and herbs from the garden…this was used to make the nicest vegetarian gravies I’ve ever tasted…..the jellies using just hedgerow fruit are very citrussy and are ideal as breakfast preserves.

I finally finished two projects which had taken a little while to complete….first up a knititng bag made form no end of hand pieced hexagons….it’s nice and roomy and has pockets inside…..second was a grannnies paperweight crochet scarf which I’ve been working on for ,oh I don’t know how many years…a good few at any rate…..it reminds me of richly embroidered velvet coat collars by Paul Poiret and I love it…..I spent so much of this month secretly wishing for the weather to turn so I could start wearing it.

 

Oh October….you are my most favourite month…partly because my birthday is in October (yep, I’m that shallow) but even when it’s all wet wild and windy I love the changes this month brings…..the man with the roast nuts barrow sets up stall on London Street, the smell wafts all the way down to Jarrolds where you turn the corner and know Autumni s well and truly here…..

More jellies were made, this time using some foraged japonica quinces which I left in a bowl in the parlour to ripen up…opening the door each morning and the sherbety aroma was so uplifting and smile inducing…..I also made some soothing syrups as I always end up with a crocky old throat come Christmas….some of the foraged finds bought home possibly the teeniest weeniest little old snail I think I’ve ever seen…I know he’s just going to eat all our veg but I didn’t have the heart to squish him…but instead allowed him to “run” or slide free behind the compost bin.

Izzy from next door had babies in the Summer and her four kittens have been running amok in the garden…carefully planted seedlings have been upturned, chewed, covered with earth while the kittens themselves have been making most merry…poor old Bernard hasn’t known what to make of them, and often comes running down the path as the tiny tots are in full pursuit.

A little more tinkering with the dottie frock pattern, this time splitting the bodice from the skirt and inserting side pockets…. I’m so happy with this pattern and am finding a pocket to be perfect for my hankies.

The little seed planted back in August began to grow, and I picked up my knitting needles…I’ve been able to knit for a few years but only simple scarves, and dishclothes…nothing more fancy than that….but I kept thinking about wishing I could knit better and decided I didn’t need a fairy godmother ot wave a magic wand.  This was something I could do myself….so I began to practise, small samples/swatches with stitches chosen from an old Harmony guide…suddenly I was knitting, slipping stitches, passing them over, knitting two together…I even dabbled with cables…..and then I fell in love, completely hook line and sinker…I saw this gorgeous gorgeous shawl on Instagram and wanted it so bad…I was on the verge of asking a friend to knit it for me then thought no, I would do it myself……mistakes have been made, stitches un-knitted, full rows un-ravelled but oh how proud I have felt, watching the stitches slowly grow……thank you so much Zeens and Roger and Buttercup and Bee for those original Liebster questions.

Oh, and I got nominated for another blog award, this time by Sharon over at Creativity and Family.

 

November is suddenly upon me and all I can think of is my knitting….at the same time I find out about Wovember and a British Breed KAL over on Ravelry by Louise of Knit British … I’m setting my alarm earlier and earlier to enjoy my quiet time knitting on the sofa with Bernard all snuggled up next to me, often with his head on the wool. I’ve become a wool convert and love the warm scent of my sheepy Shetland wool.

I finished the shawl and when I attempt to fling it around my shoulders half near strangle myself to death…..I re-check the pattern and realize my gauge or tension is way off so if I want to wear the shawl without doing myself a permanent mischief I’ll need to unknit it and start again ……oddly this doesn’t make me sob my heart out, but instead I know I can do it…the feeling of knowing I can do it is just wonderful.

Then it’s a mad flourry as the Christmas fairs are now starting, work days start while the lark is still sleeping and commssions for stockings are posted off…..I start to make a toy for on eof my little nieces birthdays but realize it won’t be ready so will have to be a Chrtstmas gift instead…..

Just down the road there is a beautiful rowan tree with pale pink berries, even when I’m super stressed and have 101 things to do, stopping and looking at it never fails to make me smile and feel a little calmer.

And so the year is nearly over……December started with two busy craft fairs and then a series of commissions, family came to visit, a cat toy needed to be made (complete with teeny dottie angle frock and a green cardigan)and slowly burning the candle both ends began to take it’s toll…a prickly throat soon became a nasty cold and laryngitis but then worse of all our beloved Bernard (the trumpiest and sleepiest cat ever) had a nasty lump come up under his paw……an overnight stay at the vets and an operation has meant it’s all been a very fraught here.  Everyone’s kind comments when I wrote about him being ill has meant so much to me….the kindness of strangers and internet friends never fails to amaze.

Finding time to knit has been my escape from all the worry and fears*….the shawl has been un-ravelled, I did that Christmas Day afternoon, and it’s slowly being re-knitted on rather larger needles….(plenty of swatching for the correct tension was done before hand) the wool smells so sheepy and comforting, and where as in the past Bernard has pinched yarn or tapesty wool, he’s been very respectful of my shawl wool…I think he’s enjoying the scent as much as me and will happily rest the tip of his nose against the ball of wool….I’ve also started making plans for a second shawl, thinking about how I can change the cloverleaf pattern so I don’t have two shawls quite the same….

So I’m wishing you all a very peaceful 2016, with lots of good times and laughter and health and happiness….

*We got the results of the biopsy late Christmas Eve, and I’m afraid to say it wasn’t good news, the lump they removed proved positive and the cancer is the sort that will return…We have to go back to the vets next Thursday to talk over the options on future treatments so for now he’s being spoilt rotten like you wouldn’t believe.

My grannies paperweight crochet scarf……

tapestry wool grannies paperweight scarf

After what seems like an extraordinary amount of time, my grannies paperweight crochet scarf is now all fit for modelling in the Autumn sunshine….

A few years ago I fell in love with the Grannies Paperweight crochet pattern (otherwise known as the African Flower pattern) after seeing a beautiful blanket on Flickr by Andamento, and after I tried it out using acryllic yarn (and not particularly caring for the results), I then thought it would be the perfect project to make using tapestry wool as that seems to come in a million and one different colours, certainly a wider range than most wool companies produce.

crocheted hexagons for the grannies paperweight blanket

I was very happy with the results, wonderful combinations of colours that took me by surprise blended together perfectly, and making hexagons that varied often only a little in rich and gentle hues and tones of one colour made the crochet pulsate and look like a jewel box when it was being spread out on the carpet while it slowly grew bigger.

While I was still making the blanket I began to think of other ways I could use this pattern and because as soon as the joined hexagons became large enough, I was finding myself wrapping them around my shoulders,  a shawl seemed the perfect candidate.  However, as cosy as that is, I love being able to fling something around myself in a more dramatic and affected way (think Miss Piggy having a full blown diva moment) and so I began work on a scarf.

a vintage palette

While I’ve been crocheting the tapestry wool I’m aware that the wool varies in thickness somewhat from brand to brand, and that I use particular brands differently..

Certain vintage brands like Penelope or Beehive are slightly fuzzy and I think these work best either for round three or for joining the hexagons together. Vintage anchor wool from old needlepoint kits is also very good for joining the hexagons together.

More modern Anchor, DMC and Rowan wools are plumper and seem to work better for the other rounds.

If you live in America then you should be able to source “Elsa Williams” needlepoint yarn (I was lucky to buy some a few years ago via Ebay)…this is a really nice wool, perfect to use for all the rounds.
Jamieson's wool pile

Although you don’t have to use tapestry wool (indeed, if I had the budget I’d use wool from  Jamieson’s of Shetland or Jamieson and Smith as both their colour ranges are really rather breath-taking) it was a lot more affordable than you’d think.  Most of the wool I’ve used has been sourced from Antique shops/flea markets/ jumble sales/ charity shops/car boots….very little has been purchased new (although I’m a sucker for DMC shade number 7120 and I never find that second hand…it’s a lovely soft barely there pink, the colour of faded rose petals)

crochet colourwork 002

Generally before I start anything I like to have a little play around with colour,  I always up-end a big bag of tapestry wool and have a good old mess about with the different wools, comparing colours and different tones together.

And I’ll often paint out combinations of particular colours I have a fancy to before crocheting….sometimes the colours work, sometimes they don’t but I never see this time spent as wasted.

how to granny paperweight in stages 003

To make a scarf you’ll need to start off by making 4 rounds of a grannies paperweight hexagon.

I found it a bit easier to make a dozen or so little circles for the centre of the hexagon at a time, before making them bigger and working on the other rounds..

a basket of woolly centres

(these are a whole load of little half hexagons that I got a tad carried away with making…..)

When I was first trying to learn how to make a grannies paperweight hexagon, the very best tutorial I found for making them  was on lovely  Heidi Bear’s blog, and her tutorial on making them is exceptional, however she makes her hexagons larger than mine,  I prefer to make them smaller as I think it makes the colour more intense.  She also suggests using a 5mm hook but I find a smaller hook size suits me better.

how to granny paperweight in stages 010

I found I got a nicer result when I used two different hook sizes.  (the smaller hook pokes through those top stitches of round 3 a treat and then helps form a nice dense band of colour when you join the hexagons together.

For the first 3 rounds I use a 4 mm hook and then change to a 3.25mm hook for rounds 4 and 5.

As well as changing hook size I also changed the type of hook…I prefer to use a Clover Soft Touch for the 4mm hook and then I switch to a Brittany wooden hook for the 3.25. (The Brittany hook has a lovely pokey tip and I found it was smoother than the Clover one)

playing with crochet hexagons

After you’ve made a dozen or so hexagons (only up to round 4),  you can begin to lay them out, have a play with which hexagons look best together. This bit is so much fun, it’s  rather like a jigsaw puzzle where, although all the pieces are the same shape, positioning a piece in a particular place either works (making all it’s neighbours sing) or looks a bit pants.

joining together corochet hexagons

Once you’re happy with your arrangement, you can begin to join them together,

Heidi has a lovely easy to follow tutorial on how to join the hexagons just here.

The hexagons are placed together a bit like bricks on top of one another, 1, then 2, then 1 then 2 and so on until the scarf is at the length you require.  Both ends of the scarf will be finished with a single hexagon.

crocheted half hexagons fill in the side gaps

The sides will each have a row of half hexagon gaps along them, these will then be filled with half hexagons.

starting fourth colour

I found it easier to make the half hexagons once the whole ones had been made and joined together as they are crocheted back and forth rather than in a round and it gave me a headache trying to switch back and forth.

I was also able to spread the scarf out and make a note of any particular colours I felt were lacking or that I thought would fit in nicely.

joining in

Joining in the half hexagons is a bit more fiddlesome than joining together the whole ones.  At this point I often stop and make a pot of tea.

grannies paperweight crochet scarf, tails and all

Once all the hexagons have been joined together then it’s time to sew in all those troublesome woolly tails.
While I appreciate that there is a way where you can work your woolly tails in while you crochet (and save yourself the what seems like an endless amount of time sewing in umpteen ends) whenever I try to do it that way my crochet looks all lumpy and mis-shapen….so I’m a woolly tail sewer, but if you can do it the other way, then go ahead as it will save you a fair amount of time.
grannies paperweight scarf
Once all the tails are sewn in then the scarf is almost ready.  (if you want you can wear it like this but I find the half hexagons are often a bit lumpy so crocheting all the way around the scarf makes it look a lot neater.

work along the second edge

I used Jamieson’s of Shetland wool (double knit weight) as it was perfect to use for the edging as it was almost the same weight as the tapestry wool.

I used a Brittany 3.25 hook to crochet the edging.

I use slightly less stitches when I crochet across the edge of the half hexagon as it flattens off any “fat tummies” that may be bulging out from the sides of the scarf. (it’s like “magic tummy knickers” for your crochet.)

Once the edging has been crocheted then I’d really recommend gently washing your scarf in a special wool conditioner (tapestry wool isn’t the softest in the world) and then blocking it out and allowing it to dry thoroughly.

grannies paperweigh scarf

The scarf has two “pointy” ends which I think would look fantastic finished with super fat pom poms (however my boyfriend has very somber tastes and I think pom poms on this scarf would be the very end of enough for him.)

Using a little bit of what seems to be about every colour there is going means this will look just  perfect worn with anything, there’s nothing it won’t look spectacular with.

paperweight flowers and a peek of braids

My hexagons are made up of 5 rounds, each round has 2 ends or tails so 10 per hexagon (even the halfsies which doesn’t really seem fair) so that’s 690 woolly tails to sew in when you’re all finished crocheting.

Regarding how much yarn is used…these are approximate measurements as it varies a little on which brand of wool you’re using (as they differ in thickness)

Whole hexagons

round one…..60 inches

round two…98 inches

round three…155 inches

round four…91 inches

round five  (where you join into two sides*)…169 inches

Half hexagons

round one…43 inches

round two…55 inches

round three….87 inches

round four………53 inches

round five  (joining the half hexagon to three sides)…127 inches

Tapestry wool skeins vary from 9 yards up to 15 yards.  There are 36 inches in a yard.

For my scarf I made 43 whole hexagons and 26 half hexagons using roughly about 948 yards of wool for all the hexagons.  I forgot to measure the wool for the edging but it doesn’t use all that much.  (a ball of dk wool will be plenty)

grannies paperweight scarf using tapestry wool

This has really been Inspired  by memories of buying a little paper bag full of fair rock from the shop down the road when I was small (sadly an old time sweetie that doesn’t seem to have been resurrected), mixed in with those beautiful millefleur paperweights that you often find in antique centres and sumptously embroidered velvet collars on evening coats designed by Paul Poiret, I’ve made this scarf so you can wrap yourself all up in every colour under the sun and then some.

Please understand, this isn’t a weekend make, it’s going to take a while (I started mine in the Spring of 2013 or thereabouts and though I wasn’t working on it all the time it won’t be fastest scarf you ever crochet) but I think it’s worth it.

I’d also like to thank Heidi Bears so much for her tutorials which made sense of how to make this hexagon.

Delightful debbie and some dottie angel frocks………….

orange floral dottie angel frock with a blue cardigan

A couple of months ago in the Summer I bought the dottie angel frock pattern and spent the next few weeks sewing up a fancy new frock for every day of the week…..I’m in the middle of re-drafting some more changes to the pattern as I’ve got fabric waiting to be cut for 3 or 4 more frocks, and there’s some beautiful fabric in two local department stores which seems to whisper “buy me buy me” every-time I walk pass them.

I’ve mentioned before I’m not one for having her photo taken, I’m not sure what’s worse, seeing a spider scuttle and scurry across the carpet or having someone say “smile” as they whip out a camera or phone, both bring on palpitations….anyway, I’m lucky enough to have a very kind friend called Debbie who is a similar size to me (well I’m all pancake boobs and wobbly bottom while she’s all lean and toned from cycling and running (…the other year she cycled from Edinburgh to Norwich just for the pleasure really of being out on her bike)….but we’re about the same height and these dresses seem to cross over a couple of sizes.  I was able to persuade her into doing a little frock modeling for me behind our house, not sure what our neighbours thought if they were looking out of their windows as I had her whipping frocks off by the hedgerow though she had a vest and leggings on underneath so the goings on weren’t too improper.

orange floral dottie angl frock with an orange cardigan

I really like this orange fabric (John Lewis in the sale)…the pretty floral print means I can pick up colours to combine and offset against the orange (see the blue cardigan in the top picture) or go for the full “you’ve been tangoed” effect with the orange cardi.

I made a couple of alterations to the original pattern as I found the neckline wasn’t sitting quite right on me so I raised the shoulder line nearest the neck, this pulled the dress up a little, and also raised up the neckline itself in the centre.

I didn’t find the tucks to be so flattering for my shape (pancake boobs) and found sewing ties at the front with a fabric strip on top of them seemed more pleasing.  I also narrowed the skirt of the frock as well as I found this made it hang down a bit nicer (I’m all bottom and the extra fabric wasn’t doing ones posterior any favours.)

Normally I’d have given these a little press with a hot iron before wearing them but I was all slumicky this morning and just bundled them up in a basket before heading out with my camera.)

blue rowan fabric dottie angel dress

I’ve made all the dresses the same, doing away with the little tucks and having the ties right in the centre instead (the ties pull and gather through the fabric band and then knot and tie together at the back)

As well omitting the tucks I also did away with the pockets as I preferred the dress with out however I saw this lovely one with pockets and binding in the same fabric and now think maybe pockets may appear on a couple of these.

I originally bought this Rowan fabric to back a piece of patchwork into a quilt, however even after washing it couple of times, it felt a bit heavy for hand quilting so saved it up for this pattern especially.  I usually wear it with a light  green cardigan though I’m thinking the orange one wouldn’t go amiss either.

vintage gold dottie angel dress

On “Tah Dah-ing” my boyfriend wearing this, he turned round and asked “is that a pair of curtains?”….wasn’t the response I was after however I think he has a point.  Of the seven frocks I’ve made this one is the only one I’m not so fussed with, which is annoying as that fabric was a right pain to sew being all slippy and wanting to slide onto the floor the whole while I was sewing it.

It’s some of the vintage stash lovely Sylvia gave me and is proper dress fabric (not curtain fabric thank you) and I’m wishing now I’d saved it for a more fifties style frock, one with a fitted bodice and almost dirndl style skirt (love those dirndl skirts,) and then used a nice mustard cotton lining from Merchant and Mills…..oh well.  It’s not all bad, I can re-use the fabric as the lining for Christmas Stockings but all the bindings sewn on the hems will just be chopped up for cushion stuffing…unpicking those will be too much even for me.

blue charity shop fabric dottie angel frock

This was the first dress I made, even after making 3 toilles it still came out a bit roomy (room for two helpings of pudding at the front….I ended up bringing in the pattern along the central line nearly an inch, and the same decrease along the back line.  The other dresses are a better fit but this is still nice and comfy (in the Summer when we handful of scorchers then it was lovely and floaty.)

It’s also a bit harder to combine with that many colours, I’m not normally one for dark blue but this looks better when I’m wearing it with a variety of green cardigans and I have a sparkly yellow one I think will brighten it up (though that is a bit scratchy on bare arms so thermals will be needed underneath)

The fabric was a proper charity shop treasure, about 3 meters of fabric for £1.  I originally bought this fabric  years ago and I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been tempted to put it out and charity shop it myself.

It’s making me laugh looking at these pictures and if Bek is reading this then I know she’ll be smiling too as Debbie isn’t really a dress wearing lady so I do appreciate her letting me dress her up today in these frocks.

front view of the green floral dottie angle dress

I bought this fabric as soon as Tif told me her dress was going to be a pattern.  In between buying the fabric and having the pattern I had a a couple of hospital visits and one of them involved wearing a little gown that was almost identical to this print…so now when I wear it I worry people will think I’ve wandered out from the local hospital.

It’s quite a light green fabric and looks best worn with a green cardigan (I love green cardigans and if my knitting ever improves enough it will be the first garment with sleeves I create on my needles) as any other colour seems to overwhelm it rather.  However it looks particularly fine worn with my Kenny Everett leopard print leggings (each time I wear them I can’t resist doing the little dance)

There’s not enough fabric left for another dress but there’s enough to turn up in my patchwork so there’ll be a few blocks for “dear ethel” made using this print.

back view of the green floral dottie angel dress

As well as raising the neckline of the dress at the front, I also raised it up a tad at the back.

I like a nice big bow so made the ties a little longer than the pattern required.

Normally “Lydia the tattooed lady” here keeps her ink well under wraps so it’s quite a treat for me to see her colourful tattoos.

vintage green fabric dottie angel dress

This is possibly my second favourite dress, the fabric was from Jenny’s Haberdashery stall in the St Gregory’s Antique centre on Pottergate in Norwich (I rarely go into the city without popping in and coming away with a reel of thread or a bag of tapestry wool)

The fabric was rather slippy to sew and I ended up hand sewing the hem, turning it over with the point of my needle so it rolled over nicely.  All the bindings and even the thread were of an equal age (if not older) to the fabric so the colours matched very well.

In the picture the front band looks like I’ve sewn it on drunk, it’s just how we’ve tied the dress, in “real life” it’s not squiffy at all.  I wore this the other day with a gold cardigan and it looked great.  I like dark green and along with the orange shoes really covet a nice dark green pair.

grannies paperweight scarf using tapestry wool

And this time it’s finally me, wearing my number one favourite dress.  The fabric was in the John Lewis sale and I made the dress for about £6.00.  At the time I was sewing it my Bernina sewing machine was playing me up and I had to sew this on a hand turning machine.  I mentioned using vintage bindings on the dark green dress, but when I stop and think about it, all the frocks have been sewn with bindings and seam coverings from antique and junk shops, most are 1960’s and older.

I love this print because I can mix lots of different colours with it, orange, yellow, grey and chestnut.  It’s also the dress I’ve been stopped the most about and asked where I’d bought it.  There is something very lovely about being able to say “oh, I made it myself”

I’ve combined it with the grannies paperweight scarf I finished off a couple a weeks ago….it’s a riot of colour and I think will go with just about anything. It’s made from mostly vintage tapestry wool sourced form antique shops/junk shops/jumbles/car boots and charity shops.

It’s been blocked and hand washed in fabric conditioner so is nice and soft, though it was a tad warm to wear today as it’s very warm being all wool.

I don’t do Instagram but if you do then pop over to #dottieangelfrock…as there are loads of amazing dresses that other people have made using this pattern.

And thank you Tif for drafting up a lovely pattern, one that’s pretty simple to make and seems to flatter a multitude of body shapes.

Woolly tails, pots of tea and preparing for the Autumn…..

grannies paperweight scarf

Even though the bank holiday had rather wretched wet and windy weather there was a silver lining as it allowed me to nest down on the sofa with endless pots of very nice tea* and finish sewing in all the remaining woolly tails on the back of my grannies paperweight scarf…

I’m not sure exactly when I started making the scarf, sometime in the Spring of 2013 because I’d been working on the grannies paperweight blanket by then and just loved the pattern so much that I then wanted to be able to wear something using it.

Now it’s all made up it reminds me very much of those beautiful turn of the century coats by Paul Poiret that had sumptuous velvet embroideries down the front, and while recently re-watching The House of Elliot**, noticed Miss Evie wearing a rather nice coat that had a raised collar that was all embroidered in what I think of as “Bloomsbury” colours.

Rather than join the hexagons together into a flower shape or cluster of 7, the hexagons are joined 2 on top and 1 to the side with half hexagons used to fill in the gaps.

When I first tried making the half hexagons I found them really difficult and other people’s patterns I’d seen for them weren’t really what I needed to fit into my blanket, however when I made my shawl I came up with a way that worked best for me so over Christmas I sat down and just made a whole load of them and before I knew it I’d made enough for the tops and bottoms of the blanket (tails of which are still slowly being sewn in….) as well as half hexagons for the scarf and some extras for a pair of cushions (which have yet to be finished, )…

Then once the half hexagons were all joined in it was a case of sewing in the woolly tails on the back (and yes I know there is a way where you join them in as you crochet along but whenever I do it like that then I get a fat lumpy side and the crochet looks proper peculiar, I can only think it’s because I’m doing something wrong as I’ve seen other peoples crochet worked this way and their’s looks fine…) Each hexagon has 10 tails (even the half hexagons) so they soon add up.  It’s probably the part I like the least, it’s boring more than anything else and I can always find something more enjoyable to sew or work on instead.

However, as the weather was so wet, and rather chilly  I thought it best to get this finished so I can be all ready to wrap myself up and keep warm as Autumn’s presence is being felt. (I do feel the cold something rotten and seem to have a 101 scarves, and it’s the ones I made myself that I always get the nicest comments on….it was great getting stopped by a lady who said “is that the dottie angel scarf” and we then spent a few minutes squidging the puffs of my scarf together.

insert hook in the ponty gap

Once all the tails were sewn in, my scarf was pretty much ready to wear though the sides were a tad on the lumpy side…I decided a very simple edging would probably work the best at pulling in the bumpy bits (the crochet version of magic knickers) and also I didn’t want to do anything too fancy as I knew that would just make the scarf too wide (in the past I’ve made scarves that I could barely see over once they were wrapped around me and when my face gets too covered my glasses steam up.) I’ve used Jamieson’s of Shetland double knitting wool before when I was edging the cushion fronts and thought this would be the best wool to use for a simple single crochet edge.

The rest of the scarf was used in tapestry wool and the Jamieson’s wool has a very similar texture and weight to it.  And their colours are lovely.  I’ve used mint as that seemed to look the nicest against the colours used in the main part of the scarf.

The edging was pretty easy to do though I’m explaining it in a fair bit of detail because when I learnt to crochet I really needed every part shown thoroughly or I just didn’t understand what I was supposed to do…..if you can crochet then please bear with me.

(ohh and I’m using Brittany crochet hooks, they are lovely to use and mean I can crochet all day and not get achy hands or fingers)

First up, make a slip knot and slip it over your hook and tighten, then insert your hook into the gap that you’ll see at the corner of the two sides.  The edging is worked under the stitches, (between the bars) rather than through the chains that lay horizontally around the edge.  Make a chain and then make a single crochet stitch. (This is all UK terminology)

work along the edge

Just keep working along the edge making the single crochet stitches through the bars along the side.

work two stitches into the corner gap

When you get to the end of the side, make a single crochet stitch in that little corner gap and then make another one next to it.  (if you want you can make a chain between them but I didn’t.  I think it depends a bit on the weight of the wool you use…try both ways if you like as the edging is easy to un-ravel if you don’t like it.)

work along the second edge

Now just work along the second side, making a single crochet stitch through each “bar” on the side.

work the corner

When you get to the corner there are two different ways you can work the corner….

You can avoid inserting the hook into the gap at the end of the first side, and instead insert it straight into the gap of the second hexagon (this is what I’m doing in the picture above.) Scoop the wool round the hook and pull it through the gap and continue to make a single crochet stitch before working along the rest of the third side.

I crochet quite tightly and found this looked better for me.  However, depending on the wool you use and how you crochet you may prefer this way….

Insert your hook in to the gap on the first hexagon, scoop up the wool around your hook and pull it through the gap, now with that wool still on your hook, insert your hook into the gap in the next hexagon, wrap the wool round the hook and scoop it through.  You’ll now have what look like 3 stitches on your hook, pull them all through the first stitch on your hook and then continue along the rest of the side with the single crochet stitches.

Whichever method you use, make sure you only go through the corner gaps and not between the two hexagons where they join together.

work along the next edge

When you get to the corner you’ll need to make 2 single crochet stitches in the gap, and again, if you want you can make a chain between them.  It’s completely up to you.

work 12 stitches along the edge of the half hexagon

When you work along the edge of a whole hexagon, crochet between the bars exactly like you did for the previous sides. When you crochet along the edge of a half hexagon it’s a little different.

This time you work just under the bottom of the stitch and you want to make about 12 stitches along the half in total so you aren’t working under every stitch.  I know this sounds a bit odd but I found that this helps keep the bumpy bit in line (think of it working like magic knickers for when you’ve had too much cake).

Try not to make a stitch right at the start and end of a half hexagon so the stitches through the gaps of the whole hexagons have enough space.

continue to work all the way around the edge of the scarf

If you click this picture it’ll come up nice and big and you’ll see the start and end stitch through the gaps in the whole hexagons either side, and then you’ll be able to count 12 stitches along the half hexagon between them.

I promise you it’s a lot easier than it sounds.

Then you just continue like that all the way around the edge of the scarf before joining it off and sewing in those 2 last tails.

blocked end section of grannies paperweight scarf

At this point it really is ready to wear and in the past I would have been out and about with this all draped around me, however this Summer I blocked a couple of scarves and couldn’t believe the difference it made (also tapestry wool which I’ve used is a bit scratchy so giving the wool a gentle wash in a special wool conditioner will help the scarf feel nicer as well as looking much better.)

After a little soak in some lukewarm water and wool conditioner I let the water drain before folding the scarf over and over and then pressing out the water, it’s important not to squeeze or wring it as then it’s going to look a bit rum.

I then laid out some towels out along on the floor which I’d folded a few times so they were a nice thickness and then laid out the scarf.

blocked section of grannies paperweight scarf

Working out from the middle I pinned the scarf at all of the points where the hexagons joined together, and using a ruler made sure that the scarf was nice and even all the way along….I didn’t use special blocking pins just cheap ones that I’d been given but which I found were too thick to use for my everyday sewing (though I’m thinking I may need to get some of the proper blocking pins and some mats for future projects).

The hexagons look a bit “soft” and hazy and in part this is because as you know I’m no David Bailey but also this is the reverse.  I laid the scarf out face down as Bernard will keep laying on things that are on the floor and I didn’t then want this covered with cat fluff. (and I knew if I laid any towels over the top then those pins would only be stood on)

I left the scarf for two days like this and then when it was pretty much dry folded it into four before placing it in our airing cupboard so it could completely dry through and we’d get our living room back.

Pictures of the scarf all finished and modelled will be coming along with all the relevant links to post on how I made it.

*this is the nicest tea I’ve ever had and could happily drink it ’til the cows come home.

**(ooh and if you enjoyed The House of Elliot I’d thoroughly recommend Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries…it’s a good series to watch but the costumes totally steal the show.  It’s set in the Twenties and it’s an Australian drama, one episode even has Shane Ramsey from Neighbours in it doing a well dodgy French accent.  It’s about a lady detective called Phryne Fisher who has a habit of getting into mischief while wearing the most incredible looking clothes.  There’s a fair bit of romance and brief liasions with her and what seems like a new dishy fella occur in each episode but that doesn’t stop her from still flirting terribly with the local police inspector.  It’s available as dvds so you should be able to hire it from your local library.  Essie Davies as Miss Fisher is so good and she really suits those lovely period costumes.

A colourful crochet scarf…….

grannies paperweight crochet scarf, tails and all

As well as attempting to finish the grannies paperweight blanket, one of the other projects I tried to get on with over the holidays was this scarf I’d began in the spring of last year also using the grannies paperweight crochet pattern….I’d made most of these hexagons at least a year ago and happily a lot of the tails were actually sewn in (hoorah!) I know there are ways where you can crochet the tails in as you go, but whenever I attempt to do this I end up with a really fat wodgy sausage side….I’m obviously not doing it right so for now I just resign myself to sewing hundreds of multicoloured woolly tails…..

section of hexagon scarf

I got a bit carried away when I was making half hexagons for the grannies paperweight blanket and thought as I’d already made a few extra to just keep making them so I would have enough for both sides of my scarf…..I actually ended up with enough for a couple more projects I’ll be showing soon, I’m just sorting out the edging on them.

The scarf itself is made up of 43 joined hexagons and then I made 26 half hexagons to fill the gaps.  Like the blanket, it’s made from tapestry wool, pretty much all brands have been used, I don’t really favour any in particular though if you are lucky enough to have a stash of Elsa Williams wool then I’m most envious as I found that to be the perfect weight for every round….generally I use a heavier wool for the first 4 rounds (brands such as DMC are perfect) then for the fifth and joining round I then use Penelope (that’s a proper vintage one so is harder now to find) but something a little lighter seems to work best (I find the DMC is just a smidge too fat…that may be in part because I use a smaller hook for rounds 4 and 5…anyway, see what works best for you)

section of grannies paperweight crochet scarf

I try to keep the edge quite tight and so aim for making between 16-19 stitches along the raw edge of the half hexagon, sometimes I made more and the side bulges out some so there has been a bit of unpicking to straighten it up a bit.  Once the tails are sewn in (sigh) I’ll work the edging and then perhaps gently hand wash it…..when I’ve been draping this around myself to check it’s progress the wool has felt a bit on the coarse side, however after reading about the beautiful shawl on Ella Gordon’s blog a few minutes ago I’m thinking if I gently hand wash it with lots of conditioner then it might soften up some.

scarf tip

I’m pretty pleased with how it’s turned out so far, though I’m a little worried it’s going to be quite wide by the time I’ve added an edging….it really needs edging so that the sides will be nice and straight (at the moment they are somewhat lumpy and bumpy) so am thinking perhaps a half double crochet stitch (half treble US) may be the thing to do……I’m happy with the assortment of colours, at one point it was looking very green and although I love green I wanted this to be much more of a mix.

As always I used the excellent Heidi Bears tutorial for the whole hexagons and she also has a tutorial for joining them….then I use this method for the half hexagons and this is how I join them in.

In case you are interested, I’ve now created a pinterest board which has all the pictures of the grannies paperweight blanket so far, including each stage of the hexagon and half hexagon construction….