Monday, 28 April 2014

A Flower a Day: Week Four - More Crochet Flowers!

I am well and truly hooked on crochet flowers at the moment, and my set of test flowers is growing.  Having decided that freeform was probably the way to go, to join the flowers and leaves into something wearable (although I haven't quite decided what, yet) I searched online for more crochet flower images and charts and information on freeform crochet.  This led to links on Irish crochet and designs for Japanese flower tawashi (scrubbing cloths). I also found a number of charts which look as though they have come from China via Russia. However, they are quite blurry copies and I think I need some more practice with instructions before I rely on charts alone.

I noticed that several of the flower patterns I'd queued in Ravelry were from the book '100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet' by Lesley Stansfield. I thought I would have a look on Amazon for it, finding it really quite cheap, I bought it and another Lesley Stansfield book '75 Birds and Butterflies to Knit and Crochet'.  My birthday present! As it says in the foreword, these aren't necessarily accurate flowers (or butterflies, etc) and both books also contain leaves, flowers, fruit, vegetables and so on, so there's enough here to knit and crochet an entire garden.  That should keep me going for a while!

However fanciful some of the flowers might be, they are also temptingly photographed with clear descriptions, so I thought I would do some as this week's set. Note, they aren't finished, with tails woven in and nicely blocked - I'll save that for when I'm putting them together into whatever I decide to make.

Materials: Acrylic DK yarn
Techniques: Crochet

Centre: Spiral rose
Clockwise from top:
Lazy Daisy
Apple blossom
Small Rose

Top Down Vanilla Socks with Afterthought Heel - Finished

'Vanilla' as in plain, unpatterned, which amuses me as the yarn is Drops Fabel blue-mustard print, a self-patterning yarn with only a little vanilla colour in it!

I've taken my time over these, what with using crafting time to do a flower and the colour centre of a block for the colour sampler blanket per day, doing some gardening, trying (and so far failing) to find the source of the smell of something dead in the bedroom (ugh), taking a day out a week for an ECDL course, and writing/reviewing my adult ed course proposals, also reviewing my CV and applying for a job. It's good to stay busy!

I decided I could do fewer stitches so cast on 68, 17 per 2.75 mm dpn.  12 rows of 2/2 rib and 40 rows on the leg, then 65 on the foot before doing the toe shaping.  I don't really like the 'star toe' shaping, as it doesn't suit the shape of my foot.  The 'afterthought' heel is a better size and shape than the two styles I've done so far, but I found it such a faff to pick up so many small stitches and unpick the waste yarn.  Definitely trickier than picking up stitches along the side of a heel flap.  If I were to do it again, I would be tempted to leave the 'top' (leg) stitches on a stitch holder and cast on the same number to continue the sole. Or maybe instead of knitting the waste yarn in, perhaps threading it through the stitches with a tapestry needle?

I don't like gathered toes with a little hole, so I left 10 stitches top and bottom (rather than 8) and did a kitchener graft. I did a couple of extra rows on the heel so that I was left with 16 stitches top and bottom as suggested in the pattern. The only issue I have with kitchener grafting in these self-patterning yarns is that the colour seems to change just at the point that the grafting starts, so that I get a line of a different colour.  It's not really a problem - no-one is going to see it except for me. I used about 70g/1.4 x 50g balls.

I put my new socks on yesterday to enjoy my cosy toes, and was washing up after lunch when the sun came out. Deciding that the washing up could wait until I had done a spot of bramble bashing, I put my work boots on and found my gauntlets, opened the door ... and it started to rain. Grumbling to myself, I took my boots off and was nearly knocked over by a couple of cats making a dash for the door as it started to rain harder, until it was pouring down. As I finished washing up, I watched the sky change from light to dark grey and decided there was only one thing for it on a rainy Sunday afternoon ...

... put my feet up with a cup of tea, and take a photo of my socks!

Decisions, decisions ... which colour, techniques and pattern for my next pair?

Monday, 21 April 2014

A Flower a Day: Week Three - 'Simply Crochet' Flowers

Materials: Acrylic DK
Techniques: Crochet

Apart from the crochet puff stitch flower in the Simply Crochet (issue 16) project supplement, there were seven other flower patterns in the main magazine (and that's not counting a couple of other lacy/afghan flower motifs!). Quite handily, that's a week's worth - and here they are.

The large flower came out rather differently to the original, probably because I wasn't using the same yarn and hook.  It's interestingly 3D, but I'm glad I wasn't making the six suggested as cushion decorations, because it seemed to go on forever and was getting a little hyperbolic by the end, when the curls were tamed by flattening them down and doing a contrast edge around the outermost tips of the petals.

Monday, 14 April 2014

A Flower a Day: Felted Flower and Leaf

Materials: Merino wool roving, seed beads
Techniques: needle- and wet felting, sewing

I came away from the needle felting workshop at the Pembrokeshire Women's Festival with a sample bag containing some Merino wool roving, a felting needle and a foam block (scouring pad!).  It has been sitting on my kitchen table for the past month, while I wondered what to use it for.  So, today's flower, why not?

This was my first go at free-form needle felting. The heart-shaped leaf went well, but the flower started to pull apart and wouldn't play. I was finding the stabbing pretty intensive, and had to keep stopping and stretching (aching hands and arms from recent practice with fan veils and finger cymbals - not at the same time!).

In the end, I didn't like the way the flower was going, so I finished by wet felting the flower, allowing me to cup it a bit, and stitched the flower to the leaf and brooch back with some embroidery floss, with a few glass beads in the centre. There's no scale in the photo, but this flower and leaf is quite small.

This is my 14th flower already! I'm finding it difficult to blog daily, however, because a combination of my computer and the broadband here makes the going very slow.  I've had a tidy up, ditching a load of temporary files and a couple of unused applications, but it hasn't grabbed back much space. I've been going cross-eyed with boredom at the way my browser arbitrarily decides to stop responding for a minute or two (or more).  So I've decided I'll carry on with a flower a day, but do a weekly post, at least for next week.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

A Flower a Day: Crochet Puff Stitch Flowers

Materials: Acrylic DK
Techniques: Crochet puff stitch

For some reason, I didn't have this style of flower queued in Ravelry (although there are patterns in there, of course!), but it features in the issue of Simply Crochet which I picked up the other week.  The version in Simply Crochet is part of a pattern for a puff stitch flower purse and features flowers with 5 petals, each petal made directly into the centre ring. It didn't explain what a 'treble cluster' was, exactly, so I went to find some tutorials on YouTube so that I could learn how to do it.

There are some very beginner-friendly tutorials available. My first attempt (the pale pink flower) was with this tutorial from B Hooked Crochet. They are cute enough, but I wasn't happy with the way the chains stood out from the petals. Still, I learned how to do the cluster and went back to the magazine to do the 5-petalled flower (bright orange).

I thought I should do a couple more, just for the fun of being introduced to different ways to do the centres. This tutorial from Crochet Jewel was very easy to follow. I noticed that some of the tutorials mention the yarn brand and the US hook size, but 'Red Heart yarn with an H hook' doesn't mean much to me. The important thing really is to use whatever you want, with a hook size which matches your yarn size. (Peach with a bright orange centre.)

My favourite video tutorial, this time by Kim Poelwiijk, is also easy to follow, even though it's in Dutch. (Don't let the fact that some of these tutorials are in another language put you off, unless you are a total and utter beginner and can't tell a slip stitch from a treble crochet. If the work is clear and slow, you can follow it and perhaps learn to count in other languages, too.) I might have missed something from the other tutorials, but this one has each petal starting and ending with a slip stitch into stitch from the first round and only two chain before starting the puff cluster, which seems to give much better definition. (Salmon pink with a yellow centre).  Kim goes on to demonstrate how the flowers can be 'joined as you go'.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

A Flower a Day: Crochet Corkscrew Spiral Flowers

Materials: Acrylic DK yarn
Techniques: Crochet

These are super-easy to do, just crochet a foundation chain and then do 3 trebles (UK or double crochet US) into each chain on the way back.  I think there may be an optimum length for the foundation chain, but don't know what it is.  Too long, and you end up with a corkscrew shape.  To short, and it's not a very full flower.  I think the spice coloured one works best, and I think I chained 30 or so as the foundation.
As you can see, I haven't fastened off the ends - that will come when I decide what I'm going to do with them.

Full of the Joys of Spring

Spring is well and truly sprung here.  The first daffodils, which were out in time for St David's Day on 1st March, have faded unnoticed in the later-flowering clumps still spilling down the hedgebanks, punctuated by hummocks of primroses, gleaming lesser celandines and starry stitchworts.  The first hedge parsley flowers are starting to sprawl into the road already. Furry willow buds have opened to reveal catkins and the blackthorn is in flower, turning lengths of hedgerow sparkling pale green and white.

As I whisked into St Clears to stock up on cat food from the farmers co-op this morning, I cursed myself for having left my camera at home, although I would have had to stop frequently for the photo opportunities.  As I drove, I kept saying 'Ooh, look at that!' to myself as I passed drifts of wood anemones and cuckoo flowers, and old cottage garden walls dripping with purple Aubretia. Swallows are zipping everywhere. In the town centre, a large, old magnolia tree completely covered in flowers dropped drifts of petals onto the crossroads.

The month started strangely for me.  I had to wash sand off my windscreen when I went out to teach, and then found I didn't have my camera to take pictures of the spectacular sunset.  The following day, I saw on the news that the sand had come up on the wind all the way from the Sahara, and that in some English cities it was mixing with pollution to create poor air quality.  That night, I watched a programme on the potential survivability of a volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami on La Palma, and woke to news of a magnitude 8.2 earthquake and tsunami warnings in Chile. A couple of days later, I was looking at patterns for cotton yarn and came across a sweater for ferrets. That night, I had to do an emergency stop on my way home, to avoid a beautiful (yes, really! sleekly plump, furry and gorgeous!) polecat who had decided to stroll across the road.

Since those few creepy coincidences, things have settled down a bit.  The cats and few remaining hens are enjoying the better weather.  In the past couple of weeks, one of the hens has even started laying a few eggs, an unexpected gift as they are all getting on a bit. The hens have settled down to being without a cockerel since he and another hen died within a week of each other during the wet weather in winter.  Red succumbed after a series of strokes which left him paralysed on one side. Although he was a good, well-behaved cockerel, he didn't like being touched and I would not have tried to pet him for fear of losing a chunk of flesh while he freaked out.  After his second or third stroke, he gave up trying to go up to the perch, but chucked happily away and tucked in with gusto when I put food and drink next to him in the run, and became a real tickle-monster, crooning when I stroked his neck and back feathers.  I would have had to cull him if he hadn't been so apparently happy, poor lad. Fudge had been badly hurt during the dog attacks a couple of years ago, but she came through with some sort of granuloma where the feathers and skin had been ripped on one leg. It affected her walking a bit, but she was fine otherwise. So she lived an extra couple of years, then went downhill very suddenly and died the same day, a few days before Red.

In the last set of gales, the tree which held the sparrow hawk nest came down.  At least one of the sparrow hawks is still around though, and seems to make a daily visit to the bird table next door. I was watching a little warbler hopping from branch to branch in the elder tree in my back yard and wondered if it was a willow warbler or chiff-chaff. Then it started to sing - chiff-chaff-chiff-choof-cheef-chaff-chiff-chaff. Sweet, but not as entertaining as Mr Jackdaw, who sits either by the nest-chimney or in the tree across the road, chattering away and preening in the sunshine.

We seem always to have a period of fine, dry weather here in Spring.  I so hope we have a sunny summer again.  I think I missed the best of last summer, unable to drive and spending a lot of time sleeping after the operation on my foot. I want to make up for it this year, but in the meantime, I'm full of the joys of Spring!

Friday, 11 April 2014

A Flower a Day: Folded Pointed Petals

Materials: Scraps of satin, pearl for centre
Techniques: Folded and gathered petals, sewing.

These fabric scraps have been in my stash a long time, offcuts from the lining for a wool jacket. The pearl I used for the centre was also an odd one I had in my stash. I should have put a ruler in this picture, as the flower is really quite small, only about 2.5 cm across, if that, as I used up small scraps for small petals. 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A Flower a Day: Velvet Yo-Yo Flower

Materials: Scraps of panne velvet, old button to cover
Techniques: Sewing, yo-yos and covering a button

I liked the texture of the velvet, and used another scrap to cover a plain button to made the centre.  The thing to remember about yo-yos is that they end up just less than half the size of your original circle template.

Chaos Theory

Yesterday started badly; my right knee osteoarthritis still in flare, left knee stiffer than usual, feet painful, a twinge and slight swelling in one ankle where it had 'clicked' the other day as I put the hens away, and sciatica. As I leaned on my walking stick, I realised I also had delayed-onset muscle soreness from dancing with fan veils on Monday night, and my arms and upper torso muscles were complaining (because you skimped on your cool-down, tut tut!). It was no better after the morning physio exercises and a hot bath, and it was all I could do to get out of the house to go to the first session of a course I'd signed on for.

Painkillers throughout the day seemed to make very little difference. Although I was comfortable when sitting down, standing up was agony.  I awarded myself several brownie points for going to the recycling centre and emptying my box (including a few points for putting the box in the car as I clattered out that morning). I would have loved to go for a swim after the course, but by then it was too late to go to any public sessions, which stop late afternoon and restart in the evening, in time to clash with the class I was going to teach. Cue more painkillers, icing gel, knee support and a warm up to help things along.

After class, I demonstrated a couple of exercises and had a bit of a roll around on the underfloor-heated floor at the community learning centre.  I came home knackered, drank half a litre of water, did a quick flower and a crochet block centre, and slept for six hours straight. (I've only been managing three before waking recently, so that was a big improvement!)

I got out of bed this morning and noticed how much better my knees were.  Wow! I remembered having the same effect after contemporary class last autumn.  There must be some link between easing the tension in the back muscles and the stretch in the quads and IT band that I get from the rolling, twisting moves on the floor, and the pain in my knees.  Rolling around seems to release something. I should do it more often, even though it only offers a few hours of relief.

There's a problem with that.  This cottage is pretty small and, at the moment, completely and chaotically untidy.  I had to have words with myself last weekend about the state of it.  I don't mind untidy, but I dislike dirty and I've been letting things slide (again). I started the week promising myself that I would do at least an hour a day of cleaning, decluttering, tidying (excluding dealing with the hens and cats), even if it was in microbursts of a few minutes at a time. It has been hard going, not because there's not plenty to do, but where to start when you want jobs which you can break down into small chunks without leaving even more chaos until they're completed? In need of some inspiration and motivation, I had a quick search on achieving a clean and tidy home.

I was intrigued by The Flylady. Are you living in CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome)? Yes, that's me! So I read on, to find a step-by-step plan starting with Shine Your Sink. Sorry, but no.  It's an old, scratched sink. I don't think it's possible to get it to shine like a new stainless steel sink and I am not going to try, let alone do it on a daily basis before I go to bed. Step two, get fully dressed in the morning, right down to lace-up shoes and if you don't wear shoes in the house, buy some just for that purpose. No. I do get dressed (although I have pottered around to the barn in my pyjamas and gown to let the hens out a couple of times) but I draw the line at wearing shoes all day, every day. Create a control journal, sign up for emails, remind yourself by putting Post-it notes on the bathroom mirror, set a bed time, put out your clothes for the next day ... hey, whatever works for you, but for me - no, no, no, no, no. She's right about the paralysis brought about by negative self-talk, that getting into a state didn't happen overnight, so it will take time to clean and get organised again, the need for some self-discipline, and I like that FLY is an acronym for Finally Loving Yourself. However, this and a couple of other blogs I saw are centred around family life. If I had a family to organise, I would do things differently. I could still do things differently, but I can please myself.

There's no real mystery to being clean and organised about the house. It just takes motivation, time management, consistency, some cleaning products and a place for everything so you can put everything in its place. In terms of starting conditions, the latter is fundamental and something I don't have, but am working on.

I was feeling pretty bright as I got dressed, let the hens out, fed the cats, had breakfast, dealt with laundry (one load up to dry, next load sorted and in, last load folded), paid the bills, did the washing up, tidied a few things, made the bed, threw out old receipts, did some filing, vacuuming ... and realised how badly the constant pain and fatigue affects me on a daily basis. With only low-level pain and without painkillers, this morning I realised what my other fundamental starting condition is; a lack of pain and fatigue.

As I washed up, I looked out at the garden, a stalled project from last year, and thought about doing something out there.  Working in the limited space with limited access and where everything seems to need moving and depends on something else being moved first is like trying to do one of those sliding block puzzles.  I was never very good at them. It's a bit like that inside the cottage too. Where to start? Perhaps with some bramble bashing while I tried to figure out the next move. Moving the ferns needs to be done soon, before their fronds grow and unfurl. Fibonacci spirals opening to the self-similar, iterative patterns of natural fractals.

Still tickled by the CHAOS acronym, I mused about sensitivity to initial conditions, complexity and fractals and started thinking about Chaos Theory.  Chaos is usually defined as a state of disorder. Chaos Theory, on the other hand, is not really about disorder, but about the way in which complex systems are affected  by  initial conditions and external influences, such that small and seemingly insignificant differences can result in widely varying, apparently unpredictable and random outcomes. (This is just as I understand it, which is to say, not very well.  If you're a scientist/physicist/mathematician, please feel free to comment and correct me!). The more complex, the greater the number of influences, the more unpredictable the outcomes. But there's often a natural balance, just enough predictability, an underlying order, so that predictable patterns emerge within things which appear to be random and unpredictable.

Perhaps Chaos Theory applies here. Depending on starting conditions and various influences, (like how much I'm out, how bad my knees are, how creative I'm feeling, how long before I run out of energy, whether the sun is shining or it's pouring with rain, possibly even what colour T shirt I'm wearing ...), repeating patterns and pockets of order appear in the apparently random disorder.  Neither completely ordered nor disordered, it's the edge of chaos, requiring flexibility and adaptability, and generating creative inspiration.

Spirals, leaves and flowers, randomness and patches of order ... yes, freeform crochet would be the solution for my flower garden scarf.

[If you've read this far, thank you for sticking with me during this blog equivalent of thinking out loud!]

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

A Flower a Day: Popcorn Stitch Flower

Materials: Acrylic DK
Techniques: Crochet, popcorn stitch, in the round

This was another of the Ravelry patterns in my queue and I happened across the tutorial video in YouTube, which is very clear and easy to crochet along with. I stopped after three rounds - the centre, first round of 8 petals, then a round of 16. I love that the instructions include the 'formula' for increasing crochet rounds, so that this could be done as a cushion cover.  It makes a very dense flower in the acrylic DK.

Watching the video, I was fascinated by the elegant way that Brittany rolls the hook to grab the yarn. I'm using (I think) a 4mm hook.  I'm not sure of the size, because I am using my trusty old Clover double-ended steel hook. The hook sizes are 5/0 and 6/0, which I think equate to 3.75 and 4 mm. It feels like I've had it forever, so it must be at least 40 years old.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

A Flower a Day: Crochet Spiral Rosette

Materials: Acrylic DK
Techniques: Crochet

This was one of the patterns in my Ravelry queue.  I'm using some of my acrylic DK stash to create the flowers and mine doesn't look anything like as pretty as the original, which was done with a crochet cotton.  Amazing, how a single thread of this shade looks an innocuous peach colour, but it's really quite a luminous light orange.

I had a couple of false starts with the instructions for this flower, as I couldn’t work out exactly what I was doing from the instructions (don’t join the circle, but then do a single crochet in the next stitch - isn’t that joining the circle?). Eventually I twigged that the ‘centre’ made from the first two rounds is in fact a spiral base, and by turning the base over and then doing 2dc (US) into each stitch in the spiral base, you are spiralling back in towards the centre.
I've seen this technique described elsewhere as 'crochet on a plate', the 'plate' being the round or spiral base.

Monday, 7 April 2014

A Flower a Day: Organza Ribbon Rosette with Small Rose

Materials: Organza ribbon, scrap strip of organza
Techniques: Gathered ruffle rosette, rolled and folded rose, sewing.

This was made by gathering a length of organza ribbon from some gift or other to create a rosette, and a scrap strip of organza in a toning shade made into a small rolled and folded rose to sit in the centre of the rosette.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

A Flower a Day: Pink Polka Dot Flower

Materials: Lightweight satin, button
Techniques: Sewing, gathered round petals

The same bright pink polka dot satin that I used for the 'carnations', but used to create a simple round-petalled flower.  I picked the button for the centre as it echoed the polka dot pattern.

Colourful Inspiration

As I was rifling around in my DK stash for yarn for flowers, tossing out likely colours onto the colour play crochet blanket on the sofa, I started thinking about how I got into my current yarn addiction.

The range of colours in the cheap acrylic DK yarn in a local shop made me think of the colour play blanket, but I remembered seeing a few blogs at the time which demonstrated that, with some attention to colours, crochet blankets need not be clashing combinations of grungy, muted and random bright colours.  They were instrumental in inspiring and reinforcing my desire to get into crochet and create some colourful snugness. I suddenly realised I hadn't visited their blogs recently, or listed them in my inspirations links, or even said thank you to the bloggers, but they definitely deserve a mention.

Crochet with Raymond, for beautiful use of colour and inspirational 'granny' crochet mandalas and bunting.  This is where I encountered the term 8 ply and had to go to look it up, and find that it was the same as DK.
When I went back to read the blog and 'catch up', I found that it had stopped with the disappearance of Raymond.  Please tell me that I am not the only one who cries floods over my keyboard, sobbing over sad news from people and their fur babies who live thousands of miles away and whom I don't even know. I'm just a big softy. I'm so glad the blog has been left up, even though it isn't being updated.

This led me to Lucy of Attic 24, another colourful person and blog that I find highly inspiring and influential. When I read her blog, I feel homesick for Yorkshire, even though I only lived there for five years and moved away 29 years ago! In the latest post, I was surprised to see a collection of DK which looks spookily like my selection for 'Longshore' (except I don't have mine in a nice crochet bag) and lo! Lucy is starting a sea-themed ripple blanket. I popped along to the local shop to pick up some milk, and there was a lonely looking copy of Simply Crochet.  So I treated myself and Lucy is in there, expressing a love of crochet flowers, which made me squee with delight!  My Flower a Day project must now include crochet flowers.  Lots of them.

Before I started my blanket, I may well have seen this continuous granny square in toning warm colours on The Purl Bee. Again, the importance of colour values and stitch size (using the correct hook size for the yarn so that the stitches don't look too loose or ragged). The pattern of light and dark is reminiscent of the traditional quilt pattern 'Sunshine and Shadow', which could also be created by single-coloured crochet blocks.

Since then, this rainbow blanket has appeared on the Purl Bee blog.  How gorgeous is that?  I love the single colour 'squared circle' crochet block centres gleaming out from the neutral off-white/cream background, arranged in chromatic groups along the blanket.  The block isn't lacy or fussy and it gives the blanket a rich, warm texture. The original is made in Koigu Premium Merino and there is  no doubt that the quality of the yarn makes a difference in terms of drape and lustre, but as many people noted in the comments, it would be prohibitively expensive. On the other hand, if you already have quite a stash, what a beautiful way to create a colour sampler and DK would work up into a larger blanket than the 4 ply KPM.

I know I said I wouldn't do another crochet square blanket anytime soon after I finished my colour play crochet blanket in May 2012.  I expected that if I succumbed again, my next foray would be with flower crochet blocks, but I don't think I can resist this idea. I wonder if I can slot in a block a day alongside my flowers?  A vision of a stained glass rose window has just popped into my mind - I'd better park that idea for a future project.  I'd better not park Longshore for too long, though.  I might forget what exactly I had in mind there.  Now all I need is a redecorated bedroom so that I can display my beautiful crochet blankets when they're finished.  That's yet another project!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

A Flower a Day: Ruffled Folded Strip Carnations

Materials: Lightweight satin
Techniques: Gathered folded strip, sewing

The bright pink polka dot satin was from some pyjama bottoms (not mine) which looked unworn when I picked them up for almost nothing from a charity shop. The folded strip in question was in fact the hem of a pyjama leg, which I gathered and then folded around into something which looks like a carnation-like flower. I'll do the other leg hem in the same way to create a pair, for a matching set of hair clips.

Friday, 4 April 2014

A Flower a Day: Blue Lotus

Materials: Glass lampwork and seed beads, polyester satin.
Techniques: Two layer flower with two different styles of folded and gathered rounded petals.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

A Flower a Day: Old School Tie Rose

Materials: the wide half of a tie
Techniques: Fold and Turn, Sewing

One to jazz up a business suit while you break through the glass ceiling with a new twist on the old school tie!

Starting at the narrow end, fold the end over, secure with a couple of stitches and continue to fold and turn the fabric, catching the folds underneath with small stitches as you go.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A Flower a Day: Ruffled Lace Carnation

Materials: Pre-gathered synthetic lace
Techniques: Sewing

This was made with a length (although I forgot to measure how long) of pre-gathered lace.  I simply wound it round and round, catching the bottom edges with small stitches to keep it together as I went.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A Flower A Day: Simple Knitted Rose

Materials: Acrylic DK (from stash)
Techniques: Knitting

I was looking for a quick flower to ease myself into the challenge and resist the pull of the newly-started socks. There's a danger that I could spend so long deciding on my next flower that I run out of time to make it!
Since I'm on a knitting and crochet jag at the moment, I picked up some of my DK stash and 5mm needles to create a few roses. There are several patterns out there for knitted and crocheted roses, but I wanted something ultra simple so here's what I did:

Cast on 128 sts.
Row 1: Knit to end
Row 2: Purl 2 together (64 sts)
Row 3: Knit 2 together (32 sts)
Row 4: Purl 2 together (16 sts)
Row 5: Knit 2 together (8 sts)
Row 6: Purl 2 together (4 sts)
Row 7: Knit 2 together (2 sts)
Cast off

Holding the tails together underneath, swirl the knitted ruffle so that one end forms the centre and the other end is underneath. Tie the tails together and use them to sew the rose onto ....

Actually, I'm not sure what I'm going to use these for.  They could go on a nice squooshy pillow, on top of a tea cosy, use several to create a flower ball, group a couple as a corsage, or use as part of a flower scarf (which I am still thinking about).

Flower Power

I LOVE flowers. Their varied colours and forms are so beautiful, they always brighten up my day. My Mum, who has lovely green fingers (even though they look a normal colour usually!) started teaching me the common names for the wildflowers we would see when out walking when I was little. I used to love standing under blossom on trees and getting petals in my hair. Flowers seem to feature in most of my happy memories.

I  went through a phase in my late teens of wearing real or synthetic flowers in my hair, on my lapel or hip at every opportunity.   Then for some reason, I stopped making and wearing flowers and spent more time growing the real thing.  In the past couple of years, I've rebelled a bit. Why should wearing flowers be relegated to little girls and weddings?

Belly dancing provided the perfect excuse for a bit more bling.  American Tribal Style and Tribal Fusion dancers often use flowers as part of their hair styles and they look beautiful.  I had some artificial flowers on hair elastics which I liked, but found that the plastic base was forever digging into my head and catching on my hair, veil, whatever.  This lead to some experimentation with cheap artificial flowers, which I always thought should be bigger, fuller, more glittery. 

Artificial flowers made from fabric, ribbon or yarn have a long history, and although they go in and out of fashion, their popularity over recent years shows no sign of decreasing. Over the past couple of years, I have been looking at the plethora of techniques for making flowers from fabric, ribbons, lace and yarn. There are tutorials all over the place for lots of different styles of flowers.  Most do not take much fabric, so they are perfect for using up scraps, or upcycling old bits of clothing. They don't have to look realistic, or even symmetrical or tidy, to be effective.   I've found that, although it's slower, I really do prefer to sew than use glue.

A couple of years ago, I did a 2 hour workshop for Learning Pembrokeshire, where we made some pointed-petal flowers and looked at gathered and rolled strips, and pom-poms.  It was a great success, with participants bringing their scrap fabrics and sharing them. I found that going around the table and repeating the same instructions with everyone was no problem.  I think handcrafters in general are patient people. Everyone went home with a flower and all seemed to enjoy themselves. Since then, I have offered short daytime adult ed courses in making fabric flowers through Learning Pembrokeshire. They are really aimed at people who do not use the computer much or who prefer face-to-face, hands-on learning. None of the courses have run, as they haven't attracted enough people. This is a problem with almost all of the adult ed classes at the moment and has been getting steadily worse over the past couple of years.

Still, I live in hope, so to support the next class or workshop proposal, and because it's April and flowers are popping out everywhere, I decided to challenge myself and run through the various techniques I know and create a flower a day, until I have a mountain of flowers, thus dealing with some of my stash and creating some stock to sell or give away.
I'm not intending to post many, if any, tutorials as there are plenty out there in other blogs and on YouTube. They say nothing is new in art, so I don't expect I'll be inventing anything new and am probably not even the first to do a 'flower-a-day' challenge.

Today is Day 1. The question is: what sort of flower shall I do today?