imake

Knitting and Breaking the Law!

Today I’m very excited to be hosting a guest blog by Martine from the fabulous lifestyle blog IMake. We thought it might be rather fun to share some histories of the places we call home….

Dear readers of The Mercerie blog.

My name is Martine and I write a creative lifestyle blog over at imakegsy.com. There you’ll find all sorts of other goodies too, such as my podcast, magazine and knitting patterns.

I live in Guernsey, in the Channel Islands. One of the best things about blogging and podcasting is I get to share my beautiful island home with people all over the world.

Guernsey has a fascinating knitting history so I thought I’d share a few snippets with you in this guest post.

As a Guernsey girl and avid knitter, it seems natural for me to want to explore Guernsey’s knitting history. However, it wasn’t so much my heritage that drew to research this topic further; it was overhearing a fascinating story at my Stitch n’ Bitch group one evening.

Apparently, it is illegal for men to knit, during daylight hours, in Guernsey! This law was created because local fishermen cottoned on to the fact that they could make more money knitting Guernsey jumpers than they could fishing! As such, they started neglecting their fishing duties. The law was passed to get the men back out on the fishing boats. According to my Stitch n’ Bitch buddy, the law has never been repealed.

The Guernsey jumper was traditionally knitted in 5 ply, worsted yarn on straight or circular needles. It’s warm, wind-proof and shower-proof making it the perfect garment for people working at sea. It’s estimated that a speedy knitter could make a Guernsey in approximately 80 hours.

guernsey sweater

The traditional design is a boxy jumper in navy blue with gussets under the arms and ribbing on the shoulders, cuffs, neck and waistband (the ribbing is said to represent ladders). There is a split hem at the waist for ease of movement. Some Guernsey designs would include the owner’s initial and some featured parish-specific patterns. This was useful back in the day when the vast majority of men wore Guernseys. Sadly it was also useful for identifying fishermen who died at sea.

detail

Guernsey has been famous for kitting since the Middle Ages, but not just for jumpers. Guernsey’s textile industry was at its prime in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Guernsey worsted stockings were particularly famous (and incredibly itchy, I should imagine!) It’s said that Mary Queen of Scots wore a pair of white stockings, made in Guernsey, for her execution during 1587.

I knit for a number of reasons. It relaxes me but it also connects me to my island’s history. I’ve yet to get a definitive answer on whether it is still illegal for men to knit in Guernsey, but in the meantime, the rebel in me wants to teach as many Guernsey men to knit as possible! I can just imagine the headlines now: “Guernsey man arrested for knitting during daylight hours.” Perfect .

men in guernseys

 

 

Thank you Martine!

If you’d like to nip over here now, you can read Sue’s homage to historical Norwich.

Image Credits:

http://www.bosunslockerchandlery.co.uk/ProductImages/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guernsey_(clothing)#mediaviewer/

http://www.guernseyknitwear.co.uk/resources/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mercerie A/W 2014 Collection

Autumn/Winter 2014: A New Collection

As word of The Mercerie begins to spread; you – our lovely blog readers, are the first to see these beautiful images of our new Autumn/Winter 2014 knitwear collection captured by the brilliant Eliza Boo Photography outside the iconic Sainsbury Centre, in Norwich. Sue, our designer, (PR person, blogger, social media slave, pattern writer, graphic designer, stylist, tea maker, incompetent accountant and attention deficit daydreamer) has created a collection of cosy knitting and crochet designs perfect for snuggling up in as the temperature drops, the nights draw in and the colours outside turn golden.

As always, Sue’s designs are uncomplicated (we don’t like a lot of fuss) and draw their inspiration from tradition and contemporary key trends. This season it’s all about ‘the big wrap’ – versatile scarves and shawls that can be worn in different ways – depending on how much you want to retreat from the world! So here’s a taste of what’s coming this season.

Worked in our supersoft DK Merino, The Crochet Folklore Shawl is a beautiful and extremely versatile product. Wear it as a traditional shawl for an on trend folklore look, or find your own way of snuggling into it, and stay warm and stylish this season. This is a fabulous project for anyone with good crochet skills and is an achievable and very satisfying creation.

Crochet Folklore Shawl

Crochet Folklore shawl detail

OH! And we’re going to be giving away this kit to one lucky subscriber next month….find out how you could be in with a chance to win one at the end of this post.

The super-sized knitted scarf is a must-have key item this season and we’ve got just the thing for an absolute beginner – and for the more competent knitters among you. This pattern will include two variations on the oversized scarf. If you’re just learning, or you want a ‘mindless knitting project’ (one that you don’t have to think about too much as you knit your way through endless TV programmes, DVD’s and old movies) this one is for you. Worked in our beautiful 100% British aran wool, in easy-peasy garter stitch, it’s wide enough to be worn as a shoulder shrug, or a wrap around scarf. It’s easy to wear and easy to make. What could be simpler?

Garter Knit Scarf

If your knitting skills stretch beyond garter stitch and you love a bit of texture, why not make the bramble and moss stitch version?  – it’s a classic. Both styles would make beautiful gifts for the significant men in your life- who aren’t always as appreciative as they should be of our hand knitted jumpers.

Bramble and moss stitch scarf

Our knitted collars make quirky and cosy additions to your wardrobe and can be worn over dresses and casual knitwear to add a touch of drama and style. The Loopy Fur Collar knits up very quickly  once you get the hang of this stitch. (look out for a little tutorial later this season) and is a rather jaunty accessory with it’s lovely pom poms and big cord bow. It is worked here in our bark coloured aran yarn – but it would equally stunning in natural grey.

Loopy Fur Collar

And finally, if you’re looking for a statement piece, our Knitted Lace Pierrot  Collar is a dramatic accessory. Worked in aran yarn it combines short row knitting, lace and bobbles – so it’s perfect if you’re looking for a little bit of a challenge in a project that’s not too huge.

Knitted Pierrot Collar

We are working on getting these into our shop by the end of September and, as always, our designs will be available to buy as downloadable patterns, and self contained kits. You can buy all the yarns you need to make the projects in our online wool shop, and we’re adding a few new colours soon too. (we think you’re going to LOVE them!)

We’re so excited about our new products that we’re going to give one away!!! This is what you need to do to be in with a chance to win a gorgeous Crochet Folklore Shawl Kit

  1. Subscribe to The Mercerie Post (our cute little newsletter)
  2. Like us on Facebook
  3. Tell us you’ve entered by posting on our Facebook page – or by sending us a message on our Facebook page.

If you already ‘like us’ and have subscribed to our newsletter then all you need to do is tell us!

This will be a sweep stake competition with one winner announced on Thursday 9th October 2014 at 12.00 noon GMT.

This competition is open to all our UK and international customers and the prize will be one crochet kit for the Crochet Folklore Shawl (as pictured) No cash or product alternatives will be offered and winners names will be announced through all our social media platforms.

Good Luck!

Christmas Crafting

Breathing Space: A Midwinter Creative Retreat

As the school holidays unfold and the long summer days begin to dissolve into each other I remind myself on a daily basis to savour the freedom of these unbound weeks.

I make myself slow down, and become conscious of my breathing, because I can see what’s on the horizon. It’s just a speck now, but I know it’s hurtling towards me – and a knot is already forming in my stomach.

I am in a direct collision course with Christmas and when it makes impact I know it will take my breath away .

A British Christmas, in the 21st century, is a paradox rolled in glitter. It is exhausting and exhilarating. It’s stressful and blissful. It brings our friends and families into sharp focus and empties our head of all rational thoughts.

Thankfully the current zeitgeist points to a return of the home made and reminds us of the genuine pleasure derived from crafting and making things.

One of the greatest delights at Christmas is, perhaps, the rediscovery of old, home-made cards and decorations; the unsophisticated, but intimate, reminders of Christmas past. My own family’s attempt at edible tree decorations and felted gingerbread men will never grace the pages of Elle Decoration, but they made us smile and we had fun making them.

There is something strangely powerful about the home made Christmas object, and this winter, at the beautifully tranquil retreat; Breathing Space, we are going to give you an opportunity to create your own, home-spun, decorative traditions.

I am delighted to be collaborating with the brilliant Stylist and Image Consultant Sarah Morgan on a programme of Creative Retreats,  and so just before Christmas strikes this winter  we can offer you a space to catch your breath.

When did you last give yourself the time and space to play?

When did you last give yourself permission to play; to cut, glue, sew, print and explore new ways of making?

When did you last use your paints,  open your sewing box , or unfold that stash of salvaged wrapping paper?

Sarah and I gave ourselves permission last week, at Breathing Space, and we spent a day ‘playing’ with fabrics in preparation for the midwinter workshops and it was FUN! We talked and laughed, shared stories, ate cake and were delighted by our upcycled textile decorations.

Crafting at Breathing Space

 

moodboard

upcycled textiles

If you struggle to give yourself permission to play, just remind yourself that creative practices trigger the release of endorphins – our bodies ‘feel good’ chemicals. Creativity is associated with improved brain function, and connecting with others in a creative environment fosters empathy, laughter and trust.

So if, like me, you sense a growing knot of anxiety as the ‘festive’ season approaches, give yourself permission to play. Get out the scissors, and the glue, and all those salvaged scraps of fabric or paper, invite your friends round and have some FUN!

Make a date now. Go on – put it in your diary…….

For more information about this fabulous weekend retreat at Breathing Space take a peek over here.

 

 

string of happiness

Glampsite Crochet: Crafting a String of Happiness

Life in the twenty first century is fast , and as a consequence our body clocks often feel out of synch with the natural rhythm of life. Subconsciously we chant the ‘YOLO’ mantra and strive to live life to the full; achieving, succeeding and consuming. We stuff so much into our lives they threaten  to burst at the seams.

The arrival of the school holidays announces that it’s time to take a break, slow down, and sooth our hectic lives with a brief oasis of slow living under canvas, in a field.

As I plan this years summer camps I am reminded of a brief glamping holiday we had earlier in the year……………

Just as my life was straining at the seams I was invited to take part in a group camp at the beautiful ‘glampsite’ Camp Katur in North Yorkshire. Would I like to come along to provide a crafting workshop and stay for a couple of nights in a bell tent or a yurt?

Um…..let me think about that. Yes please!!!

Camping and crafting are two of my favourite things. Neither can be rushed and I enjoy their slow, leisurely pace. Both require an investment of time and once surrendered to they can offer a refreshing antidote to the speed and stresses of modern, urban life.

Grabbing my little tin of crochet hooks, a basket of brightly coloured wool, and my children, I was ready for two nights of glamping heaven on the Camp Hill Estate in North Yorkshire.

I live in Norfolk, and the 5 hour drive through the fens and up the A1 provided me with plenty of time to think about the camp, my first of the season, and what we could make during the workshop. As I was driving my thoughts turned to a conversation I had recently with someone who shares my passion for camping and crochet.

She told me about her ‘camping blanket’ and how it was created with a group of friends over several weeks of holidays in North Norfolk.

The blanket is made up of a number of crochet squares worked in any spare yarns that the friends brought with them to camp. The squares are functionally, rather than aesthetically, stitched together and as a consequence the colours are random and the patterns are impulsive, giving the blanket  a playful, and naive quality. Normal rules of design don’t apply to this kind of blanket  – anything goes, as long as it’s made with friends.

The charm of the blanket lies in its creation and its group identity. No one wants to take it home, it wouldn’t really fit in. It belongs on site, like the campfire, the tin cups and the miss-matched crockery.

Things look different when you’re camping; everything is altered. With no clocks to watch, trains to catch or deadlines to meet, time slows down and opportunities arise for alternative pursuits, things you might not normally have time for.

The lazy hours spent watching a kettle boil over a camp fire, or time spent simply relaxing and breathing in the fresh spring air allow a space for creative thoughts to develop.

Crochet lends itself particularly well to camping as it is the most perfectly portable of crafts. With just a small, simple hook as its only tool, a few balls of wool in gorgeous colours and some time on your hands you have the potential to create something beautiful at your finger tips.

I’d had time whilst driving to plan a little crochet project for the group and we had just a couple of hours to work on it so I knew it had to be something small and achievable.

On our first day, after a huge breakfast (thank you Dawn!) half a dozen of us gathered around a wooden picnic table ready to start work. I’d brought with me a selection of The Mercerie’s beautiful British aran wool which has its origins not far from where we were camping; the yarn is processed and spun in a small Yorkshire spinning mill. It seems only fair that when you are crafting in a beautiful natural environment, the materials you work with should echo this, and be as beautiful and natural as your surroundings.

We each reached for a hook, and a different coloured yarn, and prepared to start crafting.

camp Katur 1 copy

We were going to make a little garland of crochet bunting; something decorative, pretty, and more than a little bit kitsch. A colourful string of bunting has the innate ability to bring a sense of frivolity and humour to any gathering. It is guaranteed to add a little vintage charm to the occasion and helps to turn any activity into a celebration and an event.

We took a simple crochet granny square as our starting point, and adapted it slightly to make it triangular. Worked with just trebles and chain stitches it is an easy pattern for a beginner to learn, and is a great way to play with, and explore, colour.

Between us our skills were varied. One or two of us were fairly experienced, or knew the basics; another had learnt to crochet as a child but hadn’t picked up a hook since she was 9 years old. One was a complete beginner whose enthusiasm for a new skill made her a fast learner and, as I recall, one was an observer, story teller and self appointed tea maker. We were joined, very briefly, by just one of the men, who made a good start but was soon distracted by his camera and a pheasants mating ritual which appeared to be taking place in the middle of the field.

As we worked we gradually got to know each other a little bit more. Crafting has a history of bringing people together and providing a hub for conversation and social exchanges. It draws people together with a common goal and a shared interest. Secrets get spilled, gossip is circulated and lives overlap during the making process.

There’s something about ‘busy hands’ and making things that encourages mental relaxation and easy exchanges. As we crafted the conversations ebbed and flowed as our concentration shifted, slipped away briefly, and then refocused on the task in hand. All our senses were engaged; feeling the textures of the materials, listening to the story telling, smelling the smoke of the campfire and pausing for a break to take in the natural beauty of the environment.

As we worked on our individual pieces we occasionally stopped to drink tea and sample the delicious homemade cakes that appeared around mid morning. As we compared and studied our work we saw that each little triangle was as individual as the person that made it. None were the same.

They were different colours and sizes. Some were worked to perfection and other slightly misshapen, but just as charming in their hand- made imperfection. The quirky individuality of the crochet triangles reflected the general homespun appeal of Camp Katur. Their makeshift beauty was in keeping with the recycled gas bottles that double as wood burners in the bell tents and the furniture fashioned from wooden pallets found in the yurts and safari tents.

Crafting by a campfire is a unique experience unlike working inside a studio. A mischievous gust of wind can carry your work away when you’re not concentrating, or cause the smoke to change direction rendering you temporarily blinded until it clears again. A brief shower of rain can prompt a dash undercover and an opportunity to stop and discuss progress as you scan the sky for blue.

The pleasure of crafting outdoors with old and new friends is unlike any other shared experience. Unlike sport, there’s no competition, and unlike cooking, there’s no consumption at the end.  It is a purely creative activity.

The items made on camp have a strange and charming allure. They are both souvenirs and functional, or decorative, objects. They are the handmade memoires of a particular place and moment in time. Kitsch and quirky they bear traces of the people that made them – the individuals and the group. The crafters have all invested in it – collaborative making is a way of giving and sharing, and the final object is worth far more than the sum of its parts.

After our brief crafting session, the crochet collective gradually disbanded. The lunchtime soup was ready, one or two people had work commitments at home, and the fire was beginning to burn down, so I gathered the little collection together to finish later that day.

With any craft project the ‘finishing’ is vitally important – this is what makes, or breaks the final object, and this is particularly the case with a group project such as this. It needs one or two people to pull it all together at the end, to stitch it, edge it and finish it, or it will forever linger in its incomplete state waiting for someone to tie up all the loose ends.

Later that day I found a solitary moment to lay out all the triangles, 13 in total, and I spent some time sorting and arranging them. Then with a bright blue yarn I crocheted them all together with a chain stitch and worked a little picot edge around each one to unify them.

Camp Katur 2 copy

They were brought out for our final meal together and we admired them as we ate; a little row of brightly coloured flags strung up to celebrate our shared experience.

The string of rather wobbly and slightly flawed ‘Camp Katur Bunting’ is currently strung up in my kitchen. It could really do with a good press, and it still smells a little of campfire smoke, but it makes me smile. It’s a little string of happiness.

As I look at each triangle in turn they remind me of the people that made them,  and prompt a recollection of the stories we shared as we crafted together.

It takes me a while to catch up with the pace of ‘real life’ after I’ve been camping, but for a few days afterwards I feel as though my body clock is set to the right time and I am more in tune with my life.

I’ve keep the Camp Katur Bunting for future camping trips and every time I hang it up I’ll smile and remember the delight of crafting with new  friends in a misty field in Yorkshire.

Camp Katur 3

Images by Eliza Boo Photography

If you’d like to make your own string of crochet bunting we’ll include a little pattern for you in Issue 15 of The Mercerie Post. 

Mercerie Post No.15

crochet mandala

Crochet Spirals and Mandalas

If you were a shape – what shape would you be? 

I think I must be a square.

I like straight lines, right angles, vertical and horizontal axis. I like the perpendicular and the solidity of a square. There’s no ambiguity. It is pure, modern art. It is architecture, white cube spaces, frames and paintings.

The circle, on the other hand, is an ethereal shape whose origins have been lost in pre history. The circle began life back in the year dot and I’ve never quite managed to get a handle on it.

This September The Mercerie will be at Yarndale. I’m very excited, and also just a little bit anxious about this event – our largest and furthest from home so far! We weren’t there last year so missed out on the spectacle of 1.25 km of crochet bunting that decked the halls. This year, however, we’re delighted to be able to contribute to the decorative installation co-ordinated by Lucy of Attic24.  Yarndale 2014 will be decorated with hundreds (possibly thousands?) of beautiful crochet mandalas. (er -yes, that’s Sanskrit for CIRCLES) I’ve been following the progress of this project for several weeks now, and have finally found the time to contribute to it, with just days to go before the deadline. So today I’m climbing out of my box, re-framing my thinking and leaving behind the formality and eurocentricity of the square (after the 600 hundred squares of the last project  a circle will make a nice change.) I’ve been getting my head around circles and spirals and reminding myself that mandalas are not just the focal points of meditation, or the trinkets sold in tourist gift shops. Mandalas also have a worthy and deserving place in nature, anthropology, art history, ethnographic studies, textiles and fine art practices. My head spins as I circumnavigate a whole spectrum of spots, dots, circles and spirals; polka dot prints, African baskets, crop circles, medallions, Aboriginal art, spin paintings, land art, standing stones, almanacs, clocks, planets…..

Sonia Delaunay and Paula Baader

Sonia Delaunay and Paula Baader

Damian Hirst, Andy Goldsworthy and Yinka Shonibare

Damien Hirst, Andy Goldsworthy and Yinka Shonibare

Paula Walker, Rozita Fogelman, Attic24 and my crochet mandala!

Paula Walker, Rozita Fogelman, Attic24 and my crochet mandala!

So I’ve been going round in circles and exploring crochet spirals- there’s my little mandala – ready to post to Yarndale! So now I feel inspired to start work on a whole new collection of swirly, hypnotic and meditative designs. I’m imagining bags, round cushions, berets, rugs…… anything else? If you feel like having a go – here’s how to crochet a 2 colour spiral. It’s easier than you think.

How to Work a Crochet Spiral

(UK abbreviations are used here)

Make a magic loop with pink yarn and ch1

Step 1: Work 2 dc, 2htr, 2tr into the ring. *Remove hook from work leaving a large loop.

Step 2: Join yellow yarn into the ring. Ch1, 2dc, 2htr, 2tr into the ring. *Remove hook from work leaving a large loop. *Do this everytime you take your hook out of the work to start a new round.   crochet spiral 1Step 3: Put your hook through the large pink loop and work 2tr into every yellow stitch. Remove hook when you get to the end and put the hook through the large yellow loop to pick up where you left off

Step 4: Work 2tr into every pink stitch. Remove hook when you get to the end and put the hook through the large pink loop to pick up where you left off   crochet spirals 2Step 5: Pick up the pink loop and work into each yellow stitch with trebles, increasing into every 2nd stitch until you get to the end of the yellow stitches. Remove hook when you get to the end.

Step 6: Pick up the yellow loop and work into each pink stitch with trebles, increasing into every 3rd stitch until you get to the end of the pink stitches. Remove hook when you get to the end.

Step 7: Pick up the pink loop and work into each yellow stitch with trebles, increasing into every 4th stitch until you get to the end of the yellow stitches. Remove hook when you get to the end. crochet spirals 3 Continue to work the spiral in this way, increasing every 5th stitch on the next round, then every 6th st, then every 7th , until it is the size you need. If you find your circle is not laying flat you may need to adjust the number of stitches in between shapings to accommodate this.

Finishing the Round.

Step 8: Pick up the yellow loop and work three quarters of the way around the row. Over the last remaining stitches, work half in htr’s, then work the remaining in dc’s finishing with two slip stitches to smooth off the curve. Crochet mandala Step 9: Mark a half way point with a pin, (this is where you will finish) pick up the pink loop and work one quarter of the way around the row. Over the last remaining stitches, work half in htr’s, then work the remaining in dc’s finishing with two slip stitches to smooth off the curve.

And you’re done!

You can ‘frame’ your spiral in lots of different ways - experiment with edges and trims – then sit back and think about what it might become…..  

Image references:

http://www.artnet.com/artists/sonia-delaunay-terk/ http://gallery.aboriginalartdirectory.com/aboriginal-art/paula-walker/circles-of-life.php http://gallery.aboriginalartdirectory.com/aboriginal-art/paula-walker/circles-of-life.php http://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-Magic-Carpet-VIII/ http://www.djfood.org/djfood/damien-hirsts-butterly-mandalas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiral_Jetty http://www.spiralzoom.com/culture/contemporaryart/contemporaryart.htm http://attic24.typepad.com/weblog/2014/05/mandala-love-.html http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_pictures/3757328.stm Shonibare maxa 2003 http://metro.co.uk/2013/02/28/yinka-shonibare-the-banksy-of-sculpture-on-his-split-personality-3518844/

knitted felt

How to Make Knitted Felt

I have to admit – I do get rather excited by knitted felt! I just can’t get over the transformation  from  that loose, open knit  structure to a strong, soft and extremely durable textile.

It’s easy to do, if you know a few basic facts….

We’ve probably all done it once in our lives- reduced a favorite lambswool jumper to a small garment that even the teddy bear refuses to wear, but whilst intentionally felting your knitting might seem a little daunting at first, once you have mastered the process it is sure to become a staple in your knitting repertoire.

Here are a few FAQ’s

  • So what exactly is felted knitting? Felting occurs when you subject your knitting to hot temperatures, vigorous friction and soapy water. The fibres become  matted together, the knitting shrinks and it becomes much thicker and denser. When the knitting has completly felted the stitches are no longer visible, and you can cut the fabric without it unraveling.
  • Can you make felt from any fibre? No. Natural felt is made from 100% pure wool. All wool fibres will felt to a greater or lesser degree, depending on breed. Yarns described as ‘superwash’ will NOT felt as they have been chemically treated to prevent them from felting in the wash.
  • What about ‘craft felt’ – that’s not wool is it? No it isn’t. Craft felt (the type that comes in pre-cut squares and is commonly found in craft shops) is generally made from a mixture of fibres – mostly synthetic, and the fibres are bonded together, not naturally ‘felted’.
  • Doesn’t felting involve lots of rolling and pounding by hand ? Yes, that’s one way of doing it, but any 100% wool fabric can be felted in a washing machine too.
  • But won’t that damage the machine? No, it’s no different to washing a woolen garment. There will be some slight shedding of fibres, so if you intend to do large amounts of felting you could sew your knitting inside a pillow case, then put it in the wash.
  • Can the process be reversed? No!
  • So how does it work? It is the scaly surface of the wool fibre that holds the secret. When wool fibres are subjected to heat, moisture, pressure, friction and alkali (present in soap) the scales eventually hook together making the fibres densely matted. This process can be done by hand, but these conditions are all present in a washing machine too –
  • Why can I still see my knitted stitches after felting? You need to give your stitches space to shrink – which means you need to knit at a much looser tension than usual.
  • Can I hand felt wearing rubber gloves? Not recommended – but possible, I’ve never tried!
  • But I’m allergic to soap! Then I suggest you use a washing machine for felting.

OK, here’s a little project to get you started.

Knitted Felt Beads

What Do I Need?

  • A small amount of 100% wool yarn (any weight – the thicker the yarn, the larger the ball, obviously!!) We chose our British aran and DK merino  yarns especially for their fabulous felting qualities.
  • Knitting needles. Choose needles at least one whole size larger than you would normally knit this yarn with.
  • Wool needle for sewing
  • Scissors
  • A small amount of polyester filling.
  • Soap, washing powder, or washing up liquid.
  • Hot and cold water.

Pattern for Knitted Felt Balls 

Cast on 6 sts

Row 1: Knit through the front and back of the stitch (kfb) to end of row (12sts)
Row 2: (K1, kfb) to end (18sts)
Row 3: (kfb, k2 to end (24sts)
Row 4: K to end of row
Row 5: (kfb, K3) to end (30sts)
Rows 6-10: K to end
Row 11: (K2 tog, K3) to end (24sts)
Row 12: K to end
Row 13: (K2 tog, K2) to end (18sts)
Row 14: (K1, K2tog) to end (12sts)
Row 15: (K2tog) to end. (6sts)

Cast off by threading the end through last 6 stitches.

When you have finished knitting stitch the seam, gathering the top and bottom edges, and stuff with a small amount of polyester filling. Try not to over fill – remember the ball will shrink by around 30% when it’s felted.
If you are felting by hand; immerse the ball in hot soapy water, squeeze out most of the water, then roll vigorously in your palms. Remember you are making a BALL, so try not to squash and flatten it as you roll. You want to start without too much pressure, then gradually increase the pressure as you feel it begin to harden. Aim to keep the work hot, or at least warm, as you work, so keep dipping it in the hot water, and squeezing out.

how to make knitted felt balls

Felting should take anything between about 5-10 mins. If NOTHING is happening after 10 mins – it’s unlikely that your wool will felt (it may be treated to prevent it felting). If it is starting to felt after 10 mins, then you just need to work a bit harder!

If this all sounds like too much effort- pop it in the washing machine, with a very small load, on 50 degrees and let your washing machine do the hard work…..

When you are satisfied that it has felted (it will feel much harder) rinse it in cold water, squeeze out as much water as you can, and allow to dry naturally. It will look quite fuzzy at this stage, but the fibres smooth down as it dries.

And you’re done!

So now you understand the principle why not try something a little bigger?

We’re got a free pattern for this simple little felt bag in Issue 14 of The Mercerie Post. You can subscribe here:

knitted felt bag pattern

 Or you could try one of our Felt Bag Knitting Kits like the lovely Nautical Bag.

Knitted Felt Bag

The Happy Crochet Blanket

Slow Making: A Blanket Investment

What is the point in slow making?

Why bother knitting, sewing and crafting;  investing all those hours spent sitting and thinking, making simple repetitive movements and watching the slow materialisation of something, inch by inch.

Is that repetitive act a form of meditation as your mind and body slowly relax into a natural rhythm?  What happens inside the mind as it splits and multitasks? One part is counting, doing the maths, chanting an internal mantra to the beat of numeric repetition. The another part splits off and travels far away meandering around past experiences, re-running events, re-writing conversations, making plans and analysing regrets.

And what of the other part? The third party that is busy attempting to tune in to some other external medium? A  radio play, a documentary or a fourth episode of Breaking Bad running at 1am with subtitles (so the children don’t hear)  as binge watching TV dramas on Netflix becomes the alternative to chemicals and caffeine to keep you crocheting into the early hours.

What is this addiction that deprives me of sleep and consumes my days, and nights? What is this compulsion to make, this madness that drives me to crochet 600 almost identical squares of merino for a blanket that I really don’t need?

The Happy Blanket Blog 1

Why, when I am convinced that there is already enough unnecessary stuff on this planet am I compelled to contribute to it?

It is quite simply, I believe, the urge to make something beautiful, meaningful, functional and lasting.

This particular project is all about investment; but this is a personal investment and one that operates outside the mainstream economy.

The interest rate is variable. The returns are negligible and there is very little collateral risk.

My thoughts turned, on many occasions as I was crocheting, to the work of the (tragically late) American artist Mike Kelly. I have long been a fan of this Californian artist who for a brief moment in time turned his attentions to the hand-made object as he examined the uncanny significance of the home crafted afghan, the hand knitted bunny or the ubiquitous sock monkey.

Blanket Blog Mike Kelly

Images:  www.whitney.org  www.theguardian.com  www.artnet.com

Doesn’t every crafter who lovingly hand makes an object invest it with sentiment or project onto it a gushing appreciation by its recipient?

Kelly’s work questioned the reciprocity of such hand made gifts. ‘More Love Hours than can Ever be Repaid’ tackles the guilt attached to the receipt of such gifts. I can remember the strange confusion that accompanied the receipt of toys knitted by my own grandmother. Knowing that I had to make the right appreciative noises whilst fighting the urge to immediately put it out of view so it’s strange button eyes wouldn’t follow me around the room.

Now I am the adult that makes, and with children of my own I try very hard not to assume that their enjoyment of a hand made object is in anyway related to the pleasure I have derived from making it. So I rarely make for them. I would know instantly when their polite “thank you’s” were hiding disappointment – or horror.

I only design products that I’d genuinely like to own myself, and I adore this blanket. When I look at it I catch glimpses of brief fragments of my life over the few months I have spent working on it.

I see the trains, cars and buses that it has traveled on – and the living rooms, bedrooms, cafe’s, bars, parks and tents that it has visited.

I hear ghost stories, a Book at Bed Time, afternoon plays and Women’s Hour. I see Breaking Bad, The Killing, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Down By Law and countless other films and dramas.

 

I recall the conversations it has overheard; the arguments and bickering, the bad jokes, the teasing, the laughter and the attention seeking behaviour as I became a slave to my addiction. I’m reminded of Boo, Tricia, Jodie and Marina who all contributed to the project and I’m grateful for their help and company,

The Happy Blanket Blog 2

So perhaps the point of slow making is that it doesn’t take up your time, it gives you valuable time; time to talk, and listen and think.

This blanket took a long time but I believe it will give back far more than it’s taken – and it’s value will increase with time.

It has been made to last.

And I hope it will outlive me.

The Happy Crochet Blanket

This crochet blanket now available in our online shop is available to buy as a downloadable pattern, a self contained kit or as regular ‘buy as you need’ installments.

 

heart pin cushion

Knitted and Crochet Hearts: Six of the Best

At The Mercerie we love little projects that are quick and easy to make and we are easily seduced by a pretty crochet heart pattern! For Valentines Eve we’ve rounded up six lovely little knitting and crochet patterns for you  - oh and we’ve added one of our own.

These patterns are all readily available online, or in current publications, and they would all make beautiful decorations at anytime of year – but especially on Valentines day.

The knitted patterns lend themselves particularly well to felting – we think there’s something rather endearing about a little felt heart……

Our berry red aran, or scarlett Dk merino are perfect for all these projects – and they both felt beautifully. So if you find yourself alone this Valentines eve just pour yourself a drink, open a box of chocolates and settle down with your favourite hook…….

Clockwise from the top:

1. The pattern for these gorgeous little hearts can be found in Mags Kandis’ book Gifted.

2. This pretty crochet heart garland  by Cindy Hopper can be found at skiptomylou.org

3. You can find our gorgeous British aran wool in deep berry red in our woolshop.

4. If you haven’t yet discovered the amazing collection of free patterns by Drops Design, this is well worth a visit!

5. These  lovely hearts by Julie and the Knits could be used in so many projects, and the tutorial can be found here.

6. Our scarlett supersoft merino can also be found in our woolshop.

7. As you might expect, there are several great patterns to choose from at howtocrochetaheart.blogspot! This is our favourite!

8. OK, so this one’s in Russian! Click translate, study the pictures carefully and you may be able to work this one out!

9. Oh – this one’s ours! We made it in our own aran wool and we use it all the time as a pretty pin cushion.

 

You will need about 20 gms 100% wool yarn.

We used The Mercerie’s gorgeous Candy pink aran yarn for ours.
knitted on size 6mm needles.

They are worked flat, with darts made by short row shaping, stuffed with polyester filling, and
seamed at the back.

Felt either by hand or in the washing machine on 50 degrees.

 

 

 

 

 

Cast on 15 sts.

Row 1: k12, wrap and turn
Row 2: k11, kfb (increase by knitting into the front and back of the stitch)
Row 3: k11, wrap and turn
Row 4: k10, kfb
Row 5: k10 wrap and turn
Row 6: k9, kfb
Row 7: k9, wrap and turn
Row 8: k8, kfb
Row 9: K8, wrap and turn
Row 10: k8
Row 11: k6, wrap and turn
Row 12: k4, k2tog
Row 13: k8, wrap and turn
Row 14: k6, k2tog
Row 15: k9, wrap and turn
Row 16: k7, k2tog
Row 17: k to end of row
Row 18: k14, k2tog

Repeat these 18 rows 3 more times.
Seam it, fill it and felt it – we added a little scrap of lace and chiffon, and a shiny red bead to make it extra special.

Happy Valentine Day!

psst. If you’d like to receive a little love letter from us on Valentines day – with something rather special for subscribers only, you can sign up here.

And if you’d like the chance to win one of our lovely Valentines Purse crochet kits – take a peek at our facebook giveaway.

 

Jack Valentine's Fox

Jack’s Back in the Norwich Lanes

Good morrow, Valentine, 
God bless the baker,
You’ll be the giver,
And I’ll be the taker

Norfolk is a rum ole place. Cut off from the rest of the world by the North Sea, a haphazard network of single carriageways and a slow tractor that I always find myself driving  behind; we have developed our own traditions and customs. One of our most loved and ancient is the tradition of Jack Valentine.

Norfolk folk have historically celebrated Valentines eve enthusiastically and generously as the fictional character of Jack Valentine was reputed to deliver gifts to both adults and children on February 13th. He would leave the gifts on the door step, knock on the door then mysteriously disappear.

Local shops would be well stocked in advance as this tradition reached its peak in the Victorian era when Valentine’s day saw more giving and receiving of presents than Christmas.

This year Norwich will be reigniting this tradition in the campaign to ‘Bring Back Jack’.

CCTV footage indicates that this elusive figure has been spotted already wandering through The Lanes, with his urban fox, no doubt admiring the Valentine themed window displays competing for the newly established, but already coveted, Jack Valentine Trophy.

I was thrilled to be asked to dress the window of Boutique Fusions in Bedford Street and took great delight in hammering out a message of love on the wall.

Here’s a glimpse of what else you might find if you venture through the Lanes this February….

 

But people of Norwich beware – Jack Valentine has a sinister counterpart. Snatch Valentine ties string to his presents and just as the innocent recipient reaches for their gift the string is tugged and it is snatched away out of reach.

I hope you find a gift on your doorstep this Valentines eve – but do check that there are no strings attached……..

This post is a link in a circle of blogs called Sisterhood Stories. Please visit the next post by  Laura and leave some love on the way :)

 

knitted sunflowers

Knitted Sunflowers at The National Gallery

We’ve been rather preoccupied with knitted sunflowers recently….

A new exhibition opens in London on Saturday 25th January; for the first time in 65 years two of the 5 surviving paintings of Vincent Van Gogh’s Arles Sunflower series will be shown together in The National Gallery. One is owned by The National Gallery, the other is on loan from the Amsterdam Van Gogh museum.

These paintings are some of the most iconic images of our time. They were painted 125 years ago and their enigmatic golden aura has coloured and shaped art history ever since.

The Sunflowers were painted in the brilliant sunshine of Arles in the south of France as Van Gogh waited optimistically for the arrival of his friend and mentor Paul Gauguin.

Not simply studies in the beauty and radiance of the blooms, these paintings recorded their natural states of decay; a working observation of the cycle of life. They cheerfully sing about the joy of life but they are also a collective memento mori – and history shows us how these images foretold the death of a friendship closely followed by the artists own premature, and tragic, death

Van Gogh’s mythology is told and retold countless times; the madness, the genius, the paranoia, the single sale of one painting, the memorabilia, the souvenirs, the parodies, and the price tag of £100 million  that each sunflower painting is now estimated to be worth. This is a story that has no morals. There is no meaning or conclusion to be made. There are only paintings; beautiful paintings – and a whole a set of questions about the ‘value’ of art and the relationship between genius and insanity.

The National Gallery’s exhibition of these two paintings will also present recent research into the pieces, uncovering new insights into how the works were made, and the gallery shop will be blooming with sunflower merchandise of all descriptions.

We were thrilled to have been asked to provide some sunflower knitting kits, and ready-mades for this collection and are delighted to announce that these products are now available to buy in The National Gallery shop!

The Sunflowers exhibition runs from January 25th  to  April 27th and you can find out all about it here.

knitted sunflowers

We are offering subscribers to The Mercerie Post a fabulous 15% off this product in Issue 11. If you’d like to knit your own beautiful bunch of sunflowers you can subscribe here to take advantage of this offer.

Product ‘lifestyle’ shots are by Elizaboo Photography.

This post is a link in a circle of blogs called Sisterhood Stories. Please visit the next post by  Laura and leave some love on the way :)

crochet blog

Crochet, Kaleidoscopes and New Beginnings

So the festivities are over and the dust has finally settled. In fact it looks so settled I think I’ll leave it in peace until it’s time for my annual and rigorous spring clean.  *cough*

(I think I might be developing a dust allergy)

The glittering baubles and bejewelled  faux faberge decorations have all been neatly squashed back into their carrier bags and empty biscuit tins and are now sitting patiently at the top of the stairs waiting to be returned to the attic where they belong.

As the sun was slowly setting on 2013 it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn’t yet secured a venue for our 2014 workshops.

Last terms Mystery Crochet Course was a huge success. Everyone had worked with their own, individual colour palettes to create a collection of beautiful and unique crochet samples. Each week we would lay our work on the table creating, and recreating dizzy and colourful patchworks; positioning, editing, rotating and shifting colours and motifs in a brilliant performance of kaleidoscopic pattern.

Mandalas and spirals, constellations of stars, fabulous florals, log cabins and zig zags; they all contributed and were as individual as the hands that made them.

Crochet classes

I learnt so much from this lovely group of hookers and was constantly presented with alternative approaches. Sometimes a mis read pattern resulted in a beautiful ‘happy accident’, and sometimes the printed instructions were simply the starting point for a playful interpretation.

crochet samples 2

crochet samples 3

ONE

crochet samples 1

I miss these sessions – but a new year is beckoning and heralding a new beginning. It is time to start unravelling and finding my way back to the first stitch and where it all begins.

We are running some new classes starting with a beginners crochet class next month, and I am delighted to announce that a new venue for The Mercerie’s Knitting and Crochet workshops has been found – and not too far from home.

The Stage (St Augustines Gateway Enterprise)  is a little gem, the ground floor of a grade II listed building nestled in the historic parish of St Augustines, Norwich. This versatile, community space is run by volunteers and trustees made up of local residents and traders and provides an affordable venue for meetings, activites etc. It was once an empty derelict sandwich bar – empty for over a decade but it is now a valuable community asset.

We are looking forward to 2014, meeting new crafters, learning new skills and enjoying the beauty of creative discovery.

 This post is a link in a circle of blogs called Sisterhood Stories. Please visit the next post by  Karrie Drake and leave some love on the way :)

The Gingerbread Boy

The Little (Felt) Gingerbread Boy

I’ve been thinking about this year’s Christmas tree.

Last year our homemade Christmas tree decorations melted and dripped onto the floor just as the proceeding were hotting up. They created a rather sticky mess that took well into the New Year to clean up. (although all that scrubbing did bring the floor up with a lovely shine)

This year there will be no edible tree decorations. This year there will be a clear distinction between the decorative and the edible. There will be no multitasking decorations  and no sensory confusion.

There will no crunching of baubles or nibbling of the decor in between courses. Visitors may not chew on the doors or lick the window panes. Any coins found in the sofa will be real (mine!) and the only gingerbread on my tree this year will be crafted from felt;  stitched by hand and embellished with buttons. If it is on a plate – you may eat it. If it is on the tree – you may not.

And so yesterday I busied myself making some felt gingerbread figures for the tree and just as I was working on the last one I was rudely  interrupted.

 

“What are you doing?”  asked the boy suspiciously.

“Making some gingerbread men for the tree .” I said.

“Can I eat one now?”

“No, they’re made of felt – ho ho ho!” (jolly Santa laugh)

“What’s the point in that?” (eyes rolling in such an exaggerated manner that one detached itself and rolled across the floor.)

“Well I thought it would be nice to make ginger bread effigies of ourselves and we can hang them on the tree every Christmas. It could be a new family tradition. Look that one with the scowly face is you”

“What’s the point in having a gingerbread man if you can’t eat it?” the boy scowled.

“It’s a DE-COR-RA-SHUN. The clue is in the word!” I snapped.

“All right! There’s no need to bite my head off!” and with that the boy grabbed the little gingerbread man, skipped across the kitchen and ran straight outside.

gingerbread boy 2

The little gingerbread man was on his way down the road before the woman was out of the house.

‘STOP!’ cried the woman, as he approached the river.

“You’ve forgotten how it ends”

gingerbread boy 4

How to Make A Felt Gingerbread Man

You will need:

  • A small amount of ‘ginger’ coloured fleece.
  • A felting needle.
  • A small piece of foam.
  • Some white thread, tiny amount of black fleece, small buttons – or anything else you might want to decorate your figures with.
  • A gingerbread man cookie cutter.

Lay your cookie cutter on top of your foam on a firm surface.

Fill the cookie cutter with fleece and prod with the felting needle until it is completely felted.

Decorate however you wish. You can use the felting needle to felt woollen yarn onto the figure to depict white icing, and either felt the eyes in place using black fleece, or you could use small black beads, or buttons.

Stitch some buttons down his front.

and you’re done!

This post is a link in a circle of blogs called Sisterhood Stories. Please hop over to Laura’s post next and leave some love on the way…..

woodland

Wool and Wolves: A Woodland Collection

One sunny Autumn day three girls took a trip to the woods on Mousehold Heath.  One was very young and beautiful with long golden hair. One carried a tall standard lamp, an original 1960’s Parker Knoll chair and six bags overflowing with beautiful knitted woollen products. One carried a camera

Now every child knows that forests are a place of enchantment and danger, inhabited by those that live on the edge; refugees, escaped convicts, witches and nomads, and every fairy tale forest is home to a wolf.

So the girls didn’t stray from the path, or wander too deeply into the woods where the trees cast dark shadows and obscure the daylight. They stopped by a clearing at the edge of the forest on a well trodden path surrounded by the magical backdrop to a Brothers Grimm fairytale. They opened the bags and took out their contents; a beautiful crochet blanket, a jolly santa hat, three cheerful sunflowers and a stunning crochet duffle bag  – then the girl with the camera worked her magic…..

The Mercerie Autumn Winter Collection

The Mercerie Autumn Winter Collection 1

 Photographs by Eliza Boo Photography.

 

This blog post is a link in a circle of blogs called Sisterhood Stories – please visit the next post by Karrie Drake and share some love on the way……

October is Orange

October is Orange

 

This gorgeous knitted  bobble hat, captured by Eliza Boo Photography, is made in The Mercerie’s cinnamon coloured British aran wool and is one of  our  new autumn/winter designs; soon to be arriving in our on-line shop.

I adore the colour orange; the colour of autumn – pumpkins, golden leaves, sunflowers, chrysanthemums, the last tomato in the green house –  and the last rose of summer.

The colour of apricots, mangoes and sweet potatoes;  urban  foxes, ginger toms, red squirrels and  toffee apples. Orange is a flame haired pre-Raphaelite muse and the brilliant coloured varnish of a seventeenth century Stradivari violin.

Orange in nature is carotene, orpiment, toxic realgar, madder, saffron, turmeric and paprika. It’s lead chromate, cadmium and ochre; found in powder and liquid form in glass jars and soft metal tubes.

Worn by an intoxicated Bacchus orange is the colour of frivolity and excess. In Christianity it’s the colour of gluttony. In Confusionism it’s the colour of transformation. Symbolic in Hinduism and Buddism; orange is a spiritual signifier.

Orange is an attention seeking extrovert. It’s high vis, get ready to go; it’s a life jacket and a life buoy.

Agent orange defoliated forests and contaminated people and orange is the conspicuous colour worn by ‘non-compliant’ Guantanamo detainees.

Orange is a political statement. It’s the colour of an 80 year European war and a bonfire for burning dead wood. Orange is a flaming revolution and the colour of inspiration.

October is orange.

If you love this hat as much as we do you might like to know that we’re going to include the knitting pattern in Issue 9 of The Mercerie Post – out next week. Have you registered yet?

The Mercerie Newsletter

This blog post is a link in a circle of blogs called Sisterhood Stories. You can read the next link by Elena T. here:

colour thumbnail

Colour Stories: A Live Performance

The Mercerie’s new ‘Mystery Crochet’ course started last week and it began with a rather intense two hour colour workshop……. A 7pm the stage was set. The participants sat around a large round table and a collection of magazine cuttings was placed in the centre. Each contributor was assigned a colour and had just 15 minutes to create a montage using as many variations as they could find of their given colour. We immersed ourselves in a rainbow and pieced together a whole spectrum of exquisite abstract compositions, and each one glowed with it’s own vibrant energy.

Colour is not simply a theory; it’s an art and a drama; it’s chemistry and physics; it’s geography, geology and botany; it’s every subject in the world, and the history of everything under the sun. But it doesn’t really exist; it’s all in your mind. It’s just a figment of your imagination. Surrounded by a vast range of pulsating, vibrating and invisible electromagnetic radiation the human brain can only perceive and interpret a tiny percentage of them as visible light. Most objects absorb particular waves and reject, or reflect back others. The rejected waves of light are interpreted by the brain as colour so, paradoxically, a green object is one that is simply rejecting green light. But that’s not all that happens. All atomic matter contains it’s own, unique, electron structure vibrating at it’s own frequency, with it’s own, unique energy. These electrons are excited by energies such as heat and light which causes them to vibrate at a different frequency .  Different energies project and reflect different colours. With this knowledge, the concept of an object, or person, emitting a visible coloured aura seems plausible.

For every force, and energy, there is an equal and opposite, so when the colour collages were complete a little piece was sliced off and given away to the person sitting opposite. This slice of opposing colour was added to the collage and it’s effect was electric. A slither of orange on a sea of blue and a fiery  red spark on a colour field of brilliant green are the visual reminders that for a colour to be truely bright it needs something to kick against – an opposing force that keeps it vibrant, alive and shimmering. Colour is an extraordinary phenomenon.  Neither a noun nor an adjective; colour is a verb. It’s active and animated. Colour is an energetic performance. It’s alive and kicking. It’s the drama in which we are all the performers, not just the audience.

Photographs by Eliza Boo Photography.

This blog post is a link in a circle of blogs called Sisterhood Stories. You can read the next link by Elena T. here:

Refugee shoes

Traces of History at Wolterton Hall

Last weekend I spent two days in the faded glory of Wolterton Hall in North Norfolk which was hosting the 13th Costume and Textiles Fair.

Costume and Textiles Fair

Wolterton Hall is a fabulous Georgian Country House built in the 1720’s for Horatio Walpole, younger brother to Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first prime minister.

Costume and textiles Fair

Over the weekend this monument to past lives contained not only the stories of those who once lived there, but also the fragments from other lives, and histories, from all over the globe.

Costume and textiles Fair

In the boxes stashed with neatly catalogued textile samples, the exquisitely embroidered handkerchiefs, painted icons and family portraits; in the dead animals, dead ancestors, threadbare upholstery and cheaply made shoes from a small German refugee, lurk the unfinished chapters of a thousand forgotten stories.

Costume and Textiles Fair

 

This blog post is a link in a circle of blogs called Sisterhood Stories. You can read the next link by Elena T. here:

apple pullovers

Knitted Apple Pullovers

On Sunday, as we drove away from Top Farm and our last camp of the summer, we stopped to help ourselves to some windfall Bramley apples and looked forward to Autumns first apple crumble.

On Monday I retrieved the apples from the car and studied them carefully. Windfall Bramleys are a self deprecating crop. The sight of these misshapen bruisers offers no clue to their potential fluffy sweetness

Bramley Apples for apple crumble

I chopped them up and discarded only the most insect ridden pieces, remembering that the bruises add flavour and sweetness to the mix.

As I worked I began making mental preparations for the new school term and the sight of the bruised fruit reminded me of the apples I fish out of school bags every Friday afternoon. These are the apples that are dutifully dropped into the bag every morning – only to return home again at the end of the day and placed back in the fruit bowl.

The same apple will go back in the bag the next day – only to return home again, with a few minor scratches and placed back in the bowl.

The same happens the following day, and the next until by Friday the once perfect specimen will be sporting some minor scratches, a large brown bruise, two rather deep cuts,  evidence of some kind of piercing of the skin and an Indian ink tattoo.

This scenario is generally repeated every week. We know the apple will not be eaten. With every passing day my dutiful optimism turns to grim determination until by Friday the squishy rotten apple becomes  symbolic retribution for refusing an apple a day.

However, this term will be different. I have a plan. I’ve been rather scathing about knitted fruit ‘cosies’ in the past but now I understand their significance.

This morning I finished packing the lunches and located a couple of fresh apples. I looked at them both with their perfect shiny bright skin, coloured by several weeks spent in the sun. They looked back at me grinning optimistically with deep dimples in their rosy apple cheeks. I helped them  into their little knitted pullovers, said goodbye and wished them luck.

I wonder if I’ll ever see them again.

apple pullovers

 

Knitting Pattern for Apple Pullovers

Work in garter stitch using Mercerie Aran Wool and 5 mm needles

Cast on 6 sts.

Next Row: Knit into the front and back (KFB) of every stitch (12 sts)

Next Row: K1, KFB. Repeat to end of row (18sts)

Next Row: KFB, K2. Repeat to end of row. (24sts)

Next Row: Knit

Next Row: K3, KFB. Repeat to end of row. (30sts)

Next Row: Knit

Next Row: K2, *KFB, K4. Repeat from * to the last 2 sts. K2. (36)

Next 2 rows:Knit

Next Row: K5, KFB. Repeat to end of row. (42)

Next 5 rows Knit.

Next Row: Knit 2 together (K2tog), K5. Repeat to end of row. (36)

Next row:Knit

Change to 4mm needles.

Next 5 rows: work as K1, P1 rib.

Cast off using a 5mm needle to keep the cast off edge nice and loose, then sew up the seam.

And you’re done!

 

 This blog post is a link in a circle of blogs called Sisterhood Stories. You can read the next link by Elena T. here:

 

Dried Lavender for home made lavender bags

Lavender Bags and Honest Aromas

Our lavender was planted 5 summers ago, and each year I have planned to harvest some for lavender bags.

Every year I have watched it bloom and die back, finally hacking back the dead stems in October. That’s nearly half a decade of missed opportunities.

This year is different, I have seized the moment – possibly a week or two late, but this year I shall have at least one home-made lavender bag.

 

home-made lavender bag

I must confess that I am not a big fan of perfumes in any form, but particularly in the home. Aerosols and plug in air ‘fresheners’ that fill domestic spaces with chemical aromas make me nauseous. Chemical ‘air fresheners’ can emit nerve deadening agents designed to interfere with the body’s ability to detect smells.  Many chemical air fresheners create formaldehyde in the air, classified as a known carcinogen, and some contain phthalates that are known to cause birth defects and male infertility.

I prefer to open a window.

Our senses are easily fooled, and a pretty fragrance can disguise many horrors. Mustard gas, used in chemical warfare, had been described as giving off the faint and delicate aroma of geraniums. Hydrogen cyanide, used in the Nazi gas chambers has the subtlest hint of bitter almonds and peach kernels and the nerve gas known as VX is said to have a sweet and delicate fruity fragrance.

I like to know the origins of the smells in my home and I want my domestic aromas to be straight forward. I love the honest simplicity of lavender, with its old fashioned values and multiple uses.

What could be simpler than a home- made lavender bag, using dried lavender harvested from your own garden? In keeping with the old fashioned charm of lavender bags I hand sewed mine using some pretty vintage fabric.

For one lavender bag you will need:

equipment for making lavender bags

  • A couple of tablespoons of dried lavender. *see below for details on when to harvest.
  • A couple of tablespoons of rice. (optional, but it helps your lavender to go further)
  • Some pretty vintage fabric. (Ok, any pretty cotton fabric will do – lightweight is best) 2 pieces, about 15cm square would be plenty.
  • A piece of card. About A6 size, to cut a template.
  • Sewing thread.
  • Cotton yarn. For the crochet trim.
  • Two sewing needles. One for the sewing thread and one for the crochet yarn.
  • A fine crochet hook. About a 2mm (one that suits the weight of your thread)
  • Scissors

*Notes on when to harvest your lavender.

You really should be harvesting your lavender when it is in full bloom, Like the picture on the left. However – my lavender is now past this stage and most of the petals have dropped off!  See the picture on the right.

lavender flowers

The important point here is that the lavender is not at its most fragrant at this stage, but it still smells beautiful and for one lavender bag I’m really not going to fret about it. It will do!

Cut your lavender with nice long stems, tie it into a bunch and hang it upside down in an airy, dry environment, out of direct sunlight. Place a cloth underneath to catch any bits that might drop off.

Leave for about 1-3 weeks to dry out fully then put the bunch inside a pillow case and roll with a rolling pin to separate the dried lavender from the stems.

STEP 1: Making a Template

Draw the shape you want your lavender bag to be onto your card, allowing a 0.5 cm seam allowance. Cut this shape out of the card. I used this teardrop shape, which measures 11.5cm x 7.5cm (at its widest point). This includes seam allowance.

I like to use the hole as a guide to positioning the template onto the fabric, so I can see exactly where the pattern detail will appear on the finished bag.

home-made lavender bag

 STEP 2: Cutting and Sewing

Use your card template to cut out two identical shapes. Lay them right sides together, pin and hand sew, using a back stitch, all around the edge and leaving a 1.5cm gap (leave the gap on a straight edge, not around a curve like I did!)

Hand sewn lavender bags

STEP 3: Turning Through and Filling

Turn the work through to the right side and fill with dried lavender. (you could mix your lavender with up to 50% dried rice for a more economical approach). Stitch up the gap carefully turning the edges inside as you work.

Filling the bags and stitiching the gap

STEP 4: A Foundation of Running Stitches

Using your cotton crochet thread work a line of large running stitches (about 0.75 – 1cm) all around the seam of the bag. Aim to make the gaps between the stitches as small as you possibly can. I worked 25 sts in total.

Starting the crochet trim

STEP 5: Work a Crochet Trim

You can now work into each of these running stitches with your crochet stitches.

Into each running stitch work 2dc, 1htr, 1tr, 1htr, 2dc. This will create a simple, and pretty, scalloped edge like the one in the left picture.

home-made lavender bag crochet edge

We will include full crochet instructions for the trim featured on our lavender bag in Issue 8 of  The Mercerie Post.

Now find somewhere to keep your lavender bag, and remember to give it a squeeze and a sniff every few weeks to make you feel good, and remind you of summer.

 

This blog post is a link in a circle of blogs called Sisterhood Stories. You can read the next link by Elena T. here:

The Ballroom at Dance Camp East

Dance Camp East: Unbounded Space

We have recently returned from Dance Camp East and are currently attempting to re-acclimatise after nine days of outdoor living. Nine glorious days of sunshine, music, dancing, crafting and cooking, with newly found friends, in a field in Suffolk.

Dance Camp is a unique experience, and one that challenges preconceptions on every level. The ordinary and everyday tasks of daily life become strangely magnified and distorted as they take on a new significance.

On arrival at the camp layers of oneself (worn for protection in the outside world) are gradually peeled away, dissolved or discarded. Residents slowly begin to expose their fragile inner-selves through intimate conversations, singing, chanting, dancing, or any other preferred method of self expression.

Food preparation becomes an adventure over an open fire, or in a clay oven. A cardboard box, some tinfoil and a sheet of glass transform into a solar oven for baking chocolate brownies in the sun and every night a different corner of the globe is visited for dinner.

At midnight the usual sounds of night time suburbia; the hum of traffic, police sirens, barking dogs and passing drunks are replaced by a different soundtrack – one of live music that ebbs and flows as wandering troubadours play for a while by each campfire.  Conventionally post midnight music is irritating and thoughtless, but here it becomes the essence of dance camp and a mental adjustment reclassifies it as a celebratory lullaby.

The sound track is almost constant – fading, changing tempo, switching continents and decades. The acoustics are eclectic and impulsive as you gradually tune in to a sound wave that penetrates your soul and reminds you of everyone you’ve ever met, and everyone you’ve ever been.

I found silence only once. It was 5am and the sun was slowly rising over the camp. As I wandered around the field studying the makeshift kitchens, compost loos, sinks, showers and the outdoor bath, I was struck by how completely the boundaries had dissolved between the outside environment and traditional indoor spaces.

Dance Camp East blogpost

As a modernist at heart I am naturally drawn to light, airy, internal spaces, with glass walls and panoramic views, but as I walked around these makeshift temporary dwellings and structures I  began to question my faith in the authority of modernist architecture.

  • Are the inhabitants of ‘modern’ shiny white spaces, simply placed in domestic quarantine?
  • In a culture of sanitised order do we become the passive voyeurs of an unclean and natural world outside?
  • By erecting glass partitions between inside and out do our internal spaces become isolation booths with culture and nature effectively, and permanently, divided?
Temporary structures at Dance Camp East

Life on camp is one of harmonious anarchy. All boundaries are dissolved: clean/dirty, personal/social, inside/outside, and the architectural structures on site reflect this transgressive fluidity.

As I write this post a Dance Camp soundtrack is still playing in my head- and all my doors and windows are open to the big, beautiful, world outside.

This blog post is a link in a circle of blogs called Sisterhood Stories. You can read the next link by Kay here.

mystery crochet blog post

On Mystery Crochet and Domestic Science

I’ve been working on a new crochet project recently in preparation for a brand new Mystery Crochet Course. It’s going to be a very beautiful object – a rich mix of colour and texture and completely unique. There will only ever be one of these and there will be no written pattern or documentation other than a few photographs to log its development over the coming weeks.

Last night as I was working on ‘my project’ (with no crochet pattern to follow, or write) I tuned my maternal radar into the children’s conversation and was pleasantly surprised to hear that boredom had finally prompted a scientific discussion.

“So how fast does sound travel?”

“Well, say I made a noise and you heard it 2 seconds later, that’s how fast it travelled”

“Oh”

“You say ‘hello’ and I’ll say ‘hello’ when I hear you.”

“OK. Hello”

“Hello”

“That wasn’t very fast. Let’s do it again. Say it louder”

“HELLO”

“HELLO”

“You said hello before I had a chance to say it!”

“No I didn’t”

“Did”

I turned my radar off so I couldn’t hear any more of the scientific debate and refocused on ‘my project’.

A few seconds later…

“What are you making?”

Flattered by this sudden interest in ‘my project’ I explained in an excited and mysterious voice that I didn’t know yet – it’s a mystery project. I made a surprised face to further illustrate the point.

“What do you mean you don’t know? How can you make something if you don’t know what it’s going to be?”

The pleasant inquisitive faces had turned into scowls and their eyes were rolling almost uncontrollably at each other.

I thought about this for some time. I’m working on a piece of freeform crochet that combines a range of motifs, stitch textures, shapes and colours in a way that is as much about process as it is results.

I am making the rules up as I go along. They are my rules and sometimes I break them. I am solving problems as I work and discovering new ways of doing things.

This creative process is a liberating one –I am not bound by other peoples laws and I will allow myself to make mistakes, sometimes unravelling and redoing; a 21st century Penelope perpetually making and unmaking.

Why is this playful approach to making so difficult to comprehend? I don’t want to know what happens at the end of ‘my project’, I simply want to enjoy watching it grow and thinking about the many different things that it could be. For me life isn’t about what happens at the end.

As I work on this unknown object my creative thought processes are re-routing and forming new passageways. Some are dead ends, but some are opening up into beautiful uncharted landscapes. Right now the idea of making a prescriptive object feels like creative fossilisation and I have no desire to rigidly reproduce a predictable result.

mystery crochet course in Norwich

I was about to explain this in easy terms when I realised that the young scientists had left the room and returned to the domestic science project.

“If I throw this book at you fast enough it might break the sound barrier”

I picked up my hook, returned to ‘my project’, and waited for the inevitable crash of a sonic boom.

 

This blog post is a link in a circle of blogs called Sisterhood Stories. You can read the next link by Sara here:

If you would like full details of the Mystery Crochet Course please email Sue at sue@themercerie.co.uk