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On Freedom Fighters, Peace Keepers and Crochet Berets.

The Beret.

Yes, I know it’s a bit of a fashion cliché – but sometimes I rather like clichés. They have a certain old fashioned charm to them that can make a refreshing change to the politicised spin that’s constantly streamed into our lives.

My love of the beret stretches beyond the French stereotype and the image of the romantic artist.

I am fascinated with the beret’s seductive versatility as it’s become the headgear of choice for hundreds of international paramilitary groups. That such a small and innocuous accessory can take on so many different meanings and associations  shows how entrenched an object and it’s signals can become in our psyche.

Fashion is one big glorious mash up; looting from everywhere, stealing from anyone and then brazenly parading it’s booty.

The beret is one mashed up, mixed up accessory to the crime.

With a vague and blurry notion that there are some conventions, the beret plays with the rules; both mocking, and paying homage to freedom fighters, peace keepers,  the armed forces and other organised groups operating around the frayed edges of ‘civilised society’.

So, yes, it may be a cliché and elicit a bit of a giggle from some – but take a look at the organisations that the beret is looting from and you won’t see many of them laughing.

Clockwise from the top:

  • Beyoncé’s backing dancers pay homage to the Black Panthers. www.highsnobiety.com
  • Vincent Lappartient for Christian Dior. www.thepinealpost.com
  • Marxist revolutionary and international poster boy Che Guevara. www.artblart.com

Clockwise from top left:

  • All female group of Guatemalan United Nations peace keepers. www.sustainablesecurity.org
  • Blue beret at Rodarte. www.elle.com
  • The elite Soviet VDV (Air Landing Forces) www.harveyblackauthor.org

Clockwise from top left.

  • An all female  group of Guardian Angels protects women from sexual assault on the New York subway. www.mcdermottphotos.com
  • Red beret at Gucci. www.elle.com
  • The Army of Brunei’s  Special Combat Squadron. www.worldmilitaryintel.blogspot.co.uk

If you’re feeling empowered, inspired – or just fancy doing a spot of crochet – why not come and join us at Norfolk Yarn this Autumn for our Crochet Beret master class? You’ll be in good company.

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From Movie Star Planet Back Down to Earth

Craft Activities for Children

Help! I think my daughter has been abducted by aliens!

What 21st century parent isn’t wearily familiar with the addictive nature of online games for children?

Having finally come to terms with a family members minecraft addiction, another seems to be rearing it’s ugly head. It has huge purple hair, empty black eyes and appears to have an arrow impaled in its head.

This monstrous character is an alien from Movie Star Planet; a truely scary environment. Inhabitants of the planet appear to have had their brains sucked out and they wander about aimlessly spouting mindless banalities to anyone they come across.

Direct action is required.

“This is Earth calling. You are under threat of alien abduction. Please make your way to the dining area for your own safety…….NOW!!!”

I wait for the slap of the laptop closing and observe the entry of a young female with attitude. She rolls her eyes slowly, swishes her high pony tail and makes an exaggerated gesture. (which she hasn’t quite perfected so it looks alarmingly like a nervous twitch)

Let the battle commence.

Here are my 5 suggested activities designed specifically for combating and alleviating the negative effects of Movie Star Planet in preteen girls.

  1. Make a Dream Catcher.

Introduce this activity with an age appropriate conversation about cultural appropriation.

Making Dream Catchers

  1. Make Some Felties

Introduce this with an age appropriate conversation about animal welfare, conservation, and the infantilising effects of adults in onesies.

Making Felties

  1. Arrange a Collection of Rocks, Stones, Pebbles or Crystals

Introduce this activity with an age appropriate contextual conversation about the work of Andy Goldsworthy. (eg. Is it Art? Yes it bloody well is.)

arranging crystals

Goldsworthy image credit

  1. Make a Tent Outside.

Introduce this activity with an age appropriate conversation about temporary dwellings, refugee camps and homelessness. (try not to make her cry)

home made tent

 

Refugee image credit

5. Bake Some Gingerbread Men

Introduce this activity with an age appropriate argument about who’s going to tidy up the mess.

baking ginger bread men

 

Any of these activities should help re-ground and acclimatise your child. Normal speech patterns should return, eye rolling should cease and general intelligence and well- being should be restored.

She has returned to earth.

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Choosing Colours for the Trellis Poncho CAL: 4 Things You Can Do To Make the Right Decision.

If you’d like to join me for The Real Life or the Online Trellis Poncho CAL this Autumn your first challenge is deciding on colours!

We’ve all been there at the beginning of a new project. You’re so excited as you enter the yarn shop and feel like a child in a sweet shop salivating at the counter.

You know this is an enjoyable, yet important, decision and you love spending time picking up the wool, feeling its texture and putting groups of colours together.

At first you go with your instinct. Those are your favourite colours and you love them. Then somebody (usually me) pipes up “But what about these? – they’re gorgeous”. So you begin to look at alternatives.

Then a complete stranger joins in with -“Oh, I think you’d look lovely in these colours.”

That’s all it takes to send you into a spiral of confusion, indecision and fear.

  • What if you make the wrong decision and end up making a grotesque parody of the vision you had in mind?
  • What if you develop an irrational dislike of your favourite colour halfway through the project?
  • What if that particular colour throws a yellow cast over your complexion and makes you look like you’ve just had a spell in hospital?

Yes; we’ve all been there, and while it’s immensely pleasurable, it’s not easy choosing colours. So I’d like to help you out.

Here are 4 things you can do to make the decision making process easier:

1. Shop in a real wool shop whenever possible.

You simply can’t beat seeing the skeins of yarn in real life, holding them next to each other, and feeling them against your skin. Ask if you can see the yarn in daylight rather than in artificial lighting and don’t be afraid to take your time.

2. Pay attention to your physical responses to the colours.

Try to tune into your physical self as you handle and study the different colour combinations. How do they make you feel? Do they make you feel lighter and excited? Can you feel a glow inside you; do they make you want to touch them? Or do those colours together just feel safe, familiar and static? Decisions are made with the whole of our body, not just our minds, so listen to what your body is telling you. And remember that when excitment is the driving force, fear is always a passenger.

3. Consider the worst case scenario.

So what’s the worst thing that can happen? Well, yes, you could waste hours of your life making something that you’ll never wear or use – and neither will anyone else. But in reality you will probably see that it’s not working way before you finish the thing. Some (but not all) yarn shops may allow you to return any unused balls of wool so it’s a good idea to check this before purchasing. Or you could consider just buying enough of the wool to make up a sample first.

4. Don’t just imagine it – do it!

This means that you make an allowance in your budget for sampling and you work up one or two samples before you make a final decision. Personally, I would never begin a project without sampling first – how else could you possibly know how those colours are going to behave once they get together? A couple of hours actually trying things out before you make the big commitment is well worth the effort.

And if you still can’t decide………in my experience most people have a gut instinct for colour and usually those colours that you picked up before that stranger and I butted in are the right ones. So trust your instincts.

And if, after all of that you still can’t decide I’ve put together some colour combinations for the Trellis Poncho that are available from Norfolk Yarn. Each bundle contains 11 x 50 gram balls of Rowan Felted Tweed and if you sign up to my newsletter I’ll give you a 10% discount code.

HEATHER bundle will contain:

  • 4 x 50gm balls Celadon (green)
  • 5 x 50gm balls Peony (pink)
  • 1 x 50gm ball Mineral (yellow)
  • 1 x 50gm ball Seafarer (dark blue/grey)

CORNFLOWER bundle will contain:

  • 4 x 50gm balls Mineral (yellow)
  • 5 x 50gm balls Maritime (blue)
  • 1 x 50gm ball Clay (pale grey)
  • 1 x 50gm ball Seafarer (dark blue/grey)

BLACKBERRY bundle will contain:

  • 4 x 50gm balls Seafarer (dark blue/grey)
  • 5 x 50gm balls Tawney (dark red/pink)
  • 1 x 50gm ball Mineral (yellow)
  • 1 x 50gm ball Avocado (green)

Well I hope that helps a little – and I just can’t wait to see what colours you choose!

With Love

Sue

x

 

 

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A Crochet Poncho, UFO’s and the Zeigarnik Effect

The Crochet Trellis Poncho

I have this thing about endings.

I just can’t bear messy endings and unresolved issues. UFO’s, or Unfinished Objects, haunt me with their incomplete and unformed shapes, and loose ends have to be tied or I think about them incessantly.

For most of my life I just thought this was me, endlessly obsessing and worrying about unfinished business. But it turns out that this is a thing. An actual phenomenon.

It’s called the “Zeigarnik Effect”

Bluma Zeigarnik was a Russian psychologist who, in the 1920’s conducted a series of tests where subjects were asked to complete a sequence of tasks, some of which were interrupted and consequently left unfinished. When asked to recall the details of the tasks the subjects were able to remember twice as much information about the unfinished tasks than those they completed, concluding that completion leads to forgetting.

Subsequent tests have been carried out by other psychologists and the general opinion is that;

Your mind is more likely to remember, and keep returning to, an unfinished task.

So the unresolved preys on your mind – it’s a scientific fact which explains why I get so edgy and slightly neurotic when I have too many UFO’s cluttering up my house, and my brain.

There was one project in particular that nagged away at me for quite some time. A project that was slow to develop, in a kind of stop, start, rewind, unwind kind of a way. Some of you may have witnessed the development of this project and read my premature exclamations; “It’s nearly done!” and “it’s coming soon”  and then, like me, reached the conclusion that actually it’s not at all done and possibly might never be.

But I was sooooo close. I made two versions, did the photoshoot and  nearly finished the pattern. Something was just stopping me from shipping this one.

Then, just as it really was almost ready, disaster struck.

A nasty virus wiped out all my projects in development, and with it, hundreds of hours of work.

Potentially this was catastrophic and my slow rolling, ongoing, never ending project was the main casualty. I was devastated and just couldn’t stop thinking about what I had lost. Somehow to lose an unfinished project seems so much more tragic than losing something complete.

But, I listened to those recurring thoughts until they drove me nearly insane and I made a decision to either close the book or take direct action.

I decided to take action.

Sometimes in life you just need to wipe the slate clean, and start again. So I started again with a determination to follow through and make it even better than it was before – and it is, and I’m finally happy with it. But without the incessant nagging of the Zeigarnik Effect I could easily have left this end dangling.

Now it’s done I’d like to share the results with you in my Autumn online Crochet Along which you can join here.

Or you can join in the Real Life Crochet Along this Autumn at Norfolk Yarn, in Norwich, and I can help you create your own beautiful version in lovely Rowan Felted Tweed.

So what UFO’s are keeping you awake at night? And isn’t it time to make a decision and either close the book – or take action and follow through?

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Folklore Shawl Crochet-Along

“Creativity is contagious, pass it on.”

    Albert Einstein      

                         

Earlier this year I was delighted to run another ‘real life’ crochet-along at Norfolk Yarn in the Lanes, Norwich.

Over the course of 3 months we met up to work on our own versions of The Folklore Shawl and the results were just beautiful. The design can be made using any brand of DK weight yarn but we chose to use Yarn Stories DK Merino because we all agreed that the colour range was perfect for this project.

As always, the first class was really exciting as we spent time selecting colours and working on our own, individual, colour palettes. It’s always such a pleasure helping people do this; the challenge is to gently poke someone out of their comfort zone and into their creative zone. Comfort gives you a nice warm fuzzy feeling but being inspired, and  truely creative, gives you a buzz that makes your heart sing.

The investment of hours and hours of labour (even if it is a ‘labour of love’) does require a sprinkling of faith that the colours you have chosen are ‘right’ – but this is where the magic lies. You try to visualise the finished result but it’s not until the work begins to reveal itself that you see it’s ‘true colours’ and begin to know your creation.

It is a priviledge to work with people that have this faith; they trust their decisions and follow through.

Here are some glimpses of the amazing work produced by a group of  inspirational people.

 

The real Life Folklore Shawl CAL

If you love these as much as I do you might like to join me for my next real life CAL at Norfolk Yarn this Autumn. We will be making my latest design; the lovely Crochet Trellis Poncho using Rowan Felted Tweed.

But if you live too far away to join us why not join in the online Trellis Poncho CAL

And if you’d like to stay in the loop you can subscribe to my lovely little newsletter.

with love.

Sue x

Lifestyle photography by Boo Marshall Photography

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The Real Life Daisy Wrap Crochet-Along

On line CALs (that’s crochet-alongs FYO) are a fabulous way to create something beautiful and feel part of a community. We live in amazing times where we can work on a project and share our progress with people on the other side of the planet.

If the person sitting on the sofa next to you  doesn’t appreciate your  skill, tenacity and sheer hard work, you know there will always be someone online who will offer you support, advise and a virtual pat on the back for your efforts.

I have run 2 online CALs, and they have  been such great fun, and I’ve just loved seeing so many different versions of the Folklore Shawl and the Daisy Wrap. I’ve enjoyed them so much that I’m running a new one this Autumn – and I’m so excited about it.

However, you simply can’t beat meeting up in real life with like minded crafters and I want to share with you some of the amazing results of the ‘real life’ Daisy Wrap crochet-along I ran  at Norfolk Yarn, in Norwich last year.

The course ran over 3 months and we met once a month. The first class is the one where you get to choose your colours (we used Debbie Bliss DK Rialto) and this is always such a pleasure for me. There’s nothing I enjoy better than playing with colours and helping people find their perfect ‘combo’. There really were some absolutely stunning colourways; so feast your eyes on these beauties. I wonder what colours you would have choosen.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these amazing shawls. The pattern will be available here soon and it is also available, now, in my Ravelry store.

If you’re feeling inspired to take on a new project you might like to join in with my next CAL which will start this September. I’ll be running an online and a Real Life crochet along and we’ll be making something gorgeous in Rowan Felted Tweed.

I hope you’ll be able to join us!

with love

Sue x

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Floral Crowns and May Day Protests

So it’s nearly May Day.

Another mixed up, modern day excuse for a knees up.

May Day, like most festivals in 21st century Britain, has a bit of an identity crisis. It’s not quite sure what it is anymore and doesn’t really know what to do with itself.

It wants to put on a pretty frock, wear a floral crown and frolic around a maypole on the village green performing a ritualistic dance of summer, fertility and joy.

On the other hand – it is also an anarchist bent on overthrowing the canons of capitalism; a proletarian revolt against exploitation of ‘the workers’ and a rampage through the streets in an uproarious celebration of temporary mayhem.

It seems that in the 21st century we have to choose which side we’re on. Floral dress and crown- or hoody and bandana?

Shall I frolic – or rampage?

Am I joyful or angry?

And why can’t I be both?

In the past ordinary folk, like me, were allowed to do both. To be both. May Day, and similar festivities were all about breaking the rules, fools were crowned, and the authorities were mocked as the world was turned upside down for a day.

At what point in the civilising process did we lose our identity? When did we lose our sense of humour – and the strength to uphold our traditions?

At the turn of the 21st century when an ex soldier was jailed for decorating Churchill’s statue with a green turf Mohican it signalled how insecure as a nation we have become. We take ourselves so seriously now we deny all our weaknesses. We are so self-conscious, and self-policing, we don’t allow ourselves to make mistakes, say the wrong thing occasionally, get drunk and cavort outrageously. It can’t be healthy to be so civilised.

So this May Day I’ll put on the crown….then I’ll open a can of larger and swear at the 10 o’clock news.

If you’d like to join in my armchair revelry, here’s how to make the pretty floral crown.

You will need:

  • A few lengths of natural raffia. (around 12)
  • Some freshly cut flowers. (nothing too ostentatious….just a few sprigs of whatever you can find growing nearby)

You’ll need to secure your work – I’m quite happy to stick pins in my furniture – you might not be.

Gather your raffia and begin by tying a loop at one end – leave the ends nice and long.

Raffia May Day Crowns

 

Start to plait the raffia – and works the short ends into the beginning of the plait.may day crowns 2

Check the length of the plait and when it’s long enough to go around your head thread the ends through the loop and secure in a knot. If you knot it fairly loosely you’ll be able to undo it if you need to adjust the size.may day crowns 3

Trim your flowers and poke the stems through the plait. Use additional lengths of raffia to

bind the stems so they dont poke out.maydown crown with flower

Continue to add the flowers until you are happy with your crown. Now try it on.mayday crowns finished

I wanted to photograph the crown on my resident 10 year old May Queen ………but…..

“I’m not wearing THAT.” Stomp stomp stomp. SLAM.

Hoorah! The spirit of protest is alive and kicking in our house.

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Crochet Shawls: Connected with Hugs and CALs

Crochet CAL

For several weeks now I’ve been thinking rather a lot about shawls; their history, their function and their design  potential

I’ve written before about The Norwich Shawl and it’s glorious history. Queen Victoria commissioned two Norwich shawls after admiring them at the 1851 Great Exhibition and for much of the  19th century decorative woven shawls were the ‘on trend’ accessory for women of all social classes.

It’s also fascinating to track the demise of this once ‘must have’ wardrobe staple as fashions evolved and the shawl became almost obsolete in fashionable society. For the last few years of the 19th century, and for most of the 20th century, shawls became a rather self-effacing accessory, associated with the elderly, the frail and the ubiquitous huddled masses en route to an unknown future.

In the 21st century, it is still a brave designer that sends models swathed in shawls down the runways of London Fashion week; and I love Burberry Prorsum for having the courage to do this two years running.

Burberry

A shawl presents infinite possibilities. It is a conceptual blank canvas that can be any shape, size, colour or gender. It can be functional or decorative; high fashion or utility. A shawl has the power to comfort and make the wearer feel warm, safe and protected. Like a shell, but soft and forgiving. Being wrapped in a fabulous shawl is a gentle and tender embrace.

Fringed prayer shawls feature in Judaism and there is now, particularly in the USA, a movement for knitting or crocheting a more generic ‘prayer shawl’ which is blessed and given to someone in need of comfort. I was reminded of this recently when I was contacted by Anne McCrudden about the Shawl Hugs project she has started. Shawl  Hugs is a project for anyone to make shawls for people who are going through a tough time “ they may be experiencing physical or mental health problems, going through bereavement or struggling in some way.”

“Shawls can be tangible symbols of love and support. They can be warm hugs of happiness and empathy; a place of escape to relax, rest and renew; something to hold on to when all else is slipping away. Wrapping another in a shawl made of your loving thoughts is a gift not only for the person who receives it, but for yourself as well.” 

shawl hugs

The project includes live workshop events where anyone can drop buy, learn to knit or crochet, pick up a pattern and get started on their own, unique, shawl. The next event is on Thursday 12th May and you can find out more about it here.

This is such a great way to connect with others, and in my own work at The Mercerie I also used a shawl, earlier this year, as a way to connect with people all over the world.

In February I launched my first on line CROCHET-ALONG which ran over 6 weeks and I was amazed and delighted by what happened. I loved watching the progress of so many variations of the Folklore Shawl. I was stunned by how fast some of you work (yes, that’s you Lee!) and thrilled to see so many different colour variations – take a look at some of the projects…..they are so beautiful.

I adore this blue version by Lee.

lees Shawl V1

Marion’s multicoloured version is just fabulous – I’m going to try this….

marions

Lee managed to make TWO!!!

Lee's 2

Heather was the first to finish…..

Heather's

Aimi hooked up her black and red version pretty quickly too.

Ami's

Oh – and here’s mine. Shamefully still unfinished!

green folklore

If you made a shawl as part of this CAL; wrap yourself up in it……and that’s a big hug from me to say THANK YOU!

 

 

Ps. I’m running a ‘Joining Motifs’ crochet workshop on May 14th if you’d like to give this pattern a go – but need a little help getting started.

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Art, Entropy and a Bobble Knit Bangle

I may have mentioned this before…but I really don’t look forward to winter.

I turn the clocks back with a heavy hand, and heart, making mental calculations of how many weeks until spring.

Yes, I know that Autumn can be a beautiful season, and there is much to celebrate with Michaelmas and Harvest Festivals, Halloween and Bonfire Night. But for me, especially this year, I inch towards November with a swarm of red admirals avoiding hibernation in the pit of my stomach as I watch Mother Nature slowly decay.

Melancholia, however, is not something I revel in and so today I am reminding myself that the darker months bring with them their own unique gifts.

During a recent walk around the Ted Ellis Nature Reserve at Wheatfen, on the Norfolk Broads I was greeted by thousands of bright and cheery little beacons of colour in the hedgerows, undergrowth and trees. Nature was bedecked in her most brilliant, yet transient, jewellery and her ebony and ruby red beads shone in the October sun.

Wheatfen 2

Wheatfen

Wheatfen 4

Her seasonal decorations will leave no trace; they are biodegradable, environmentally friendly and carry the seeds of a new generation. They cost nothing, are labour free and won’t be exhumed from a landfill site in 1000 years from now.

I love my craft and the community of makers I feel a part of – but I make no apologies for not feeling the urge to yarn bomb a tree, or decorate a hedgerow with knit graffiti.

I can’t help it – I am hot-wired with the Modernist Manifesto. Beauty in Function and Ornament is Crime are carved into my heart and, for me, the natural process of entropy, brings with it its own poetic, unadorned, beauty.

I know a place where nature and art encounter each other perfectly, and it’s in the work of Anja Gallaccio.

A carpet of 10,000 decaying roses; 2,000 gerberas gradually decomposing and trees strung with apples shamelessly performing their entropic autobiographies.

red on green

Image creditgallaccio 3Image credit 
gallaccio 2Image credit

This is the work that stops me in my tracks. This is what reminds me that life is short, time is precious, nature is beautiful…..and art is profound.

So I’m going to stop looking at the clock, drag my eyes away from my naval, and look again at the big picture……

Wheatfen Broad

I’m feeling inspired. Now where’s that lovely red wool?

red wool

I’m going to make a bobble knit bangle just as soon as I’ve climbed off my soap box.

red bobble knit bangle

 

Look out for Issue 25 of The Mercerie Post – I’ll include the pattern for the bangle…..it’s super simple!

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The Folklore Shawl CAL

I’m so excited!!

I’m going to be running The Mercerie’s very first CAL project in 2016 – and it’s going to be our gorgeous Folklore Shawl. WAHAY!!

It will be launching in the new year as a series of 4 crochet patterns that I will email directly to you over a period of 6 weeks.

Worked in our own gorgeous DK merino yarn this shawl has two very different colour ways to choose from and we will be selling yarn bundles for each colour option  in our online shop very soon.

I’ll be posting further details on how you can sign up, so come back soon or sign up to our newsletter and I’ll tell you all about it…..

BLACK COLOUR OPTION

Folklore Shawl CALCrochet Shawl CAL

WHITE COLOUR OPTION

Folklore Shawl CAL

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