Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Outlines of Spring

The approach of Spring is a miraculous time, as the earth wakes from its brown-and-grey slumber and begins to dress itself for the year. An early thaw and a few sunny days are all it takes to effect a total transformation - from white and snowy, through wet and muddy, to suddenly, shyly green.

Of course "Spring" is a flexible term here in Wisconsin. It can mean this (photo taken two days ago, on my Sunday walk):

OR this:

(The snowy photo is from two weeks ago, but by all accounts we're in for more of it this week.)

In spring, the colours seem to wake with the earth; the buffs and browns of dead grasses look richer and more golden; red-twig dogwood glows more brightly than ever; and water, released from its icy prison, shimmers newly blue under the pale aquamarine sky.

Tree branches that have been stark and bare for months take on exciting new outlines that hint at the glories to come. Some look beaded:

Some are frothy with new twiggy growth:

 And some burst into fern-like silhouettes:

Even those trees that haven't yet burst into bloom are in an interesting condition, sporting suggestive bumps at the tips of their branches:

Spring has its own clouds, too (or so I like to think) - slender, almost flat-looking; horizontal rather than vertical, their undersides tinted a delicate grey, like the ones floating over this thicket:

(How did the moon sneak into that photo? I never noticed it at the time.)

A less-delicate outline of spring appears on the trail in front of me - the shadow of a crocheter who's spent too much time on her bum lately, and not enough time outdoors:

Let's look at more branches instead. :) Here, another tree reaches to the sky, with long slim fingers bedecked like those of a very old (or very young) woman wearing stacks of jewelled rings:

Look at the perfect symmetry of the buds as they tiptoe up the branches:

A cold west wind is blowing the flat clouds over the eastern horizon, and the moon now floats serenely over the withered grasses of the prairie restoration project:

The sky is full of contrails streaking from east to west and back again, proving that the migratory urge is strong in humans as well as in birds:

Closer to earth, I see bright lichen on tree trunks (and think of Jacquie's recent post, which has similar photos):

One last shot of the moon, this time starring in a photo of her own:

For some, the landscape may seem monotonous just now. But Nature the artist is hard at work on her sketch; she's finished the outlines, and is daily adding more detail. Soon she'll take brush and palette in hand; then all those bumps and beads and feathery bits will be touched with colour as she continues to paint the portrait of the year.


What colour is your Spring right now?

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Pear Blossom Edging ~ a Free Pattern for National Crochet Month

(I don't know about you, but every month is Crochet Month for me....)

Here's a dainty little edging pattern to celebrate the end of winter and the coming of spring. Inspired by thoughts of blossom-laden branches, the Pear Blossom Edging features a row of overlapping, shell-like “flowers” dangling from a band of lacy mesh:

Blossom motifs are worked individually, from the outside in, and linked as you go. Mesh and picot rows are then worked back-and-forth above the blossom row. To help prevent stitch distortion at the starting edge, a reverse larks head knot is used as the starting loop before the first blossom only. (What would a Mrs. M pattern be without some kind of odd technique?)

Use the Pear Blossom Edging to trim scarves, shawls, aprons, towels, tees, pillowcases, or anything else that takes your fancy. I sewed a simple tubular scarf from rayon knit fabric, and used some of my swatches to trim the ends:

Perfect for spring!

Materials Needed for Edging

   • Small amounts of desired yarn (for fine or sportweight yarn, allow about 4 yards per motif segment, and slightly more for heavier yarns)
   • Appropriate size hook
   • Marker or yarn scrap

Yarns used in samples

Aunt Lydia’s Fashion Crochet Size 3 (CYCA 1), White, hook US D-3/3.25mm
Planet Penny Cotton Colours (CYCA 2), Raspberry Cream (swatch), Blueberry Cream (scarf ends), hook US F-5/3.75mm

Project Notes: 

Gauge is not important for this pattern. If you want an idea of the pattern size, the pink swatch above (worked in light dk or sportweight cotton yarn) measures 3 3/4" long by 2 3/4" tall (each blossom is about 1 1/2" wide). Your edging size will vary according to your yarn, hook, and the number of motifs made.

Terms you will need to know: Back ridge of chain, front loop of chain

Special Stitches/Abbreviations

Reverse Larks Head Knot (see also Photos below): Lay yarn on a flat surface, with the skein on your left and the yarn tail on your right. Pick up yarn tail, loop it counterclockwise, and bring the tail down over the working yarn to form the shape of a “p”. Repeat with the working yarn, looping it clockwise to make a backwards “p” just to the left of the first “p”. Fold the looped parts together (like you’re closing the covers of a book) to make a double loop. Insert your hook sideways through the double loop, and gently snug the yarn against the hook. (Yarn should wrap around the hook like a scarf that has been folded in half, with the ends tucked through the fold.)

Cluster (this is actually a dc/sctog): Yarn over, insert hook into indicated stitch, pull up a loop, yarn over and draw through 2 loops on hook, insert hook into same stitch, pull up a loop, yarn over and draw through all loops on hook.

Dc5tog: *Yarn over, insert hook into next indicated stitch, pull up a loop, yarn over and draw through 2 loops on hook.* Rep from * 4 times (6 loops now on hook), yarn over and draw through all loops on hook.

Edc (extended double crochet): Yarn over, insert hook into indicated stitch, pull up a loop, ch 1, (yarn over and draw through 2 loops on hook) twice.

2EdcCl (2 extended double crochet cluster): *Yarn over, insert hook into indicated stitch, pull up a loop, ch 1, yarn over and draw through 2 loops on hook. Rep from * (3 loops now on hook), yarn over and draw through all loops on hook.

Picot: [Single crochet, chain 3, single crochet] in same space.

2dcCl (2 double crochet cluster): *Yarn over, insert hook into indicated stitch, pull up a loop, yarn over and draw through 2 loops on hook. Rep from * (3 loops now on hook), yarn over and draw through all loops on hook.


First blossom motif: Leaving a 4”-6” tail, make Reverse Larks Head knot on hook.
Ch 1 to secure knot, being careful not to tighten the loops.
*Ch 5, make Cluster in back ridge of 5th chain from hook.
Rep from * 4 times; place marker (if desired) in last cluster made.
Ch 2 and rotate work to right (the ch-5 loops should now be at the bottom of your work). Notice that there is a “hole” or space above each cluster, where the back ridge has been stretched open by working into it.
Dc5tog across, inserting hook into the 5 open back ridge spaces.
Ch 5 tightly, slip st in larkshead knot (inserting hook sideways through both strands of knot), ch 10 tightly, turn (WS now facing), slip stitch in marked cluster. (Do not slip stitch in ch-5 space.)

Regular blossom motifs: With normal tension, ch 5, turn (RS now facing).
Inserting hook through back ridge and front loop of 5th chain from hook, make Cluster.
*Ch 5, make Cluster in back ridge of 5th chain from hook.
Rep from * 3 times; place marker (if desired) in last cluster, and rotate work to right.
Ch 2, dc5tog as before across the open spaces.
Ch 5 tightly, slip st in previous ch-10 space, ch 10 tightly, turn (WS now facing), slip stitch in marked cluster.

Repeat regular blossom motifs until edging is desired length, ending your final motif with [ch 9, sc in cluster]. Work mesh rows as follows:

Mesh Row 1 (RS): [Ch 3, turn, edc in sc at base of ch (counts as 2EdcCl)], ch 1, sc in ch-10 sp.
*Ch 4, sc in same ch-10 space, chain 4, sc in next ch-10 space.
Rep from * across motifs, ending w/sc in final ch-10 sp.
Ch 4, sc in same ch-10 sp, ch 1, 2EdcCl in larks head knot.

Mesh Row 2 (WS): Ch 1, turn, sc in cluster, ch 2,
make Picot in next ch-4 space and in each ch-4 sp across,
ch 2, sc in cluster.

Mesh Row 3 (RS): [Ch 2, turn, dc in sc at base of ch], ch 2, sc in next picot ch-sp.
*Ch 4, sc in next picot ch-space. Rep from * across, ending w/sc in last picot ch-sp;
ch 2, sk 2 ch, 2dcCl in sc.

Mesh Row 4 (WS): Ch 1, turn, sc in cluster, ch 3, sc in ch-2 sp,
make Picot in next ch-4 sp and in each ch-4 sp across,
sc in ch-2 sp, ch 3, sc in cluster.

Mesh Row 5 (RS): Ch 3, turn, sc in next picot ch-sp,
*ch 3, sc in next picot ch-sp. Rep from * across, ending w/sc in last picot ch-sp.
Ch 1, hdc in sc.

Mesh Row 6 (WS): Ch 2, turn, 2 hdc in ch-1 sp,
*3 hdc in next ch-3 sp across, 2 hdc in next ch-3 sp. Rep from * across, ending w/2 hdc in corner ch-3 sp.

Cut yarn and weave in ends. Block edging and apply to anything that needs a touch of crochet. :)

Some Helpful Photos

Making the Larks Head Knot:

Starting the first Blossom motif:

Finishing the first Blossom Motif:

Where to insert your hook to make the first Cluster of the next (and following) blossom(s):

Second blossom nearly complete:

How to end the final motif (when your edging is long enough and you're ready to start the mesh rows):

Making the First Mesh Row (top photo); completed Mesh Rows (bottom photo):

Remember, you can make your edging as long or short as you like by adding or subtracting flower motifs.

This pattern will be featured on Underground Crafter's NatCroMo podcast of March 17th. Many thanks to Marie Segares for putting this series together!

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You may do whatever you like with the items you make from this pattern, but you may not sell the pattern or reproduce the text without permission. (Links to this post are welcome.) If you make these for sale, please credit the designer.

If you have any questions about this pattern, or find any mistakes (it happens all the time), don't be shy: ask or tell in the comment box below, or contact me in Ravelry (where I'm MrsMicawber).

Thanks for viewing, and happy National Crochet Month!

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Monday, March 7, 2016

Addicted to Yarn

Imagine a yarn den, where women loll in comfortable chairs, eyes fixed dreamily on the needles or hooks moving rhythmically in their hands. Fibers of all kinds spill from their laps, and trail exotic or homely lengths across the floor. Quiet attendants, soft of voice and foot, offer freshly-wound cakes of yarn to those whose stock is depleted. The air is redolent of lanolin and coffee, punctuated by flowery whiffs of tea. In the rough world outside, there are dishes to be washed, bills to be paid, floors to be scrubbed - but no one who frequents the yarn den minds such mundane tasks. All that matter here are stitch, gauge, and project. To the yarn addict, the world is indeed well lost for yarn.

What opium was to the Victorian era, what alcohol or medication is to our own, yarn is to me.

Yarn - or, to be precise, working with yarn - is my creative outlet, my treat at the end of a long day, my mental relaxation. It's the way I pass time in waiting rooms and airports, and my therapy in times of stress. What could be more soothing than crocheting a granny square or working stockinette in the round? Watching stitch after stitch slide off the needles or hook with comfortable regularity, though the world about me be crumbling - this is peace and sanity.

Of course every addiction has its downside. Yarn is so absorbing and forgiving, so quiet and kind. It's easy to spend more time with it than I ought, while neglecting more important things such as husband, grocery-shopping and cooking. When the design fit is on, I can (and do) spend hours on end playing happily with the same few yards of the stuff, lost to all around me as I struggle to perfect a stitch pattern or refine a technique.

"Addiction" may, in fact, be the wrong word for how I feel about yarn and yarn crafts; "obsession" is probably more accurate. Either way, there's a bright side: unlike many of the addictions that plague society, making things with yarn is actually good for our health*. And, as my sister says, yarn is cheaper than therapy.

Those of us who love yarn - and love working with it - know that every time we knit or crochet something, we add a little beauty to the world; we wrap loved ones and needy people in warmth; we give away a small piece of ourselves. So this is one addiction (or obsession) that I won't be too worried about. (But I do need to strive for moderation in this, as in all things.)

Could somebody please pass me that hook?

To read more about the health benefits of knitting and crochet, see these articles:


Speaking of knitting and crochet, here are some recent projects of mine:

1. A Triumph-ant Hat for Mr. M, featuring the modified logo of his favourite motorcycle brand:

The grey yarn is a sportweight, heavenly-soft 100% alpaca from a local farm; the red is Cascade Yarns Heritage Sock. The colourwork band is worked in stranded knitting, with duplicate stitching used for the "swoosh" that runs from the R to the H. It's lined with a foldover hem for extra warmth.

A BIG "Thank You" is owed to Techknitter, whose excellent posts on horizonal fold lines in knittingsewing shut hems and facings, and using Kitchener stitch to finish a hat top, gave invaluable help and guidance in the design and construction of this hat.

2. In progress: a new crochet edging, designed specifically for National Crochet Month:

Stay tuned for the free pattern - I'll be posting it sometime in the next week, with instructions for using it to trim a simple fabric scarf. This pattern will also be featured on the March 17th episode of Underground Crafter's (Inter)National Crochet Month podcast series.


Wishing a happy National Crochet Month to all my crocheting friends - and happy National Craft Month to us all!

How are you celebrating?

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