Crocheting Persian tile blanket

I’m one of those people who can’t just sit and watch TV without doing something with my hands. In the summer this is usually stitching shibori patterns on scarves to be pulled up tight before being dipped in the indigo vat. But on long dark evenings, wool and needles seem to be more appropriate. And it’s so relaxing not having to make any creative decisions – just following a pattern.

Normally I would regard myself as a knitter rather than a crocheter, but I couldn’t resist this crocheted blanket pattern by Janie Crow, called Persian Tile. I bought the kit with yarn and pattern at the Knitting and Stitching Show in October, and it’s kept me going through all those long dark evenings. ūüôā

I wouldn’t regard myself as an advanced crocheter. To start with, I had to revise the difference between double, half treble and treble crochet, and I had to refer to Youtube to find out about double treble crochet, which I’d never heard of.

The total blanket consists of 16 octagons, 9 more conventional granny squares, 12 half triangles for the edges and 4 quarter triangles for the corners. For the octagons I found it easier to crochet them all at the same time, ie do all the centres, then all the round 3s, round 4s etc, as it created a rhythm and once I’d got it I didn’t need to keep referring to the pattern.¬†But it also meant that it took ages before I actually finished a single octagon!

The worst part was weaving in all the ends. The colour changed on every round, and some motifs, like the red and orange fans, were crocheted individually, so it seemed to take as long to sew in all the ends as to crochet the octagon! The triangles were also fiddly, because they were quite small.

It’s difficult to photograph the whole blanket, even though it’s not very large (about 110cm square).¬†But it’s the perfect size for snuggling on the sofa on chilly January evenings in a draughty Victorian house. ūüėČ

Happy new year!


Christmas sales and workshops

A quick heads up on a couple of sales I’m taking part in before Christmas.

sprout flyerFirst up is two weeks with Women of the Cloth at Sprout Community Arts in Streatham. As well as selling our work, my sister WOTC¬†Carol and Joan¬† will be running workshops in felting, crochet, weaving and embroidery. We’ll also have a couple of guest artists, one of whom (Janet Thompson) will be running a workshop on needlefelted dogs.

The sales and workshops run from 27 November to 10 December. The private view is on Wednesday 27 November, 6.30-9pm – everyone welcome!

Sprout Community Arts is at 74 Moyser Road, Furzedown, London SW16 6SQ.

DIGGIN_DESIGN_A5_FLYER_B_V3_no crop_Page_1Then on Sunday 1 December Carol and I will be at the Garden Museum’s Diggin’ Design, a great collection of artists and designers offering sustainable, eco-friendly gifts. There will also be animals in residence from Vauxhall City Farm!

Open 10am-5pm, £3 entry on the door (includes access to exhibitions, permanent collection and beautiful 17th century knot garden)

The Garden Museum is at 5 Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1 7LB.

I’ll be selling lots of upcycled scarves (of course) – including this gorgeous silk wrap. This was a plain red sample by Maria Grachvogel that was in the job lot of scarves that I successfully bid for at Kerry Taylor. It’s difficult to photograph because of its translucency – but take my word for it, it’s beautiful. ūüėČ

red flower wrap

There will also be felt and some smaller bits and pieces, like these crocheted lavender sachets (dried lavender kindly donated by my friend Judith).

lavender sachets

Chelsea MA Textile Design show 2013

Given its rich textile history, it’s no surprise that India was a common source of inspiration for this year’s MA students of textile design at the Chelsea College of ¬†Art and Design Postgraduate Show.

The work of Kathryn Lewis particularly appealed, as her collaboration with Jabbar Khatri, an artisan based in Gujarat, used bandhani binding to shape garments, resulting in textures not dissimilar to nuno felting. Not very practical, perhaps, as the knots are left in, but a nice example of bandhani being used for form rather than pattern.

Kathryn Lewis

Kinza Foudil Mattoo displayed some contemporary adaptations of traditional ajrak block printed fabrics, based on a trefoil motif, using digital printing.


Upcycling/using waste or found materials was another common theme. My favourite pieces here were by Kaixi Lin. Inspired by Japanese boro – heavily patched and repaired indigo cloth – she collected discarded clothing from her family, and unravelled and reused the yarns to weave new fabrics.


Lucinda Chang combines textiles and ceramics. Inspired by coral after a visit to the London Aquarium, she knitted, crocheted or stitched waste textiles into underwater forms before dipping them into casting slip.

lucinda chang

Zahra Jaan went to the other extreme, producing disposable fashion that you wear two or three times and then throw away. Made from airlaid paper ¬†(described as “fluff pulp bonded with air”), these boldly patterned garments and their packaging are completely biodegradable.

zahra jaan

Maria Afanador Leon‘s impossibly delicate crocheted pieces were stimulated by her concern for the fragility of culture and nature and the environmental issues related to consumption.

maria afanador leon

Judging by the names, there was a big Chinese contingent on the course – around a third of the students by my reckoning. Yijin Sun focused on her Chinese heritage with a selection of monochrome garments with interesting pleats and prints that looked as if they had been created in a heat press.

Yijin Sun

Yuning Wang’s innovative weaving with a metal weft resulted in garments that wearers can shape themselves.

Yuning Wang

Finally, Lin Zhu‘s charming needlefelted creations gave a certain oriental twist to a technique that I don’t normally associate with China.

Lin Zhu

The Chelsea Postgraduate Summer Shows run until 12 September.

Inspired by the V&A

Every year the Victoria & Albert Museum holds an art competition, called “Inspired by” ¬†for people on part-time courses. Entrants have to create a piece inspired by work in the collections of the V&A or the Museum of Childhood. Selected works are displayed in the relevant museum in October.

I’m planning to enter some of the indigo felted vessels I’ve made. The pieces that have inspired me are a stoneware sake set by Yamada Hikaru made around 1979, and a 17th-century blue and white porcelain sake bottle, maker unknown.

I love the organic simplicity of the forms of the vessels in the sake set, and I thought I would use indigo dye and shibori, both traditional Japanese techniques, to add the blue and white element.

You’ve already seen some of these, but here’s a photo of the final set. The two larger felt vessels are ombre dyed with indigo, while the five smaller ones are nuno felted with a different yarn or fabric, also dyed with indigo.

Larger felt vessel, ombre dyed with indigo
Smaller felt vessel, also ombre dyed with indigo
Nuno felt pot with silk velvet
Nuno felt pot with cotton muslin
Nuno felt pot with silk chiffon
Nuno felt pot with ombre-dyed crocheted lambswool
Nuno felt pot with cotton gauze

Just have to fill in the entry form now – probably the hardest part! ¬†ūüėČ

Still blue

The loss adjuster came yesterday and said that he would be sending a company round to install some heaters and dehumidifiers to help speed up the drying process (the walls of the hall are still sopping and the kitchen floor is still damp 10 days after the flood). The wall and ceiling paper in the dining room (aka my studio) have been the worst affected, so it looks as if there will be considerable disruption there over the next few weeks.

In the meantime I plough on – what else is there to do? Yesterday I ombre dyed my latest vessel. It’s not as even as I intended, but the unevenness adds extra texture, like a ceramic glaze, so I’m happy with it.

I’ve also made some smaller nuno pots, again dyed with indigo. The first used silk chiffon, the second crocheted yarn that had been ombre dyed.

3D nuno felting

I’m currently working on a series of spherical felt samples, experimenting with different techniques to introduce additional texture to the form.

I started with straightforward nuno, enclosing the plastic resist with silk cut from an old scarf,  felting over it, cutting it open and turning it inside out:

I also tried knitting with strips of silk scarf knotted together and then felting it – on a flat piece this time. ¬†I put some wisps of wool over part of the knitting to help it felt in, but it didn’t really need it. The silk knitting felted in very well, but I think the stitches needed to be more open to get the contrast between the felt and the silk:

So then I used crochet – first with 100% wool (Rowan Felted Tweed) and then with a mystery yarn donated by a friend. I suspect it’s synthetic, because it’s quite shiny, but I thought I’d still give it a go, because the contrast in texture would be very interesting.

The wool version did felt in, though it also went quite hairy. The other version didn’t felt in, but seems quite happy sitting on top of the felt. I may try stitching on top just to catch it in and make sure it stays in place.

I’ve got some lambswool yarn that is used at Morley for machine knitting – I’m going to try using that to see if I get a less hairy finish.

African hats at the British Museum

In the same room as the wonderful Benin plaques at the British Museum is a small display of African hats. No wonder they are easily overlooked.

They include some funky crocheted cotton hats from the Cameroon grasslands:

Also a Tunisian chechia, knitted in 2-ply merino, washed in hot soapy water until it shrinks to half the size (the photo below shows the original knitted hat above and the felted one below):

After felting, the surface of the hat is raised by carding with a tool made from a teasel:

Finally, there’s a fascinating¬†hat made from spiders’ webs, cane, twine and ostrich feathers made by the San people of southern Africa in the early 20th century:

Talking of webs, a new V&A display has just opened that will showcase the world’s largest pieces of cloth made from spider silk. Just as long as they don’t have any of the producers lurking in the corners…

Circles scarf

What I like about this scarf is that it looks as if it’s made from hundreds of circles sewed together. In fact, it’s made in long strips of circles, which are connected with slip stitch as you go along. So there’s no sewing – only a few ends to tidy up at the end. Which is a relief – I hate having to sew in lots of ends.

And it’s worked in a multicoloured yarn, so you don’t have to keep changing colours all the time.

I found the pattern, by Linda Permann, in an old copy of Inside Crochet magazine, which I picked up at a market stall, but it’s also on Ravelry. I used Silk Garden Sock Yarn by Noro in blue, black, lime, and grey.