A crochet production line

Some more stitching deadlines have been met so there’s time for a bit of crochet again! I haven’t tried out the poppy yet in more appropriate colours although I do have them (Patons’s 4-ply in red & green & black, but also a lighter green & coral & dark brown for a more muted version) but those colours are also just right for some interesting Christmas wreath patterns I found online.

For some reason, however, I decided to first try out one of the patterns in peach and blue. I’m not absolutely sure why; it may have something to do with not wasting the “proper” colours on a trial piece. Whatever my reason, it gave me an idea of how the pattern worked, and also showed very clearly that peach and blue are not very good colours for a Christmas wreath.

Small crochet wreath in the wrong colours

Incidentally, there are also two other patterns which I would like to try but they require some plastic rings which I don’t have in my stash; they are now on their way here so you should see samples of those larger wreaths soon.

Back to the small wreath. The original pattern started the decorative running stitch from the front, then tied the ends in a bow. I tried this and it looked horrible, possibly because I was working with a double thread. I did find some patterns for small crocheted bows as well, but neither of them looked particularly good on the wreath, so I settled for plain running stitch and beads.

Small crochet wreath in the wrong colours with a horrible bow A small and a tiny crochet bow

Now every December our Embroidery Circle goes out for a Christmas lunch, and we usually exchange Christmas cards on that occasion. Wouldn’t it be nice for a change, I thought, to take a little ornament for everyone instead? And wouldn’t this little wreath be just the thing? After all, I’d only need eleven.

That was yesterday late afternoon. The Christmas lunch was today.

So last night after dinner (8pm) I set out to crochet eleven wreath bases, using the two greens I had recently obtained. Both colours looked good, and they actually stitched up (crocheted up?) very quickly – by 11pm they were all finished, in spite of some assistance from Lexi the Helpful Lap Cat.

The base wreaths in two shades of green

This morning I set out to decorate them. Because I’m not tying the running stitch into a bow, the ends need to be finished off in some other way; some instruction I’d seen with another pattern suggested knotting them together, then working them into the back of the crochet. This looked fine from the front, but left the back rather untidy, especially with the thread used for attaching the beads showing as well. So on the second wreath I didn’t knot but just worked the ends into the back, and also took the beading thread through the stitches when travelling from bead to bead, which led to a much more presentable backside – very important for an ornament!

A back that's not really showable A rather more acceptable back

I then had another go at the bow, and found that if I used a single thread and kept the loops relatively small, it did work *yay*. In fact, it worked with a double thread as well as long as I tied the bow using only one of them, and fed the ends of the other one to the back to be worked in. Not only that, but the bow ones turned out to have the tidiest backs of all. Progress indeed.

A bow that works A bow that works with running stitch in two colours The tidiest back of all

Trying to find ever better ways of finishing off, as well as the lunatic idea that it would be much nicer if they were all different, meant that this part of the process took rather longer than it need have if I’d picked one simple decoration and stuck with that for the entire batch. Even so, my production line was quite efficient on the whole (even though I did add two more types of beads after the picture below was taken).

A crochet production line

And so I did make the deadline, and had eleven different ornaments to take with me to the Christmas lunch.

11 different Christmas wreath ornaments

Which turned out to be one too few, as I’d forgotten to count a lady who no longer comes to our meetings but does still come to the Christmas lunch. Oops. But as a couple of members had had to cancel because of health issues, I could give her an ornament anyway, and now I just need to crochet an extra one to send to one of the absent members. Oh, and another one to give to a friend who is a keen needlewoman and whom we’re meeting for Christmas dinner tomorrow night. Then it’s back to a bit of embroidery, and if I survive two Christmas meals within 48 hours *groan* I hope to post a thread comparison report some time soon!

A flutter of butterflies, and a fluffy failure

I’ve definitely got butterflies on the brain at the moment! It started out with this one, based on a tutorial posted on Sarah Jayne’s Bella Coco blog – worked in tapestry wool because I had been given some and thought I’d try it out (it’s OK but not particularly easy to work with, and it feels a bit stiff and rough). The second picture shows the two layers of the butterfly; it’s basically an octagon that won’t lie flat because it’s got too many stitches in it, folded double. A safety pin wiggled through the back makes it into a very wearable brooch, although unlike Sarah Jayne I don’t sew the safety pin down – this way it can easily be “un-brooched” and used in a different way if the owner wishes to (sewn on to a hair band, for example).

A mini butterfly Seen from the side the two layers show well A safety pin turns the butterfly into a brooch The butterfly worn as a brooch

After one more butterfly in tapestry wool I settled on the odds and ends of 4-ply I had found in a bag at the bottom of my chest of Stitchy Things That Might Come In Useful One Day, and that worked very well with a 4mm hook. Incidentally, let me digress for a moment on the subject of 4-ply and other terms. Having learnt my crochet in the Netherlands I occasionally get hopelessly entangled not only in stitch names, which can mean two different things depending on whether the pattern uses US or UK terms, but also in yarns (sounds rather fun actually, getting entangled in yarn smiley), trying to work out whether UK double knitting is US worsted or light worsted, and how either of these match up to the Dutch yarns I have which are graded by metres per 100 grams!

Anyway, let us return to butterflies. Because I like small things I started wondering whether this pattern would work in crochet cotton as well. Well, it does. It comes out a lot smaller, very dainty and lacy, and has already been much admired at my stitching group. It is also a lot fiddlier than the yarn version! I may make a few for special people who would really like them, but for the Craft Fair I will stick with the original version – which may look pretty gigantic side by side with the tiddly version, but is only about 2″ across the wing tips.

Two sizes of butterfly

Encouraged by this successful experiment I decided to try another one; in my bag of left-over baby wool there was a ball of bright yellow fluffy yarn, which consists of lots of short “hairs” on a thinnish thread and which I thought might look quite interesting if used for the outer row of the butterfly. After a bit of a fight trying to work six double/treble crochets into one stitch while the individual stitches and the hook are somewhat obscured by the yellow fluff (making it very difficult to see whether you’ve done five or six stitches) it became woefully clear that “interesting” was the best that could be said about it. There will be no further fluffy butterflies (though it would probably make very effective caterpillars…)

A misconceived fluffy butterfly

So back to the 4-ply (and a bit of DK), and here is the flutter of butterflies ready for Saturday’s Craft Fair (one or two others may join them if I have time):

A dozen butterflies winging their way to the Craft Fair