Crochet

Favourites from Four Years of Crochet, Part 4

As I mentioned in Part 3 of the series, over the course of about two years I grew to be more interested in patterns that helped me learn and develop in my ability to crochet. 

Throughout these first steps my sister was a key encourager as I worked through various projects, unsure of their outcome. Therefore, it was a real privilege to make a blanket for her first baby. However, it also led to a huge amount of anxiety as I wanted to do well for her, my brother-in-law and my nephew. To be honest, this was part of a perfectionist attitude, which I’d long tried to shed, but remained stubbornly persistent. This meant that although I had decided what to make, bought the pattern and even the yarn, I struggled to start; adding additional time pressure that I obviously didn’t need. I made the decision to overcome this feeling through support from my friends and family and made a start on the pattern. 

As I’ve explained previously, I love bright colours and so I chose to make a tweak to the base colours in my Zoo Blanket to a vivid red and green – I’ve linked the original here. I had also read that babies are drawn to contrasting colours and wanted to play a little with this.

I needed a wide array of colours for the blanket so reviewed two options for yarn: Stylecraft and Deramores. I found the Deramores Studio DK had a green which was closest to the base colour I had in mind, therefore my choice was made. The yarn was lovely to work with once I began. 

The base of the blanket is fairly simple, 6 large squares, made out of rows of half double crochet (hdc US). Due to an extremely busy time at work, crocheting the squares was a real blessing; a time to relax and unwind. However, I am prone to boredom in monotony and this was no exception! 😉 Thankfully, I just completed the squares before this was completely set in and began to work on the appliques. 

The appliques required a completely different approach to the squares; without concentration it was easy to make a mistake and therefore I did a lot of ‘frogging’ (a crochet term that means that you pull stitches out to rectify a mistake – ‘rip it, rip it’ back). However, when I was focussed, the pattern was easy to follow. Each applique is made from several pieces, with various colours. At the start I often found the yarns hopelessly tangled, so began to sort each applique in its own food bag – a tip I found online. 

Each applique was constructed by combining the individual pieces following precise instructions within the pattern. The appliques (which now resembled an animal’s sillouette each) were then sewn on to a base square. Unfortunately, I hadn’t yet come across Teri Heathcote’s guide about to do this, so the back ended up very messy. I also had the challenge of joining the squares to each other – not something I enjoy.

I actually finished this blanket (without the backing or border) at my sister’s house. 

However, I found that the anxiety I had felt at the beginning returned full force. So much so, that when I walked downstairs to show my sister the blanket, I almost ran out of the room after handing it over! The only thing that stopped me was my husband’s hand on my back. Despite my fears, the blanket was received extremely well- I think it was then I was first encouraged to consider making crochet a business venture. 😃

I added the backing fabric (a beautiful elephant themed cotton) and a simple edging in the next few weeks and I finally discovered blocking! This involves using steam to relax the stitches and also allows crisp edges to be achieved by shaping the piece. 

All in all this is was the most (emotionally) difficult and most precious piece I’ve made so far. I am proud of overcoming fears and anxiety to complete it. I’m sure you’ll agree it turned out well 😄

Over the last couple of years I’ve continued on Sophie’s Universe and had some small projects. However, the biggest piece I’ve completed recently was extremely precious. It was the first commission I’d taken on and was a real celebration. I’ll talk about this project in the next part of the series. 

If you’ve been enjoying the series so far, please let me know through the comments below and click follow if you’d like to keep up with the posts. 

Crochet

Favourites from Four Years of Crochet, Part 3

In Part 2 I mentioned that the practise Owl Obsession motif spurred me on to try another pattern. This was also the first Crochet-A-Long (CAL) that I had decided to join. CAL parts are usually released once a week, with a group of people each making the same project, finishing the complete project at the  same time. In my case, the CAL was hosted by a Facebook group I follow, Official CCC Social Group.

The pattern was designed by Dedri Uys of Look at What I Made and is called Sophie’s Universe. It’s a stunning, large blanket made with intricate stitches and lots of texture. The beauty of the pattern is that each part is set up as a tutorial. Therefore, despite starting the pattern having never done anything as complicated, I have been able to make the blanket fairly easily.

As usual for yarn selection and particularly following the number of ends I had to weave in for the Owl Obsession, I wanted an option that meant the least sewing! Therefore, I selected a long variegated yarn that I found in Aldi. It’s a beautiful blue, yellow and grey, Aran yarn that is very easy to work.

 

Despite my best intentions, having started this project in January 2015 (when the pattern was first released), I have to confess that it is not yet finished. It has become a go to project in between several others. I want to mention here that there are crocheters that have completed the pattern in a few weeks; for me it’s a relaxing, eye-opening project so I’ve chosen to slow down and take as long as I need – there have been times when I’ve chastised myself for the pace, but I’ve grown to understand it’s become a familiar friend on my crochet journey, so I’ve welcomed the warmth (it’s now as large as a lap blanket, approx. 4.5ft by 4.5ft) and comfort it provides.

This is a pattern I would recommend to anyone who wants to expand their crochet skills; it has really widened my range and helped me to understand the anatomy of stitches much better. It has also helped me be far more fearless when picking projects. When you’re learning, you suddenly are happier to learn more! 😃

I have also recently bought the pattern book and continue to work on it when I can, however most of my yarn is currently packed as we’re about to move house. So, as she (Sophie) has been a long-enduring friend, so she will continue a little longer… I suppose she’ll be a life-long companion once complete, as she’s made for myself and my family – you’ll notice most of my projects are given away, so this is rather special.

I hope this post has inspired you to take on projects that are beyond your current capacity, knowing that you will grow, much as I have done.

Next time, I’ll be writing about the project that made me most emotionally anxious, but also the one I’ve been most privileged to give away.

Again, if you’d like to follow, please click the button below and please leave a comment – I’d love to know what you think about the series so far. Thank for reading, until next time 😊!

Crochet

Favourites from Four Years of Crochet, Part 2

In my last post, Part 1 of this series, I started by looking back at the first ‘big’ project I’d ever made. 

The second is a baby blanket made for another set of dear friends. This time round I was looking for more of a challenge, having grown in my ability and the realisation that I can become easily bored by continually repeated patterns!

The Owl Obsession pattern by the The Hat & I caught my eye. It’s full of colour and required me to explore new skills, as I’d made little that required joining motifs at that point.

The pattern is brilliantly written, with a lot of pictures, which helped immensely given that I was a relative newbie. The blanket is made by making several different shaped motifs and joining them to eventually create a square. 

I recall doing a practise octagon/owl motif at my sister’s house over the Christmas period. I used some stash yarn, while I waited for the Stylecraft Merry-go-round yarn I had ordered to make the rainbow section. 

I chose Stylecraft yarn as it was relatively inexpensive, the merry-go-round had the rainbow colours I desired, as well as long colour changes. I knew it would be soft as it was called ‘Wondersoft’ yarn. Stylecraft is also known for its softness and durability in the standard range, so I expected no difference in the Wondersoft. I also wanted something easy to wash and this was ideal as it was on acrylic base.

I found at the time that the gradient-type yarn suggested in the pattern was hard to find in the UK, however several different options are available now. In the blanket below you can see some harsh colour changes which the gradient yarn suggested would avoid. 

Once I’d made all the motifs, I now discovered the challenge of weaving in all those ends and joining several pieces together! I found this the most difficult part of the project, since I didn’t have that much confidence in my sewing skills. I pushed through the fear that I would ruin the project, and if I say so myself, I triumphed! 😃

I often add unique elements to each project, giving a personal touch to a widely available pattern. Here, I wanted to have a little fun with the embroidery on the eyes, creating some with sleepy expressions, looking sideways, etc. I decided to embroider the eyes rather than use buttons, for safety’s sake.

The blanket, as above, took about two months to make, with me working on it on and off between work and other projects. 

All in all, this was a difficult project, but again spurred me on (following my Christmas practise) to try the pattern I’ll discuss in Part 3. 

If you’d like to know when the next post is up, click follow below. Comment to let me know what you think of the series so far. 😃

Crochet

Favourites from Four Years of Crochet, Part 1

This series of posts is a look into my own history with crochet; an opportunity to celebrate the projects that give me great joy.

My first ‘big’ project was a baby blanket made for dear friends. I didn’t want to do anything too complicated, as then and now I detest weaving in ends. Therefore, patterns that required joining or several colour changes were out. I had also decided that I didn’t want to do a bog standard thing (you’ll notice a theme through the posts on this topic) 😋.

I eventually stumbled across this pattern, for a circular swirl blanket:

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/swirl-blanket-2

I like pattern and colour, so didn’t want a simple solid block. I also wanted to stick to neutrals as I didn’t know if the baby was a boy or a girl. I found a beautiful variegated yarn called Hayfield Baby Changes DK, which gave a self striping effect.

The project took me approximately three months, working on it in the evenings. It’s a fairly simple pattern, mainly single crochets (US) and chains, challenging enough at the time.

Here’s some pictures of the final piece:

I hadn’t discovered the marvels of blocking at the time, so it’s not as flat and crisp as I’d look to finish a project now.

It’s still well used by my friends though and makes me smile each time I see it.

To be honest, I find that I’m giving a part of me when I make items for friends and family, particularly if I’ve selected the colours and pattern. I have a excited nervousness each time I hand something over, so it’s a real privilege that this blanket is still used so many years on.

Another point of pride and honour was to be asked by the designer to be one of the featured projects on her page for the pattern. It was a complete surprise; but wonderful all the same.

By this point I’d not only discovered the ‘kick’ of giving gifts, being recognised, but also the health benefits of crochet. It’s now well documented that the rhythm of knitting and crochet help to calm anxiety as the repetitive motion and focus on the stitches are akin meditation and mindfulness. For me, particularly in winter months, working with colour also lifts my mood.

I’ll explore this further in the next part where I’ll also be looking at another baby blanket, which this project spurred me on to try.

If you’d like to read more about this, please click follow below.

Crochet

History and Creativity in Crochet

I mentioned at the end of my last post Re-discovering My Creativity… that I wanted to explore the history of crochet and also consider whether the use of patterns within crochet deems it outside of the creative arts; a thought that I have heard espoused several times. 

From reading several sources primarily on the internet, it seems that the popularity of crochet in Europe grew remarkably in the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly when it became a past-time of Queen Victoria. Crochet made by Queen Victoria was even given as a gift to soldiers who had served in the second Boer War.

However, I was aware that there must be a history of crochet (or very similar craft) in Asian culture, as I’d heard family talk of it going back generations. All I could find about this on my search was this blog, which is a three part series on the history of crochet. It seems that no-one is really sure of the origin of crochet as we know it now, only that there are several possibilities of how it came about, one being Tambour. Tambour is a type of embroidery, making lace by pulling thread through mesh using a hook. This looks and sounds very similar to Aari Embroidery, which is often used to adorn sarees and make beautiful pieces such as this one from the Kotch region of Gujarat.

I am sure that these embroidered pieces were done by, ‘eye’ as well as by using a pattern, maybe a picture that was drawn over and over again on to several pieces of fabric. However, like crochet, I believe that the creativity in these pieces comes from the skill of the embroiderer; their choice of colour, base fabric and their ability to make the pattern come to life. As an analogy, (if you know me, you’ll be aware I love a good analogy!) I think of following a pattern as playing music, few would say that a beautifully performed piece carried no artistry because the notes were written by a composer, in this case, the skill of the musician is taken into account; why not for fibre-crafts, colouring or drawing?

I am not (yet) gifted in designing crochet, but my following a pattern still requires a dedication to the craft. For crochet, I believe there is art in the acts of teaching my hands to contort to various angles to have an even stitch tension (an art many struggle to conquer); spotting the right type of yarn to make a project – considering the texture and colour, including variegated (multi-coloured) options and bringing a vibrancy to the finished object, including knowing how to handle the new fabric, so that it appears it’s best. None of these things seems overly creative, but in my opinion the very act of dedicating oneself to a task, putting energy in to achieve a goal and/or pursuing things that may begin as ‘outside of one’s comfort zone’ are intrinsically creative; each of these activities creates new (healthy) neurological pathways in your brain.

This week (I was reminded on Facebook), was four years since I learnt to crochet. The first few weeks were a lesson in dealing with failure! I couldn’t work out how to get my hands to do the thing I needed, I couldn’t remember stitches etc. However, here is the first piece in the round I ever made; following this online course and guidance from my friends who were already familiar with the craft.

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Isn’t it awesome (even if I say so myself)? This piece carries a memory of overcoming perfectionism- to finally make something, anything that followed the pattern and resembled the picture shown was a massive achievement.

I hope that in the weeks coming you, too, have moments of victory, reminders that you can achieve and opportunities to create.

My intention over the next few posts is to share a few projects I’ve made since the coaster above and more places of inspiration. I hope to add a few more snippets about bullet journalling and drawing too. I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of the blog, let me know what you thought in the comments below.

 

 

 

Crochet, Introduction, Uncategorized

Re-discovering My Creativity…

As I explained in The Adventure Begins… I am looking to write this blog both as a way to express my creativity, but also to encourage others to tap into their own. This post is about my journey into re-discovering my creativity and some of the labels and boxes that restricted my ability to be creative.

As a teenager I had convinced myself that I could not, “do art”. In my mind you were either, “arty” or, “a science geek” – never the twain shall meet. I had simply forgotten that I had held many arty hobbies as a child; for example, friendship bracelet making, card making, playing the recorder, etc. I knew I had a love of science and went on to pursue this to degree level, putting “art” firmly in the court of my more gifted and obviously arty friends.

By the time I got to university, I did not connect myself with any kind of creativity or artistic flair. The divide seemed firm in my mind.
However, I increasingly discovered that science was an art; an interesting lab session when one of my colleagues turned the inside of a fume cupboard lime green proved that, a small mis-interpretation could lead to quite violent and vivid results!

I also discovered through my studies, that scientists (men and women like Ernest Rutherford, John Dalton and Dorothy Hodgkin) made breakthroughs in their field precisely because they were curious; they investigated, probed and delved deeper than those who had gone before them. Many scientists, having thought outside of traditional avenues to get to their insights, had to stand firm to their new understanding; often their bravery led to corroboration and further discovery. The way we understand the world now would not be possible without their creativity.

Following on a few years from this point, without really understanding why, I decided that I wanted to learn to paint. I was leaving a temporary job; moving to a job where I would use my degree in a work setting. My colleagues had kindly arranged to buy me a leaving gift – a beautiful set of oil paints and a canvas… but true to form, I got scared that, ‘I wasn’t creative enough for oils,’ and after about a week returned the paints to the shop, replacing them with an acrylic set. I painted, my first, just-give-it-a-go ‘work’ in 2010. I think I used every colour in the pack at least once!

IMG_20170810_215407

I didn’t really like the picture above and having had what I perceived as a failed attempt, I didn’t really pick up a paint brush for a few months. With the encouragement of my ‘artistic’ boyfriend (now my husband), I did try a few more paintings, gaining confidence each time. I still didn’t think of myself as creative, because unbeknownst to me, I had a ‘little lie’ of perfectionism living with me. This little lie has stolen so much of my life from me, and I think I have only very recently begun to shake it off, which is one of the reasons the blog is now up and running 🙂

My real moment of inspiration, and what now leads me to believe that I am creative, happened in ~2013 when I went to a local women’s event that some friends had helped to organise. Here, I was introduced to crochet. (NB: Not, “crotchet” like I initially assumed it was spelled, woops!)
Although I found it really difficult to grasp, I felt a real kindling of my spirit as I continued working the rows, having practiced for several weeks, I was eventually getting fairly even stitches. Since then, I think it would suffice to say that I have become quite literally hooked(!). I began in trepidation, unsure whether I would really stick it out, but decided that even if this was a whim for a while, I was having fun and therefore I would carry on anyway. Looking back almost four years later, I’m very glad I did so.

I have heard it said, that since crochet is usually done following a pattern, it’s not really creative. To be frank, I completely disagree with this sentiment.  Since this post is already rather long however, I will pick up that thought next time alongside a general post about crochet; a little bit of history of the craft and it’s benefits.

Wishing you a good few days ahead; if you want to know when the next post is up, don’t forget to follow the blog below. 😀

Bullet Journalling, Crochet, Introduction

The Adventure Begins…

This blog is a little adventure into the world of starting off a business and celebrating the beauty I see around me. Right now, I feel the trepidation of stepping off a boat onto an unfamiliar shoreline; excitement and wonderment, mixed with a bag full of nerves!

“Mayai”, literally translated from Swahili to English means, “Egg”. A very simple shape that on its own comes in a variety of subtly different colours, but can be adapted through decoration to suit any aesthetic, or equally, cooked to suit any taste.

Mayai Loves is born of a desire to share the things that brighten up my day; not including my family and friends, I find most often that these are pops of colour, bold prints and interesting shapes. I’ll often wonder around shops looking at shoes and handbags, most often the ones with a beautiful pattern like this one at Matalan: https://www.matalan.co.uk/product/detail/s2655426_c101/embroidered-backpack-black.

For many years, like so many I know, I told myself I lacked creativity and pigeon-holed the concept of ‘creativity’ into a small, narrow view. I believed that since I was not prolific with a paint brush, I was not creative. My intention with the blog is to explore this sense of creativity with my readers, the intention being that I may inspire you to dust off ‘creativity’ from the box into which it was discarded long ago. I hope this will in turn encourage you to don the tools which help you express this inherent goodness. If you hadn’t already guessed, I have a firm belief that everyone has a ‘creative side,’ as such, but we all need opportunities to discover it and fulfill it.

The idea of a blog and business came from friends and family, who have lovingly encouraged me to share my journey, mainly of making and giving crocheted items. I’ll be writing a post shortly about how I (re-)discovered my creative side and the intention for the rest of the blog is to celebrate some of the things I love, in the main, these will be focused on crochet, but expect to see some posts about food, interiors, art and even bullet-journalling.

I’m looking forward to going on this journey with you. If you’d like to keep up, please click on the follow button and let me know your thoughts and comments below.

Have a lovely weekend… I’m off to a wedding, but more about that on another post 🙂