Category Archives: Craft Project

Backyard yarn bombing crochet project

Back Yard Yarn Bombing for the Bees

It’s International Yarn Bombing Day! When fellow crochet fan and blogger, Daniella at daniellajoe.com, announced the imminent arrival of a special day for yarn bombing, I had been thinking about making a climbing plant support for my nasturtiums in my new willow basket planter. Nasturtiums are very easy to grow and are very bee-friendly plants. As our poor bees need all the help they can get these days, I’ve grown quite a few nasturtiums this year, both in my back yard and on the allotment garden.

To celebrate International Yarn Bombing Day this weekend, I’ve been busy with my crochet hooks this week. Daniella’s post inspired me to create a crochet concoction for my back yard that would serve a double purpose – firstly as a climbing plant support, and secondly to add a little instant colour to the wall space reserved for the growing nasturtiums. I did some back yard yarn bombing last year too and some of it is still going strong.

Crochet mesh on hazel hoops - yarn art plant support
Crochet mesh on hazel hoops

Making plant supports for me generally involves some kind of sticks and string. I happened to have some very rustic-looking hazel hoops to hand that I’d made last Winter … just in case they might be useful. They were perfect for my plan.

When I say ‘plan’ … I had an idea in my head. Making it a reality involved some free-form crochet. Taking a No.5 crochet hook and some jade green double knitting yarn, I fastened the two hoops together so that they overlapped. I continued to work right around each of the main side sections to provide a foundation row onto which I could attach the crochet mesh. I then began crocheting a wide mesh across the two main areas within the hoops. I liked the way the hazel twigginess added to the overall effect.

Crochet free-form yarn art plant support
Adding the final section of crochet

Bright red and bright blue yarns make the centre section of the plant support really stand out. I just followed the shapes as they happened to be when the hazel hoops were overlapped. Whilst I’d crocheted a 6-chain mesh for the main side sections, I decided to use different crochet effects for the centre section. With the red double knitting yarn, still using a No.5 crochet hook, I worked a Solomon’s Knot-type stitch. For the smaller area of the centre section, I used a No.3 crochet hook with the slightly thinner blue yarn. I outlined the shape in blue chains first, catching them around the hazel hoops at intervals, then I added chains in a sun ray pattern.

Crochet free-form yarn art plant support
Crochet free-form yarn art plant support

Yes! This is just how I imagined it! Now all I need to do is fix my yarn bombing creation in place on the outside wall. I created a couple of lengths of crochet chain using the jade green yarn to bind the hazel hoops onto the structure I already have in place above my willow plant basket.

Yarn bombing and willow plant basket on wall
Yarn bombing the wall with my crochet yarn art plant support

I’m pleased to say, the fixing in place of the nasturtiums’ yarn art plant support went smoothly and just as I’d planned. I also added some new colourful crochet ties to the front of my large willow basket planter as they needed a little sprucing up too.

New crochet ties on willow basket planter
Sprucing up my large willow basket planter with new yarn bombing

My back yard is now even more colourfully yarn bombed! I hope the bees will like it, but what will the neighbours say! Well, I’m not sure what they’ll say about the yarn art plant support but I imagine they thought me pretty odd photographing my back yard in the rain, complete with camera, tripod and umbrella 😀

J Peggy Taylor

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lashing together bean poles

A Tall Bean Frame Tale

Planning my new allotment garden space has been exciting. Last Autumn, as I pored over seed catalogues filled to the brim with tempting produce, I had some decision-making to do. Whilst the garden space available is quite extensive, I always manage to have more ideas than I have space (or time!), so choices had to be made.

I’m aiming to garden organically and I’m also planning on doing a bit of seed-saving. With this in mind, I sought out seed companies selling ‘old-fashioned’ open-pollinated varieties of vegetables.

A particularly useful online catalogue was ‘The Real Seed Catalogue’ as they only sell open-pollinated varieties. They also give lots of really helpful information about seed-saving. However, the best thing about The Real Seed Catalogue is their wonderful selection of heirloom and heritage vegetables that are not available in many (or any) other places.

‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ Climbing French Bean’

‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ Climbing French Bean’ caught my eye and my imagination. This was a ‘must have’, a real piece of history. I learned that in the 1830s after the US Federal Government introduced the Indian Removal Act, the Cherokee people took some of these beans with them when they were driven out of their Georgia homelands on the long forced march known as ‘The Trail of Tears’. This variety of bean has then been grown and passed on down through the generations. How fascinating … and amazing!

Cherokee Trail of Tears beans germinating
My first sowing of ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ climbing French beans – they’ve hatched!

“A very rare bean,” it says on the brown paper seed packet. The beans themselves are small and black and I am growing them as French beans – they are the tasty green, pencil-thick pods. But as well as eating them in their fresh green state, I will also grow them on to be fully ripe (hopefully!) and save some of the dried beans to sow next year as well as using them as dried beans for Winter soups. The Real Seed Catalogue describes this variety as “incredibly prolific”, so I am hopeful for a good crop. This is the plan!

However, to grow climbing beans, you need something for them to climb. I’d decided to build an old-fashioned tall bean frame from hazel poles. I built a similar tall frame for my very tall peas earlier this Spring – you’ll see it in one of the photos below.

I am anticipating the bean plants growing around 6-8 feet tall (that’s around 2-2.5 metres, if you’re metric 😉 ). Then I needed to add a generous allowance, for tying the bean poles together at the top and for planting deep enough in the ground at the bottom, for the bean frame to be wind-proof on our rather exposed northern hillside. The hazel poles I’m using are around 12 feet (3.5 metres).

Building a bean frame with hazel rods
Setting up the upright poles of the A-frame for the bean frame

I selected two pairs of slightly heavier-duty poles to make my initial A-frame – they’re around 2.5 inches (6cm) in diameter at the butt end. I tied each pair of poles together at the top, measuring and marking each pole at the 8 feet point. The poles are lashed together with thick cotton string. I used a figure-of-eight lashing to hold the poles tightly together but also allowing a degree of flexibility for manoeuvering the A-frame into place.

I’d measured out the row and marked where the frame was going to stand. I had to amend the exact position of the frame as I had been so busy looking down at the soil, I found when I looked up, my bean frame would have stretched half-way into one of the plum trees! Whoops! So, a bit of jiggling and re-measuring was needed.

tools for building the bean frame
Essential tools for planting the bean poles deep enough in the ground: digging iron and lump hammer

Using a heavy digging iron and a lump hammer, I made holes 18 inches (45cm) deep, then pushed the legs of each of the A-frames into place and refirmed the soil around the poles. Climbing very carefully on the step ladders, I added the ridge pole and lashed this in place at each end, making sure the A-frames were (fairly!) perpendicular to the ground. When you’re working with green timber, sometimes it isn’t always exactly straight, so allowances have to be made. These poles were all cut in late Winter, ready for use this Spring.

Next, came the side poles. The bean frame is 2 feet (60cm) wide and 7 feet (2 metres) long. The side poles are placed at 1 foot (30cm) intervals along each side of the A-frame. The side poles are thinner than the A-frame poles, only about 1-1.5 inches (2.5-3cm) in diameter. I didn’t tie the pairs of side poles together initially; I started off by leaning them in their places along each side and resting them on the ridge pole. Then it was back to the digging iron and lump hammer, as I made more deep holes to plant the side poles into.

Building a hazel frame for climbing beans
Arranging the side poles along the bean frame with the main A-frame and ridge in place

Eventually, all of the side poles were planted in their holes. Then it was back to climbing carefully on the step ladders to tie the side poles in place onto the ridge pole. To finish, I added a cross-brace through from corner to corner and lashed this in place at about 3 feet (1 metre) from the ground.

lashing together bean poles
Lashing the cross piece in place on the bean frame for added strength

It certainly seems quite a strong structure and I know the tall pea frame has stood up well to some strong winds already, so I am hopeful for my tall bean frame too.

Hazel frame for climbing French beans
The finished tall bean frame with the tall pea frame visible beyond it

Now it’s time to plant the beans ….

J Peggy Taylor

Hexagon Hat - upcycling project header

An upcycled sun hat for Recycling Week 2015

The week from 22nd-28th June has been Recycling Week here in the UK.

Hexagon hat - upcycling worn-out cargo trousers
Upcycling worn-out cargo trousers into a sun hat

I’m a great fan of recycling and upcycling and my latest project has been an upcycled sun hat for one of my sons. I have refashioned this hexagon sun hat from a pair of worn-out cargo trousers.

Hexagon hat - hexagon shaped crown
The sun hat has a hexagon shaped crown

The crown of the hat has six segments with a flat hexagon-shaped top. I put together some scraps of heavy linen to stiffen the brim before attaching it to the crown.

Hexagon hat - cutting bias strips for hat band
Cutting bias strips for the hat band

I made a bias strip to catch up all of the seam edges and act as a hat band and I’m now just ready to stitch that in place.

To finish off the outer edge of the brim, I’m going to make a thin cord from thread and weave it in and out of the running stitches that are holding the linen brim stiffening in place. Then the sun hat will be complete – a free hexagon sun hat made from upcycling old clothing and scraps.

Hexagon hat - almost finished
Hexagon hat – almost finished

Now all we need is some sunshine 😉

J Peggy Taylor

Hooky mat chair cover project

Hooky Mat Chair Cover Project – Update 2

The worn chair cover of one of our dining chairs needed mending. This gave me the prompt I needed to try my hand at an old upcycling craft – hooky matting, as we call it here in North East England. Upcycled textiles are cut into strips and hooked into a strong base material to make rugs or other textile items. I thought this technique would work well for a hard wearing chair cover.

In my last post I showed you how I used the charcoal transfer process to draw up my design on the heavy linen I’ve chosen as the base material.

After some practise with the handmade wooden hooky mat tool, I’ve now begun hooking the textile strips into my chair cover design. To gain further practice with the hook tool, I decided to work the flower stems first. The green t-shirt material I’ve used for the stems provided two different greens, depending on which way up I used it. I largely chose to use the darker green side, but I also made use of the more faded green on some edges and on one of the lower stems.

Hooky mat chair cover - starting to hook the design
Hooky mat chair cover – starting to hook the design

The next part of the design I have begun hooking is the outline of the largest flower, using some thin black strips of textile. This is one aspect of my hooky mat chair cover project that I have been trying out before I made a start on the actual thing. I don’t want the black outlines to be too heavy within the design so I experimented with different widths of textile strip. The close-woven nature of the linen base material is helpful in that it will readily hold the narrower textile strips in place.

I’m quite pleased with how this first stage of the chair cover has gone. Having the linen stretched on the frame certainly helped with keeping the design in place while I worked.

Hooky mat tool - now shiny from use
Hooky mat tool – now shiny from use

The hook tool has worked out well for me too. I’d made a few minor amendments to it using a file and I’ve noticed the hook end has already worked very smooth from pushing it through the rough linen. The smoother the hook the easier it is to work through the linen. I can imagine it is faster to hook textile strips into a more loosely-woven base fabric, but I have developed a reasonable rate of working … so it’s so far, so good.

I’ll post another update when I’ve made some more progress on my hooky mat chair cover project.

J Peggy Taylor

Hooky mat chair seat cover - craft project header

Chair cover craft project: Update 1

My hooky mat chair cover project has made some progress over the past two weeks, though not quite as much as I’d hoped. I found there were some aspects of the project that needed a bit more pondering to determine the best approach and I decided to make a temporary crochet chair cover to disguise our raggy old chair until I complete the new hooky mat chair cover. We have also enjoyed some sunny days just lately which tempted me to get on with a gardening project outdoors, so that was another diversion. But let me tell you about the progress have I made with my chair cover project.

I introduced you to my new craft project in my earlier post and you may recall I had decided that the chair cover would have a Rennie Mackintosh/early 20th century theme but I was still working on the design. I continued making a number of sketches until I was happy with my sketch version of the design. Next, I squared up some recycled brown wrapping paper and drew up a full size version.

At this point I began to consider how best to transfer the design to my stretched linen. I had spent some time tinkering with the balance of the design so, to make sure I retained the placing of the flower elements, I decided to make a charcoal transfer rather than draw it freehand.

To use the hooky mat technique to create the design on the linen, I wanted to keep the design fairly simple as this is my first hooky mat project. I have seen some marvelous examples of rugs and soft furnishings made using the hooky mat technique on Pinterest, but I didn’t want to be too ambitious just yet.

Transfering design to linen
Transfering the design to the linen using charcoal transfer

Using a soft 4B pencil I made sure my design was clearly defined on the ‘shiny’ side of the brown wrapping paper. I used a dark charcoal pencil to trace over the lines on the reverse of the wrapping paper. When I was happy that I’d put enough charcoal on the back of the design to make the transfer work effectively, I carefully pinned the design – right side up – onto the stretched linen. Then using the 4B pencil again, I re-drew over the design. I put a block of wood underneath the linen to make this part of the transfer process easier.

The transfer worked very well – all of the design could be clearly seen on the linen. My next step was to draw up the outer shape of the chair seat and to check there was enough material left to tack the chair cover to the seat base. Although I had measured the linen piece beforehand, at this stage I felt it would be better with another inch of tacking space on two of the sides. I decided to tack another slightly larger piece of linen onto the stretcher frame and re-do the design transfer process. This time I was happy with the design on the linen and with the spacing for fixing the new cover to the seat base.

Charcoal outline of design on linen
Redefining the design in charcoal on the linen with the edge of the chair cover now marked

Now that I had the design on my base material it was time to think about the process of hooking the upcycled textile strips into it. I felt I needed to try out the hooking technique and my handmade hook tool itself. A test square seemed a good plan.

Using the charcoal transfer process again, I drew out a flower from my design onto a linen scrap. Then, taking my wooden hook tool, I began hooking in a textile strip. As I had anticipated, this was more difficult in the more closely woven linen than it would be in the open weave of jute hessian that is more frequently used as a base material for hooky and proggy mats. However, the hook tool proved robust enough for the task, though I did file the hook just a little extra to make it more effective.

Practising my hooky mat design
Practising the hooky mat technique for my design

As I hooked the first textile strip into the flower shape, I realised that this 1.5 cm wide textile strip was going to be too wide to describe the smaller detail in the centre of my flower design as well as being difficult to work into the closely woven linen. I also noted that organising the hooked loops on the right side of the workpiece so that they lie in a given direction was an important skill I must acquire if the design was to look good when it was completed. A little more practice was definitely in order.

Temporary cover crocheted in carrier bags
Temporary cover crocheted in carrier bags

It will take me a little while to become a natural with the hooky mat tool, so I decided in the short term our raggy old chair cover needed a rather more instant makeover. When I need to make something quickly I generally turn to my favourite hook tool, my crochet hooks. Some of my readers may remember last Spring that I made a crochet rug from supermarket carrier bags – I wrote about it here. I have used a similar process, upcycling some carrier bags to make the crochet chair cover. It is basically a crochet circle that I finished it off with some simple crochet chain ties to hold it in place. I think it certainly tidies up the chair while it is waiting for its new hooky mat chair seat cover.

As well as continuing my hooky mat practice, I am now also making a simple trestle from hazel rods to act as a support for my mat frame when I begin working on my chair cover properly. I’ll post again on my hooky mat chair cover craft project when I make some more progress.

J Peggy Taylor

Hooky mat chair seat cover - craft project header

Starting a new craft project: is it a rug? is it a chair?

We have a preference for pre-loved furniture in our house. For example, this means we have dining chairs that don’t match. The dining chairs themselves are all of the long-lasting wooden variety, probably dating from somewhere around the middle of last century.

Our pre-loved furniture
The wooden dining chair near our Beautility sideboard

Our dining chairs see very regular use, so you can imagine the seats of these chairs from time to time begin to show distinct signs of wear and need to be re-covered. One of the chairs is currently in this very worn condition and in dire need of repair.

Worn chair seat cover
Worn chair seat cover in need of replacing

Normally to mend our chair covers, I simply cut out a suitably sized piece of upholstery material and replace the old chair seat cover, restoring the seat padding at the same time if necessary. However, this time I decided to combine replacing the chair seat cover with practicing a new textile skill. When I say ‘new’ textile skill, I really mean ‘very old’ textile skill – it is only new to me, though I have been studying it for a while. Now I have the perfect opportunity to try my hand at a traditional rug-making method that could have quite possibly been practised in the homes where our old chairs started out more than half a century ago.

Will it work, using a rug-making method to create a chair seat cover? Well, I can only say I have seen it used this way in the hands of an expert, so I am hopeful 😉

The rug-making method I am planning to use was known locally in our area as “hooky mat-making” where strips of recycled textiles (usually old clothing and household textiles) were hooked onto a base of strong woven jute sacking that had been stretched taut onto a frame. In North East England the word ‘mat’ was used rather than ‘rug’. Hooky mats are one of the two main mat-making styles that were widely used right up to the middle of the twentieth century in North East working class households to create floor rugs, as bought carpets were unaffordable for many people. When completed, a hooky mat has quite a flat pile with short loops. The other style of mat-making was called a “proggy mat” and that results in a mat with a longer, softer pile finish.

Linen canvas stretched on the frame
Linen canvas stretched on the frame – this is the base for the chair seat cover

For my hooky mat chair seat cover, I have chosen to use some heavy linen canvas as the base and I’ve stretched this onto a large heavy-duty painting frame that I had conveniently available.

Hooky mat tool in hand turned wood
Hooky mat tool in hand turned sycamore wood

The tool I will be using to craft my hooky mat design is this wooden hook that I asked my son (the woodworker) to make for me to a particular size and shape. He began by turning a short length of sycamore wood on the pole lathe and then between us we carved the hook end to the required shape. The hook may need some more refining yet – I shall have to see when I put it to use.

My draft designs inspired by Rennie Mackintosh
My draft designs inspired by Rennie Mackintosh

Currently in my new craft project I am preparing the design that I will be working onto the linen base. While I was browsing for potential design ideas I was inspired by some of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s flowers and Art Nouveau mosaics, so I decided to develop my design in this early 20th century style.

Hooky rug tool, textile strips and draft designs
Hooky mat preparations – tool, textile strips and the beginnings of a design

My colour scheme will be deliberately chosen from a limited palette of colours and I also want to keep the colours subtle rather than bright. Partly my range of colours will be dictated by the availability of suitably coloured textiles. I have begun preparing some textile strips in greys and purples so I will choose other colours to work with them.

Hopefully I will complete the design this week and perhaps manage to make a start on working the textile strips into the linen base. I’ll let you know how my latest upcycling craft project goes 🙂

J Peggy Taylor