Tag Archives: crochet

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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Bluebells in woodland

My Favourite Things for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

“When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favourite things,
And then I don’t feel so bad.”

For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week Cee has chosen the chorus of “My Favourite Things” as the theme. I’ve decided to share some of my favourite things that I have posted here on my blog during my first year-and-a-bit of blogging.

My regular blog visitors may have spotted my new blog header – beechwoods in Springtime are a great favourite of mine and we love to walk in the woods and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of Spring. For my post header image I have chosen one of my very favourite Spring flowers, bluebells. I posted about the “Beautiful Bluebells!” in our woods last Spring.

Carder Bee feeding on Common Knapweed
Bee-on-a-flower – a Carder Bee feeding on Common Knapweed

I’m glad to say we’ve never experienced bee stings while spending happy warm Summer hours watching and photographing bees on flowers.

Comma butterfly on thistles
Comma butterfly on thistles

Butterflies are another Summertime favourite of mine. I love the orange of the Comma butterfly against the purple of their favourite food, the thistle flowers.

The cool green tranquility of the river
The cool green tranquility of the river

Here in Northern England we experience all kinds of weather conditions and we have learned to enjoy them all. A rainy day at the river in Spring is always an uplifting experience – you can read my post about this wet woodland walk here.

The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!
The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. This railway was a mineral line carrying coal from local mines. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!

The old railway path through the woods is a path we have seen in all weathers, from sunny days to Winter snow. The Victorian railway bridge has featured several times on my blog especially as part of my great interest in history in the landscape. The image above is the bridge in colour from my post, “Old rail trails and a bear hunt”, and below it is in black and white for “Victorian railway bridges in black and white”.

Both of these posts were for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, which has been my favourite weekly photo challenge here on WordPress. It was from creating the black and white images for the Victorian bridges post that kindled in me an ambition to try my hand at creating more black and white images and taking part in Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge. I do enjoy taking part in the photo challenges and learning from others.

Victorian rural railway bridge in snow monochrome
Victorian rural railway bridge in our local woods
Pastel pink wild roses scrambling over the hedge
Pastel pink wild roses scrambling over the hedge

Wild roses are another of my very favourite flowers. I think I’ve probably said before, I have different favourite flowers depending on the season – there’s always something to look forward too … or in this case, look back at, after the Summer was done and the cooler days of Autumn were with us. I love my son’s photo of the wild Dog Roses. The roses appeared in my “Pastel pink wild roses” post last October.

Blooming Purple Crocuses
Blooming Purple Crocuses

Purple crocuses with their bright orange stamens are one of my favourite early Spring flowers. These one are in one of my back yard pots along with daffodils and some seedlings of one of our ‘wild’ edible leaves, Garlic Mustard. You can see more about my back yard gardening in “My Blooming Back Yard”.

First salad seedlings 2014
First salad seedlings of 2014 on my window ledge

As well as gardening outside in my yard, I also love indoor gardening too and I grow salad leaves and herbs on my window ledges. In the above photo are my first seedlings of last year – a favourite moment in my gardening year. Just today I was photographing my first salad leaf seedlings of 2015.

Juicy fresh raspberries for a delicious dessert
Juicy fresh raspberries for a delicious dessert

A Summer delight for me is picking wild fruit. These delicious raspberries grow in a small patch of woodland not far from our house.

Pink Sweet Peas on willow garden screen

Last Summer I had fun with an interesting vertical gardening experiment in my back yard. I made a jute and willow garden screen and then grew Sweet Peas in air-pruning plant pots to grow on the screen. I shared a number of posts about this project on the willow screen, the air-pruning pots and the Sweet Pea flowers. I was so pleased when my Sweet Peas finally flowered!

Crochet patch and new crochet edging on my jumper
The new crochet border in spike stitch

I couldn’t post about my favourite things without including a crochet project or two. The jute and willow garden screen was crocheted and my recent “Mending a Woolly Jumper Craft Project” involved several types of crochet too.

Turning a shirt collar - before and after
Turning a shirt collar – before and after

Turning a shirt collar is one of those old-fashioned mending tasks that I have always done to extend the life of favourite shirts. The shirt that features in my “Turn a shirt collar” tutorial belongs to my son. He is very fond of this shirt so when the collar began to wear, there was only one thing for me to do …

I decided to post a tutorial on the collar turning process and it has certainly been a favourite among my blog visitors – it is one of the most visited pages on my blog.

A colourful October dawn

To complete my collection of favourites, I want to close with one of my very favourite things, a beautiful sunrise. I am lucky to see a lot of beautiful sunrises and I often share them in my Wordless Wednesday posts. You can see more of my sunrises if you click on the Wordless Wednesday tag on my tag cloud in the sidebar … a beautiful sunrise doesn’t really need many words does it?

I’ve had a lot of fun strolling through my blog photos choosing my favourite things – and I must say I have had to leave out a few too or this post would have gone on forever! Do take a look at what others have chosen for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week for the chorus of “My Favourite Things”.

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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

Mending a Woolly Jumper - craft project progress

Mending a woolly jumper: finishing my craft project

When one of my favourite woolly jumpers became worn and raggy, I decided to give it a bit of a thrifty makeover. I’ve been sharing my progress on this craft project from time to time over the past couple of months. In my last post I was showing you how I’d darned the holes and caught up the ladders in the knitting using a crochet hook. I was then ready to sew on the bright crochet patches I’d made to fit each of the worn areas.

Crochet patches sewn on - just the raggy edge to sort
The crochet patches are oversewn in place … just the raggy edge to sort out now

To sew on the crochet patches I chose to use the pearl grey woolly yarn I’d used as the edging on the patches so that the stitching would be almost invisible. You can just about make out my oversewing stitches around the patches on the close-up image above.

Crochet patches sewn on my jumper
With all the crochet patches sewn on, it’s time to think about how to complete my jumper mending project

As I had hoped, the loosely woven darning reinforced the ‘holey’ parts of the jumper and helped retain the jumper’s shape while I was sewing on the crochet patches. When all of the crochet patches were sewn on, I hung up my jumper to consider how I felt about the overall look.

I’d been pondering previously on whether the crochet patches would stand well enough on their own or whether they needed ‘a little something’ to help them hang together as a design. Now that I had all of the patches in place, I really felt they needed that ‘little something’. Whilst I was continuing my pondering, both my husband and son admired the ‘flowers’ on the jumper. Interesting! I hadn’t designed the patches as flowers, but I could definitely see the possibility.

Beginning the crochet repair on the jumper edge
Completing the circle of crochet chain stitches around the edge of the jumper

I decided to develop the design and have my ‘flowers’ growing out of the new border that I was planning to add to strengthen the lower edge of the jumper. Using the dark grey yarn, I began by crocheting a line of chain stitches close to the edge of the jumper. I was careful to avoid any damaged parts of the lower edge as I didn’t want the border to easily pull away from the bottom of the jumper.

When I’d finished the ring of chain stitches around the bottom of the jumper, I began to add some stems and leaves to the ‘flowers’using crochet embroidery. To keep the finishing simple, I continued with the same dark grey yarn.

Crochet embroidery links the crochet patches
Stems and leaves in crochet embroidery link the crochet ‘flowers’

As the flowers are geometric and stylised, I developed the stems and basic leaf outlines in a similar stylised way. I think my leaves have also been partly influenced by another project I am now working on, harking back to the designs of the Arts and Crafts Movement and Art Nouveau.

When I’d completed the crochet embroidery, it was time to consider how I might work the border around the lower edge of the jumper. The ring of dark grey crochet chain would form the point of attachment. Using the dark grey yarn and working into both loops of the crochet chain on the outside of the jumper, I crocheted a row of half treble crochet (half double crochet in US terms 😉 ). I then worked a row of spike stitch using the pearl grey yarn. As I worked each of the spikes, I pushed the crochet hook right through the jumper edge so that these stitches caught the original lower edge of the jumper and formed a binding row.

Crochet border to bind the raggy jumper edge
Working the reinforcing crochet border on my jumper in spike stitch using two colours of grey yarn

Keeping with the alternating greys, for my next row I changed back to the dark grey yarn, again working in spike stitch and my final row of spike stitch was worked in pearl grey. To complete the new jumper edging, I worked a row of double crochet (single crochet in US terms), alternating between the two grey yarns on each stitch.

Crochet patch and new  crochet edging on my jumper
The new crochet border in spike stitch

I like the slightly woven and slightly tweeded appearance of my new and strengthened jumper edge. The edging is tougher than the knitted part of the jumper, but as the edge seemed to be wearing out in several places, I am hopeful that a stronger edge will help.

My Woolly Jumper - mended and wearable again
My Woolly Jumper – mended and wearable with its new flower design and crochet edging

… and here we have the finished jumper! My jumper full of holes has been transformed into a unique garment for the cost of nothing but a rummage through my yarn oddments and a few hours of crochet. I am pleased with the way my thrifty makeover has turned out. Now all the loose ends have been carefully tucked in and my favourite woolly jumper is finally ready to wear again!

J Peggy Taylor

Mending a Woolly Jumper - craft project progress

Mending a woolly jumper – craft project update 2

When one of my favourite woolly jumpers developed holes and was in need of some serious mending, I decided to give it a bit of a thrifty make-over. In my last post on this project I was showing you that I’d designed some colourful crochet patches to cover the unwanted holes in my jumper. I’d accepted that a subtle approach to mending was no longer a possibility on my well-worn woolly.

Creating the crochet patches didn’t really take too long, but then time ran into mid-Winter festivities and now here I am ready to progress with this thrifty mending project, especially as warm woolly jumpers are currently an essential item of clothing for our chilly January days.

Before sewing on the crochet patches, I wanted to increase the stability of the underlying knitted fabric. To do this, I chose to make a preliminary darn of each holed area of the jumper. The darned areas would then be covered over with the crochet patches.

Quickly darned holes to give worn knitted fabric stability
Darned areas of jumper to give worn knitted fabric stability

For the darning, I used some odd lengths of red double knit yarn I had left from creating the patches. First I stranded the yarn – separating it into its three constituent yarn threads as I wanted to work with thinner yarn than the original double knit. Using a darning needle, I worked my way across each of the damaged areas. I darned quite loosely as I didn’t want a really dense fabric underneath the patches. The images in the gallery below show you this process.

On my jumper, I had identified that some of the holes also had ladders running from them and the knitting loops had come undone. I’d noted the ladders on my mending plan.

Mending a Woolly Jumper - my to-do list
Task 1 of my new craft project: make a plan

It is a fairly simple process to mend ladders in knitted fabrics using a small crochet hook. I chose a 1.5mm hook for this task. You start by finding the loop wherever it is lurking at the bottom of the current ladder and insert the crochet hook into it. Then it is simply a case of hooking through each successive ‘lost’ knitted loop, working your way towards the top of the ladder. You can see this process in the gallery of images below.

When you’ve caught up all of the ‘lost’ knitted loops, it’s best to leave the final loop on the crochet hook until you have your darning thread ready to catch down the loop and secure it.

Mending a ladder in a wool jumper using a crochet hook
Secure the loop at the top of the mended ladder with the darning needle and yarn

Now that all of the holes have been secured by darning and the ladders have been repaired and their loops sewn in, I am finally ready to begin sewing on the crochet patches.

I’d measured the holes and crocheted the patches to the appropriate sizes. I pinned each of the hexagonal patches in place. I decided to orientate them all pointing skywards and earthwards … because it just felt right 😉

Sewing a crochet patch on my jumper
Sewing the first crochet patch on my jumper

Next, I’ll be sewing them all in place, again using the darning needle, but this time I will use a length of the pearl grey yarn I used to edge the crochet patches and this will make my stitching invisible.

When I have sewn on all of the crochet patches, there’s still another part to this thrifty mending project, as the lower edge of the jumper needs tidying up too. Hopefully I will have that done soon and then I shall show you how my Mending a woolly jumper project has turned out.

J Peggy Taylor

Mending a Woolly Jumper - craft project progress

Mending a woolly jumper: craft project update

The pre-Winter makeover I planned for my well-worn woolly jumper is slowly making progress. When I introduced you to this thrifty mending project, I had conducted Task 1 – an analysis of just how much jumper was damaged or missing altogether. My next task was to determine what materials and methods to choose to begin the mending process.

Due to the quite extensive work needed to repair this garment, I decided two things. Firstly, although previously I had successfully darned this jumper, this time there was no way the mending could remain unobtrusive. Secondly, since the jumper is worn mainly for outdoor work, it seemed sensible to minimise any spending on this project. I was sure I could conjure up enough yarn from my scraps stash to mend and reinforce the worn areas, hopefully with a bit of imaginative design to lend a more ‘cared for’ impression to this well-loved old woolly.

Designing a patch for my woolly jumper
My variation on a hexagonal motif with a bright edge for my woolly jumper patches.

As a method of repair, crochet patches seemed an obvious choice for me. This way I can match the motif size to the size of repair needed. Accepting that ‘unobtrusive mending’ was not going to happen, I decided to go for something bolder. A rummage through my yarn scraps stash yielded some bright red yarn, left over from a pair of cosy indoor socks I’d crocheted recently. I thought the red teamed up well with some smooth dark grey yarn and to make a defined edge to the patches I found some woolly-textured yarn in pearl grey.

The crochet motif I’m using for the patches is a basic hexagon. I began with the dark grey and worked the centre of the hexagon before adapting the final row to suit the size of motif I needed. To firm up the outer edge of the motif, I worked a row of double crochet (that’s single crochet in the US 😉 ) using the pearl grey yarn. The red highlight is a simple crochet chain worked in a double thickness of yarn and then woven in and out around the hexagon frame. To adapt the pattern to create the different sizes of patch, I’ll work the pattern in different sized crochet stitches and probably use different numbers of rows.

The first crochet patch for my woolly jumper
The first crochet patch for my woolly jumper

I made my first crochet patch for the largest hole in the jumper. When I tried out the motif, I liked the contrasting colours against the dark maroon of the jumper. I think this idea is going to work. I shall continue my woolly jumper mending project, creating the remaining patches using the same style of motif. Hopefully it won’t take too long to hook up the crochet patches and then I’ll show you how the patching looks.

J Peggy Taylor

Crochet snowman greetings card design

Crafty handmade crochet cards ~ make one yourself!

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Crochet is my favourite yarn craft, so I am always looking for new ways to crochet my world. One idea I had earlier this year was to make personalised birthday cards featuring crochet designs for our sons. You can see my two specially created designs in the slideshow above. May I introduce you to Hedgehog and GCF. It’s fairly obvious which one is which! Hedgehog looks quite normal but what, I hear you ask, is a GCF? It looks rather dangerous doesn’t it … but no need to fear! Giant Carnivorous Fly is a personal logo invented by our son, while the tools refer to his woodwork hobby 🙂 For all you keen crocheters, the hedgehog and his grass are crocheted in Astrakhan stitch.

The wonderful people at UK Crochet Patterns recently posted another idea they’d seen for a simple crochet greetings cards. Their post features a simple but stylish crochet flower card.

This got me thinking about the coming holiday season when we all love to send our good wishes to friends and relatives with a card. What better way of sending your love than with a handmade card! I always think handmade gifts and cards make them extra special.

Crochet card tutorial - the completed card
The completed card

To help get your creative imagination in gear, I have created a step-by-step tutorial for this snowman card design using a few simple crochet stitches. You can find my tutorial via this link, but you’ll also see it in my How To … Tutorials menu above.

Go on! Get crafty, and surprise someone with a simple but special handmade card this winter holiday season!

Happy crafting 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

Rayon fabric

The original “Artificial Silk” was crafted into crochet!

Crochet is my favourite textile craft and I am always delighted when I see it being acknowledged or even celebrated in the public arena. A particularly historic example of significant crochet was on display on our recent visit to the exhibition “A Brilliant Mind: Sir Joseph Swan 1828-1914” at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle upon Tyne. Let me tell you more about this.

In my earlier post about the exhibition, I was showing you Joseph Swan’s most famous invention, the lightbulb – or more correctly, the Carbon Filament Lamp. He had first demonstrated the lamp in the early months of 1879. In his subsequent efforts to improve the filaments for his lamps, Joseph Swan began experimenting with extruding nitro-cellulose that had been extracted from plant fibre.

Swan’s experiments built on previous work by others including the German-Swiss chemist, Christian Friedrich Schoenbein, who had discovered nitro-cellulose around 1846. Initially, nitro-cellulose or ‘guncotton’ was used as an effective propellant for military purposes. Nottingham University has produced an informative and dramatic video on the chemistry of nitro-cellulose and guncotton as part of their Periodic Table series on YouTube.

Swan was looking to make strong thin filaments rather than dramatic flashing flames and he found that by squirting nitro-cellulose dissolved in acetic acid through a small hole and into a bath of alcohol, he could produce a thin continuous thread. This thread was thin enough to be used as a textile fibre. Joseph Swan called his invention ‘artificial silk’. Hannah Swan, Swan’s wife, crocheted the new ‘artificial silk’ fibre into doilies, table mats and the edging of this silk handkerchief. This exhibit is currently on loan to Newcastle’s Discovery Museum from the Science Museum in London.

Joseph Swan's 'artificial silk' crocheted by his wife, Hannah
Joseph Swan’s ‘artificial silk’ crocheted by his wife, Hannah, into a handkerchief border

Hannah Swan’s crocheted textiles were displayed as part of the Exhibition of Inventions in London in 1885. (You can see a clearer image of the crochet edging on this webpage.)

International exhibitions were something of a feature of the cultural scene in the later years of the 19th century, starting with the Great Exhibition of 1851, held at the purpose-built Crystal Palace in London. With over 2 million visitors attending the Exhibition of Inventions during the Autumn months of 1885, I can imagine Hannah Swan was very proud that her crochet had taken its place in the history of inventions.

Joseph Swan understood that his fibre could be an alternative to silk but although he did obtain a patent for the production method, Swan’s ‘artificial silk’ was not produced commercially in Britain. It was the French chemist, Chardonnet, who had also been working on the use of nitro-cellulose for fibre production, who became known as the ‘father of Rayon‘. Rayon was the name by which this type of cellulose-based fibre became known. The header image I have added to this post shows an example of woven rayon fabric on a vintage shirt of mine. However, it was another cellulose-based substance, viscose, that became the basis for the artificial silk industry in Britain.

From the early years of the Industrial Revolution right through the Victorian era, the ingenuity of the human mind leapt on at a great pace, with discoveries and inventions of all kinds. Joseph Swan was in his element during this period. In 1906 he was quoted as saying:

“If I could have had the power of choice of the particular space of time within which my life should be spent I believe I would have chosen precisely my actual lifetime. What a glorious time it has been! Surely no other 78 years in all the long history of the world ever produced an equal harvest of invention and discovery for the beneficial use and enlightenment of mankind.”

I liked that Joseph Swan saw the technological developments of his lifetime as being beneficial and could stimulate future developments – though I would like to think he meant ‘womankind’ too 😉 … especially given his wife Hannah’s assistance with the historically important crochet!

J Peggy Taylor

How to make a lighweight roll-up trug

How to make a crochet string and willow lightweight trug

Collecting bundles of long-stemmed plants or flowers can be awkward, especially if you need to carry them any distance and don’t want to break the stems. If the plants in question are Stinging Nettles, then that makes collecting them even more difficult.

I collect both nettles and Comfrey in Spring or early Summer as I use them to make plant food. I will also be collecting a quantity of nettles fairly soon for a fibre art project I’m working on. Thinking about the practicalities of these tasks this year led to me designing and constructing a basic, lightweight and readily portable trug suitable for my long-stemmed-plant-carrying activities.

Completed trug in use
My trug with a small load of Comfrey and nettle … its first outing

In recent months I’ve had a bit of a ‘thing’ about crafting in willow and jute, so I had some of these natural materials to hand with which to try out my trug-making. I thought I’d share this little project with you. The design I’ve created is very simple and could be made in other, or more sturdy materials, as suits the purpose of your trug.

The Materials I used

15 Willow rods (I selected the rods so they were all approximately the same pencil thickness with 2 slightly thicker ones at each end)
Ruler/tape measure
Secateurs/knife
Jute garden string
Thick cotton string
Size 5.00 crochet hook

Making the trug

Completed trug opened out
The complete trug – folded out so you can see the overall construction

1. Firstly, I trimmed the thinner tips of the willow rods so that they were all about 1 metre (39 inches) long.

2. I arranged the willow rods, making sure they were all parallel with each other and about 5cm (2 inches) apart.

3. Using the cotton string and the crochet hook, I carefully crocheted across the willow rods 7.5cm (3 inches) to the right of the centre of the rod, making sure I kept the rods the same distance from each other, working 6 crochet chains between willow rods and keeping the rods parallel lengthways too. To secure each rod I crocheted around it with one chain in each direction, before continuing with my crochet chain across to the next rod.

4. When I’d crocheted right across all of the 15 willow rods, I created a carrying handle 20cm (8 inches) long. With my thick cotton string I worked 21 crochet chains for the handle.

Trug close-up, showing crochet for handle and rods
A closer view of one of the trug handles. You can also see more clearly how I have crocheted around the willow rods.

5. Next I crocheted back across the willow rods, 15cm (6 inches) away from first row, (that’s 7.5cm / 3 inches to the left of the centre of the rods) again keeping the rods the same distance from each other by working 6 crochet chains between the rods.

6. When I’d completed this second row of crochet, I created the second carrying handle on the opposite edge of the trug, in the same way as the first handle.

7. I carefully secured the end of the string to ensure the handle stays firmly attached.

A closer view of the position of the rows of jute and cotton crochet that hold the trug together
A closer view of the position of the rows of jute and cotton crochet that hold the trug together

8. To complete the trug I worked a second row of crochet on each side. I placed these outer rows of crochet 18cm (7 inches) from the first and, this time, I worked my crochet in green jute garden string. Again I fastened off the yarn securely.

Holding the empty trug
Holding the empty trug – you can see it balances quite evenly on its handles

… and that was my trug completed. I have used it a couple of times so far for carrying Comfrey and Stinging Nettles and I found it worked just as I’d hoped for my needs. To roll it up, I simply hold the handles and gather together the willow rods then secure it by tying a piece of string around each end.

Lightweight trug, rolled and tied
My lightweight trug, rolled and tied at one end … tied at both ends and it is easy to carry by its own handles

I am thinking of making a tougher one – ready for Autumn – using hazel rods. I will use it for carrying willow rods or other heavier woody materials.

J Peggy Taylor

Crafting with jute twine: crocheting a hanging plant basket

Crafting in jute: a crochet hanging plant basket

I love crafting in natural materials and this Spring one of the fibres I have been working with quite often is jute. I’ve created several other crochet projects in jute yarn in the past, but my recent experiments have been focused on outdoor, functional items. For example, I chose jute yarn to bind together the willow rods I used for my willow garden screens that I’ve posted about previously. My latest jute crochet project has been to create hanging baskets to hopefully accommodate my Soapwort seedlings out of munching distance of the slugs and snails in my back yard!

What is it that I love about jute? The jute yarn I am using was really designed as garden twine. It is rough and tough but I love its texture and strength. For those of you who crochet or knit, I’d say in yarn weight, this jute yarn is chunky. I used a 4.50mm crochet hook for this project. Jute is quite stiff to work and doesn’t stretch, so it can be quite a physical work-out for the hands and fingers when crafting in jute yarn.

Jute yarn is made from plant fibres extracted from the White Jute plant. The golden colour and silky sheen of jute in its natural state has led to it being called the ‘Golden Fibre’. Jute is a crop of tropical lowlands with high humidity, so much of it is grown in India and Bangladesh, on the Ganges delta.

Jute is completely biodegradable and therefore, usefully, it is also recyclable and compostable. The process of growing jute is also very environmentally-friendly as it doesn’t require pesticides or fertilisers, making it a good choice for those of us seeking to be more planet-friendly in how we live and work.

For my hanging basket project I needed a yarn that would be strong enough to take the weight of its intended plant pot cargo and could take some months of outdoor use. With the additional advantages of producing a breathable fabric and having moderate moisture retaining properties, jute fitted my purpose.

In keeping with my overall plan to make use of more vertical space in my back yard, my intention was to hang my two Soapwort baskets on the fence. For this I needed a design that incorporated a flat back panel but with enough capacity in the basket to accommodate the recycled milk carton air-pruning plant pots I’d used for the Soapwort.

Here I'm demonstrating crocheting the jute basket. I'm using a 4.50mm crochet hook with this tough jute yarn. At the bottom of this image you can see one of the hanging loops that I incorporated into the back panel of the basket.
Here I’m demonstrating crocheting the jute basket. I’m using a 4.50mm crochet hook with this tough jute yarn. At the bottom of this image you can see one of the hanging loops that I incorporated into the back panel of the basket.

I constructed the back panel first, using an elongated oval technique that I find very useful in all kinds of crochet projects. I also included fixing loops at both the top and bottom of the back panel ready to fasten the basket to the fence.

Trying out the milk carton for size - my air-pruning plant pots are made from recycled milk cartons. You can see the rows of open mesh crochet on the basket to give added breathability and drainage.
Trying out the milk carton for size – my air-pruning plant pots are made from recycled milk cartons. You can see the rows of open mesh crochet on the basket to give added breathability and drainage.

The basket part of the plant hanger I found was best constructed in conjunction with an example of the size of pot it was going to hold. The basket is crocheted onto either side of the lower half of the back panel. To provide extra breathability and drainage, I added several rows of open mesh into the basket crochet. I made sure the basket was deep enough to contain the plant pot without any risk of it falling out – even in a strong wind!

The finished crochet jute hanging plant baskets hanging on the fence, complete with their air-pruning plant pots of Soapwort
The finished crochet jute hanging plant baskets hanging on the fence, complete with their air-pruning plant pots of Soapwort

When I’d completed both of my crochet jute plant hangers, it was time to fit the Soapwort plant pots into them and get them hung up on the fence. With their integrated hanging loops this was very easy. I used large-headed nails to hang up the plant baskets – one at the top, one at the bottom. They do seem pretty well fixed and I am hopeful this will prevent them from coming adrift in the wind.

Now all I need to do is persuade the Soapwort to actually grow! It seems like it needs a little persuasion … but I have an idea, so I’ll tell you more about that soon …

J Peggy Taylor