Tag Archives: crochet

Crochet jute and willow garden screen - crochet close-up

The crochet jute and willow garden screen – completed!

The crochet jute and willow garden screen that I have been creating as a support for my Sweet Pea plants is now complete.

The gate section of my crochet jute and willow garden screen - ready to fix in place
The gate section of my crochet jute and willow garden screen – ready to fix in place

This second part of the willow screen I have made just like the first one, using two rows of crochet green jute yarn to bind the willow rods together.

I needed to make this part of the willow screen a bit shorter than the first one because this one is to go on the back of my yard gate. I wasn’t too sure how this part of the garden screen was going to work out when I came to fix the screen in situ. This part of the experiment was going to be interesting … discovering whether my plan would go exactly according to plan!

My wood-crafting son helped me out with the hand-hewn batten I wanted, to hold the willow screen for the gate in place. The batten is made from a short length of sycamore branch that we happened to have lying around. After sawing it to length, we removed the bark and my son deftly axed it into shape so that it could be easily screwed onto the back of the gate. I love the smooth, pale grain of sycamore. Next, I pre-drilled holes in the appropriate places after I’d checked precisely where the batten was going to fit onto the gate and I partly inserted the screws ready to attach it.

To fix this second piece of my willow garden screen in place, I first tacked the lower row of jute crochet to the top of the gate using small fencing staples. I then loosely attached the batten at each end whilst I reorganised some of the willow rods that I found had slipped out of place.

Attaching the willow screen to the gate with staples and a hand-hewn batten
The willow screen is held in place by fencing staples and the hand-hewn sycamore batten

When I was happy with the position of the basic frame, I then began weaving some thinner willow rods across the garden screen. I worked in a random fashion, just as I had done with the first part of the screen. I was aiming for the garden screen to still allow a lot of light through it so that the light would continue to reach the numerous other trees and plants in my yard. Even though the willow weavers are very thin, they do provide a reasonably sturdy structure on which my Sweet Pea plants can grow.

I inserted the thin willow cross weavers in a random fashion
I inserted the thin willow cross weavers in a random fashion

I made sure there was a slightly stouter rod at each end of the willow screen to provide stability. I had wondered about the overall stability of the willow screen in windy conditions, as I mentioned in a previous post on this project, but the first part of my garden screen has been in place for a couple of weeks now and has survived some moderate winds … so far so good!

The first air-pruning plant pot fixed in place on the willow garden screen
The first air-pruning plant pot fixed in place on the willow garden screen

Now it was time to attach the air-pruning plant pots with their cargoes of Sweet Pea plants onto the willow garden screen. I had experimented with one plant pot a couple of days ago on the first part of the willow screen and my design plan seems to be holding up well, so I set to work attaching the other five plant pots.

As I had anticipated, the handles of my upcycled milk carton air-pruning plant pots came in very useful at this stage. I tied the plant pots firmly in place, making sure they couldn’t slip out of position as this could potentially damage the growing plants.

For the three plant pots near my wall, I used the string loop I’d added to each plant pot for this purpose. I’d initially thought I might just stand the Sweet Pea plant pots on top of the plant buckets into which I’d inserted the willow rods of the garden screen, along behind my yard wall. But some tell-tale slug trails nearby suggested it may be a good idea to tie the pots a little higher – hopefully out of temptation’s way! The recent experience of slugs and Soapwort is still fresh in my mind!

I attached the other two Sweet Pea plant pots along by the wall
I attached the other two Sweet Pea plant pots along by the wall

To secure the Sweet Pea plant pots to the back of my gate, I decided to use my new firmly fixed sycamore batten. Again I made use of the handles of the recycled milk carton plant pots when attaching the string.

Air-pruning plant pots firmly secured to the gate and the Sweet Pea plants arranged on the jute and willow garden screen
Air-pruning plant pots firmly secured to the gate and the Sweet Pea plants arranged on the jute and willow garden screen

When I had all of the Sweet Pea plant pots in place, my final task was to carefully arrange the growing plants, weaving the stems in and out of the willow screen where I am hoping they will continue to grow and flourish. Perhaps before too much longer I will be able to post about my first Sweet Pea flowers – I do hope so!

J Peggy Taylor

My crochet jute and willow rod garden screen fixed in place with a hazel strengthening rod

Crochet jute and willow garden screen: project update

In recent weeks I have been creating a crochet jute and willow garden screen on which to train my rapidly developing Sweet Pea plants (in their upcycled air-pruning plant pots that I’ve been sharing with you lately). This garden screen project is part of a bigger plan I have to make more use of vertical space in my very small back yard.

In a previous post I was showing you the initial framework for the larger of the two pieces of garden screen I am in the process of constructing. This crochet jute and willow rod garden screen is very much an experiment-in-progress as I ponder and deliberate on how to approach the next stage.

This week I took the chance of a particularly warm and sunny afternoon to begin the task of setting up the completed first section of the willow garden screen. I think the sunshine was beginning to make me impatient to see how the next stage of this project would work out!

I inserted the butts of the willow rods into the plant buckets in my yard
I inserted the butts of the willow rods into the plant buckets in my yard

My initial plan had been to create a made-to-measure trough from small logs in which to ‘plant’ the base of this section of the garden screen. However, since I have not yet found time to construct the wooden trough, I decided to simply ‘plant’ the upright rods of the willow screen into the plant buckets I already have in situ in that area of my back yard. These buckets are currently taking good care of some willow cuttings that I took earlier in the year.

In its preliminary stage of construction my large section of willow screen was easily gathered up into a bundle … deliberately, so it was possible to manoeuvre it into my back yard! I’d taken care to measure the space I had available to fill and I am pleased to say the jute crochet allowed the willow rods to stretch out just enough to fill it exactly. I carefully pushed the butts of some of the thicker willow rods into place, deep into the plant buckets. And … Hey Presto! … my crochet jute and willow garden screen stood proudly in its new place!

My willow garden screen standing upright in place in my back yard
My willow garden screen standing upright in place in my back yard

I was pleased to notice that the height at which I’d trimmed off the willow rods made the screen just the height I was hoping to achieve in relation to my neighbour’s fence. It might have been fun to have the tallest fence in the neighbourhood, but perhaps not if I wanted it to remain stable as a plant support 😉

The next job was to begin weaving in the much thinner willow rods across the garden screen to create an open lattice-work around which the Sweet Peas could wind their tendrils. I worked the thin weavers through between the rods, very much in a random fashion, as I had planned. My intention was to still allow as much light as possible to reach my yard, especially for the benefit of my other plants.

My finished willow garden screen just matches the height of my neighbour's fence
My finished willow garden screen just matches the height of my neighbour’s fence

When I had finished weaving the thin weavers into the main framework of the willow screen I found the screen was already quite stable. However, I decided to add some strengthening rods at either end of the screen, as my son had suggested, to give even more stability in the windy weather we often experience here on our northern hillside. The hazel strengthening rod is simply tied onto the end of the crochet jute and willow construction with string and also held in place by a fencing staple in the top of the gatepost.

It was very pleasant working outdoors in the Spring sunshine and I must say I was very satisfied with my willow screen handiwork. Now I need to work on the other section of my willow garden screen and that will fit across the back of my yard gate … hopefully!

J Peggy Taylor

Materials for crochet jute and willow rod garden screen

Crocheting a willow garden screen for my back yard

To grow even more things in my very small back yard I am now looking at vertical gardening to expand my growing space. I have seen some interesting versions of planting in vertical space but I’ve decided to go for my own personal twist on this concept.

One of the first problems I needed to solve is that I want to be able to take advantage of some vertical space that at present is completely open, above a small brick wall and a low-level gate. I’m not looking to create a permanent feature as I want to see how using this vertical space will impact on light levels for other plants I have growing in the yard.

Willow cuttings behind the wall
The willow cuttings standing behind the wall where I intend to stand the narrow trough
I am keen to keep the screen structure quite natural-looking and not overly dense to allow light through as well as incorporating natural materials. At present I am designing two jute and willow screens which combine crochet and some simple willow weaving.

My idea is to attach one screen to extend above the current height of the gate using hand-hewn wooden slats. The other screen will be taller, at approximately 1.8 metres, and will be planted into a narrow slatted wooden trough (also yet to be constructed!) that will extend along behind the low brick wall. The initial idea is not for the willow rods to actually root in the trough though it is possible this may happen if the rods are still green when I set up the screen. (I already have a few pots of willow growing from cuttings I took a couple of months ago.)

… and what will I grow here? I’d pondered on beans or peas but, as this is a roadside and the plants will mainly be growing on the outside of my yard, I’m not keen on that idea. I’ve decided to try for a good showing of sweet peas. I love these flowers, especially the old fashioned scented ones.

Crocheting the willow rods together
Crocheting the willow rods together

So far I have begun to crochet the willow rods together and I really like the way it looks … I will report back as I make further progress 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

Upcycled Message Mat of Hope

The arrival of Springtime sunshine started something of a creative cascade for me. I described this creative wave in an earlier post and this has combined with the additional seasonal inspiration of Nature waking from her winter slumber and showering us with new shoots and blooms from the warming earth.

One of the projects that has so far evolved from my kinetic Springtime spree of creativity has been my upcycled supermarket carrier bag rug. In my last rug update post I was interpreting my design as a mirror of how we make use of the world’s finite resources – a message in my mat.

The white section of my upcycled crochet mat
The white section of my upcycled crochet mat

As I crocheted further on my mat I began working on the white section. It is not pure white, as you can see, but is laced with red and blue. Sometimes these colours are clearly seen, sometimes masked. The mat’s message here is the influence our one small country, Britain, has had on industrialisation both here in the UK and throughout the world, particularly since the period of time we call The Industrial Revolution (during the 18th and 19th centuries). This influence has left its legacies everywhere. Like the red and blue colours, sometimes these legacies are very evident and sometimes they are masked by more recent developments.

Victorian railway bridge, North East England
This Victorian railway bridge spans a path where we often walk. The path was once a mineral line, busy with steam trains hauling coal to the River Tyne.

North East England, where I live, was renowned for the coal production that powered the Industrial Revolution. Our local environment is full of remnants of this industrial past. The very house and village in which I live was built for mine-workers. In creating my mat here I feel this represents a link between the past and the future. Just as mining families would have created their old rag mats that I talked about in my first post on this project, I too am now crafting my mat from upcycled materials.

Upcycled Crochet bag mat close-up
Upcycled crochet bag mat – a closer look

It is important to me to try harder to use less of the earth’s resources – though I do not claim to be perfect by any means! Most of us accept that fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, are not good news for our planet’s future. I think we can all try and play our part by reducing our own consumption and carbon footprint and by encouraging each other in our environmentally-aware endeavours. There is so much we can do ourselves but also by spreading our ‘encouragement’ in the direction of our governments we can try and use our collective powers of persuasion to convince them that our one and only planet is certainly worth caring about.

To reflect in my mat these feelings of hopefulness and of actively encouraging environmental awareness, I chose to finish it with a strong green border. You may notice the border is deeper on two sides. These deeper sides will eventually lie east to west in my porch. This final part of my message mat is to say that from east to west, around the world, we can all play our part in protecting our planet.

My completed upcycled crochet mat
My completed upcycled crochet mat made entirely with supermarket carrier bags and a hand carved hazel hook

I’ve enjoyed creating my upcycled message mat – both the crochet part and thinking about the story that belongs to this mat. On a practical level, I’m happy with the way my mat has worked out. It is nice and thick and is quite soft too.

The construction method I chose involved simply knotting each strip of carrier bag to the next. I realised this was obviously going to leave a lot of loose ends but rather than try and hide them all, I thought they resembled carpet pile so I decided to leave them showing. I think they add to the texture of the finished mat too. I am also glad to say the mat fits just nicely in its intended destination, my front porch.

J Peggy Taylor

Creative Upcycling Update – A Message Mat

In my last upcycling post I left you wondering what on earth I was making with a pile of old supermarket carrier bags. Perhaps my inclusion of a book on rug-making in that post too might have inclined you to wonder if that craft would feature in my creative plan. Indeed it does. And now I am pleased to say my upcycled rug project has made good progress despite this week’s multitude of irksome delaying digressions.

One of the things I love about upcycling is the way it makes you really look hard at your intended resource and stretches your brain in devising a creative design that will fit with the available material – both the type of material and quantity. I began by taking a good look at my mound of carrier bags. It was fairly obvious that they could be sorted by colour – red, yellow, blue, white, green. Then I had to consider quantities and the possible construction methods I might use. What pattern would be suitable? What other aspects might I incorporate into my rug project?

I liked the idea of creating a rug in the style of the the old rag mats I had been reading about. However, I didn’t have a suitable canvas backing available and also I decided the slippery nature of plastic would not lend itself well to that method of rug-making. So that experiment will keep for another time.

Eventually for the construction I decided to go with my favourite yarn craft, crochet. I settled on crochet for two main reasons. Firstly, the rug is destined for a practical purpose – my front porch – so will receive a moderate amount of wear and I generally find crochet is quite robust and holds together well.

My second reason relates to the nature of the material I was looking to upcycle. The plastic of the carrier bags I am using is biodegradable so only has a life of around 18 months to 2 years. (I know this from experience as sometimes I find I have stored something in a biodegradable bag and then discover it has … biodegraded!!) For this reason I didn’t want to choose a construction method that would take too long as I didn’t want the material biodegrading before I’d finished the rug! For me, crochet would be fast. So although I know the rug won’t last forever, it also won’t have taken me a long time to make.

The range of colours and the quantity of each helped suggest the design to me. Based on a simple plain crochet square motif, with a circle at its centre, I am using up each colour until it is all gone. My intention with this method of working is to mirror how we make use of the world’s finite resources – a message in my mat, as it were.

Each colour does not make an identifiable pattern or part of the rug. A red row runs on into a blue row, a blue into a yellow and so on. My mat’s message here is how we, the human species, stumble on using the earth’s finite resources, generation after generation. The centre circle represents time, ticking away. It is as if we still cannot come to terms with the inevitable result – our resource will run out … suddenly and soon, just like each of my colours!

Upcycled-rug-taking-shape

I imagine you will be pleased to hear I am aiming for my mat’s story to provide a hopeful end, so look forward to the next part of this upcycling tale.

J Peggy Taylor

hands hooking the yarn for single crochet stitches

Craft a Willow and Hemp Curtain Ring

I’m in a bit of a willow and hemp phase at the moment. Willow needs little introduction. There are many species of willow (Salix)growing in many parts of the world, and varying in shape and size. As it is quick growing and pliable, willow has long been grown as a basketmaking material. This week I have been discovering myself a little of how wonderfully versatile a material it is for basketmaking, but now I am also experimenting with making it into other forms.

This particular experiment involved making a natural ring and then crocheting a binding around it. The ring is made with a 60cm/24 inch fine willow rod simply coiled around to form a ring about 7cm/3 inches across.

Materials needed to make the curtain ring
Materials needed to make the curtain ring

To make the crochet binding I used some spare hemp yarn I had left over from another project. The hemp I am talking about here is agricultural hemp. Agricultural hemp, like willow, is another wonderfully versatile material. It is also truly environmentally friendly and I believe deserves a much bigger role as one of the sustainable solutions we need for an ecologically sound future.

Hemp yarn is soft and strong. The hemp yarn I am using in this project is a beautifully rich deep terracotta. The yarn is hand-coloured but is also colour-fast, making it washable. Another aspect I particularly love about this yarn is its lustre. The natural hemp yarn has not been bleached as part of its processing, so it retains its natural shine, allowing the light to pick up on highlights in a finished piece.

The curtain ring I am making in this tutorial is experimental at this stage, but I thought I’d share the idea with you. However, I have made similar willow curtain rings without a binding and they are certainly still giving good service a year later.

You can find my tutorial (with photos) for making the willow and hemp curtain ring here on its own page.

The finished willow and hemp curtain ring
The finished willow and hemp curtain ring

You will notice the ring is neither flat nor rounded, but rather undulates as it follows the thicks and thins of the willow base. The crochet stitches will be shorter or longer to accommodate the variations. I quite liked this. I think this gives the curtain ring more character and also the undulation will play well with the lustre of the hemp yarn as the light reflects.

J Peggy Taylor

This week’s Purple Patches of creativity

Sometimes we start a creative project and then, due to hiccups and interruptions of one kind and another, it begins to feel as if the piece will never be finished. So when we do eventually manage to complete the job then success does seem all the sweeter.

This week I saw a lovely hand-made patchwork quilt and learned that it had been one of those seemingly-never-going-to-be-finished pieces. The patchwork quilt has been created by Megan. Her quilt had been an ongoing project for more than seven years.

I love the colours Megan has chosen for her quilt. There are shimmering blues, cerise and purples – perhaps reminiscent of the calming end to an ocean sunset. The colours speak “happy” and “peaceful” to me – which seems an ideal combination for a quilt.

Megan is a fellow Zero To Hero blogger here on WordPress and I follow her blog “my chronic life journey”. Like others who suffer from a chronic illness, life for Megan sounds very much like a daily challenge. She says that finally completing the quilt was an “amazing achievement” and a really good feeling – that definitely sounds like a Purple Patch for Megan!

I have been working on a rather long and drawn out purple project myself over the past few months. Finally, this week, I am pleased to say this project has become the next hat in my Oak Trees Studio Etsy shop.

Woman's Damson Alpaca Crochet Slouch Beret
Damson Alpaca Crochet Slouch Beret

When I am designing I tend to choose colours that for me harmonise with the natural world. In this way, the damson alpaca yarn worked for me, although I have also seen the damson colour that I chose for this hat among the purple hues on the fashion cat-walks this winter.

My own Purple Patch in relation to this hat came not so much in the actual crafting – though that part had been rather drawn-out for various reasons – but via my struggle to shoot some satisfactory product photographs of it for my Etsy shop. With volumes of advice and some technical assistance from two of my more photographically-capable sons, I was really pleased when I eventually achieved some shots I was reasonably happy with. Although I must add that I do take total responsibility for any defects in the photographs!

While on the subject of Purple Patches and photography, I thought I’d share with you another purple ‘creative’ snapshot I grabbed this week. As I was choosing vegetables for a mid-week Winter Vegetable Casserole, I noticed these two red onions had randomly fallen into something resembling the yin and yang motif. Were they trying to tell me something about my work/life balance perhaps – my incessant multi-tasking? Or maybe they were congratulating me on completing that long-winded damson hat project … had I restored the yin-yang balance by finally finishing it? I really don’t know. I love the colour of red onions but I always think of them as more purple than red.

2 red onions as yin and yang
Red Onion Yin and Yang

What is a Purple Patch?
“a period of notable success or good luck.”
www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/purple-patch.html

J Peggy Taylor

Introducing Oak Trees Studio

Hello and welcome to my new Oak Trees Studio blog!

OakTreesStudio_Banner

Oak Trees Studio is my new Etsy shop. I opened my shop a few weeks before Christmas as the new face of my creative endeavours.   www.etsy.com/shop/OakTreesStudio

I am something of a nature nut and I love working with natural materials so it seemed a natural progression to develop this into a seedling of a business idea. My main aim through Oak Trees Studio is to share my love  of natural materials – from wool to wood and from hemp* to hedgerow treasure  …  and hopefully start selling the hand-crafted items I produce.

For my opening collection of hand-crafted items I have created some warm winter crochet beanie hats in real Yorkshire wool.  I absolutely love this natural un-dyed wool. The wools I choose are from small scale producers and the wool is all processed by hand and hand spun in North Yorkshire.

Brown_Wool_Hat_White_Stripe_blog copy

I develop my own original hat patterns and then I crochet the hats. Crochet is my favourite yarn craft. I learned to crochet as a child – many, many years ago – and whenever I yearn to create in yarn, usually I turn to my crochet hooks.

You may have noticed I added an asterisk * next to the word ‘hemp’ earlier. Agricultural hemp is an often-maligned member of the Cannabis sativa family. It is only a few years since it again became legal to grow agricultural hemp in the UK, though it has a long and illustrious history. This is a wonderful and very eco-friendly plant crop that I am sure to write more about in a future post. The hemp yarn I use is hand-dyed and comes in a myriad of beautiful colours.

That’s a brief peek behind the origins of Oak Trees Studio. I hope you’ll drop by again to see what else we’re up to here on the blog and you’re very welcome at Oak Trees Studio on Etsy too.

I want to sign off this post by sending my very best wishes to everyone who is taking part in the WordPress Zero to Hero in 30 days project.  What a great WordPress idea for the New Year! Thank you Michelle too!