Flagging

We are flagging. Flagging in the sense that we have teamed up with the fantastic Jon and Kate of Four and Twenty Arts to add colourful, glorious festival flags to our repertoire of things festival and celebratory.  I have been getting to grips with sewing slippery poly-silk (not without some bad words along the way) and enjoying seeing them come together.

Look at those tasty colours, yum yum….

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This is our garden covered with silky flags. We have been refashioning some of the flags from offcuts in our usual thrifty, resourceful fashion.

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We are also flagging because we have been so very busy with weddings and festivals.  Tomorrow we fly to Viano Do Costelo, Portugal, for a well-earned break. Henry will rest his yurtmaker’s tired back and I will rest my sewing/typing fingers and addled brain.

Our last festival outing of the year was to the wonderful Wilderness Festival for a weekend of colourful, glittery family fun. Our 42ft yurt was the home of the stretch yoga team for the weekend. We gained some flag inspiration and the kids had a ball.

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Maeve was the subject of many coos and smiles as she settled down to sleep in the work wheelbarrow. This man felt the urge to tell her a spontaneous bedtime story of Jack and the Chicken.

It’s been crazy busy but loads of fun….

 

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YurtFurtling at Glastonbury

The observant amongst you will notice that the title of this blog has changed. Now that I am a fully fledged yurtmaker’s assistant I am finding that life is increasingly more yurty and less yarny. So, we (Henry and Me) are officially joining forces as the YarnTangler and the YurtFurtler and this blog will be a little bit of all of it.

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I will start with the big collaborative event of the year: Glastonbury Festival. We were very honoured to be working with the Glastonbury Joint Charities which is a collaboration between Greenpeace, WaterAid and Oxfam. And what an impressive bunch of committed activists they are.

The joint charities team did an amazing job with the decor and made the big yurt into a lush, colourful and relaxing space to escape from the hustle and bustle of the festival. My macrame plant hangers worked really well as part of the decor even if they were somewhat dwarfed by the stunning centre hanging centre piece.

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I was taken by the fact that there were some giant crocheted foxgloves and bluebells outside the yurt; it was almost as if they knew! There was a wildflower theme to this area of the festival and the areas around the yurt had been planted with trees, grasses and native flowers.

We had a blast at the festival, despite the obvious challenges underfoot, and I was inspired and buoyed up by the spirit of creativity, cooperation, and skills sharing that underpins the whole event. It is essentially an enormous gathering of the best artists, performers, creatives, activists and immensely skilled, practical people from all over the world. It is hard not to be impressed.

We also got a rare chance to spend a few days with our good friends and colleagues Will and Suki from Cheltenham Yurt Hire. We couldn’t have done it without these glorious people by our side. So long, and thanks for all the glitter xxx

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Never ending squares

I am in the blanket black hole. If you have ever crocheted a blanket (or knitted, or patchworked) you get to the  black hole and it seems to stretch for all eternity.

So many titchy little squares, in so many colours….

So I have developed strategies for easing the tedium. Sometimes I do all the middles first and line them up. That’s quite nice.

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Sometimes I do lots of pretty circles….oooh, nice colours in a slightly different order.

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Sometimes I pile them up in satisfying little stacks…

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And sometimes I lay them out in rows just to check that I still like them.

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And slowly, inexorably, a blanket emerges. Eventually it all becomes worth it, only about a thousand left to go….

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We are off to Wales tomorrow in our new (to us) beige and maroon dream caravan. I am really looking forward to it, even if I do have to take the squares with me. Maybe one day I will be able to take one of those ‘ta dah’ pictures with my feet sticking out from underneath said blanket with the setting sun over the Atlantic horizon.

The good news is that Mr Yurtman has installed a teeny little wood burner in the caravan so we will be super cosy by the coast. I can be a little bit smug about that.

See you all soon xx

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Happy Bunting & Blossom

Bunting, blossom, spring sunshine and kids playing in the garden. That’s about perfect really. We are very lucky to have a large, wild garden and this year the apple blossom has been stunning. The traditional apple varieties were planted by my parents 30 years ago and they have recently been subject to some rather vicious pruning, which appears to have given them a new lease of life. The fresh whites, pinks and greens of the bunting (made from old polycotton duvet covers) with the blossom lift even the most cynical of spirits.

I don’t even like florals very much but I like the bunting now that it is finished. I also get a feeling of great satisfaction that it is all recycled from stuff that really would have ended up being shredded. I bought most of the fabric from an amazing recycling project in Telford called Shropshire Loves which collects donated goods and buys textiles from collection bins, gives the relevant and useful garments as aid to refugees and local people, and then sells or recycles what remains. They  even have a craft section where they sort fabrics for up-cycling and a mending section where clothes are repaired for resale. Nothing goes to waste.

Trees, sunshine and making stuff. These things make me happy. Thanks for reading xx

Proper vintage bunting

It’s proper spring time, the sun is shining and it feels fitting to be making proper vintage bunting for all those lazy summer celebrations on the horizon. I have bunting to make for a community celebration but I am also making it as a part of our yurt rental package. For what is a wedding without bunting I ask you!

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I have a old fashioned, romantic idea of bunting that it is supposed to made out of worn out clothes and remnants not, as most bunting is made from, new ‘vintage’ fabrics. So I may have made a rod for my own back but I am attempting to make 100m of bunting out of recycled and remnant fabric. So, with a couple of old duvet covers (handily with a different print on each side) a bag of Laura Ashley offcuts and some unidentifiable bits that have been around for years I have come up with some passable pastel/vintage/boho/shabby chic bunting that may or may not look like it was made from Aunty Joyce’s second best bedding.

What do you think of the combination? I have to confess that I am not at all sure but then that may be because vintage pastel florals are really not my cup of tea. My next project is rainbow bright satin bunting, I think I will like that better. Most things that I make are grey and sludge colours but I am reliably informed that this just won’t do for summer garden parties.

This is the resident yurt maker surrounded by old duvet covers and working out the yurt bookings schedule over the summer. The flowers are one of the perks of working with weddings, that and the 30 eggs that one customer brought me this week. Do you happen to have any very eggy cake recipes that you want to share? I haven’t finished the bunting, wish me luck for the full 100m.

Thanks and see you soon, Mary x

 

 

 

Macrame. How very retro.

I am actually very excited about macrame at the moment! I have been commissioned to make 20 macrame plant hangers for a display in a yurt that might just be part of a large, world-famous music festival in June. I have never done macrame before. How hard can it be?

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The answer is, not hard at all! I am sure that there are challenging, intricate projects that require a high level of knotting skill, but if you want to make something that looks really effective and takes a short time to master, it’s macrame all the way.

I made these as samples from Tek Tek t-shirt yarn that I had in my stash. I got the idea for using the t-shirt yarn from Pinterest and I think it gives them a fresh, contemporary twist on the 70s jute plant hangers. They are also, as my mum pointed out, completely machine washable. Thanks mum.

These will form part of large display of greenery in Yurtmaker’s large 42ft event yurt (yurtmaker is what I do when I am not messing about with bits of wool). This is our big yurt, made by my very clever Henry. Imagine how stunning 20 plant hangers will look in there.

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I suppose I had better get knotting! Thanks for calling in. Mary x

Visible Mending, Sashiko Style

I go into a little period of mourning every time a pair of favourite jeans wear out. I also get very despondent when shopping for jeans because so many of them are so horrible, so ugly or made for some weird stick-insect shaped people. The jeans on the left below are my Jasper Conran jeans that I splashed out on after my second daughter was born and they have been firm favourites, good quality stretch denim with just about the right amount of skinniness.

My jeans always wear out on the left knee first. I have no idea why.

The jeans on the right are some cheaper skinny jeans that I did some experimental visible mending on some time ago. They are now too small and covered in paint splatters so they will be my sacrificial jeans. I cut an oval hole from the jeans to be mended and a matching patch from the back of the sacrificial jeans, which I sewed into place with appliqué stitch. Then I just did a series of running stitches with sturdy white thread to create little white crosses.

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Sashiko embroidery is a Japanese form of functional embroidery that was traditionally used to reinforce clothing and fix worn or torn areas of cloth. It is traditionally worked in white on an indigo background, so denim makes for a good backdrop. It is also often incredibly beautiful using painstakingly accurate geometric designs. I would say that my version falls firmly on the side of ‘functional’, but then I am just a beginner!

I am very taken with the concept of visible mending as a way of both embellishing clothing and prolonging its useful life. Mended textiles have a back story that new, disposable clothing does not. And don’t start me on jeans that are made with holes in on purpose….it is surely the lowest point of our throw away fashion culture that we would intentionally damage good, wearable clothes. I also don’t want drafty knees. So I am a mender.

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This is how they turned out. Some of the stitching is a bit wobbly (two different weights of stretch denim can be tricksy) but I am really pleased with how they look and, with a bit of luck, I can wear my best ‘smart’ jeans for another couple of years. And I can postpone the dreaded jeans shopping mission for a bit longer, shudder.

 

 

 

 

Crochet Pinwheel Jacket Remake

So this was an interesting challenge. My lovely sister-in-law has owned this crochet jacket for years. It was from a sample sale for a high-end knitwear company, made in China from merino and viscose. She loves it but the arms and the body were a bit too long and the body a little too narrow. I was drafted for technical advice!

I forgot to take a ‘before’ photo but here it is with its new boxy shape and stitch markers.

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Look at those crochet circles. I actually don’t know how they are made but it looks like they are made in two semicircles with the colours carried around. I will confess to being slightly baffled. What I can say is that someone put a huge amount of work into it and to alter it will be slightly nerve wracking. If anyone has seen this motif pattern before I would be interested to know how it is constructed.

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We decided, with some trepidation, to use the overlocker to cut off the excess length on the sleeves and then crochet a new border all around to bring it together at the front. The overlocking worked really well, phew.

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We went on a sunshiny walk with the children and made a little detour past a lovely little shop called YAK (yarn and knitting, see what she did there) and I couldn’t resist a cheeky little purchase, just to support an independent yarn business you understand. Cosmic chaos! I just hope that I can find a lovely, simple shawl pattern that will do those amazing colours justice. Alex bought some dark brownish grey to add a simple border and bring all the colours together.

Anyway, the upshot of the jacket is that I have left her with yarn, crochet hook, some sketchy instructions on how to crochet a new border and the jacket will be reborn. She is of a very crafty persuasion so I have no doubt that she will finish it off beautifully, the whole garment looks so much better for its makeover.

Thanks for dropping in, I will let you know how I get with the Cosmic Chaos xxx

Harmony Sunburst Granny, WIP

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What a wonderful collection of words: Harmony Sunburst Granny.

Harmony – the colours I am using are from the Attic 24 Harmony Blanket Pack which is available from Wool Warehouse. It is 100% acrylic (shock horror) and really good value for money. I will confess that there are some colours in there that I would never pick and I still hesitate when I pull some of them at random from my bag. Clematis is a rather sickly purplish pink and Cloud Blue is a classic baby blue like your granny would choose. They do, however, all hang together rather cleverly and the Parma Violet background makes the colours really pop out. It looks grey by artificial light, but I don’t mind that, I think greyish tones make a really effective background for other colours.

I am really enjoying the surprising colour combinations that emerge; who knew that petrol and lime could work so well together, or raspberry and turquoise. I am also surprised at how much I like this blanket, it makes me happy every time I look at it.

The yarn is Stylecraft special DK – Plum : Raspberry : Violet : Pale Rose : Lavender : Clematis :Lime : Meadow : Sage : Aster : Turquoise : Cloud Blue : Petrol : Storm Blue :
Parma Violet

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Sunburst – this is a pattern that is widely available on the internet. I chose it because I am making the blanket for my 7 year old daughter and I wanted something that would appeal to her now but also stand the test of time so that she can keep it forever.

Its combination of puff stitch and cluster stitch really does make it pop out like a sunburst and it does lend itself well to my particular brand of tight, anally retentively neat crochet. I have also become a bit obsessed with my ends and have now perfected the art of doing the whole square with only that last end to sew in, I hate sewing in ends. The main issue with this blanket is that the squares are really quite small so it is taking bloody ages to finish, excuse my french. I am using a flat crochet join which I think brings blankets together as a whole, rather than a whole load of squares.

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Granny – I wanted to make something that has the timeless, vintage feel of a granny squares blanket but not just boring old granny squares. I think this pattern and the careful selection of colours, for which I can claim no credit at all, makes for a much more special blanket.

This may be controversial but I actually dislike a great many of the granny blankets that I see, and this is mainly to do with the use of colour. I appreciate that the reason they evolved was to use up left over wool and the thrift of this does appeal to me, but, sometimes these colours end up being a bit horrible. My top colour tips are to avoid black and white (unless you are only using black and white), and I personally think that anything sparkly, fluffy or variegated doesn’t belong in a blanket. However, I did also say that I would never make a blanket again or use acrylic! Hopefully Holly will treasure this blanket forever, when it is finally finished.

 

Doily Doodles

I have a meandering mind and in one of my many Pinterest perambulations I came across this microscopic image of walnut wood. It looks like lace, right? I was fascinated by the regularity of the lines broken by the irregular circles, all joined with a lacy mesh. Irish crochet mesh? I have never had any desire to make the flowery, fussy designs that are typical to Irish crochet but the neatness, smallness and precision does appeal.  I also like the idea of trying something graphic and abstract.

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Microscopic image of walnut tree

I pinched a 1mm crochet from Jo at Three Stories High (she is a fabulous craft resource) and she assured me that she would never need it back, whilst looking at me like a lunatic for even wanting to try making crochet lace. I was far too impatient to wait for my order of super fine No.30 DMC thread to arrive so I made a start with the only colour available in my local Hobbycraft, cream.

This is my first wobbly doodle. I made it up as I went along and my intention was to make a sample as a practice for a bigger piece. It is weebly but I quite like it and it got better as I went along. I wanted to give a sense of the organic connections in the walnut cell structure as well as achieving something of the technical finesse of traditional crochet lace. I also actually quite like the cream, which surprised me.

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This is my second attempt, with my (small) hands to give an idea of scale. Still wobbly but the corners and straight lines are improving, especially with some aggressive blocking and pinning.

When my exciting package of DMC crochet threads arrived I started fiddling with some bits and they started to emerge into roots and branches. After a few evenings of obsessive teeny hooking I came up with this funny little lacy tree. It needs stretching and mounting to really do it justice, and there are a million little mistakes, but I learned a lot and I am gobsmacked that I actually made a lace thing that looks a bit like a tree.

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I will definitely be doing more doodles, just as soon as my hands have recovered from all those titchy stitches. Perhaps I will finish that walnut cell doily doodle one day.