26 July 2020

Crocheting for calm

Like so many of my generation I was taught to knit, sew and crochet by my grandma. Of the three, crochet is my favourite. In my younger days, I crocheted a large granny squares blanket, dolls clothes, and even completed a project on crocheting, including a full baby layette, for a Duke of Edinburgh award (remember those?). Over the years, I’ve dropped back into crocheting, on and off. When I lived in a Victorian cottage furnished in the Laura Ashley style back in the 1990s I was quite into cotton lace crochet. But in more recent years I’ve tended more towards crafting with the pen rather than the hook. That was, until I came to pack up some personal stuff for our move back to the UK and came across a couple of crochet hooks buried deep in my sewing box. Suddenly I was inspired to take up the old hobby once again, in part fuelled by my wish to spend less time on social media.

Sophie's Garden

Initially, I just bought a couple of cheap balls of yarn* from Action, a discount store in France. My first project was to practice a variety of different stitches, to see what I could still remember. I quickly ran up a large stripy blanket. Then, I began to look around at crochet on the internet (so much for less browsing time!) and I discovered a whole new world. Crochet had certainly moved on in the twenty or so years since I last picked up a hook. There was Ravelry, crochet-along groups (CALS), crochet groups on social media and numerous bloggers designing patterns, sharing tips and making YouTube videos. The range of yarn was immense, with lots of online retailers offering a rainbow of colours. It was here that I discovered Scheepjes whirls, from a Dutch-based manufacturer, 1000m cakes of multi-colour changing yarn. My research threw up the blogger/designer Look What I Made, and from there her pattern for Sophie’s Garden.

I was inspired to make the Sophie’s Garden mandala blanket and downloaded the free pattern. The yarn pack was over £100 so I first needed to do a trial run to make sure I could follow the pattern. Here, the cheap yarn from Action came in handy as I frogged (undid 😊) the practice banket and reworked it as a ‘garden’. Christmas came and we were back in the UK. As we don’t do presents as such but are ‘allowed’ to treat ourselves to something we actually want, I ordered the yarn pack of whirls. Soon after, MiL’s accident threw a spanner in the works as my time was taken up with care, but once a routine was established I started work on the blanket squares every evening.

It took just under four months to crochet all twelve mandala squares. I did toy with the idea of buying some more whirls to extend its size, but by this time I’d got a stack of future projects in my Ravelery queue and a stash of new yarn building up. Deciding on the colour layout was fun and I roped in Mr VV and some virtual fiends for opinions. Rather than follow the pattern layout, I decided to follow the traditional chakra colour scheme, which follows the colours of the rainbow. Mr VV and I were repeating the mnemonic ‘Richard of York gained battles in vain’ as I changed and rearranged the layouts. Eventually we decided on a plan  starting with red in the bottom left and rising to purple and violet at the top. It was time to crochet the squares together. The borders in dark blue and gold set off the ‘gardens’ perfectly and the blanket was finished.

Virus Shawl

Timetraveller poncho

Well and truly hooked, I couldn’t wait to get started on the next project. In this time of uncertainty, with covid and the lockdowns, crochet has provided a fantastic escape route. There is a meditative quality to looping and hooking the yarn, silently counting the stitches, occasionally unravelling and redoing a bit, and following the pattern. I find that the more complicated the pattern the better, Having to concentrate quietens the chatter of the monkey mind. In fact, I saw a Guardian article that referred to crochet as ‘mental yoga’. Since finishing the blanket, l’ve made three shawls, two following a pattern aptly named the Virus Shawl and a poncho. Currently, I’ve got three WIPs on the go – another poncho and a shawl in whirls, and a traditional squares blanket, plus, the plans for future makes last well into the new year!

*NOTE: I always refer to the materials as yarn and not wool, as I only use cotton or similar fibres, never sheep's wool, or any other animal.

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