Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lucy and Jack

"Lucy and Jack's Afternoon Stroll" seems to be one of the most popular of the Lovely Ladies Doilies.  It also seems to be the one that most people like to try in different color schemes. Here are a few pictures folks have sent me.
Michelle is the  owner of three Scotties and likes to make things honoring her  favorite breed of dog. She first made a 'Lucy and Jack' doily for herself using the colors called for in the pattern. She tells how she then came to make this version: "It just so happens that our good friends that own a Scottie have recently experienced some medical issues with the dog. He is on his way to a full recovery and we are going to have party to celebrate in a few weeks. My husband asked me if I could crochet another Lucy and Jack for them. Since her favorite color is green I thought it would be fun to make a version in various shades of green. And since her Scottie is a wheaten colored dog it worked out great to use natural colored thread for the dog. "
I love it, Michelle! You did a beautiful job.

One of my favorite customers, Jenny Maloney has made several versions of Lucy and Jack. Here is her doily done in peach tones.

And here is Jenny's version in pink and green. I love it!

Here is the original Lucy and Jack.
I always love to see pictures of doilies made from my patterns. Thank you for sharing them!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Crochet Woman

Ruth Manning Sanders is one of my favorite authors. I have loved her books of folk and fairy tales since I was a girl, and have a quite a collection of her works. I have been trying to purchase a copy of her "A Book of Mermaids" for quite a while (one of her most highly sought after titles), but even when I manage to find one it is always listed for $100.00 or more. But I keep hoping to find one more in the price range I am willing to pay, so every now and then I do a search for her books on EBay and Amazon.
Imagine how surprised I was a few weeks ago when the title "The Crochet Woman" popped up when I typed   "Ruth Manning Sanders" into the search field on Amazon. Even though I have read her books for years, I had never heard of this one.  I immediately clicked on the title, wondering what the book could be about. There was not much information, other than it was published in 1930. There were 3 copies available from three different used book sellers; 2 were listed at $75.00 each. The third was listed for $10.00 plus shipping, so I  ordered it right away, even though I didn't really know what to expect.
When the book arrived about a week later, I sat down and began to read. The story drew me in immediately, even though I quickly learned that the crochet woman (we never learn her name, she is always referred to as "the crochet woman") is not a good person. In fact, she is quite evil, a witch, who uses her crochet work to cast spells on the poor folk who live in the countryside around her.
Here is a quote from the inside flap of the cover:
"Tart as a cooking apple, full flavored as wild honey, is this tale of the English countryside, the story of a modern witch who works with gossip and innuendo in place of curses and spells. Knotting hatred of youth into her endless pattern, she bestirs herself to bring havoc into the lives of her young neighbors, and almost succeeds."
I read the book in a single day, and I must say I enjoyed it very much. The ending was just what I had hoped it would be (no spoilers here, even though the book has been out of print for more than 80 years.) If you ever happen to run across a copy, be sure to pick it up. I am sure you will enjoy it, too!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Love Knots: A Tutorial

I love Love Knots, (which are sometimes called "Solomon's Knots", "Double Love Knots," or "True Lover's Knots") but I will be the first to admit they can be somewhat challenging. I tried several times to figure out how to make them by following written instructions in old crochet books, but could never get them quite right. 
It was only when I was faced with writing a pattern that included Love Knots that I actually learned how to make them. Another technical editor in the Annie's Attic Editorial Department, Donna Jones, patiently showed me how to make them. Once I got the  hang of them, I was hooked, and for the next several years I turned out dozens of designs with love knots in them.
They really are simple, once you understand how they work.
I did these photos several years ago, and while they show me working into an already established base of double love knots (and good grief, did I ever need a manicure!) the process for making the stitch is the same even if you are working into a row or round of another type of stitch or a foundation chain. Each love knot or double love knot begins with a sc. Place this beginning sc in the stitch or ch your pattern tells you to (some instructions include the sc as a part of the stitch; others do not.)

Work a sc in the stitch specified in your pattern. To begin the love knot, pull up a loop the length specified in your pattern, usually 1/4" to 1/2" (this makes the "long loop");
yarn over, keeping the third strand the same length as the long loop; pull through long loop.

Insert hook between the long loop and the third strand; yarn over, pull through.

Yarn over, pull through two loops on hook.

A completed Love Knot. Repeat the first three steps from this point to make a Double Love Knot.

A Double Love Knot.

When working into a double love knot, insert your hook into the sc at the center of the stitch.
Here are a few tips on working love knots (which are abbreviated 'lk' or 'dlk' for double love knots):
1: The most important thing is to keep your tension even. It may seem awkward at first, but with a little practice you will soon be able to make your stitches uniform in size.
2: When turning rows of dlk, work 3 single love knots at the beginning of the row and sc into the center of the first dlk of the previous row.
3: When working rounds of dlk, work a single lk at the beginning of the round, then sc into the center of the first dlk of the previous round. This will bring you into position to begin the next round.
4: To increase or to turn a corner when working rounds of dlk, work (sc, dlk, sc) into the center of a dlk or  the corner st or space of the previous round.

If you have been intimidated by love knots, I hope you will give them a try. They really are one of the most beautiful of all crochet stitches.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Learning to Crochet

My Mama, the night I graduated from high school in 1976.
One of my earliest memories (I was about 3) is of my grandmother (whom we called 'Big Mama') showing my mother and me a doily she had just completed. It had a lacy white center, and was edged with beautiful purple pansies. I was enthralled. "I want to make one of those," I told Big Mama. She handed me the doily so I could examine it closer. "You will, someday," she promised.
But it was about 15 years later before I actually learned to crochet. I was expecting my first child, Robyn, and my husband was working on an off shore drilling rig. While he was away at work (two weeks on and two weeks off) I stayed with my parents. I was lonely and a little bored; both my parents worked and I was home alone all day.
My mother firmly believed  that only unintelligent people got bored. "Read a book, go for a walk," she would say. "If you are still bored I will find something for you to do." So one morning when I complained of boredom, she decided that  it was time for me to learn to crochet. She had about 20 minutes before she had to leave for work; that should be enough time.
She pulled a big bag of yarn out of her closet, and took a couple of  crochet hooks and a pair of scissors from her sewing basket. Her plan was to teach me to make granny squares for a baby blanket. I rummaged through the bag of yarn and picked out all the pastel colors. 
We sat side by side on the couch, each of us with a hook and a ball of yarn. “Okay,” she said, “Hold the hook like this and the yarn like this.” I fumbled with my hook and yarn and tried to mimic her movements. “Now do this,” she said, as she made a chain and slip stitched into the first chain to form a circle. I did my best to comply. “Alright, now do this,” she said as she whipped out the first round. She sat as patiently as she could while I struggled to complete my first round. “Alright, now cut the yarn off, join the next color like this and then do this.” Her fingers flew through the motions; I desperately tried to memorize the  movements as she made them. She watched me as I awkwardly joined a new color of yarn and clumsily began the next round. “Okay, you’ve got it,” she said. “Just keep doing the same thing until it gets as big as you want it. Then start another one.” And she was off to work, leaving me to my own devises. I struggled along the rest of the day, determined to succeed.
When she returned home from work that evening,  I proudly showed her the 4 little granny squares that I had managed to complete. She examined them and said “These are beautiful. Now make a bunch more and I will show you how to put them together.” Which, over the next several days, I did.
Years later, I was making an afghan of pastel colored granny squares for a friend’s new baby. My daughter Robyn, who was about six at the time, watched me making the little blocks for a while, then asked me what they were called. “These are granny squares,” I replied. “Is that because your Granny taught you how to make them?” she asked. "No," I told her. "My Mama taught me how to make them; my Mama taught me how to crochet."
And for that I will always be grateful. Thank you, Mama, for teaching me to crochet, and for everything else. I love you and I miss you everyday.
Happy Mother's Day to you all. And if your mother taught you how to crochet, as so many of them did, be sure to tell her thank you.