A Little Bit of Yarn Bombing

A while ago, I decided that I wanted to make some little crochet gifts using some leftover yarn in my stash. I uhhm and aahed over what to make - there are lots of iconic "Orkney" things that would have made for complimentary subjects, like puffins, standing stones and Viking longships. What to choose?


In the end, I went for a simple little house design. The idea behind it was to give people a little piece of home away from home. Orkney is the number one destination for cruise ships to visit in the British Isles, and while I never intend this sort of yarn bombing to be exclusively for tourists, the concept of a portable representation of home felt like the right one for this project.

I made nine houses in total and hid them around the centre of town. Some were more obvious than others; I didn't want to hide them so well that they weren't discovered! I put them out late at night, ready to go to new homes the next morning. It turned out to be a beautiful night with a typical Orkney sunset for the time of year.

I wonder where the houses have ended up and how they are being used. It's nice to think that they could be scattered all over the world!  

Crochet Workshop

Following feedback from the workshops I ran at Laldie Haans, I'm going to be running another crochet workshop on Saturday the 2nd of July!

The three hour workshops is aimed at beginners, or those looking for a refresher in crochet materials, techniques and terminology. We'll be briefly looking at the history of crochet, and how it has developed and diversified in recent years. I'll be bringing a variety of crocheted items, from apparel to amigurumi, that we can look at and discuss with the aim of understanding the stitches and how they are used. I will also have a range of different types of crochet hook for you to try, and lots of different yarn types to experiment with. Some pieces of flat and in-the-round crochet that have been started will be available, but I'll also be able to teach you how to begin different styles of crochet.

All materials are included, but please bring along any pieces of crochet you've done for everyone to have a look at! There will be a 20-30 minute break with refreshments provided. Places are limited to 8. Tickets are £16 and available to buy online, but will also be available on the day if there are any spaces remaining.

Mixed Media Crochet Art

Argh, I can't believe I forgot to take my camera to the crochet workshops I ran at Laldie Haans... And the work produced was so good too! Thinking back to when I first started trying to learn to crochet, the things I made were terrible - huge clumps of nothingness that ended up in the bin (they were such a mess that it wasn't worth keeping them even to look back on to document my progress). It wasn't just me that was surprised with how quickly the students took to crocheting in the round - the students themselves were shocked at how much they managed to get done in three hours. One selkie was completely finished and the rest were well on their way to completion. In the afternoon, I had a lefty looking to learn the basics of crochet. It was a learning curve for both of us; I'd heard that crocheting with the left hand is challenging and couldn't be learned by simply flipping a technique, but I assumed it would be as simple as just holding the hook in your left hand and yarn in the right, and moving your hand the same way you would as a righty. Now that I've experienced the difficulty of trying to crochet using your non-dominate hand, I'm determined to sit down and "figure out" exactly how to crochet left-handed so I can enhance the content of future workshops.

So what else have I been up to recently, other than the workshops? Well, I've just finished a mixed-media painting:

I did the freeform poppy quite a while ago, but didn't really know what I wanted to do with it besides incorporate it in a painting of some sort. Recently, the Weeping Window installation has been opened, and being just along the street from me, it's a poignant source of daily inspiration. Made from a number of the ceramic poppies that formed the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation at the Tower of London, the Weeping Window has been erected to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Jutland. Having such an influential and emotive piece of art on Orkney (and my doorstep) was just the inspiration I'd been seeking, so I cracked out the paints and this is what I came up with.

The canvas is 4" square so there wasn't a lot of room to work with. However, "detail" was not something I wanted to aim for in the application of the paint. The poppy was constructed using a variety of crochet stitches (bullion, surface, increase and decrease to name a few); the intention is to hide the detail of the crochet in an overall image, where you need to stand close to the piece to see what's going on. I didn't want the crochet to look "stuck on" either - it was important to make both the paint and the crochet look like a single image, and not two separate features that jar against one another. It meant applying the paint as thick as possible, even straight onto the canvas from the tube in some places, and then manipulating it in place.

I'm quite happy with the overall effect of the paint and crochet. I have a couple of other freeform pieces ready to be painted onto larger canvas - playing about with placement and scale is an ongoing experiment, and finding new ways to use crochet in art is something I'm excited to be trying.

Laldie Haans Craft Festival

Orkney is getting a new craft festival! Laldie Haans will take place in the last week of April this year, and will be hosted throughout the islands. Events and workshops on crafts ranging from ceramics to origami are in the line up, and I will be running two on crochet! Namely, they will be on amigurumi. For those unfamiliar with the term, it's a Japanese word that literally translates into "knitted toy", and is most often associated with a cute style of crochet toy that is made by continuously crocheting in the round. In the first workshop, I'll be teaching an introduction to amigurumi where you'll learn how to read a crochet pattern, crochet in the round and put everything together to make this little Selkie:

The second workshop will be for more advanced crocheters that are already familiar with the amigurumi process, or are skilled in standard crochet enough to translate their existing skills to making amigurumi dolls. It will be more theory based, and will focus on how to design your own amigurumi. The Selkie in the first workshop shows the basic concepts of amigurumi, but there is so much more to making amigurumi that can make your dolls even more special and unique. It will involve looking at the range of materials you can incorporate into amigurumi (threads, beading, movable limbs, hair, painted eyes, using fabric paints), how to combine different shapes to achieve your design ambitions, and even how to sketch out an idea for a doll and translate it into crochet.

More details on my two workshops, and the festival in general, are to follow. This is the first year Laldie Haans is running; support for it at this stage is vital to ensure it grows year on year, and Orkney is home to a wonderful and talented base of crafters so check in often to see what everyone is up to!

Quick Roundup

I've been so busy over the past few weeks that I've not had much time to blog. There's sooooo much reading to do now that I'm in the final year of my degree that it's taking up most of my time, but I haven't neglected my crafts.

I made this little guy as a sample for workshops on amigurumi that I'll be leading later this year. I'll post more details about it when they're available, but for now, enjoy this cute little guy. His ears and tail are finished with eyelash yarn, which is normally a pain to crochet with, but using it for trim worked well this time.

I've also been knitting a lot of gloves. This pair is made from wool from one of the islands here on Orkney - Papa Westray. It's been sitting in my stash since October, a victim of my "you're so lovely that I don't want to do anything with you so I'll just stare at how pretty you are" syndrome that affects me whenever I get my hands on some yarn that's available in finite quantities.

I've moved onto knitting some Fair Isle gloves using 3ply Shetland wool yarn, and I'm ridiculously happy with how they've turned out. They do, however, need blocked and trying to find glove boards with individual fingers has been a nightmare. I ended up contacting a woodworker on Shetland that I found through the Shetland Arts and Crafts that makes them; I've ordered a pair and they should be with me by the end of the week.

Finally, here's a little preview of a pattern that I'm almost finished writing the complete size-set for. A simple tunic in chunky yarn that's a great introduction to crocheting clothes. It will be available to buy from my Ravelry store in the next couple of weeks!