Sunday, 2 August 2015

How to crochet cow parsley - free crochet pattern

We moved to our cottage in early May 2003. I remember the usual stress of moving house, but I also remember the green surrounding our new Fen-edge home, and in particular the hedges lined with frothy cow parsley. I'd never lived in such a rural place before. Prior to our house behind Tesco's in North Cambridge I'd lived in London for four years. What our village lacks in commercial outlets (there's one pub and no shops) it makes up for in wildflowers, owls, muntjac deer and even, now and again, nightingales.

I've been a keen amateur botanist since I was a child, when my Mum and Grandad taught me the names of wildflowers and trees. As soon as we had settled into the cottage I found a patch of cow parsley up the lane and examined it. I'd not seen any at close quarters before. It's a sort of tiny umbrella with green spokes, attached to which are tiny sprays of pale cream, exquisitely lacy florets. I've even seen bees sheltering beneath it during rain showers. When the flowers have finished the seedheads punctuate the hedgerows and remain until after Christmas, sometimes covered in frost. Their silhouettes make winter more beautiful. Cow parsley became an instant favourite of mine.

As time passed I realised that cow parsley wasn't the only species with this parasol-like flower shape. Hogweed. wild parsnip, hedge parsley, wild carrot and fennel are fellow umbellifers or umbels. I began to learn the exact few weeks when each species was flowering and realised that there are umbels flowering in the hedgerows and woods of various shapes and sizes from April until October. This is a cheering thought.

I've long been keen to find a way to crochet a version of this flower form. A three dimensional version would be a challenge, but I began to adapt a mandala pattern by making a semi-circular version, simplifying it and adding some double trebles as a cluster of stems and it began to look promising. After some tinkering, more simplifcation and a change from white to cream I think my umbellifer garland might be ready for others to have a try. I'd so love to hear what you think and if you make one. (I'm silverpebble2 on Instagram - message me there if you prefer)

How to crochet cow parsley/hedge parsley/hogweed/wild/carrot/the umbellifer of your woolly dreams (ish)

I used a 3.5mm hook with Sirdar Snuggly baby bamboo in 'willow' 
and a dk cream/ecru wool/cotton blend (although any white or cream dk yarn would be fine)


sk - skip that stitch/stitches
ch - chain
ss - slip stitch
dc - double crochet
tr - treble crochet
dtr - double treble crochet

To make a double treble crochet stitch yarn over twice, insert hook, yarn over, pull through (four loops on hook), yarn over, pull through two loops, yarn over, pull through two loops, yarn over, pull through the final two loops on hook. This makes a very 'tall' stitch, which I've used to make the slender, multiple 'stems' of the cow parsley.

To begin use the green yarn to ch6 & join with a ss

Row 1: ch3, 11 tr into ch ring (ensure your tr are close together so a semi-circle forms), turn

Row 2: ch9, *sk 1 tr, dtr into the next tr, ch5* rpt * * four more times, dtr into last tr, turn

Row 3: Switch to cream/ecru yarn: ch 1, *7 dc into 5 ch sp* rpt four more times, turn

Row 4: *ch 3, sk 1 dc, ss into next dc* rpt * * 2 more times, ss in next dc, *ch 3, sk 1 dc, ss into next dc* rpt * * 2 more times, ss in next dc, *ch 3, sk 1 dc, ss into next dc* rpt * * 2 more times,, ss in next dc, *ch 3, sk 1 dc, ss into next dc* rpt * * 2 more times,, ss in next dc, *ch 3, sk 1 dc, ss into next dc* rpt * * 2 more times

Break yarn and weave in ends.

To make a 'string' for your garland and attach your crocheted cow parsley flowers to it use your green dk yarn:

ch 30, take your first flower & hold so that it hangs downward with the green, straight edge along the top and the white lacy curved edge downward.

dc along that top green edge to attach the flower into the garland. I did the following:

* 2 dc into the edge of the 1st white lacy portion, 
5 dc into space made by dtr ( the first 'stem'), 
2 dc into the 'side' of the tr, 
2 dc in central ch space, 
2 dc into the 'side' of the tr
5 dc into space made by dtr (the fifth 'stem'), 
 2 dc into the edge of the 2nd white lacy portion,*

ch 22, rpt * * for as many flowers as you have made

ch30, fasten off

Hang your garland and add a bit of woolly hedgerow to your gaff.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Falling for my fountain pen

Might my fountain pen bird drawings seem familiar? If you've ever ordered a piece of jewellery from me you may recognise them. I've been meaning to share the story behind this little bird since I began my blog.

The inevitable end-of-term frenzy of hurriedly concocted costumes, crazed social schedules (the girls'), bonkers hair (mine) and importantly, The School Disco meant that the handwritten project - my revival of hand-penned letters and the use of fountain pens and typewriters went on hold for a week or two. 

Oh though, LOOK at the gorgeous snail mail I've received already, from Carolyn who attended  one of my silver workshops recently, dear, long-standing blog friends Moogsmum and Driftwood and lovely Louise  of Superduperthings (do pop over to her beautiful blog for a peep). 

The joy of receiving a hand-written letter is hard to explain. Not only is it exciting to open the hand-addressed envelope, but also the individually written words, doodles and varying shades of ink makes each letter a thing of beauty and rather a rarity since the dawn of hastily typed emails. Each envelope is a small paper present full of a friend's handwriting and thoughts - the words may have been the same if they'd sent me an email but the aesthetics and experience are very different. 

Now that the school holidays have begun and we've recovered from the *coughs* viral visitor that came calling on our first day off, the project shall begin in earnest. My fountain pen and I are poised for inky action and I intend to write several letters a week. 

I know Lesley has dug out her collection of old pens and Tess has even started using her elegant hand to write shopping lists but do you have a fountain pen stashed away? Might you have memories of relatives writing to you? I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Spotlight on the shed

Thankyou so much for your lovely encouraging comments on my handwritten project. It seems the idea of returning to fountain pens, ink and typewriters appeals to many and there are several projects across the internet attempting to revive the joy of writing by hand.   

I have received some truly lovely emails and even some handwritten letters (looking at you dear Moogsmum) this week in response. Sorry if I haven't got back to you yet - there are quite a few to get through. I'll be exchanging old fashioned correspondence with several longstanding and some new online friends. There's a list of just a few of them below.

I plan to illustrate my letters as the temptation to draw with my Lamy (safari for those interested) is too strong. Here's a sketch I'll be sending to Ben at Higgledy Garden.

Meanwhile it's been quite a week for my shed and I:

Here is the episode of Love Your Garden featuring my shed on ITVPlayer.

Fancy reading story of my shed over on Standard Issue magazine? Pop over here for a read.

Handwritten project participants

Ben Ranyard is on Twitter and here are his blog and little seedshop.
The stories behind Celia's illustrations (including her thrilling new commission by the Telegraph) are here and here.
You can see Sara Tasker's restful & beautiful photos on Instagram & in her online diary.
You probably already know Laura of Circle of pines but if not her muted and soothing images are here and here.
Have a peep at Marit's wonderfully charismatic crochet on Instagram

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Craft nemesis

Next week is quite an important one for me. Two things are happening: a meeting in London and a meeting of sorts in my studio. Both require a mass of preparation and one may need a new frock so it's ever so slightly frantic round here. Writing, planting, pruning, spider rehoming, photographing and weeding have been going on for a couple of weeks. The need for the odd twenty minutes of down time is more important than ever. I'm thrilled that I'm able to turn to crochet for relaxation. It took me thirty years to become familiar enough with those intricate loops that it stopped being a source of frustration and is now like yarny meditation.

Crochet was my craft nemesis for decades and I've written about how it eventually became part of the everyday and a kind of woolly yoga for me in Standard Issue magazine. I made my first how-to video too. It's here if you'd like to learn how to make a foundation chain - it's the casting on of crochet.

Have you heard of Stitchlinks? Betsan Corkhill runs this excellent organisation, working with the medical profession to investigate the beneficial effects of yarncraft. There's no doubt that in recent months when my Mum in law was unwell and I was rather overwhelmed by the task of promoting the Comic Relief craft magazine crochet came to the rescue. The combination of hook and string seemed to drive down adrenaline.

Does cow parsley grow where you live? It lines every field and hedgerow here and the three or four plants that have found their way into out garden are about to flower. This photograph was taken last evening as the sun began to dip. I wondered whether I could make some with crochet for a friend's belated birthday. I think it worked (see top image) and this is the project I've been working on in between hacking at nettles, although I may try it on a smaller scale too. This will become a garland eventually. Do let me know if you'd like me to write out the pattern...

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Creative medicine

I was rather taken by surprise at the Spring fluey cold that crept up on me three weeks ago. It seems funny time of year to be feverish and confined to bed but I hear that it's been clobbering people across the country. It slowed everything down, including my giveaway announcement. Thankyou for your entries. As ever Mr Random Number Generator came to my aid in choosing the winner. It's CJ of Above the River. Congratulations! Drop me an email with your address CJ.

Between healing naps my concern about my neglected inbox and the three British bird commissions that had to be made were eased by crochet. There's a soothing joy in each loop that can distract from an unfortunate nasal situation.

There's no doubt the shawl I was making was medicinal and as it got larger I was draping it around my shoulders as an extra layer of cosiness.

There was another source of creative medicine whilst I sat amongst wool, quilts and antipyretics. Instagram has been something I've dabbled with but I decided to hop on board and explore it a little more (I'm @silverpebble2). Each image is like a miniature blogpost and it's lovely to catch up with friends over there. Some images are highly styled, some have filters and effects added and some are untouched. I've been experimenting with what I post. I admit that it may seem daft to fiddle around with flowers or pebbles but I confess I love to make images that echo one of my lifelong favourite books: Keble Martin's concise British flora in Colour. This is my version of patchwork and it's as soothing as crochet or weeding for me.

The images in this post are ones I've posted on Instagram. Have you tried it? Does it lure you away from blogs or do you find it too frenetic? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Friday, 24 April 2015

It is time

I've written about overcoming my fear of them (just about), Val once held my hand whilst I wrestled one into submission in the pursuit of some pyjama bottoms and my yearning for a barcelona skirt I've made myself is still strong. I've reached a crossroads -I think it's time I had my own sewing machine. 

I have to admit I'm still rather wary of the needle and the calculus-like workings of these miraculous machines but the potential for making small twirly skirts for small twirly daughters is undeniable and very alluring. Crochet was my craft nemesis for thirty years. My urge to make a woolly flower was so strong that my treadle trepidation was forgotten. I'm trying to design my own crochet shawl just now and last night I crocheted part of a slipper boot so I think the hooky hurdle may be conquered. 

I think I've chosen one. It's basic, several people recommended it on Twitter and, well, it's duck egg. blue. DUCK EGG BLUE. 

Admittedly it does not have a nifty fan attachment like the spectacular number below.

What advice might you have for a person embarking on such a crucial craft relationship? Do you have any sewing machine-related tales (please omit any involving smoke, flames or stitched fingers until I'm feeling a little more brave)

Images from here

Note: I have drawn the winner of my Country Living bookazine and antique necklace giveaway and will announce it in my next post, Many thanks for all the entries x