Saturday, 1 September 2012

Sea-Change Crochet

Having finished the dahlia flower cushion for my mother and dabbled with my American Peaches & Creme yarn in sea colours to make a face flannel or two, my hooky fingers have been itching to start on something new. Of course it's not that there aren't already some other things in production (two bags, to be precise, in varying stages of completion!) but you know how it is, there are times when the creative part of one's soul just wants to start something new and not just anything new, something big! I have had a lull from a big hooky project for a while and it's been nice pottering with more containable things but I've hit that moment when I want the long distance to open up and begin something that will see me through into the winter and possibly beyond.

The obvious solution is another blanket of some kind. But what kind? While I was away for my all-too-short week by the sea I was struck afresh by how fickle and changeful the colour of the sea is - you know what I mean, one minute it is all grey, louring and sulky-looking and the next it is sapphire-blue, deepening to ultramarine and indigo. A constant slave to the light, it is by turns delicately silvery and opaquely moody. And where the depth of the water varies you get further subtler and more beautiful variations, even off the British coast, - dark blue lightens to shades of green, aquamarine, spruce and vivid turquoise. And where the colour of the water ripples unbroken for a stretch, the cresting waves add a rhythmic splash of pale foam; white, cream, buff and soft pearly grey highlights against slatey grey-blue, duck egg turquoise or deeper, bluer blue.

Tiny extracts from my pics taken of the sea a month ago
showing some of the variations in colour that started this project.
Predictable and yet unpredictable variations on an age-old theme. This is not a new observation, of course, but it did strike me afresh this year. Partly because the weather was quite changeable and what you looked out at one minute was very different from what you might see the next depending on the light and the shifting sunshine and cloud patterns.

I began to toy with the idea of replicating some of this sea-change in a piece of hooky and even made a few preliminary sketches with some water-colour pencils.


When I realised that a blanket-size project was a-calling it seemed obvious to marry the two.

Not difficult to pick a pattern either - with the sea-theme it could only be a ripple. Having already satisfactorily made a baby ripple blanket last year and having enjoyed vicariously the making of various other ripple blankets via sundry blogs over the last few months I knew this would be a happy choice. The pattern (Lucy of Attic 24's ripple which you can find here) is easy and enjoyably repetitive to work and the effect is very pleasing. All good news, especially for a big project.

I was heavily influenced, I have to say, by one particular ripple blanket that Sonia of Fabric and Flowers has been making this year although she has drawn her inspiration from the sky rather than the sea. Sonia has hooked, is still hooking, month by month, the colours of the skies of 2012 into a blanket. A hooky snapshot of a year's horizons. She doesn't know what the next months' rows will look like because who knows what skies will unfold to dictate them? She has sensibly limited her colour palette to a predetermined selection of blues, greys and whites so there is an overall unity but also an exciting unpredictability as to what will emerge. I absolutely love this approach. I think the technical name for it is "Conceptual Knitting" or rather "Conceptual Crochet". Whatever its name,  I find it energising and free-flowingly creative in a most inspiring way and, well, I think it's art as it should be. You can read about Sonia's sky blanket's journey here. Sonia began her blanket at the beginning of January so she only has another four months to go and then she can snuggle under 2012 quite literally!

If I lived by the sea I would love to use this approach. Going each day to observe and record the sea's colour and mood and to weave those colours (or rather hook them) into place. But as I don't live near the sea, I have regretfully had to abandon the idea and have more boringly decided to adopt a more predictable, but hopefully, interestingly varied, colour palette.

From my preliminary sketches it quickly became apparent that to get the effect I was after, I was going to need a lot of colours.

Some were already in my stash which was a good start. But there was no doubt but that a few additions to the yarn mountain under my bed were also going to be required! All good clean fun but of course this lovely yarn stuff isn't cheap. So I have been buying it frugally, (all things are relative!), in instalments, with left over birthday money and some repaid expenses money over the last month. I now have twenty seven glorious sea colours and I've had to make a colour swatch card to keep track of what colours are going to go alongside others. Janice of childhood, uninterrupted gave me the idea of the colour swatch card in her post here and it's fantastic. Can't think why I didn't do this before when juggling umpteen colours and trying to remember what order I'd decided they were supposed to go in.

Interestingly there are some colours outside my normal palette of sunny blues, pinks and bright pale greens - soft grey and ivory are in there, slatier and moodier blues and smudgier greens than my normal choices figure and there is even a soft, neutral buff colour, unappetisingly called "String" which I would never normally go for. As I said in my post on my dahlia cushion, working with colours very much outside my normal palette has changed my perspective a bit. I like it. What next I wonder?!

My life-saving colour swatch chart made from holes punched in the side of a packet of Earl Grey tea
 with the name of each colour (and its code) carefully noted against each strand for when I need to re-order!
Anyway this homemade colour chart has saved a lot of trouble and means I can now vacuum the bedroom floor where previously the balls of yarn were all carefully laid out. Woe betide anyone who came in before and disturbed one of my arrangements with a careless shoe or a helpful hoover!

The first eleven colours of my twenty seven.
I won't be able to say that my blanket will be the sea of 2012 or 2013 in the way that Sonia will be able to say that hers is the sky of 2012 but I hope it will convey the essence of the changing seas of this year, next year, some time and ever. And in my land-locked existence it will be a happy reminder of the liminal possibilities that the changing sea reminds me of. "Everything is in flux" was the hallmark of one of ancient Greece's philosophers, Heraclitus. Profoundly true and good to be reminded of it sometimes. Nothing ever stays entirely the same; neither the good, the bad nor the indifferent. Living life to the full is often, I think, about learning to flow with that, rather than against it. So hopefully my blanket will carry a gentle philosophical reminder of that too!

The beginnings of my sea-change ripple.




19 comments:

  1. What a lovely idea, I can't wait to see how it grows. The picture you've shown is beautiful and calm like the sea. I think finding a colour scheme in nature and sticking to that is a good way of trying something new but knowing they work together! Abigail x

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  2. Great colour choices, I especially like the string, pale blue and silver so far, just calm , but somehow still snuggly....I'm looking forward to this one growing, it's right up my street.

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  3. I just love your idea of a sea-inspired blanket. I spent a lot of time looking at and photographing the sea this week and the colours of sea and sand and sky are constantly in flux, and always beautiful. Of course, ripples are perfect - what else?? And I love the muted palate of blues, greens and greys - just my cup of tea. I can already tell it's going to be gorgeous! x

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  4. I hope you can help me with a question. I an quite new to crochet and still learning. I've made a giant granny square blanket in contrasting pink and purple and I'm in the middle of a red and white patch square blanket, to be joined in white. I love the idea of a green blanket made from all the colours of the forest. My brother works in the forest and a blanket combining all the different greens and browns would be excellent. But my question is more of a practical than arty. Where do you buy your wool? And does it all need to be the same brand? When I first had the forest blanket idea I went to my local wool shop to find the brand I normally get did three greens and two browns, so only give colours. I figured it would work. But it wasn't really what I had in mind. So I put the idea to one side. But here you've sourced nearly 30 colours. Where did you get them? And do they need to be the same brand?
    Thanks so much for your help. Jen.

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    1. Dear Jen
      Thank you so much for your comment and your question. Firstly what a fabulous idea to crochet a forest blanket! I love it! Now to answer your question... I am relatively new to the whole yarn-buying thing and it's been a bit of an eye-opening journey! Not least because to begin with I had no idea how expensive this stuff could be! And secondly I quickly encountered the problem you are talking about that relatively few yarn ranges encompass a full range of colours. I do mix brands when occasion demands but try to keep the composition and weight of fibre consistent to avoid inconsistency in the making up. Having said that, I did use slightly differing weights of acrylic yarn in my African Flower bag because I needed a fuller range of colours than any one range offered. And it worked out OK. The yarn in my new blanket is Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino which comes in a very wide range of colours although it isn't cheap. If you are US based then Red Heart Super Saver acrylic yarn I believe comes in a very wide range of shades at a reasonable price. If you are UK based I am afraid my experience is there is less reasonably priced choice but it's worth shopping around a bit and looking at what range and fibre will offer you the kinds of colours you are thinking of. Do email me directly at mrsthomasinatittlemouse@gmail.com if you'd like to chat further. Happy Hunting for your forest yarns - I'd love to see a pic of what you come up with. E x

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  5. Oooooh, I see the sea! Gonna be gorgeous. Making me itch for a big project too-perfection for Winter and fire-side time.

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  6. Dear E
    My very favourite colours put together in a blanket. It is going to be very special, I think. I am really looking forward to seeing its progress.
    Best wishes
    Ellie

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  7. The colours are beautiful - and it was really interesting seeing your creative process too.

    Pomona x

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  8. What a lovely blanket Elizabeth, the colours are gorgeous! And thank you so much for the mention...I'm flattered that you've found my blanket inspiring. You've now got me thinking about a years' sea blanket now, although I'd have to move to the seaside! Sx

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  9. Love your ripples! Isn't yarn photogenic? I think so.

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  10. What a lovely post. I really enjoyed reading how you selected your yarn. The blanket is looking great, it already has that calming look to it iykwim.

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  11. This looks beautiful - can't wait to see the end results! Judy

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  12. Your colour choice is beautiful and I'm sure will be a reminder of your holiday. Reading your post is like flicking through someone's sketch book seeing the transition from vague ideas to consolidated plan so we just need a photo of the finished blanket to complete the picture.
    The colour swatch is such a good idea and one I shall be copying for my next project.

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  13. Dear E - your ripple already looks gorgeous and I too have been toying with the idea of a 'seaside' ripple (but more of that in another post)! I just wanted to give you this link http://biscuitsandjam.com/stripe_maker.php which is for a pattern generator. I don't always use it for ripples but it's such fun to play with and you can see straight away if a certain colour doesn't 'sit' right! Anyway, I just thought it might be useful. Happy hooking!!!! lol x

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  14. I watch crocheters closely and it all rips along so quickly and I think for the umpteenth time I really must learn to do that (because apart from anything else it's so much faster than knitting!). For now though I shall watch with interest from afar and cheer you on. This is going to be glorious :D

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  15. This is sublime Elizabeth, and your colour choices are (and I personally hate this expression, but it is apt here) to die for. So soothing, they look as if they feel beautiful to work with. So jealous....

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  16. I loved seeing this process--from inspiration to execution. I will be attending a lecture in a couple of weeks that deals with design inspiration, and I am fascinated by this topic and by how a spark of an idea or an impression can lead to the creation of an object. I'm also curious--what type of yarn are you using here?

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    1. The yarn I'm using is Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino - not cheap unfortunately, but lovely to work with and it comes in by far the widest range of subtle sea-colours I could locate.

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    2. Robyn (Qld Australia)18 September 2012 06:14

      Hi - I love your blanket. I have been trying to match some of the colours and I just about give up. Here in Australia Debbie Bliss is very expnesive. Like $11.50 ball. Can you list (if possible) exactly what DEbbie Bliss colours you are using? Just a lot of money top spend to get the wrong colour in the mail. Your help would be super appreciated.

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