... out of the biting wind and icy garden with a friend or two for company.
This applies to all chickens in the vicinity - real ones and hooky ones! The real ones are sitting on their own eggs, the hooky ones on Cadbury's Creme Eggs. The latter look slightly surprised, as well you might if you'd discovered you'd laid a Cadbury's Creme Egg!
A friend gave me a very sweet knitting pattern for hollow Easter hens in which to hide Easter eggs but although she assured me it was "very simple" I felt it was beyond my very limited knitting powers and sent it instead to my French friend in Toulouse who knits beautifully, regardless of which language the pattern is in, and she made short work of it, within hours of its arriving through the post. So cute was the pic of the result that she emailed me that I felt I must see if I couldn't have a go at a crochet version which I had tracked down here at Delights-Gems. The shaping feels slightly counterintuitive, or so I thought to begin with, but it works perfectly and I've now made several of these little brown hens. I used an aran weight acrylic / wool mix in King Cole Moorland which happens to be the most speckledy-hen-like yarn I could find when I popped into my LYS. Not quite as variegated as my own bantams but passably speckledy!
Having made the hens, however, they looked chilly and egged on (sorry!) by the rapid spread of broodiness among the bantams, I decided a nest was the only way forward.
A hooky nest of course! I'm rather pleased with it and so are they!
It was very straightforward to hook up if you want to make one yourself.
You start off by making a circle of single crochet (US terms) and when it's the right sort of diameter you are after, you stop increasing and just single crochet without increases, on up, until you get the sides the right height. I used Jacquie of Bunny Mummy's lovely and very clear pattern and tutorial for crocheted bowls as a starting point for this and adapted it to suit the needs of my hooky hens.
I used two colours of yarn as per Jacquie's original instructions because it gives the nest enough substance and body so that it stands up properly but instead of changing colours regularly, I used the same two colours throughout - the brown I used for the hens and a green. The green is actually a totally different yarn, it's Forest Green from my beloved collection of Cascade Ultra Pima cotton. Works fine along with the aran weight acrylic / wool mix though, and a 5mm hook made a good tight fabric, without being too difficult to work the double strands of yarn.
I chose quite a dark green because I wanted it to blend with the brown and give a sort of mossy nest appearance. It's worked quite well, I think. To make leaves, growing, as it were, out of the sides of the nest, at intervals along the way, I periodically dropped the brown yarn and made little chain stems of 8 chain stitches out at the sides, just using the green yarn, then slip-stitching, still just in green, down the side of the chain, then picking up the brown yarn again and carrying on with the round using both yarns together. In the round after a round in which I had made stems, I made a 1 ch instead of a sc where I encountered each stem base and in the next round after, I crocheted my sc stitch into the chain loop for those stitches. This helped to turn the little stems outwards nicely. Can't show you a pic because I forgot to take one when the nest was still a WIP.
Once I'd finished the basic nest with a round of slip stitches, I then crocheted leaves onto each little chain stem so that the nest has the appearance of being made from leafy twigs. I crocheted the leaves using the principle of Lucy of Attic 24's leaves on her Happy Flower Decoration but with a slightly different distribution of stitches because I wanted slightly smaller leaves, so my chain stems are a little shorter than in the Happy Flower Decoration. There are twenty one leaves altogether, crocheted on seven little stems in each of three rows, dotted around the sides of the nest at varying intervals.
I used the same colour green yarn for the leaves as the stems but you could use a different green for a varied effect.
And of course I couldn't resist making a few pink blossoms to tuck in among the leaves. These blossoms are my own pattern - more fragile blackthorn blossom than frothy cherry, I think, despite the fact that blackthorn blossom is white, not pink - but any small flower pattern worked on a smallish hook and with thinnish yarn would work fine. Mine are crocheted in two shades of Patons mercerised cotton on a 3 mm hook.
If you don't want to crochet the stems for the leaves as you go, you could always make free-standing leaves and just stitch them in place. Even if you do crochet them integrally with the nest, as you sew in the ends, you may just want to put a small, strategic stitch into the back of each leaf to anchor it against the nest at the jaunty angle you want. That's what I did anyway.
If the hooky hens can be persuaded to stop sitting, the nest will make a nice container for tiny foil-wrapped Easter eggs but at the moment I can't shift them, or only momentarily to be photographed!
When Spring won't spring, unlike the hens, I don't go broody, but I do find myself travelling in two directions at once:
1: I back-track to Winter and make seriously sweet puddings like sticky toffee pudding or syrup tart* with a really deep filling - twice as deep as the recipe says to make it. My version uses 8oz homemade white bread crumbed in the food processor, the juice of a lemon (or may be two) to sharpen the sweetness and a generous slurping of warmed golden syrup - don't ask me how much; this is one of the rare things I measure by eye but by a generous slurping, I do mean pretty generous - the mixture needs to be quite slack and not at all stiff or the result will be tough and not melting. I stir this lot together, pile it into a homemade pastry case, bake it for 20 minutes in a hot oven and eat it with a spoonful of crème frâiche on the side. You only need a small slice as it is so sweet but it is a very good antidote to lack of sunshine and the bitter cold that currently creeps into every crevice of the house.
* I grew up calling this pudding "syrup tart"; I know many will know it better as "treacle tart". In a way I prefer "treacle tart" - it's more euphonious but my version doesn't actually contain treacle and I like the childhood echoes of "syrup tart" so "syrup tart" it remains.
2: I fast-forward to Summer, dreaming of sunny days to come by beginning to sew a floaty summer dress from this Japanese book:
Hopefully, before long, I will be travelling in just one direction again! And I don't mean the cold one!
In the meantime I think the broody hens have it about right!