Its been a while

Some of my custom makes, workshop creations and designs from 2015. The baby set is the only item where I worked from a pattern


Most of 2015 has been a hectic blur, helping my daughter recover from a c-section and SPD and adapt to having her second son. The eldest is now entering the terrible twos and the younger is 9 months old and is commando crawling everywhere and causing havoc! Although baby was born in April, because of the SPD, resulting in longer term back pain and the need to gain confidence, she stayed with me until the early autumn. For those who don’t know, SPD is a condition where the pelvic muscles start to separate; Physio is meant to be available in pregnancy but due to a very long waiting list, she didn’t get seen. It has taken until late Dec to find a GP at her local surgery who was sensible enough to refer to physio! This meant that by and large running groups became virtually impossible and for a long while I didn’t get alot of making done either.


Also my complex pain syndrome has gradually worsened in the past year, more so since I’ve been less busy to be honest, which makes no sense to me whatsover – by reducing triggers, I should have started improving! We went to Devon in late April to see my Dad and introduce him to his new great grandson. When we stopped for lunch on the way back, I struggled to walk across the car park with sticks, something I had been doing easily all week! Since then its been an up and down game of slow improvement then relapse, with increasing need to use my wheelchair, initially outdoors and now all the time. I changed the car in July, during an upswing and stuck to my usual method of loading the powerchair, with a hoist… currently that is beyond me so I am only going out and about with assistance, which is pretty frustrating.


I have been making things to order and have gone into Headway, Timebank and Creative Options when possible, but, realistically I am at a point where I need to re-evaluate what I am doing and decide on a way forward. So over Christmas and New Year I’ve been mulling over some ideas and thinking about how I can link my passions for faith, family, creativity, and history together in a constructive way, whilst still promoting the benefits of crafting for people with long term illness.

The plan is to :

  1. Continue with working with Headway, Timebank and Creative Options, and look at the help that might be available to get my chair in and out of the car.
  2. Work on getting my patterns ready for publication to generate an income stream. I am hoping to sell them via a third party, who will take care of all the complicated new VAT requirements
  3. Take part in the Historical Sewing Challenge Monthly for 2016 and develop a range of knitted, crocheted, tatted and naalbinding items I can then make to order. This will also mean I need to put some time into learning cro-tatting and naalbinding.
  4. Continue to work on my history blog- A Woolly History of Britain, exploring the wool trade from Anglo Saxon times onwards and the lives of the people involved, directly and indirectly.
  5. Work on the textile art for the exhibition in July

This still looks like a fairly hefty programme,  however I will pace myself and develop a weekly work plan that will allow me to work on the elements as a series of mini projects. I also commit to being realistic and reviewing my progress regularly, giving myself permission to adapt the plan as needed, to reflect life and changing priorities.


A Woolly History of Britain will be an academic blog, where I summarise and record my studies.

That leaves this blog to be my creative space / journal, the aims are to include:

  1. Write ups of each item I make for Historical Sew Monthly 2016  – more info in my next post
  2. A place to share the work I produce for the exhibition – journal style
  3. A signpost to my online shop(s), which will be developed through the year as a whole
  4. A showcase for my made to order historical creations – from tiny relic bags to shawls
  5. Photo tutorials
  6. Space to reflect on my personal journey and how creativity is helping me focus on what I can do!


Baby Shawl Diaries 4 – Here a bear, there a bear

It seems ages since I last updated you on the progress of the shawl, mainly because I haven’t had much time to blog.
My daughter is in the final stages of her pregnancy and has severe SPD – a condition that allows the pelvic girdle to relax and over stretch. So I am looking after my lovely grandson to help her out…. not long to go now though!

Here’s the progress…. the next band to be crocheted was filet lace teddies which I charted myself – when I have a neat copy with all the editing up to date I’ll share it and explain the process of making it so you can use the chart or design your own 🙂


The whole shawl so far with bears and sun edging


     Close up of bears


    Close up of sun edging

If you would like to have a go at the sun edging, here’s the chart


Next step is to add a final band of bunnies as the baby is due over Easter and a final picot edging and its done!

Creating Canvas – Crochet, Beads and Stitching

I have been experimenting for sometime with combining crochet and embroidery to create canvases to hang on the wall. Over the coming weeks I will share a series of images I have created in the last 6 months or so and talk about the inspiration for them.

As a starting point I thought it might be helpful to show how I take a finished piece of crochet and attach it to a canvas, ready to be displayed. This heart is a gift for my daughter to hang in her bedroom.


Before creating the filling for the heart, I loosely attach a piece of fabric to a canvas and tack down the outer frame or cordonet. I then create a series of Irish crochet and freeform shapes to fill the shape, using crochet cotton and 1 and 1.5mm hooks. Once complete I fill in the gaps between the shapes and connect them together using a combination of irish and freeform lace filling stitches. I then worked a row of dc over the cordonet I laid down for the frame. The filling was then stitched to the frame and I worked a scalloped edging around the frame to complete. This left me with the piece above. The next stage was to sew in all ends and steam block the heart to shape, ready for mounting.


There was a slight flaw in the canvas and I wanted a black background so I used a piece of surplus black lining fabric to cover it. I started by cutting a rectangle of the lining material that covered both the front of the canvas and the frame at the rear


I pinned the lining material to the canvas at the back and stapled it down, one side at a time, ensuring I kept the fabric taut. I also made sure the I tucked a small hem under to keep things looking neat.

imageThe next step was to pin the heart to the front of the covered canvas. I would normally iron the backing fabric but my daughter preferred the texture of the unironed material. I also played around with using beads to add a bit of sparkle to the finished heart. I then whip stitched the heart into place, working very carefully and keeping it taut to achieve a good finish. I used an earring that had lost its friend form the large gem and bent the post and used some invisible thread to keep it in place. For the other beads I rifled through my collection of random beads and old bits of jewellery that a lady at church kindly gave me. I think they finish the piece nicely.



Baby Shawl Diaries 3 – Crown Him!

The crowns border has crocheted up beautifully but has proved a challenge to crochet up into a straight edge. I have tried various techniques and done much frogging!  So progress has been slower than I’d like. I also had a commission piece to upsize and adapt to fit to that took a bit of time but it was definitely worth it as the feedback from the customer was very positive: “its perfect”


Coming back to the shawl, after various attempts at evening out the border,  I had a brain wave and decided to try treating it like a chevron pattern with decreasing at the base of the triangles and increasing at the top. To reduce the depth I also needed to adjust the stitch height as I went up and down the waves.

I kept each corner the same – 2tr, 2ch 2tr on each round so that the shawl continued to increase in size

Round 1

I worked 1 dc into each st on the chevrons, as this gave me a solid base to work from, with each corner being worked as above

Round 2

Then I worked out a pattern to reduce the depth of the chevron:

(1htr, 1ch ) x3 along the side, 3dc into the picot at the top, (1htr, 1ch ) x3 down the side, work special decrease for the base , rep along the side until you reach the corner

Working the Special Decrease

I needed a to vary the height of the stitches to start the ‘flattening processwpid-picsart_1424287696552.jpg‘ and work a decrease, so I combined 2 treble sts with a central double treble, into the 3 sts that formed the base of the chevron as follows:

Step 1 – partial treble, worked into st 1: yo, hook through st, yo, pull back through st, yo pull through 2 loops on hook, leaving 2 loops on the hook

Step 2 partial double treble, worked into st 2 – yo x2, yo, hook through st, yo, pull back through st , yo pull through 2 loops, yo pull through 2 loops, leaving 3 loops on the hook,

Step 3 – partial treble, worked into 3rd st :yo, hook through st, yo, pull back through st, yo pull through 2 loops on hook, leaving 4 loops on the hook,

Step 4: Complete the decrease: yo again and pull through all 4 loops.

This completed the chevron pattern and kept the number of sts even.

To make it simpler to understand here’s a diagram of the stitch pattern I developed:



Round 3

wpid-picsart_1424287587276.jpgI kept the corners consistent, then I worked the following pattern which has virtually evened out the shawl to a slightly uneven edge:

1htr, 1ch, 1 htr, 1ch, 3htr into 2nd of 3dc, 1ch 1htr, 1ch, 1htr, 1ch, tr2tog – missing 2nd of 3 sts at base of triangle



What do I mean by keeping the sts even?

If you think of the shawl like a large granny square, the only place you increase stitches to keep the sides even is on the corners. So when designing the shawl I need to apply this principle otherwise it will quickly lose shape and look messy.

So when working the chevron I need to remember to balance the stitches decreased at the base of the cluster, with the stitches increased along the sides and into the picot. On the 2nd round I increased 2 sts into the picot – working 3dc into 1 sts, so I made sure I decreased 2 sts at the base when working the cluster as I crocheted 3 sts together.


Baby Shawl Diaries 2 – Finished the Lettering!

Over the weekend I carried on working on the filet crochet for the centre of the shawl and completed it on Saturday night.




The centre includes Baby’s initials and the year of birth as he has not yet arrived!


Next step – Add the Borders.10965617_1780787538813915_1770169662_n

The border designs, like the style for the central lettering, are chosen by the parents or parents to be or the proud grandparents. We talk about what they like and I sit down with pen and paper and come up with some filet panels that can be worked around the edges. In this case its teddy bears.

I charted a bear in pencil and then messed up a bit when drawing in the solid blocks in black so anywhere with an X shouldn’t be a blocked in square. Will redraw the chart properly and use it for a filet tutorial at a later date.


I also show the customer a range of lace crochet border designs and we talk about what they would like to use to edge the centre panel and then add a final edging to the shawl.

Mum to be wants crowns as her baby will be born fairly closely to the new Royal Baby so we had a trawl through pinterest and arrived at this design.

If you would like to crochet this border you can find the chart HERE – the site is French but the chart is universal and easy to read.

Mum has decided to have the crowns first to provide a pretty break between the filet centre and the filet bears, so I will need to work a row of crochet that fills in around the crowns to get me back to a base for the filet….

Then we will select some more edgings to increase the dimensions of the shawl

Next post will be the finished crowns band with the fill in row….. lets see what I can come up with!




Baby Shawl Diaries 1 – Mathematical Musings

The centre of the shawl is worked in filet crochet using 4ply yarn and 3mm hook.

When charting filet crochet the design is drawn onto squared paper. Each square represents a filet block. Blocks can be open or filled in with treble crochet stitches.


Anything inside the black lines is a treble crochet block.

Choosing The Block Size
There are 2 approaches to creating the blocks – the 3 stitch or 4 stitch method. Its important to decide which method you want to use before working out the length of your foundation chain – its not possible to work out the chain from the chart without some number crunching.

The 3 stitch approach, which I prefer for baby makes as it has smaller spaces and I think a nicer finish, has each open block made up of 1tr 1ch 1tr and each closed block as 3tr.
As you crochet you will discover that the final tr of block 1 is also the 1st tr of block 2 and if you are working 2 closed blocks the 1st block is 3tr but again the 3rd tr is also the 1st tr of the next block so you only need to work 5tr.

So working out the stitch count is not a simple multiple of 3, its a multiple of 2 with extra stitches added to account for turning chains and the 1st st of the row.

Likewise the 4st version will be a multiple of 3 plus additional stitches.

I chose a 3st block….

And made my first error – I got my numbers crossed, multiplied by 3 and ended up with far too many sts and holes. My first attempt at the centre panel was duly frogged and the maths reworked!

Because I have done quite a bit of filet I only chart the fiddly bits – pictures and letters – I tend to use rough notes or sketchy diagrams  for simple borders / frames The purple pencil in the diagram is the plan for this section.  If you are new to filet, chart everything!


My Design
I wanted 1 open block at the start of each row plus 1 open row around the outside.
I then wanted a frame of 1 closed block, 3 open blocks, 1 closed block surrounding the lettering. The letters were arranged 4 open blocks in from the 2nd band of closed blocks.

Calculating the Starting Chain

Frame:  2 x sections of 10 blocks
Letters: 18 blocks 
Total: 38
38×2= 76ch

Additional Stitches
1 extra st to complete the row
4 turning chain for the first block – 3ch = 1tr +1ch = 5st

Final Count
So to get my stitch count:
38×2=76 +5 extra ch = 81ch

Half Completed
I started this yesterday evening:


Historical Yarns 1 – The Starring Role

Back before Christmas I posted a quick intro to a series of posts on the history of wool…. the plan was a weekly post giving snapshots of the way we have used wool down the centuries. Since the original post I’ve been refining my plans a bit and have decided that I need to take a more focused approach, because there is just so much stuff out there and so many areas of interest. So the plan for 2015 is to post fortnightly and focus on the medieval era – from the fall of Rome to the end of Henry VII’s reign. Geographically I plan to focus on the Hampshire area, just because living there means I can go and see places that were important, photograph them and take inspiration from them for my knitting, crochet and yarn art projects. I also want to look at the role of women in the production of both yarn and the woolen cloths made from it and have a go at some of the wool crafts that have developed over the ages.

All links in this post lead to sites I have used to develop this article

However we would not have wool in any form if it wasn’t for our stars…. the sheep!

Where Did The Idea of Using Wool Come From?

The answer is lost in the mists of time, however we do know that wool has been used since pre history to make clothing. From my reading and thinking, I have an idea that initially man would have used the fleece whole. He chased and killed a wild sheep and skinned it. Using it as a covering he realised it kept him warm in winter. So Mrs Caveperson then started sewing the sheep skins together to make warm clothing for her family.

The hunter-gatherer peoples would also have found wool on thorns and in thickets where sheep had rubbed against or got caught. They might have gathered the wool and used it for padding. Someone could have sat around a campfire twisting a piece of raw wool and realised it made a yarn.

Domestication of Sheep

Faroese Sheep – Iceland

Once farming communities started to develop in the Neolithic period, post the last Ice Age, around 5000BC , people decided to domesticate some of their animals, including sheep, for wool, milk and food. The early domestic sheep retained many of their wild characteristics, an anecdote from lady who has worked as a reenactor on an Iron Age farm, where shearing was just beginning to develop, made me realise just how strong and resilient early farmers would have been when they first started shearing. However that is a subject for another post!

The early breeds shed wool, and the women and children would go out wool gathering in the areas where sheep were kept. It is probably during this time that spinning and weaving first appeared, subjects I will be covering later in the series. Sometimes they would also pluck the sheep, to remove remaining wool, but I would think this was a task that required the men to assist in restraining the sheep to be plucked

The closest breeds I have discovered to these ancient sheep breeds are the sheep of the The Scottish Islands, St Kilda and Iceland

Men of St Kilda, with native soay sheep

Orkney Sheep, possibly introduced by the Vikings









Breeding – The Start

As time went on the various breeds of wild sheep would be crossed with other wild sheep / early domestic sheep. I would think that early crosses could have happened accidentally, perhaps through trading networks. Ancient Farmer Bill, living somewhere in what is now England, trades a few of his sheep with Ancient Farmer Pierre from France. Bill takes his French sheep home and his ram decides to get friendly with the new comers. Bill discovers that the meat, fleece and / or milk of the “new sheep” or cross breeds is better and decides to segregate them from his English flock, still leaving the French ewes with the English ram to create more cross breeds. As there is archaeological evidence that sheep were often more prized for their fleece than their meat, lets call the “new sheep”  the extra wooly sheep. Bill sits and thinks about this and wonders if using his new cross bred ram to mate either with his “new sheep” or his English ewes will make more wool, he discovers it does and over time a new breed is established. I appreciate this is a very simplistic view but I don’t want to send you to sleep with a small volume on sheep genetics and breeding…. it would probably send me to sleep trying to research it. And to be fair Bill had no idea about genes or DNA, after all this was a good thousand or so years before Mendel started playing with his peas 🙂


However one drawback of Bill’s “new sheep” is that is no longer sheds its fleece and plucking isn’t working well either. However living in the late iron age/  early Roman period gives Bill access to iron bladed items and he experiments with using the tools to hand – knives or possibly hair shears to remove the fleece from his sheep. He probably discusses the problem with the village blacksmith and eventually some prototype of  sheep shears is developed giving 2 blades that can crop the wool. Maybe he practised on sheepskins, after killing a couple of barren ewes for their meet – we don’t know. However the hair shears theory might have some truth as they have been discovered during archaeolgical digs on iron age sites and sheep shears have been excavated on Roman sites. I will be researching and writing about shearing in more depth in the Spring.

Using The Wool

We know that drop spinning and weaving cloth developed as communities became settled and progressed technologically. Techniques such as sprang, naal binding and weaving would have appeared and developed during this time, but again we know little of their origins in terms of the earliest dates, simply because textiles don’t tend to survive in the ground and much of the equipment would have been made from wood, which also degrades. Sewing needles however still survive from these early periods because they were made of bone and survive in favourable conditions.


Without the sheep we would not have had access to wool, which in later times was the staple of the English economy. We don’t know a lot about the original wild sheep that would have been domesticated or the origins of breeding sheep, but we do know that the late Iron Age people & the Romans were shearing them by hand. We also know that early peoples used their observations and knowledge of sheep and experimented with various ways of producing wool and using it. Had I a Time Machine I would love to sit by the fire watching the first woman tease yarn from a fleece and work out how to use it!

In my next post I will look in more depth at the sheep of the Roman era and give a brief overview of the the methods employed to use the wool and the uses it was put to. This will be easier to research as the Romans enjoyed writing things down, so hopefully there will be far less conjecture involved 🙂