Sequin satisfaction: labels for Woollypoles

You may have read my admission that I’m not very happy with my labels for yarnbombs. It seems to focus everything on my ineptitude with the physical world – paper and printer and laminate and lettering seem to elude my control. For my Woollypoles piece #1 I had a clear vision of medal-like metal discs hanging from the surface of my runic piece – but what were they? The only thing I could think of in the real world was the round token I used to pay for school dinners with (and the knitting shop certainly didn’t have any of those).

From John Lewis the round things I could find were clear, thin plastic discs about an inch across – rather hyperbolically perhaps labelled ‘sequins’, though when I dropped one on the floor this morning and it caught a sunbeam it did shine bright emerald like a CD. Realised that a DVD pen would write on them, liked the idea, and eventually got round to finding a set in Smiths of various colours of ‘permanent markers – write on most surfaces’. Today finally had chance to do the faffy bit, and actually quite enjoyed designing tags based on previous drafts.

The plastic ‘medals’ went best along the bottom of Woollypole #1, though the spacing gave me head-scratching – they would have been too crowded at the 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 positions along the bottom of each square, then I tried doing it by eye (badly), then I realised that what they needed was to be equidistant from each other (not counting the seam), so once I had placed the middle ones (lower down, saying ‘’), it was a simply enough matter of counting stitches and calculating thirds.

It may be hard to tell from these pictures but out of the four colours of pens I had I did try to choose one to coordinate with the piece. Obviously dark blue for #1 (the runes piece). Piece #2 (‘enjoy’, in purple and yellow) looked best with a serious black-inked tag.. For piece #3 (the flowers) luckily the red pen had enough definition (the green didn’t) and blended well.

I also picked colours of cotton to match or blend! For the purple piece a blip of contrasting yellow coordinated nicely, and for the green one I had a dark green that would blend. For the orange piece I wanted to blend too, but couldn’t find orange cotton despite the fact I know I bought some, and was unwilling to compromise on either peach-coloured cotton OR contrasting dark blue cotton OR waiting till later to finish it 🙂 Rooting through my bits box to check for the orange, I found everything wrapped in ‘invisible nylon thread’ (it was easier to feel it than see it…!) so dragged that out and it was great. An absolute bugger to work with, as not only is it barely visible, it also has hardly any friction and slides straight out of both the fabric and the needle, which I eventually addressed by using a longer bit than I normally would!

I used three discs per panel of the runic piece to give the name of the rune (in script with curly zs), the blog address (printed), and the rune’s meaning (in capitals). It should be enough to give a web search if anyone is interested.

The sequins squizzle around but can be adjusted and are firmly fixed on and pretty sturdy, so I am happy with my artistic / practical solution. I like the way that the clear discs are about the same size as the big red buttons in piece #3, and thus look like part of the design. I did them in my own handwriting too! so although it is homespun I feel independent and satisfied. I wonder where they will go on the Woolly Poles? Kinda hope that the ‘enjoy’ with its feathers will be out of human reach, even though I glued them on firmly, and the runes piece is bold enough to go high up or anywhere, though I’d be happy enough for the flowers piece to be low down for little hands to stroke its buttons and textures. But this must bow before the greater wisdom of the Woollypoles team, who will have the feat of coordinating all the pieces of each colour! Can’t wait to see it….

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Pink blanket-squares for breast cancer

As a break from the high-level design of my Woollypoles pieces 🙂 I have been churning out some blanket squares for a charity blanket to be auctioned for Breast Cancer Research. No rules except they must be 6″ x 6″ square and include some (or predominantly) pink. The project is organised and compiled by Crochet Crafter who I found on facebook, and it seemed like such a simple and nice group project to join in with.

My first square was knitted and I didn’t really have any plan for the design, so after a chunk of bright-pink garter stitch, I settled down to do a coloured pattern in a stocking-stitch panel. Picked red for the contrast colour, staying within the colourway, and I wanted it to be only subtle in standing out. Having wondered if I should try to make breast designs (somebody else is, apparently) thought that might be the last thing people want to see (and might be vulgar), so what would be comforting for women who’ve had life-threatening tumours? Went for a simple ‘kiss’ design, in little pairs – the maths of where to start and how much gap to leave needed some head-scratching at this point. After another garter-stitch panel I realised it 20121006-113739.jpgwas a bit late to add another line, but not to do so would also be assymmetrical, so did it anyway. The result is odd but hopefully charmingly so in the way that random afghans are. Also encapsulating the observation that you never know what is going to happen in life. The red hardly showed up at all in the artificial light of the evening when I was doing it, but next morning I could see it more clearly.

I went straight on with a traditional crocheted square in pink, with maroon trim and pink edging. This square came with me on travels and it felt good to dive in with something easy and familiar (even though I have developed a new way of starting the next round, slipstitching along and then doing 3 ch up as the first of the new group – better than 3 ch as part of the previous group + 1 ch for the gap, as this never looks convincing). Very little 20121006-113755.jpgdrama except that the final edging round is double crochets instead of trebles, in order to make it the right 6″ size. Worked out why traditional squares keep you warm despite having holes in – they are lovely and thick compared to (stocking-stitch) knitting!

My next knitted square was all in bright pink, using again the big ball I’d bought from my LYS (local yarn shop) in preparation for this project. For a stitch I wanted something that would lie flattish and be interesting to do but not too much faff. So this is in what I’m thinking could be called ‘half triple moss stitch’: knit one row, then on the next row *k3 p3* rep; knit the next row, then on the next row * p3 k3*. You get how it works. Was careful to do the fancies on what would be the purl row, as I 20121006-113806.jpgalways feel any pattern that includes more purl than knit is just pointless masochism. I like the square, although there is one stitch near the middle that is flat instead of lumped (I must have k2 p4); I can see it but my boyfriend can’t, so I wonder if anyone else (e.g. other knitters) would have it leap out at them.

Another crochet square, easy and satisfying to do: some white rows, which won’t clash with the pink blanket, then some scrummy mottled pink-maroon yarn that I lovingly picked up in a little yarn shop in Scarborough. (They had a ‘naughty corner’ where two ladies giggled as they sorted out patterns, and a friendly man with local radio behind the counter.) This yarn is not actually as pink as I thought now that I see it worked up! But I think they’ll recognise that the general intension was there – there are pink mottles. I’m not a big pink fan in general and had only recently busted the stash of all the pink I had gathered as inheritance from Nan; but this has been a reasonable change and this yarn is lush. In this case I managed to think early enough to make the four stripes about 1.5 inches deep each, using a chunky set-square that I find harder to lose down the side of the settee.

Finally a bits-and-bobs crochet-in-the-round without a pattern: a big twelve dc over a loop to use up some mauve-white in the first round, then trebles to use up as much as poss of bits of pink I had knocking around. This involved some ‘pulling back’ (‘frogging’ / unravelling) as my judgement of how much yarn crochet will take is much worse than for knitting. I had been intending to make some rounds dc and some rounds tr, but then worried the dcs would throw off the number of trebles. Here spontaneous design came in, 20121006-113825.jpgbecause I noticed to some annoyance that after the first four rounds it had become ‘convex’, bulging out in a rounded way. So then I thought of those ace patterns that have ‘a circle in a square’, and did the next (white) round with trebles at the edges, and half-trs and dcs in the middle of the edge flaring back out to htrs and trs towards the corner each time. The second white round I did the same and was pleased that I had over-done it so that the square was now ‘concave’ with dips in each side, so that I could do one final pink round compensating for this with a few double-trebles in the middle of each edge. So it was a jazz-like ‘get yourself into a hole and then get yourself out again’ form of creativity, and I like the optical illusion quality of the finished product.

Well that’s it for now, I’d better get them posted off, if only so that I’ve got room to start new projects amongst the heap of bags and stuff overtaking the corner of the settee! There is going to be a second blanket made out of ‘babette squares’, aka any size or colours, so I’m going to think about what to do for that – should be a chance to try out all sorts of new colour approaches. Good luck to the lady putting them together! – I don’t know how it can be done without an advanced computer programme to set out the geometries!

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Woollypoles piece #1

Ah, the runes! I discovered them at Avebury, site of the magical stone circle, when I used to live in Wiltshire. They have fabulous little pagan gift shops with everything from ocarinas to rugs to dream-catchers to books about crop circles.

24 symbols representing the natural world, and hence the forces that push and pull our lives. Reach into a drawstring bag and grope around for a stone, smooth from the beach, turning it over to reveal its divinatory wisdom. Consult the runes in times of stress which are also times of openness for the world to shine through. Proving that anything you can think of has been done before, when I decided to combine two current interests by representing runes for my Woollypoles piece, the googleland told me others had invented patterns, designs, jumpers. Not surprising in a way, as both warm woollies and wild runes have Scandinavian connections.

This one is ALGIZ, and represents PROTECTION, a quality which is appealing in general but also useful for a piece of urban knitting open to the elements and the populace! It can be thought to represent a shield, an elk’s horns, or an open hand held out to stop advancing forces.

The pattern is by Kayleen Clements, though I had to adapt it to trim the margins and also change her subtle garter-stitch relief pattern into a brightly-contrasting colour design. We had to bag a bright colour for Woollypoles, and stick to it, though we could pick a different one, preferably the complementary colour, for letters or decorations. Of course I had to go for orange, typically underselected by the ‘Polers, and took my bouncing ball of vivid orange down to the little indie wool shop to select just the right shade of serious blue. I think it’s safe to say you will see it a mile off!

The second one is called ANSUZ, and represents INSPIRATION – another useful quality both for life and for environmental revisioning 🙂 Blessings and communications from above, truth, and wisdom are also invoked. I like the way too that it looks like the stem of a semiquaver 🙂 This was a selection that kind of decided itself before I thought I had decided…? Funny how that happens and whether to trust it. The whole piece will wrap nicely round a pole and you’ll see one rune from either side.

They’re relatively plain because they’re such a strong communicative statement alone. The other two pieces have been frou-froued up, but I couldn’t face it with this one. I had the image of a round medal / tag / disc hanging from either side, but didn’t know what it was. Lewis’s sold me a bag of clear plastic discs with a single hole in each, and I can write on them (with a DVD pen) and use them as labels. I just have to find a blue DVD pen and, preferably, someone with artistic writing… in the next week or so! Poles await!

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Woollypoles piece #2

Don’t panic, I will post about Woollypoles piece #1 shortly! But what is Woollypoles? The latest group project by the excellent Knitty Graffity, originator of The Woolly Walk-Along, for which I created my Wisdom piece. (You can be involved if you like: email her on her page for details.)

I’ve had this piece going for ages – was going to finish it last year and tag it up by the university library to welcome the students back, but I’ve never got all the conditions together. And somehow it seemed a lot of detail to put into something that might not last long, if my previous ‘BOOK’ project was anything to go by.

It’s part of the project that a clever friend has titled ‘Intarsiverbia‘ – from the technique of multicolour intarsia knitting (or crochet) and the idea of putting a ‘word’ inside another word, which it is an example of. Huh, what?! So here the main word is ‘enjoy…’ in pale yellow, but the word ‘joy’ is picked out in slightly more intense yellow. (The purple here is a better reflection of what the background colour actually is.)

Only two slight technical reservations: here the word ‘joy’ is the natural etymological basis of the word ‘enjoy’, whereas in my previous intarsiverbia projects an unrelated embedded word has stuck out to give an extra dimension – ‘oo’ in ‘book’, and ‘heart’ surrounding the ‘art’. But it’s worth reminding ourselves/myself of what enjoy would actually feel like (joy). Also apparently it’s only technically intarsia if you don’t carry the thread along the back. Which I do. But I don’t really care about that.

So this tag will be going off to New Zealand to be part of something artsy where it will be appreciated, noticed, and possibly be part of the next luscious coffee-table book that Knitty is planning to produce!

It was a bit of good luck – or artistic consistency – that it was already in complementary colours, yellow and purple. This completes the set of the six primary and secondary colours that my other two pieces for the Woollypoles project had already explored. In fact that’s what made me think of this piece, as I realised they were the missing colours. Hence they seem to go perfectly together. The styles are complementary too. Sneak preview to the left; more to follow.

Update: the finishing touches to this piece, and the next piece, can be seen here.

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Not much text – just two quickies I rustled up some time ago using experimental stitches from a book I got for Christmas. The yellow one includes some openwork, and is (still) outside Dance City in Newcastle. The other one is not far away and consists of green and purple colourwork with the ends plaited off into a tail. The blossom was so delicious I couldn’t resist joining in (my contribution somewhere between that and the wheelie bins in beauty). Just as I’d done it some scary teenagers came along but they were too preoccupied with lambasting each other that they didn’t notice my frippery.




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Bad tags

One bit of urban crochet I don’t like is making the tags to go on it. Partly that I feel it makes the work less attractive, partly it takes away from giving something freely without wanting (attention for) something in return, but partly that I am clumsy doing it and don’t feel I have the right equipment or abilities. I simply print out a pattern and caption from the computer, trim it to size, wind it round with sellotape, and then punch a hole in it. Am pleased that I now have home paper-slicer to trim with, but I’m not always convinced the printing comes out parallel to the edges of the paper anyway, so it’s always a struggle; plus the sellotape (even though I have a handy way of slicing the corners off that seals the tag in) gets wrinkly, leaves stripes, and includes fluff and also my fingerprints (!). Compared to the beautiful sewn tags I’ve seen pictures of, or even the professionally designed and laminated card tags, I find mine a bit shoddy, and am just hoping people will see that as home-grown and charming… hmm.

I should really get and design a tag nicely and get it printed out and laminated at a shop – but that involves three stumbling blocks: (1) having a good design program and knowing how to use it (2) giving my name and address to a copy shop! (3) deciding on a design once-and-for-all and using it for every piece that comes along. At the moment, as you can see, I use a fresh tag for each piece, and here I used a little picture of the Laing piece before it was put up. All I really want is that people can look up the website(s) if they want and find out more information (rather than the piece being another meaningless thing in the landscape). Here I’ve linked both my blog (on the flowers I made) plus the Spinning Yarns group (on all three tags), so that people can find whatever is most immediately relevant. They all link to each other as well if someone pursues far enough. And Y hopes that we might possibly get a new member or two for the crew if a likely one spots it.




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Flowers for Eostre

Y from the Spinning Yarns crew had the idea to make some spring flowers and decorate a tree outside the Laing Art Gallery. Today was the day it launched! We’d had a nice drink and cake in the cafe on Thursday, and I had filched some of her pretty pink flowers to make an extra chain. When I arrived she’d already decorated one tree, which looked cute but in need of more. So after a sit in the kiddies’ play area, where I hurriedly put together a few of the spare flowers, we went out and did it – a very public get-up where it definitely felt better to have two of us working on it as it made it look kind of official! – we were almost on the art gallery property, looking artsy, but not quite!

We’d been having an interesting discussion about whether you feel attached to your work when you think about the prospect of leaving it behind. I have flashes of this, usually when I’m finishing something off, and when I start to walk away from it (so I make sure I give it a good pat before I leave!). I think the trick is to not get used to having it – the few things I’ve started to make use of I can’t now seem to use as tags – and (as a Buddhist) it’s also an exercise in watching my own attachment and being compassionate with myself about letting things go. But also seeing the piece up there, and taking the photos, and showing them to you, is an alternative source of ‘having’ and sharing.

These are the assorted flowers I made myself, trying out various patterns including a simple little one with a round of dcs and then some 3-ch loops, this slightly bigger one where the petals came out a bit square (orange flower in the middle), some adaptations of my own design (white frilly top flower and more hexagonal pale one top right), and the big ‘Hawaiian flowers’ on the right, where I was reassured you could use fantastically contrasting colours. The fancy layered one in the middle was adapted from Jan Eaton’s book 200 Crochet Blocks, but without the square 🙂 – you have to work one set of petals, break off, and then add chain loops across the back to start the next round.

I had been worrying slightly that my work tended towards the slightly garish 🙂 compared to Y’s work which is almost plausible as matching flowers growing out of the same tree! But in the event both found their natural home – at the last moment I decided to put mine round the railing, partly cos I like to do railings but also so that it will draw the eye of passers-by in the street and hopefully make them look up and around and see the trees. There’s something about railings that is pleasingly geometrical, but also something annoying that says ‘you shan’t’ (cross the street where it’s most convenient) and yarn-bombing them says ‘we shall’ (do something spontaneous and freely creative), with a softening and gently anarchic effect.

Here is where the whole installation stands – with a good view from down the busy New Bridge Street as well as from footfall in various directions. It is pleasingly to see we also have a plaque for excellence underneath 🙂 You can see more of the details on the flickr set: guerrilla crochet 2. Big shout out to Y and hope we can work together again before long! (though her serious afghan and my bro-in-laws gloves are also calling….)

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Maternal decorations

On Boxing Day I got a worried phone call from my brother-in-law, saying my mother’s operation had not gone too well; and we knew it meant I would probably have to travel the 300 miles to see her, as it was touch-and-go. We left in a hurry the next morning, but not without my crochet and knitting kit, which was a key part of my sanity-retention strategy over the next few days (even though it took up a large (pointy) space in my minimal luggage).

I had been given a large ball of burgundy wool at Xmas, and thought it would be nice to make a simple hat for the monk I sponsor in India, as it is the main uniform colour that monks of the Gelug tradition are allowed to wear. Well after a few rounds of k2p2, I decided it was much the wrong size, and went on to cast off and use it as a tag. As a delightful bonus I was able to salvage some turquoise plastic beads that used to belong to my Nan that were inside a load of stuff in my Mum’s craft stool. Left the house one morning early and prowled around what used to be my home-town looking for sites. Where better than outside the central parish church where I used to sing in the choir. It’s on a corner with several roads and paths coming at it, so I needed to do some awkward lurking before I started, but the lady with several dogs had more to worry about than me.

With my limited colour supply (leftover pink and Xmas burgundy) I wanted to leave something for my mum to see when she got home from hospital; we had discussed tagging her outside handrail, but had both been surprised to realise she didn’t have one! The tree on the green outside was out of my reach, but the shiny green wheelie bin wasn’t 🙂 so it got a mixture of * 1 ch, 1 dc in gap * which stacks up nicely, with a little flower whose exact recipe I forget but after a dc ring its second round was something like * 3 ch, ss * to make the petals.

As it turned out, it was some time before my mum got home from the hospital and saw the tag – but it gave her a lift when she did.

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Unseasonal greetings

Dear all! I am having a new burst of knitbombing activity and enthusiasm, partly because it’s the first bit of spare time I’ve had this year, and partly because people are again showing an interest in my activities (maybe it’s a springly thing, or has become so since the science festival enlisted our naughty help). So these pics are to catch you up with my last burst of woolly mischief, which took place in December when I last had a few days of sitting on my bum and watching telly 🙂 enough that some decent crocheting could take place!

My lovely boyfriend T got me some colourful yarn for Xmas (along with other things!), so I leapt into action trying it out. I wanted to tag some tempting posts in a cut-through in Fenham, because I know my crewmate Y lives round there and would enjoy seeing them. So I went for a now-traditional vertical railing-wrap, with extended i-cordy loops, and a frilly skirt for a fat juicy lamppost. My favourite bright orange alternated with stripes of burgundy and some contrasting leftovers.

The lamppost-skirt used the same classy burgundy and orange combo, but with a crocheted frill of fun yarn I’d invested in to give that textural edge. The body of the piece was done in knitting (unusually for me lately) – using a pattern of * knit 3 rows, purl 1 row * that knits up quickly, balances speed with variety, and doesn’t curl too much; odd I’ve never seen this so-simple stitch pattern referenced, but had to think of it myself.

The cut-through in Fenham is a bit of a dodgy gangway where kids from the nearby school hang out and look shifty, so I guess I felt what I was doing was both matchingly subversive and redemptively decorative. It’s a nice walkway with trees.

The lamppost frill found a new home somewhere pretty quickly… but the railing wrap has survived; despite apparently being burnt, and the top part removed, the detractors have succeeded only in sealing the black round and making it weatherproof! It is hanging in there 🙂

Here are the URLs for these pieces on Flickr (with alternative photos of them).
If you go to these pages and then click on the little map on the right-hand side, it will show you exactly where the pieces got placed 🙂

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Share and enjoy

Exciting news! I have branched out onto flickr, as I wanted more people to find my stuff and look at the blog 🙂 so on flickr I can tag it with labels such as ‘guerilla crochet’ or ‘knitbombing’ and then those who search there for pictures may find mine and come here to read about it. That’s the idea anyway. Also that it has the exciting feature of geographical placement – so if you see a tag here and want to go and visit it (or pay homage at the spot it used to be) you can find it on the flickr site and view its location. (From Scarborough to Auckland!). Just click on the picture of the tag you’re looking for in my flickr collection, click on the map in the top right, and then you can zoom in or out to find the place. Whoop! (There is also an enticing map of the world if you prefer the bigger picture. Drag it around, and/or double-click to zoom in.)

I have also commandeered the domain name ‘’, as it will be easier to write on tags, so if you can’t remember the ‘wordpress’ bit or what order it comes in (as I sometimes can’t!) it will be easier to find.

Further exciting news! an academic knitologist has contacted me wanting to chat about my experience of craft tagging, and her project sounds really interesting. This development has inspired me to get my shop front together and sort out the above. So you should be getting some more pretty posts in the next day or few.Flowers for Y's project

Spinning Yarns crew are planning a flowerbomb in the city centre for starters….

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