Scratch boards


Today after my trip to Slimbridge I called in at Gloucester services for a mooch round their shop. It’s a fab place with loads of local produce as well as funky gifts and quirky little things. Today I went for some craft things manufactured by Djeco. I love this company and have used one of their kits before. They produce stuff  in lots of different styles and their materials are really nice quality. Today I was tempted by some rubber stamps  that you carve out yourself, and some scratch boards. 
When I got home the sun was still  shining so I mowed  the lawn and then sat at our garden table enjoying the warmth and working on one of the scratch boards. This turned out to be a good plan as I didn’t have to worry about trying to get the bits I’d scratched off into a bin! 

One of the things I like about Djeco kits is they give you some form of printed outline and then picture instructions on what to do to fill in the gaps. This means the finished product should look good, but gives you scope to do your own thing as well. 

Here’s what I started with

And this is at the end of the first set of illustration instructions 

During that phase realised that it would be nice to give this to someone and so I started to pray for them as I worked on it. I love how I can learn things from art and it’s really lovely when those things can feed into a prayer for someone else. For example today I recognised that sometimes we get so focused in on  the tiny details that we have to deliberately stop what we are doing and move back a bit to view the bigger picture to see how what we are doing fits in with the whole. 

I also realised that even though a lot of the pattern was monotonous, and didn’t seem like much when you just looked at each tiny bit (like the details on the grass sections) actually without them the picture wouldn’t be making any progress. All too often I look at my life and think I’ve made no progress personally, or that the progress I’ve made is insignificant in the grand scheme of things (it’s like a couple of dots in the middle of a much bigger picture) but maybe those tiny bits of seemingly insignificant progress are important for the whole picture to look complete. 

Here are the last couple of stages of the picture developing :

And here’s the finished picture

Finished shawl

I finally got round to finishing the prayer shawl. It says always a bit hit and miss whether it would be functional because the shop only had one ball of this amazing wool left which I thought were perfect colours for someone who likes purples, blues and greens. 

Having doubled the width to make it more shawl-like than narrow scarf I then ran the risk of it being ridiculously short. 

It’s not ridulously short but I could have done with another half a ball of wool for it to be perfect. However, I shall give it to my friend as it is, so she can decide how she wants to use it. It could be modified with a chunky button to fasten it in place as a shawl or scarf, or it could make a pretty thing to hang over the back of a chair. 

Here we go again! 

Well, I’m not sure how many times i have restarted this project but hopefully this is the last time! The fabulous Joyce Barker (my husband’s aunt who i’m very pleased i get to share!) had a look at the original pattern and spent time figuring out what it should be. My attempt to remedy the pattern wasn’t far wrong, but the end of the rows were a bit hit and miss. So, now that Joyce had told me how it should be (and she’d tried it out and done a sample of it to make sure!) i decided to unravel one more time and start again! Unfortunately the wool had been crocheted and unravelled one too many times and snapped, so i just started with a new section of wool. 

And here it is! 

It’s actually very simple, and works up very quickly once you know what you’re doing, and I’m enjoying the fact that I’m confident in what I’m doing at the end of each row. You can see the difference below, between the actual pattern (top) and my previous attempt (bottom) with its wonky edges!! 

While praying for the future recipient of the scarf/shawl I’ve continued to pray for her perseverance, but also that she’ll have people alongside her who can help her figure out where things are not quite going to plan, and how to fix the issues. Here’s praying for her to have an ‘Aunt Joyce’  too.

Thank you Joyce for your interest in this project and for the time and effort you put into figuring out  the real pattern. And while we’re here, thank you too for showing me how to hold a crochet hook properly! It’s definitely sped up my crocheting by miles! 

And now a quick update of how far I’ve got with an evening of crochet:

The colours are actually a bit more muted than they appear in the photo, but i love how they gradually blend into each other subtly

Secret crochet project

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A while back I commented that I was working on a secret crochet project and I can now share what it was. I worked on my biggest project yet, which was a colourful single blanket. I didn’t want to share about it as I went along as it was going to be a present for a family who read my blog.

This was my first attempt at a prayer item. The family had been through a rough time over the last  year or so with health issues, and i wanted to make them something to remind them of God’s love even in the middle of horrendous situations.

I started to crochet this when I came across the idea of prayer shawls, and immediately went to my local wool shop, MIJU wools, to find something. The staff there are really helpful and they helped me to find a lovely chunky wool and think about how it would work up. I chose a variegated wool with different colours that i wanted to represent the fact that life is not continually dark, but it’s mixed up with dark and brighter patches. I took my wool  to a nearby cafe and crocheted a chain the width of the blanket. After that i added rows  and rows of trebles, and just kept going!

After this my crochet came everywhere with me :friends’houses, pubs, conferences, cafes and hotels! And all the time I was reminded to pray  for the family. What i loved about this process was that although I didn’t pray continuously, each time I crocheted i was reminded of the need to pray, and i found myself inspired by my surroundings :an open fire inspiring prayers of feeling  God’s warmth and cosiness, an episode of call the midwife inspiring prayers that there would be people to share their tears with them, the length of time it took to crochet reminding me to pray for perseverance for them. It felt amazing to be praying into their lives in this way, and for me, it helped me to connect with God without having me as the focus. And it was so good to be able to say to them “I’ve been praying  for you” and to know that had been more than a quick request to God.

Once I’d completed the main part of the blanket I decided to edge it with double crochet in a darker chunky wool, again reinforcing the idea of joy coming out of darker things.

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And then i tied it up, and i was able to give it to them this week.

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The family really liked it, and i loved seeing  that it fulfilled my aim of being big enough (just!) to wrap up one adult and one child together. Now my final prayer is that they will be aware of  God’s love, warmth and care for them whenever they see or use their blanket.

Less frustration! 

After some more effort this afternoon and evening i’ve come up with a pattern that is at least a bit like it’s meant to be! The edges are still a case of making them up as i go along to try to stop them being too bendy, but i don’t think that matters too much in a scarf!

I played around with trying to draw the pattern out, but i got confused and had to change it… Hence the scribbling out! 

I’m proud of myself for keeping going with this and not giving up. 

Pastels and prayer

After a morning in church where people shared testimonies of how God had worked in their lives this past year and over longer periods, my husband and I went to Gloucester Cathedral to meet with a group of people for communuion, prayer and afternoon tea. 

We were running late and the group were already gathered in the Thomas Chapel, which is my favourite part of the cathedral (other than the cloisters), with abstract-looking predominantly blue stained glass windows. The group were singing the first Noel together. There were only maybe 8 adults and 7 children there but as we walked round we could hear their voices echoing through the cathedral and it sounded beautiful. At first i wondered if it was the choristers practising, but it was a group of ordinary people singing unaccompanied. I wonder whether some of the things we say and do have a greater impact than we could imagine, or appear more beautiful to others than we can believe? 

Anyway, as part of our time together we had a few prayer stations. I chose to colour the celtic knot, and decided on pastels which I’ve never really used before. I wanted to make each section a different colour of the rainbow and i planned it out in terms of how many sections there were, but part way through filling  them in i realised the flaw in my plan as there were no blues! I played with blending the lilac colour with other colours to make them look different. 

It’s not my greatest piece of artwork, not least because i was doing it in a faintly candle lit area, but i enjoyed the process of putting colour down and smoothing/blending it with my finger. Sometimes i need to remember that the end product is not so important as the process or journey of getting there (in life as well as in art). Things  can have a  valid purpose even if they don’t end up looking how  we’d like them to. 

And finally i added my prayer for this year. Words from a hymn that we sang this morning (crown him with many crowns) :awake my soul and sing. Right now I’m not sure where i am in my journey with God but my prayer is that my soul will ‘wake up’ and connect with Him.