Random Rainbow Star Garland

I started this project (which was a commission) back in the Christmas holidays. I used my free time while we were visiting the in-laws to hook a rainbow of stars. The first round on these stars is essentially a granny square: clusters of three trebles, separated by a chain, except in this case, there are five clusters instead of four. As you can see in the photo below, this forms a little pentagon shape. You can probably also see how I began to arrange the colours. The balls of yarn, which are 100% cotton double knit, are in a classic rainbow arrangement (which I still remember by the mnemonic Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain) as are the little pentagons below. However, the pentagons have been moved along one place, relative to the original order; the top row one place to the left and the bottom row one place to the right. That gave me the colour combination for the next two rounds as I just moved them on one place again for the third round.

IMG_8831The second round is just another ‘granny pentagon’. If you’ve made granny squares, you’ll have an idea of what I mean. If not, there is a tutorial here. It’s not exactly the same pattern as mine but you get the idea. The third round is where I tend to mix it up. By that I mean I can’t completely remember how I did it. When my three round stars are complete, they tend to look a lot more like five-petalled flowers. They have to be blocked out to pull them into shape. I do this by soaking them in a mixture of PVA glue and water (usually about one part PVA to 4 or 5 parts water), squeezing them out and then pinning them out to dry. I have a couple of foam yoga blocks covered in muslin for this purpose but I have recently seen children’s interlocking foam play mats used and I like that idea too.┬áThis garland was going to be 2.5m long when finished so I needed some smaller stars to string in between the three-coloured ones. I made them by doing just two rounds in the same colour.

IMG_4393Once everything was dry (and indeed crispy from the PVA) I added buttons to the stars. These days I am doing this job with a glue gun. Stitching them all on was not my idea of fun. It’s probably hard to tell but each star has a different button or combination of buttons, hopefully providing a bit of contrast.

When it came to arranging the whole thing I would probably have strung the stars together like a traditional rainbow, red, orange, yellow, green etc. etc. but the person I was making it for suggested it should be more random. I’m really glad she did, though at the time I wondered how it would work. I tried to pick the stars at random and lay them out but in all honesty, the truly random approach just wouldn’t work. I had to tweak the order they were in so that I didn’t have two of the same colours together.

IMG_4403This is the only picture that has every star on it

Finally, I had to somehow stitch the whole thing together. Last time I made a garland like this I made one long chain and individually stitched on all the shorter chains with the stars at the end. The finished result looks just fine but I’ve got a nagging doubt that the sewn in ends will start to work loose eventually. My holly and star garlands had the decorations attached to the main chain without any ‘dangly bits’ and that was MUCH easier (note to self: make them all like that in future).

This time I made the whole thing with chain stitch and slip stitches. I workded one long foundation chain, 2.5m long, did some calculations regarding where to make the hanging down chains and put in my stitch markers accordingly. I then worked my way back along the enormous row of┬áchains, slip stitching into each one (yawn) until I got to a marker. Then I chained ‘downwards’ catching the star in the last chain in the row and slip stitched back up again to the main chain and along to the next marker. I think there were 35 chains between each downward chain and each of those was made of either 25 or 40 chains depending on whether a big or small star was at the end (I knew I should have written these details down when I was doing it). It was a complete pain in the *****. I grumbled all the way through doing it, swearing ‘never again’. If you’re like me and find the foundation rows of any crochet item to be slow and fiddly, you’ll know why this was such a chore. However, it does produce a satisfyingly strong looking ‘rope’ and there were no ends to sew in. It will never fall apart!

IMG_8956It’s very hard to photograph anything this long and still capture the details but I hope you get the idea. I think it’s a very cheery piece of crochet and I hope it looks good in it’s new home.



Teacher’s Pet

Being a teacher in a primary school at Christmas is a Good Gig. They get a gift from pretty much every child. I have a friend who timed her maternity leave based around this fact. I bet it kept her in chocolate for the rest of the year. Well, at least until Easter.

I think I have always given a home made gift, usually because I haven’t been organised enough to go to the shop and buy something. This year has been no different. Last week consisted mainly of nursing sick children. Any time I had left over was frantically devoted to (online) Christmas shopping and card writing. Thursday night rolled around and I had only just started to think about the obligatory gifts for teachers. Fortunately, I had a few things to hand….

I raided my preserves store (that sounds so grand doesn’t it – what I mean is a couple of shelves in the garage) and decided on jars of home spiced pickled onions and pumpkin and ginger jam. They needed a bit of perking up and fortunately I had a few checked paper jam pot covers hanging around. A bit of ribbon finished everything off quite nicely, though clearly, I forgot to take a photo of that!

Do you remember the stars I was blocking out the other week? I decided to turn them into tree decorations by adding a few bells, beads and buttons.

What do you think? Not bad for last minute? I seem to be using that expression quite a bit lately.

I always worry that the teaching assistants might get missed out but I also don’t really know which ones work with my children. I did what I usually do and decided to make a cake. At least then cake can be shared out with the right people. By this time it was so late at night that I decided to make my No Fail Muffin recipe and customise it as ‘Spiced Cranberry and Orange’ so that it seemed a bit more festive. No Fail Muffins are great: quick and easy. I’ll share the recipe soon.

This is how they looked when I packaged them up at about 6am the next morning. What was I thinking getting so obsessed with this stuff? I think I had about 4 hours sleep. StUpID! It would have been far more sensible to go to a 24 hour Tesco. I must really not like shopping.

I could only console myself by thinking that somewhere, somebody’s teacher had probably been up for a similar number of hours working on lesson plans and marking. Who knows how long my children’s teachers have worked this term. They deserve a little love.