Sunday, 10 December 2017

Ouma's Vintage Bunting.

As I was making this I couldn't help thinking back to a very loooong time ago, when I was a little girl of five. who had just lost her Mom. My Ouma and my Moms sisters took me in and the five years I spent with them before my Father remarried were, until I had children of my own, the happiest times of my life. I could write a book about my Ouma, Katerina Johanna Derksen. Perhaps one day I might.

Although she never taught me to crochet, she did teach me to knit and cook. She had a little step-up made so that I could reach the stove, and also a special shelf was set aside for all my little pots and pans and cooking utensils. I owe it to her that my love for cooking led me to run a very successful vegan cafe! Although, I'm not sure she would have approved of my "otherworldly" vegan offerings! She was old-fashioned to a T! Meat, potatoes, a good daily dose of Epsom salts and Bible verse built character and intellect!! There was no alternative way other than a straight to Hell card! 😄 Questioning her rule was unthinkable seeing as she was unfailingly staunch in her beliefs and she never learned to properly speak English. She was a proud Afrikaner with a capital A!

I was her first grandchild and she was also my Godmother! In her eyes, I could do no wrong. I loved her dearly! Her house, I think, stamped a blueprint in my young brain for every future home I would either desire, live in or own. Oregon pine floors, ornate pressed ceilings, a proper pantry always fully stocked with mason jars of syrupy peaches, guavas, and figs. On the bottom shelves, homemade ginger beer fizzled away in their corked bottles.The bay windows and their ornament laden sills, a wide verandah with overstuffed comfy chairs, screen doors to keep out flies and mosquitos, a large black coal stove with it's never ending pot of apricot konfyt bubbling away. Large homemade loaves in the oven, every morning, like clockwork. Her backyard veggie garden and fruit trees were her pride and joy. My love for all these down-to-earth old-fashioned things comes directly from my Ouma. She always had her sewing machine out, or her knitting needles or crochet hook and yarn! Ironically, she was a crochet addict, and yet she never got around to teaching me!

Of course, this Bunting, with it's 50's vintagey vibe would have been right up her alley! I can almost see it hanging across the bay window in her cosy living-room, the Christmas tree in the corner, bedecked with twinkling lights, her old cat, Ounooi, curled up on her lap, a tall Brandy and Coke on the little side table, along with her Rothmans cigarettes ( she smoked until she was 85! ) and Bing Crosby on the old gramophone singing "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas".

My Ouma passed on at the grand old age of 96, still listening to "politics" on her little radio, as witty, strong-minded and devout as ever! I'm honoured to have known her, and I definitely feel her affection and influence in my life every day.

This sweet old-fashioned Bunting works up really quickly and is also a FREE PDF DOWNLOAD pattern! Again, just to say thank you for all the support that has come my way this year. It's been AMAAAAAZING!

There is also a full video guide. So you can't go wrong!

I will be officially on Holiday from Dec 12 - Jan 16 2018! Yippee! But if you really do need to get hold of me please do not hesitate to send an email. I am always here to help.

Big hugs and see you in the New Year! 

Ps: apologies for the poor image quality... that Red freaked out my little camera and all the photographs came out weird looking!😁

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The Sutherland Starflake.

Photo credit (click the link )

I've never been to Sutherland so I have no idea what I'm writing about. It's a magical faraway place that apparently has big open skies and the coldest temperatures, mid-winter than any other town in South Africa (clearly whoever wrote THAT has never visited Clarens in The Free State) !

Photo Credit: Amy Marx-Clarens 2016

But this is not the reason I want to visit so badly, rather, it's the fact that Sutherland is home to the largest telescope ( in the world? ). This gigantic telescope is housed at the South African Astronomical Observatory near Sutherland! And we know that big sky country is top of the list if you're a stargazer like me.

Read more HERE
Every Winter I promise myself that this is the Winter of my non-discontent about missing another Winter in Sutherland! In the meantime, I daydream about this little town. I imagine the calm and quiet of the night, dampened by snowfall, the magnificent expanse of a diamond-bedecked canopy, a cosy cottage, fire blazing in the hearth. I imagine the road trip up there ( it's a four-hour drive from Cape Town ) and what hooky I'll take along.

If you have never visited South Africa you might imagine our homes and especially guest accommodation, would be decorated in true Afrikana style, you know Leopard skins on the floor, Buck heads on the wall, especially if it's somewhere in or near a game hunting lodge or Safari trail. However, most South Africans avoid the obvious like the plague!

We have developed our own unique eclectic style, from fashion to food, from interior design to textiles and beyond. An aside: did you know South African, Elon Musk invented Pay Pal? Where I live now, in the Western Cape, which is one of our nine Provinces, we have retained our Dutch and French heritage ( our vineyards are world famous ) and there is a definite Dutch-French Provencal influence, a rustic-shabby-chic-country style that is so incongruent with "Africa " yet incorporates enough elements of Afrikana to make it just a little bit special.

The threads of our Dutch-French ancestry are still very much alive and well in Africa and you can experience it at almost every charmingly delightful Guest House, in any charmingly delightful little village. Moreso, the farther away you travel from the city! And that, my lovelies, is ALSO why I want to visit Sutherland!

Of course, there was a new design in here somewhere! Oh, here it is!

A perfect stash-buster project, only eight short rounds. Works up super quick too!

A versatile little Puff-based Hexie that you can join -as -you -go to make any sized project from a sweet baby blanket to a full-sized bedspread! I used Puffs because they reminded me of snowballs.

Omit the last three rounds, make two identical pieces, sew them together ( but leave a little gap ), add a bit of stuffing and a handy loop and you have a frosty-flake hanging ornament for your Christmas Tree! Or a Sutherland Starflake Pincushion! 😃

Change the colours to suit your Holiday theme or your mood! Most of all, have fun!

There is a full Video Guide, so you can’t go wrong!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to one an All!

 Jen xxx


Monday, 4 December 2017

African Summer Snowflake Flower

Believe it or not but we DO have snow in South Africa. Lots of it falls in certain areas during our coldest months ( June to September ).When I first arrived in Cape Town, via a 26hr train journey with my three boys in tow, we passed ( in mid-June ) through the tunnels of the snowbound mountains that flank the   Hex River Valley. Not just frosting atop the jagged peaks of those majestic, looming Hex Mountains, but REAL snow, opaque, lush and folded like the cape hem of a gigantic Snow Witch Queen... trailing into the valley between vineyards, tiny white cottages and rows of Oak trees then stark and barren. Hex, in Afrikaans, means Witch... you can read the entire story here!

Of course, all this Winter Wonderland is completely lost to us during the Traditional Holiday Season which includes Christmas or Yule and of course Hannuka. Mind you, it snowed in The Drakensberg Mountains ( the Dragon Mountains ) in October and again just last last week, technically, Summer!

Our celebrations on these special days:

a) BBQ's
b) Drinking lots of cold Beer ( the Men ), drinking iced Tea and Apple Cider ( the Women ), overindulging on Ice-Cream ( everybody! )
c) Living in the swimming pool
d) Sunblock from head to foot, sunglasses, sunhats while doing a, b, and c.

Mind you, we make an effort...there are bedecked Christmas Trees ( made in China, don't judge! ) surrounded by loads of  I've-been-a good-girl/boy gifts. There are baubles, and multi-coloured tinsel, bowls of "money" chocolates and brightly wrapped candies. We never forget the mistletoe. and traditional Christmas Pudding with pennies inside is pretty much written in stone.  Dads play Father Xmas, Moms play Mommy Xmas, there is always too much food, and dessert, like Sherry Trifle! The leftovers from the Christmas Feast will be served up for the next week as some very odd looking, yet inventive, lunches or light suppers. Once, my late Mom-in-Law served up such a lunch, between Christmas and New Year, and we all came down with mild food poisoning! It was hilarious, and she never lived it down.

Btw, I just love the story of the Christmas Spider!

But as usual, I digress!
I was in fact, trying to make something else, carefully following the pattern but then veered off somewhere when my concentration failed me. As it does. Everytime. All my designs are a result of not being able to follow patterns. I just don't like people telling me what to do! Ha!

And because we are in the Ho Ho Ho season, it's FREE!

I've called it African Summer Snowflake Flower.
It's a join as you go ( JAYGO ) design, only 6x Rounds, and works up really quickly! Of course, for you lovelies who are experiencing a pukka White Christmas, you can change colours to suit your climate ( or taste ).

I'm using bits and pieces of Stylecraft Special DK and Elle Yarns Family Knit DK.
Hook: 4mm
Terms: US
Skill: Easy peasy (not boring though). Beginners will win at this!

ROUND ONE ( lime -stylecraft special dk )
Work 6 x 2dctog into a Magic Ring. Make sure to close each 2dctog with a ch1. To close, sl st into closing ch1 of first 2dctog ( the 3rd one is the starting ch3 ). Fasten off.

ROUND TWO ( raspberry - stylecraft special dk )
Begin in any space between your 2dctog. *Work 2 x Puffs ( yo x 3, ch1 ), Turn your work, front facing away from you. Work 2 Puffs ( as before ) between the 2 Puffs you have just worked. Turn your work, facing you. Sl st between 2 Puffs, ch6, sl st back between same 2 Puffs. Sl st into top of 2nd Puff ( of the first two ) Ch4. Skip next 2dctog.*
Repeat * to * = 24 Puffs ( yo x 5, ch1 ), 6 ch4's, 6 ch6's. 6sl st ( not counting beg. and end of ch6 loops ) To close sl st into top of beginning Puff. Fasten off.

ROUND THREE ( coral - elle family knit dk )
Work a ch3 (= 1dc ) into any ch4 sp. Work 2 more dc's = 3dc's, into same ch4 sp.
*1dcfp over 2dctog ( rnd1). 3dc's back into same ch4 sp = 6dc's, 1dcfp.
Work a sl st into the top of the "2nd" Puff, and sl st again "over" to the next ch4. Work 3dc's into ch4 sp.*
Repeat * to * = 36 dc's, 6 dcfp's, 12 sl st's.
To close, sl st into beginning ch3. Fasten Off.

ROUND FOUR ( cream - stylecraft special dk )
Begin with a scfp over any dcfp. ch4. Work 1sc from back to front over the sl st at the base of the ch5 (rnd2). Ch4, 1scfp over next dcfp. Continue the sequence. = 12 ch4's, 6 sc's, 6 scfp's.
To close, sl st into 1st ch4. Do not fasten off.

Ch2 (=1 hdc ) into ch4, 3 hdc's into same ch4 = 4 hdc's, *4 hdc's into next ch4. Ch1 behind the 6ch loop (rnd2), 4 hdc's into next ch4*
Repeat * to *. = 12 x 4hdc's, 8 x ch1's.To close, sl st into beginning ch2. Fasten Off.

ROUND SIX ( lime- stylecraft special dk ).
Work a sl st around any ch6 (rnd2), *ch6 and sl st back into ch6 (rnd2). 1sc into the 2 back loops of next 8 stitches. Sl st into next ch6 (rnd2).*
Repeat * to * = 6 x ch6's, 48sc's into the 2 back loops of hdc's  (rnd5).

To join as you go, you will need to cut a length from your working yarn.
The centre is 4 x 3trtog worked into space between the 8sc's in the finishing round and joined together in the centre ( tops of the 4x 3togs ).

The Video will be very useful throughout!


Wishing you all a lovely week with lots of special hooky time!
See you in Crochetland! ❤❤❤

Love, Jen.

Friday, 24 November 2017

The Riebeek-Kasteel Weekend Block, finally!

In the title of this blog post I say "finally" because finally, I am writing about Riebeek-Kasteel and the magical synchronicity that brought us to one of the most charming little country villages in South Africa.

Recently, Riebeek -Kasteel was voted as the 3rd most charming village in South Africa but hands down, so far ( and I have travelled South Africa extensively ) Riebeek-Kasteel, for me, takes first prize!

It's a funny story, as they say, but really it is...not in funny haha ( although it has a happy ending ) but peculiarly interesting. So, here goes:

Once upon a time, a very sad girl met a very sad boy, They made each other smile again and dream big dreams. One of these big dreams was to have an off-grid weekend-away-country hovel, where they could escape from their busy working lives, where they could find some relief from the unrelenting noise and hustle of city life, and where their still broken hearts could further heal.

They made a list.
a) Must be less than two hours drive from the city.
b) Must be at least 5 acres.
c) Must have trees.
d) Must have a spectacular view
e) Must have a river running through it.
f) Must be close enough to a local village so that supplies could be easily sought.
g) Must be cheap, really, really cheap! *

Everyone laughed at their Big Dream. If you know the Western Cape at all, especially around two hours drive from the City ( and ocean ) you'll know land and houses are expensive. Only for the well-heeled and all that. However, just on the off chance, they happened to speak to an estate agent and mentioned in passing their Big Dream. Of course, the agent laughed along with everyone else. But the next day a fax arrived with a thick black squiggly line on it and X marking the spot. Fate had stepped in. No sooner had the Big Dream been shared when an elderly couple called the estate agent to ask for help selling their...yes, you've guessed it. As I say in my patterns, "Repeat * to *".

So the happy couple dashed up- country, less than two hours from the City,  followed the squiggly black line, fell in love with what they saw, borrowed money from a Parent ( which wasn't much and paid back in a year ) and that was that. A small off-grid wooden house was erected. A huge storm came along and blew it over the mountain. No kidding, all true! There were sad faces all 'round but at least the land was still there and another abode could be re-built, at some point. In the meantime, while the piggy bank was filling up again, this slightly sadder couple travelled around on odd weekends to other adorable villages where they sunbathed, drank lots of beer and apple cider to drown their disappointment, ate out and for two days sloughed off the grime and burdens of City Life. La Dolce Vita!

One Saturday morning back in the City, while they were drinking rather excellent coffee at their local bakery,  they happened to overhear a couple arguing about a house they were building in Riebeek-Kasteel. Mmmm, Riebeek-Kasteel, hey? After shopping for a few weekend supplies they headed back home and hit the Interwebs. They typed in, R.I.E.B.E.E.K - K.A.S.T.E.E.L. Ohhh, myyyyy.

The following morning, bright and early, they squeezed their three dogs into the car,  packed a flask of coffee, wrapped up a few sandwiches just in case all they found in the village centre was a minute, sparsely stocked general supply store with the usual grandiose name like The Majestic Supermarket or The Grand Cash and Carry and headed north-west an hour and fifteen minutes ( as promised on Google Maps ), to the mysterious village of Riebeek-Kasteel.

It's difficult to describe the feeling as they drove over the Bothmanskloof Pass but it felt very much like the same feeling they had when they first saw their Big Dream in material technicolour. They pulled over into a small picnic spot. Conveniently situated very charmingly to take in the magnificent views of the Riebeek Valley falling away below, surrounded by mountains ( the Castle walls? ), their slopes descending into dazzling green, lush vineyards, sage-green Olive Tree groves and undulating orchards of Peaches and Almond Nut Trees. Nestled between all of this, was the village but all they could see at this point was the tall, white church steeple of the NGK Dutch Reform Church ( South Africa is famous for its NGK gorgeous churches! )

Fast forward two years and Riebeek-Kasteel has become their regular go-to getaway destination. They love that it's so close to the City and yet seems an entire other world away. They dream, but not seriously, of finding a small, manageable property where they can build an off-grid hovel, plant a vegetable garden and not spend a small fortune staying at delightful Bed and Breakfasts everytime they need a break! House and Land prices are out of reach seeing as they decided Cash was King a long time ago. Mortgages are for starry-eyed, younger people! But strolling around this delightful piece of earthly paradise, checking the prices on For Sale signs and dreaming a little dream, was free right? And besides, the BIG DREAM elsewhere was waiting for something to pop up out of the ruins of the storm.

One weekend on one such walk, they noticed that a large property had been parcelled off into four smaller plots.The price looked good, but still not doable as a cash sale. They shrugged their shoulders and walked on. The following day, a Monday, a fax arrived.

Dear Sir/Madam
It has come to my attention that you are my neighbour in the *BIG DREAM* area. I haven't seen any movement on your property but I happen to be an estate agent and I have clients, an Architect couple, who are very interested in your *BIG DREAM* piece of land.
They are prepared to offer you * 6 x THE PRICE YOU PAID *!

 ( which just happened to be the price of the small piece of land our hero and heroine had ogled in Riebeek-Kasteel! )

Please get hold of me urgently!
Mr Estate Agent

With the spare change, the formerly sad couple, with a BIG DREAM, built their little off-grid hovel in Riebeek-Kasteel ( just west of the village ) and learned that dreams do come true if you never give up on them even if you don't always get what you want. They learned too, that you will ALWAYS get what you need. They are currently living happily ever after in the SMALL DREAM which is growing bigger by the day.

Our rescue Roxy and the Alpaca from next door! And yes, I have booked a bag of Alpaca wool next time he gets a trim, which is soon! And then I will spin a yarn. Tee, hee!

What has any of this got to do with the latest BIG BLOCK PATTERN, you may well ask? Inspiration, that's what! However, it's not so much that the beauty of a place inspires me but rather the way I feel when I am there. Many of my projects began in Riebeek-Kasteel... the way I feel at that moment galvanises the motivation to pick out a few colours and "play". This is at the genesis of every design. I never have a clear idea where it's going...I just go with the flow, making sure to write it all down along the way, so that I can share it later with all you lovelies!

I want to tell you more about Riebeek-Kasteel but there is SO MUCH to say and at this rate, I am NEVER going to get down to showing you the new pattern! Well, here it is! It's big at 24 " or 60 cm and in spite of all the fancy techniques ( Celtic weaves, squeeeeee! ) it works up really fast. This is another versatile block that can be used as a very large cushion cover, a central block in a blanket, or folded to make a complete back and front smaller cushion cover. Then also, you can make more Blocks and join them together to make a BIG blanket. The smaller block can be added as a border, or used on its own to make a bigger piece! There are video tutorials throughout so you can't go wrong!

I'm still passionate about squishy, super-textured stitches and techniques and I really wanted to see them in another block but after The Amanzi Throw I craved something a little less raucous! And so, The Riebeek-Kasteel Long Weekend Cushion Cover was born. I hope you enjoy making it as much as I did. I just wanted to keep going but reminded myself that a Xmas holiday was in order. So I stopped at Round 49! It was really VERY HARD to do that! 😄

Shoooweee...a looooooong post but there it is.
Happy hooky, fellow Yarnies and see you in Crochetland!
Jen xxx

PS: Riebeek-Kasteel is also home to a bevvy of famous Artists, Writers and former struggle activist Journalists who bravely wrote about the ills of Apartheid in the bad ol' days! One of them is Jacque Pauw who recently released a very telling and controversial book called The Presidents Keepers. He also owns a very nice Pub in Riebeek-Kasteel called The Red Tin Roof.

PPS: I almost forgot!! If you'd like to purchase the pattern... 

Friday, 3 November 2017

A little catch-up is in order!

Oh, yes, indeed...a little catch -up is in order, especially seeing as I completely missed an October Blog Opportunity! Somehow, in all the excitement of working The Amanzi Block into a Throw sized piece, I lost a month! Of course, my eldest son, Nick, arrived home for a three-month break from working in THE BIG APPLE. Funny how things work. I never imagined one of my children living and working abroad ( although it's common here in South Africa for Nestlings to fly very far from the nest ) and I always wanted to visit New York City! And now, vicariously, and a generation later I am, through Nick! Life is full of surprises.

Finally, The Amanzi Throw is completed. Well timed I think, just on the cusp of Spring and Summer. I can truly say that I crocheted in a house, I crocheted on a step, I crocheted in a yard and crocheted in a car, I crocheted here, and crocheted there and pretty much crocheted everywhere! And many of you crocheted along with me. Part Five aka The Final Rounds was released two Fridays ago and so, slowly but surely. completed Amanzi Throws are beginning to appear. As I have come to expect, the colourways are mind-blowingly beautiful!

credit: Emma Sharpe

      credit: Cindy van der Schee

credit: Sandra Salas

credit: Marianne Jacoby

I struggled through the final parts with dreadful hayfever and if you only knew the myriad stops and starts, just so I could sneeze, cough or blow my nose, in-between crocheting, photo-taking and videoing... it's actually miraculous I managed to finish ahead of schedule! But I am nothing if not determined. My father always complained that I was as stubborn as a Donkey. I take it as a compliment now. Tenacious is my middle name!

Many of you lovelies have sent me private messages bemoaning your post-Amanzi blues. Yes, it is a thing with all creative work that we throw ourselves into, heart and soul. Crochet is an active meditation, keeping us engaged in the present ( mind * fullness )  especially if the pattern requires our full attention. Thus, it takes us elsewhere, away from the troubles and challenges of our usual routines or daily expectations and responsibilities. Handwork so easily serves us, rewards us, and transforms us too! It's no wonder we feel a little anchorless until our hands are once again hooked back to shore by beautiful yarn and just the right pattern.

With this in mind, OF COURSE I am already working on a new pattern!! Although many designs are in a large wicker basket on top of my cupboard all impatiently awaiting their final fruition. All I need now is another 24 hours in my day and two more pairs of arms!  I'm one of the few people I know who does not crochet at night. My day begins at 4am and by 8:30pm I am already in crochetdreamland. I'm hoping to release this newbie mid-November.

This October, in fact, was my 1- full- year- of- crochet- patterns anniversary! I released my first free pattern in October 2016, and then went on the design another 13 free patterns before releasing 2 paid patterns. Looking back it's a pretty full schedule of crochet-work! Nevermind all the designs that never made it to Ravelry! And crikey, what a year it's been! I was approached by Furls and Interweave to submit designs and  *famous crochet designers * have left me encouraging and congratulatory messages! *faints* My patterns have shot to #1 on Ravelry and have been featured on a slew of websites! Whooohoooo! I can't thank those Admins enough for the fantastic exposure this has afforded me. You need to know that I. AM. NOT. USED. TO. THIS. SORT. OF ATTENTION!! Quite frankly I'm thrilled, but from under the duvet cover...if you understand my meaning?

And then most importantly, besides learning a heck of a lot of new stitches/techniques...through this magical year, there are the many new friends I have had the pleasure of meeting, not in the flesh but over our crochet hooks and continents apart! This has become my joy, moreso even than pattern creating. Crochet really does transcend so many usual barriers we encounter in ordinary life that keeps us inevitably very disconnected from our fellow Earthlings. Isn't Crochet marvellous?

Take care, fellow Yarnies! Keep those hooks warm and that lovely yarn close! See you in Crochetland!