Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Birkenhead Square

Hello All, and I hope this finds you in good spirits! 😊 Last week was quite a rough one for me, seeing as our ongoing renovations seem to never end. It's becoming a tad tedious I must say. Thankfully, amidst all this tedium there is always a bit of hooky to look forward to. This latest piece has, in part, been staring at me since I published The Darling Dahlia Square last year. I really am in love with the central flower and every time I look at it, my mind begins ravelling out all sorts of designs.

The trouble is, how do you pick just one? One of the designs that came from this was the extended version of the Dahlia square which was the Dahlia Mandala.  So many have asked about a pattern and in fact, I do have one written down and will shortly begin work on it. Here I am waffling on again...I could speak Crochetnease all day long given the chance.😃

Onto The Birkenhead. Many of you may already know about the famous story of  HMS Birkenhead?And about its ill-fated sinking just off the coast of Gansbaai, South Africa. I don't think it was called Gansbaai ( Goose Bay ) then, seeing as this happened in February 1852. What has captured my imagination about this event is the incredibly gallant behaviour of all the men on board. I've read that the phrase " women and children first" was first uttered on this beleaguered vessel!

I wanted to create a square in honour of these valiant men. Almost all of them died at sea that day, either drowned or eaten by sharks which, it is reported, swarmed in their hundreds around the helpless Officers and Sailors. At the subsequent investigation into the sinking of HMS Birkenhead, survivors spoke of the incredible calm, and quiet discipline displayed by the entire crew who probably knew already that their fate was sealed. Such courage!

Also, a little nod at the name, is that our house is 116 years old, and it's called The Birkenhead Cottages ( there are two attached cottages, a large one and a smaller one ). We have a framed limited edition print of an artist's rendition of The Birkenhead. on our wall! I can see it from my tiny craft room, and the colours are the ones I chose for one of the colourways. Although this is a tragic story, it is also one that garners much admiration and respect for the best qualities in human beings often displayed under incredibly trying times.

In a way, I see this also as a metaphor for our lives.We are all in our little ships, chartering our courses through life's storms, doldrums, or clear and sparkling seas, yet even our best course sometimes hits a hidden rock and we learn so much about ourselves by the way we cope with these unforseen pitfalls. I like to think that like the flower in the centre of this square, surrounded by churning waves,  somehow our spirit shines through, even in the darkest of times. 
Oh, look at me, waxing all philosophical now! 😃

I made a video for rounds 1 and 2 because a few people found these rounds a bit tricky! I hope it helps. 

Hope your day is filled with all sorts of good things. 😍

💖 Jen


  1. Oh my, only now do I realize you were the person who do kindly sent me the link to your vintagecoloursfridaflowers. To think that I already absolutely loved the squares that you recently published and I had come across. I'm so impressed with what you do, beautiful work. Thank you so much for the patterns, have gone and collected them all just now.

    1. Hi Afra! Nice to "see" you again! Thank you very much for your kind words! I'm very happy to share the squares and I do SO MUCH enjoy making them! :D I have so many ideas that I'm sure everyone is going to get sick of me sharing them!:D xx

  2. My Gosh! These grannies are absolutely adorable! The pattern is stunning! Thank you so much for sharing this beauty!

    1. Thank you so much, Maya!:D I love making these squares! For a long time I've sat on my designs because I couldn't write patterns. This has been, still is, an incredible learning curve and my eagle-eyed pattern tester, Cindy van der Schee... I am indebted to her! More than anything else, through my squares, I've connected with amazingly talented and creative women. Hands down "our" crochet community must be one of the most supportive and encouraging ever! I think I've finally found my tribe! :D x

  3. Love this square... and even more so after learning of your inspiration! Thank you. blessings ~ tanna

    1. Thanks, Tanna! :)It is quite a heart wrenching story. I think of the women arriving in this strange country and now without their men. I would love to know what happened to them, how they survived this tragedy.

  4. Hi. My name is Anne I love this square and have tried to down load the free pattern but I keep getting 1 page and it's blank. Is it possible to get it emailed to me please. amthrift@yahoo.com.au.

  5. Hi Anne! I've checked the Link several times now and it seems to be working fine! Please try again? It's possible it may take a little longer to download on your side? But let me know? If you're still experiencing a problem I will happily email it through then. :D x

  6. Hello. My name is Niki and I absolutely LOVE this pattern. The video helps tremendously since I am a "confident beginner"! I tried to download the pdf pattern. Only 3 of the 18 pages were visible??? Have you made a video of the rest of the pattern ? If not, would you please email the complete pdf to me? I would be forever grateful. Thank you in advance. God bless.

  7. Hi Niki! Oh dear, I have no idea why this is happening! I've tested the link and it looks to be in order from my side. But I'll email it to you anyway! :D XX

  8. I live and grew up 10mins from the Birkenhead Ship Yard Cammell Laird where she was built.
    I've just been introduced to you and I'm in awe.
    I'm going to make this square.
    Thank you very much indeed

    1. Hi Heather! That is so interesting! I love joining all the dots when it comes to history. Thank you so much for your kind words too! :) xx

  9. Many thanks for sharing your OH SOOOOOO PRETTY designs. I love them all and the stories behind them. Your an inspiration Jen
    xx Denise

    1. Hello Denise! Thanks so much! :D xox



    Back in 1932, I was a fairly new husband. My wife, Nettie and I were living in a little apartment on Chicago 's south side. One hot August afternoon I had to go to St. Louis where I was to be the featured soloist at a large revival meeting. I didn't want to go; Nettie was in the last month of pregnancy with our first child, but a lot of people were expecting me in St. Louis. I kissed Nettie goodbye, clattered downstairs to our Model A and, in a fresh Lake Michigan breeze, chugged out of Chicago on Route 66.

    However, outside the city, I discovered that in my anxiety at leaving, I had
    forgotten my music case. I wheeled around and headed back. I found Nettie sleeping peacefully. I hesitated by her bed; something was strongly telling me to stay But eager to get on my way, and not wanting to disturb Nettie, I shrugged off the feeling and quietly slipped out of the room with my music.

    The next night, in the steaming St. Louis heat, the crowd called on me to sing again and again. When I finally sat down, a messenger boy ran up with a Western Union Telegram. I ripped open the envelope.... Pasted on the yellow sheet were the words: YOUR WIFE JUST DIED.

    People were happily singing and clapping around me, but I could hardly keep
    from crying out. I rushed to a phone and called home. All I could hear on the other end was "Nettie is dead Nettie is dead.'"

    When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. I swung
    between grief and joy. Yet that same night, the baby died. I buried Nettie and our little boy together, in the same casket. Then I fell apart. For days I closeted myself. I felt that God had done me an injustice. I didn't want to serve Him anymore or write gospel songs I just wanted to go back to that jazz world I once knew so well. But then, as I hunched alone in that dark apartment those first sad days, I thought back to the afternoon I went to St. Louis. Something kept telling me to stay with Nettie. Was that something God? Oh, if I had paid more attention to Him that day, I would have stayed and been with Nettie when she died.

    From that moment on I vowed to listen more closely to Him. But still I was
    lost in grief. Everyone was kind to me, especially one friend. The following
    Saturday evening he took me up to Maloney's Poro College , a neighborhood music school. It was quiet; the late evening sun crept through the curtained windows. I sat down at the piano, and my hands began to browse over the keys. Something happened to me then. I felt at peace. I felt as though I could reach out and touch God. I found myself playing a melody. Once in my head they just seemed to fall into place: 'Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn, through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light, take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.'

    The Lord gave me these words and melody, He also healed my spirit. I learned
    that when we are in our deepest grief, when we feel farthest from God, this is when He is closest, and when we are most open to His restoring power.

    And so I go on living for God willingly and joyfully, until that day comes
    when He will take me and gently lead me home.

    - - - -Tommy Dorsey
    Although this is Tommy Dorsey who made his living from music, it is not the Tommy Dorsey that was famous in the 1940's. Regardless, I think it is another example of how in tragedy, there is something beautiful and lasting that is birthed.

    I just found your blog and am interested in looking and seeing what I can accomplish. I am not a crocheter - I am a moderate knitter. I'd love to be able to crochet. I'm sure if I'd take time and view videos and spend the time that I have spent on knitting - even though very sporadic - I'd be able to accomplish some of the stitches, too. Thank you for a lovely post.