The Crafty Lass does… Learning to Crochet!
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Driving through the rolling green hills of the British countryside, beautiful unspoilt views, an exciting morning of crafting ahead – no matter the worries on your mind – you can’t help but allow a sudden and overwhelming sense of calm.
This, is how I felt last Saturday. I was driving up to TOFT in Dunchurch, Warwickshire – a lovely alpaca farm with a learn-to-crochet workshop space, cafe and all manner of lovely-must-be-bought things at the shop.
I’ve been able to knit from a fairly young age – nothing too exciting – just the basic ‘knit’ and ‘pearl’ stitches. I have never followed a pattern, and I have always only made scarves, as simple as you can get – cast on X amount of stitches and basically just keep going until either your creation is complete, or the ball of yarn runs out (and I do still freak out slightly when I have to change to a new one!) However, crochet is just not something I had ever experienced. I owned a lovely little crocheted toy called ‘Dolly’ as a child (it was my comforter) and carried it with me EVERYWHERE. There are a few family ‘horror’ stories of temporarily losing Dolly in the park or not having her before sleep – it was apparently a serious and would need to be urgently rectified issue! I also own a lovely crochet blanket that my Aunt made for me before I was even born… I still use it now in the winter and so really, with lovely associations of this craft – why I hadn’t ever tried to crochet before now is beyond me.
I saw ‘TOFT‘ at a recent craft trade show, and was so enchanted by their ‘Edward’s Menagerie‘ range, designed by Kerry Lord – a hugely adorable and characterful selection of crocheted toy animal kits. At the time, as much as I could recognise that they were beautiful – I didn’t feel the need to learn how to do it and to make a toy. Now that I am expecting a baby – that is as good as excuse as any to get crafting one of these lovely creations!
TOFT do offer the kits for sale directly off their website, and there are a good selection of helpful video tutorials to get you going – but, as a complete novice – I knew I would need more than a little hand holding to walk and talk me through how to get it to not look like a lumpy fluffy mess! Luckily, they offer workshops on site too – hence my scenic drive to their beautiful location.
I have to say, I am almost slightly (ok, lets admit it, very) jealous of the stunning crafting area. Rustic farm-esque buildings, large, light areas just ready for teaching in – containing lots of like minded crochet wannabees all there to either stock up and buy the beautiful yarns on offer, or to learn, or to just sit and while away the time in the little cafe serving decent coffee and scrummy cakes. I. Must. Work. Very. Hard. And. Save. Lots. To. Have. A. The. Crafty. Lass. Farm. It is certainly going on the big life ambition bucket list.
I was even lucky enough to be there on a day that a tiny little new-born alpaca entered the world. Awwww. 😀
Anyway, back to the crocheting… We all chose the colour of our yarn, took our places and were ready to begin. I chose a fairly dark-ish grey tone and I was making ‘Bridget The Elephant‘. I was warned by our tutor Emma, that darker colours could be slightly more difficult to work with (just as harder to see the defined stitches) and I confidently and naively, definitely wanting that specific colour said – ‘don’t worry, I will be fine’. Ha! Famous last words hey?? It wasn’t that bad – but I certainly can confirm she was right.
It was a small group, which was lovely to have almost 1-1 tuition at stages, and Emma was very thorough and patient. At times, when I thought I had lost the plot – counting, forgetting which stitch I was on, recounting, ripping it up and starting again – but she patiently went through the same questions and answers again and again. ‘Is it here I put the needle?’, ‘Is that 2 stitches in this part’, ‘have I done 10 or 12 now?’. So thank you, Emma. There was a sudden lightbulb ‘AHA!’ moment when suddenly everything clicked into place and then, once I had eventually got it, and understood what on earth I was doing – I got going in to an almost magical trance like status – wanting to just carry on crocheting for as long as I possibly could. I even moved on to the side, and carried on while the next group had come along started. However, as time eventually does, it disappeared – and I had to down tools and be on with my day. I started to frantically plan in the car on the way home – when could I next do some crochet? Like an addict – I would need to get my next ‘fix’ in somehow – I think learning a new skill has that effect on you. I know how to do this – ‘look at me, I can make something from nothing!’ feeling. Plus, as an added bonus – I just love the fact the end product will end up being given to my little boy. I wonder if Bridget The Elephant will be the ‘new Dolly’ of his life.
So far, in the time I have managed to sit down and continue to crochet – I have made two legs, and an ear – just another 2 legs, another ear, the body and tail to go. Then, to stuff, sew together, add some eyes and et voila – one toy!
The problem is, once it is made – what do I do then? Now what will I make?? Well, the beauty with that – is now I know HOW to do it – there are patterns a plenty. Both at TOFT, but also from everywhere else – homeware, clothes… but in reality – I think I want to make some more of the Edward’s Menageries. Bridget will need some friends! I will need to make a whole zoo of animals!
If you are looking to try something different, or are a seasoned crocheter and want to just try something new – I would highly recommend a day out to visit TOFT. Either to attend the workshops, or just admire the beautiful scenery and scoff a cake or two!!
However, a word of warning – crochet can get addictive!