Canal crochet


One of the requirements of my International Diploma in Crochet is a written report. I have opted to research how much evidence of crochet – items, implements or patterns – exists in our local museums.

Over the past few weeks I have discovered that plenty of such items exist but, and it’s a big BUT, almost all of them are packed away in archives. If you want to see any of the above examples you have to make an appointment with an archivist and the waiting list can be as long as three months. By the time I contacted the third of my list of local museums I was becoming quite frustrated by this state of affairs ……. as are some  the ladies in the Boaters’  Crafts Group who told me of this sad situation when I enquired about canal crochet exhibits at The National Waterways Museum in Gloucester.

The group is made up of men and women who, having realised how little is on display to inform the public about the lives and crafts of the families who lived on the waterways, meet regularly at The National Waterways Museum. Their aim is to demonstrate and raise awareness of the domestic crafts practised by the boat people. They also give talks locally to spread the word and, hopefully, inspire others to explore these 19th century crafts.

I was fortunate enough to attend one such talk where there was a display of canal crochet and other items used and made by the boat people.

canal boat crafts

The ladies who gave the talk were all colourfully dressed in typical boat women’s wear, made by themselves.  Their crocheted shawls reflect the style and bright shades which were popular amongst the boatwomen. The decorative, but sturdy, bonnets add colour and feminine detail to the otherwise plain, utilitarian outfits of these hard working women while at the same time protecting their heads from the cold, the rain and the sun.

colourful crochet and embroidery

Crochet was the most popular craft of the boatwomen. The very fine filet style of the canal crochet is being reproduced in the Boaters’ Craft Group by a very talented lady affectionately referred to as their “crochet queen”.  She was taught the technique many years ago by a neighbour whose mother was, in fact, a boatwoman herself. During the talk the crochet queen demonstrated her skill and spoke of her aim: to teach present day crafters to make canal lace as beautiful as that which was being crocheted on a daily basis by the boatwomen.

crochet queen

They decorated the interiors of their cabins with shelf edgings ….

original edging showing rust where it was nailed on

…. curtains and porthole covers. They made yards and yards of crocheted lace edgings to embellish their bonnets, aprons and girls’ dresses. One of the most beautiful items on display at the talk was a horse’s earcap – a protective covering worn by the canal folk’s horse’s to keep the flies away from their faces and eyes. The swishing of the coloured tassels would keep away insects ….

horse earcap

There was embroidery on display as well – gorgeous coloured belts in intricate spiderweb stitches worked on tea towels or other squared material.

spiderweb stitch embroidered belts

The talk was both fascinating and informative. I was totally unaware of the extent and importance of canal crochet; my attempts at filet work have now taken on a whole new meaning and I am keen to try some of the original cabin lace designs.

How brilliant that this group of crafts people are passionate enough to give up their time and share their enthusiasm with the general public while museums do not seem to believe there is a need to display exhibits of such historical importance.

On that note, let me wish you all a very happy Easter. I hope you have time for a bit of crochet …… or knitting …..or embroidery – in fact, whichever craft inspires you.

Happy crafting, everybody

Jenny x


Easter’s here!

Happy Easter everybody!

After the strong winds of Monday night it is a miracle that not all the daffodils were blown down. It is calmer now and warmer – spring is definitely in the air.

Sunday will bring the joys of egg hunts and many little people searching for treasures.

Here are some of my special things: a little crochet, newly worked pebbles, spring flowers in a blue and white vase and festive decorated eggs ….. no  chocolate ones just yet!

a few of my favourite things

a few of my favourite things

……… can’t wait to update you on my latest projects and my new book of Japanese motifs – you can see a couple of them in this photo. I’ll tell you about those after the holiday. I’m looking forward to experimenting with some new crochet stitch patterns then too.

In the meantime I hope you all have a joyful Easter.

jenny x



Sock yarn but no socks!

Hello everyone,

What is it about sock yarn that makes it so irresistible? For me I think it is the colours. Don’t get me wrong, I like making socks and loved the sock-making classes which I attended at Miju Wools in Gloucester where I met some great knitters and had some expert instruction from Michelle  but when I see sock yarn it is not socks which come to mind first.

There are so many other ways to enjoy the colours of sock yarns ……

For ages I have wanted to try a sock yarn example of the granny stripes pattern from Lucy at Attic 24 and some recent stash busting led me to  this project.

an odd mix of colours

an odd mix of colours but I like them!


so pleased with Lucy's picot edging

so pleased with Lucy’s picot edging


During a visit to Get Knitted in Bristol for a Debbie Abrahams workshop on working up one’s stash I saw an example of this beautiful moebius cowl by Amanda Perkins. The choice of sock yarns there was quite amazing and the design such fun to work with the colour changes.

couldn't resist the yarn

couldn’t resist the yarn


The following pattern for a baby cardigan was designed by Frances Fletcher and can be found here.  I discovered it initially in a lovely little yarn shop in Hereford which has, sadly, since closed down. The yarn originally chosen was hand dyed and one skein was just enough for the project. This ensured complete originality on each garment. At the moment  I am making this for a friend’s new baby (pics of completed item to follow) and I am using Regia Kaffe Fassett Ombre Design for this one – I just love the muted colours which remind me of the heathery shades chosen by Kaffe during a visit to Scotland. He learned to knit on the train journey back to London and went on to complete his first striped sweater….. and the rest is history!

worked sideways

worked sideways




Another discovery has been the mitred square – using the pattern by Sue Ann Kendall found here I made this buggy blanket from oddments of sock yarn and incorporated one solid shade.

sock oddments well used

sock oddments well used


simple but structured

simple but structured


just love the way colours work together

just love the way colours work together

To me it is amazing that all the colours blend in so well and it is such a fun pattern to work. Each new square is added as you go so no seaming at the end. Brilliant!

The woolly prawn tie – well, I couldn’t not mention this could I since it is one of the patterns in The Woolly Prawn. The design is so simple but the finished tie can be so different depending on what type of sock yarn you use.

neat knot, sir!

neat knot, sir!


yarn bombing!

a spot of local yarn bombing?

So, you see, there’s no need to feel limited to socks when you browse through the wonderful colours of the sock yarns in the shops or online. There are so many ways of enjoying those shades or even using up remnants when your socks are completed.

Well, I’m off to enjoy the glorious spring sunshine now or, more precisely, to do a spot of gardening. Hope the weather stays fine over Easter.

Happy Easter everyone,

Back soon,

Jenny x