Friday, September 19, 2014

Perfect Tassels Tutorial


I love adding tassels to my crochet projects, and the best ones are plump and luxurious.  Here's the technique I use to make mine... it's very easy.

 
1.  Decide on the length you want your tassels to be, and cut a piece of card a little longer than the desired finished size.  Around 12cm - 15cm is usually pretty good.  I sometimes use a small book to make tassels, or a piece of strong card that won't bend easily.  Wrap the yarn around the card about 40 times.  You can vary this, depending on the thickness of the yarn and how plump you like your tassels.  The yarn I am using in this tutorial is 8ply (DK).
 
 
 
 
2.  Cut a piece of yarn a little longer than twice the length of the card.  Thread it through the top of the tassel twice as shown.
 
 
 
3.  Tie the piece of yarn in a tight and strong knot.
 
 



4.  Carefully remove the yarn from the card, and cut through the looped ends at the bottom of the tassel.
 
 
 
 
5. Take another length of yarn around twice the length of the tassel.  Wrap it tightly around the tassel as shown (I usually wrap it twice), to form a ball at the top.  Tie a secure knot.
 
 


6.  Using a yarn needle, thread the ends into the centre of the tassel.


 


7.  Tidy up the tassel by trimming the ends, and you're finished!  The two yarn ends at the top are used to tie the tassel to your project.  After attaching, these ends can be threaded down through the middle of the tassel as in step 6.




Here are some ideas for using your tassels.  I always attach them to my bunting, and love adding them to the corners of cushions.  You can create a luxurious fringe by attaching an entire row of tassels.
The more you make the easier and faster the process becomes.  Have fun!



 

 

  
 
 





Friday, April 11, 2014

the rivers know

Loretta Grayson  The Rivers Know  Vintage maps, gouache on cotton rag paper, 2014 
 

It's a funny thing, the creative process.  I had this sketch in my journal for quite a long time before I finally got around to doing something with it.  It was inspired by reading Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient last year, and this quote in particular.

“We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves.

I wish for all this to be marked on by body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography - to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience.”

The image in my head was all bright greens and blues, clouds and water... but when it came to actually getting it onto paper, this is what happened... something a little quieter, softer and darker.  

The title comes from a poem by Anis Mojgani that I have written about before, and seemed very appropriate as I was once again finishing work for the same show at the last minute... just as I wrote about then.

I finally finished it in the early hours of the morning it was due to be delivered to the exhibition, and went to bed at around 2am hating this little artwork with a passion.  But somehow, in the few hours sleep I managed before looking at it again, it grew on me. 

I could see that although the idea I was trying to pin down originally had eluded me, another one had appeared in its place.   If rivers can know to find their way to the sea, I can learn to let go of control and let ideas flow in the direction they need to go.



... and hopefully one day learn to stop procrastinating :)
 

Monday, February 10, 2014

sweet unrest



detail of Sweet Unrest by Loretta Grayson  Gouache on cotton rag paper, 200mm x 300mm

I posted about this painting last month, and it's finally finished.  It came together slowly, but I don't mind... working on these small, detailed pieces is the closest thing to meditation for me, so I don't count the hours. 
 
The title comes from one of my favourite Wind in the Willows quotes, but the imagery started coming together after finding this line in Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Love in the Time of Cholera.
 
"... ideas that had often fluttered around her head like nocturnal birds but dissolved into a trickle of feathers when she tried to catch hold of them."


Sweet Unrest by Loretta Grayson  Gouache on cotton rag paper, 200mm x 300mm
They're tricky things, those ideas.  I have some of my best ones when I can't sleep in the middle of night, but capturing them again in the morning can prove to be challenging. 

I posted about bird tracks in my artwork a little while ago, so I was excited to discover the work of Dennis Hlynsky recently.  He creates the most beautiful and fascinating films of bird flight paths.
 

 
More videos and information about his creative process can be found here:
 

Monday, January 13, 2014

to begin


I wasn't sure how to begin the new year, so I decided to start by finishing a few things.

A new painting... my first since July last year.  It seems I prioritised pretty much everything else over my artwork last year.  I'm determined to not do the same in 2014, but I'm being gentle on myself and beginning again by working on some ideas from last year.  Here's the sketch I'm working from at the moment, and you can see a little of the progress in the photo above. 


... and this blanket... finally finished!



 
My original post on Ravelry tells me that I started it over three and a half years ago.  I picked it up again last year, and finally finished it last week. 
 
The pattern comes from a lovely Japanese crochet book (more details at the Ravelry link above).  I adapted it a little by adding a join-as-you-go border in off white.  I also added a pom pom edging, from a pattern I found here.



Wishing you all a very happy new year... hope it's a creative one!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

bird tracks

 
I'm not great at keeping an artist journal, but I thought it might be interesting to share a few pages.
 
When I studied art many years ago, it was mandatory to keep a visual journal.  Part of our assessment, actually.  I struggled with it a bit and always felt that my journal was a bit under par, as it wasn't brimming with sketches.  I loved the romantic idea of the artist who carries a journal everywhere with them, stopping as inspiration strikes to furiously sketch ideas.
 
But the reality is, that just isn't the way I work.  Mostly, I find that it is words and sounds that inspire me.  The very early stages of an idea rarely involve a drawing, but I always have a phrase or a poem or a line from a song in my head.  It's the images that go with these words that eventually become the artwork.  My journal isn't particularly pretty, or colourful, and not even necessarily full of my own work... it's just as likely to contain words and thoughts that I have stolen from my favourite writers.
                         
 
This page started with a quote that has been written in nearly every journal I have kept for the last 20 years.

There are bird tracks and nothing in the sky;
something lived, left, and left something.

It's from William Wharton's Birdy.  It's been many years since I read that book, and to be honest I don't remember much about it except that particular phrase which has never left me.

Earlier this year those bird tracks started wanting to appear in my work, and it made me wonder about the significance of that phrase to me.  As serendipity would have it, I bought a book of Anis Mojgani poems and fell in love with this one:


Diction

The people in town seemed surprised.  Like they had never seen a flock
of bees come out of someone's mouth before.  It wasn't even so much
the bees.  Or the wasps.  Or the tiny tiny rainstorms.  It wasn't the shining
rings or the swans of amber that any of them seemed to be surprised by.
It wasn't even my mouth.  They told me: It's just, that's not how we talk.

I said something back.  Some... some word.  I don't know if it was
an emerald or a tugboat or some yellow yellow petal.  But after it fell
I turned to walk back through the scarves, leaving footprints in the
flowers, hoping someone would use them to follow me home.  Afraid of
whom it might be, somebody who knew what I was trying to say.

Anis Mojgani, from The Feather Room, Write Bloody Publishing, 2011


The idea of those footprints in the flowers, and the bird tracks in the sky just went together so nicely for me... not only because I love exploring the concept of navigation in my work, but it also made me think about art as communication, one side of a conversation.

There is an awfully vulnerable place we go to when we share a part of ourselves through our art, whether it is visual art, poetry, music or writing.  Why would we do it, except in an effort to leave our own subtle tracks - bird tracks in the sky or footprints in the flowers - personal thoughts and ideas that might be lost on many, but may just find a home in a vulnerable place in someone else?

Or, as Neil Gaiman puts it in this wonderful speech, we send out messages in bottles, and occasionally they return to us.



So now, a question for my readers... do you keep a journal?  What does your journal look like?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I might have a crochet cushion addiction (and some FAQs)

More finished cushions... I'm having so much fun making these, and seem to be developing quite a collection.


A zigzag cushion in 8 ply yarn...

 
And a smaller one in 4 ply.
 
 
I found a wonderful harlequin tapestry crochet tutorial at Little Woollie, and it was surprisingly easy once I got used to it.  I had never tried tapestry crochet, and now I have lots of ideas percolating in my head for using this technique.
 

More pictures, just for fun.  I was quite enjoying this little photo shoot, and got a bit carried away!




 



... and now for some answers to a few frequently asked questions.  This can be a work in progress, so if you have any questions I haven't addressed, please feel free to ask and I'll can add them.


Q.  Do you have/sell crochet patterns?

A.  None of these projects has a written pattern as my usual method of operation is to find a technique that I like and play around with it, creating my own pattern in the process.  I try to put helpful information about each project on my Ravelry page.  I'm not really a pattern follower myself, preferring to just experiment and see what I can come up with... but having said that... I'm currently teaching myself to write patterns and hope to have some available in the future.  Watch this space!

Q.  What kind of yarn do you use?

A.  Most of my projects (and all of the ones pictured here) are made with Merino yarn from an Australian company, Biggan Design.  I'm sure that crocheters all over the world have their own favourite yarns to work with, but this particular one is the perfect fit for me.  They have an amazing colour range that never changes, and the yarn is really lovely to work with, machine washable and hardwearing.  It's important for me to be able to make things for my home that can be used every day and will still look great after many years.  Some of my early crochet projects that were made with lesser quality yarn haven't worn very well, and I found that very disappointing when so much time and love had gone into making them.

One exception to the quality yarn rule:  I find that bunting can be made from cheaper yarns, as it doesn't get handled or washed as much.

Q.  Why do the pillows have only one crochet side?

A.  This is just a personal preference for me.  I usually sew a plain cushion, with a button or zip opening, and hand stitch the crochet piece to it.  All of the cushions above have a black corduroy back, and I sometimes use pompom trim, rather than make my own tassels or fringing.  I guess I have a couple of reasons for doing this:
  • It's economical.  I save on yarn, because I only have to crochet one side. 
  • It's faster, and that's always a good thing.
  • I like the neatness of the cushions... they have crisp edges and corners. 
  • A contrasting colour or black on the back of the cushion makes the colours stand out more.