Monday, February 22, 2010

Not so scrappy after all

Behind my armchair I have a mountain of bags and boxes that are no longer hidden. They threaten to topple over the back and I fear that this would be the end of my yarn buying for a while. They contain various yarns for projects in progress, leftovers from projects past and for projects not yet imagined. I am a compulsive collector hoarder of craft materials and shiny things.

My daughter recently gave birth to our fourth grandchild. I have always welcomed the new babies with a handmade cot blanket. Never knowing the sex in advance, they have always been patchwork, multicoloured and bright. With a recurring family allergy to wool, they are usually made from cotton and bamboo or ramie blends of yarn. I can’t throw away the smallest pieces, the colours are so lovely, and these balls are a great way to recycle scraps. They are soft to touch and lightweight and they wipe clean with a damp cloth. The youngest children have either a ball or a cot toy made from off cuts and others have gone to jugglers and other peoples cats.

This is what you’ll need:


5 ply wool or knitting cotton scraps

A ball of scrap wool and a bodkin


1. Scrunch up the newspaper into tight balls. One double spread of The Australian is enough to create a large ball, a quarter of a sheet, the smallest.

2. Take the scrap ball of wool and begin to wind it around the newspaper ball, taking care to keep the ball as round as possible until the newspaper has disappeared under an even layer of wool. Tuck in the end securely. You should now have something that looks like a ball of wool.

3. Using the bodkin and a 5 ply thread, begin to chain stitch around the ball, fixing the stitches into the wool. When you come to the end of a piece of thread, finish it by threading a few running stitches across the winds of wool.

4.If you find that the wool is slipping as you embroider it, you can run some lines of running stitches over them at any time to help keep them in place.

5. Continue to embroider close rows of chain stitch to cover the ball. If you want to hang the finished ball, leave the ends of three rows as loose thread in the same spot and plait them together when the ball is finished. Trim any loose ends.

6. The balls are easily reshaped by rolling in your hand as you are working, so don’t worry too much if they don’t seem completely round.

During the last few difficult weeks, the process of making these little balls, their soothing roundness and the comforting repetition of the simple task of embroidery have allowed me a place of calm, of softness and quiet normalcy. They now fill a bowl on the table, their bright colours a happy focus in a time of sadness.


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