Tuesday 28 April 2015

New Found Love - Bullion Stitches

The response to the Lily Pond Crochet Along has been incredible and there are people all over the world currently working through the project. I could never have dreamt what an amazing response we would have to the project or just how busy we are as a result of the CAL, however, in between all the pond related stuff I am working on new designs and of course teaching workshops. I started designing the Lily Pond CAL project more than 4 months ago and was working on it over Christmas so now I am working on designs ready for the late summer and autumn.

I love my design work, but also love getting out into the big wide world and teaching workshops. On Friday I was lucky enough to be invited along to assist on the Learn to Crochet workshop run by Woman's Weekly magazine (they are running more of these and you can find the details here) and on Saturday I tutored my 'Fun with Crochet' workshop at Herts Craft Collective. I love this workshop, which focuses on how to work in a freeform way, but one of the many techniques I show within this workshop, along with beading, making bobbles and textural stitches, always makes me feel a bit disappointed, not because of the way that it looks, but because of how hard it can be to complete in an effective way. I am talking about bullion stitch and those of you who have attempted this stitch will understand my frustration in relation to drawing a yarn loop through other loops on the hook in one easy manoeuvre.

A bullion stitch is made by wrapping the yarn around the hook, in the same way you would for a double treble stitch for example, but with many more yarn loops on the hook. Another yarn loop is then drawn through all the loops to create a stitch which I think looks a little like a woodlouse or a chrysalis. Sounds a bit odd I know, but it is a lovely stitch!

The problem is drawing the last yarn loop through all the others as the yarn always gets caught up on the second or third loop and I invariably end up picking the remaining yarn loops over with my fingers. Working in this way does not have an effect on the look of the stitch, but it does make it very time consuming to do, especially if you want to do a few.

Last week we received our first order from Hamanaka directly from Japan. I adore the products we ordered and was so excited when Andy started adding them to the web site and I have been carrying around my very own little set of hooks, stroking and purring over them ever since, but my like of them turned instantly to total adoration on Saturday when I discovered that not only is it incredibly handy to have a set of double ended ergonomic hooks in a smart plastic case, but that they are quite simply the PERFECT hook for making bullion stitches!

These lovely hooks have made me so happy over the past week and I thought I would share with you a quick tutorial on making bullion stitches in case you fancy having a go too. If you have any old crochet hooks in your collection you may find that you already have one that will work - the key is the shape of the shaft of the hook. If you look at the image of the Hamanaka hooks below you can see that the shaft of the hook is tapered from the handle down to the hook:

The bullion stitch I use takes up the same height as a treble crochet (US double crochet) so you will need to start with 3ch. Bullions work really well in a slightly hairy or soft yarn and I tend to use a larger hook than you would choose for the yarn. In my tutorial I have used Rowan Creative Focus Worsted, which is my absolute favourite yarn for bullion making!

Wrap the yarn around the hook 8 times, making sure that the yarn loops go up onto the thickest part of the hook, use your finger to guide them onto the hook and hold them in place if need be:

Insert the hook into your stitch, wrap the yarn round the hook and draw through. In my example I have inserted the hook into a chain ring, but it is the same method whichever way you choose to do it:

Make sure that all the yarn loops are on the widest part of the hook shaft.

Hold the stitches in place as in the image below:

Wrap the yarn around the hook again, making sure this time that the yarn sits in the crook of the hook as you turn it to catch the yarn:

Keep pinching the yarn loops on the shaft of the hook and draw the final yarn loop through all loops that are sitting on the shaft of the hook - you need to do this quite quickly and angle the hook vertically as you draw through:

Complete the bullion stitch by working 1ch:

The stitch doesn't look very impressive at this point, but once you have a few more in place they can look really effective:

If you fancy having a go at working some bullion stitches you can find loads of inspiration on the internet. I did a very speedy search on Pinterest and found these lovely ideas:

Beautiful Bullions by Prudence Mapstone - variegated yarns look so good in this stitch.

Bullions and Beyond - this is an image via Ravelry

You can make this lovely crochet floral fantasy Valentine heart by Cheri Mancini

The image above comes from canalblog which is a french site with lots of ideas and the amazing image below shows you just how creative some crocheters can be with their stitches - a link to the web site for the image below is here and there are many other really inspiring images on the same web site.

I hope my tutorial has inspired you to get to grips with bullion stitches. I haven't used them in the CAL and rarely use them in my design work because up until now I couldn't recommend a reliable hook. Who knows - now that I have discovered how efficient the Hamanaka hooks are I might just start to put these lovely stitches into some of my work!

If you would like to attend a Fun with Crochet Freeform workshop with me and learn some other techniques as well as bullion stitches the next one is at TAJ Crafts on the Isle of Wight on the 30th May.

Happy Hooking!
J x