I've just spent a happy time looking all the way through my Making the Seasons posts right from the very beginning. I have really loved seeing my creative makes subtly change as they've moved through the seasons, and am excited to share this latest installment with you. Working on a monthly seasonal making project with my lovely friend Gillian is so much fun! I do find it quite a challenge to come up with something new and exciting each month, but it's the best type of challenge. I find that I can't really think about it too far in advance either as I tend to work best when I'm feeling totally spontaneous and just a wee bit pushed for time.
I decided earlier in the week that my July Making The Seasons post would be all about butterflies. We have a buddleia (butterfly) bush growing at the front of our house, and after some dramatic self-pruning last year (it snapped!), this year it's grown back healthy and strong and is absolutely smothered in flowers. It reaches to just below our bay window which means that we get a terrific aerial view of all the winged critters arriving at their favourite flower-restaurant.
So far this year I haven't seen many different species (I'm going to be taking part in the Big Butterfly Count once we head into August) - mainly Small Tortoiseshells, Peacocks and Large and Small Whites. No Red Admirals or Painted Ladies yet, but I'm hopeful that I might get to see some before the summer is out.
I absolutely adore butterflies, and have done ever since being a small child. Does anyone remember the Brooke Bond picture cards that came inside packets of tea in the 1970's? There were a whole host of different subjects to collect (J remembers collecting dinosaur cards) and I was an avid collector of the butterfly cards. I so clearly remember having the exact book pictured above, although I've no idea what happened to it.
I bought this one from eBay a few years ago, partly for the nostalgia gig, but also because I love the butterfly illustrations so much....
....there are 50 in total, with interesting educational facts given on each page. I love this book and even though I only paid £3 for it, it feels very precious to me. I wonder who it once belonged to? Who collected and glued in all the little cards? Who cared for it and kept it in such good condition for the past forty years? I wish I knew.
This is my modern day guide to the butterflies of the British Isles, bought after a trip down to Dorset when I saw so many species that I couldn't identify. I really, really wanted to have that knowledge tucked away inside my brain so that I could pass it on to the Little People, or at the very least have a nifty chart or book so that I could find out. Well now I do have the nifty chart, I just need to remember to take it with me when we go to likely butterfly-ish places.
So back to Making the Seasons. In the interests of complete honesty and disclosure, I have to tell you that I ordered up some very pretty edible butterfly cake toppers (these ones, aren't they lovely?) with the idea that I would bake and decorate some beautiful and highly photogenic butterfly buns as part of my seasonal July project. And......it didn't happen in time, not just yet. I do still intend to do some butterfly-inspired baking with Little B and I shall be sure to show you the results, but for now, my butterfly offerings are going to be inedible and made of yarn.
Do any of you have the above books by Lesley Stanfield? They are absolutely brilliant and I can highly recommend them if you like creating decorative bits of nature. I find the patterns a bit on the tricky side to decipher, but with the combination of written pattern, graphic chart and photos it's usually possible to fudge it enough to make a passable go of it.
Earlier in the week I set myself up at the dining table for a creative butterfly-making session, all giddy at the prospect of getting to play with my colourful cotton yarns. On the right hand side the yarn is Stylecraft Classique Cotton DK (50g balls) and on the left are the dinky little Ricorumi balls (25g) that I bought for mandala making. Frothy chocolate dusted coffee and I was ready to hook up a whole swarm of pretty winged critters.
Drank the coffee whilst browsing through the books, trying to decide which butterfly to attempt first. The patterns made my head swim, so I popped outside for a bit of a breather and when I came back in, a new ball of fluff had been added to the pile. Cheeky little kitty.
My first attempt was a Large White butterfly which looked gorgeous in the book. The designer had managed to create the look of veins running up the wings by very cleverly using double-treble front and back post stitches (uh-huh, dtr post stitches). This was not at all easy to execute and I got into a right old mess with it. I kept getting muddled up with the wrong side and right side, and the front and the back post business just got the better of me. I made one (rubbish) wing and am sorry to tell you that it flew right off my hook and straight into the bin...whhheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!
Onto the next try.................
Second attempt was the yellow Brimstone, and I managed a bit better with this one. I liked it because there was no turning (all the stitches were made in a long line into a foundation chain) so there was no confusion with trying to work out wrong side and right side. Some of the stitches were seriously tall though (quadruple-trebles) which made the wings look a bit holey and loopy but I like the overall shape of them.
On the same page as the Brimstone was a Golden Haristreak which I decided to make using blue yarn instead. This one was made in two parts which were then stitched together and my brain quite liked the way this one was designed. I could see the logic in the shaping and how to make each wing, and I crocheted it up with no problem.
I decided to add a little bit of decorative stitching around the outer edge of the wings - it occurred to me that butterfly wings are just crying out for little itty bits of decorative stitching. You could really go to town making them look as pretty as possible with all sorts of embroidery stitches.
So one abandoned wing in the bin and two butterflies complete (and actually looking like butterflies) and I was on a roll.
I need to make more!
A quick flick through the book again - oooooo I LOVE the Peacock butterfly, but that's a knitted pattern and so not within my capabilities at all. Hmmm.....what about the Camberwell Beauty? That looks pretty and I like the shape of the wings very much. Lets give it a go!
This was another pattern where you had to work each wing in turn, making short rows back and forth using different stitch heights to shape the wings. A little picot to add some detail on the wing edge - very nice.
Second upper wing now, a mirror image of the first.....
.....wait a minute that doesn't look right, what happened there? The second wing is upsidedown? OK, no worries, I'll just pull it out and start the second wing again.
NOooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!! The second time I tried, I ended up with exactly the same upsidedown issue, so I'm sorry but wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, into the bin it flies. There will be no Camberwell Beauty in my swarm.
A Red Admiral, yes I think I can do this.
Yay!!!! It has four wings that look like wings should!
I had to fudge the black crochet edging quite a bit, making it up more than reading the pattern, but overall I'm happy with how it turned out.
When I looked on my nifty butterfly identification chart, I saw that the crochet version wasn't quite as accurate as it should be. Red Admirals have white patterning on their wings which make them very distinctive, so I decided to add a little bit of white stitching.
There, that's better - the white detail made all the difference. I love my Red Admiral!
Three butterflies on my table, and a day or two goes by. I sit myself down for another making session and decide to attempt an Orange Tip this time.....
Similar to the second butterfly I made, this one starts out as one line of stitches and I like this method.
It didn't take me very long at all to make this lovely butterfly, and I was amazed at how real it looked. I saw a few orange tip butterflies a few weeks back when we were walking up in the Yorkshire Dales, and had remembered how vivid those little flashes of orange and black are in real life.
I felt really inspired by this little butterfly, so decided to be brave and attempt something of my own from scratch.
I chose to make a Small Tortoiseshell as this is one of my best favourite butterflies and the ones we see most often fluttering around our butterfly bush. I used my nifty guide to learn the shape of the wings, and set to work. This was crochet on the fly and I didn't write a single thing down - I worked fast and concentrated hard, trying my best to create those symmetrical and beautifully shaped wings. After a lot of effort, I made something that actually looked really rather butterflyish, and I felt elated!
One of the reasons I wanted to try creating the Small Tortoiseshell was because of the patterns on the wings which I love so much. This was quite fiddly to do, but I worked the stitching slowly and methodically, one wing at a time until it was finished.....
.....ta-dah!!!!!!!!! An Attic24 original Small Tortoiseshell, which will most likely remain an original one of a kind. I can't think that I would ever want to try and do that again to be honest, it really was a bit of a labour of love.
The last butterfly I made was in two shades of blue, inspired by the Holly Blue male on my chart. This is another pattern designed by me, and this time I did make some notes as I was crocheting and shaping the wings. I still need to tweak it a little more, but I'm going to try and write the pattern up if I can. I fancy it would make a lovely little brooch and it would really make me happy to be able to make butterfly brooches in a whole rainbow of colours.
So there you have it - the results of my butterfly making week. It's not a lot to show for what feels like a massive amount of expended brain power, but oh I do SO love them!!
I had a think about what I might like to actually do with these butterflies of mine - a mobile perhaps? A set of brooches? Stitch them to a summer wreath, or make a butterfly mandala?
I haven't had quite enough time to give the end result much thought to be honest, as it's been very blankety around here during the past week.
But what I have really enjoyed doing is having a play with them, gosh, I had the MOST fun with this today! I often think that faffing and photographing handmade things is as much fun (if not more so) than the actual making process. I took a lot of photos - loads and loads of them - so here are just a few....
Ahhh........so lovely. Butterflies are incredibly joyful aren't they? The sight of them always makes me happy.
I have an idea that I'd like to create some sort of a picture with my crochet butterflies, kind of a nod to the rather old fashioned Victorian collectors displays found in natural history museums and old houses. I'll have a look for a suitable frame next time I'm out and about. I'm rather weirdly excited about this idea.
I hope you've enjoyed seeing what I've been up to this week with my hook and yarn - there may very well be more yarny butterfly business coming next week, I really want to work out that pattern to share with you.
In the meantime, I want to show you images from my virtual collection of Totally Inspirational butterfly-inspired art....
This is the incredible work of paper artist Kate Kato who works under the name "Kasasagi Designs". Kate makes delicate and very life like insects and plants using a combination of stitching and paper sculpting. The detail in her work is astounding and I love to see her beautiful compositions pop up on Instagram. I love all her work but her butterflies are especially appealing.
This is another crush of mine - the work of crochet artist Kate Jenkins. Yes, these insects are all crocheted!
I would love love love to see these crochet and embellished butterflies in real life, to really examine all their intricate detail right up close....but for now I'm just quietly swooning over the amazingness of them.
And lastly, I just stumbled across these beauties a few days ago on Pinterest whilst on a search for yarny butterfly inspiration. Aren't they gorgeous? These are also crocheted, but on a very different scale to the ones above - they are huge!
This Small Tortoiseshell butterfly isn't small at all and measures 28 x 20 cm. I am completely smitten by it. Designed and made by Dutch designer MieksCreaties, you can actually buy the patterns to make all the different butterflies .....oh I am so so tempted! I really hate deciphering crochet patterns, but these crazy-beautiful things are calling my name.
I think that's about all I've got to say about crochet butterflies for now - my mind is already wandering ahead to August and wondering what seasonal delights will ignite my creativity next month. Funny thing - I just typed moth instead of month, I think I've got winged insects on the brain!
Please do pop over and say hello to Gillian - her July Making the Seasons post is delicious and is making my mouth water!