PONY’S JOURNAL ...from the studio
What started as a simple idea turned into a massive project that took on a (sea) life of its own, as Pony McTate explains…
Being a crocheter is pretty handy. There’s no problem it can’t solve. Cold? Just whip up a scarf. Bored? Fill the void with rows of meditative stitches. Local park benches looking a bit drab? Yarnbomb your way to urban renewal. So, when a friend announced she was happily pregnant, I knew what to do. Thoughtful and heartfelt, a crocheted baby gift would tick all the boxes.
IN THE BEGINNING
That was how my A-B-Sea blanket started out. Just a simple crochet make, I thought. I would be good and use only the yarn I had in my stash. It would be something useful made of joined squares, perhaps with a nice little fish stitched on the corner. That idea percolated away for a while until one night – ping! – I sat bolt upright in bed with the plan for an alphabetical sea creature blanket. I was so excited. It would be accurate, educational and awesome. With wiggly bits to fiddle with. I would forgo the obvious in favour of the odd. That meant goodbye dull dolphin and hello deep sea angler. A porcupine puffer for ‘P’! And for the letter ‘I’? Maybe a... hmm... well, I’m sure I’d work it out later. (Much, much later, as it turned out. You would not believe how few sea creatures start with ‘i’, let alone crochetable ones).
A WHIRLPOOL OF ACTIVITY
I got a bit carried away. You know that magical feeling, when undiluted creative energy is singing through your veins? Oh, it was glorious. Midnight sessions with encyclopedias and strange forays into the obscure world of hardcore fish fanciers. Hours spent perfecting a pectoral fin. The project took on a life of its own in the most wonderful way. I learnt much about the mating rituals of manta rays, among other things. I worked on one creature at a time, from anemone through to zooplankton.
I would spend a few days on research, Googling images and selecting colours. Then I’d hunker down with my hook and see what worked. There was a lot of frogging and reworking but that was all part of the creative process. It was a real sense of achievement seeing it coming together.
All in all, it took me about four months.
FROM PROTOTYPE TO PATTERN
When I posted pics of the blanket online, other people loved it too. Righto, I thought, I’ll publish a pattern to share with everyone. I would have to make the blanket all over again but my enthusiasm was still high. I’ve always enjoyed the nitty-gritty of patterns – finding ways to compress complex information into a concise, readable set of instructions. Ones that make sense not just to me, but to whoever picks it up.
What I hadn’t reckoned on was the overall scale of the project. One little pattern is easy to write and distribute; 26 patterns, with comprehensive instructions and step-by-step photos, is quite a different beast and required a whole new set of skills. What began as a simple pattern morphed into a full and fabulous book. The technical side of things was a challenge. There were some steep learning curves and a fair bit of colourful yarn (and language) directed at my laptop (and husband, poor thing).
But I survived, and so did my marriage.
One unexpected delight is how versatile these patterns are. If you’re up for a big project you can make the whole blanket. Or, less ambitiously, you can pick and choose your favourite squares to make into a cushion. Or play around with the creature appliqués – they make nifty gifts as brooches or patches. My favourite square is the Zooplankton one, though the Inexplicable Shrimpgoby will always have a special place in my heart. What makes it inexplicable? Find out in my book!
Crochet A-B-Sea: An Extraordinary Underwater Alphabet by Pony McTate is available worldwide in print on Amazon and in digital format from Amazon, iBooks and Kobo. For more ideas, see her website at www.ponymctate.com and turn the page to make an octopus brooch, adapted from her pattern!