Tuesday, 14 June 2016


As you know I am a great crochet fan.  I have always liked to make my own things, and am not terribly good at following patterns because I like to fiddle around and change things and see what will happen if I try this, that or the other.

Moving on one step from that I am now designing my own patterns and this year I have been working on a group of four shawls.  If you have watched the podcast you will have seen some of them, but this week I am sharing crafty things with you here on my blog so today I have the backstory on these four shawls to share with you!

Again, if you are long time reader here you will know that I am a great fan of the writer Louisa May Alcott and in particular her book Little Women.  This is because I love the book, but also because I am named Amy after the character of the same name.

When we visited Louisa May Alcott's home, Orchard House, I totally fell in love with it.  Learning more about Louisa, the house, her family and her sister May, on whom the character Amy is based, was incredible.

For example, did you know that May Alcott was the leading Turner copyist of her time?  No, I didn't either.  I had no idea that May was an artist or that she was amazing.

Since that visit and since I started to write my own patterns I had been turning over the idea in my mind of making a shawl based around Little Women or Louisa herself.  Thinking one day about what I could do I suddenly had an inspiration.

I would make four shawls, each to reflect the personalities of the four main characters of the story.  Following on from that I had the idea to theme each one in a different colour.  The idea for this came from the book itself. 

At the start of the book it is Christmas and the four girls each receive a gift of a book under their pillows.  Meg's is Green, Jo's is Crimson and Beth and Amy's are each described as being Dove Coloured and Blue but no detail is given as to which one receives which colour book.

I decided to make Amy's the blue one because I like blue and because her bedroom at Orchard House is painted with a bright blue stripe around the top of the room.  As you can see in this photo of the postcard I bought.

So far I have completed three shawls, and am writing up the patterns for Amy's and Jo's, while Beth's is already done.  Meg's is proving to be more difficult to get right, but I ripped it all back and charted it all out and now it is going better.  The finished shawl will be far easier to make than the designing process has been!

As for the actual shawls themselves, well Beth's was to be light and airy.  Floaty and floral.  She is so delicate and fragile and I wanted the shawl to have a feel of that. 

This is a sample of the Beth Shawl.

Amy's could go one of two ways.  Either very artistic and intricate and fancy or more practical.  Something that a lady out for a days painting could actually use to wrap up in and keep warm while still being pretty.  I decided to go for the latter as that is more of my personality!

Jo's shawl is sturdy, wrap up, keep you warm.  In the story Jo writes up in the garrett, but Louisa actually wrote at a small table, fixed to the wall in her bedroom between two windows looking out from the front of the house.  I imagine though that Jo would need something to keep her very cosy and snug so that is what she has.

Meg seems to me to be the more practical person in some ways.  Jo is very forthright and Beth would do whatever she could for anyone, but Meg just got on with things in the end.  Meg's shawl therefore is a bit of a contradiction.  It is light, airy and will in the end, I hope, represent something of her garden wedding to John Brooke.  They married under the arbour in the garden so I hope the shawl will give some of that feel.

To produce the designs I started as I always do, with my inspiration in mind, hook and yarn in hand and then I just fiddle until I get what I am happy with.  I never start on paper, I always start hook in hand.  That is why it is so much harder for me to write patterns, because I have to go backwards!

I am trying to get better about it though and keep better notes once I have settled on the way I want to work a particular piece.

So, that is the design process!  No real mystery, not much to tell at all really, but I hope it gives you some insight into how I work and where I come from with things.  I guess that I am a visual and practical person so I see it in my mind and then I need to actually see it and form it in my hands to make it work.

If you would like to read the post about Orchard House that I wrote some time ago you can find it here.

Amy - or May perhaps!


  1. I love when an artist talks you through their process and you are an artist.

  2. Amy for me this is your best post to date. I love the behind the scenes of people's thinking and thought process and where ideas come from. Just loved this post. Thank you so much for sharing it, Can't wait to see all four shawls together. might have to re read the book once you have just to make sure I agree with your choice, (said with tongue in cheek) just brilliant Amy x

  3. I think your idea is really lovely and the shawls you've designed so far certainly do capture the girls' personalities. I'm looking forward to seeing the final two shawls.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to explain the thinking behind your shawls, Amy, I always love to know what has inspired someone to create something in a particular way! xx

  5. What a lovely idea Amy taking inspiration from your visit to Orchard House - I look forward to seeing your final results.

  6. Amy, wow! I don't crochet, but if there was one domestic art I'd like to know it is crochet. Mind you, I don't want to have to *learn* to do it, but I would love to be able to do it! I'm fascinated by your design process and look forward to seeing all the shawls.

  7. Always nice to understand someone's process of design. You have certainly captured the essence of each girls personality, a credit to you.

  8. You're so clever, it may just feel like fiddling to you, but I wouldn't have a clue where to start. Love the link with Little Women, one of my favourite books xx

  9. It looks like a beautiful pattern. Good luck on your shawls Amy!

    Madelief x

  10. I love this book too, I really should re read it sometime and see if it holds the same magic. That's a wonderful idea of designing different shawls for the four girls. Beth's shawl looks beautiful. Sarah x

  11. What a wonderful inspiration for you to follow through with. The Beth shawl looks lovely.

  12. You really are amazing Amy, your thoughts and research for the book and shawls is just perfect.

  13. Hi Amy, what a great idea to make the shawls in honor of your favorite book! I love the design and the soft color, too. Don't you just love Amy's bedroom? Have a lovely day. xx Karen

  14. How lovely I really enjoyed reading about where you got your inspiration from, I loved that story too it's a lovely idea to make a shawl for each of the girls. My designing process is much the same as yours, the shawls will be beautiful I'm sure :) xx

  15. It's great to work with a purpose and fit the shawls to the characters. Hopefully I'll get to see them all together when you've finished. x

  16. I love your taking inspiration from the book and the design process. I'm useless at writing instructions of any kind, as like you, I am very visual. Hope it all comes more naturally as time goes on. Take care.

  17. Sounds like a great inspiration and what a wonderful idea. I loved Little Women when I was a young girl. I can't even remember how many times I read it.

  18. Nothing like a great book for inspiration!

  19. Love this post. Enjoyed the book and movie of "Little Women"very much. You have definately capture each of them in your description and in the description of the shawls. Looking forward to seeing all the shawls' pictures.

  20. I'm impressed that you can make these, much less design and write the pattern down! Good for you!

  21. I truly enjoyed reading your design process - absolutely inspiring! I often watch period films and pay special attention to the knits wishing I could replicate them. I'm looking forward to seeing all the shawls once they are finished.

  22. Thank you for sharing your inspiration - I always find it fascinating seeing what inspires others. Your work is so beautiful too. X

  23. This is brilliant! I love Little Women too - and most of LM Alcott's other books - have just re-read several as a matter of fact.

    I've always thought that Amy got the blue Pilgrim's Progress and Beth the grey, because Amy had blue eyes, and Beth was like a shy little mouse. (In fact doesn't Amy say "I'm glad mine is blue" somewhere?)

    I find that charting a pattern as I go is much easier than trying to write it. Charting is quick, and for me it's easier to write the pattern after the fact while looking at the chart.

    Good luck with your patterns and your pattern-writing. :)

    1. Yes, I have found that too and am now trying to chart as I go! Thank you for the good wishes.

  24. I love this idea so much and just love the book too
    Clare x

  25. You are soooo clever. I loved reading Little Women and your post was fascinating. That flower is exquisite X

  26. Oh Amy I ADORE this post, and the premise of 4 shawls for 4 characters, simply genius. Cannot WAIT to see the final shawls.


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