2014-02-25 15.21.26I bought a lovely pattern for an owl basket from http://www.crocheteverafter.bigcartel.com/ but it was only after I bought it that I realised it was a large basket which needed quadrupled chunky/bulky weight cotton and a 10 mm crochet hook! The final result is lovely but I really didnt want to buy any yarn. I made this adapted version from 1 ball of Safari – a long discontinued chenille chunky yarn – using a 4.5 mm hook. In order to help the basket stand up you need to use a smaller hook than normal to get a tighter tension.
I found crocheteverafter an excellent site with lots of helpful tutorials showing you how to do various stitches. This is particularly helpful to me as I was reared on UK terminology and moving from that to US terminology can be really quite confusing. I find that whenever I move from one system to the other I need a video tutorial to make sure I dont lapse into assuming which stitch is which.
Using chenille yarn had some major disadvantages. It is really quite difficult to get the hook through on a tight tension and also hard to see where the stitches are. ( This however can be considered an advantage as mistakes just don’t show!) It produced a very different look to the white cotton used in the original, quite effective for an owl. I changed TDC into DC ( US) and  for the eyes I the DC to SC to maintain the correct proportions. I also popped in a few extra rows to give height. Whether you can get a whole basket out of one 50g ball depends on the yardage and weight of your yarn, so you may need to play around a little bit if you want to ensure you dont need a second ball.
In order to make it firmer I used some rice starch, having discovered that buying good old cold water dipping starch is almost impossible these days. Dylon make a liquid one for a ridiculous price, Kershaws produce a packeted one but at just over three pounds ( $5-6 dollars) it is also expensive. Both have to be bought over the internet. I hate the horrible silicone based, so called starch, produced in an aerosol which you can buy in most supermarkets. Its totally useless and anyone who can remember the real thing is bound to be disappointed at just how limp it is, plus it makes an aweful mess. So I made my own rice starch as a dipping starch. I simply dipped the owl into the warm starch mix and PRESSED out the excess starch ( do not wring) To dry I inverted the owl over a cylindrical plastic container with a carrier bag or two to get the lower bulge. It was a bit of a fiddle and it took a good twenty four hours to dry, so allow plenty of time.

Quite why modern starch is so expensive makes me wonder…I can only assume that 99.5% of the costs is in the mechanisation, marketing and distribution as the clue is in the name….Starch is easily extracted from a variety of common all garden sources, including cornflour( cornstarch in the US) sugar and potatoes. Its a classic example of us paying a premium to have something manufactured.
Rice starch has the advantage of retaining whiteness, whereas cornflour (cornstarch in the US) may yellow, and sugar starch can attract bugs or ants.

Rice Starch recipe
1 Place one cup of rice in a pot with one quart of water. Bring the rice and water to a boil.
2 Cook the rice until it turns to mush. Add more water as necessary and stir to keep the rice from sticking.
3 Remove the pot from the heat and add one quart of hot water. Stir.
4 Strain rice water through a piece of flannel. Store in a spray bottle if using as a spray starch and shake before use. Discard the rice, or give it to the chickens!

If used as a dipping starch the amount of stiffness produced reduces each time you put an item in, so start by dipping any items on which you want the stiffest result.

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