Author Archives: ezwicky

Falling Water, a Moral Tale

I am somewhat obsessed with taking pictures of water. It's not a recent obsession and not an uncommon one (there are lots of Flickr groups about water). But it's interesting partly because it's hard and partly because the camera shows you things you can't otherwise see.

The techniques for photographing falling water in the studio are well understood (see 5 cool water drop photography ideas and 1 really simple set-up | Digital Camera World for instance). So naturally I want to wander out and take pictures of water falling from fountains. And I tend to forget that flash is a thing.

A few weeks ago I went to Stanford and took a lot of pictures of water in fountains there. In an hour or so I got a wet butt and a thousand pictures, of which three weren't terrible – but two of those were of pomegranates. About half my pictures were total garbage. Now, it's not unusual for me to take a thousand pictures and throw away half, but usually those are just boring or not the right exposure. Even for my trigger-happy digital habits, this is pathetic.

But it was pretty clear that some of the pictures could have been cool, so on Friday I took the lens that had worked best and a raincoat to the most useful fountain, and spent about half an hour taking 400 photos. 36 of them pleased me enough to post them to Flickr ( Now, some of this is the kind of optimism you get when a new kind of picture works — right now I'm OK with embracing the noise, which will wear off. But several of these are just lovely pictures.

So what changed? To start with, I learned what didn't work and what might. (My best results are autofocus, macro lens, high shutter speed and high f-stop and therefore high ISO.) I also discovered the bubbling effect. I thought I wanted falling water, and I kind of still do, but these bubbles are awfully pretty, so this time around I embraced them. Plus, the raincoat is key if you want to use a macro lens on a fountain. So all of those awful photographs really were getting me somewhere.

The top photo is a kind I learned about that first trip; these are ones I was aiming for then and missed, but made this time.



All the Irish Roses: Small Variations

Previously I talked about how to make a basic Irish rose in crochet. Well, how to make 80 different basic Irish roses, but they were all very closely related.

Clearly, 80 Irish roses is nowhere near enough, because actually almost none of the Irish roses I’ve made are included in those 80. Instead, most of the ones from before I got carried away and started being eccentric look like this:

ImageThat’s the largest center, with 8 petals, one added row joined in the middle of the petal below, a modified petal shape we’ll get to in the moment, and an extra round of added to the center after the fact.

If you want to add that extra middle round, you can pick up around the posts in the center from the top. Here’s how you put the hook through:


In the red rose shown above, I picked up the stitches of the first single crochet round, as: chain 4, single around next post, chain 3, repeat until you do a last single around the post you started with. And stopped. That outrageous thread I was using did not need any more.

However, if you have a more conservative thread for the center added petals, or a less attractive color for the center, you can work a small petal over the chain bars. Single, half double, double, half double, single, is the center petal that matches the classic Irish rose (and most variations). Here’s one like that:


So now you know how to do at least 240 Irish roses (the previous 80 times 3 center variations — plain, with chains, and with petals — ignoring the fact that you might leave off the outer row of petals because if you leave off the outer row and make the center plain the result is going to be awfully dull.)

But I did mention that these petals aren’t actually usually the traditional petals.

For reference, here’s a chart of the tradition petals (optional inner row, first row, second, third):


Here’s the variation I most commonly use, which makes a higher arch on the petals. The inner row is just like the traditional way, but the first row is single, half-double, double, half-triple, double, half-double, single. The half-triple, or half-treble if you prefer, is rarely seen and doesn’t have a common stitch symbol. I made this one up. Here’s a good discussion of the half-triple, and why it comes in handy. You start a half-triple just like a normal triple, but when you get down to three loops on the hook, you pull through them all, just like a half-double.  

In this variation in each row, you go one stitch size up in the middle, so the second row is single, half-double, double, half-triple, triple, half-triple, double, half-double, single. I show the last row here as having what I think of as a quadruple but am supposed to call a double-treble, which is to say a stitch just like a triple but with the three initial wraps instead of two. I really work it as a half-quadruple, using the same trick as for the half-treble.


This variation keeps the flatter arch of the traditional petals, but still gets taller every time. The inner row and the first row are traditional, but in the second row it goes single, half-double, double, three half-triples, double, half-double, single.


This variation makes more pointed petals, at the cost of also fitting in one more stitch per petal. It is just like the first variation, except that the middle stitch is done twice with two chains in between, so the first round is single, half-double, double, half-triple, 2 chains, half-triple, double, half-double, single.


This variation makes petals with straighter sides (they get higher faster). They are correspondingly somewhat floppier:


By my count, that enables you to make 20 centers * 5 possible center rows * 4 first rounds * 2 ways to attach the second round * 5 petals for the second round * 2 ways to the attach the third round * 5 petals for the third round = 40,000 different Irish roses, unless you decide to do something outrageous like mix petal styles in the same round at which point I’m not bothering to calculate. But we haven’t even gotten outrageous yet!

All the Irish Roses, Basic


(Warning: this is not a beginner tutorial, but more of a musing suitable for people who already know how to crochet and who don’t mind recipes instead of specifics.)

I started making crocheted Irish roses a few weeks ago. As lots of other bloggers have noted, Irish roses can be made in pretty much any size, from the delicate little traditional things in fine thread with a steel hook up through this gargantuan number I made up in chunky yarn with a size N hook. (It is as big as my hand. It was intended to go on a hairband, but actually, it is more of a small hat. People pet it longingly.)


I started with one pattern, and then I started playing around with my Japanese crochet pattern book, and then I looked at some web pages, and because I am totally a computer geek, I realized that Irish roses are not a pattern, they’re a Pattern — a crochet design pattern. 

After that I started playing around and writing things down, and contemplating the possibility of doing “100 crochet flowers in one page”. Actually, if you understand the underlying pattern, you can totally fit way more than a hundred different ones onto a page.

The pattern is: You make a center which has somewhere from 5 to 8 chain bars around a circle (they can be 2-chain or 3-chain). You work a petal over each of the chain bars (there are a variety of possible petals). You attach a new round of chain bars behind the existing petals, which pushes the petals up (there are several ways to attach the new round), and you work a petal of each of those chains. You keep attaching rounds of chain bars and working petals until the whole thing gets as big as you’re comfortable with in some dimension. (Depending on what you plan to do with it and how you attach the chain bars, it could get too large in circumference or it could stop wanting to lie flat first.)

So let’s take this step by step. First, the centers. I do everything by crocheting into a loop unless I absolutely have to make a ring of chains, which is how I drew up the charts, but if you prefer a ring of chains, feel free. Here’s a tutorial on some ways of starting rings. I have also always charted six loops, but almost all of these can be made anywhere from 5 to 8, as long as you pay attention to the notes. I’ve never tried 9.

Image For a flower with N petals, make a loop. Round1: chain 2, N-1 single crochet, join with a slip stitch. Round 2; chain 4, single crochet in next single, chain 3, repeat until you get to where you started, join with a slip stitch. I finagle a single crochet there in the end to make it look right. If N > 6, you may need the extra space from making a ring of chains to start with, and/or you may need to drop down to 2 chains in the bars instead of 3.

This is a nice, small unobtrusive center, best for 5 or 6 petals.

Image Make a loop. Chain 4 (if you are like me; many people apparently need 3 chains to equal a double crochet and should chain 5, since that’s what all the patterns say but it totally does not work for me), double crochet, chain 2, N -1 times, chain two, slip stitch to starting chain where it comes out the right height.  

This is the single most common center I’ve seen, and it is often shown as a center for 8. For me it works really nicely as a center for 7, but really needs a ring of chains as a center for 8, at which point I think it looks a bit sloppy. As a center of 5, I need to chain 3 instead of 2. 


Make a loop. Round 1: Chain 2, single crochet 2 N – 1, slip stitch to beginning to end round. Round 2: Chain 4, skip a stitch in the round below, single crochet, chain three, keep it up until you get back to where you started.

This is the first of the centers with a useful empty stitch under the chain bar, which traditional patterns never use but I sometimes do, as I will discuss later. As long as you don’t mind a pretty big hole in the middle at larger petal numbers, it works perfectly well for 5 through 8 without modification. 


ImageMake a loop. Round 1: Chain 3 (or 4, if it takes 3 chains to get to the height of your double crochet), double crochet 2 N – 1 times, slip stitch to end round. Round 2: Chain 4, skip a stich in the round below, single crochet, chain 3, repeat until you get back to where you started.

This is particularly good at 7 or 8 — yes, there’s still a big hole in the middle, but the extra height helps make space for the petals. If I tried 9, this would be the center I did it with.



Ah. I’ve drawn this one the way I actually think about them, rather than the way everybody else draws them. I’m too lazy to fix it now. Functionally, it’s the same thing, and if you want it drawn more traditionally, look at the very first link at the top, because this is the center that pattern uses. Make a loop. Round 1: chain 2, single crochet N -1 times, close with a slip stitch. Round 2; chain 2, single crochet 1 into first stitch, 2 single crochet in each stitch in the round below, slip stitch to close. Round 3: Chain 4, skip a stitch in the round below, single crochet, chain 3, repeat until you get back to the beginning. 

This is the center that I learned first, and it’s what drove me to think about other Irish roses. It works just fine for 8. It would probably work for 9. It’s gigantic. You have to either love the yarn you’re using for it, or go back and add things to the middle. To my eye, it looks silly if you leave it alone, even with a good yarn. 

Now for some petals. The basic petal algorithm is: single crochet, half double, double crochet until the chain is pretty full, half double, single. Traditionally for the first round that’s 3 double crochet in the middle; if that’s not working for me, I count the first one and use the same number for the rest of the petals. Some people leave out the half doubles, even. 

Image That’s your basic first-row petal. It’s shown over 3 chains but you can usually fit it over 2 — if not, omit a double crochet or even 2. Note that these are worked over the bar, not into the individual stitches. I drove myself crazy for a while before I figured this out when I started making fancy crochet.

We will discuss other petals later. Meanwhile, if you make that petal over all the bars in your center (just ignore any stitches between the bars), you are done with the first row of petals and it is time to cut your yarn and figure out how you want to attach the next round. You always have the two traditional places as choices, and this blog post is quite long enough, so let’s discuss those. You can go around the post at the base of the petals below, so that the next round of petals lines up with this one, or you can go around the chain bar in the middle of a petal. Do not panic if these descriptions make no sense to you, look at the pictures!

Here is where you put the hook to go around the post:



And here is the outrageous spot you put the hook in to make your new bar around the middle of the previous chain bar:



Either way, you pick up around your chosen spot, chain 4, single crochet into the next place your chosen spot occurs, chain 3, repeat until you get back to the first spot, at which point I single crochet into it and slip stitch to the first chain. You are chaining three even when your first row had a chain three in it, unless for some mysterious reason that ends up pulling tight, in which case you should add a stitch.

Here’s another explanation of picking up around the post.

For the second row petals, add 2 double crochet to the first row, making it single, half double, 5 doubles, half double, single. 

For the third row of petals, repeat the process — end the yarn for row 2, pick up and make your chain bars. This time do add a chain, so it’s 5 chains the first time and 4 the rest.  It is traditional to pick up this row the same way as the row before, but there’s no reason to feel obliged to do it that way; switching back and forth works just fine. If you are going around the post, go around the second-round post, not back to the first round post. 

More of the petals shows if you choose the middle of the petal, and the flower grows outwards faster and has more open space. 

Here’s one made all in the middle of the petal:



That’s that last, big center, just as written. 

Here’s one with the petals lined up. It isn’t quite as written — it has an extra set of petals added in the middle, after the fact. So does the giant flower at the top, actually. We’ll discuss that trick later.



And those are instructions for how to make 80 different Irish Roses (5 kinds of center * 4 numbers of petals * 2 places to put the second row * 2 places to put the third row). Which is enough to be going on with, it seems to me, even though it barely scratches the surface of the available variations. More later.

Hearst Castle

The last major stop on our trip was Hearst Castle. The two oddest of these photos are Opal’s.

She was excited about the castle, but it was very warm, and people kept talking about stuff and standing still. There was a service dog named Ruby who entertained her for a while, and we checked to see how many kinds of animals we could find (at least 23), and she took some pictures.





Opal liked the outdoor pool, but complained that the indoor one smelled funny.










Opal’s picture of the billiard room. Note the owl in the background.


I do not know why the bird is on the dog’s head.






Leaves and Symmetry

This is that same flame-like pattern I always draw, but the bones have been hidden by leaves:


It tiles well when reflected:



If anybody cares, it’s drawn with Stabilo Point 88s and colored in with a Tombow brush pen.

Moonstone Beach

There were lots of pelicans at the beach on our trip. One of them was in fact standing on the beach with an injured wing (another beach goer called animal rescue, who turned out to be one white-haired woman who captured it by flapping a sheet at it until it attacked the sheet, and then wrapping it up and carrying it off).


Opal doesn’t see why I think pelicans are elegant, but in flight they glide so beautifully.Image


OK, she has a point.






Still putting those petal shaped things around spirals. This design looks to me like coiled basket making — pine needles or willow withies.ImageScrapbooking stock, purple Pentel Hyper G 0.7


One Swimming Lesson

This occupied me for one of Opal’s swimming lessons:


Permanent marker on textured scrapbooking cardstock.

Never did get the hang of…

figure vs. ground. Well, actually, sometimes I do, but I prefer it when they’re balanced.

Hey, at least this time I have edges.

Canning Season

Onward, ever onward…