All About Demelza by Catherine Bligh
We welcome Catherine Bligh to the blog to tell us all about the phenomenal Demelza Blanket and her inspiration behind it. Launching just over a year ago the Demelza Blanket took the crochet community by storm with it's vibrant hues, intricate designs and sheer beauty and we're thrilled to introduce to the ever-talented designer Catherine Bligh. Read on to find out more...
I remember thinking ‘this is crazy, there’s no way I’ll be able to pull this off’. I’d been crocheting for a number of years, and I’d made several dozen blankets, but I’d never attempted anything like this. Not just one square, or two or three different squares, but a variety of squares in different sizes - and all of them to be designed by me. I had never designed a blanket before. I loved playing with colour and texture…but this was something else. This was a big challenge. But I really, really wanted to pull it off, because what I wanted to do was something that nobody else had done – and that was to design a blanket inspired by one of my favourite fictional characters, Demelza, from the Poldark series of books by Winston Graham, informed by the colours and costumes of the new BBC adaptation.
The obvious problem was how to convey a sense of this in crochet. Fictional characters are brilliant and can be complex, but how to gain a sense of character through more than just a colour palette? The colours were easy: I used colours that matched the costumes and scenery of the BBC television show. But the motifs?
For that I turned to things that, to me, were integral to Demelza’s character, and one of these is her love of flowers. Demelza loves the wild flowers that grow on the beautiful Cornish coastline, and her growth as a character is often reflected in how she connects to nature around her. And, of course, flowers and floral motifs would be a relatively easy thing to achieve in crocheted form. Petals, leaves, stems…I could work with that.
And ‘work’ is definitely the way to describe it: hard, and often frustrating, work. But at the same time, it was rewarding and fun, and very exciting to see the ideas transfer from inside my head to the yarn in my hands. I started mid-February, and I worked up the pattern in a single colour first, so that I could try things and pull them out without feeling like I was wedded to a particular stitch or colour combination. Then I dived in to colour, and I finished it all up in late April. Looking back at it, I’m amazed it only took me about six weeks. I remember it feeling like a lot longer.
I’d taken lots of photographs as I went along, and written up the pattern, but I really did that for my own satisfaction. I could point to it and say ‘there, I did it’. I posted the pattern to Ravelry with the sure expectation that maybe one or two people might do it, and the thought that it would be really cool to see someone else making something that I’d created.
Then the pattern started getting likes. And comments. And forum posts. People started making it straight away. The pattern shot to the top of Ravelry’s ‘hot right now’ list, so many people were looking at it, and I was utterly gobsmacked. It was blogged about, it was shared across social media. A friend alerted me that Stylecraft had shared it on their Facebook page. Somebody asked me if they could translate it into Dutch. Pippin Crochet Club, on Facebook, asked me if they could run the blanket as a CAL – and that turned into a huge CAL, with participants from all over the world. I’ve even had a few requests to use the pattern as a teaching tool in crochet classes.
I was in shock. In some ways, I think I still am! I wasn’t at all prepared for the success. I ended up putting together a blog in the course of a single afternoon, because I kept being asked for details of my website. By this time I’d written my next pattern, Ross Poldark, a companion blanket to Demelza, and it was becoming clear to me that pattern designing was something that I loved doing. I started on my next design, Eve’s Sunflowers, which continues the floral scheme, and works brilliantly in all sorts of colour schemes. My next blanket, which I’m currently working on, is another venture in expressing both my love of flowers and my love of literature.
I have a feeling that I will never look back; I have the designing bug, now, and I have more ideas than I have time to work on!