Sunday, 22 November 2015

Spring Stories & Spider Stitches

The outside corner of the kitchen window and windowsill. A redback spider is perched in a web in this corner displaying the bright red band on its abdomen.
A deadly redback spider.
Spring is not my favourite season.
Itches, asthma, too much sneezin'
Blowflies, spiders, creepy crawlies,
Coughs and colds and feeling poorly,

Lack of sleep from daylight savings,
Gives cause to senseless daytime ravings!
New growth, flowers, seeds and sprouts,
(until the bunny digs them out!)

Weeds and wildlife, changing weather,
Pure vexation altogether;
For a multitude of reasons
Spring is not my favourite season.

Here is a glimpse of my South Australian springtime with a few crochet inspirations too.

People are sneezing, wheezing and itching as the winds turn northerly, bringing dust and pollen into the city along with the warm desert air as it travels across surrounding farms and bushland, full of seeding grasses and flowers.  Everyone is complaining about the worst hay fever season in years.  The local supermarket has empty shelves where the antihistamines used to be kept.  It seems to be affecting people who don't usually experience hay fever or allergies.

The weather is so changeable (from 37° C one day to 21° C the next!)
"What's that? A spot of rain?" A much-needed, decent rainfall would be nice for my fruit trees … but no–my hope dissolves into a disappointed and downcast expression as the sky changes its mind and I realise that a single 'spot' (or three) is all the rain we're going to get around here today. Sigh.

So far this season, we have had chilly mornings requiring scarves and coats again, sunny days, a few rain showers, windy washing weather, dry thunderstorms, hail, scorching summer beach weather and two superb fine days which were absolutely, perfectly to my liking!

A blue-tonged lizard sunning itself on grey concrete pavers. A wooden toy block is next to it on the right.
This blue-tongued lizard was living in my
garden last year and is frequenting
my neighbour's garden this year.
We are ecstatic that it has survived the winter.
I suspect it has been visiting my garden again
because some tell-tale bites have been taken
out of my native violets.


All sorts of critters come out of their hiding places as their winter hibernation ends (lizards and snakes) or they are flushed out of their new season shelters with each shower (insects and spiders).
Bees are swarming, ants are taking to the wing. On the first warm night of the season there was an influx of small flying insects trying to get through the flyscreens and you know summer is coming when blowflies appear. I found myself extricating on average five creepy crawlies a day from my house! 

Ducklings hatch from their eggs. We have to be careful of them crossing the roads because the mother ducks prefer to lay their eggs far away from the rivers and ponds but then have a treacherous trek to lead their clutches safely to the water without falling victim to dogs, foxes or other predators, falling into drains or straying onto arterial roads.

This season I have come across three families who have added ducklings to their household menageries.  Last year's trend was bunnies but this year's seems to be ducklings!

A mother duck leads her eight ducklings along the pavement in the hospital garden.
This clutch hatched in the hospital grounds last year.

My Duck Adventure

One morning, while driving the school run, a mother duck and family were crossing a side-street precariously close to the multi-lane road I was on.  A lady who regularly jogs along there looked harried as she was trying to single-handedly herd the duck family away from danger.  In my side driving mirror, I saw a duckling veer into the gutter of the main road and couldn't bear to think what might happen next. My school-aged passenger was horrified and worried all the way to the train station. "You must do something!" but we could not stop for fear of missing the train.

We rang the police (because ducks loose on a very busy road at peak time surely is a traffic hazard–traffic was already slowing down as we approached the ducks) who were happy to send a patrol.  The police operator said they had received 5 calls already about different duck hazards that morning!

There used to be a family of ducks that chose to lay eggs at the police headquarters in the centre of the city and when mother duck decided it was time to move, they would stop the heart of the city each spring as they waddled the half a mile down the main city thoroughfare to the parklands and the river under police motorcycle escort!

The local duck hazard was a few blocks from the train station so I chose to return to the scene on the way home to see if I could help and discovered two other motorists had pulled over and were talking to the jogger, wondering whether they should call the police or not.  By this stage mother duck was in someone's garden with disturbingly fewer ducklings than I recalled seeing in the first instance but still very close to the busy road.  When I told them I had just rung the police, the motorists went on their way so as not to be late for work, leaving me and the jogging lady to deal with the ducklings.

I am sorry to have forgotten her name but we did introduce ourselves and had a nice chat as we herded the ducklings down to her immaculate garden at the other end of the street, well away from the traffic and closer to the river. At this point, the police officer arrived  in good humour (if you could call corny jokes and one-liners 'good' humour.  (If I was a police officer, I would be in good humour to be sent on a duck call instead of some violent crime so I can't blame him for his chirpy attitude!)  He praised us for taking control of the situation and encouraged us with our plan.  Meanwhile he went in search of any missing ducks that might have fallen down drains etc.

Walking down the street was more exercise than I was used to. It was arduous for the ducklings too as they tried to climb impossibly high kerbs while mother duck seemed oblivious to these obstacles.  We needed to cross the street so I stood in the middle of the road to wave down approaching vehicles so my new friend could herd the duck family across. 

The ducklings were getting exhausted even though there was not much further to go, so we picked them up, much to the chastisement of mother duck.  I cradled them in my jacket. This was a good strategy because mother duck would now follow us (instead of us mustering her) and she protested loudly while being led by the cheeps of her offspring and the last leg of the journey went quickly. Our friendly policeman returned as we got to the gate of the lady's garden where the duck family could rest with shelter and water until the lady could box them up and take them to the river in the car later that day.

We said our goodbyes and then I realised I had to walk all the way back down to the other end of the street where my car was parked.  By the time I was half way back, the fatigue hit me.  How ridiculous of me to not think of this!  I was so concerned for the ducks' welfare, I didn't think about my own!

I don't regret it. I kept thinking of my school-ager and how I would not be able to look her in the eye if I did not do all I could to ensure the ducks were okay. For once I was grateful that my illness precluded me from full-time employment because I had the time to help which brought me great satisfaction.

Outside view of kitchen window where the window joins the wall. A redback spider hangs in front of the centre row of bricks.
An unwelcome visitor outside my kitchen window.

Kitchen Horrors

When I say 'kitchen' horrors, I am not talking about roast duck or stewed rabbit but the view from my kitchen window.

No sooner had I mentioned spiders in my reply to Amy on "A Quick WIP Round"  when the very next day I looked out to see a nasty, nasty spider had taken up residence on the outdoor windowsill.

A close up of redback spider outside my kitchen window.
Blood red markings give a spectacular warning.

It may look tiny in the picture here, but it loomed large to me every time I looked out and it gave me the creeps because it was a deadly venomous redback spider.

These redback spiders are so common in South Australia that our state cricket team is known as "The Redbacks".  These notorious spiders were also the subject of a very popular Australian song "Redback on the Toilet Seat".

As far as redback spiders go, this one was very big. Spectacularly so.  I hadn't seen on this big for a while (or maybe because I was viewing it close up through the window).

Something needed to be done. 

I could not sweep it away with the broom because:  sweeping is not an activity that I can do anymore; the side of the house is very narrow with hardly enough room to swing a broom making it awkward; there might be more than one redback in the vicinity; the broom may not kill them but merely give them a place to hide where they can emerge later into my broom cupboard (no way! they are not coming into the house!); and I was scared: scared that it (or they) might land on me and bite me!

I will not use chemicals around my garden in general, but this time, my stance gave way and I reached for the spider spray! With children and bunnies around the place, redbacks pose a greater risk to them than the chance of contact with the surface spray (off the ground and under the windowsills in a low traffic area) which will be effective for between 3–6 months depending on the weather.

"Depending on the weather."  One can only use this spray under certain conditions:  it can't be too hot, too wet or too windy etc. and guess what?  It is spring and how's the weather? 

I had to wait a week before I could get it; a week too long of having to look at it (shudder).  I took some pictures so you could look at it too but under more controlled conditions.

Fascinating but frightening.

Even closer view of redback spider as it works in its messy web.
This redback had very broad markings.
Markings can
also look like a thin red stripe on the abdomen.

Super close-up blurry photo of redback spider showing the red strip on the back of its abdomen.
Some photos blurred because it is hard to hold a camera steady when
one is within 20 cm and very scared of this spider.
Close-up view of underside of a redback spider showing its black body and legs with distinctive red markings on its abdoment..
The underside of the redback spider.

Have you seen the children's cartoon Peppa Pig?  It is very popular in South Australia but it caused outrage from parents when the ABC* broadcast an episode where Peppa Pig met a spider in the garden and Mummy Pig told her that "spiders in the garden won't hurt you".  The news is that that particular episode is not allowed to be shown in Australia now.  Too right. 

*Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Australia's national public broadcaster.

Crochet Inspired by Spiders

To make myself feel better, I always return to crochet!

Spiders and their webs have inspired many authors, artists and crochet designers.  Apart from the obvious crocheted versions, spiders also lend their name to a 'Spider Stitch'.  The red lacy scarf that I finished in January features a version of spider stitch. Some call it 'Spider Lace Stitch', 'Spiderweb Stitch', 'Spider Lattice' or 'Spiderweb Lace'.

Close-up of a red spider stitch scarf that I completed in January 2015.  The large holes are part of the spider stitch design. The smaller holes are part of a filet grid.  The border pattern uses bumpy shapes..
In January 2015 I was "Seeing Double" after completing two scarves like this - a combination of spider stitch with filet crochet.

Elisabeth Andrée has made some lovely projects using spider stitch including a bag and patchwork-style blanket. I love the detailed explanations that Elisabeth Andrée includes in her posts together with links to find further information. Spider stitch is one of her favourite stitch patterns and she made a lacy spider stitch throw as an example.  

If you would like to learn more about Elisabeth Andrée, her story was included in Kathryn Vercillo's book, Crochet Saved My Life, and Kathryn has also featured Elisabeth Andrée's exquisite crochet on her blog Crochet Concupiscence.

The pattern diagram for the spider stitch that Elisabeth Andrée used can be found at listed under Openwork and Lace Crochet Stitch Patterns, pattern #2032.

Other online pattern instructions can be found here: 
New Stitch A Day, "How to Crochet the Spider Webs Stitch :: Crochet Stitch #197"
Pink Mambo, "Spider Web Crochet Stitch Pattern" by Carolyn Christmas

A search for spiders on Ravelry will produce a large assortment of patterns, ranging from literal spiders and webs (Halloween-style) to garments and other items that either utilise spider stitch or have their designs inspired by spiders and their webs.

More Free Spider Stitch Patterns

Spiders and Cobwebs Throw by Shari White, Red Heart 
Spider Lace Throw by Heather Tucker, Mama's Stitchery Projects
Spider Stitch Beach Skirt by Maria Merlino, South Philadelphia Arts and Crafts Examiner
Spider Stitch Shawl by Olga Poltava, Lacy Crochet blog
Spider Stitch Wrap by Renee Barnes, Caron, Yarnspirations
Spider Web Afghan by Melissa Leapman,
Tenerife shawl by DROPS Design, www,
Virkad Sjal med Spindlar, 'crocheted shawl with spiders' (Swedish) by Stick & Virka i Stockholm
Wide Spider Lace by A.M., Home Work, Canadian publication 1891, Ravelry

Other Examples of Spider Stitch

Falbala by EclatDuSoleil, Annette Petavy Design, Ravelry page
Spider Lace Market Bag by Sarah Tompkins, Ravelry Store
Spider Stitch by Leisure Arts, Ravelry page
Spider Web by Maggie Righetti, St Martin's Griffin, Ravelry page
Spider Web Doily by Elizabeth Hiddleson, Ravelry page
Spider Web Table Mat by Roberta Maier, Coats, Ravelry page 
Vintage Inspired Spider Scarf by Timary Peterson,  TimaryArt Designs, Ravelry page

More information about the sources of these patterns can be found in the reference list at the end of this post.

What is spring like in your part of the world?
 How do you cope with spiders and creepy crawlies?


Related Posts on Lupey Loops

"A Quick WIP Round", 22 October 2015:

"Messy to the Max", 29 September 2015: 

"Seeing Double", 20 January 2015:

"Red Lacy Scarf Finished", 15 January 2015: 

"Duck Rescue", 19 October 2014:

"The Latest Visitor to My Garden", 30 September 2014:

"Hospital Ducks", 24 September 2014:

"Quack!", 6 March 2014:

"Geckos Galore", 27 February 2014:




ABC, complaint summary, "Peppa Pig, (received), 6th August 2012",  Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 24th September 2012:

A.M., Home Work: a choice collection of useful designs for the crochet and knitting needle; also, valuable recipes for the toilet, Canadian publication 1891 

Annette Petavy Design (French, English & Swedish):

Australian Museum, "Redback Spider" 30 October 2015, online article:
Crochet Memories, Crochet Spider Web Stitch Patterns:

EclatDuSoleil, French crochet & knit designer, de fil en aiguille: 
Elisabeth Andrée, Dutch crocheter and blogger:
DROPS Design, Tenerife, free pattern DROPS 99-13:, Spider Web Afghan,  free crochet pattern by Melissa Leapman: 

Hiddleson, Elizabeth, Spider Web Doily, Ravelry page:

Lacy Crochet (mostly) and some other crafty things (blog), "Spider Stitch Shawl Free Pattern" by Olga Poltava, 1 March 2013:

Leisure Arts, Beginner's Guide: Crochet Stitches & Easy Projects, book #75009, December 2014:

Mama's Stitchery Projects (blog), Spider Lace Throw, free crochet pattern by Heather Tucker, 26 January 2014:

Mum Central, "Here's the Peppa Pig Episode Banned in Australia", 15 February 2015:, spider stitch diagram:

New Stitch A Day: knitting and crochet made simple, web site:

Pink Mambo ... crocheting one step at a time, "Spider Web Crochet Stitch Pattern" by Carolyn Christmas, 7 June 2014:

Ravelry, knit and crochet community:
"Redbacks" cricket team web page, South Australian Cricket Association (SACA), accessed November 2015:

"Redback on the Toilet Seat", song written by Slim Newton, online article with lyrics and further links, Ripefruit Media, 2011: 

Red Heart Yarns, Spiders & Cobwebs Throw, free crochet pattern WR2059 by Shari White:  

Righetti, Maggie, Spider Web pattern, Crocheting in Plain English,  St. Martin's Griffin, February 1988

South Philadelphia Arts & Crafts Examiner:
Crochet Sexy Beach Skirt in the Spider Stitch with Petite to Plus Sizes, free pattern by Maria Merlino, 31 July 2014:

Sticka & Virka i Stockholm:
TimaryArt Designs, Etsy:
Tompkins, Sarah, Ravelry Store:

Vercillo, Kathryn, freelance writer, author, blogger and crochet lover:
Yarnspirations, Spider Stitch Wrap, free crochet pattern by Renee Barnes:


  1. Eek, I get goosebumps just looking at your pics from the redback spider! Those were everywhere at my uni in Sydney. Once time I almost put my hand into one as I was trying to hold myself steady. Shudders. I am not to fond of spiders...

    Take care
    Crochet Between Worlds

    1. My goodness Anne! That was a close call. Growing up here, we become aware of these spiders' habits and likely hiding places. It is always at the forefront of one's mind when out in the garden and we teach that to our kids.
      Fortunately, redbacks make messy webs which makes them easy to detect in more open areas like my kitchen windowsill. The worry is that they also like to hide away where they can't be seen; e.g., under eaves, flowerpots, underneath the lips of flower pots and wheelie bins, sometimes in dense twiggy plants - anywhere there are confined spaces, sheltered from the weather with secure anchoring points for their webs nearby. This includes garden furniture too so we need to be vigilant. I like garden spiders that eat the pests in the veggie patch, but don't like redbacks one bit. I bet your heart was pounding when you discovered your near miss.

  2. That spider looks scary, and good for the TV for taking off the episode of Peppa Pig. I had a beautiful Golden Orb Weaver spider in my trees this summer. I read that in Australia they can grow to over 7 inches and kill small birds, but they are not harmful to humans. Mine was only about 3 inches long and no small birds were harmed that I was aware of. Stay away from that poisonous one!

    1. You are right about the beauty in spiders - maybe that is why they fascinate me so: both beautiful and grotesque at the same time.
      I remember a summer I spent in Europe as a child and the days were very long. Consequently, I was often sent to bed before the sun had set. Every evening, there remained enough light to watch a spider building its web outside my window. It was so beautiful and fascinating. Every day my grandmother would sweep the web away and every evening I enjoyed watching the spider engineering a new web.
      Thankfully, that spider was harmless, but that nasty redback is long gone from my kitchen window, much to the family's relief.

  3. We don't have any harmful spiders where I live, thankfully. Nor do we have snakes or lizards. Good to hear you were able to help out with the ducklings. They are so cute and it would be awful if anything happened to them. Love your crochet. The stitch is similar to a baby blanket I've made a few times.

    1. You are lucky to not have poisonous animals where you live. I am surprised you don't have lizards. Is that because of your climate? Is it too cold for them? I wonder which animals play the same role as lizards in your habitats? I like having lizards in the garden (even if they do take a bite out of my leafy greens here and there) because they take care of the insect pests.
      Thank you for your kind words about my crochet, Gillian. I am interested in having another look at your baby blanket now. :-)

  4. Uugh, I don't mind spiders generally although big ones get rapidly dispatched but I too would be scared of a redback! I'm not sure I could have left it that long, I would constantly worrying it had come inside every time I couldn't see it.
    The spider stitch scarf is so beautiful Jodie, I can see that pattern work as a table runner or border too.
    I love the way you helped the ducklings and I'm glad you had the strength to help, I'm sorry you had to pay for it though, the joys of living with Lupus! Enjoy the rest of your week Jodie. x

    1. Fortunately the kitchen window looks onto an area that doesn't get a lot of traffic and as long as the window remained shut, there was no way the spider would come inside. The spider and surrounding hiding places were sprayed and a few days later the cobwebs were swept away.
      I agree with you about the spider stitch scarf making a good table runner or a border, perhaps on curtains?
      I was also pleased about having the energy to help the ducklings. I am at my best after breakfast and after the medication has kicked in. Then I get a small window of energy and then I need to rest in the afternoons to revive myself enough to make dinner and deal with the after-school shift. You know how it is, Sharon! :-)
      Wishing you good weeks also. x

  5. I wish we were headed into summer but the temperature is dropping in Toronto and I'm adding layers. :) Not our typical temperatures of -10, staying above zero, but I already cannot wait for summer!
    Liking the spider stitch....yet another project to try.
    Thanks for all the links!

    1. Thanks for popping in to say hello...[change to TV commercial voice]: "But wait! There's more!"
      I will be publishing a follow-up post about spider stitches this coming week with more examples and links to spider stitch patterns and diagrams. There will also be a tiny nod to pineapple motifs as well, so please look out for that post if you want more variations and inspiration.
      Meanwhile,you are adding layers and we are shedding layers after a run of at least 4 days over 40 degrees C. Yesterday in South Australia, some cities like Port Augusta reached 47 degrees! Thank goodness a cool change arrived today to bring relief but the poor people in Victoria are suffering bushfires as the hot conditions travel eastwards across the country. I hope your summer is not as intense as ours when it finally arrives. Wishing you lots of warm woolly layers this Christmas! :-)