Finally finished!

I kinda went on a hiatus there didn’t I? I blame the clocks going forward, I really do. More daylight hours in the evenings = more time outside gardening, and therefore less time on the blog. I also must admit that various Steam Sales had something to do with it (I can’t find an apt link, so you either know what that means or you don’t – it involves my new PC, the internet and games).

Anyway, the sprout blanket is finally knitted, ends sewn in, washed, blocked and labelled up to go to the recipient, who is now nearly a month old (oops). I got everything together last Friday to finish it off.

Yarn review: The yarn (Patons Cotton Twist Aran) was quite pleasant to use. The resulting blanket is soft and drapey, and the acrylic nicely tames any harshness from the cotton. However, it is a “Z” twist yarn, which according to Doris Chan is better suited for crochet than knitting and I believe her. Basically, yarn is either “S” twist or “Z” twist (to find this out, hold the yarn vertically and see which letter the twist represents). “S” twist yarns have the twist reinforced during knitting, and get unravelled during crochet. “Z”s are the other way round. Therefore I found that the yarn became a bit easy to split with the needle tip, but I reckon if I crochet with it it’ll be fine.

Pattern review: The pattern was easy to follow and not that difficult knitting-wise. My only complaint is the use of pfbs, as these leave a larger loop on the right side of the fabric which to me looks untidy (even when there’s a nice pattern of larger loops). I did make a mistake here or there, the most noticeable of which left a hole in the stem of the central sprout. Oh well. Have some photos!

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Starting off using the long tail cast on. I really like this cast on (was my first time using it). You get a neat edge and it’s very quick to do once you get used to it.

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Adventures in frogging. I noticed I’d made a mistake when I suddenly had the wrong number of stitches and the pattern no longer fit. I tried to fix it from the current row, but it just made it worse so I got a contrasting yarn and threaded it into every stitch of the last correct wrong side row. I chose to go back to a wrong side row as the stitches used were either purl or knit, nothing fancy to think about. The second picture shows the yarn going underneath the right hand “leg” of the stitches.

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Success! The first photo shows one of the sprout tips correctly hung on the lifeline. I was so, so, SO relieved by that. I spent ages trying to work out just which bit was the right hand leg of all those stitches. Patience and logic is definitely the key to success there. I might do some sort of tutorial when I get some time (and can remember what it is I did).

The second photo shows threading the needle back through the loops, following the lifeline (and putting the stitch markers back on when prompted by the yarn ends). And then voila! Back on the needles! Woohoo!

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And there we go, one finished blanket, all ready to go to one baby girl. :) I used a sewn bind off to match the long tail cast on. It’s a reasonable approximation, not exact, but you’d only notice if you look very closely (and that’s probably more to my lack of skill than anything).

To go with the blanket, the parents said that they didn’t have enough hats that fit (their baby is super cute but very tiny) so I decided to make a Greenleaf Baby Hat from the left over yarn (found via Ravelry pattern suggestions which worked very well). I’ll post up about it in more detail later, but until then here’s a photo of the finished article:

DSCF5452I’m going to try very hard to avoid another hiatus. It might be that every couple of days or so I just post up a quick photo and a short line of what’s been going on since I last posted or during the 2 month(!) hiatus. We’ll see.

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The seed of a sprout

Not gardening, but the start of a Sprout blanket! I’m hoping to turn the below pile into one over the next few weeks. Cheers to Knittin’ in Britain for the idea!

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The original pattern calls for Spud & Chloe Sweater yarn in the Grass colourway. However, this being an American luxury(ish) yarn, trying to get enough here in the UK to make a blanket in would set me back £33. So I’m using Paton’s Cotton Twist in Lime instead, bought from Pack Lane Wool at a much more reasonable £10.92 for 6 balls (plus one extra they sent me by accident, yay! I did offer to return it but they declined).

I really shouldn’t start anything new given the number of WIPs I have sitting around, but I think I need something to kick start me back into knitting and crocheting again. That’s my excuse anyway and I’m sticking to it. ;) This WIP really wants me to finish it though, just look at its poor, forlorn eyes…

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Crochet Square for SIBOL

So there is a lovely lady called Sue who asks people to send her 6″ x 6″ knitted or crocheted squares. She then takes a stack of 25 squares and crochets them together into a blanket, which is then donated to an elderly person in need of protection from the cold. This is all done under the banner of SIBOL or “Sunshine International Blankets of Love”.

Anyway, she sets up challenges for people to submit squares fulfilling a certain description, and one of her latest ones is a “Your Local Landscape” challenge, intended for submission at the Jersey Textile Showcase 2012 where it will be auctioned off in aid of Mencap.

I eventually decided I’d give it a go last Tuesday, after it seemed like there weren’t many people going for this challenge. Looking through photos from the past year, the one Rob took below struck me as a good one to turn into a square:

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Not too complicated, and also using colours I have quite a lot of in my stash (if you ever wondered what my favourite colour is, well, now you know, although I really love it combined with blue as well). It’s from when Rob and I went to our friends’ combined hen and stag camping party, based at Rocks East Woodland in Ashwicke near Bath. On the morning after, we all went on a walk in the woods nearby which are full of interesting sculptures, follies, ponds and glades, and that’s where the photo was taken.

Next step, work out how many stitches and rows I’d need. I decided to use two strands of double knit weight acrylic (dark green and white) to represent the wild garlic in flower. I chained until I reached 6″ (25 stitches) and then did 6 rows of double crochet, basically until I thought I would need to start changing colours. This created a 6″ x 1.5″ rectangle, so I surmised that 24 rows would be needed.

Following that, I needed to work out how to represent the bridge and the different areas of green. Using Excel, I made up the stitch chart shown below:

Stitch Pattern

The eagle eyed among you will notice that there are 25 rows charted instead of 24. That’s because when I measured the square after completing the 24th row, it was about 5.75″, so one more row was required.

Finally, to bring in all the different yarn colours required to make the different shades along one row, I looked up “colour work crochet” and learnt about something called “tapestry crochet“. This basically involves carrying unused yarns inside the row until they’re needed, crocheting over them to hide them. If I was doing this properly, I’d have carried all my yarns, but because I was using two strands of different coloured yarn at a time there were so many yarns required I ended up ejecting some yarns out the side of the row when they were no longer needed, and then picking them back up from the next row as required. This had the undesirable effect of covering over some of the stitches at the colour change boundary, but I managed to offset this when darning in the yarn ends. I think next time I’ll just use single strands of variegated yarn to get a dappled effect!

Five different yarns were used, as seen below. And yes, those are all attached to that on bit of crochet in the middle, some of them twice (I cut off a few long pieces of yarn so I could have two sections of that colour in different positions without carrying them across the whole row, notably with the grey when doing the bridge supports as it was a much darker colour and liable to show between stitches when carried).

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Although the photo shows them all looking very neatly laid out, that’s because I’d spent the previous 10 minutes untangling them whilst on the phone to my Mum. Every time you get to a new row, you turn the crochet around, and this results in a horrible mess after a few rows. The next photo shows a strand of white yarn being carried inside a row of double crochet.

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So, after spending two evenings crocheting (around food shopping, cooking epic meals and accompanying a choir practise) I had the following thing by 2am on Friday morning:

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Rotated by 90 degrees, it somewhat resembles the flying spaghetti monster. SO. MANY. ENDS.

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I then spent all of my lunch break, plus the odd 5 mins here and there when getting cups of tea etc. darning in all those ends. 24 in total. TWENTY FOUR! It took ages! However, once darned, it was deemed complete! So, to the square! Wrong side first.

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Right side!

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And then it toddled off in the post to Sue at SIBOL, who received it on Friday afternoon and wrote a lovely blog post about it here. :) I’m really chuffed with my square. Ok, it’s far from perfect, but I think it’s grand for a first attempt. I’ve also joined a “Block-A-Month Crochet-A-Long” group on Ravelry where people try to make a block a month to a supplied 12″ or 6″ pattern, so hopefully I’ll get more practise at squares over the coming year. The plan is to keep the 12″ ones for myself, and send the 6″ ones to SIBOL. I might have a blanket to show you in a year’s time! :D