Sunday, 7 December 2014

Granny Wheel Blanket for Baby Ellis

One day towards the end of August I got a request from a friend and colleague to make a colourful baby blanket for her soon-to-be new grandson, due in a few weeks. Having been working on a multi-coloured blanket for our sofa for nearly a year and it STILL was not finished, I knew what a challenge it'd be to have it ready on time, but I also knew that I'd love making it, so I readily agreed.

I decided to use the same granny wheel pattern I had been using for the aforementioned sofa blanket I'd been working on, which in turn had been inspired by this lovely one from My Bearpaw. I calculated that for a practical-sized baby blanket I would need 54 5-inch squares. My friend Nerys wanted some input into the blanket, so we agreed that I'd give the squares to her once completed, so she could sew them together.

I researched various sorts of yarns that might be suitable and ran them by Nerys. She chose Rico Baby Cotton Soft, a yarn I have never worked with before, but I'm so glad she did, as it's such a gorgeous beautifully soft yarn, with the feel of pure cotton but actually a 50% mix with acrylic- making it a very practical as well as beautiful option. I chose a mixture of lovely bright colours (lilac, melon, jeans, berry, purple, petrol, cardinal, blue, emerald, sky blue, yellow, lemon, lobster, light blue, silver and pistachio), along with 'snow white' for joining and the border. And set to work, armed with my 3.5mm hook and chart of randomised colours made with the wonderful Granny Squares Color Pattern Generator.

My only criticism of this yarn was that some of the colours were very hard to get hold of, and I notice that even since I've made this blanket, some of the colours have been discontinued. Come on Rico! Us crocheters love bright colours, and what better vehicle for vibrant bright colours than a baby yarn?

I hooked away on the squares at every available opportunity, and loved every colourful hooky moment of it, even at one point taking my yarn and hook with me to Ireland while visiting my parents! This baby blanket is very well travelled!! Finally all 54 squares were done. It was over to Nerys for the next bit, a quick lesson in sewing crocheted squares together, and I could have a break for a few days until it came back to me to do the border. What a lovely project this had turned out to be. Nerys loved being involved, too. She told me recently that she looked forward to coming home in the evening and getting stuck in to the sewing so much, that she was inspired to take up quilt-making!

Little Ellis Huw Morgan Jones was born on 28th September, and the blanket was all  finished in time for Granny's visit a couple of weeks later. We just had to have a little photo shoot here before the blanket was handed over though, showing it in all its colourful glory...

Nerys said all the family loved the blanket and thought it was a very special gift. I am so pleased!!

I've saved the best till last. You will be pushed to find anything so sweet, cute and funny ANYWHERE, I reckon ;-) Are you ready?

Here it comes......

Everybody, altogether now:


Sunday, 30 November 2014

Paul McCartney Waistcoat and Granny Square Science

Hello! And welcome to the first post of my new blog!

My son, having a very cool sense of style, a fan of the Beatles and most things 60s, has commissioned me to make this wonderfully retro and kitsch granny square waistcoat, as worn by Paul McCartney in the filming of A Magical Mystery Tour back in 1967.

Photo by Nigel Jarvis, 1967. Published by Daily Mail.
Very apt that my first post should be about the humble but iconic granny square, since it was one of the very first things I made when I learned how to crochet with my mum, only about 4 or 5 years after the photo of Macca was taken, I imagine. It's very possible he was still wearing the waistcoat back then when me and my mum were busy making that granny square blanket together!

So over to google I went to see if anyone else had tried to replicate the waistcoat and found a wonderful blog by Amjaylou who had done just that. Some beautifully detailed information on how she had made her fabulous version of the waistcoat after extensive research, from the assembly of photos to choosing of the yarn right down to the assembly. I also found a pattern by Vintage Visage, so I downloaded that too in my usual manner of leaving no stone unturned. This one differs slightly from Amjaylou's in that there are 3 squares instead of 2 at either side on the top front, and it's a little shorter. In both of these respects it's probably closer to the original design, though both are beautiful in their own right and Amjaylou's version is perhaps a more modern update of the original!

Having looked around at different yarn possibilities (the original waistcoat having been made from 4-ply (fingering weight) yarn), and eventually resigned myself to the fact that exact colour matches would be pretty much impossible, I decided to go with the Drops Baby Merino from Wool Warehouse as used by Amjaylou. The colours I chose are a little different from hers though...from the top, one ball each of light yellow, lime, vibrant green, light sky blue, lavender, electric blue, navy blue, old pink, heather, red and orange. 5 balls of grey for joining.

All in all I'm pretty pleased with my choice. There's a good balance of light, medium and dark. I've left out both the very pastel pinks and the vibrant pink because pink in general is really not my thing. But I couldn't resist the 'old pink' which I think tones in very well, and I do believe there's some pink in Macca's original. The grey I'm using for joining (same as Amjaylou's) is exactly the colour of school socks! Normally I'm very unconfident at putting colours together, but these seem to work well to my eyes. Perhaps the range is designed so that all the colours in it will go well together. Or, I don't know, maybe it was luck. But hey, who cares, I love it! And oh, this yarn is so LUSH. It's such a treat to work with after so much acrylic in recent projects.

Now down to the building block itself- the actual granny square. It's such a simple little thing but SO many different variations of the pattern exist. A little experimentation was called for. I tried the version of the square that's very commonly used- with 2 chains in the corner spaces and one between the treble clusters on the sides. Then I made one with absolutely NO chain spaces at all, even in the corners- just for the heck of it and to see what would happen. Here they are- same yarn and hook (2.5mm), the only difference is the leaving out of those chain spaces on the one on the right.

I was absolutely fascinated that the act of leaving out the chains could cause such a dramatic difference in size (should I get out more? Haha...), though I suppose it's obvious when you think about it. And in the end I really liked the smaller square. It's so dinky and neat, and slightly more 'rigid' than the one on the right, with smaller holes. I somehow felt it to be more appropriate for a man's waistcoat. So... the small square it is. And I'm going with the Vintage Visage pattern in terms of assembling the squares, as it will fit the gauge of the smaller ones. Also I just love the fact that the squares will be assembled exactly the same as Macca's. Nerdy, I am.

I decided to make a little sample swatch of 4 squares to see what they would be like for joining. I soon discovered that the lack of chains in the corners was going to be a problem. The so-called corners would not even touch each other. So I undid they final grey rounds of each square and chained 2 in the corners- in the outer round only, I left the rest as it was. MUCH better. I also tried different joining methods. Amjaylou used join-as-you-go and it looks wonderful. In the past I've joined motifs by sewing together the back loops only, as in this project and also in this one (technique described excellently by Bunny Mummy). I decided that for my purposes neither of these methods would be appropriate, as they are quite stretchy (in fact they almost add in effect the equivalent of an extra row of stitches) and I'm worried they would make the overall size of the waistcoat too big. I decided joining both loops together by whip stitching (a much more 'solid' join) would be just the ticket. And probably how the original waistcoat would have been assembled? More authenticity to satisfy my inner nerd. Here's my sample swatch.

So yeah, quite happy with that.

Full steam ahead with the waistcoat now! Can I make it in time for Christmas? 114, it's going to be a challenge!