Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Happy Zoo Blanket

This was a joint collaboration with a crocheter friend Jen, for another friend (that's her in the pic) who is about to give birth any day now to a baby boy. The pattern is the Zoo Blanket by Knot Your Nana's Crochet. We did 6 animals each, I did all the background squares and my friend did the joining and the border. The photo doesn't begin to do justice to the vibrant colours or the texture. But we're so pleased how it turned out, and the recipient is beyond delighted!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Mandala Wall Hanging

I was recently asked by my crochet friend Angela McWhinnie Armstrong of Get Knotted Yarn Craft fame, if she could use a couple of photos of mine for a forthcoming blog article about mandalas. She's a talented lady with an extremely popular Facebook page, so I was more than a little honoured!

It made me think of all those projects I've ever done before I actually started writing a blog, and I had so much fun making my mandala wall-hanging, I thought it would deserve its own retrospective blog post! 

According to Wikipedia, the word 'mandala' actually simply means 'circle', and is 'a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the Universe.' But in the world of crochet, it usually just means a colourful round doily, of any size.

We have a large expanse of wall behind our sofa, which was crying out for something to hang from it. It had been bare for years, because I'd never been able to make up my mind what to hang there. I went through a mandala craze last year, and had a sudden brainwave to crochet a huge, ginormous mandala and somehow mount it.....I wasn't sure how, just yet!

So what I did was to find a mandala pattern I liked, then to crochet multiple strands of super bulky yarn together, to make it really biiiiig. After sifting through a lot of patterns, I decided to use one that I had seen being used as a CAL ('crochet a-long') on Mandy's Craft Tales Facebook page. The pattern can be found on a lovely blog called By Petra, here made in cotton DK and used as a stool cover.

I decided to make mine from 3 strands of Drops Eskimo crocheted together with a massive 15mm hook, having chosen colours to match our decor. This is how it turned out!

This next pic gives some idea of scale....it shows me mounting it onto a large wooden hula hoop, which I had to order from Germany as I could only find plastic ones here in the UK!

And....last but not least. Here it is hanging in all its glory, in pride of place. I enjoyed making it so much.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Magic Carpet Mandala Blanket

Last week I finished a project I've been working on for nearly a year. I think I have to say that it's been the most enjoyable crochet item I've ever worked on, EVER. I've just loved the challenge, and whilst I love the therapeutic repetitive nature of some projects (the poncho in the previous post, for instance), I also appreciate projects when you're always learning something new and every round is different! There is such an immense amount of satisfaction at each stage.

The 'Magic Carpet Ride' Mandala Blanket was designed by the incredibly clever and talented Toni of Just Dunny Crochet. I've never tried to design a crochet pattern, but I'm sure even if I did, I could only DREAM of ever being able to come up with something like this. I think she's probably a genius, actually :-) Seriously, go and look at Toni's beautiful blanket designs- they will blow your mind.

This being an untested and unproven pattern, Angela from Get Knotted Yarn Craft and Martha from Martha's World of Crocheted Critters decided to set it up as a CAL ('Crochet A-Long') last April with members of the Creative Crochet Crew group on Facebook, with the aim of eventually coming up with a fully tested pattern using Toni's extensive notes, to eventually go on her blog and on Ravelry. Check out Martha's Magic Carpet journey too!

After a few weeks they invited me on board to help lead the CAL- something about my nerdy reputation for being able to spot mistakes in patterns and my attention to detail, I think. Or something. Anyway, I chipped in with my penn'uth every now and then, but I have to admit it was really Angela and Martha who did most of the hard work...

For my version I used good old Stylecraft Special DK, in a range of colours, very much with RED ('lipstick') as a theme, like Toni's original. One of my favourite parts of the blanket is the central mandala. The 16 little medallions around the edge were all worked and attached individually. A lot of work but SO worth it!

The aim of the pattern from here was to go from a circle to a square, via an octagon and 4 corners...

....then some piano keys, some crashing waves and a sunburst....

Until eventually the central square panel was done.

The magic word for me when making this blanket was to block, block, block. After each stage I blocked religiously before going on to the next bit. It really has helped to keep it square and now it's finished it has been so worth it as it sits flat and the corners are pretty much square.

The central panel is as far as the written proven pattern has gone, and it's now published in Toni's blog, if you want to make a start on making your own magic carpet!

The remainder of the pattern was adding two end panels with 8 large medallions on each side,

and crocheting around the lot to make a very large rectangle. These end panels will be added to the proven pattern in due course.

Here is the end result of my Magic Carpet blanket. I absolutely love how it turned out. It's got so big now (perhaps single bedspread size?) as you can imagine it's hard to photograph by a mere mortal. Hubby came to the rescue with his pro camera, photographic studio and expertise. But I still don't have a clue about where it will go in the house..... Hmm! Perhaps I'll have to redecorate a room to match...

Friday, 30 January 2015

The Unexpected Poncho

I was lucky enough to visit my mum and dad in Spain a couple of weeks ago. Of course I took my crochet 'WIP' ('work in progress') with me, but sadly could not get hold of the required 3.75mm hook that I needed for this particular WIP, for love nor money. So my lovely parents took pity on me and bought me a present of 6 skeins of this gorgeous stuff to satisfy my hooking needs during my visit :-)

It's from one of the Chinese bazaar-type 'todo' ('everything') shops that you seem to get everywhere in Spain- fascinating places that sell literally everything including yarn.

Off to Ravelry I went to search for something I could make. For some time now I've had a hankering to make a poncho. I think the last time I made/wore one was when I was about 8 or 9, back in the 70s.  I LOVE Ravelry for looking for patterns. You can search by yarn weight, project name, yardage, yarn fibre, anything you like. If you are a crocheter or knitter and don't know about Ravelry, stop what you're doing RIGHT now, go to the site immediately and register- you will not regret it.

When I found this pattern, the 'Summer Sunset Poncho', in colours remarkably similar to the yarn I had, with a spookily similar name ('Batik'), I knew that this had to be the one. The link takes you to a lovely Hungarian blog, 'AnnĂ¡s Kertje' ('Anna's Garden'). The pattern is a chart- which doesn't bother me at all, but for those who prefer written instructions, someone in one of the Ravelry projects (look for the blue poncho) has very helpfully written them out.

This was so enjoyable to make! All in V stitch (except the final shell round)- so you're crocheting into spaces and not stitches, you can whizz along at a rate of knots. And the lovely colour changing yarn- just gorgeous to work with! Didn't take long, this one. A week, maybe, on and off.

Here's the result- my 'unexpected poncho' in our garden back home.....went a bit mad with the camera (and that cat managed to do his usual photobombing thing again...)

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Paul McCartney Waistcoat Ta-dah!!

I've been up to my neck in taxes today, so thought what better way to relax than write up my crochet blog. Well. 96 tiny granny squares later, assembling and finishing completed, the waistcoat I mentioned in this earlier post is finished and it's certainly been a labour of love. Didn't quite get it finished for Christmas, but pretty close! Ooh, have to say I've really been enjoying working with all this lovely colour....
And seeing how the little squares improve after a touch of blocking NEVER ceases to amaze me! (I told you I should get out more)
At times our lounge looked like a (very cosy) production line. Piles of completed and blocked squares on the tray with the next batch of 10 underway, each one sitting on top of the colour which will be the next round. Another batch pinned and sprayed and drying in front of the fire... with Lucky the cat overseeing to make sure I was doing it all properly (think he got a bit bored though).
I mentioned in my earlier post that I was very much inspired by Amanda's beautiful waistcoat in her Amjaylou blog.I don't think I would even have attempted to make my own if I had not seen hers! I even copied Amanda's choice of yarn (the gorgeous Drops Baby Merino) but with different colours. But when I experimented with the actual granny square pattern, I found I very much liked the look of the small, tight dinky square that you get when you leave out all the chain spaces. I especially loved the look of it for a man's garment. The only issue with this is that because the squares were that bit smaller, in terms of the actual assembly of the waistcoat and the finishing details, I pretty much had to do my own thing. Also I didn't use Amanda's join-as-you-go method. I couldn't really join-them-as-I-went, as I knew the size of the squares would mean a different assembly, so I just made them all first and joined afterwards. I'll put some notes at the end of this post explaining exactly what I did, in case anyone is interested!

Oh....and that issue of the shoulder seam. Aaaargh!!! As Amanda pointed out, the front panels of Paul's waistcoat were 3 squares wide, and they seemed somehow to be joined to only 2 squares at the back. I too could not work out how this was done, though I spent a good few hours trying..... ah well. 2-square-wide front panels it is. Life's too short to worry about exact copies, that's what I say.

Anyway, the ta-dah moment. Here it is in all its glory, as modelled by my wonderful son Joseph. He has some style, do you agree?

And what's more, he loves it and thinks it's the coolest thing- and that's what makes it all worthwhile for me!

That cat always seems to want to get in on the action...

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------PATTERN AND ASSEMBLY NOTES

So, here are some notes on my version of the waistcoat. The 'man's version', if you like :-) 

1. Make 96 x 5-round granny squares, using 4-ply (fingering) yarn and a 2.5mm hook. There's some info on the yarn and my colour choices in my earlier post. Start with 4 ch joined in a ring, and NOTE: do not use any chain spaces, ANYWHERE in the coloured rounds, not even in the corners! In the final grey round of each square, put 2 ch in each corner.

2. Join the squares thus. The back panel is 6 squares wide by 8 squares long, the 2 front panels are each 2 squares wide and 8 squares long. The side panels are each 2 wide by 4 long. This pic might help to see how it's constructed more clearly:

As already mentioned I used whipstitch (both loops) to join. Basically put 2 squares together with the right sides facing outwards, start at the top right hand corner, and away you go. I find the simplest way to do it is to sew long strips of squares, and then sew the strips together.

3. Armholes: I finished these off using Amanda's method- ie, dc (UK term) into each stitch around, with 2 x tr2tog (UK term) into each right angle where 3 squares meet.

4. Ribbed border: I did mine slightly narrower than Amanda's (as the waistcoat was already an extra square long, I didn't want to add too much to the length). Also, I tried several different methods for the actual rib until I found one that worked with my waistcoat, and this is basically what I did:
-Using a hook one size larger (I used 3mm), starting at the bottom left hand side as you are looking at the waistcoat, join with a sl st into the 2 ch corner space. 
-Chain for the number of stitches to get the width that you want the ribbed border to be (in my case 5), plus one extra. 
-dc (UK term) into the 2nd ch from hook and into the remaining 4 ch.
-When you reach the square, sl st into the NEXT 2 trs along. Turn. DO NOT CH 1.
-dc along the row of 5 dcs that you just made, but in the middle 3 stitches, go into the BACK LOOP only. Going into the back loop is what creates the ridged effect. (If you like you can go into the back loop of ALL the stitches, but I found it gave a neater edge to do the first and last stitches as normal, and also makes them easier to 'find' when you're beginning and ending a row!)
-ch 1 (does not count as stitch), turn, and dc into each of the 5 dcs from the previous row, going into the back loop of the middle 3, as before. 
-Simply repeat the last 3 steps until you get round to the other side! Here's my edge in more detail...

5. Front edging and button holes: Because my squares are smaller, I had to make this bit slightly wider so the waistcoat would button up properly. 
Row 1: Return to your 2.5mm hook. Starting at the bottom of the left hand side (as you are looking at the waistcoat), make a standing tr (UK term) into the first dc of the border and then into each of the remaining 4 dcs. Tr into the corner ch 2 of the square, and into each tr and corner space around. You can add an extra tr 2tog at each point where a square joins another square (as I did) if you find it's pulling a bit and not sitting properly. Tie off and cut yarn.
Row 2 (a): Make a standing tr at the same place as before (bottom of left hand side as you're looking at it)- into your last standing tr. This side is where your buttons will be (seeing as it's a man's garment!). Tr all the way up until you get past where the 3rd and 4th squares join, then tr into the first tr of the first cluster of 3 trs. Then make 2 htrs, 2dcs and a sl st. Finish off.
Row 2 (b): Right hand side- this is where your button holes will be. Join with a sl st into the corresponding stitch opposite the sl st you just did. Make 2 dcs, 2 htrs and 1 tr. Now for your button hole: ch 3, skip 3 stitches, then tr all the way down making buttonholes in a similar way where each square joins another square. There are 4 buttons on my version. Fasten off. Another close-up might help!

Sew the buttons on, and you're done! Hurrah!!