Archie’s Rainbow Ripple Blanket

crochet blanket bright yarn

Early this year, my lovely friend Lydia told me that she was expecting a baby! And my response (after the congratulations, of course!), was to send her a selection of colours and patterns so that she could choose what blanket I made for her.

blanket yarn crochet

Those yarn balls are considerably depleted now!

The patterns I showed her were largely drawn from Little Tin Bird and Attic24 – their finished works are so beautiful, and the patterns are a pleasure to follow. Lydia chose Lucy’s neat ripple pattern and most of the colours from the lovely Attic24 17-colour yarn pack, which I always buy from Wool Warehouse. She knew she was having a little boy, so I didn’t include the brighter pink and I picked the lovely deep-blue Aster as the colour for the borders, which meant it was the starting colour. As you can see, I didn’t make the ripple straight at the end – I liked the ripple effect so much that I left it as the border of the blanket, after adding two lines of treble crochet in the same colour down both edges.

baby ripple crochet blanket

Archie’s finished blanket.

I absolutely adored working on this blanket. It rippled off my hook like a dream! My starting chain was 140+3, so it was comfortably wider than a person – something that baby Archie can grow into, rather than out of! I was really surprised at how quickly it came together – rippling consistently, I started the blanket in January and I think I’d given it to her by the second week of March. It was certainly finished a while before young Archie finally made his appearance at the end of May!

Here’s a photo of my boyfriend, Ben, giving Archie a cuddle, with the blanket in shot over his shoulder.

baby crochet blanket

Awwww.

I absolutely loved working on this blanket. It’s bold and bright and beautiful, and it’s so nice to know that it’s gone to a good home!

In fact, this was so popular that several of my friends commissioned blankets the minute I posted the finished thing on Instagram! But more on those stories later…

Update

Lydia’s sent me a lovely picture of Archie enjoyed all the rainbow goodness! She says that he likes the blanket so much, he frequently tries to eat it. That’s love when you’re three months old!

crochet ripple baby blanket

Archie loves his fist as well as his blanket.

This leads me on to an excellent point about the yarn the blanket is made of. I used Stylecraft Special DK, which is some of the best yarn available. Yes, it is 100% acrylic, but it’s not what you’re thinking. It’s smooth, and soft, and comes from an excellent range of colours – and it’s also machine-washable and can be put in the tumble dryer, so it’s absolutely perfect for use around the home (and being chewed on by enthusiastic little humans, or having wine spilled on it by enthusiastic large humans).

It’s also extremely good value for money – I bought this Attic24 pack of 17 balls for £27 from Wool Warehouse in January, and from it I’ve made Archie’s blanket, and half of another blanket that’s the same pattern but big enough to cover a double bed. I’m only just now getting to the point where I’ve depleted enough of the colours that I’m going to have to buy another lot!

Blogging about my crochet is extremely satisfying – I’m definitely going to get into the habit of doing this more. But I have so much else to talk about, too – writing, culture, music. Doing 100 Haiku Days has given me a lot more than a lot of poetry. It’s let me enjoy sharing things I do and think, and given me more of a drive to finish stuff. I used to really struggle with doing a little but every day, but that’s all you can do with crochet. And life, too, but it’s very hard to think like that!

 

Zara’s Christmas Blanket

christmas sunburst granny square crochet blanket

Posting about eight months late, but still – here’s another very late crochet catch-up post!

As some of you may remember, over a year ago now I started posting pictures about a certain red-and-white blanket I was making. One of my dearest friends, Zara, asked me for ‘squares with circles, in Scandinavian red and white’. I offered her a few different examples, and she picked out the type of square she wanted, which is Eda’s sunburst granny square pattern – and so I set to work. Again, I was working with my lovely 4mm hook, bought for me many moons ago by my beautiful friend Abby. I added an extra round of treble crochet to the original pattern, because otherwise it just felt too eye-blurring.

It took me from May to November last year to make all the squares and put it all together. It’s exactly 100 squares – it felt extremely appropriate for Zara that it should be such a nice, clean number! – and, through some artful photography, I managed not to show her any of the reversed, red-background squares until she opened it up at Christmas.

crochet blanket granny squares

The finished blanket.

With such striking colours as scarlet and white, I knew it would be an eye-catching blanket when it was done, so decided whether to do the negative-colour squares was a bit nail-biting at the time. I didn’t want to produce all those squares before I decided it didn’t really work! But I had quite a clear idea for what I wanted from the border, and I knew I wanted the edge to be red, so I’m glad I trusted my instincts. I think the red squares lend some excellent visual structure to the blanket and helps to pull it all together.

I joined the squares using Lucy’s joining seam, like I did with the sides of Nova’s camera, and the ridges added some lovely physical detail to the blanket. Joining the squares was one of the most satisfying experiences of the whole thing – I’d been making identical squares for months, and was suffering a bit of square fatigue, when I just went “screw it – I don’t care that I only have 36! I’m going to make the middle square!”, I had a fabulous time actually producing a lovely chunk of blanket.

crochet granny square blanket

The final two squares!

Once I’d made the central square, I started joining as I went – here are Lucy of Attic24’s directions for that – I made long strips of the remaining red and white squares, and then I joined the strips on around the edges of the central square. And then I went back and reinforced the seams, because I realised that some were stronger than others, because I hadn’t quite got the hang of it on some of the early joins.

I’d always had a very clear idea of what I wanted for the border, and the half-treble stitches all around the edge in red closed the whole pattern off beautifully. The sense of delight I felt when I finally got to create this thing that I’d been carrying around in my head for months was incomparable!

crochet blanket border

I love the half-treble stitch as an accent on the blanket’s edge.

In case you can’t tell from the photo, the rest of the border is two rounds of treble stitches. If I recall correctly, I had intended to do one more round, but I started doing it and I just knew it would be too much white. So I reeled it back, started on the red, and I could just feel in my fingertips that I was doing exactly the right thing. What a lovely sensation.

I haven’t tackled another blanket made of squares yet – I’ve been rippling a lot this year. But I’m starting to plan out another one that I think will be squares, so it’s good that I’ve finally managed to get this blog written and reflect on what I learned!

Which is, largely, to make squares exactly the same way every time until it becomes a habit, not to be afraid to ‘mass produce’ the central part of the circles because it can be a lot more efficient – and that joining as you go can be far more satisfying than producing and piling up squares, and then joining them all later on.

 

 

 

 

Nova’s Crochet Camera

It’s well past time that I uploaded some of my finished crochet projects! Dear me, I can’t believe it’s been so long since I finished some of them.

My niece Nova turned two last winter. She’s an adorable kid – a tiny little powerhouse of Scottish blonde bossiness – and when I saw her last October, it became very clear that she was a big fan of her mum’s camera (my big sister is an amazing wedding photographer – check out her stuff at Mirrorbox Photography). So for those moments when she was a little too keen on playing with mum’s expensive equipment, I thought it would be nice to make her a camera of her very own. And here it is!

crochet camera

Nova’s crochet camera

I absolutely loved this project. I’d never done any sculptural crochet before, and it was so wonderful to have a clear idea come together so cleanly.

I made the camera on my trusty 4mm hook out of 100% cotton yarn, using double crochet stitches (single crochet if you’re American!). The black yarn I used was quite a fine thread – I’m afraid I didn’t record what brand it was, but I can tell you that it was a present from my boyfriend’s mum.

The top of the camera is in a lovely, chunky Rico Creative Cotton – the aran weight in Mouse Grey. I absolutely loved working with the Rico aran cotton. It splits more easily than other yarns I’ve used, but with a slightly wider sweeping motion I got used to catching all of the threads. Once it worked up into fabric, it was just lovely to handle – very tense and firm, but soft to the touch, too. Perfect for little hands!

I particularly like the fact that it gives it that lovely ‘top-heavy’ look – the grey yarn was just so much chunkier than the black that there’s really nice 3D effect there.

The button and stuffing I bought in my trusty local Shaws – for those who live outside Wales, Shaws is a drapery chain who sell everything from yarn to thermal underwear, including bedsheets, curtains and towels. I love having a nose around the shops and seeing what I can find. I got an excellent amount of toy stuffing for less than I regularly pay for sandwiches, and now I find myself needing to make more things in order to use it up. Oh, what a hard life I lead…!

(Actually, I’m thinking I might make some window-seats for the low-down windowsills in my flat. There are some really high windows which, because of the conversion, have sills quite close to the floor, so I often find myself perching in them when I’m on the phone. It would be nice to have a slightly more comfy nook to curl up in.)

I’m a particular fan of the big red button on the top – everybody loves a big red button! Including my boyfriend, pictured here having a play.

crochet camera 2

Ben likes taking photos.

The flash detail I did by crocheting a small piece of fabric from white yarn, and then stitching across the holes with a darning needle to get that ‘ridged’ effect. It also made it a bit more solid, so it stood out from the black.

The ‘lens’ effect was achieved with two rows of double crochet in a starting chain, joined into a circle and fixed in place on the inside by sewing it onto the fabric with a darning needle. I crocheted the seams together using Lucy at Attic24’s joining crochet seam, and in places also used this slight variant joining technique, shared by Heather at Little Tin Bird. (If you crochet, live in the UK, and don’t follow Heather’s blog, you’re doing something wrong. Same for Lucy at Attic24.) You can join seams with an ‘invisible’ stitch by sewing them together, but I wanted the solidity that the crochet joining method gave – it’s what reinforced the structure of the straight edges.

Posting it was a minor issue, because It only barely fit in the envelope I’d bought – but that was my bad. In any case, it arrived intact and my niece enjoyed ‘taking pictures’ of all her presents on her birthday!

Now that I’ve finally put up this post (nearly a year late… oops) I’d better start thinking what to get for Nova when she turns three.

I enjoyed my first adventure in making an object out of crochet. I need to delve into it again! I’m not sure I’ll ever produce anything quite as perfect as the camera, but you never know, inspiration might strike the next time I pick up my hook. Pinterest is certainly full of brightly-coloured brilliance that I’d just love to make!

100 Haiku Days: Afterwords

100 haiku days 100

I know it was last week sometime, but, in my defence, I was chasing teenagers around Somerset in order to teach them the meaning of fear (on a science-fiction writing course, so they could write accurately about how it felt to be scared by aliens). I’ve only just caught up to myself and managed to post them all here – sorry, everyone, for the pile of haiku that just landed in your inboxes! I published them as I went along on Twitter and Instagram, but somehow they don’t feel “done” until I have them up here too.

Anyway. Last week, the midst of creativity and chaos, I crossed the finish line. Haiku 100. It didn’t feel like much at the time – a scribble in the midst of mixed-up mischief – but now that I have time to reflect, I think: I did it. I did – I did it.

Okay, it’s not the triumph of completing an epic destiny. But I’m pleased and proud to have set myself a challenge and to have risen to it, day after day. When I was ill, when I was travelling, at weddings and wonders, when I didn’t sleep for three weeks – I wrote haiku to deal with things I found painful and to celebrate the things I love. And I enjoyed it!

Of course, there were days when I got into bed at night and went “Oh, crap, I haven’t written one today!” and had to get up again and sit there in my pyjamas until I’d thought of something. But there were also times that they slipped so easily from noggin to nib that it felt unbelievable that other days I should struggle so much with seventeen slippery syllables.

Now that I’m done, though – I miss it. I do. I enjoyed having a sense of purpose, of something to do every day. Now that I’ve finished the creative extravaganza that is helping to shape the minds of young writers, I have a drive that I’ve always struggled with before. But doing a little bit every day – that seems so appealing, now, in a way that didn’t understand before I started this project. So that’s something I’m very pleased to have found, and I need to work to continue.

I haven’t decided what my next project will be, yet. But I’ve realised that I enjoy sharing my ideas in a way I was always far too anxious to do before, so whatever it is I do next, I won’t be afraid to talk about it any more. And, for me, considering this was a project that was born in the depths of my treatment for chronic anxiety, that’s as valuable as having written 100 poems that I actually like.

So this is me, signing off on 100 Haiku Days. It’s been a blast. Thanks for sharing the trip with me.