State of the Hook: Solitaire Granny Square and Zara’s Blanket

The last couple of weeks have been busy in Magpie-land, as I did the 101 things I needed to do before starting my new job tomorrow. Last but not least on the list is, naturally, blogging about all the rochet-related things I’ve been doing!

I did try picking up my food blogging, because I made some cracking meals over the last couple of weeks, but I’m afraid making sure I have a suitable wardrobe, sorting out an astonishing amount of paperwork and going home to visit my mother for a few days took precedence.

Incidentally – I’ve spent a good while trawling the internet to try finding Wendy Jubilee yarn in violet, because the purple granny squares project can’t be completed without it. I can’t find anywhere that stocks it, despite hours of looking. If anybody knows somewhere that has some, I would be eternally grateful if you could give me a heads-up! Otherwise I’ll have to think of something completely different to do with my poor purple squares. They’re looking lovely as they languish, though…

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So, without further ado and before I get into bed and attempt to re-train my body into getting up at 7am every day, here are my updates!

Solitaire Granny Square

This is a mixture of excellent and awful – I’ve had a structural nightmare in which two of the lines in the middle of the blanket started unravelling because I made a rookie mistake and didn’t weave in the ends of my crochet properly while simultaneously clipping them a bit too short. Three times now – and it’s always on lines made of the same kind of yarn, the Patons Smoothie – I’ve  had to perform emergency surgery that’s left kind of unsightly knots and amendments in fabric. I mean, among the colours and shapes of the blanket they’re hardly noticeable, but this does mean that it’s not as robust as I would like.

It’s looking pretty fabulous, though! Here it is adorning the top of my bed (with my trusty shark Julio keeping an eye so that it doesn’t start unravelling again):

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And here’s an indicator of its size when unfolded in all its glory!

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I’m probably going to leave it pretty much in this state until I’ve mostly completed Zara’s blanket, because then I’ll have more space to buy yarn and also probably more odds and ends to use up, and it seems that this would be a nice and brightly-coloured place for them. I still intend for it to become a massive, bed-sized square, but at the moment it’s  large enough to wrap around me without trailing and I’m very happy with that. And so is Julio.

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Zara’s Blanket

Remember the handful of little red squares I posted the other week? Well, they were the basis for the squares of Zara’s blanket. We developed the design together when I was staying with her last month, based on the sunburst granny square pattern at Eda’s Crochet Room. Zara requested that the colours be that lovely Scandinavian red and white – I used this image of a double-knit blanket as my initial visual prompt. It also inspired some ideas that I’m currently still cooking up, and will probably implement at a later stage of blanket construction. The circles-in-squares pattern is really fun to do, and the individual squares look gorgeous! Here are the squares following Eda’s pattern:

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Yesterday, though, I laid out nine or so of the ones that I have  on a flat surface to see how it was looking, and… to be honest, it looked far too busy. There was way too much going on, and it felt like the red circles were dominating the pattern too much. I think Eda’s squares would work really well in a pattern that wasn’t quite so stark, but the very high-contrast red and white was almost eye-blurringly intense, so I  developed an innovation to the original pattern that I am extremely happy with.

It’s very simple, actually. What I wanted to do was make it look more like a white blanket with a pattern of red circles, so I simply added a row of treble crochet around the edge of each square (I actually haven’t quite finished doing them – I’m on 15 of the 17 extant squares). The difference is subtle, but the overall effect is exactly what I wanted!

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They’re now much nicer in combination with each other, which is, of course, the point of them. I have one or two other tricks and thoughts up my sleeve as to where to go with this blanket, but that’s between me and Julio for now. I have to make a hundred or so more squares before it’s ready to be sewn together, though, so I have plenty of time to develop the final vision!

Now I must get on with getting into bed and trying to sleep and going off to be employed again tomorrow…

The Crochet Catch-up Conundrum

So, as promised, I am home, and in between working on my PhD application (due next week – eek!) and preparing for job interviews, I shall write up my crochet catch-up post. The title is a definite homage to the titles of the Middleman comics and TV show. My only real conundrum was whether to stop writing this post and go to sleep, but since Benjamin was still working on his project, I kept going!

She Spins a Fine Yarn

Just over a year ago, my dear friend Abby bought me a 4mm  hook, a big ball of yarn, and taught me how to crochet. I haven’t looked back since. Our friend Katie also deserves due credit for encouragement, enabling, and the crochet-chillouts we shared while writing our Masters’ dissertations.

Since then, I have accumulated a cupboardful of yarn that I do not store in a cupboard, but I may have to start doing so soon because my esteemed life partner pulls pained faces whenever he sees the mess on my side of the room, two more crochet hooks, and a desire to make all the fabric-based things in the world. I have made some things, failed to make some things, learned a lot, and taught two other people how to do it – one of whom, the lovely Ashleigh, has, like me, become completely addicted. So here’s my crochet catch-up post, summarising all of the things I’ve done and have to finish or have plans for!

As I mentioned during Saturday’s alliterative post, while we were at his parents’ celebrating his birthday, Ben wasn’t the only one to get presents: his mum also gave me a huge pile of yarn. I mean it. Huge:

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Upon realising just how much she’d given me, on top of what I already had, I wanted to unpack everything and pile all of my yarn up on the bedroom floor and lie on it cackling gleefully, but, well, I’d have to put it all back in its designated bags and Ben would probably look at me with mild despair in his  eyes, saying, ‘Oh dear’, as if to a puppy that has had a little accident on the carpet. Except, unlike the puppy, I’d have to tidy it up myself. So I kept things nice and logical and laid them out and photographed them according to what piece of crochet they’re going to be used in.

The Vintage Stripe Scarf

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I made the scarf from this pattern over at Bella Dia, though only did 36 stitches, to make it wide-scarf-width. It’s a lovely pattern, and I highly recommend it for beginners getting to grips with treble crochet – it’s really easy to keep track of where the hook is going, because you’re working into the holes, and the end result is really very attractive.

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This one was officially Finished, until a few weeks ago when I decided I wanted to make it longer… I wear it without it being Finished with a capital F, but I should probably actually finish it off. The three blue stripes show where the middle should be (a controversial creative decision on my part: some of my friends loved it, some of them felt it ruined the overall feel of the thing). I added the blue lines to the ends that I started extending, so that it wouldn’t end up uneven, which you can see at the moment that it is. I do like things that are lopsided, though, so I might be a rebel and leave it with its weird asymmetrical clashing lines… that appeals to my sense of humour.

The Avatar Blanket

This baby is the bane of my life, but I know it will be extremely beautiful when it’s done. I started it before I was ready to, really, because I’ve had a couple of false starts. It is in homage to Avatar: The Last Airbender and Avatar: The Legend of Korra, two extremely excellent TV shows that everyone in the world should watch, and which (you’ll have guessed by now if you didn’t know already) is why I generally refer to crochet as ‘yarn-bending’. The pattern was developed by Kim Kiser and is posted on her blog here. It involves the truly awesome technique of crocheting two colours together, always doing the stitches around the other colour, so that you can change colours as and when you need to in order to make the pattern.

Here it is, along with the pile of yarn that will go into the four main squares:

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I had a false start, because I made the naive mistake of starting it on a hook that was way too small for it. It was a lesson in how the physics of crochet can be quite unforgiving! I got a third of the way into the first square before I realised it was buckling way too much, unravelled it with an extremely heavy heart, and went out to buy myself a better-sized hook (6mm).

Even with the right hook, I made a bunch of mistakes – that I didn’t even realise were mistakes until I got halfway through – you will have spotted that the edges of the square are not, in fact, straight, because I skipped stitches when transferring . However, this time I am determined to persevere, finish the square, the do the damage control later, because it would break me to have to do it all over again. In fact, when I realised that the edges at the bottom were ragged, I had to stop and wail and not look at it again for months because I just couldn’t face having to do it all again.

Sigh. I just had a major ‘I’m such a doofus’ moment because I looked again and realised that I’d put it upside-down in that last photo, so the image is actually backwards. This what it should look like!

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Sorry the picture isn’t as good quality (and that there’s a stray feather on the square… my duvet must have been shedding like Appa). I’m basically intending to go back and add more green stitches to the outside of the square in order to make it the right shape. It sounds crazy, but I have a couple of ideas that I think could work out alright – I’ll let you know. Once I’ve done the other three squares I may change my mind and decide to do the green one again – but I’m not pressuring myself to make that decision right now. I just want to finish it, see if I can add stitches down the sides to fill in the edges, and move on!

Purple Granny Squares

When the Avatar blanket just became too much, I took to making granny squares instead, because they were soothing and I didn’t have to count how many green, brown, then green again stitches I needed to do. I love the way they just fly off the hook, and the fact that I can do them without even needing to look at them now! (Little-known fact: not only do I have terrible eyesight, I can do a lot of things blindfolded. A combination of bad eyes and violin from an early age means I have awesome muscle memory and fine motor skills.) Here are my current squares, all in a messy pile:

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The purple-edged granny squares are just delightful fun, even if I have now run out of that purple and can’t find any more anywhere (it was Wendy Jubilee, I think… and it appears to have disappeared off the face of the earth). Fortunately I have an even number of squares now, 32, which (I’m sure you can do the maths) will make a small blanket of 8 x 4 squares with this particular border. What I have decided to do, since I can’t find the yarn I need, is to use my last reserves of that particular purple to stitch them all together, and then use a new very dark purple to create sixteen more, which will serve as a border around the edge of the finished blanket! Hurrah! The dark purple is lurking there next to the yarn basket:

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That basket used to be my granny’s, and I like the fact that part of her is playing such an important and brightly-coloured part in my life.

I make the squares in and around doing other things – the Avatar blanket, for one, and for another, the project that I’m going to start as soon as I’ve finished either the green Avatar square or the purple blanket.

Solitaire Granny Square

A logical development from the last project was that, last week, I went ‘So these granny square things are fun and all, but… how BIG can I make one?!’. And so I set off on my noble quest to make a granny square blanket out of one square that is the size of my bed. Currently, it is the size of my lap. Yesterday it looked like this:

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I crocheted this afternoon, to take away the pre-interview nervousness, and this afternoon while thinking hard about my PhD proposal, so currently it looks like this:

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It is growing! Mwahaha! GROWING! Though I expect this is the last I’ll see of it for a while, as I have far too much on the go at the moment and I want to actually finish something (both in terms of crochet and my PhD application!).

Zara’s Blanket

My final project is currently no more than a concept and this much yarn. But I’m going to start making it soon, so that she can have it in time for summer. If we ever get a summer.

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I like the fact that this is only two colours, too, because it makes it so much more portable! The granny squares, while wonderful, basically have to be made at home, because they take so many different colours. This project should be a lot of fun, though! I’ve developed the pattern with Zara, based on a particular request of hers, which makes it feel very bespoke and special, and you’ll all see a lot more about it in the coming weeks. 

Epilogue

Here endeth the great roll-call of my crochet projects. I’ve certainly proved to myself that I am a magpie, I like shiny and brightly-coloured things rather a lot. But I’ve also realised that I need to finish off some projects properly – the scarf I’m happy with for now, but I need to get some closure on the Avatar square and I need to make them purple granny squares into a blanket before I can progress any further. Well, whenever anything happens, I’ve resolved to blog about it – though I promise future posts will be shorter than this one!