Tuesday, 25 June 2013

WIPs, chains and hooks

Hee hee - that got your attention! I thought I'd update you on a few things I'm still working on - yes, the dreaded Work in Progress (WIP), and my new hook. OK, I haven't got any chains, but, I have bought myself some stitch counters, do they count?

OK, let's start with my stitch sampler blanket. I started this project way back in April, and I have made progress on it since my last post. But then I made a boo boo and I've lost heart a bit. It happens sometimes, and its the price we pay for blazing our own creative trail. But I have to brace myself for a frogging session before I can move on.

I added some new stitches

This pale lavender stripe turned out to be a bit open. Oopsie number one. But that's ok, I stitched behind it with a few dc stripes and that was rescued.

Then I added some really lovely, time consuming stitches

Lovely, I thought. These are really gorgeous. Then I realised I'd made a boo boo. Lying the blanket on the floor to take some pictures I realised (with tears in my eyes) that my blanket had shrunk! Somehow I've managed to lose a whole load of stitches. Oh, my disappointment! I kicked myself and frogged some rows, but still the blanket is smaller on the working end than on the starting end.

When my family came for a visit we gave the blanket a good heave ho and the really fancy stitches have grown a bit wider. I am hoping with all my heart that blocking will sort it out. Meanwhile, I need to frog a bit more, probably back to the red and pink stripe, to try and rescue the situation. I think that's where my counting went awry. But I shall be winding the yarn up with tears rolling down my cheeks I'm sure.

Just goes to show that counting is very important in crochet. Rookie error from me has lost me hours and hours of work :-(

So, I have armed myself with a new toy... Stitch markers!

These rather naff plastic things are going to save me from tears in the future - I just have to REMEMBER TO USE THEM! :-)

Another little project I'm working on with my friend is a HAPPYPOTAMUS - it's from a pattern by Heidi Bears, available to buy on Ravelry. Heidi Bears has made some really cute designs that use a beautiful African flower motif. I can't wait to see my finished hippo. Since I haven't got children of an age to enjoy a cuddly toy, I am going to weight the feet of my hippo and use him as a door-stop.

Since this pattern is not my own design, I won't be posting step by step instructions or anything - if you love the hippo too, buy yourself the pattern and have fun :-)

This is some pics I've taken as I'm working on him though...

And this new project meant I needed a new hook - I'm working with a diddy little 2.5mm hook so that the motifs are nice and dense - I don't want his stuffing falling out! I had a hook I could use, but it was a thin metal one and to be honest, it wasn't much fun to work with - it felt like I was trying to crochet with a paperclip. In the past I have made my own hook handles with polymer clay, but with somewhat limited success. If you go back up the page you can see a red spotty handle I made myself, you'll see what I mean about limited success! So, I treated myself to a new hook from my friend Annie at Handcrafted by Annie. I chose a candy twist handled hook, it's lovely and chunky, has a nice weight, and Annie made a little thumb divot in just the right place. I'm very happy with my new hook - so happy in fact, I've ordered 3 more!!!

I love getting presents, so getting this hook was like an extra birthday without getting older!

Thank you Annie! And thank you for mentioning me on your blog :-)

Hopefully I will return to my sampler blanket and rescue it from the clutches of bad stitch counting and I will finish it. I'll post again when I do and let you know the stitches I used too - it's been a fun project for learning new things and experimenting. I just wish experimenting didn't go wrong!

Bye for now - happy hooking xx

Granny's Rainbow

I've started another big project... A granny square blanket. Believe it or not, I've never actually made anything out of granny squares before. When I first started to learn crochet, I began with a granny square, as many people do. I followed the instructions in the book I have, but my granny square was baggy and loose. I was so disappointed that I gave up, threw it in the bin, and vowed that I would stick to kniting. Now, a couple of years later I have decided to face my nemisis. This time, I'm ignoring the instructions and doing it my way (have you got Sinatra singing in your head now too???).
I'm going to show you how I make a granny square that is nice and dense and tight. There's a few little quirks I have decided suit my style, but they may seem a bit odd if you've ever made granny squares before. Stick with me, I promise they turn out lovely. No twisting, no bagginess, just a lovely square.

Here goes... 

Start with a Paul Daniels (aka a magic circle or magic loop) - don't you just hate it when you follow a pattern and end up with a great big hole at the centre of your work? Well, starting with a magic circle means you close the hole completely and have a nice neat start. I've written about the magic circle start in my flower tutorial - if you need the instructions, have a look here.
The basic granny square is made of clusters of three trebbles together. Now, when I follow patterns they always say chain 3 to start, that will count as a treble. But I find 3 chain is a bit too long for my trebles, and I end up with a lumpy bumpy beginning which really irritates me. So, I start with 2 chain into the magic circle, then do a treble. 

Another little pet hate of mine is being able to see those chain starts, so I hide mine by making the chain the middle stitch of the cluster. Make sense? Well, follow me...

Do your chain 2 and one treble. That will become a cluster at the end. We want 4 clusters to begin our square, and we want 4 corners. I like a 2 chain corner - it keeps your work nice and tight. Don't want baggies do we? So do 2 chain (corner), 3 trebles, 2 chain (corner), 3 trebles, 2 chain (corner), 3 trebles, 2 chain (corner), and 1 treble that will complete our first cluster, which right now only has 2 stitches, remember?
So, now we have 12 stitches in our magic circle, we can pull it tight and slip stitch the cluster we began with together. I used to struggle to get my magic circles to close up completely, then by chance, I realised that you pull it tight BEFORE you slip stitch the ring together. Now why wasn't that made clear in the instructions I learned from?
Now we need to slip stitch into the corner space (the 2 chain) so we can begin the next round.
Round one is complete, now for round two. Again I'm going to start with 2 chain that will count as my first treble, then do 1 treble and make a corner, then make a treble cluster (3 trebles).
Now make a treble cluster in the next corner space - here I deviate from the pattern I used when I had my first try at granny squares. I don't put a 1 chain gap between my clusters. This means I end up with a nice tight neat granny square at the end. 

Keep making a cluster, 2chain (corner) cluster in all the corner spaces - make sure you count your corners, you want 4 corners! I know, it sounds obvious since we are making a square, but it's better to check now that find you're making a pentagon on the final round. I know, I've been there, and done it! Counting isn't my strong point ;-)

When you get to the last corner (or first corner - depending on how you look at it) you need to do one more treble to finish off that cluster. Remember we are hiding the chain start in the middle of the cluster? This feels a bit clumsy as you do it, but honestly, it turns out good.

Slip stitch into the top of your starting chains and slip stitch into the corner space again ready for round three.
Now repeat the same as before... 2 chain, one treble, 2 chain (corner), cluster of 3 treble.

Remember we didn't do a chain inbetween our clusters on the previous round? But there is a little gap between them just the same. Now we will work into that gap to make a cluster.

Oops - not a very clear photo!

Now we need to make a cluster, corner, cluster in the chain space of the corner.
Continue repeating this pattern until you reach your starting point, then do one final treble to complete your starting cluster, and slip stitch together. 
That's round three complete.

Slip stitch across into your next corner space, and repeat round three, adding a cluster in every space between clusters on the previous round. You've got the beginnings of a granny square!
So, keep going, doing the same...
Until you have a square of a size you like. I'm making mine with 7 rounds. I will join them together at the end.
When you're done, finish off by cutting your yarn - leave a long enough tail to sew with! - and pulling the thread right through the final slip stitch.

Now to finish off the square we need to sew in our ends. Since this is going to make a blanket, I will sew in my ends really securely, because this finished blanket will no doubt be going through the washing machine fairly often. And remember, since this is a blanket, it's quite possible people will see the back as well as the front of it, so make your sewing in nice and neat. So stitch into the back of your stitches - make sure you don't got right through to the front, you want to sew into the middle of the stitches or else you'll see your sewing on the front. Stitch back and forth a few times before you cut off your thread as close to your work as possible. Do be careful though, you don't want to accidentally cut a crochet stitch.

It's a horrible job to do, but if you sew in your ends as you go, you won't have a billion of the damn things at the end of your project. For me, that is the kiss of death on any project - it makes me weep. If I'm faced with 225 squares with ends to sew in, it will stay in my basket forever and never get finished. I've learned that lesson the hard way! 

There's a certain satisfaction in being able to look at your square from front or back and seeing lovely neat work.

The back
And the front

So, now you know how to make a non-baggy granny. Now to make another 224 of them. Eeeek! It's going to be gorgeous though. Just need to keep saying that to myself!

I will be working on this blanket until Christmas I think. But it's a pattern that with practice you can do while you watch the TV or a movie - I can even watch my favourite foreign movies with subtitles while I make my grannies now. That's my kind of project :-)

Hope you have a go too - let me know how it turns out. If a blanket seems a bit too daunting, the granny squares can make a lovely cushion cover - you could do just one big granny cover or a patchwork of smaller ones. Hmmm... I think I like that idea ;-)

I love to hear your comments about my work, I read them all and try and reply as soon as possible to any queries. Happy hooking :-)

And finally, before I go, I'd like to credit the source of my fab background fabric in all the pics - it's a brilliant piece of retro fabric from my friend at Rainbow Vintage Fabrics. Have a look and see what yummy fabulousness they have.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Busy end to the academic year

I've been kind of busy here with my end of year homework and exam (exam is LOOMING large and terrifying me. But I just wanted to say briefly that I have some cool new projects to write about - and they'll be up as soon as I recover.

My Sample blanket has grown (and shrunk - boo hiss) a bit. I managed to lose some stitches when straightening up after this fancy stitch (hexagon stitch), so Pip no doubt will help with the frogging I need to do (weeps more) 

I promise I will come back soon and describe the stitches use and where it (weeps) went a bit wrong.


Meanwhile it's only about 250 days to Christmas, which mean Niece's birthday (age 11) and my sister's birthday (best keep shtum about that).

This is the Christmas Camper Blanket I made for her - again, I will post instructions soon, because I'm sure you will agree if is a very pretty blanket - and with such large blocks it was a quick grower too :)

And finally, I have a proper no-brainer project for myself while I go through the mental tortures of writing extended essays and preparing for an exam... I only need to count to three or 7 - so why do have a few ones and fours? I like to leave them in as make out I am like the rug makers of Persia who always make a deliberate mistake, because only Allah may be perfect.

This is the beginnings of my crochet rainbow

I have five stacks of gorgeousness made - only about another 11-12 to go. It's just what I need for a 20 minute from revision. And then another half an hour break just looking at their inner beauty.

I look forward to writng a somewhat more nourishing blog post really soon (I'm looking forward to the exam being finished ever more though!!!)