The journey that never ends

If you’re the kind of person who likes making things, you’re usually the kind of person who always wants a project with you, whether at home or on the move. So most of us have ‘home’ projects and ‘travel’ projects. For quilters, you can’t easily bring a king size quilt on the bus, but you could bring some paper piecing hexagons. Lots of knitters I know have socks for such occasions, and crocheters might have blanket squares or an easy back and forth shrug. If you’re travelling, it’s tricky to keep a pattern visible and track where you are on it, so you want something small and easily memorised.

All that said, naturally, for my travel project lately, I’ve been working on a laceweight, lacey shawl.

A purple crochet project lying crumpled over a black project bag

 

Wait, here me out! Lace can actually be really good for travelling, because the pattern tends to repeat from row to row. If it’s a two- to four-row repeat, and you do it often enough, you’ve usually got it memorised by the third time you do it. The big thing for me, though, is that lace makes a pattern, each row building on the one before. And if there’s pattern, there’s order, and it makes it easier to see when you’ve gone wrong. Compared to other weights of yarn, lace squishes down really well, so getting it into a small project bag is eminently possible.

A small, black, spotty cloth bag with a hint of a purple crochet project inside

My travel project of choice for the last…oh…six months or so has been the Abberley Shawl. I work on it in 10 minute stretches on the bus from time to time, or for an hour or so on Saturday mornings. Hence the six months, because it’s not exactly getting a lot of attention.

It’s so long since I started it, I couldn’t tell you how many rows each set of repeats is, but as the pattern has those strong diagonal lines, I know which parts are supposed to be solid, and which are supposed to be gaps. In some ways, it’s been like making a granny square. There’s a standard way of making a cluster of stitches, and I just have to look each time at whether it’s trebles or chains. Because it’s a travel project, I’d say the stitching to ripping ratio has been about 10 to one. Which is to say for every ten rows, I’m having to take one out because I went wrong.

That wasn’t too bad twenty rows ago, but as it’s a ‘point up’ shawl, each row is getting longer and long, and naturally, any mistakes are always, <i>always</i> at the beginning of the previous row. That means you don’t stumble across them until the <i>end</i> of the next one, and you have to rip out two rows instead of one.

A purple shawl with a strong diagonal lace pattern

I’ll be honest, there are some rows of this shawl that are a stitch short of a cluster. That’s okay, I can live with that. It’s when I’ve put a gap where a cluster should be, or vice versa, that it has to come out, as there’s no disguising that. Still, it’s served me well as a travel project, and is proof that they don’t have to be small, simple things. Sometimes a more occupying project is just what you need to take your mind off the fact that your bus is stuck in a traffic jam. Again.

[You can buy Abberley on Ravelry, either as a single pattern or, as I did, as part of the book <i>Raw</i>, here

The yarn I’m using is, I think, Spinel from The Yarn Yard, long discontinued. And it’s so long since I wound it that the label is long gone. However, I have pictures on my phone of two skeins of Spinel, I can only find one, and it looks to be about the right colour, so my Sherlockian instincts tell me that’s what it is!]

 

The Crochet Project Project

The idea had been that I’d get these posts up weekly, probably on a Wednesday, to keep myself going and stay up to date. What I hadn’t reckoned on was a) being out of the habit of blogging and b) Winter. My SAD is pretty severe, and my energy levels are low at this time of year. Having overdone it in the garden weekend-before-last, I spent a lot of last week in a brain fog, concentrating on getting the essentials done and resting as much as I could. Apparently that also meant resting from blogging! As I usually have more energy on a Monday, I’m going to try switching to those for posting, and try to stay up to date as much as I can.

No promises.

Continue reading “The Crochet Project Project”

Begin at the beginning. When you can.

View of the tops of clouds over a green mountain top[the view from the top of La Palma]

Starting at the very beginning is, in general, a very good place to start. I’ve always been a fan of New Years Resolutions for myself, and enjoy the process of starting something new. The best thing about New Year is that you get a run up at it, which is also something I’m a fan of. There’s time to figure out what new thing you want to do, and play around with the idea for a while, before actually launching into it.

Works in theory.

In practice, over the last few years, my New Year has begun later and later. This year, I’ve decided on February. That’s from a combination of factors, the most prominent of which was a stressful work time in 2019. Things settled down in the last quarter, but all that did was give me time to be tired, right as my SAD kicked in. Christmas was busy, and all the thinking and planning I was sure I was going to do on holiday in the first week of the year didn’t quite happen. On the plus side, there was quite a lot of sitting and sleeping, which probably did me more good.

All of which is to say, I’m officially starting my 2020 in February. I’m only a month late, right?

In the run up to that, I’ve been thinking about what I actually want my plans to be, which is the pre-planning stage. That comes before the planning stage, and is followed by the post-planning stage. It’s possible I’m more fond of planning than projects, but that’s another blog post.

For this year, one of my goals is to Make More. I have a tremendous craft stash, of fabric, yarn, beads and sundry supplies, and it’s about time I got around to using it. Getting my making-space put together properly will be part of that, and I’ll update you on it as we get it finished. That will make sewing much easier, but for the crochet, I’ve already begun.

Four unfinished crochet shawls in greys and pinks on a table, along with a finished pair of brown mittens.

Why take one project on holiday when your case has room for five?

Both my pattern and yarn stash are a little overwhelming, if I’m honest, and it was difficult to choose where to start. The first decision (this is the pre-planning), was to limit my choices, and the obvious way to do that was by designer. I’ve long been a fan of the work of The Crochet Project, and I own most of their patterns. Given how prolific they are, that’s a lot of crochet! Matching them to my stash, I took five projects with me on holiday, to go with the one I’d already started. The goal was to get each of them to the point where they could be a travel project, rather than a ‘sit down and examine the pattern’ project. I accidentally over-achieved on that front, finishing the mittens in just a couple of days.

Rather than go through everything in detail now, I have a plan for the year. Each week, or fortnight, or month (to be decided in the planning stage), I’m going to talk about a pattern from Jo and Kat that I’ve made, and one that I have in progress. I’ll talk about why The Crochet Project, what the pattern is like to make, and some random odds and ends that have been in my mind for a while, like my favourite crochet stitch and making yarn substitutions. The idea of this isn’t to present some kind of critical study, but a gentle guide. If I struggled with something, I’ll say, but if I have problems, I’ll contact The Crochet Project directly. This is going to be about the stuff I love, and why I think you might love it too.

From above, a crescent-shaped shawl is on a circular table, still connected to seven balls of yarn which sit inside the curve.

I’m working on my arty project pictures.

I’ve already finished enough patterns from The Crochet Project to talk about at least one every month for the next year, and hopefully I’ll have double that number by the end of the year. Or maybe 50% more. Or only one. The idea isn’t to race through everything. The idea is to delve a bit more deeply into why and how I choose things to make, and stitch my way through my stash. I’ll be updating on Instagram as well, with the hashtag #thecrochetprojectproject, and I’ll try to create an index of posts here to bring everything together.

Oh look. Something else that I need to plan. It’s going to be a busy year!

What duck?

Is there anyone, I wonder, who doesn’t like ducks?

These are Indian Runner Ducks, off to work in a vineyard, where they eat the snails that would otherwise destroy the vines. There was also a story recently about someone on a plane with an emotional support duck.

Inspired by this, when I was having a bad day last week, I brought my own emotional support duck, Mr Pond (long story), to work with me.

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Despite this being just to the side of my computer, I managed to hold a five minute conversation with my manager without either of us realising there was a duck there (he didn’t notice, I forgot!). Which made me think of the Duck Man from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels.

“He was accompanied by a perfectly ordinary-looking man in torn, dirty and yet expensive looking clothing, whose pleasant tenor voice was drowned out by the quaking of a duck on his head. He answered to the name of Duck Man, although he never seemed to understand why, or why he was always surrounded by people who seemed to see ducks where no ducks could be.”

Hogfather

In our house, “What duck?” (the Duck Man’s continual question) is the only response when you finally realise something that should have been obvious. It’s what you say when you spent ten minutes searching for the glasses that you are wearing, or when you find the yogurt that was in the fridge all along.

And it’s what I said when I started digging through all my craft supply boxes, trying to get them into some kind of order. Because, in my head, I never have enough quilt wadding. I always need more, and always worry when I start a project that I’m not going to have enough to finished. More must always be bought, and the scraps kept, just in case. So when I decided to set up my Craft Cave, I thought it would be useful to put like with like, and started digging through boxes for the lost scraps of wadding that I knew were out there, but somehow, hadn’t been able to see until now.

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Oh dear. What duck, indeed?

There are, of course, options. I’m going to get some batting seam tape so that I can put together some of the larger pieces to back a medium-sized quilt. Or possibly a large quilt. Maybe one for our kingsize bed.

The other thing I can do is use up the little pieces in smaller projects. There are also a couple of cushion inners that live in this box, so that’s two 12″ squares dealt with. Beyond that, I’m slightly at a loss. Any recommendations for little sewing projects that use small pieces of wadding? Having located it all, I now consider it a challenge!

Making Space

I didn’t know back in February that I was going to take an eight month blogging break, but after I wrote it, somehow, I just didn’t want to write any more. At the time, I’d been feeling disconnected from the crafting community generally, particularly since I took the decision to stop buying yarn back at the start of 2015. Much of the social activity in the woolly world comes with purchasing activity, and as someone who wasn’t buying and didn’t want to put themselves in temptation’s way, I was finding things hard going. So I think I just…stopped. Still Instagramming, but not really wanting to do anything else.

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One summer highlight was a trip to Milan. Wow!

Oddly, since then, I’ve felt much more at home in the crafting world, just as ‘someone who makes stuff’. Not that I’ve been making all that much lately, but I think about it a lot! Interacting on Twitter has been easier than listening to podcasts, and I feel like I’ve found a comfortable place on the edge, looking in. Of course, the February Stoppage came after a tough winter – the last four or five seemed to get progressively worse – and the admission that I just wasn’t coping. A couple of hospital trips, a CFS diagnosis and something of a lifestyle overhaul later, and I’m coming into this winter feeling generally better about things.

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Adding ‘walk dog regularly’ has been a definite improvement! No, he’s not mine – more on that another time.

‘Things’ clearly include this blog. I like writing, and I like talking, and it would be nice to have a space to do these things in again. Not that I’m expecting an easy winter. The darkness is already getting to me, I’m tired a lot of the time and my mood fluctuates with the weather. I’m just hoping that this year, I have a better understanding of what’s going on, what I need and as long as I don’t come down with a whopper of a cold, I’m hoping to get through with minimal hibernation.

Having said that, if I’m looking to avoid hibernation, I probably shouldn’t have built myself an underground den…

Our garage is under the flats where we live, built into the side of the hill. It’s therefore fairly well-insulated and has a cracking radiator that goes from cold to ‘let me take my jumper off’ in about 10 minutes. The garage is also huge, which is useful, as the flats are small. We don’t keep our car in ours, and thereby hung an opportunity.

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It helps that the garage also has a nice view!

One of the lifestyle changes I took this summer was to start running. There are open fields within 5 minutes of the flat, and running there just after dawn in July was a truly magical experience. But I know myself, and more to the point, I know that I hate the rain, and there is no way on earth that I would run in it. So we decided to buy a fairly cheap treadmill (thank you, eBay!), put it in the garage and run there instead. We tried it, we liked it, but it was boring staring at the wall. So I decided to set up an old computer monitor and the DVD player to watch while running. There’s also my Lightbox, so I get my half hour dose of light as well as exercise. Together with a dawn light by the bed (also eBay), it’s making my mornings manageable (not pleasant. No winter mornings are pleasant!)

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The running machine folds up, making it much easier to store.

And then. Well. Once I’d reorganised one part of the garage, it occurred to me that I could just keep going. After all, my sewing machine had lived down here all summer to save space upstairs. And here was a perfectly serviceable desk. And all my crafting supplies that I wasn’t getting through because I couldn’t get at them.

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The boxes on the right represent about 1/3 of my fabric/yarn/general craft supplies. There’s a lot to get through!

And once I realised that, I worked out that, with a little re-shuffling, the pair to our corner armchair that’s been living in a bag for three years would just about fit into the leftover gap.

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I know it’s an odd shape, but it’s great for corners!

It’s not finished yet. I still need a desk chair, some desk storage and other bits and pieces, more of which another day. But as I was setting up that space in the real world, I thought it might be time to come back my virtual space as well. I’ve still got things to blog about, and I suppose I don’t really need a better reason than that, do I?

 

Mittens, yarn and over-enthusiasm

With that over, I have to say, I am head over heels for these mittens. The pattern is <a href=”http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/dappled-mitts”>Dappled Mitts</a> by Shirley MacDonald, who is just about my favourite crochet glove designer. That may sound niche, but I’ve made these, the Celtic Mittens and Fidra mitts (which were my previous favourites), each one of which has been awesome. I’ve got the Pumpkin Mitts pattern to try as well, and Harlequin looks like just the job to finish up some ends-of-balls in my leftovers tin. Suffice it to say, I think she’s an awesome designer.

My first pair of Dappled Mitts were made in my pre-Christmas Crochet fest, and were for my father in law.

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I used up some yarn left over from my mother’s cardigan, and while the slip stitching was hard to get the hang of at first, once I got to the thumb, I was already enjoying the effect. Once I’d made the thumb, I was sold.

Yes, I know it’s strange to <a href=”https://www.instagram.com/p/BBiL3DwNC7a/?taken-by=jadesfire2808″>post a video of your thumb on Instagram</a> (as I did in a fit of wild enthusiasm), but I can’t explain to you just how happy the construction made me. I’m very much a structure person when it comes to crochet. While I’m sucked in by colours and yarns, the thing that really makes my brain spark is a clever construction or a stitch pattern that surprises me. I’ve talked before about being made happy by the elegance of crochet pattern writing, and there’s something of this here. It’s the cleverness of it that delights me, because it makes me feel clever when I make it. And who doesn’t like to feel clever?

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For my second pair, I took a deep breath and wound up my precious skein of Fyberspates Vivacious. I’ve worked with this yarn a few times now, and I absolutely love it. The variegations are beautiful, and it’s got a real spring to it. It’s just a joy to work with, but as I’m still on my strict yarn diet, I knew I had to find a really good project for it – I didn’t want to waste it when I won’t be able to buy more for ages.

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Suffice it to say that Vivacious is a perfect match for slip stitch crochet. If you’ve never done any, I recommend giving it a go, although maybe on something simpler than these mitts unless you’re a confident crocheter. You really do need to mark the stitches at the ends of rows, as they tend to twist and disappear otherwise, and gauge is crucial. I also found that the hook I used made a difference. Trying out Addi’s new Comfort hooks (a bit of a misnomer for me, but that’s another review), I found it really hard going and with my grip, I got hand-strain pretty quickly. So it was back to my trusty Etimos, with their more-but-not-too pointy tips. It made life so much easier and I rocketed through most of one glove in half a day.

But the real high point with these mittens was definitely the thumb. Both times, making it felt like magic. The construction of the mitts works with the yarn, as the small slip stitches let each colour change go on for longer than it would in regular crochet, and it has enough definition to show off the ‘lace’ panels.

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In case you couldn’t tell, I can’t recommend this pattern and this yarn highly enough. If you’re looking for something to stretch you a little without being too challenging (I had the main pattern memorised by the start of the second one), then this is perfect.

I got my copy of the pattern in Inside Crochet 48 (December 2013). It’s not available individually at the moment, but as the issue also contains the fabulous Patricia Shawl (my version here), the Ripples Shawl which is next in my queue and some fab jumpers, I think it might be worth the investment. I’m a ‘tear up the magazine and only keep what I might make’ person, and I’ve kept seven from my copy!

And if you do give it a go, let me know what you think!

Happy New Year

Sometimes, things just go wrong.

Normally I spend the time between Christmas and New Year planning, plotting and getting myself in gear for the year ahead. I know a lot of people don’t like resolutions, but I find having a fixed point in time to do things helpful. It gives me both a good run up and a deadline, both of which I generally need in order to get things done.

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This was my view for most of the last week of December.

In 2015, however, I was felled by a vicious cold immediately after Christmas, and only really started to feel well again in the third week of January. Planning, organising, sorting, list-making, everything went out of the window as I concentrated on surviving and making sure we had enough tissues in the house.

It means I’ve come into 2016 feeling rather adrift compared to normal, but it’s also given me time to think. Being a deadline person, I decided that the Lunar New Year (today!) was going to be the start of my 2016, which gave me a couple of weeks to think about what I wanted to focus on this year.

It’s fair to say that 2015 was pretty grim in many respects. It had happy times as well, but my mental health in particular – and at times my physical health as well – was pretty ropey for long stretches. While there’s nothing I can do to absolutely stop that sort of thing, I can eliminate risk factors as far as possible.

So there’s not going to be a list for 2016, or not a fixed one at least. I have things I want to do, things I’ve started to do, and things I’m stopping doing. Instead, I’m going back to an old plan of picking a word for the year as a sort of guiding principle. The word actually occurred to me back in December and stuck, so it must be the right one.

Value

It’s been hugely helpful over the last few weeks, when I find myself swamped with work or stress or responsibility, or just thinking of everything I could do, and feeling useless because I can’t do all of them. Circling back around to ‘what do I value?’ ‘what is most important to me?’ helps me get some perspective on things. And also valuing myself enough to do (or not do) things, although that one’s much harder. But I’m working on it.

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Awesome Boots that I think will turn out to be my best buy of 2016. More than I would normally spend on myself, and already paid for themselves twice over. VALUE /= CHEAP

With that in mind, I picked a memory verse for the year, which isn’t something I generally do – my church does, and I normally go with that – but with VALUE in mind, this was the first thing that came into my head and it’s stuck too.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21

One of the things that you hear all the time from people who seem to get so much of a particular thing done (running, reading, tv watching, whatever), is that if something’s important to you, you make time for it. While I don’t 100% subscribe to that view, because sometimes responsibilities won’t give way to the things you really want to do, no matter how much you want them to, I think there’s something in it. If I really wanted to start getting fitter, I’d make a point of getting off the bus a stop early. If I really wanted to save up for a new iPad (really, really), I’d stop buying those things I don’t need. Etc, etc.

I hope your 2016 has started well, or that things improve for you if not. One of the things I definitely value is having this space to write and think in, and I’m starting to plan out what I want to do this year. Hopefully I’ll see you around!

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NaBloPoMo #10: the one with more mittens

It’s amazing how deadlines concentrate the mind, isn’t it? I’m a last-minute person and always will be, but even I understood that if I wanted to get presents made for Christmas, I needed to start early. But even so, I’ve sort of surprised myself at how far ahead I am.

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So that’s two of six pairs finished. Go me! (the silver one has a partner, not pictured). A third of the way there on the mitten front, another mitten done and its twin started, and on Saturday, I plan to start the sewing front. The mittens are my own pattern for the silver ones, and my favourite mitten pattern, Fidra, for the sparkly purple ones. It’s going to take a lot of self-control to give these away, I can tell you. There’s enough yarn left for my own silver pair, and I think if I do contrast cuffs, I can squeeze a pair of the Fidras out of the leftover purple. Probably. Oh, and I’ve nearly finished writing up the pattern for the silver ones, so hopefully I’ll get that up early next week. The aqua ones are a slightly adapted version of Idony mittens, as the thumb increases weren’t quite right for me.

That makes everything sound a lot busier than it actually is! There’s been something very soothing and satisfying working on so many pairs of mittens. They’re quick and easy, and you get the FO high much sooner than with my usual lace shawls. I could get used to this.

Alex in numberland

In reading, I’ve started Alex’s Adventures in Numberland. I love maths books in general, and I’ve read Alex Bellos’ writing before, so I know he’s good. The only problem I have is when authors read their own work. Half the time, it brings a whole new dimension to the work and makes a good book great. The other half, it just falls flat, because the person is a writer, not an actor. The jury’s out on this one at the moment. The complexity of the subject means that the reader has to understand quite a lot of maths, but I’m finding some of his delivery a little ‘lectury’, where I’m used to something more natural. So enjoyable, but sometimes hard to follow.

Joining up with Ginny for the Yarn Along as usual.

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NaBloPoMo #9: the one with the grumps

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As with most things, tea and the promise of crochet make things much, much better.

I feared this post might have come out a little cranky, thanks to two semi-related factors. Yesterday, I had it confirmed that I am severely deficient in Vitamin D, which explains a lot of the chronic symptoms I’ve been putting up with for the last few years – the obvious ones and the not-so-obvious. It was the kick I needed to get my eating sorted out, as I’m terrible at choosing things that will make me healthy. Treats are fine, but not if they make up most of your diet! Anyway, I’ll have to tackle the caffeine monster at some point, but for now, I’m just trying the “More fruit, less chocolate” approach and wow, I want a bar of dairy milk more than anything right now. As in, I’d swap you a skein of yarn for a piece at the moment. Ah well, hopefully if I can get over the hump of the first few days, the crazy cravings will die down, the supplements will kick in and hopefully in a few weeks, I’ll start feeling better. Not that I’m sure what that will feel like, but that’s another blog post.

It’s maybe not the best frame of mind to tackle this sort of post in, but at least you know you’re not getting a sugar-coated (heh) version of events!

I blogged last week about making my two day shawl from the ‘Your Mileage May Vary’ pattern in The Shawl Project. That was actually the third shawl I’d made from the book, and undoubtedly my most successful. The other two aren’t failures, but I’m not 100% happy with them, thanks to some yarn decisions I made when I started. Neither are disastrous, and as I’m a person who learns best from mistakes, I thought it was worth blogging them both for future reference.

The first shawl I finished from the book was the first one in the book, Never Black.

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My iPod hasn’t done a bad job of the colour, although it’s a little blue here. In real life, it’s a strong, bright purple

I chose it because it looked the most challenging, and at the time, I wanted something to stretch me a little. After auditioning three or four different yarns, none of which quite worked for the combination of large lace and dense edging, I settled on this stunningly colour of Colinette Jitterbug. It had been in my stash for ages, and after unsuccessfully trying to turn it into colourwork gloves last year, I decided it was time to make into something I’d actually wear.

The result is lovely. The yarn has great stitch definition, and the colour is perfect. The only problem is the gauge. Jitterbug is a heavy 4ply/sports weight yarn, not the 4ply recommended in the pattern. That meant that to get drape, I had to go up a few hook sizes. That meant that I didn’t have enough yarn for all the repeats, and the resulting scarf is a little on the short side. I do have more Jitterbug, in an eye-watering pink that goes wonderfully with the purple, so I’m currently pondering unravelling the last row, and adding the rest of the repeats in pink. But I’m not sure if that would just look really strange! This scarf goes well under a winter coat, as it’s not too bulky and is actually quite nice for our current mild autumn. As much as I’d get more wear from something longer, I have a feeling that pink ends would make it look rather odd.

Gauge was also my issue with my other shawl from The Shawl Project, although this time, I’m not 100% sure what went wrong. I always seem to have problems with half-circle shawls, in that the top edge is never straight. Despite blocking, there’s still a ripple to my Cherry Pi, and it doesn’t really look much like other people’s.

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I think a second problem is the yarn. This lovely bamboo/merino from The Knitting Goddess has very short runs of colour, which make it great for knitting but tricky for crochet. The runs are just a little short, and end up looking splodgy rather than interesting (at least to my eyes!). Something definitely went wrong with this shawl, as it’s incredibly open lace compared to other people’s, and while it’s okay, it’s ended up neither nowt nor summat. It’s a bit short, a bit open, and while it has amazing drape, I’m left with the feeling that the yarn and pattern just weren’t meant to go together. You can see in the picture how off my gauge was – it won’t even lie flat!

I want to try it again in something woollier that will have better density and hopefully a longer length. Not that I’ve given up on this one yet – it’s going in with my summer clothes to see if I’ll wear it next year. I actually have a sneaking suspicion that the main problem is that I don’t really get on with semi-circular shawls, in which case it will be frogged to become something I’ll actually use. Interestingly, looking at the pictures from The Crochet Project, my shawl is closer to theirs – very light and lacy. So maybe it’s just that everyone else is doing it wrong!

Neither of these shawls are failures, they just don’t quite work as intended. It happens to all of us, I’m sure, and hopefully by thinking about what went wrong, I won’t make the same mistakes next time! After all, there are new mistakes to be made all the time.

NaBloPoMo #8: the first one with the shawl

I fell a bit behind on the blogging schedule last week, thanks to managing to put my back out again, this time leaning down to put cake on a table. Cake! I ask you! Who knew it was so dangerous?

Anyway, this week, we’re going to do a bit of catching up, mostly with things that I’ve actually finished. There’s been a lot of shawls over the last couple of months, none of which I’ve managed to blog, and most of which I absolutely love.

Let’s start with the biggest and work our way down.

Way back over the summer, the lovely Louise of KnitBritish ran a Hapalong. Now, there aren’t many crochet hap patterns, and as I’m on a NO YARN BUYING kick, I couldn’t just pick a pattern and get suitable yarn. I had to work from the stash backwards, and there just wasn’t anything there that would have worked. Besides, I wanted something more like a traditional hap, with a proper centre, lace edge and border. So I did what anyone would do under those circumstances. I designed my own.

Before I go any further, no, there isn’t a pattern for this. I made it up as I went along, and a lot of my numbers totally failed to work. Do as I say, not as I do!

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This was the point at which I realised I might have taken on a bigger project than expected…

I had three precious skeins of Babylonglegs merino/silk, which is luscious and wonderful, and the colours worked perfectly together. The inspiration for the hap came from Aestlight, and I decided I would have a solid centre, a similar lace border, and a wavy edging. The centre was simple enough, and despite original plans to work top-down, doing the maths from a swatch, I quickly realised that it really didn’t matter and it was going to be much, much easier to work from the point upwards until I ran out of yarn! I worked my favourite half-trebles, increasing at each end of the row to make a fairly regular triangle, which I then blocked to make sure I got the maximum size for the edging.

2015-06-02 12.55.55

After a little experimentation, I added a black border, to give a base for the lace to work from. Ah yes, the lace. As you can see above, I did try to count out the base stitches so that I could do the maths in advance. While it looked pretty, I gave it up as a lost cause and decided to wing it!

The basic stitch pattern came from the wonderful Encyclopedia of Crochet by Donna Kooler (can’t recommend highly enough), but it was for a square, not something that needed to increase at both ends. I’d love to say that I sat and worked it out, but I absolutely and totally didn’t. I fudged it, and was rather lucky to get away with it. The point is a little uneven, but aggressive blocking solved most of the problem, and I’m delighted with the overall effect. I added a final row of open chain spaces and that gave me something to anchor the ripples on.

2015-06-19 19.28.28

The poor hap languished on the WIP pile for a while, until the numbers decided to behave themselves…

Let’s not look too hard at the ripples, shall we? It’s just as well that they’re dead easy to work, as it took me 4 or 5 goes to find an exact pattern I was happy with, and even now, the top edge of the shawl isn’t quite straight despite Extreme Blocking (seriously, I don’t think there was a pin unused in my entire house). But as you can see below, it was worth it.

Before:2015-08-26 21.35.05

After:
2015-08-27 22.06.53

But none of that really matters. Because it is simply wonderful to wear. It’s about twice the expected size, warm, soft and immensely snuggly. Despite a few years’ experience, I still buy into crochet myths. Yes, dense crochet fabric does use more yarn than dense knitting, but not twice as much. And in lace, there isn’t much to choose between them! But I’m glad I didn’t realise how big it would get, because I would have been put off and not ended up with such a lovely, beloved shawl.

I haven’t decided yet whether it’s my favourite make of the year, but it’s definitely up there. I’m even considering writing up the pattern, although I have a feeling that’s going to take me almost as long as the shawl itself!

2015-08-28 19.02.28