Spice Mix: the final flourish!

The Spice Mix blanket is finished and I am soooooo pleased with it! Goodness me, it seems quite a time ago that I started out with a few vague ideas and basket of yarn but what a lovely and rewarding journey it has been.

In a way, it’s a bit sad not to have any more to do but at least it is all done and dusted in plenty of time to deliver in February. I have made it as a wedding anniversary gift for our beautiful daughter V and her lovely husband T. Now I know that a wedding anniversary is a celebration for the couple in the first instance but as parents, their wedding was such a happy and special milestone for us that we love to celebrate, too . . . and why not? I’ve never understood why everyone waits for the Big 25 to come round when surely every year of marriage is worthy of celebration?  We give gifts each year and as this one is five years, I wanted something a little bit special. It’s a lovely tradition and who knows what I’ll have planned by the time they celebrate 30 years (our most recent ‘biggy’)?!!! 🙂

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So, to my blanket journey. I should start by admitting that I know the fifth wedding anniversary is wood not wool (that’s seven years) but given my utter lack of skill with hammer and saw, I think everyone concerned will be grateful at my deliberate misreading of the word! When I was looking for inspiration, all things Moroccan kept popping into my mind. I think this was partly because V and T have a Moroccan-themed sitting room and being a practical sort of Mum, I wanted to create (I hope) an enhancement rather than embarrassment. I was also keen to capture the rich, warm colours that sang out on their wedding day – the deep wine red of her cloak, the bright sunny orange of his buttonhole, the golden flash of newly-exchanged rings . . .

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I’ve written posts about the blanket progress as I went along so without more ado, I’ll fast-forward to the edging.  I have to admit I wasn’t too sure what I wanted except that it definitely wasn’t going to be too fancy or involve many colours; I felt there was more than enough going on in those squares and I really didn’t want to over-egg this particular pudding. I started out with a round of treble stitches in Stone, densely packed into every stitch; this pulled everything into shape and formed a good, sturdy foundation for the rest.

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I followed that with a second round of the same, wanting to create a reasonably deep frame for the tiled pattern. Sitting with the weight of the blanket spread across the kitchen table, I was reminded of the winter months five years ago when – on the same table but in another house and different country – I sat and sewed V’s bridal gown, velvet cloak and three bridesmaids’ dresses. Everything was swathed in sheets to protect from dust as R literally renovated the house around me. Happy days, lovely memories! Back to the edging, and in the final round of Stone I opened it up a little by working a treble and chain space into alternate stitches.

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The penultimate round was worked in Camel, subtly darker than the Stone, and here I made two treble stitches into the chain spaces to create small ‘V’ shapes. For the final flourish, loops of chain stitches worked in Claret, to give the merest hint of lace. All done!

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I must confess, when I chose the colours the only one I wasn’t too sure about was Pomegranate. It was certainly a bit of a wild card but in the end, I’m glad I went for it because it lifts those squares and stops the finished blanket taking itself too seriously. After a quick photo shoot, it was time to wrap the blanket carefully and store it ready for delivery.

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After the fun of my emergency crochet Christmas card moment, I’m having a little play with ideas for an anniversary card, hopefully with a more relaxed time to create something (and there will be five hearts, of course!).

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So what now? Well, 2013 was a very exciting year for us as both our daughters were married within several months of each other so it’s time to start planning the next anniversary gift blanket for S and G. I’m calling this one September Bouquet and here’s my inspiration . . .

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My original thought was to focus mainly on the sunflowers, but closer study of the whole bouquet that S carried (and the beautiful blue skies on the day) has opened my mind to a swirl of colours and ideas. In fact, I’ve gone so totally overboard with my plan that it already involves 20 colours!

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First, I must finish crocheting my wedding wrap and then I can order the yarn and begin my next exciting blanket journey. Can’t wait to get started. Hope you will join me! 🙂

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Bits and pieces

It’s been a bits and pieces sort of week, really. I’ve found myself seriously distracted from yarny things, mostly by the call of the garden and our lovely new polytunnel which has needed much attention. Still, I’ve managed a few bursts on hook, needles and wheel here and there, and (so far!) I’ve managed to stick to my priority list. My lovely wool parcel arrived in the post and I’ve even succeeded in not to start my birthday blanket, although it is so tempting . . . those gorgeous colours . . . that mesmerising ripple stitch . . . the lure of a shiny new project . . .  no, no no!

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So, up to the attic went the bag of yarn which did at least remind me to have a rummage in my fleece box and choose something for my Finnish spinning project. I’ve been thinking Merino and I have now made that my definite choice.

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Why? Well, for starters it is such a fine wool and very soft to wear against the skin, so these skeins can be turned into any kind of garment without worrying about wool itch. Next, it’s beautiful to spin: it’s often cited as being a bit tricky as the fibres are relatively short, but I’ve never had a problem with it and there is a lovely even crimp that results in a lofty yarn. Although it is a sheep breed very much associated with the southern hemisphere today, it was originally bred in Spain so seems like a very apt choice. Finally, it dyes well so I should be able to have some fun with colours. Plenty of time to mull that one over, but as always I’m feeling the pull of nature; I know the Finnish landscape is fairly monochrome at present but the summer photos burst with blues and greens of lakes and forests, the vibrant reds and pinks of whortleberries and cloudberries, the wildflowers, fungi, butterflies . . . mmm, beautiful, inspiring stuff! Where to start?

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A very wet morning a couple of days ago called an end to the gardening so I decided it was time to dye (not quite as dramatic and final as it sounds!). It’s the first time my dyeing kit has been out for many, many months so I was very excited. I love hand dyeing: it is so unpredictable, you never quite know what’s going to happen. For instance, last year I dyed this Perendale top and was really chuffed with the outcome.

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Then, I tried to recreate it with a skein of Kent Romney I had blended with kid mohair and spun for socks. This is what happened . . .

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Mmm, not really what I’d been hoping for. At the time, I felt it was something to do with lack of heat from our old wood stove – the dye just didn’t strike quickly enough – and this week’s experiment on our new super-warm stove suggests that was definitely the problem. (By the way, that yarn wasn’t wasted: it  knitted up into a great pair of hiking socks, I just missed the distinct blues and yellows that should have been there.)

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So, this week’s job was to dye a couple of skeins of Jacobs for W’s teddy bear and orange had been requested as it’s his favourite colour.

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With a decent heat under the dye pot, the colour struck straight away and the dye bath was exhausted in under twenty minutes.

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Job done, and the colour is so incredibly bright! Something else I love about hand dyeing is the variety of shades it creates, even when dyeing in a single colour.

There is a happy variation of light and dark orange which will create an interesting effect in the knitted bear. . . perhaps I should call him Tangerine Ted?

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Tempted though I am to start knitting the teddy, I’m being very disciplined and resisting until I have finished the socks. I’m getting there; a couple of evening sessions and the second one will be done. I have at least got beyond the point I did last time when the knots appeared, so fingers crossed for the rest. I haven’t done a great deal of knitting this week because . . .

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. . . my extra ball of Stone yarn arrived and I’ve been sooooo excited at the thought of finishing the Spice Mix blanket. The edging had just been a vague idea in my mind so it’s been lovely to put it into practice and watch the magical transformation from a collection of squares to a proper blanket taking place.

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I’ve nearly finished . . . more next time! 🙂

 

 

New Year’s Yarn

I’ve never really been one for resolutions, especially at the beginning of January. If I decide I’m going to do something then I tend to just get on with it, regardless of the time of year. However, where my woolly antics are concerned, I did set myself a couple of challenges in 2017. The first was to learn some new skills and improve some old ones, too; in particular, I wanted to crack crochet after many years of dabbling. The second was to try and keep my ongoing projects down to a manageable number. Ha! The problem was that I fell in love with crochet and the world of colourful blankets so much that my pile of projects actually grew . . . so that didn’t work, then! I am making no promises this year but wanting to start in an organised fashion, I decided to empty my baskets and prioritise current projects as well as make a few plans for new things during the year.

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Socks: this is my second attempt at knitting a pair of socks for a special gift. The sensible peeps at Laughing Hens didn’t want me to return the faulty ball of King Cole Zig Zag yarn so, as I really don’t like waste, the obvious thing was to carry on and finish the second sock. Poor thing, it will always be an ugly duckling compared to its partner: just look what a grubby mess the pattern became after the second knot – that was definitely the end of matching the stripes all the way to the toe.

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Still, if nothing else the socks are truly warm and serviceable and should be fine stuffed into walking boots or wellies. They have had a lovely adoption offer for just those purposes so soon they will be winging their way to a new home and a happy ending to this sad story.  🙂

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Meanwhile, the replacement ball of yarn arrived in the post. As the ‘Spring Meadow’ colour scheme was out of stock, I had opted for ‘Heathers’ instead; I like this combination of colours and the pattern, and the first sock has knitted up quickly (thank goodness for that, I’m way behind with this project).

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So far, so good – not a knot in sight.

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Spice Mix Moroccan blanket: I definitely need to finish this in time to deliver it in February and I think I should make that comfortably. The extra ball of Stone yarn is in the post and should arrive early next week; in the meantime, I’ve finished the vertical joins and started on the horizontal ones. It’s really taking on the shape and weight of a proper blanket now so I’m having to work at the kitchen table instead of on my knee but the slip-stitching is a gentle, relaxing activity and my mind has plenty of time to plan the edging: nothing too fancy but maybe a little flourish in the last round?

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Teddy for W: here’s another project I’d like to deliver next month but there was absolutely no chance of that happening while the Jacobs fleece was sitting unspun and undyed in my spinning basket. I’ve had a real push this week, sending R to sleep in the evenings with the clickety-clack of my old wheel. I am pleased with the first 100g skein, it has a solid feel and chunky texture which seems just right for a Little Chap’s bear, but the yardage worries me so I’m making the second skein 150g in the hope that will be plenty. The singles are done, so now for plying and then out with the dye pot. Will I make February? Mmm, not sure.

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Lacy wedding wrap: oh my goodness, it seems like ages since I did anything with this beautiful, beautiful yarn! As soon as the blanket is finished, this will definitely be my only crochet project until it’s finished. I know the wedding isn’t until July, but better to have it done and dusted (especially as the trickiest bits are yet to come) in plenty of time rather than go into panic mode mid-June.

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Bamboo yarn project: when I was skeining the Jacobs, I suddenly remembered the bamboo sock project I abandoned some months ago. It seemed sensible while I had my niddy-noddy to hand to undo the sad sock and skein the yarn; dunked in a bowl of hot, soapy water the crimps disappeared like magic. This is a truly lovely yarn but I don’t think socks are the right idea for it and given the gauge issues I had, I’m tempted to look for a 3-ply rather than 4-ply pattern. I have a couple of things in mind so let’s see what happens.

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Phew! Baskets cleared.  Admittedly, there is the small matter of my Granny Patchwork blanket, but that’s an ongoing ‘using up scraps’ activity so I’m in no rush to finish. It will wait for me. So . . . what else for this year?

September Bouquet blanket: top of my list is another gift blanket, this time for September. Like the Spice Mix blanket, I really want this to be my own design so I’ve already begun to think about ideas. I need to start messing around with a few motifs but the yarny runesticks have been out for a play. Have a peep at my palette . . . oooooooooo, I’m very excited about this one!

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Spinning: there is a long-standing spinning promise that I would love to finally honour this year, a couple of skeins of beautiful wool to send to Scandinavia. I need to give it some careful thought, but I’m tempted by the idea of pure Merino spun to sock weight then dyed in vibrant blues, pinks and purples. I’d also like to get back to my exploration of British wool breeds in sock yarns; in particular, I have some South Down fleece waiting patiently for attention. Having seen these splendid sheep on our walks with S and A on the (strangely enough) South Downs, I’m interested to see how their fleeces behave – the one thing I do know is that they are fantastic for dyeing. Finally, I have some cotton to try spinning for the first time. Oh my, that will need a deep breath and sense of humour . .  . the words ‘short fibres’ and ‘long draw’ are the stuff of spinning nightmares for me. Still, if I end up with a big ‘thick and thin’ thing going on I can always call it art yarn (and promptly turn it into some not so arty dishcloths!).

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‘Northern Lights’ sock yarn dyed last year . . . it’s definitely time to do some more.

Birthday blanket: ah, now this is a truly lovely one – the blanket project I have bought using my birthday voucher which is currently somewhere in the international postal system. I can’t start it until the September blanket is finished, so it may well be the autumn before I begin . . . but that really doesn’t matter, because in the meantime I will be happy just to drool over the gorgeous sweet pea colours (of which more later).

Will there be other projects? Undoubtedly! R commented on me having woolly stuff everywhere last week which started me on a major protest until I realised he was absolutely right. Several baskets in the kitchen? Yes. A box of spinning fleece in the attic? True, although that is my only real stash as such. Certainly something in the horreo? Um, yes – but in my defence, M’lud, I think that box only has my sewing machine in it, although on second thoughts . . .  A big bag of woolly business on top of the wardrobe? Ah, that would be the ongoing Granny Patchwork. Probably something in the post? Darn it, guilty as charged.  Oh well, I think I’m incurable – so here’s to a very happy new year of yarn messing! 🙂

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Christmas spice

Christmas day, a few quiet crochet moments . . . and suddenly, my blanket squares were finished, all 72 of them! It seemed strange after several weeks working away in fits and starts to have reached this point at last.

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I have to admit, as I worked towards the last couple of bundles I was growing quite concerned that I wouldn’t have enough of some colours to be able to finish. I changed my approach at that point, realising that as the border colour is the same as the centre, it was more important to work those in the right colour than worry about the third colours too much. In the end, I just scraped in with all but the Pomegranate, having to change two third colours for Camel instead  – in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think it will matter. I didn’t use Camel for the centre colour so there is obviously more of that left but otherwise, only tiny scraps – not even enough for any Patchwork Granny blanket squares. Now that really pleases my frugal soul!

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The tangerine is there to give an idea of scale.

Then came the real fun: piecing the blanket. This definitely needed space so I cleared furniture, washed the floor, rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in. Having watched A sort out the third colour sudoku like a pro, I really hadn’t been looking forward to this bit at all; it’s so hard to achieve ‘random’ and maintain a pleasing colour balance at the same time. Honestly, you need about 42 eyes. I laid out eight strips of nine squares fairly randomly, then  – down on my hands and knees –  swapped squares in and out of strips until I felt the colours were distributed as evenly as possible. At the very least, no two with the same border colour (and therefore, centre)  are adjacent or diagonal from one another. It would be so easy to spend hours agonising over the final design but seeing as I was blocking a main thoroughfare in the kitchen and R was trying to plaster walls around me, I decided to make it snappy. I think it will do.

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To keep everything in the right order, I gathered up strip by strip with the first square on top and tied each with a different coloured yarn so that Pomegranate is Strip 1, Mocha is Strip 2 and so on. I also made a note of which would be the top left square; once the blanket’s finished, it doesn’t matter which way round it is but while I’m constructing it, I don’t want to turn it upside down by mistake!

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The only decision I had made about joining from the outset was that I wanted to edge every square then join in Stone, so that the squares would be well-defined- a bit like tiles and grout, I suppose! I toyed with the idea of using a flat braid join as it is so pretty and decorative, very in keeping with the Moroccan theme . . . but in the end, those were exactly the reasons why I decided against it. The squares are intricate enough and really don’t need any embellishment, otherwise there is a danger of the whole design becoming ‘too much.’

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I played around with a few joining ideas but in the end came down to the simplest of all: slip-stitching the edges together. This creates a plain, robust join which is slightly raised and adds a pleasing bit of texture. I’m working down the vertical joins, a whole strip at a time; once the first two strips were done, this means I can edge another bundle of nine squares then join them –  ringing the changes like that stops me getting bored and I can watch the blanket grow as I go. Slip-stitching is a lovely, gentle activity, just perfect for a little brain relaxation after the intensity of the square design.

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The only worry I have now is whether I have enough Stone to finish the joins and work a border: I ummed and aahed when I was ordering the yarn – two balls or three? – but decided to risk two in the end. It hasn’t taken too long to realise three would have been the better option! I really need to finish this blanket by February and the extra yarn order will set me back a week (especially given the holiday season) so there’s nothing for it but to just crochet away like a mad thing until I either run out of yarn or the parcel arrives. As I had a very generous birthday voucher for Wool Warehouse and just the project to spend it on, I couldn’t help but order another pile of yarn while I was at it . . .  well, I do like to keep the postman busy. Happy New Year! 🙂

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It’s knot funny!

I am generally a calm, easy-going sort of person. I don’t tend to fuss too much or make a drama out of life’s little ‘moments’ and I certainly don’t get upset around my yarn activities: they are supposed to be there as relaxation, after all. This week, however, I do have to confess to a bit of a cross patch. Remember those King Cole Zig Zag ‘Spring Meadow’ socks I started knitting on our travels last month?

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The first sock knitted up beautifully and (after a bit of a knitting break) I was nearly down to the heel flap on the second when a knot appeared in the yarn. Now knots are irritating at the best of times, but at least in straight knitting I can unravel back to the edge and get rid of them there. That’s impossible when knitting in the round, so the knot had to stay and despite all my best efforts, left an unsightly hole on the right side and an uncomfortable little nub inside – which is not really what you want in a sock. I knitted on for another couple of rounds when lo and behold – there was another knot. 😦 Grrrr!

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Knot on the inside . . . 
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. . . hole on the right side.

At this point, I had already decided there was no way I could give these socks as a gift; I have tried so hard to make a good job of them, taking great care with the heel flap and gusset and making sure the stripes on both socks matched exactly. Well, that was about to go out of the window anyway . . . where the yarn had been joined, the pattern had been completely disrupted. The next pink and olive stripes were virtually non-existent and all of a sudden there was a solid block of burgundy which hadn’t appeared anywhere else in the pattern.

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Where did that burgundy come from?
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What happened to the pink and green stripes? So much for a matching pair.

Honestly, I felt so frustrated and disappointed. If the socks were for me, I’d just carry on but I was making these with love for someone special and now I have to start again. I don’t normally complain, but I did contact King Cole who told me to go back to the retailer and return the yarn; the upshot is that the lovely people at Laughing Hens (who I rate very highly) have dispatched a replacement ball and don’t want the yarn back as it would cost so much to post. Second time lucky, I hope!

All the socks I knitted last year were from my own homespun, hand-dyed skeins of different wool breeds, silk and kid mohair. I’m beginning to think perhaps I should have stuck to them: they take a long time to make, but at least I know I can knit up 100g of yarn without a single knot! It’s tempting, but I have imposed a ban on starting any new spinning projects until I have finished the wool for Little W’s teddy, so this week I blew the dust off my old wheel and had did a little more. I’ve almost finished the second 50g bobbin and then I think I’ll ply the first 100g skein before spinning more singles as I’m interested to see what finished weight it will be  – I suspect somewhere between double knitting and aran. For a commercially combed top I have to say it’s not the cleanest I’ve ever used but no, I’m not going to put in another complaint! The wool will be washed several times before its final incarnation as Mr Bear and Jacobs is such a perfect spinners’ fleece that I am just very happy to be using it.

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I’m still having a lovely time working on the Spice Mix blanket; I haven’t made any decisions about joining or edging but the little bundles of centres are dwindling and the pile of finished squares is steadily growing. Just four third round colour bundles to go and then the fun of piecing begins.

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I haven’t sent Christmas cards for some years now, not because I’m  a Scrooge but as I try to live my life by green principles I like to send wildlife / nature e-cards which are far kinder to the environment. This week, however, I realised that we needed one proper card for someone who is very special and very poorly. No question of going to buy one: we live miles from the shops – which is why we only venture out every couple of weeks or so – and anyway, they are not easy to come by here as Spain doesn’t have that crazy card-for-every-event culture. I decided to make one and soon found the pack of blank cream cards I keep just for that reason . . . but I couldn’t put my hand on the box of crafty bits and pieces I needed to go with it. What to do? Sitting and looking at a beautiful hand-painted birthday card I had received, I wished (not for the first time in my life) that I was artistic. I cannot draw for toffee; in fact, my complete inability to draw anything has entertained many classes of children in the past and I am quite sure my poor little machine-mad grandsons will never ask me to draw them a combine harvester again. After much heaving and sighing and head-scratching, inspiration dawned: I am hopeless with a pencil and paintbrush but where textiles are concerned, I can turn a trick or two. Could I crochet a card? I ran through several simple motif ideas – stocking, candle, bauble, star, snowflake – but in the end, as always, it was the natural beauty around me that appealed the most.

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We are lucky to have swathes of holly in our wood, dark and glossy below the chestnuts and eucalyptus. It is a protected species here and cutting it or damaging it in any way is against the law. It doesn’t bother me that I can’t bring it in as festive greenery; I’m quite happy to walk through the woodland and enjoy it in its berried glory. This was surely the most appropriate theme for my card.

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So down to the (k)nitty-gritty: was it possible to crochet holly? Well, after a bit of messing about with yarn scraps, yes, it was; it’s rather basic and would probably have been prettier and less naive with more time – I really need to get myself more organised in future – but it gave me a lot of pleasure to make and something I’ll bear in mind for future card emergencies.

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The main thing is that it was made with much love and woven with warm Christmas wishes to send across a thousand miles. Who needs a paintbrush? 🙂

 

 

 

 

Spice Mix 3

I truly love to take my basket outside for a few minutes each day, preferably with a mug of tea or coffee; it is such a pleasant thing to do, sitting with my hands busy and mind quiet, listening to the gentle sounds of the valley below.

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In the last week, though, there were several days when the weather wasn’t really kind enough and my basket had to stay put indoors. There has been a little touch of winter here, the distant peaks glistening in their covering of snow and a crisp frost sparkling much closer to home. In the Little Mountain House, we are wonderfully snug and toasty as the warmth from the stove wraps around us like a cosy blanket. The air has been full of the sweet scent of wood smoke and tantalising smells of baking: granola, walnut and seed bread, pear streusel cake, baked lemon cheesecake, mince pies . . . delicious treats to share with our special weekend guests. Between baking sessions, I hooked away happily and slowly, slowly the pile of blanket blocks grew and grew until all 72 second colours were done.

Time then to plan the third round colours and I was so very grateful to have A’s help: she has an artist’s eye for colour and loves the challenge of solving puzzles. We laid the ten balls out on the table and began sorting the blocks. The only stipulation I had was that the third colour in each block had to be different to the two already used but A went a step further and set out to organise the blocks so that in each row, no two centre colours were the same. Yes, she certainly loves a challenge! It was like doing a giant colour sudoku and fascinating to watch, but after a bit of swapping about here and there, it was done.

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I then used the same idea as before, piling the blocks into bundles and tying them with a length of third colour yarn to keep them together – I really wouldn’t want to have to do all that colour sorting again, especially as A has flown home.

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The third colour is my least favourite part of this willow block pattern. The first round is all chain lengths that leave everything feeling lax and floppy somehow, until the next round starts to pull it all back in. The best bit, though, is that as the fourth colour is a repeat of the first one, I can go on and finish the whole block and that makes me very happy. I really am not a natural at the production line approach to blanket building!

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The completed blocks are starting to give me a real feel for how the finished blanket will look. The second colour is certainly the most strident and therefore the one I will need to pay special attention to when it comes to piecing the blanket (maybe I can persuade A to visit again?). Every block will have a border in Stone, but I’m resisting the temptation to work those at this stage; I’m still very undecided as to which joining method I am going to use so I want to keep my options open. In the meantime, I am simply enjoying those warm colour combinations: here are all seven blocks with Spice as their third colour.

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On the subject of spice, I have been given a wonderful book for my birthday. It is called Fifty Plants That Changed The Course Of History by Bill Laws and is the most fascinating thing I have read for a long time. It is full of so many things I love: horticulture, history, science, anthropology, food, folklore, herbal medicine . . . and chapters about cotton, hemp, bamboo, mulberry and indigo mean there is some textiles soul food in there for me, too. I find myself dipping in and out of the beautifully illustrated pages, the ones about spice and citrus plants seeming particularly meaningful just now!

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The good news on the weather front is that the cold snap has passed, the days are bright and the air is warm and soft once again. The garden beckons – ah, not with a crochet hook but a hoe! – and so it is time to leave blanket and book until the dark hours and turn my face to the sun for a while. 🙂

 

 

 

Spice Mix 2

The anticipation of opening my Spice Mix parcel and revelling (I hoped!) in the gorgeous colours was almost too much. That done, the sensible course of action would have been to leave well alone until we were home and I could make a steady, organised start on my new project. Right, like that was ever going to happen. Give me a new bag of yarn and I am like the proverbial child in a sweet shop, I just cannot keep my impatient little paws out of it. Let’s face it, I knew even before we left home that the Moroccan Spice Mix blanket would be started on the return journey so better to accept the inevitable and make a few preparations in readiness.

First, I sat down with a coffee and wrote the pattern out into my travelling notebook, then chose three of the Spice Mix colours that I already had as scraps sitting in my Granny Patchwork basket.

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Next, I made one square following my scribbled instructions to make sure I’d copied it all down correctly. I left the ends dangling without any trimming as the next job was to weigh the finished square.

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Finally, time to measure and check that it really was square. Phew!

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The point of all this was that I could start the outline blanket plan which would then mean I could start the blanket once I had my pack of yarn. I’ve always enjoyed maths so I love this part of the proceedings. At 12g each, I should be able to squeeze eight squares per 100g ball which would give me roughly 80 from ten balls. I settled on the idea of a 9 squares x 8 squares rectangular blanket which should be perfect as a sofa throw. Each square measures 14.5cm which will become 15cm with an extra round in the border colour, giving me 135cm x 120cm plus whatever depth of edging I opt for. That all seemed tickety-boo to me.

Now for the not-so-smiley part. I prefer to make blanket squares a whole square at a time, working through all the rounds and all the colours and ending up with a finished square. There was so much pleasure making the Granny’s Flower Garden baby blanket in that way, where every colour selection was completely random and the little squares steadily built up into a bigger and bigger pile. This project, however, needs a far more organised and methodical approach if I am going to ensure a balance of colours in the finished article. I had chosen ten colours for the blocks (Saffron, Spice, Camel, Pomegranate, Claret, Tomato, Gold, Parchment, Mocha and Copper) plus an eleventh (Stone) for the borders only.

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In short, I accepted that I would have to work all the centres first, then all the second colours, then all the third colours and borders. One benefit is that it will be easy to memorise the pattern for the couple of rounds I’m working on at a time so things should be pretty speedy; the main advantage is that I can colour plan for a section at a time, to maintain a balance and keep all the squares different. Of course, I could sit down and work the colours out on paper first but quite honestly in the time that would take me I would have half the blanket made. The biggest drawback I anticipated was sheer boredom . . . I’m not so chuffed at the idea of sitting down and working 72 of the same thing over and over, and I’ll miss the fun of seeing each square develop on its own. The only thing for it was to try it and see how I go; who knows, Random Granny could well be back!

So – of course – my new blanket journey started on the ferry home. My goodness, how quickly those first two rounds were worked! The little piles grew and grew; R said they looked like game counters which immediately had my brain whirring with the possibility of creating a crocheted board game for children. Oh, for heaven’s  sake, concentrate on the job in hand . . .

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With eight centres each of nine colours completed, it was time to choose the second round colours. I had deliberately kept Camel out of the first round for a simple reason: the first colour is repeated in the last round and I felt it was too close to the Stone I had chosen for the border. Throwing it back into the mix for the second round meant I would have some colours seven times, others eight; that’s fine by me, as long as there is a balance across the whole blanket I don’t think it matters too much. I lined the balls up, allocated the centres, cut off a length of yarn and then tied the centres in bundles; that way, I can work on a single second round colour at a time. Also, as I don’t have anywhere to leave everything laid out, the little bundles mean I can keep everything tidily in a basket with no danger of a muddle. It also makes things nice and easy to carry around so I can work wherever I choose (the garden always being my favourite spot).

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I love the way the first round of the second colour transforms the centre circle into a starburst. I already have an idea for a future blanket project based on the idea of sunflowers, I just love this shape and effect so much. With the second colour pattern firmly fixed in my mind, those little circles-moving-towards-squares are mounting up quite rapidly and they are so pretty.

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Yep. I’m already in love with this project! 🙂