Third time’s the charm

Another baby, another 12-point star blanket. This is such an easy project to work up, simple to memorize, and I love the way it looks when finished. I’ve previously made this pattern (two ways) with Red Heart It’s a Wrap Rainbow in “foggy” (Levi’s blanket, Sami’s blanket); this blanket is for Mayah, an old friend’s baby girl, and since the package finally made it to her I can blog about it now!

This also uses Red Heart It’s a Wrap, but in their “Sprinkles” line rather than Rainbow. As you can see, Sprinkles is an apt name for it! All those lovely long colour changes are still present, but one of the four strands is variegated, which breaks it up visually and disguises the change-points somewhat. This colourway is called “sundae” and I got it from YarnCanada.ca (that’s not a referral link; they’re just my go-to).

As usual, this blocked up nicely. This is in my tiny little basement craft room, and it’s got almost the last bits of carpet left in our house — which I suppose I can’t get rid of or I’ll have nowhere to dry large projects!

And now that this is finished — both blanket and post — I’m going to take a drink and a book outside and enjoy the sunshine in our backyard. Happy Sunday!

One day this quilt will be all patches

Almost exactly two years ago, I posted about mending our wedding quilt, which I chose to do by employing visible mending. I love the philosophy of making repairs visible; they become part of the item’s story, a testament to the love and care we (hopefully) take with our things. Since that post I have put on a few more patches, using different colours and patterns of fabric from my scrap bin. The process for these is exactly the same: iron, cut, press seams, hoop, stitch, fini. I put on a large block patch over a long rent in the border, and a series of smaller ones that fold over some tattering edges.

Well, the quilt has continued to wear, as these things are wont to do, and it was recently time for another round of repairs. There was one hole I found in the centre of the quilt, but the borders showed a lot more damage. (Which makes perfect sense as those are the parts that get yanked on while making the bed or adjusting the covers during sleep.) And since I was a bit bored of patches, I decided to see what I could do with embroidery. Here is satin stitch covering the tear in the middle:

Another example of satin stitch on the border, as well as some… star shapes? We’ll go with that.

For this long rent, I decided to do a backstitch outline/border around the tears, and fill it in with running stitch. I like the effect of not patching this and letting the batting show through. Time will tell if the running stitches are enough to hold it in place, but I think they’ll do fine.

I did a few small sections (only one pictured) in a loose cross-stitch:

And finally, the part that took the longest: a blobby, backstitched spiral around and onto another large tear. It reinforces the fabric around the tear as well as being decorative.

All of this took me several good evenings of work after the children were in bed. It reminded me how much I enjoy hand sewing, and especially embroidery — which, prior to these repairs, I hadn’t done for probably a good fifteen years. But I’ve got the itch again; I’ve sent off for an embroidery kit, and I’m working on adding some embroidered embellishments to a heretofore rather plain tshirt. That will be revealed when it’s finished — well, at least if it turns out!

Pattern: Easy Child’s Crocheted Ruffle Scarf

This is an easy scarf for the child in your life who loves all things ruffled! It was inspired by the “Mindless Mandala Scarf” from Trifles & Treasures; the biggest difference is that with my pattern you’re only working on one side of the starting chain, which gives a spiral effect.

This works up quickly. I used some Lion Brand Mandala in “Thunderbird” that I had left over after finishing Anselm’s afghan, and I love the effect of the long bands of colour. Between the shape and the stripes, this scarf made me think of turkey tail mushrooms the whole time I was making it.

Anyway, here’s the pattern!

Child’s Crocheted Ruffle Scarf

Abbreviations used:

  • ch = chain
  • sc = single crochet
  • hdc = half-double crochet
  • dc = double crochet
  • st = stitch

Materials: Any 4-weight (worsted) yarn with its suggested hook size; adjust as needed if you’d like a longer or wider scarf.

Foundation: Ch 150.

Row 1: Ch 1, turn, 1 hdc in each ch across

Row 2: Ch 1, turn, 2 hdc in each st across

Row 3: Ch 1, turn, 1 dc in each st across

Row 4: Ch 2, turn, [2 dc in first st, 1 dc in next st], continue across

Row 5: Ch 1, turn, 1 hdc in each st across

Row 6: Ch 1, turn, [2 hdc in first st, 1 hdc in next st], continue across

Row 7: Ch 2, turn, 1 dc in each st across

Row 8: Repeat row 7

Row 9: Ch 1, turn, 1 sc in each st across, fasten off

Happy crocheting!

A few recent crochet pieces

None of these were intensive enough to warrant their own posts, so here’s a quick roundup.

1. Hat for Tertia

I started by following the pattern for this hat from Five Little Monsters, but I got bored/annoyed eight rows in and just freehanded the rest. Yarn was Lion Brand Mandala in ‘Thunderbird’ (left over from Anselm’s afghan) and I used an I/5.5 hook.

She thinks wearing hats is hilarious. It’s the best.

2. Dishcloths!

I wanted better dishcloths so I bought some scrubby cotton yarn and whipped these out over a couple of evenings (not pictured: a few more that are either in use or in the wash). It was a good chance to also get in some practice with changing colours! This is Red Heart Scrubby Cotton in the colourways ‘Sunshine’ and ‘Blissful Print’. I used a G(4.25) hook and they’re all just simple half-double crochet squares.

3. Tertia’s Christmas stocking

Only briefly alluded to in my Christmas-rehash post, here is the thing itself, hung by the chimney with care. Obviously it’s got her real name underneath my hasty scribbles; this was the first year I remembered to do the embellishment before crocheting the two sides together. To absolutely nobody’s surprise, it was much easier that way. Yarns were random basic acrylics from my stash (probably Red Heart and/or Bernat) and I probably used a G hook. Maybe. I don’t know; I just wanted to finish.

Sourdough for a cold kitchen

Remember when I started baking sourdough, earlier on in covidtide? Yeah, me too. It was enjoyable for a while, but I started running into frustrations: having to keep a large amount of starter alive, bakes that didn’t rise like they should, gummy centres. I didn’t like how much mental space it took up as I tried to figure out and execute the perfect timing for each step. It stopped feeling like it was worth it.

But last week, I came across the post in the sourdough subreddit that changed things for me. The author made the point that baking sourdough is something that’s been happening for thousands of years — long before thermometers, fancy le crueset bakeware, or well-calibrated electric ovens. It’s supposed to be easy. She outlined a method where you just mix everything in one step, plop it on the counter for a long rise, and then bake it.

Freaking. Brilliant. After all those months of practicing and experimenting and nit-picking… what finally gave me the perfect rise and crumb was keeping things dead simple, with a tiny amount of starter and a good long rise. It also means that I was able to get rid of my huge tub of starter; now it lives in the fridge in a tiny jelly jar and I only feed it once a week.

I also realised that my kitchen is cold. During the fall and winter, we keep the house at 68F, which does not kill the yeast but definitely slows it down considerably. I had been trying to make sourdough after letting my dough rise on the counter for about six hours. As it turns out, I needed to triple that number. So here is my method for a long, slow rise in a chilly kitchen.

Ingredients:

  • 500 grams flour
  • 20 grams unfed starter (yes: a teeny amount and straight from the fridge!)
  • 10 grams sea salt
  • 355 grams tepid filtered water

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix with your hands until there are no dry spots left.

Do four sets of stretches and folds, spaced 15-30 minutes apart. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise on the counter for 18 hours (I start the process at noon to bake a little after 6 am the next morning).

In the morning, your dough should have at least doubled. Place your baking vessel and lid (I used a casserole dish) in the oven and preheat to 500F.

30 minutes after the oven turns on, preshape your dough on the counter and let it rest.

15 minutes after preshape, do your final shape and pop it into the baking vessel — don’t forget your oven mitts! Turn the oven down to 450 F.

Bake 25 minutes, then remove lid of baking vessel. Bake an additional 25-30 minutes until your crust reaches the desired colour. Turn oven off, and leave bread in the oven with the door cracked for about an hour.

Remove to cooling rack and let finish cooling completely before slicing — this may take a few hours but it will be worth it. Then slice and enjoy!

The blanket so nice I made it twice

Remember the twelve-pointed star blanket I finished a couple of weeks ago? It seems like everything’s coming up babies around here, so I made it again. Same pattern, same yarn, but this time I reversed the colours by working from the outside of the skein instead of the centre.

Once again, this is Red Heart It’s a Wrap Rainbow in the colourway “foggy”, with a G/6 hook. I wish there were a way to let people touch yarn through the computer — it is very fine and soft, and with a larger hook like I used (larger relative to the yarn weight, I mean) it has an incredible drape. It would be a lovely choice for something like a miniature version of the Trio Blanket — which is definitely on my crochet bucket list.

Of the two star blankets, I prefer this version; I find the dark centre and lighter edge more pleasing to the eye than the reverse. But I’m pretty sure that part of my preference has to do with how much quicker and easier the second run through a pattern always is. I’ll be able to make these in my sleep soon.

This blanket is for Sami, who lives next door and is very small and precious.

How a loud bathroom fan triggered an entire second-floor renovation

When we bought our house about a year ago, we had in the back of our minds that we would be renovating at some point. The second floor is very 1970s: green shag carpeting, light fixtures that look just like these, and wood veneer wall panelling everywhere. It’s something else. And as we learned over the course of the year, the room we’re using as the master bedroom (previously an office) is not well insulated, which makes it either the coldest or hottest part of the house, but never in the way you’d want.

Still, a home reno is a pretty major project, and since we’d been assured by several people in the know that the bones of our house are solid, we were pretty content to keep it as a “someday” thing.

Enter the bathroom fan.

This fan is loud, y’all. And it started getting louder, and then it started making an alarming whapwhapcrunch sound when it was running, so I pulled the grate off to have a look. It turns out that the little rubber doohickey — yes, I know technical words — at the end of the fan shaft had cracked, which was letting the fan blades slip down the shaft and hit the metal guard bar. Well, not to worry — the other bathroom fan wasn’t working at all (less of a big deal since there is no shower in there) so I cannibalized that, which more or less worked, at least for a while. 

But while the fans were being fiddled with, we started to wonder: where were the fans venting to, anyway? A thorough examination of the outside of our house revealed part of the answer: wherever they’re venting, it’s not outside. Our next guess: the attic? We called in some qualified types to take a look, a process which involved removing part of the wall in Perpetua’s room because — surprise! — we actually don’t have attic access for most of the house. Why would anyone want that? So silly.

Well, we got into the attic enough to confirm that, spoiler alert, the fans don’t vent there either. A second visit confirmed that they are, in fact, venting into the floor joists between the first and second floors of the house. Ok, that’s not great. So now we’re going to have some fellas come out to install new fans, and run some vents out to the actual outdoors. Great! Of course, they can’t shove blindly through the space for fear of hitting wires and other nasty surprises, so they’ll have to go through the ceilings downstairs. Hmm. Well, we’re planning on replacing the upstairs carpet eventually anyway, so why not go through the upstairs floors instead? It’s settled: they’ll go through the floors.

Meanwhile, of course, we still have a gaping hole in Perpetua’s wall. But since that part of the attic is now accessible we might as well take advantage and get an energy audit done, right? The auditor came and did his thing and the upshot is that we really ought to re-insulate… well, basically everywhere. And if we’re going to do that, we might as well get rid of the panelling and the lovely ancient wallpaper we found covering the drywall:

And of course, since we’re taking the walls down to studs, we might as well do the floor at the same time, right? So long, old carpet! (We can see a tantalizing edge of original flooring under the plywood; in the lower part of the house we found beautiful hardwood beneath the carpet. Will our luck hold true upstairs? It’s too soon to tell.)

We did, however, find the chimney. 

And here ends our first update from renovation-land. I’m sure there will be many, many, many more to come.

Levi’s blanket

Another baby, another blanket — so what else is new around here? This is something I whipped up for my cousin’s little boy, who is due to make his arrival sometime in November.

For this blanket I used Red Heart’s It’s a Wrap Rainbow in the colourway “foggy”, which I really liked. This is my third project using It’s a Wrap Rainbow, and the more I use it, the more I enjoy it. Although it took a little work to get used to using un-plied yarn (which is infinitely more prone to splitting than plied yarn), I’d say that I’m nearly as quick with it as I am with a more conventional yarn now. And those long gradients? Yum yum yum.

The pattern used is from Bella Coco’s “12-Point Star Tutorial” (youtube link), but really it’s just a circular ripple blanket; there are lots of patterns out there. Hook was a G/6, which gave this a nice drape. I finished it with just a row of single crochet all the way around to give it a bit of an edge (the plan was to do two rows, but I didn’t have quite enough left in the skein to make it work).

My special thanks to Tertia, who did a quality control inspection for me before I blocked it (six-month-old for scale):

And now that this is finished — well, I still have to mail it, but you know — I guess it’s about time to start my Christmas crocheting. Yikes. Winter is coming, crafters.

Virus baby blanket

I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy to finish a crochet project in my life.

 

This is a “virus” pattern baby blanket made for a baby girl at church, due to make her arrival next month. I like the pattern ok; it’s identical to a virus shawl except for the setup rounds, so it took very little concentration. I like the colours ok; they remind me of a soft summer sunrise. But I am never, never, never using this yarn again.

This was made with Lion Brand’s Big Scoop yarn in the colourway “Parfait” and it was infuriating. I should have remembered that, because this is actually the third project I started with the same skein (the first two got frogged). Nearly every time I pulled a length of yarn, I got a tangled mess of yarn barf from the middle. Some of the tangles were so bad I actually had to cut the yarn (three times!!) because I couldn’t get them undone. ALSDKFGDLFKJGFDLJGSDFG.

 

One thing I am pleased with is the little flower I self-drafted to embellish the centre. It was just pale blue mass, so I thought I needed a little something. Here is the pattern for anyone who is interested:

Quick Crochet Flower

Chain 4, join with slip stitch to make round. Single crochet 7x in the round. Join with slip stitch, chain 1, turn.

2 single crochets in each single crochet below (14 stitches total). Join with slip stitch.

Chain 5, turn. Skip stitch, join with slip stitch to following single crochet below. Chain 5, skip stitch, join to following stitch as above. Repeat until end of round, join with slip stitch to first stitch (7 petals).

Turn. Slip stitch into next empty single crochet below. Chain 7, skip stitch, join to following single crochet below. Since you’re working on the back of the existing petals, you’ll want to watch that your yarn doesn’t grab any of them. Repeat until end of round, slip stitch to join (14 petals) and fasten off.

 

 

To finish this off, I added a quick border to the last set of virus shells consisting of four rows of moss stitch. Overall I am pretty pleased with how it all came together, but my gosh, Big Scoop — you’re the worst.

 

This is why my library books pile is so high right now

Six colours, three stitches, 35 rows, plus 54 ends to weave in… equals one baby blanket. And now that it’s finished, I may finally have some time to attend to my reading!

This is a self-drafted pattern. I started out with two skeins of varigated DK acrylic yarn I’ve had sitting around for a couple of years — that’s where the white and the pinks come from. For the central granny square, I basically followed their original arrangement in my rows, alternating with the blue that acted as my neutral. The pattern is ABA, blue, BCB, blue, CDC, blue, etc., until it wraps around again to “A” (white) as the middle colour of the triad. I don’t know if I explained that well, but if you look you should be able to see exactly what I mean.

After the last row of blue granny stitch, I went all the way around in single crochet in order to establish a good base for my border. For that, I did two rows of moss stitch in each colour from the white-pink skeins, followed by blue loops to finish it all off (single crochets in every other moss stitch ‘hole’ below, joined by a five-stitch chain in between).

I am very pleased with how this turned out. It will be gifted to a much-anticipated little girl who is due in September, and I hope that she will use it for many years.