Process vs. Product

Sometimes you make something and it just isn’t what you envisioned. It’s hard to know what to write about it in this case: “here is a thing, and it disappointed me” is not the tone I usually strive for. But here we are! I made a thing! It wasn’t fun to make and I don’t like the outcome. TA-DAA.

I mean, it’s not objectively hideous. But I am very conscious of the following things:

  • I had forgotten how much I dislike making amigurumi. It’s all small hooks and super-tight hand-hurting tension and counting, counting, counting all day. Forget it!
  • Because I don’t like crocheting ami, I shortened the ears by a good ten rows and completely omitted the arms. The pattern was for a sleepy bunny, rather than the… generic animal head? that I ended up with.
  • I didn’t have any polyfill and didn’t feel like driving across town to get some, so I stuffed the head with scrap cloth. In many ways that’s fine, but it kind of throws off the balance (though with a heavier head and the blanket trailing behind this would probably be great for throwing).
  • The ears appear to be different lengths. An optical illusion? Did I add or omit an extra row? I don’t know, man, counting stitches is annoying.
  • Also I’m not crazy about spirals. Working in the round is fine, but I’d much rather join at the end of each row than work continuously.
  • I used some of the crappier acrylic from my stash and it’s just not that nice to work with.

What this all boils down to, I guess, is that I am even more of a “process” crafter than I realized. It was already obvious to me that I’m not attached to my finished products — I have no qualms about giving things away or chucking them into the back of a closet no matter how much work I put into them. Out of sight (or perhaps, off of hook), out of mind. But what’s clear now is that whether a project is a success or a failure in my eyes has almost everything to do with how much I enjoyed the creative process and almost nothing to do with the actual result.

For my own records; I used Bernat Super Value yarn in white, Red Heart Super Saver in “Monet” (leftovers from Perpetua’s blankie), and the eyes and nose were done with Stylecraft Special DK leftovers from my Eastern Jewels blanket. I used a 3.75mm hook for the animal parts and a 6mm hook for the lovey portion.

Anyway, this was supposed to be a gift for someone’s baby… but I feel weird enough about it that I’ll just make something else. This can go into the toy bin for my daughters to fight over and I’ll pretend it never happened.

Oh well. At least someone likes it.

Eastern Jewels: the squares (work in progress)

One of the things I’ve learned about myself as a crocheter/crafter is that I often suffer from project boredom. By the time I’m 3/4 done a project, I never want to see it again, can hardly be bothered to finish it, and will just add it to my pile of “I’ll finish it one day” abandoned projects if I don’t force myself to keep going. See, for example, the queen-size quilt I started back in… 2009. Which was eleven years ago, which makes me feel very suddenly old.

What helps, though, is having more than one thing on the go at a time, so that when I start getting bored with one project I can switch out for something else, and then rinse and repeat as needed.

Along with the virus shawl I finished earlier this week, I’ve been making some slow progress on the Eastern Jewels blanket. This is a pattern that was designed by Janie Crow and originally released as the Persian Tiles blanket in a blue/orange/red colourway. It was subsequently re-coloured by Lucia of Lucia’s Fig Tree¬† and called Eastern Jewels. I absolutely love the colours Lucia picked for this blanket, and so last year I bought the blanket kit as a birthday present for myself.¬†

(Note that the squares haven’t been blocked and I haven’t woven in any ends yet. I keep telling myself that I should do them now instead of having a huge amount to do at the end… but… I think we all know that I’m going to have a huge amount to do at the end.)

The blanket is constructed out of multiple repeated motifs: nine squares (pictured above), sixteen large octagon tiles, and then sixteen triangles. After those are all made and sewn together, there’s also a pretty border to go around them. It’s going to take… a while. But I really like having those small motifs to work on when I’m getting tired of a larger project (like the shawl) that just goes on and on and on…

I decided to start with the granny squares in part because I just like making granny squares. My tension was a little tight on the first one, and so I might end up re-making it at the end if I have enough yarn left in the appropriate colours. But overall these were very pleasant to work on, and even taught me a new stitch (the longer buttermilk-coloured “posts” that dip down and wrap around a previous row). I think there are one or two squares that I managed to do without any errors — no shade on Janie Crow for that, as the pattern is well written and easy to memorize. Blame my faulty memory for things I have allegedly memorized.

Since the octagons are so much larger than the squares, I decided to take a different approach with them. Instead of doing them all one at a time, I’m taking more of an assembly-line approach where I do round one sixteen times, then round two sixteen times, then round three, etc. Here they are all strung together on a long piece of yarn so that I don’t get their order mixed up; only three more iterations of round four to go. I’ll post better pictures when they’re finished!

Perpetua’s Blankie (expanded edition)

About a year and a half ago, I made Perpetua a blankie, which I detailed here. She’s grown since then (kids: it’s amazing what happens if you feed them) and so it was covering less and less of her. Time for an expansion! Here’s the before shot:

And here’s the after:

What I ended doing was simply flipping it around so that the long edge became the short edge, ordering three more skeins of the yard I’d used, and continuing the pattern from where I had left off. It’s a simple repeat of three rows of single crochet, followed by four rows of triple. I ended up using the whole of two skeins, and somewhere between a half and two-thirds of the third, so the size of the blanket has more than doubled.

For the border — yes, a proper border, look at me getting all fancy here — I first did three rows of single crochet followed by a row of triple, echoing the pattern of the blanket body. After that, I did two rows of chained loops (chain five, skip one, single crochet, repeat) to make a nice floppy fringe. And there you have it.

Several times I found myself wishing that I had used a nicer yarn when I originally started this project. Red Heart With Love is a sturdy workhorse sort of acrylic that will wear really well, but it’s stiff and a bit coarse straight out of the skein, and it splits like crazy. It just isn’t fun to work with. The end result will be ok, though; the older part of the blankie, which has of course been through the wash several times, is very soft and drapey. Tomorrow I will put the whole thing through once or twice and that will make a big difference. In the meantime you can see exactly where the old yarn stops and the new yarn starts:

After a big push to finish this tonight, I’m feeling a bit crampy in my hands. It’s totally worth it, though. On the one level, I’m always happy any time I finish a project and get it out of my queue — taking something from the idea stage all the way through to its completion is always a bit of a rush. But more than that, it’s very special to me to be able to give something to my daughter that I’ve made especially for her, that she will (hopefully) be able to use for many years to come. Not even the Red Heart can take away from that!

Anselm’s afghan (I)

This post marks the beginning of what will be a small series documenting a large project of mine: I have decided to make my son an afghan. He has a baby blanket which he loves but which is getting very small for him, and I want to make him something he can grow into. So I found some yarn I liked, and a plan was born:

It’s pretty simple: seven panels with three yarns. I picked Lion Brand Mandala because it’s very enjoyable to work with and I like the colorways they offer. This would have three panels of “Thunderbird” to frame it, which is sort of a darkish rainbow gradient, for some pops of colour. The other two, “Genie” and “Spirit”, are more muted: blues and greys and greens and whites.

Well, that was the plan. But since I’m more of a guesstimator than a measurer/counter I realised about halfway into my first panel that the proportions were all wrong: if I continued the way I was going, it would be strangely long and much too narrow according to its length. But I had already put in six or eight hours of work on the first panel, so I really didn’t want to tear it out and start over.

Enter plan two:

This is how I think it will work. I will still have the pops of colour on the ends and in the middle, but I will extend one of the other colourways around the first panel to make the whole thing wider. That centre band will end up thinner as a result but I think it will still look fine. Some of the panel work will be a challenge — I don’t want to sew anything so I will be joining all of the crochet together by fudging some sort of entrelac on the edges — but I think I can do it. I suppose we’ll all find out!

Anyway, here is the first panel, which I finished this afternoon. My friend Lisa (hi, Lisa) pointed out that it’s sometimes hard to tell how big my crochet projects are so I have included a banana for scale:

The edges are quite straight in person; it draped a little funny on the couch. But there it is. As you can see, it’s going to end up pretty large by the time it’s done. But that’s fine. After all, this is something that I hope he’ll keep for the rest of his life!

The technical deets, such as they are: moss stitch, size I hook, an unknown number of stitches across because who has time to count all that? Not me. Obviously. Which is why we’re on to plan two — stay tuned to see if it will work out or if a further revision will be needed.