Faith CAL, part 2

Previously: part 1

In the second part of this crochet-along afghan pattern, we’ve gone from this:

To this!

This section of the pattern involved first squaring-off the centre motif — I wanted to call it a circle, but I guess it’s more of a blobby octagon? Anyway, it magically transforms to a square through using stitches with different heights across each side: triples, then doubles, then half-doubles, then singles, and then reverse it all on the way to the next corner.

After the square came the construction of this funky mesh, which uses both bead and puff stitches for lots of texture. I messed up on my second row of bead stitches; somehow they crossed in my mind with popcorn stitches and I added a slip stitch / chain when finishing each one off. This left me with a lot of extra stitches to account for when I started the next row! Fortunately I noticed before I got too far along, and was able to fudge some adjustments instead of having to frog it. Ordinarily I might have gone back and redone it correctly, but bead stitches are so terribly tedious…

I do have some rippling as a result, but it’s not dire, and I think once I go on to part 3 things will start to even out again. And as this is still just a small centre portion of what will be a much larger blanket… well, nobody’s going to notice once it’s actually in use!

Even the back has its own sort of prettiness, now that I finally bit the bullet and sewed in all of my ends. Note to future self: sew your ends after every section from now on.

Onward and upward!

Faith CAL, part 1

Here’s what’s been occupying my crocheting time for the past week or so:

This is the beginning portion of what will be a large afghan when finished — somewhere between double-and queen-sized if my math is correct. It’s the “Faith” crochet-a-long (CAL) pattern from designer Helen Shrimpton, who creates amazingly intricate and beautiful patterns. The section pictured above is part 1 (of 8), complete to row 21 (of 96), and is just about 11″ across.

It’s hard to express how much I’m enjoying this pattern. Every row is different, which is basically like handing my brain a big bag of candy. And it’s really highlighting the architectural potential of crochet for me — look at all that squishy three-dimensionality! The construction is super clever. It’s also been an opportunity to learn some new stitches as well as practice a few that I haven’t used much.

I’m using the suggested yarn for this CAL, which is Stylecraft Special DK (truly a workhorse yarn), but I’ve chosen my own colours instead of following one of Helen’s combinations. The seven I’ve picked are Royal, Aster, Cloud Blue, Cypress, Mustard, White, and Silver, and they’ll carry on through the whole blanket. I’m very excited to see how the whole thing will come out.

Two small blankets

Finally I can blog about these! Both blankets were made as gifts, and both were much delayed in their gifting for various reasons, so I’ve had to sit on them for a while. But here they are!

This first was for my Grandmother, in a German Shells “virus” pattern. It’s sized so that she can use it as-is on her lap, or fold it in half to get a triangular shawl for over her shoulders. I used just about two full skeins of Lion Brand’s Shawl in a Ball Metallic yarn, in the colourway “Namaste Neutral” — or as I tend to think of this palette, in warm coffee-shop colours. The pictures don’t show it very well, but there’s a thin gold metallic thread that runs throughout, which give it a very pleasing sparkle. Using a G (4.25mm) hook kept the shell pattern nice and airy, and it has a beautiful drape.

I finished this in July and was supposed to deliver it by hand, as we were planning to visit my Grandmother on the last leg of a short road trip. On the day we were supposed to head over there, Anselm and Perpetua both had sore throats, and so we had to cancel our visit as they wouldn’t be able to pass the covid-19 screening of the facility where she lives. It was a super bummer… but as it turns out, her facility ended up going into outbreak status & a lock-down later that morning! So at least we found out we couldn’t go in before driving all that way to either be turned away at the door, or be let in and then get exposed. (Grandma is fine, by the way!) So I didn’t give her the blanket in July as planned; it came home, got unpacked, and then sat on my shelf for a month until I finally remembered to mail it.

The second blanket is for someone way on the other end of the age spectrum: my cousin’s daughter, who is about four months old now.

This is yet another iteration of my trusty twelve-point star blanket, which I’ve made… at least six times now? Something like that. Mostly I’ve done it with self-striping yarn, so using a couple of different yarns and manually changing the colours was a fun little twist for me.

This was a stashbuster project, made with Stylecraft Special DK leftovers from my Eastern Jewels blanket in the colours Sage, Duck Egg, Violet, and Buttermilk. (I forget what hook I used; probably an H.) That worked out really well until I ran out of Sage, which meant I needed to order another skein and wait for it to come, which meant I started another project in the meantime, which meant further delays… well, you get the picture. But at last I had all of my supplies at hand, refocused, finished it off, and got it in the mail.

I finished the blanket with a row of crab stitch, a new one for me. Crab stitch is made with a basic single crochet stitch, everything the same except that instead of moving across the fabric from right to left, which is the regular direction for crochet stitching, you go from left to right. It wraps around the edge and makes a beautiful little border. It doesn’t stand out super well in the photo above because it’s the same colour as my final row, but here is a good example of a crab stitch edging on someone else’s work. I have to say, it felt realllllly odd to be working backwards like that. But I love the effect, and I’ll definitely be tucking this stitch away in my toolbox.

And so there you have them. Two smallish projects, finally in or on their way to their new homes. Tomorrow I’ll show you what I’m working on now, which at the moment is also small, but won’t stay that way for for long!

Friendship shawl

Today I had the immense pleasure of a day-long visit with a dear friend I hadn’t seen in three years, and to celebrate I made her this shawl! I only picked up the yarn on Thursday, so it was a real race to the finish — I worked on it for 1-3 hours every night, and ended up doing the last three rows in front of her while we chatted. It got done just in the nick of time. My right thumb is feeling cranky and will definitely need a rest, but that’s ok. I’m just glad I managed to pull it off.

The yarn is Lion Brand Shawl in a Ball Metallic, in the colourway “Prism”. It’s got beautiful long transitions between sort of peacock-y colours, and a strand of blue metallic thread carried through the whole thing. Pictures don’t show how nicely it sparkles! The yarn is pretty soft to work with despite the metallic element, and it doesn’t fuzz and fray as much as regular SiaB; I had some of the non-metallic version a few years back and it was a nightmare to work with and impossible to frog. Whether this is a difference between the two related product lines or just a general improvement, I’m not sure.

This is a “virus” pattern — so-called because it expands in every row, and you just let it grow until it’s the right size. This particular one is often just called virus, although technically I think it’s German shells. It’s a simple four-row repeating pattern, and once I reminded myself how to get started it was pleasantly mindless. (I’ve done the same pattern before for another shawl and a baby blanket.) For this I used a size H hook, which gave me a lot of drape.

Fun fact: someone once pointed out to me that the centre line of the pattern looks like angry owls. I can’t unsee it and now neither will you.

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.

Season of small projects

I’ve been making and finishing small batches of things, lately.

With my machine (and a small amount of hand-stitching to finish) I made a dozen double-sided cloth napkins out of fabric I had in my stash. The gold stripes and the blue were both pillowcases. The green and the brown stripes were… I don’t know what. Bolt leftovers, I suppose, that I think I got from my friend Kendra many years ago.

I crocheted a hanging basket so that our hats and mitts would have somewhere to go besides all over the floors. This is yarn from my stash and it’s either Red Heart Super Saver or a similar acrylic from Bernat. It’s too rough and stiff to use for a garment — the sides stand up on their own! — but it’s great for this kind of household storage.

I darned a favourite pair of tights for Perpetua, using three stands of embroidery floss and a wooden darning egg. It is a very amateur job but got it done. She says that it feels “great, but more tickly!”.

I made Perpetua an ear warmer and she hated it, so I turned it into a hat for me. The first picture (a mid-construction fit check) is more accurate to the colours. The yarn was a small skein of some soft and lovely 100% alpaca given to me by friends a number of years ago. It can sometimes be hard to find good projects to do when you only have one skein of something, but this ended up being exactly the right amount of yarn. This was made without a pattern.

And finally, after many many months of hiatus, I’m working on my Eastern Jewels blanket again and determined to complete it. There are sixteen of these octagonal tiles, and I had finished them all through to row 9 — and then just got the most terrible mental block when I tried to move on to row 10. There was something off in my counting, I think, but I just couldn’t figure out what to do! But recently I looked at it again and it just clicked, so we’re off to the races. I can finish one tile (rows 10-15) in an evening and it’s been really fun to see them come together. I have some plans to expand and slightly alter the pattern so… stay tuned for that 🙂