A morning’s work

We seem to be in a bit of a transitional season here at casa Pennylegion. Tertia is a sturdy toddler now, and so I have had to start deciding to do with all our baby things: what to sell, what to donate, what to put away for sentiment’s sake, what simply needs to be thrown away. And of course, in late October, the season is in full transition as well; after some unseasonably warm weather we are now indisputably into fall. And while it’s still warm enough when we’re walking Anselm to school in the morning that snow suits would be overkill, it’s still cold enough that little legs need a little more coverage in the stroller.

Happily, this all afforded me the chance to kill two birds with one stone. After a morning’s hand-sewing, Tertia now has a lovely warm stroller sack, and I have three fewer flannel baby blankets in my cupboard.

These blankets were all square, which meant a certain amount of experimental folding and pinning before I got a shape with which I was satisfied. The sports panel in the middle is folded in half, and the outer striped panel is folded to meet it, which gives three layers of flannel over the portion that will cover her torso. The back half is a leg pocket, made of the dotted blanket. That was been folded in half one way and in… sixths?… the other, which allowed it to join up nicely on the sides with the front half, and will leave her legs with three layers on top and two behind.

From the front the whole thing is much less busy — all you see are white and grey stripes, with some purple stitching (blanket or whip, depending on the section). And while getting my sewing machine working would certainly have made this a lot quicker, there is something about hand sewing that I find very satisfying — perhaps not despite, but because of its slowness.

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.

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.

A new blanket for a new arrival

Did I mention that I’m pregnant? Probably not. Well, I’m pregnant enough that I get winded putting on my boots and can’t see anything south of my belly button without bending over. There’s a baby coming soon, and what does a new baby need? A baby blanket, of course!

This was a freehand project using Lion Brand’s “Ferris Wheel” yarn, in the colourway “Vintage Carousel”. It was dreamy to work with — no snags or knots — and I love the tweedy effect for the long slow colour changes. You can see in the close-up below that the light blue consistently carries through all the way, while the other colours change around it. I got some lovely stripes just going back and forth in moss stitch for the main panel.

As for the border, I wanted to do something a bit chunkier as the main panel ended up smaller than I had planned (I know, I know — my own fault because I never measure anything). After trying a few different options I ended up choosing a wide band of granny squares all the way around, capped off with a single row of single crochet just to neaten up the outside edges. I like being able to see the colours (and changes) in a different way, because of the chunkier stitches, and the border is pleasingly floppy.

This worked up relatively quickly, although I was a bit stop-start on it and at one point had to go back to Michaels for another skein of yarn. I used a J hook, and about 3.5 skeins of the Ferris Wheel. And with the blanket done, I now feel like we’re really ready. Looking forward to meeting you, baby girl.

Anselm’s Afghan (finished)

Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy: I have finally, finally finished the afghan I’d been making for Anselm.

I’ve been working on this blanket for so long that I had to go back into my own archives to figure out when I started it. The answer? August 2018. if you read that post, you may notice that the final design is quite different from my initial plan. Well… this was a learning project, to be sure.

As far as the actual method goes it was easy enough: the whole thing was worked up in moss stitch, which I can pretty much do in my sleep at this point. I used a size-I hook and the yarn (Lion Brand Mandala) only changed in terms of the colourway. Ha ha ha! No! That was a lie. The yarn was supposed to only change in terms of its colours, but the weight was surprisingly — shockingly — inconsistent which led to all sorts of issues, like strange bunchings and accidental trapezoids where no trapezoids should be.

Somebody at Lion Brand owes me a drink.

Anyway, besides fighting with the yarn I had to come to grips with my own errors and faulty assumptions, especially as regards the design phase. I realised about halfway through that my original idea would result in a blanket that was a lot longer and skinnier than in was supposed to be, and so I redrew things on the fly, and then did that several more times as things continued to… evolve.

In the end, though, I ended up with a cosy, lightweight afghan that is approximately twin size — different than I had imagined it, but still perfect for warming up one sweet and snuggly little boy. I’ll take it.

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!

Chunky striped baby blanket

Another one bites the dust.

Back in the fall, Anselm and Perpetua each chose a skein of yarn for me for my birthday. I wasn’t sure what to do with them: they’re both bulky weight which I don’t typically work with, and one skein each was probably too small for most of the things I usually make. A few weeks later, though, I found yarn in the “special buy” aisle at Aldi (that aisle is a veritable wonder-of-wonders) that more or less matched the weight, in complementary colours. Problem solved. I don’t remember which child chose which yarn, but I’m glad to have put the first to good use.

The pink yarn (my birthday yarn) is Lion Brand Hometown USA in “Phoenix Azalea,” and the off-white is Easy Home Chunky Yarn in “Cream”. Since both yarns are so thick I worked them up on an N hook, the largest I own. At that size, this project came together incredibly quickly, probably only 3 hours or so all told.

The pattern is simple: chain until it’s wide enough, do five rows of moss stitch in colour A, 3 in colour B, then alternate 10 rows of A with 3 rows of B until it feels long enough, and finish up with 5 rows of colour A. Weave in ends. If you use the yarns I did, prepare for some frustration on this step because they both fray like crazy. You can see a few puffs of yarn end in this picture because of that. I mostly fixed them after taking this… by which I mean I got them all sticking out on the same side.

I didn’t think to grab something to show the scale, but this blanket is probably about eighteen inches on the short side, and long enough to drape comfortably over my lap with room to spare on either end. This will probably be the last project I make for the ministry at church as we prepare to move (OH, did I mention we are moving?) but I am so glad that I got to be a part of it for these past few years.

Anselm’s Afghan (III)

Good news: I’ve finished the third panel on Anselm’s afghan! Bad news: I totally pooched my counting and it’s gone kind of trapezoidal. Good news again: this is a gift for a four-year-old, and so while I’m not exactly trying to screw it up, I’m not especially worried about it either. At this point, we’re shooting for completion rather than perfection.

What I was pleased to find was that my theories about how it would work to join up with the other panels while working perpendicular to them were correct — and if I had been paying better attention while doing the entrelac, it probably would have ended up closer to rectangular. Oh, well… it will have some lumps and bumps. (Actually, as I type this I remember that one of the challenges was that this skein was woven a little thicker than the other two despite being the same weight of yarn — so that extra thickness is also playing a role).

Here is a close-up the join between panels 1 and 3. The colourway for this third panel is “Spirit” (still Lion Brand Mandala) and it’s the last colourway to be added — the next four panels will all be repeats: one more each of Spirit and Genie, and two of Thunderbird.

It’s not perfect by any stretch, but I’m pretty pleased with how this is coming along, especially since it’s my first time planning and executing such a big project. The colours work well together — next up comes another long panel of the Thunderbird, for a big pop of colour in the centre. I might start running out of couch space for displaying it after that point… this is going to be pretty big.

Anselm’s Afghan (II)

Recently I realised how much work this afghan is going to be. I don’t have a specific date in mind for finishing — it would be great to have it done for Anselm’s birthday, but if not, there’s always Christmas (or… Twelfth night, or Valentine’s, or St Patrick’s…) — but I don’t want to have it hanging around half-finished for longer than I need to, either. So in the last week or two I have made a couple of big pushes and have now finished the second panel:

I’m still using Lion Brand Mandala yarn; this second colourway is called “Genie”. I quite like the way the greys and greens fade into each other, and I love love love the grey next to the orange from the first panel:

Next comes the most challenging part of the project so far. Heretofore it’s just been about a million moss stitches in long rows. For the third panel, I’m keeping the same stitch, but I’m turning the whole project and working perpendicularly to what I’ve already done. The two panels right now make a sort of “L” shape; the third panel is going to fill out the empty space of the L, and then wrap around the first panel. If you look at the first picture above, I’ll be working from the middle towards the left-hand side, and when that empty space is filled I’ll be elongating my row to cover all the way up to the edge of the first panel (along the top of the couch there). Because I’m going to be working at 90 degrees to my first two panels, I’ll have to hook my row ends into the first panel. I think it will work well — I can picture it quite clearly in my head — but of course, the real test is in the doing! Stay tuned to see how (and if!) it works.