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.

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.

“Carrot Cake” lap blanket

Unlike the last project I posted about, this lap blanket offered me no frustrations at all: just smooth sailing from start to finish, plus the fun of using a new yarn. I was given a gift certificate to the local fancy yarn store, and so this is actually my first foray out of acrylic-land. This was worked up with three(ish) skeins of Ella Rae Seasons yarn, in the colourway “carrot cake”. I liked it; it’s a soft, springy wool blend with long gradient transitions between colours that ended up making a wonderful stripe. Best of all, it promises — despite the wool content — to be washable.

I worked this up using (my beloved) moss stitch, with a J hook. At that size, the individual stitches really stand out — which gives an effect that reminds me a bit of houndstooth:

The “ish” designation appended to my skein-count is because I had to chop off several lengths each time I changed skeins, so that the pattern would be more or less consistent. I don’t mind; making prayer squares for church means that I always have a use for those little balls of scrap yarn.

It even works as intended!

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.

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.

Icy purple baby blanket

I did not expect to be posting another crochet project so soon after the last one, but this one whipped itself up incredibly quickly, taking maybe five hours all told.

These were two more yarns from the church stash: the purple is Baby Bee Hushabye Solid in the colourway “sugarplum” and the blue-white is Loops & Threads Snuggly Wuggly in the colourway “baby denim marl”. I wasn’t crazy about either of these yarns on their own, but I had a hunch that they would look good together. The result is a nice mixture that’s a little icy and not overly feminine, with some extra visual interest from the random yarn pooling throughout.

The blanket was worked in moss stitch (what else?) using both yarns at once on an N (9mm) hook. That’s what made it work up so quickly: both yarns are light-weight but using them together made it more like a bulky yarn, and combined with the large hook size that gave me a lot of bang for my buck in terms of row height. I used about 2/3 of a skein of the denim marl, and somewhere between 1-1/3 and 1-1/2 skeins of the sugarplum. They were fairly uneventful to work with, except for a few knots in the second sugarplum skein. Well, sometimes there’s no avoiding that!

This was a fun one to make, not least because it came together so quickly. I may experiment more with using multiple yarns on the same hook — as it turns out, it’s an effect I rather like.

Two pixies and seven squares

In between making Perpetua’s dress and reading giant historical fiction novels, I’ve been doing some slow-but-steady work on a few new things for the prayer shawl ministry at church: two baby blankets and a handful of prayer squares. The baby blankets were made (more or less) following this pattern from The Spruce for an easy crochet blanket in moss stitch.

Moss stitch (also known as granite stitch, linen stitch, and woven stitch) is absolutely my new favourite stitch: it’s insanely simple, I love the interlocked look, and because you’re working each stitch into a space rather than into another stitch, the result is very airy and has a lot of drape. It’s perfect for blankets! Most moss stitch tutorials tell you to chain an even number of stitches; the version from The Spruce is different in that you chain an odd number, and your turning stitch is worked into the turning chain of the row below. It took me a little while to get the hang of it — you’ll see that the edges on the first (lower) blanket I made are a bit wobbly — but eventually I figured out where exactly to stick my yarn on every turn and we were off to the races.

See those wonky edges? Oh well. The nice thing about crafting for babies is that babies don’t care!

Both of these were worked up in Lion Brand Mandala, a lightweight (3) yarn, using an H hook. This is a gorgeous yarn to work with; it’s much softer than many acrylics I’ve used in the past, and the colour transitions are a lot subtler than you find in other yarn cakes. I used the same colourway for both blankets — Pixie — and I love how different from each other they turned out, since each yarn cake started and ended at a different point in the sequence.

As to the squares, I was recently gifted the remains of a skein of Caron Simply Soft — I forget the colourway and threw out the wrapper, but I think it was Orchid — from a non-stitcher who had somehow ended up with it. There wasn’t enough to make anything substantial, so I decided to toss off some prayer squares and see how far I got. The final count was seven: six of regular size, and one teeny-tiny little square that was just short of having enough for another row. We’ll call that one “wallet-sized”. Or just right for someone in the under-five set.

Here they are being blocked. (Those stains on the pillow aren’t mold — I know they look like mold — but were left behind by a previous project where the yarn dye ran a bit.) I have to say, I wasn’t impressed with the Simply Soft yarn. It was soft, granted, but it split like crazy. It was fine for working up some small pieces like this, but I wouldn’t want to use it for anything larger.

The squares were a nice change of pace from the longer projects, though – just the right sort of breather before I move on to the next thing. Right now I have a shawl on the hook, and then at some point I have seven more Mandala cakes waiting for me to make them into an afghan for Anselm. And when I finish that, I really will have to stick to squares for a month or so, just for balance!