Friday, 27 June 2014

The Surprise New Beginnings Blanket

I'm not sure if its just me, but I find as I get older I know lots of people, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I have lots of friends. Sure I have many acquaintances, but friends, the sort you would trust with your most personal things, very few. Friends come and go over the years, there are friends from school; from university; from various different work places; the ones I used to be out with drinking and singing along to Dolly Parton with in our favourite pub in my 20s; the ones who have had families at the same time in our 30's who we meet up with a children's birthdays, weddings etc. And a few who you just know will be friends for life, no matter what. There are a couple of people who I would include in that small group, and this post is, in part, about one of those.

We have been friends over 30 years now, our fathers were friends, the first time I remember meeting we, along with our younger sisters, were taking part in a charity raft race, memorable mostly for oversized life vests and the tying of one vests directly to the plastic seats we were all sitting on, much to everyone's amusement. I believe there are photographs of this event somewhere…..but fortunately since I was only 9 I don't have them.

As the years went on we went to university in different cities, made new friends and lives for ourselves, we settled on opposite sides of the country and by out late 20s were lucky if we saw each other once a year, and spoke maybe 3 or 4 times a year on the phone. But, she is one of those people who it doesn't matter if you haven't spoken in days or months, the conversation picks up exactly where it left off, and I just love that, I also love her individuality, in school she would turn up in the middle of winter in sandals and with no jacket, where I was in a thermal vest and woolly hat!

She has been there for the good times, and more recently has helped me through some tough times. So when she phoned me late last year to tell me about a life changing decision she and her family were considering making I was not surprised that she spoke about the impact and benefits for her husband, her children and the effects it could have on the rest of her family. Not once did she talk about herself in any of these conversations, they were all about everyone else.

They decided to go for it, a decision that would see their family move hundreds of miles to the the opposite end of the country. I would have loved to catch up and say goodbye properly but it never happened, so I determined to do something that was for her, to show her how proud I was of her. Now I'm not very imaginative, in fact I am quite predictable so the decision was not a hard one, it was time to make a blanket! and a surprise blanket at that….

I had recently 'acquired' quite a few balls of cotton from Lidl, it was just so pretty it kept slipping into my shopping basket, in fact I rather wish I had bought more. So I laid it all out and tried to decide what to do. I had loads of colours so decided just to go for it and see what happened.

Initially I planned a blanket about a metre square, one that could be used for picnics, or thrown over the back of a sofa, I know roughly for a blanket that size how many squares I need so I set out making the middles. My girls are used to me with a hook in my hand and we enjoy a 'crafter-noon' where we all get to do out own thing, whether with yarn, paint or something else.

Several of these January afternoons later and my squares were beginning to take shape, there were some colours I loved, some I wasn't too sure about, I felt more were needed so raided my cotton stash and found some red and a dark blue bamboo cotton that I added it, the colours reminded me of something, but I just wasn't sure what.

I am a working mum, with two kids so crochet is very much an evening activity for me, its a hobby, a past time, it helps me relax and de-stress, sometimes I do lots, sometimes not so much, I frequently get bored of a project half way through, or doubt myself and whether it is going to work and I always have more than one thing on the go at a time. That was definitely the case here, I was using so many colours, colours I had fairly randomly thrown together without too much thought, but I had gone too far to turn back, and anyway I was determined to finish, I was going into hospital mid february and had set myself a deadline of that date to be finished and posted.

The squares continued to grow round after round, and actually what I realised was that there were not enough of them, so I made more, and more. I had decided four round solid granny squares would be perfect, but actually once I reached that stage it all still looked a bit disjointed, so I added a fifth round, and, to my eye at least the repetition of colours involved in this seemed to help pull the squares together.


So I ended up with 120 squares, using 10+ different colours. decisiveness is not one of my strong suits so my daughters helped me decide how to arrange the squares for joining, and I have to say it came out so much better than I had hoped. Being cotton it has a softness and a weight to it that you just don't get with acrylic yarns.


I even eventually remembered what it reminded me off, my russian doll that my parents brought me from a trip to St Petersburg, in fact looking at it, I believe it may have subconsciously inspired me.

SO here it is the Surprise New Beginnings Blanket, can you see the pattern in the squares? and the one square that I put in the wrong place? I couldn't face ripping several rows back so there it will remain. It is bold and bright, and I hope beautiful.

I managed to keep it a secret. I got it posted the day before my operation and got a lovely phone call a couple of days later. I am happy to say it is now happy in its new coastal home in Cornwall, and most importantly, they liked it! If you have read this far….thank you, I promise the next one will be shorter, more crochet, less chat.


Saturday, 21 June 2014

The Nursery Blanket

It's been a hot day and this is my first post so please be patient with me.
Lots of people have been asking about my latest blanket - the Nursery Blanket - so I thought this was the time to try and finally start a blog in order to explain it.

Two weeks ago I asked my younger daughter what she would like to give her nursery teachers as a leaving present, she finishes next week as she is starting school after the summer. I had anticipated a card, or two and had expected chocolates or some such as her gift suggestion but NO. She announced that she wanted me to make a blanket for them to have in the family room as they didn't have any blankets in there are the moment. Our house is full of crochet blankets and she felt this was something that was lacking at nursery.

It was a lovely sentiment so I agreed, quickly thinking up simple and easy blankets I could quickly rattle up in the ten days I had to finish it. However little miss had other ideas and pointed to a blanket that lives in our house and said could I do something similar to it. This is the blanket she wanted me to replicate Lulu's rainbow blanket. This blanket is based on Bears rainbow blanket by the Purl Bee and the pattern can be found here Bears Rainbow Blanket

So Off we went upstairs to pick yarn, me quietly thinking at least she picked solid blocks of colour, that will be a bit easier. She picked some variegated Ice yarns, Ice magic Light to be exact, in eight different shades, two blues, green, yellow, orange pink, fuchsia and purple> I got mine direct from Ice Yarns in Turkey.

So I got started that evening. I am a working mum so my crochet is mainly restricted to evening once my girls are sleeping. I decided to do simple solid granny squares to give the blocks of colour she liked and estimated that I would need 8-10 squares in each colour to make a good sized blanket. I could write out the pattern for you, but it is available freely all across the internet and in pretty much any crochet book you care to pick up, a good tutorial I saw recently was by Wink of A Creative Being her description and photos are clear to follow so if you need help try this link.

It took five evenings of Solid crochet but I got all the blocks made and they looked lovely, it almost seemed a shame to do anything with them and we had lots of fun laying them out in different ways and admiring the colours 

Next we had to decide how to edge the squares, my daughter was pushing for black, but quite honestly my eyes we not up for it so we agreed on Stylecraft DK in Parchment, not to dark and not to bright, a colour that should enable the squares to be the focus. The next couple of nights were spent edging all 100 squares with a final round in parchment.

The next decision was how to lay them out to make a blanket, I had a few ideas of my own, however this was not a blanket of my design so I gave the squares to my daughters, explaining that their blanket had to be 8 squares across and 10 down and left them to it, we used a camera to record all their efforts 

As you can see they were at this job for quite some time and came up with many different layouts before deciding on the winner. my daughters favourite colour is purple so untimely she decided the heart of the blanket should be purple, and that the other colours should spread out from there. Next I had to join them. I did this by putting the squares right sides facing each other and did a slip stitch into the outside edge only of the treble crochets from the parchment row. They were all joined with a couple of days to spare so I quickly did a very simple edge, also in parchment. 

To do the border I did one round of half trebles, the next round I did htr, ch2 (skip two tr from previous round) her, all the way round. the next round I did 3htr in each 2ch space. And then it was done. a quick wash and it was ready to go

SO we parcelled it up and off to nursery we went, there is only one day a week Lulu's two favourite teachers are there so we had to take it then, and I think they liked it, when I left Lulu and her teacher were busy arranging it on a chair in the playroom, her teachers favourite colour is also purple so they were making sure its purple heart was right in the middle.

I hope you like it as much as we do