Friday, May 15, 2015

WBS Progress: Beginning Blanket Two

The Nine-Square Blanket

  It's time to begin another one of the World's Biggest Stocking blankets! Remember, for every blanket you donate before June 22, 2015, you can earn a chance to win $5,000!  For my next project, I'm picking the "Nine Square Blanket" pattern. Whether you're a beginner and you need help with this pattern, or if you're an advanced crocheter who just needs some motivation, you can work along with me... But for this post, I need your help! 

  The Nine Square Blanket is going to be another very simple pattern for experienced crocheters. It's a repetitive pattern that uses only two stitches, and works up quickly with no color changes. During my work on the squares, I'll be sharing little tips and tutorials for beginners, inspired by the problems I faced when learning to crochet. You'll find an example of a quick tip included in this post, but I want to concentrate on the color and placement of the squares before I begin on the rest of the work. Beginners: Be sure to check out the tip after the blanket ideas!

  So, why do I need your help? You see, I have a teeny, tiny little problem. Remember all the yarn I purchased when Yarnspirations had a big sale on Caron United? (see my big box of yarn in this post) I wasn't planning on making this many blankets back then! I chose an assortment of colors, because most of that was supposed to go towards my Scarf of the Month charity program. Oops! I don't have enough of the right colors to make these blankets as designed! But... Did you know we don't really have to follow the pattern exactly? I'm going to get this one started, but I'll either have to change up the colors of the squares a bit, or wait until I buy more yarn. Let's see what I can do for now - and maybe you can help! 

  Your blanket for the World's Biggest Stocking needs to measure 36" (91.5 cm) square. That's the most important part. Although it's great to use Caron United, you don't have to. And you can use any colors, but try to keep them bright and cheery. If you haven't already, you can download all of the patterns for the World's Biggest Stocking here. Please remember that these patterns are not mine - They are provided for free by Yarnspirations!

  Now, will you please help me? I can't decide what to do about this blanket! I spent some time making a few color schemes, working with what I've already started on. I only have enough to make one square with Dark Green, so I plan on using that for the center block. I've already made two squares of Burgundy, and I have enough to make two more. I also have enough Aran to make four squares, so I have quite a few options! I thought about replacing some of the squares with Red or Soft Grey. Please, take a look at my ideas and tell me which you like best!

Original pattern - I don't have enough!

All of the following will have the center square of Aran replaced with Dark Green:

1. Dark Green Squares replaced with red - I hate this one. Really, truly hate it. I hate it so much I make a slight gagging noise every time I look at it. It's pretty bad.

2. Dark Green Squares replaced with Soft Grey - I'm not a big fan of this one, either. At least I don't gag every time I see it.

3. Dark Green Squares replaced with additional squares of Burgundy - I don't love it; I don't hate it.

4. Dark Green Squares replaced with striped squares made with scraps from the Big Granny Square Blanket - This one's on my list of favorites!

5. Dark Green Squares replaced with Aran, corners made in Soft Grey - I hate this one, too. I don't gag every time I look at it, but it happened a few times.

6. This one's just all over, and it reminds me of a Rubik's Cube, with less colors - Although interesting, I don't like it very much. Perhaps with a color other than grey, it would look good.

7. Burgundy and Dark Green Squares replaced with Aran; Squares of Aran replaced with Burgundy - I really liked this one, until I got a funny feeling that I've seen this somewhere before.
Yup, I was right. It's one colored square away from the Purina pet food logo. Okay, so maybe not a good choice.

  So, you have my opinion of the examples, but I need yours to decide! After looking at the ones using Soft Grey, I don't think I'll use that color at all. If I do use grey, I need to omit the Aran. I don't like them together. I also thought about setting the green square aside, and using a shade of blue instead. OMG! I'm usually great at making up my mind (eventually), but I thought too much about this one, and now I have to many ideas in my head to choose from. Please help me decide! And please tell me that you hate the grey, too, because my other half told me it looks "great"... But then again, I think he's colorblind, and he tells me I look "great" even if I have the flu... I doubt his opinions about looks.

  Anyways, let's get to that beginner tip... Actually, everybody can use this one, if you don't already! What's the first thing we do before we start a project? (No, for you smart alecks, it's not "go buy yarn"... I mean after that.) We make a gauge swatch! And while I make mine, I'll show you a nice little tip about slip knots:

But... Hey, who can guess what I had to deal with before I made my swatch? Yarn vomit!
Again, as always, these aren't knots: It's just a bunch of loops that have become twisted around each other. Don't start pulling, or you will have a knot. Find the direction of the twist and untwist them if you find this problem in your Caron United.

And on to the swatch: I always make mine a few stitches wider than what's called for in the gauge, so I have room to measure. For this pattern, you should have 14 rows of 13 single crochet in 4" by 4" (10 cm by 10 cm), using a size H/8 - 5 MM hook.

Before you make your swatch or begin your pattern, let's learn a great way to start your beginning chain: Once you place the loop of the slip knot on your hook, don't tighten the knot! What we're going to do is work into that knot as a chain. (Maybe.)

So that the beginning chain won't be twisted, you'll need to turn the loop around before you begin. Holding the slip knot in place, spin the hook towards you - Right handed crocheters: Counterclockwise (shown). Lefties: Clockwise (not shown). 

Once you spin the hook all the way around, you'll see how the top of the slip knot makes the typical "V" shape of the front and back loops of a chain stitch. Now, as you begin your foundation chain, the slip knot will count as the first chain. So, remember to start counting at "two" when you make your first chain!

This is what you will have once you make your "first" chain, which actually counts as the second. The tail will be very loose, so make sure you don't accidentally tighten it while chaining.

  As for how to work into this "chain", I'll show you that next time, if you need help! Now, why did I say "maybe" when I told you we would work into this stitch? Because this is a nice little hack. If you don't want to work into the slip knot, leave it loose anyways! If you ever find that your beginning chain is one stitch short, you can always work into it. If you find that your count was dead-on, then you can still tighten it later!

  But what do you do if your foundation chain has too many stitches? That's a tutorial for another day! And what else do I have planned for you? How to work over your beginning tail - The right way!

  I'm having some trouble getting decent photos with this darker colored yarn, so in the next post, I'll be switching to a lighter color. We'll continue these lessons later! Remember to look through those blanket ideas, and tell me which one you like best. I'll leave you with this:

These are the squares I started on. I only had enough leftovers from the Big Granny Square Blanket to make one square of Dark Green. Using the scraps from two skeins, I had just enough to finish two squares of Burgundy. Look how little I ended with - That was close!

And I've started on the tutorials using Aran. I already have one square complete, and I'm about to finish the second. But before I started, guess what I had to deal with again?
Yarn vomit!

Caron, please give those trolls a cookie! 

Happy Crocheting!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Making the Dancing Dragonflies Scarf: Part Six

Adding the accent to the foundation row

   This will be the last tutorial for the Dancing Dragonflies Scarf! (Click here for written pattern) This last addition to the scarf is what took me the longest to design in the end. I wanted to use surface crochet to add more color, but I didn't like the way it came out on the opposite side. No matter how you wear it, both sides of a scarf will show, and the reverse side of the surface crochet just... didn't look pretty to me. It looked like a wrong side. The more simple method I used in the end looks reversible. I also considered weaving a matching blue colored ribbon through the center, but I got about a quarter of the way through that before I realized I would have to sew it... I'm on a sewing strike, and the color of my ribbon was a little off, anyways. (At least, that's what I decided so I would have an excuse to not sew anything!)

  So, I should stop gabbing and get to the tutorial but my point is to give you some ideas. I'm still not 100% satisfied with how the center accent came out... but I like it enough. If you're not 100% satisfied with it either, maybe you could add your own design touch to this scarf.

Stitches used in this tutorial:

New to the project?

Just missed the last one?

Let's get started!

Because I'm used to using surface crochet, where the yarn comes from underneath your work, this method seems odd to me... But maybe it's easier for you! What we'll be doing here is treating the foundation row as if it's just a regular open row to work into, which is pretty easy to do because of the large open spaces near the dragonflies. The yarn will come from in front of your work, and we'll just skip the stitches that have double crochet stitches in them.

With the yarn in front of your work, insert the hook in the beginning corner of the foundation row, highlighted in the photo above. Making sure you're working after the stitches in this space, reach up with the hook to pull a loop through. Slip stitch to secure it, then chain 1 to count as the first single crochet.

For each of the remaining stitches, you will work into the back loop only. Beginners: This is the loop that is farthest away from you. 

Make a single crochet in each open foundation stitch, until you reach a stitch with a double crochet in it. Get ready for the hard part: Just kidding. Skip this stitch, then keep working into the back loops of the rest! 

If you really want to count, there will be 10 foundation single crochet to work into before you skip the next stitch. Keep working across until you reach the second corner stitch of the foundation row.

In the corner space, before the corner double crochet stitches, make 2 single crochet. Work into both loops of this stitch as you did in the beginning stitch.

Chain 4 to work around the edge: Make 2 sc in both loops of the third corner stitch, opposite the last stitch. Place your stitches after the double crochet stitches.

Work this side the same as the last, making 1 sc in the back loop of each foundation sc across, missing the stitches that have double crochet stitches in them. Stop before the fourth corner stitch.

Make 2 single crochet in the corner stitch, before the double crochet stitches. Chain 4 to work around the edge.

Because we only made 1 single crochet in the beginning corner (the beginning ch-1), now we need to make another. Place the final sc in the same space you joined in, after the double crochet stitches.

Now, join the last single crochet to the beginning chain-1 with a slip stitch. Bind off after that, and weave in your ends. 

This scarf is longer than I usually make them! At six feet (1.82 m), this is the only full picture I was able to take of it without my feet, a cat, the edge of the deck, or a dog in it! But I still managed to get the legs of the chair I'm standing on (lol)... Blocking requires a sheet, unless you have a larger blocking board or some of those giant bath towels to put together. I have one large bath sheet that I only use for blocking, and even that's too small for this project!

  Are we done? Technically, yes. But are you looking at your work, saying "mine doesn't look like the picture"? If so, YOUR PROJECT NEEDS BLOCKING! As much as I'd like to say my own work comes out naturally beautiful, it doesn't! With all the twists, turns, and chains pulled tight in this pattern, it's not going to look perfect until you give it a bath and stretch it out for some "beauty rest". (Yes, even using acrylic yarn.) You may even find it grows a little in length and width! Mine was only 6 1/2" (16.5 cm) wide when I finished, but it grew a half-inch after blocking. Do you need a blocking board? No! After you dampen this scarf, stretch it out flat across a few towels or an old sheet. Pin the corners to keep it in place, if you need to keep a cat from messing it up want to.

  Although I'd also love to demonstrate that process for you, my blocking process involves more shooing away of pets than work. I swear, cats come running to the sound of a camera shutter like Pavlov's dogs drooled for a bell. Anyways, the whole job isn't very interesting, because this project doesn't really require any special blocking. Remember: Just stretch it out flat to dry.

Thanks for crocheting along with the tutorials!

...And does anybody want to adopt a kitten? This tutorial went up later than expected because another wild cat had kittens in my yard! She must have been keeping them holed up and quiet; I just found them and I think they're a little over 3 weeks old. So, of course I did that thing you shouldn't do if you don't want to keep them, and provided them with water and a box. I'm going to be overrun with cats! There's ten of them now!!! Please help, they're too cute! And they come running to you when you say "babies!", and they're fluffy, and loving, and I can't call the pound; they need homes.

Thanks again!

Links to all of the Dancing Dragonflies Scarf tutorials:

Happy Crocheting!

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