Friday, June 5, 2015

WBS Progress: The Nine Square Blanket Finished!

It's about time

  The Nine Square Blanket has taken longer than needed to finish. It's such a relief to finally be done! This will be my third donation to the World's Biggest Stocking project. In this post I'll share with you a few of the things that were previously left out due to the interruption of constant thunderstorms, and then we'll cover the final assembly of the nine pieces, plus the border. 

  Please remember that this pattern isn't my design - It's provided for free by Yarnspirations for the World's Biggest Stocking project! Click here to download the patterns that you can crochet (or knit!) to donate to this wonderful project!

Let's get started!

Here it is! This is what made this project take the longest... When I ran out of the right colors, I couldn't decide whether to alter the pattern or buy more yarn. By the time I made the purchase, the shipment was delayed over a holiday weekend. But I finally got it, and have no room in my stash for it, so this big box of yarn now makes a nice "footstool" next to my desk. 

And here's what I left out in the last post: Once I finally got all that yarn and got back to work, this is the first thing I had to deal with. This is less like yarn vomit, and more like one of those hard-packed pellet-things that owls regurgitate. 

Again, as I've said before: This is really great yarn... I like it, but I don't like all these tangles! I guess Caron still didn't get the message about giving the troll a cookie. This is the biggest center-pull tangle I've ever dealt with! It took me an hour to straighten it out.

Anyway, I got it untangled, finished the squares, and made an attempt to assemble them before another thunderstorm. Since the pattern only says to "crochet the squares together", and doesn't really give many instructions, I chose to use a plain single crochet seam on the back side. I got the three strips together before I lost my light. I'm leaving the tails of the center strip loose for now, but went ahead and wove in the ends of the outer strips. 

As I crochet the strips together, I'm working over the tails of the center strip, so I can weave them around for a continuous seam. 

I could have woven the squares together with the tails before I started the cross-seam, but after trying it on one square, I noticed it looked uneven. Weaving the tails around the cross-seam let me pull the seams together for a square corner.

I changed directions as I worked so the seams all faced the outer edges. My other half informed me that this made a really cool design, and I didn't bother to tell him that this is the back side.

Moving on to the border on the right side, I had to stray from the pattern a bit. The pattern is written for 3 single crochet in each corner, and 115 single crochet across. I found that there was a bit of a crooked gap between my squares, and played around a bit until settling with a single-crochet-two-together (sc2tog) to join them.

Here, you can see that this gap is caused by the slightly longer turning chain where the squares meet. I tried making the sc2tog part of the last/first stitch in the square, but found that it still needed a single crochet in the first square before making the sc2tog between them.

After making the single crochet in the last double crochet of the square, I pulled up a loop. Then, I pulled up a loop in the double crochet turning chain of the next square.

And all you have to do is yarn over, and pull through all three loops on the hook to complete the stitch. I then found that just one single crochet in the same space made a perfectly straight seam for my squares.

I also found that I had more than 115 single crochet across. (Omg, please don't make me go back and count them all!) If I got it right (I was interrupted a few times while trying to count), I think I have 119 single crochet, counting the sc2tog as one stitch each, not including the 3 single crochet in the corner space. 

The pattern changes a bit as you work around, because the squares are turned different directions. On the first side, I worked into the side-post spaces of two squares, and worked between the double crochet stitches of one square. Around the next side, I worked into the double crochet spaces of two squares, and only had to work into the side-post spaces of the center square. I still needed that sc2tog stitch in between squares, though. 

Here's the final stitch! After working around all four sides, I'm joining to the beginning chain-1. I was afraid it would pull, because the pattern says to begin with chain-1, then make 3 single crochet in the same space. Because the other 3 corners only call for 3 single crochet, I assumed that the beginning chain-1 should count as one, and only made 2 more single crochet in the space. Whew, I'm glad I thought about it! After the join, I had a nice, flat corner.

And... Time to grumble, but the project isn't finished without weaving in the ends. I follow the stitch direction to create a false stitch over the next to make a smooth invisible join.

The single crochet seams aren't bad... They make a little bump, but are hardly noticeable on the right side. In hindsight, I wish I would have just whip stitched the squares together, or used a sc2tog between them. That probably would have looked even better. 

However, using the single crochet seam pinched the squares together a bit, which took just enough room out of it to make space for the single crochet border. I would have had to change the border to a slip stitch, or the whole blanket would have slightly exceeded the 36" (91.5 cm) requirement.  

  Okay, so here's where I'm going to be honest: I hated this pattern when I started it. No offense meant to the designer, my dislike was only because of my own preferences. I didn't like the how "plain" the design of the squares were. I didn't like how they were turned different directions, either. But in the end, the combination of the simple pattern repeat and the change in directions came together to give this blanket a ton of character and texture that's lost in a picture. 

  I wasn't going to make the Nine Square pattern because of my initial opinion, but decided to challenge myself with it. I'm glad that I did. Perhaps it's a lesson that just like you can't judge a book by its cover, maybe you can't always judge a crochet pattern by its picture. After all, how many of us have been burned by one of those "nice-looking-sweater" patterns, only to find that the pose of the model in the picture is covering horrible bat-wing sleeves or a belt is hiding an unsightly bulge in the middle? 

  I tried my best to capture all the aspects of this blanket that make it special, but it's really one you just have to see in person. The colors are hard to photograph, especially with thunderstorms darkening the sky. But hopefully, the angled pictures give you an idea of how the different directions of the squares combined with the contrasting stitches of the seams and the border create a simple, yet spectacular piece. What the photos can't show you are how soft it is made in Caron United, and how the changes in texture are a stimulation to the senses that will leave you petting this blanket instead of packing it up for shipping.

Now, it's time to start another...

Happy Crocheting!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

WBS Blanket Progress: Ready to Assemble!

One last post before we join the squares together

  As you may have read in my last post, things keep getting in the way of finishing the Nine Square Blanket. Please excuse a bit of complaining in this post... First, I ran out of the right colors and had to wait on my shipment of yarn. Then, there was a death in my pet family, and I just couldn't concentrate on work for a few days. Now that I'm back at it, the weather has been acting up and a scattering of thunderstorms keeps taking away the light I need to take my photos, along with my electricity. While I'm still working through the final assembly of the squares, I'll share with you what I have ready so far. 

  Again, and as always, remember that the pattern for the Nine Square Blanket is not my design. It's provided for free by Yarnspirations for the World's Biggest Stocking project! We can all be a part of setting a world record, while crocheting (or knitting!) blankets that will be donated to military charities. 

Let's get started!

The original pattern for the Nine Square Blanket requires five squares made in Aran. Here is two of the squares completed, and what I have left of a full skein afterwards. I was able to make four of these squares without having to join yarn, then joined what was left of the two skeins to complete the fifth square.

Hey, beginners: I hear a lot of you say that your work never comes out as straight as mine! And what do I always tell you? BLOCKING! I am obsessive about taking perfect photos, and take quite a bit of time straightening out my edges before each one I take.
Here's where I stopped to join the yarn on the fifth square. I decided to show you guys what my work looks like sometimes before I straighten it out. Not so pretty now, is it? If you hold up your work in weird ways like I do, or constantly move around like me, your work is bound to get stretched out in weird ways. A little bit of straightening goes a long way!

And here's all the squares, ready to go! But, here's also where another thunderstorm rolled through, and knocked out the power for a couple of hours. No light, no computer, so I had to take a break again... It was dark before they got the electricity on again.

  On a side note, perhaps I should take a moment to thank my power company. Seriously, thanks to the workers that come out in rain and lightning to fix the problem. And "thanks" to the company that sends them out in dangerous conditions to repeatedly repair the splice in the line down the road... The splice that's been there for the last eight years... The splice that's the reason why the power goes out every time the wind blows... Yeah. Thanks for sending those people out in terrible weather to always fix that problem that you could probably fix the right way during fair weather, so we wouldn't have this problem anymore. Worrying about installing digital meters was soooooo much more important than that...


Life happens. I had to drive 10 miles in a thunderstorm the next day to go grocery shopping (at Walmart on a Sunday... Noooo!) before I could get back to it. So, by the time I dried off, got the groceries put away, and sat down with a cup of coffee, I was mentally and physically exhausted. So naturally, I messed up and started joining the squares backwards.

  Ugh. I don't mean to sound like I'm whining, but why are these projects fighting me? I want to make these blankets for an awesome and good cause, but it's getting stressful, fighting yarn trolls and dying cats and thunderstorms, and me messing up all the time! I need a vacation in a mythical land where bad weather, unruly dogs (he ate part of my wall again), and Walmart stores don't exist!

Again, anyways... So, I'm taking it apart to start over. I won't let it stress me out too much. After all, there's plenty of WIP's around here to work on when the next thunderstorm hits in about an hour!

We had four inches of rain in under an hour last night.
So much for living in the "Sunshine State"...

  With all that complaining, perhaps I should say that I'm thankful to still have a roof over my head, if not dry land underfoot. There's others out there facing much worse than this. 

Happy Crocheting!

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