Friday, June 12, 2015

WBS Blanket Progress: A Contrasting Color

The squares continue...

  It's getting really, really close to the deadline to mail in the World's Biggest Stocking squares in time for the contest! Not only do I need to work quickly to finish this blanket to add to my donations, I also have to spend time trying to fix my printer, or just go buy a new one. For each blanket to count as an entry to win the $5,000 prize, I have to print and fill out the form provided by Yarnspirations... But, my printer is inhabited by the spirit of an alien spaceship right now, and it's doing whatever it wants instead of printing my form for me. I'm half expecting it to start hovering and fly away.

  Anyway, I started making these blankets to donate before the $5,000 contest was announced, and I'll still continue to make them after the contest is over. But, I mean, c'mon... I want to win that money, don't you? I'm trying to get as many done before the June 22nd deadline, but I think this will be the last one I'll be able to finish before I need to mail them in for my entries.

  Okay, let's get back on track... Remember that the pattern for the Granny Square Blanket isn't my design: It's provided for free by Yarnspirations for the World's Biggest Stocking project! You can download the patterns here. Just like me, you only have a short time left to donate your stocking squares to enter in the contest for $5,000. But, more squares will still be needed. Please help make the blankets that will be used to create a world-record setting stocking! The stocking will later be disassembled, and the blankets will be donated to charities.

Let's get started!

We left off last time where I had finished the centers of all the red squares. I've worked ahead to finish the next round of white on all these squares, so let's take a look at the last square left to work on, and how I'm joining the contrasting color.

I've decided to stray from the pattern. I hate how no matter which way you pull the new color through, there's a little tiny jog in the beginning of the round. I'm weaving in my ending tails, and I'll work over them with the contrasting color. Here, I'm pulling the tail through the front loop of every other stitch.

And here, I found a quicker way. I turned the square over and started working in the opposite direction. I'm still working into the same loops of the stitches, but now the front loops are at the back of the stitches. Working this way lets me pull the tail through more easily, instead of having to insert the hook over the working yarn. You could pull the tail through the back loops of the stitches, but I tend to catch the strand with the hook and pull the tail out when I work the next round. Do whatever works for you!

Even though it's only worked through one round of stitches, this is an unbelievably secure way to weave in the tail. Once the next round is worked over these stitches, the tail will be trapped forever! I don't worry about trimming the end now, because it usually gets pulled back into the stitches. I can trim it later, if needed.

This definitely makes the stitches look funny... for now. Once I work into them, you won't be able to see the difference! Beginners: You might need to mark your ending stitch if you want to keep following the pattern as written. I have no problem finding my ending stitch and turning chain, but for those who are new, you might lose it when you work around.

I'm beginning the new color without a slip knot, just like I showed you when I changed colors on the Big Granny Square Blanket. I yarn over with the tail for the first step of the stitch, and this secures it without a knot. 

If you bind off for the color like I'm doing, and you do lose your beginning stitch, don't worry! All you have to do is make a double crochet in each double crochet around - the pattern is simple, so where you begin isn't too important. Making sure you have the correct number of stitches in the round is what really matters.

Every corner is worked the same way, making each side of all the rounds increase by four double crochet. As long as you have 15 double crochet in between the corner chain-3 spaces, it won't matter where you begin.

Because I weaved the tail of the last round in following the stitch direction, I'll leave the beginning tail of this round loose. Later, I'll weave it in the opposite direction to balance the slight change in thickness.

Now, these squares are ready for the last round of single crochet in the beginning color. I'm going to bind off and work over the tail for this round, too. It's the end of the day, and I have a lot of work with a needle to weave in those beginning tails. But do you notice that there's one square missing? (Probably not. I'm sure not many of you are actually counting the stack of squares to make sure all 16 are there!)

I went ahead and completed one square. I had to. The tiny bit of red left over from making the centers of these squares is just floating around, waiting to get tangled. After finishing this round, I still had a bit left!

  I've come to a conclusion: Forget taking it easy; I want my chance at winning that money! I can take a break when it's over. We'll continue with finishing these and starting the rest of the squares soon.

Click here for the next post

Happy Crocheting!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

WBS Blanket Progress: Beginning the Granny Square Blanket

Squares, squares, and more squares!

  I like challenging patterns. Love knot stitch? Bring it on. Puffs, clusters, filet crochet, and pattern stitches of all kinds... No problem. Bullion stitch: One of my favorites. Clones Irish lace... Okay, still learning some of it. But assembling pieces? I hate it! If you browse through my free patterns, you might notice that I try my hardest to create everything in one piece. My skills are advanced enough that putting together squares or pattern pieces is no problem for me. I just don't like doing it.

  Even though the simple patterns provided for the World's Biggest Stocking project are easy for me, these multiple piece designs are challenging my mentality. But, it's a challenge, so I'm having fun. I'm even starting to get over my dislike of joining squares. I'm working my way up to the blanket with the most pieces, so I'm starting the Granny Square Blanket Square for my next project. This blanket consists of twenty-five six-round granny squares. 

  The colors of this blanket are a nice change from the holiday colors I've been using for the other squares. I've worked with red, white, and green since last October, thanks to a few other holiday projects I had picked up, then transitioning right into the World's Biggest Stocking blankets. When the holidays come around this year, I'm making everything in purple. 

  So, anyway... Follow along as I begin the Granny Square Blanket! Remember that these patterns are not my design; they're provided free by Yarnspirations for the World's Biggest Stocking project. Click here to download them for yourself, then make a blanket square that will help set a world record and later be donated to military charities.

Let's get started!

These granny squares are made differently than the pattern for the Big Granny Square Blanket, but the center begins in the same way. Two double crochet are worked into each side of each corner, and a double crochet is made in each double crochet around. The color will change at the end of the third round. 

But, what I'm doing is joining at the end of the round, for now. My plan is to make all the squares up to the color change, and I'll pull the joining slip stitch out later. I'm doing it this way to avoid juggling multiple skeins of yarn, because I often move my work from place to place. 

Here's what I have left of one skein after finishing the centers of the first sixteen squares. There's not enough here to make any more centers, but I don't need any more in this color, anyways. There will probably be enough to make the last round of single crochet for at least one square.

Before I continue, I'm going to weave in all the center tails of these squares. I think I'll probably work over the ending tail when I start the contrasting color, but I'm not sure yet.

I can't weave the ending tails in now, anyways, because I have to undo this stitch to change colors. According to the pattern, the new color should be pulled through when making the joining slip stitch.

I'm going to follow the pattern for one square to see how it comes out, but it looks like this might make a little jog in the color... We'll see! For now, I'm gonna finish weaving in all those center tails. That's another thing I don't like doing, so I need to get it out of the way.

My RA is starting to act up again, so I'm supposed to be taking it easy. Then I went and made all 16 of the centers for the red squares in one day. I'm gonna take a break now, and we'll pick this up again soon.

Happy Crocheting!

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!

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