Hooked on crochet

J. & P. Coats "Knit-cro-sheen" 250 yds

I suppose it was inevitable. Especially with how taken I’ve been with crochet lately. And I blame a project I’ve been working on at Effiloché, but this week I’ve been really taken with this crochet doily I’ve been working on.

Considering how much I love working on knitted lace, this really should be no surprise. But making doilies isn’t really something I’ve ever explored much, or even thought of making.

The white doily, made with fine crochet cotton & tiny hook on the top of a well polished antique table is the pinnacle of grandmotherliness for me. It’s exactly the sort of thing you’d find at my great-grandmother’s apartment, along with the porcelain figurines and complete set of collectible porcelain teacups, all inside an antique glass case in the dining room.

Doily time

The associations I have with doilies is probably the sort of association most people have with granny square blankets, maybe. For the record, great-grandma preferred rippled crocheted afghans to granny squares, and if something were made from scraps, you’d never know it. Her version of “home made” projects were properly tailored, double-breasted peacoats & matching over-trousers for all the children, grand children & great-grand children which, I’m told, were sometimes made from old overcoats.

What was I talking about? Doilies. Right. So I’ve seen my share of aged, once white doilies in my time that it’s not something I would consider having on my dresser or sideboard (I’m not big on porcelain figures or china teacups either). I think mostly because I’m not a big knick-knack kind of person, although I’m sure part of it is the association with old stuff (though usually I’m quite the fan of old things). I guess doilies get a bad rap, and now that I’ve been working on one, I’m not sure why. Hooking this doily has been satisfying the same part of me that lace knitting usually does.

And I often joke that I’m a cranky old lady anyways.

My Brindle Pony

Yesterday while I was at work, I decided to crochet a pony. This isn’t such a crazy whim to follow through on since I’m currently working at a yarn & fabric store here in Montreal and Sunday afternoons aren’t so busy.

I had just finished making some crocheted flowers for the shop and had an appetite for more crochet.

Work #selfie from yesterday. Crocheted flower hat & corsage.

I’ve been curious about amigurumi for a while, but somehow I have never tried it. After cruising some patterns on Ravelry, I found this pony pattern, grabbed a 3 mm hook and some random oatmeal fingering weight wool and got to work.

Amigurumi workshop

When I got home last night, I grabbed some left over aqua blue Fleece Artist I had from knitting a shawl for my mom a while ago.

Brindle Pony

Today, I continued working on the pony while hanging out on my front balcony, sewing each piece on after I was done crocheting it. I just finished it up this afternoon.

Brindle Pony

The only thing I found a bit strange was that each piece is made separately, and then sewn together. My understanding of crocheted toys was that each piece could be picked up and worked off the next? Maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

Brindle Pony

Pattern: Pony by Stephanie Jessica Lau
Materials: Mystery Oatmeal Fingering, Fleece Artist Merino 2/6 in Aqua
Start Date: June 15, 2014
End Date: June 16, 2014

Quite a quick little project.

Hooked on crochet

It seems to be rather fashionable of late to be all about crochet. And this time I’m firmly a part of the trend. I can’t get enough of the hook. I’ve got it so bad that I’ve been working on crochet blocks while eating my breakfast in the morning. I can often be found with a hook and project crumpled up in my bag walking around Montreal. I don’t necessarily work on the project when I’m out and about, but it’s comforting to know that it’s there.

The Hexagonal Blanket is not enough for me. I need MORE crochet projects! I have to crochet ALL the time! More more MORE!

So, uh, I joined a swap.

And I started a bag.

And yeah. Hopefully that should keep the craving satisfied. At least until I get a chance to cut out all those hexagons.

The Hexagonal Crochet Equation

I’m crazy. Or to be more specific, I can tend towards obsessive compulsion when it comes to some crafty projects. Like back when I was obsessed with making little paper stars and cut up the equivalent of a ream of paper and over months and months made thousands in every colour of paper I could find. So it should really be no surprise that I developed a rather complicated production line technique for working on this blanket.

As I was working on the first couple of blocks randomly picking colours for each round I started to think about how many colour combinations I could come up with from all the colours I was using. And if I had paid more attention during grade 12 math, I would have calculated all the permutations and combinations. Instead I decided to start working on the blanket with that methodology.

I grabbed a colour and started making little circles completing rounds one and two of the patterns. I even worked in the ends on each little disc as I worked with the added bonus of not having a million ends to deal with at the end of the project. I made enough discs in each colour to complete the next round with every other colour with my current group of colours. I had 10 colours total, so I made 9 little discs for each one (that’s the only thing I remember from math class, one less than total number).

Next I dealt out all the discs into stacks for the rest round, one of each colour for each stack for the round 2 colour and continued on with the crochet factory. More crocheting and then re-dealing for the next round, etc. etc. until all the rounds (and blocks) are completed. Then BOOM 90 blocks are done!

The other cool thing about this blanket is that it’s pretty much made with leftover yarn. It started off with the plentiful leftovers from the Jelly Bean Scarf and I spent some time raiding my stash for suitable colour substitutions as the original jelly bean palette runs out. I did spend some time this weekend replenishing the palette with some fresh jelly bean flavours at Effiloché but for the most part it’s leftovers.

But the one wrinkle with my insane methodology is that this pattern connects the blocks in the final round. So now I have a whole stack of finished blocks not connected to each other. My preferred look for this blanket is when the blocks sit right next to each other. I did spend some time making a couple rows of connected blocks but it kind of smells having to take out the final round of every other block to connect it to it’s neighbors.

Instead of being even MORE crazy and redoing my work, I think I’m going to move forward with the next batch of blocks and connect them to the old blocks when I get to the final round. That was I’ll also be able to distribute the original colours with their replacements more evenly over the final blanket.

ETA: I later came across instructions for this hexagon block over here on Attic24.

Jelly Bean Afghan

After finishing the Jelly Bean Scarf I found myself with quite the stack of leftover balls of super yummy squishy alpaca goodness in a lovely palette of jelly bean colours. I thought I’d make another version of the scarf for someone else, but then Mr. Peabody and Mr. Pare suggested a jelly bean afghan. Brilliant!

I was super excited about the idea that I grabbed my hook and my favourite granny square pattern and started hooking away.

Pattern: Willow by Jan Eaton from 200 Crochet Blocks

I created some simple rules about how to go about making this blanket. I’m a big fan of creating simple almost computer program logical algorithms when I’m working with leftovers or don’t have a specific idea in mind for the finished product. Yes, I’m a dork, but who isn’t really?

I really like the effect of this square in one solid colour. Using one colour draws more attention to texture created by the arrangement of stitches which I really like. So my rules were to make as many solid blocks as possible with any given yarn. And then when I couldn’t complete an entire block, I’d leave the last complete round and then start a new block and go as far as possible until all the yarn ran out.

1. Popsicle Pink + Raspberry, 2. Burgundy + Raspberry, 3. Blue + Raspberry

After working through 2 balls of yarn, I had a whole stack of blocks to evaluate.

I started laying them out and really wasn’t a fan of how it was going to turn out. So I thought maybe I’d divide them into two blankets, one of the solids and then one of the leftover-multi-bits. But after pondering for a week or so I decided I really didn’t like the idea.

Though I really like the Willow block, I don’t like it as much when it’s multicoloured. But with the gauge of yarn I was using, the blocks are too small to really get a sense of the texture created in each block. Really I was trying to recreate my lovely Ginormo Granny Square blanket with a substitute set of yarn that was available and in my price range but the heart wants what it wants.

I went on the search (Ravelry and Flickr) for another suitable crochet blanket pattern that suits fun bright jelly bean colours and came up with this:

Pattern: Hexagon Blanket by Kazekobo (???) (reverse crocheted from Flickr photos)

I have no experience hunting those fantastic Japanese craftbooks and a search for the ISBN yielded nothing so I set about reverse-crocheting from Flickr photos instead. Judging by the date of other people’s version of this blanket I figured it would be quite hard to come by anyways. I think I’ve come quite close though and have been happily crocheting away.

And yes, the dork in me has been having fun too. After working up a couple of blocks where I randomly picked the next colour, I started with a whole mass production, permutations and combinations style thing with all the colours. But more on that later.

The 5 year blanket

I started my first ‘real’ job about a month after graduating University. I woke up on Saturday morning to my brother & dad telling me there was a Mini Cooper (one of my favourite cars) for sale in the paper for a good price. We went to take a look at it and next thing you know, I’ve got my first bank loan set up to buy my first car. All kinds of rather grown up things happened all of a sudden back in the fall of 2004. I started working on a blanket to help keep the back seat warm and cargo bay protected in my new baby.

While there was quite a lot of life that happened in those five years, the blanket never quite got finished. Not before I sold the car and move on from that first job. It wasn’t worked on at all while I was away living and working in the UK—a dream since high school. I didn’t start working on it again until after moving across the country and getting set up here in Montreal. Two years into living here and the blanket is finally finished now that I’m finally settled in a routine again.

In my usual fashion, this blanket has been ripped out and restarted 3 times. The last time was in October. I had originally planned for the blanket to be the exact width of the back seat of the Mini, but as I no longer own the car, I decided I wanted it to be wider and more couch friendly.

Also in the last restart of this blanket, I realised that when crocheting, it’s more effective to work the ends in as a project’s worked instead of in knitting, where they’re left to the last to be worked in. Definitely a plus for crochet in my book. As this blanket had been worked narrower twice already, I was working with many smaller lengths of yarn. Instead of leaving them loose, I split felted them as I worked which is something I kind of really enjoy doing.

All these things really made it enjoyable to work on while watching tv. Add on the turn in temperature in the fall, and having a blanket on my lap to work on during CSI really made this project fly, relatively speaking to its previous progress.

It was also kind of a race to the end of the yarn. As I worked it became clear that the scarlet was going to be the deciding factor in the final blanket size. It did run out halfway through the second stripe of a pattern repeat, but luckily my brother Mr. Peabody has quite the supply of Briggs & Little sport which doubled up is a decent substitute for the Heritage.

It looks rather nice on my first couch doesn’t it?

Honesty is clearly the best policy

Yes I lied. I am not yet fit to call myself a Monogamist Knitter just yet. The Pink Lopi Raglan is not my only project on the go. I know, I know, I know barely a week since declaring my monogamy I’m already having the wandering fingers. But it’s not what you think! This other project, it’s crochet and it can’t get around much anymore. I don’t want to leave it lingering on the couch feeling unwanted watching as newer pinker things get all the attention.

So in the evenings, I’ve been working on the Mini Blanket when on the sofa watching tv. I am, of course, crazy-perfectionist even when it comes to the crochet and have begun this blanket entirely over again. But for why? Because it was already a millionty feet long, I had like 4 more skeins to put into it and it was just too darned narrow for my tastes. Yes. Could have finished it and then crocheted along one side, but then I’d always know that it wasn’t perfect and I had to compromise.

This blanket’s purpose has changed since the initial chain row. Originally it was going to be a back seat/cargo blanket for my Mini Cooper. I never finished it in time to use in the car before I sold it. I loved that car. Now, my Mom loves that car, so I still get to visit it when I’m in town. So the original width was based on the width of the Mini’s back seat. I even left a big button hole for the seat belts to go through.

My first bout of crazy when I first dug this blanket out to re-start was to rip back to the button hole for seat belts and then keep going. Crazy, but only a half restart. This time: complete do over. Yes. I’m THAT crazy a perfectionist (not that this is the first time I’ve completely restarted a project and likely not the last).

But I think I’m being a little bit smarter about it this time. Instead of ripping it all out and starting from the beginning again, I have started with the unused skeins and am going to work through those before ripping back the other blanket. That way I can use the other one in the mean time. It’s more like I’m starting another one, rather than redoing the previous one.

Newer, Smarter, Faster?
Perhaps. For the colour changes, I’m working the ends in as I go instead of just leaving them until the whole things done. I’m folding in the ends over the top of the previous row of the same colour and crocheting around the yarn AND top of the previous row. Does that explanation make sense? Oh and because of all the ripping & cutting that this yarn is been through, I’m using my now favourite Spit/Felted joining to avoid EVEN MORE ends to work in (thank goodness for the Briggs & Little Heritage and it’s 100% wooly goodness).

I’m four full stripe repeats through and I’m loving the new width and I think it will manage to eat up all the yarn quite nicely. The scarlet will be the limiting factor.

Look who can count.

I managed to make the granny square square. It was touch and go there for a while. I managed to save the unsquare square but the gauge was too floppy for a blanket. So I started with a smaller, less rude looking hook. Better gauge but it wanted to be a hexagon before becoming another square.

I know, why is it such a big deal for me to make a square? I have a general dislike of counting, math, figuring things out before hand, but this is me blindly following a pattern so what’s the deal? Well because of the Ginormo nature of the yarn and therefore exaggerated proportions of the resulting square make it more difficult to keep track of all those double crochets. Uh. Well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

I am totally in love with this project but the price of the Magnum is giving me an eye twitch. $20 a skein!?!???! Yikes. Considering that each square eats almost a full skein I think it’s going to be a while before this project goes any further. I could pick another super ginormo bulky chunky something-or-other, but I like the resulting texture of the un-plied Cascade. I’d be open to any recommendations for a similar yarn that won’t end up costing the same as my duvet. Yikes.

Alright. I’ve done some fancy calculations and the size of said blanket will be 30 squares. With each square using just about one ball each, this give me a grand total of $600 for the blanket. Let me be the first to say AY CARUMBA! Even if I factor in the leftovers and bring the total number of skeins down to let’s say, 20, that’s still $400 and absolute madness. It’s just crazy talk. Does anyone know of cheap substitute lopi-like wool yarn?

This isn’t your Grandmother’s Granny Square

Heck, it’s not even square. Let’s back track a bit.

So I got this skein of Cascade Magnum from Robyn in a Secret Pal package and I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with it. It was briefly an Urchin but I don’t think it was meant to be. I have been thinking of making a granny square blanket for a while now and with the arrival of the ginormo almost rude crochet hook I got the idea of making giant granny squares with chunky yarn. So last night I grabbed my hook and a favourite granny square pattern and got to hooking.

I was, uh, mostly paying attention, but somewhere during Slapsgiving I the square got away from me. Suddenly in the last round I was at then end before I should have been. I should pay more attention.

Now my little rant about the whole ‘This isn’t your grandmother’s [insert craft/product here].’ I know I just used the phrase myself, but my usage was to be a. ironical and b. a jumping off point for this discussion.

As previously mentioned, I don’t like the ‘trendy’ side of knitting. I think such phrases that try to sell knitting/craftyness as something ‘new,’ ‘improved’ and ‘better than the old days’ don’t serve the public identity of the past time. It gives the impression that unless you knit/crochet with irony, you’re old, moldy, out-of-date and just plain un-feminist. In my books, that’s just not cool.

I don’t knit because I feel the need to ‘reclaim’ this dying, unappreciated craft of my female heritage for a new generation. I knit to maintain a connection with my past. To honour my grandmother who taught me to knit, my great-grandmother who continued to make things for my brother and I as children despite having lost her sight. Sure, I knit different things than they did. And I don’t dip into my mom’s huge acrylic stash these days (partly cause I’m all about the wool and partly cause it’s on the other side of the country). But each time I pick up my needles or start something new, I can’t help but feel connected to the long line of ladies who made things out of necessity and out of enjoyment.

It’s silly to throw away all their tricks, tips, designs just because it’s not hip anymore. Sure I’m not going to make myself a granny square vest, but I there’s still something compelling about building blocks of crochet to efficiently and portably construct a blanket.

Now if I could just keep my mind focused enough to actually make a square, I’d be set.

Out of the Basket

And onto the couch.

Pattern: Stripy Throw — Simple Crochet
Adaptations: Doubled all rows to create bigger stripes
Materials: Briggs & Little Heritage in Washed White, Scarlet, Navy Blue and Light Blue
Start Date: Fall 2004
Finished By: Still going.

Blame it on too much cutting with an exacto knife. Blame it on the sad projects staring up at me through Ravelry. Blame it on a chilly apartment while watching tv one night this week and not wanting to turn the heat on just yet. Blame it on what you will, but this blanket is on the go once more!

A wee bit of history for this 3 year old project. I graduated University in the spring of 2004. I then got a job at my University after a month or so and woke up one Saturday morning to my brother bursting into my room exclaiming that my Dad found a Mini for sale in the paper for an affordable price. I am NOT a morning person. It usually takes me at least an hour to properly wake up and be coherent. But this REM interruption worked better than a triple espresso ever could.

Long story short. The three of us headed down to check out the car. I test drove it, as did my Dad. Some serious impulse shopping kick set in and the wheels were in motion for my first Major purchase as a working adult. I love that car still and would buy another Mini in a heart beat. They are too too too much fun to drive!

This blanket was started to live in my back seat to be a seat warmer in the winter (leather gets REAL cold)/cargo blanket for when the back seat would be folded down. I even worked in a gap for the seatbelt! The colours were selected to go with the lovely yellow exterior and are somewhat reminiscent of other Mini colours of the time. But I didn’t finish it in time to use in the car before selling it to my parents so that I could afford my London adventure.

The nice thing about selling my car to my parents is that I get to drive it when I go home. It’s like getting to visit the dog at the farm after it got sent away.

I’m pretty far along, but have plenty of yarn to go through still. I’ll keep chugging as long as the yarn holds out. If fall ever shows up, I’ll have a finished blanket in no time!