Friday, 5 November 2010

Getting the crochet on

Well aren't you all an excitable little bunch, I can practically hear you salivating at the prospect of some juicy gossip. I can confirm that I am most certainly not pregnant (note to self: read through things properly before you post them my dear) and I do not have a new cat. And I hate to say that I have unfortunately not cloned myself either. (But I am working on that one and early results are looking positive.) But I do have a friend of the male persuasion, a boyfriend you may call it. But I was being serious I'm really not going to be doing a lot of posting about it because I really don't want to go down that route again. Plus he reads this and will get a massive head if I say anything nice about him.
But I did think I would just share the knowledge round. Especially as someone is my Facebook friend and saw photos which kind of gave the game away!
So anyway....
Hot on the heels of my last blanket I decided I would see if I could manage to fit just one more in before Christmas and the lucky recipient of this one is going to be my Mum.
Her living room has lots of blues in it so the colour choice was all taken care of. When I went to France I chanced upon a yarn shop (god only knows what the lovely French lady thought of the over-excitable 20-something jumping up and down in her shop) and snapped up some lovely blues, with a dash of grey in there to break things up.
I soon realised that I would have nowhere near enough wool to make a blanket so I raided a market stall in Preston and came away with ridiculously large balls of wool in vaguely similar colours so I would have enough yarn to give me a decent sized blanket.
You know what though? I’m kinda bored of the granny squares. I feel like I’ve done them, I’ve conquered them and although I could quite happily carry on going round and round and round and coming up with new combinations (I am particularly proud of that patchwork blanket you know) but I felt that I should try something a little bit different. I contemplated trying the ripple again but I fear I am fast developing a phobia of it, just thinking about it brings me out in a rash. I will try again in the new year when I start crocheting something for myself for a change!
I turned to Jan Eaton’s 200 crochet blocks book and discovered something which looked familiar to me. At about the same time the blogosphere was filled with granny stripe blankets, inspired by Attic24, but here in front of me were the instructions to do my own little granny stripe square.
And so I set off. More than a little nervous. Although crocheting in the round hasn’t been too much of a problem for me, going from side to side has resulted in much more trauma than seems necessary and has seen the production of many a misshapen block. But to my complete surprise it worked. I followed the instructions and actually produced the right thing!
Before I carry on I would like to point out that my tension/wool/crochet hook could have been all wrong because these squares came out decidedly, well, you know, not square. Definitely more rectangular.
Once all the French wool was used up I stopped and assessed the situation. Lots of lovely stripy squares. Excellent. Except I didn’t want the whole blanket to be granny stripe squares, I thought I’d throw in a couple of your normal granny squares (see, I can’t leave them alone) using the market wool.
Which is when it hit me. I could have serious problems with squares not being the same size here. As I’ve mentioned some of them were lovely granny stripe rectangles, rather than squares, and that left me with no other option...
Learning how to block.
‘Blocking’ is a phrase which has filled me with horror ever since I started on this crochet malarkey. It has always sounded;
a)       incredibly complicated, and
b)      prone to disaster.
But I decided to bite the bullet. I did my research, thought about buying a blocking board, realised they were ridiculously expensive, and then read that you can block them on a bed. Couldn’t have been better timing because I was off  to Sheffield for the weekend, so on Saturday I rose, ripped the quilt off, covered the mattress in towels, grabbed as many pins as I could find, my trusty spray, my ruler and I set off on my intrepid adventure.
The conclusion? Blocking is a pain in the arse and almost literally back breaking (although to be fair it’s not the bed’s fault that it’s shoved up against one side of the wall). It’s tedious and irritating and I really can see why people spend the money on a blocking board. I would measure and measure and be satisfied, only to discover that the block had mysteriously come up with measurements of its own.
And none of this was helped by the arrival of my able assistant, Maggie, who did little to assist and actually made me block my squares around her. Worst assistant ever. She didn’t even go and get me more pins when I asked her.
I’m actually not entirely sure that it worked to be honest. I don’t think that the pinning was done particularly expertly, I think it probably suffered because I don’t think the yarn was 100% natural. The blocks do all appear to be the same size as each other but I’m definitely still whiffing a scent of rectangularness going on.
So in short I haven’t got the foggiest idea what’s going to happen now. I shall begin grannying, regardless of any worries, and just keep checking to see if my blocks are all coming out the same shape.
And don’t even talk to me about how I’m joining them together. Although Jan Eaton’s book does offer a small section on joining blocks together, these are just a demonstration of different stitches and not an actual elaborate explanation of how I’m supposed to join something that’s just a plain straight edge, to something that’s a granny. I don’t want to talk about it...
Stay tuned. I think this one’s going to roll and roll.


  1. I bought some foam blocks from ebay you know the interlocking ones that can be used for exercise mats or kids play mats. They are brilliant for blocking on. The danger with blocking on a bed is that there can be some movement if it isn't a solid mattress.

    The mats are great because if the work isn't dry in time you can prop it up against a wall when you go to bed!

  2. My cat tends to sit quite helpfully on whatever I'm crocheting whilst I'm crocheting!!
    Lovely colours by the way.
    Em xxx

  3. he reads your blog? grrr i'm itching to know now!!
    yeah blocking is really time consuming but worth it - and i never bother blocking anything that's acrylic, it only really works with natural materials
    anyway, love the colours, look forward to seeing what you do with it!

  4. I have heard tell on the internets of 'killing' acrylic yarn. It is a process designed to have the same effect as blocking where you use a hot iron to sort of melt the acrylic a bit so that it assumes the shape you wish it to. Sounds terrifying to me and I have no experience of it at all. So I'm very helpful.

    P.S. Blue and grey, totally my colours. If your mum doesn't want a gorgeous handmade blanket carefully crafted by her own daughter....

  5. Most of that crochet talk went right over my head. It looks very pretty though! I'm sure all the hard work will be worth it.

    Tsk at Maggie's unhelpfulness. She is so very beautiful though.

  6. Cats are crap at assistant-ing - mine can't even put the kettle on, but she does seem to make a bee line for anything being blocked, folded neatly or help together tenuously by pins. But never for helpful purposes.
    I think you're right to keep quiet about the BF, by the way. It's too easy to spill the beans on a blog and then regret it afterwards. You stay stchum (is that how you spell it?) and enjoy your new man in private.

  7. Wow. The crocheting is amazing! I can't crochet at all. I much prefer sewing, cross-stitch or long-stitch ideally. My mum and my sister are avid knitters and do a little crocheting but not as much as you! Yours looks amazing! Making a patchwork quilt is on my list of things to do before I die! I have yet to start one though because it feels like such a huge, insurmountable task!


  8. The blues and greys look great. Hope things are going well on the not just me front. x

  9. I don't know how you have the patience to keep making blankets. I'm knitting a scarf at the moment and it's taking soooo long I'm considering giving up until next winter, but I know it will be long forgotten in the back of a cupboard by then and I can't let all the work I've put in so far go to waste, so I'm sticking at it (well, I will be once uni work stops taking over my life).

    Yay for the your new boyfriend!

  10. Acrylic can be blocked. You have to place a hankie or towel over the piece and steam without touching it.

    If you forget the barrier, then you "kill" it and it's useless. I don't block acrylic unless it's a square that is way too small.

    About the crochet squares here: beautiful, just beautiful!


  11. Wow - you've been a busy bee whilst I've been away. Look what I've missed - book review, crocheted blanket, Zumba and a boyfriend!!!!!!

    Sorry the book recommendation wasn't a real hit. I'll try better next time.

    I love the idea of you picking an overall book winner for 2010. And, you must definitely keep up your book reviews - they're great.

    I'm so happy about the boyfriend situation :0)

  12. I like the rectangularness of the 'squares' but you're right, I don't have a clue how you'll make them fit. Maggie is gorgeous but I have to admit my first though was of cats when you said about blocking on the bed!

    Good news about the gentleman friend, I'll try to be pleased for you ... :(

  13. Love the colours! Hope you solve it...though maybe the cat is not helping...even if she is cute...and congrats on the new fella! Just wrote on your most recent post not even realising... okay so where is my romeo then hmm?! :) xxx

  14. If I come to Hull will you teach me how to do those lovely things you do with wool.


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