Friday, 25 February 2011

Ta-daa! Unveiling the Twirly Whirly Scarf!

I've finished off two crochet projects in the last coupla weeks - the Babette blanket from my previous post and yesterday I finally completed a Twirly Wirly Scarf that I started on Christmas Eve last year.

The pattern I used calls for three rows but the wool I used was so thick that I felt two rows would be enough.  And, in fact, a 200 stitch foundation row is quite a lot - I reckon 150 would be plenty, but there's not denying that what I've ended up with is something pretty dramatic!

Sara at Tangled Happy (a really lovely blog dedicated to crochet patterns) posted about the pattern which she found at Maize Hutton's site and, as they both say, it's simplicity itself to make - start with a foundation chain of 200 stitches then just go back and do 2 treble crochet stitches into each of the foundation chain stitches till you reach the beginning, then repeat, doing 2 treble crochet stitches into each stitch of the previous row.  That's it.  Nothing else.  Because you are increasing the stitch count, the twirls happen automatically.

Of course, I've finished this at the wrong time of year - spring is most definitely springing around these parts - so I'll have to wait until next winter before I can really show it off.  But I'm very pleased with how it's come out.

I did end up using far more wool than I was expecting - not least because I used a really, REALLY chunky wool.  I used 5-and-a-bit balls of Sirdar Indie in colourway number 150 Apache:

This costs between £3.30 and £3.80 (depending on where you get it) per 50g ball.  I paid £3.70 so total wool cost was £22.20.

I used a 10mm crochet hook, which is a big fecker:

So that's all my current crochet projects out of the way for the moment although I'm intending at some point to have a go at some Amigurumi which is, according to Wikipedia, the Japanese art of crocheting small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures.  Now, there's no way on God's green earth that I can be accused of being a stuffed animal sort of person.  Wasn't when I was nipper and I'm not now.  But when you discover that modern Amigurumi include the cutest little Nosferatu figures, how could I possibly resist?

Or how about these adorable Amigurumi monsters:

Or Satan and the Grim Reaper:

Or even the famous Pea Soup scene from The Exorcist:

These are most definitely my kind of stuffed toys!

But - no - I've promised myself that I have to get to grips with knitting next.  I've been having a go this week and it's slowly getting easier.  So far I can cast on, knit, purl and cast off.  Seems the next thing to do is have a go at knitting the easiest thing on the planet and something all beginners start with - sigh - a scarf.  I know, I know.  I have enough scarves in my possession to start my own lynching mob, not just made by me but as presents from people.  Rather sadly it seems I've turned into the sort of person that other people give scarves to as Christmas and/or birthday presents.  And gloves.  I get given lots of gloves.  And I do have to say that they're all lovely, really they are - leopardskin velour, candy pink suede, peacock blue leather gloves, scarves in hot pink or purple lurex - but I have enough of them now.  Something else would be nice.

But, yeah, I'm about to start knitting another bloody scarf, just so I can get used to tension and changing wool colours and stuff like that.  I have to keep telling myself that it's not that difficult - if hundreds of thousands of people all over the world have been able to do it for hundreds of years, then there's no earthly reason why I can't do it either. 

Hmmm.  We'll see.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Ta-daa! Unveiling the finished Babette blanket....

So late last year I discovered, and fell in love with, a particular crochet design known as the Babette blanket.  It's very simple, basically just a selection of differently sized crocheted squares, joined together to make a blanket.  I had plenty of wool left over from the two baby blankets, two cushion covers and the huge 6ft square blanket I made in 2010 so I thought I'd have a go at this one.

I downloaded the pattern from here.  Originally I thought I might just have a go at constructing it myself by looking at pictures of other Babette blankets but once I realised there was an actual pattern to follow, my lazy gene kicked in.  Yes, you do have to pay for the pattern but it's only six bucks (which is £3.75 in proper money) but it's a copyrighted design and I don't mind paying such a small sum in order to make my life easier.

The pattern arrives as a four page pdf file which tells you absolutely everything - from what colour wools to use, to what style of square to crochet to, finally, how to put it all together.  I decided I'd rather choose my own colours, thank you very much, and what style of square to make, but I did need to know how many of what size, and which sizes went where.  For example, there are only two squares which have 12 rounds of stitches, but 49 squares of 2 rounds of stitches.  The last page is a diagram that shows you which squares go where.

So I started it on 20 November 2010 and finished it on 16 February 2011, having worked on it pretty much every single day, just making hundreds of squares of different sizes and colour combinations:

I made several every night, in front of the telly.  I've got pretty good with a crochet hook these days and can do it without looking, like a properly proficient hooker.

Once the squares had all been made, I decided the easiest thing to do next would be to block all the squares now, to try and get the sizes consistent (rather than blocking the blanket at the end).  Blocking is, frankly, a pain in the hole.  What I do is to get a thin-ish towel, spread it on the dining room table, then stretch each square out to the size it ought to be and pin it to the towel.  I then get my iron, set it to its hottest setting and most powerful steam then hold the iron as close to the square as I can without actually touching it and basically then steam the fuck out of it.  Make sure each square is steamed thoroughly, getting hot and damp, then leave to dry.

When the pins are removed, the squares stay the size you've stretched them to.

I then followed the pattern and joined the squares together, stitching them to each other with a big darning needle.  I then went around the whole of the outside in treble crochet - 2 rows, one sky blue and the outside one in black.

And here's the final version, taken from the stairs:

Sylvester Bean had to join in this bottom one, and helps to provide a scale.  It's not as big as the large blanket I made last year but is a good single-bed size.

Here it is on our normal, standard sized double bed:

As you can see, it doesn't hang over each side, or over the foot end.  So, to be honest, I'm not entirely sure where I'm going to put it yet, but it was - and I think you'll agree - such a desirable thing that I had to have one in my life.

It was, in all honesty, a really, really easy thing to make.  Crocheting is not difficult and granny squares are unbelievably simple things to do - you're basically only using one stitch, treble crochet - and you end up with something as gorgeous as this.  Go on, have a go.

But, of course, now I have nothing to do.  Actually, that's not strictly true, I've been working on a twirly scarf but keep running out of the specialist wool I'm using, so that's a very start-stop kinda project.

What I'm intending to do next, though, is teach myself to knit.  I've tried a couple of times in the past and find it bizarrely cumbersome - I'm not used to handling two long sharp pointy sticks where you have to keep moving the stitches to the end of the needles in order to work with them.  To me a crochet hook seems much more elegant and uses minimal movement to achieve something.

I feel learning to knit is going to be something of an uphill journey but I shall attempt to persevere as I've found a really cool sweater with a big skull on it that I'd love to make (for me, in case you were wondering!)

But I need to walk with these needles before I can run.  I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Put it down for 5 mins and now I can't find it again..... blogging mojo, that is.  I know it's been a while, and, of course, my life bimbles along at its own pace.  It hasn't been completely uneventful - some reasonably mundane stuff has occurred that I would have discussed in the past but now feel unable to, which is both annoying and sad as I now feel that a large chunk of my life cannot be related in public; some pretty bloody exciting stuff has also occurred that I promise I will tell you about eventually, when it's all finalised - it's just a bit premature at the moment and I'll look a berk if I tell you all and then it doesn't come to pass; and ordinary, everyday stuff has happened that other, better, writers could take and weave magical posts as if spun from gold but which I will just turn into something lumpen and bovine.

Spring is emerging in the outside world.  It's Valentine's Day today.  Egypt has just gone through the most remarkable two weeks. I've just finished reading a brilliant set of wartime books (Zoo Station, Silesian Station, Stettin Station and Potsdam Station by David Downing) and am completely spellbound by the current Danish murder-mystery series on Saturday nights (The Killing /Forbydrelsen by Soren Sveistrup).  I'm about to finish my latest crochet project and start on something else.  And I can't be arsed to blog about any of it.  For now, at any rate.

So please forgive my current silence, but I promise I'll be back.