Cancer sucks. Everyone agrees and I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t been touched by it in some way. This week it has touched our lives again. We attended the funeral of a friend whom it took and my aunt passed away after a long fight with it. It’s so frustrating to have a disease that is so prolific but we can’t yet fix. So, I decided to share with you my Connie’s ray of hope mandala (https://theloopystitch.com/the-loopy-stitch-cal/). This pattern was inspired by the passing of Actor Samuel Johnson’s sister, Connie. Together, they have raised millions to fund cancer research with their Love your sister campaign (http://www.loveyoursister.org/).
I saw this CAL last year but didn’t have time to try it. This year I have! And I had the perfect ball of yarn to use. It was one that I bought in Melbourne, that I didn’t have solid plans for – I just liked it. It’s a variegated cotton by Katia. I didn’t quite have enough to finish it, but I managed to find some purple in my stash that matched well enough! I loved working on this. It’s so pretty and made up really quickly and easily. This is the first time that I have attached anything to a wire frame. That part was a bit time consuming and the first couple of rows after that were a bit fiddle but I’m hooked! I definitely want to make more of these in a variety of yarns, colours and sizes to make a beautiful display on my wall!
Wow! What a couple of weeks! We have had no internet due to some workmen damaging a line further down our street. It has actually shown us just how dependent we are on the internet. It has been very frustrating not being able to keep up with our normal contacts and activities. Thankfully, it is all fixed now and we are back online. I am glad that crochet is not powered by electricity or needs to be connected to the internet (although most of my patterns are sourced from there….), so I have been able to continue busily crocheting away while we have had our outage.
As I said in one of my recent posts, I am not really a scarf wearer in the Winter, but I am a hat wearer. I love hats – they not only keep your head warm, but they can change your style so much! My latest hat make is from Petals to Picots and is the O’Hara hat (https://www.petalstopicots.com/2016/05/ohara-hat-crochet-pattern/). I love the design of this hat and how it uses what is traditionally a stitch used in doily making to make a feminine and interesting hat.
My first attempt was done in Moda Vera Starlight dk weight yarn (8ply) and with the hook recommended in the pattern. I will admit that it was a dk yarn that is slightly thinner than normal. The hat worked out fine, but is a little small for me to wear (I think I have a fairly average sized head). It fits my daughter nicely! So, I decided to have a second try. I bought a thicker dk weight yarn (Divine from Lincraft, I think!) and used a hook size larger than recommended and it fits much better (I also added a couple more rows to the band). I love the colour and the design – very happy with how it turned out.
It also opened up to me a new way to block. I don’t normally block hats – I figure that they will be going on a head and that will shape them over a couple of wears. This one, however, was a bit more misshapen than usual and I felt they could do with a blocking. The method recommended – wetting the hat, inflating a balloon a small amount, inserting it into the hat and then continuing to inflate the balloon until it has gently stretched the hat into shape. So strange, but it worked!
And, despite the hat being full of holes – it keeps your head nice and warm! I wore it to the playground with our children this afternoon and it was great!
I have wanted to try spaghetti yarn for a long time -I just haven’t had the right project to try it on. Finally, this year, my chance has come! A girlfriend of mine has recently had a new baby and requested one made for her nursery. I looked up patterns to find one that wasn’t too “holey”, so it was safe to be walking on and around with a baby and came across this pattern from Wink https://crafts.tutsplus.com/tutorials/crochet-a-gorgeous-mandala-floor-rug–craft-6032. It was really fun to try a new kind of yarn! I enlarged the pattern quite a lot in order to make it as big as she had asked, but I think it turned out well. It took around 5 1kg balls of yarn, so it weighs a tonne! It’s a little wrinkled at the moment, but when it’s on carpet, it sits flatter, and in time, I’m sure it will flatten out as it is used! I’m very happy with the finished result and my friend was thirlled. I did find it a bit difficult to crochet with because of it’s thickness – it tended to give me a fairly sore wrist, so I had to take frequent breaks but it hasn’t put me off of trying to make another one for my own children’s bedroom!
Blocking – I hate it! And I love it! It makes it take that much longer to finish a project I have been working on but the results are worth the time. What is blocking you may ask? It is the process of relaxing the yarn to correct any areas that may have come out of shape during the crocheting process. I have been crocheting for many years but have only come across this concept in the last year or two and it is revolutionising how my finished pieces look! There are a number of ways to block a crochet piece (googling it brings up many options) but the way I have settled on doing it is as follows. I pin the item out in it’s correct shape on a foam camping mat (bought at Aldi but you can also get kids alphabet sets at Kmart that work just as well, they’re just smaller!) and then I spray, spray, spray it with a spray bottle of tap water. I press down on it to make sure the water has penetrated the piece, then I leave it for a day or two depending on the weather and voila! Remove the pins and you’re done. If the piece is really wonky or very large, I would probably put it through the washing machine first and then pin it out to dry. My husband has bought me a wonderful big blocking table (hang on, I can hear him saying something about it’s meant to be a pool table for him to use!), so I leave my blocked pieces on that to dry. It’s an ideal surface for me to use because it is high and as I am a tall person, it is easier on my back bending over to pin everything precisely. You can leave your mats on the floor for the piece to dry but with two children and two cats (who would think it was the perfect place to sleep!), I prefer to keep it up off the floor!
Once your piece is dry, you WILL notice a difference. It has a neater, more professional look with crisper edges and corners. Much as I hate doing it, the end result makes me happy. Last year, I entered a doily in a local show. When I was collecting my pieces, a lady actually asked me if I had blocked the doily because she could tell there was a difference. This was very encouraging because I had put a lot of work into blocking it and didn’t think anyone would appreciate the difference. It has encouraged me to keep going with it!
I have just completed the main section of a bag (keep your eyes open, it will be appearing on the blog soon). I had the usual talk to myself – “does it need blocking? It’s pretty much in shape, the squares are a little “bubbled out” but I suppose it doesn’t matter because it’s a bag, not clothing, etc”. However, I decided to bite the bullet and block it and I am so much happier with how it looks now. I don’t have a before picture, but here it is blocking away nicely!
So, I thought, here I am rambling on about blocking and the benefits of it and so on, but you really need to be able to see a before and after shot to get a good idea of what blocking will actually do. And, I have the perfect project to demonstrate it on for you! I have been busily working on the Neave Collection Blanket https://www.facebook.com/groups/621056114767998/?ref=bookmarks. The centre square begins with a series of front and back post stitches and then evens out into a lot of half double crochets and single crochets. Due to the front and back posts, it tends to buckle. Although it has flattened out a little as I’ve gone on, it is still pretty wavy. I have been holding my breath because a lot of people have had the same problem, and it has been corrected with a block. So, I am up to the part of the pattern where it is suggested that I block the piece, so block it I have and it has made a huge difference.It’s not perfect by any means but it sits flat now and gives me hope that as I continue to crochet around it, it will correct itself even more. I am so excited to finish it and gift it to my friend!
So, now you have read about the benefits of blocking, go and give it a try. You can buy all sorts of fancy wooden blocking boards (I’d love to get some one day!) and pins, you can make your own wooden ones, or you can use foam boards like me but I guarantee you, it will make a huge difference to the finished presentation of your crochet!
My journey with doilies continues! I’ve decided to work on a doily art piece – basically a collection of doilies artfully arranged in a frame. The centre piece is going to be this lovely pink doily I completed last night. I’m enjoying working on these – they make up very quickly and look so lovely. The only drawback is the fiddliness of working with such a thin thread – it makes my fingers sore! So, on to other things for a few days to give my hands a rest before I add some more to it!
26th April 2016 – all blocked and finished and I’m in love!
I’ve been thinking for a while now that I would like to try my hand at crocheting a doily. Old fashioned? Maybe…but so pretty. This lovely pattern came across my path and I decided to give it a go! (Pattern can be found at http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/rose-doily-804). It was a bit fiddly with all the roses being made first and then joined, but it made up fairly quickly. Right now, it is being blocked – I am excited to see how it looks once it is all finished!
26th April 2016 – It’s all blocked now and I’m so happy with the finished piece!