Monday, September 19, 2011

TUTORIAL: Crazy Patchwork - Klimt Blankets

This tutorial is available for download as a PDF HERE
  
These blankets always remind me of the works of Gustav Klimt - without the nudes, that is. Many of these look like the Babette blanket, but this is a guide or a tutorial to creating a bigger and freer version with your own colours and in your own style. If you prefer to have a clear framework of reference for colour and a neat chart for your squares, the Babette is definitely the pattern for you - and you can find out more about this very thorough and well-written pattern here.  But ... if you have a basket of scraps that look kind of nice together and you're willing to experiment a bit, then read on!

First of all, the pattern. I like to use a solid square for this pattern. I use it a lot – most recently in the Equalizer Blanket.

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PATTERN: SOLID SQUARE
Colour A
Round 1: 
Chain 3 (counts as the first DC [TR]), do 2 DC [TR] into the ring. Chain 2, 3 DC [TR], chain 2, 3 DC [TR],
chain 2, 3 DC [TR], chain 2 and join to the third chain of your first 'fake' DC [TR] - like this ->

Round 2:
Chain 1, do 1 DC [TR] in the same stitch below. Crochet 1 DC [TR] in next two stitches, *in corner space, crochet 2 DC [TR] + 2 ch + 2 DC [TR], then crochet 1 DC [TR] in the next three stitches.** Repeat from * to ** twice
more. Join with slip stitch to the top of the first DC [TR].





Colour B
Round 3:
Chain 1, do 1 DC [TR] in the same stitch below. Crochet 1 DC [TR] in next four stitches, *in corner space crochet 2 DC [TR] + 2 ch + 2 DC [TR], then crochet 1 DC [TR] in the next seven stitches.**
Repeat from * to ** twice more. Join with slip stitch to the top of the first DC [TR].
Round 4:
Chain 1, do 1 DC [TR] in the same stitch below. Crochet 1 DC [TR] in next six stitches, *in corner space crochet 2 DC [TR] + 2 ch + 2 DC [TR], then crochet 1 DC [TR] in the next eleven stitches.**
Repeat from * to ** twice more. Join with slip stitch to the top of the first DC [TR].

Colour C
Round 5:

Chain 1, do 1 DC [TR] in the same stitch below. Crochet 1 DC [TR] in next eight stitches, *in corner space crochet 2 DC [TR] + 2 ch + 2 DC [TR], then crochet 1 DC [TR] in the next fifteen stitches.**
Repeat from * to ** twice more. Join with slip stitch to the top of the first DC [TR].
Round 6:
Chain 1, do 1 DC [TR] in the same stitch below. Crochet 1 DC [TR] in next ten stitches, *in corner space crochet 2 DC [TR] + 2 ch + 2 DC [TR], then crochet 1 DC [TR] in the next nineteen stitches.** Repeat from * to ** twice more. Join with slip stitch to the top of the first DC [TR].

An 8, 10, or 12-round square can be made by following the instructions as per rounds 5 and 6, except that the number of stitches between each corner increases with every round. Essentially, you must do one DC [TR] in each stitch in the previous round, and 2 DC [TR] + 2 chain + 2 DC [TR] into each corner space.

To finish: chain two, yank tightly. Leave a long tail for joining, and cut yarn.
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PLANNING

Now, assemble your colours. Before I even start thinking about making a blanket, I look at my collection of little squares. Whenever I reach the end of a skein, I use the last smidgen of yarn to make a 1-round or 2-round square and string it on a piece of ribbon. This not only helps me to use up all the little tiny balls of yarn that manage to snarl themselves into a big, tangled mess as soon as I turn my back on them, but it also helps me visually plan my next project.

At first I used to put them all on the same ribbon, but found it more interesting to sort them by colour – I simply put all the colours I think are nice together on one string (and sometimes re-arrange them according to whim). This helps me visualise the kind of blanket I want to make. For example, here I’ve got a string of autumnal colours (cream, brown, green), brights (red, orange, yellow, cerise pink) and a string of candy colours (pink, yellow, blue, peach, lilac), and a string of all the colours that haven’t found a family yet. Because we’re heading into autumn over here, I decided that I’d have enough browns and greens and assembled the yarn to make a candy-bright blanket instead.

I find that twelve or thirteen colours are more than enough – I don’t like the blanket to look too “busy” and find that more than twelve or thirteen colours can make a less harmonious whole. One thing that has proved to be invaluable is a project sheet for the blanket. This sheet (check the link in the Free Stuff here) simply helps you keep a record of all the yarn you’ve used – you will never recreate the same blanket twice, but you might want to make another using the same colour scheme.



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ENOUGH PROCRASTINATING: GET DOWN TO WORK, MISSY!

Then you start crocheting. Sit down with a mug of tea and a good film and toss out squares of varying sizes. Four things to remember:

1) The 2-round squares should have only one round of each colour.
2) The 4/6/8/10-round squares should have two rounds of every colour and you should only use each colour once per square.
3) The exception to 2) is the occasional square that follows the pattern of the blue square on the left: A-A-B-C-C-B. I don’t do many of these because the bigger bands made by the double rounds of one colour look less ‘busy’ and ‘bitty’, but the odd square in this pattern breaks up the monotony! 

4) I do a maximum of three or four 10-round squares per blanket.




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ASSEMBLY

When you’ve crocheted a little stack of squares, you can start putting them together. From this point on, I use an odd form of maths to calculate the width and depth. Each square is measured by its number of rounds – a 4-round square is 4, a 6-round square is 6. (Genius, eh? With these encryption skills, I ought to work for the CIA.)

In order to make a blanket that roughly fits a standard double bed (140cm/55 inches in width), I find that my blanket should be 54 rounds across. What do I mean? Look at the illustration below. Each box represents a square (the number stands for the number of rounds) and the sum of the numbers in each of the blue boxes is 54. 



I crochet the blanket in strips – here you can see my first completed strip. It’s 54 rounds across and 12 rounds in length. No, I didn't use the plan above. I just put it together, willy-nilly, 'cause that's the way I roll, hookers.


My blankets are usually made up of five strips -
Strip 1 – 54 rounds across, 12 rounds long
Strip 2 – 54 rounds across, 16 rounds long
Strip 3 – 54 rounds across, 12 rounds long
Strip 4 – 54 rounds across, 16 rounds long
Strip 5 – 54 rounds across, 12 rounds long
The finished blanket’s length (before the border) is 68 rounds, which is approximately 180 cm/72 inches.

So get started! Lay the squares on a flat surface and, like a giant crochet jigsaw puzzle, put them together in a pleasing fashion :-) Once you have created your own layout, you have to sew it together. You can simply continue in this manner, just arranging and attaching the squares in a random way, or you can create your own pattern.

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CREATING A SIMPLE PATTERN

The good news is that once you have worked out a nice 12-round and 16-round strip, you need to do very little to change it. Here is a 12-round strip (in blue) attached to a 16-round strip (in pink) - please note, not much care was taken to create this example, I just flung squares next to one another. (Obviously you will do this part with all due care and attention to create a more harmonious and balanced aesthetic.) The next time you start a 12-round strip, just leave off the first block of squares – below, I just moved the first three 4-round squares (in darker blue) to the end of the strip. When it came to the second 16-round strip, I just moved the first block of squares (in darker pink) to the end of the strip. In the last 12-round strip, the first 6-round squares have also just been moved across to the end. The overall effect is random to the untrained eye because you’ve used different colours in each strip – but there’s method in your madness!



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EDGING
I simply edge the blanket with a row of DC [TR] followed by a row of SC [DC] in a contrasting colour.


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ODDS AND ENDS


A note about assembly... 
Eibhlin asked if you could crochet the squares together. Theoretically, you certainly could. I personally think this method looks nicer when the squares are of uniform size, because the crochet seam forms a kind of ridge or frame around the squares. When the squares are of different sizes - especially with so many little ones, - I find that this method tugs the fabric a little bit, so I prefer to whipstitch them together. Below is a photo of two squares crocheted together (on the left) and sewn together (on the right.) I've used a different colour yarn to show you the 'ridge' effect. 

Ends and weaving:
A few of you had questions about ends and weaving (hello, CJ and Fairyhedgehog!). Normally when I finish a square, I leave a tail that's three times the length of one side. I use this tail to sew the square to its neighbour(s). I then make - yes, eek, prepare to throw your hooks now - a small knot and yank the yarn tight. The knot is generally not visible and can only be found by squishing the squares to find it with your fingers. I weave the leftover yarn in and out and up and down, and leave a little tail to crochet or weave over.  I wash the blanket once before I wrap it up in cellophane for its next owner, and I have yet to see any undone ends. Maybe they're too afraid of me to unravel. 

Can you join as you go? 
This method seems to work best with traditional granny squares or squares with a lacier texture where the point of joining is between a 3 DC[TR] cluster (see an example on this video here). Of course, here's nothing stopping you from making this blanket with traditional grannies - I just like the solid squares myself, but you can use any granny square pattern that can be completed in a variety of rounds.

Curious to see the finished blanket? Click HERE!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

All Things Bright and Hookiful

A few years ago, I found a padded envelope in my mailbox. Inside was a packet of Boye hooks, all the way from New Jersey, from a lady called Pat. This RAoK (Random Act of Kindness) made my day - probably my week, or my month, even. For it was then I discovered that crochet hooks weren't stumpy little grey things (see left), but came in all kinds of different shiny colours (see right)! Mean, isn't it? We have to make do with these boring hooks - yes, I said it. They're boring. No, I won't take it back - while Americans have stacks of packs of attractive hooks in a range of magpie-shiny colours. Where's globalism when you need it, eh? Not in the haberdashery department, that's for sure.



Anyhow, over the course of the last few years I've dulled the shininess off the hooks in a frenzy of crochet. In the past few weeks, I've been especially productive: once I'd finished the Crazy Patchwork blanket in pinks and purples (see here), I had a number of little squares left in lilac and purple, so added to them - this time in a range of blues and greys. The result is the blanket below. Making these blankets of random squares and colours is a lot of fun, and in the next few days, I'll put up a little tutorial - just in case you might feel the need to up-end your scrap basket and start making little squares. I know that 90% of the people who see these blankets shriek, "But all the sewing!" and then make a variety of unappetising noises to illustrate the odiousness of patching them together ... but the sewing is tolerable, honest. You can do it - you can. I'll help you. It'll be fine. You won't regret it.
(~ soothing, murmury sounds ~)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Faith in my Abilities

This is NOT how it works. Nope.

My husband's faith in my abilities would be moving - if it weren't so annoying. He regards me as his personal Filofax ("When did Dirk and Michaela get married?" "Where did I leave the screwdriver?" "Do we need to buy rubbish sacks?") and an Omniscient Presence. In fact, my actual lack of omniscience annoys him. He won't accept it. He bombards me with questions beyond my abilities and is annoyed when I can't answer them.

For example: last night I received a worrying e-mail from my mother. My aunt had returned from her holiday and found her house ransacked and her jewellery gone. I gasped as I read the mail.
"What's wrong?" said my concerned husband.
"I've just received an e-mail from my mother. Listen, she writes:
'Dear Ginger,
Just a quick note to let you know that Auntie Gingerbread came home from Spain yesterday and found her house ransacked and her jewellery gone. Love, Mammy'"
Mr Gingerbread appears at my side, his face a picture of concern.
"Which jewellery did they take?" he asks.
"I don't know - it just says 'jewellery'."
"How many thieves were there?"
"I don't know."
"And how did they break in, anyway?"
"Seriously? I don't know."
"Did they take anything else?"
"Look, I read the e-mail to you. I really don't know."
"Was the house insured against theft?"
I tap the e-mail on the laptop screen.
"Husband," I say, "I DON'T KNOW. This is all the information I am privy to. I might be close to my mother, but we're not telepathic. That is the sum total of my knowledge on the subject, I swear."
He looks at me, indignant. I still think he thinks I know more than he's letting on.
But I don't. Really. Now you, dear readers, know as much as either of the Gingerbreads know, honest.

To be fair, I demand all kinds of information from him, too - information HE COULDN'T POSSIBLY KNOW (he thinks). We are in the middle of a season of fertility - within our circle of friends and family, sprogs are being popped by the new time (oopsie. My pregnant sister says that I do not give The Mirkul of Birt its due deference, so let's re-phrase that:) women are a-glow with the joy of their blossoming bumps. One Gingerbread sister has just had a baby, another sister is due in October and my sister-in-law is expecting her first. The announcement of the first niece/nephew on my husband's side of the family came after he'd had a loooooooong conversation with his sister.
"My sister is pregnant!" he said.
"When's she due?"
Blank face. "In ... 2012?" he volunteers uncertainly.
"When, exactly?"
"Spring?"
"Are you asking me if it's spring?" I ask.
"I think it's spring," he says.
"Is it a boy or a girl?"
"You know, I didn't ask."
"But it's not twins, is it?"
"I don't think so."
"So she didn't say how many weeks pregnant she is?"
"She might have, but I've forgotten."
"But she's okay - she's healthy and enjoying the pregnancy?"
He scratches his head. He's been on the phone for half an hour with his sister but the question renders him bewildered. "I suppose so."
"What on earth were you talking about?" I ask him. "Did you ask her about the pregnancy at all?"
"Yes," he says, injured. "I asked her if she was puking in the morning. She is. And most of the rest of the day as well."
You see what I mean? I had to phone the sister-in-law to discover that, apart from the technicolour morning-slash-all-day sickness, she's fine, everything's progressing as it should, the baby's due in February and they haven't been able to determine its sex yet.

I think we've been spending too much time together in these summer holidays. It's about time I got back to work.