Yesterday’s yarn = tomorrow’s project

It’s been a satisfying Getting Things Done sort of week in my world of yarn messing. First, some playing about with colours and crochet flower designs to finish off Bower Bird 2. I love this stage, moving bits and pieces around until I’m happy with them and maybe diving back into my wool basket to make a little extra flower or leaf where I feel there’s a need.

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I did make a butterfly but it looked completely wrong somehow so I abandoned that idea and decided that flowers and leaves were enough embellishment. So there it is, my soft and sweet little bird finished and all ready to greet a precious new baby in the autumn! 🙂

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Next, the leaf lace socks. Blimey, it seems like an age since I first picked up my needles to start these – not to mention spinning that blend of Merino wool and tussah silk in the sunshine – but at long last they are done. After several boot sock projects, the silky softness of these socks is indescribably luxurious: they wouldn’t last long in wellies but should wrap round feet and toes in a lovely cuddle. I’m still not a great fan of lace knitting and I think it will be some time before I embark on another pair of lacy socks but I’m pleased that I have at least managed to meet this particular challenge head on without hours of unpicking, cursing and – my usual trick – giving up and resorting to a different pattern!

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My next big knit will be my special ‘Granny gift’ for William. I have a plan and pattern all sorted and I know it will be a lot of fun but before I can start I need to spin then dye 300g of Jacobs fleece. As my spinning wheel is safely tucked up in storage and needs to stay there until the building work is over, I think this will have to be an autumn project, much as I am dying to get stuck in. In the meantime, I am back to a single project – the Coast blanket – which I can potter at happily when the weather isn’t too hot.

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Talking of heat . . . on a very hot day several weeks ago, I was head down in the leek patch pulling out weeds for the umpteenth time this season – is there no end to that oxalis? – when the idea for a new woolly project started to creep furtively into my imagination. Why on earth this happens when it does, I have no idea. After all, at that time I had more than enough things on the go: several ripples and a border needed to finish the Moses basket blanket, a couple of extra possible rounds of border on the Harmony Square blanket, a leaf lace sock to knit and a whole bower bird project to complete before September, plus of course my lovely Coast blanket not even half done. Did I need to be thinking about a new project? No, of course not . . . but then I’ve learnt over the years that need and common sense don’t come into it. When that little creative itch starts up, there is nothing to do but scratch it for a while and see where it takes me.

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What had started me thinking was the fact that I am clearly going to be left with a fair amount of yarn scraps when all my blanket projects are completed and I really don’t see the point in keeping them, for three main reasons. First, we are short of storage space here; second, I like a minimalist approach to life so I am not a natural stash builder; third, to my mind a pile of yarn isn’t very useful if it’s left as bits of balls  – in fact, it’s a waste of good resources. As an example, another little project I’ve had on the go this week is using up some leftover cotton yarn by making it into crocheted dishcloths. It’s so simple: 30 stitches, 19 rows of treble stitch and a border (probably totally unnecessary but I’m in blanket mode) of double crochet. Done in under an hour, and suddenly those yarn scraps have become something with a purpose.

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Anyway, back to my planning. Here, then, is an opportunity for me to create something from scratch, a project I can call my very own and the opportunity to turn a pile of leftovers into something useful . . . another blanket, in fact, and one that is based on the idea of patchwork quilts.

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‘Useful’ is the key word in my plans. I’ve stitched several quilts in the past, buying fat quarters of gorgeous fabrics and piecing them together to make something that was beautiful first, useful as an afterthought. For this project, I want to go back to the real roots of patchwork where bits of fabric from old clothes and bedding which had already had quite a life were cut down and used in their final incarnation to make something warm and practical.  I have a hotchpotch of colours to play with, the three blanket packs I’ve used having 35 different colours of yarn in all. That said, I know that there is only a tiny amount of ‘Citron’ yellow left so that won’t be making an appearance and there is a big difference in the amounts of other colours left from my first blanket pack.

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Obviously, the final size of my blanket will depend on how much yarn I have left over and I won’t know that until I have finished all my projects; so far it amounts to about 1200g with the Coast scraps still to come. My first thought was to make a square blanket but on reflection something rectangular would be more practical. I’m hoping there will be enough to make a reasonably sized all-purpose blanket, something that can be spread out for a picnic, used to pad a garden seat, thrown over a camping bed or simply curled up under or wrapped in whenever a little bit of extra warmth and comfort are needed.

I love the idea of simply pulling out balls of yarn, whizzing up squares until there is nothing left (not forgetting to leave something for the border!) then seeing what I can create from them all at the end. The main drawback, though, is that I really want to use the join-as-you-go method as I think it’s much neater and quicker than slip-stitching (and I’m not even going to give sewing up a second thought, it’s a job I detest) but it would mean joining in strips as I go along which means there would have to be some thought given to colour choices . . . not for the first time, I can see that easy-going ‘random’ doesn’t really work. The next problem, then, is how many squares in a strip? Well, that of course depends on how much yarn I have which I won’t know until I’ve finished all my projects. Suddenly I realised I was going round in circles. At this point, the part of my brain that deals with logic took over from airy fairy creativity: wouldn’t it make sense to make a square first then weigh and measure it so at least I could work out what was possible? Good plan. Having finished weeding by this point, I decided it was time for a tea break and maybe just a few minutes playing about with yarn . . .

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Part of the charm of the Flower Garden and Harmony squares (Attic 24 patterns) I made for other blankets was the fact that they used different colours and stitch patterns in each square.

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For this blanket, though, I want a more solid utilitarian patchwork effect so I plan to work each square in a single colour. Having messed about with different stitch pattern ideas, I settled on a very traditional tried and tested Granny square of treble clusters; the only change I made was to leave out the chain spaces (except at corners) as I want the blanket to be more fabric than hole. Six rounds seemed about the right size, the last round on all but the first square being the joining round. The finished square measured 10.5cm along each side and weighed 8g: now at least I had a starting point.

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I used that little ball of turquoise to make a second square and practised the join-as-you go technique. Perfect.

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So now I am all ready to start but I can’t do much more until the Coast blanket is finished; I could of course potter away with other colours but I’m risking ending up with later strips being mostly ‘Coast’ colours rather than a more eclectic mix. What I will need to guard against is getting too hung up on harmonious colour combinations; just look at how I couldn’t help but drag some sweet peas into the photo with my ‘Parma Violet’ square because I love how those soft colours look together . . .

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No, I need to accept that there may well be some eek! colour moments in this project and that will be part of its charm. That’s fine, there’s no hurry and I have plenty of time to mull things over.  For now I’m happy that at least that itch has been well and truly scratched. Time to get back to the garden! 🙂

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