Friday, September 23, 2016

Ombré crochet: How to make a gradient square

I've started a new 'relaxation project'! I really like having something uncomplicated to work on when I want to pay attention to conversations/tv or when I'm tired - I'm all for multiple works-in-progress with a variety of techniques and difficulty levels.

I'm making another crochet blanket, this time made up of squares which I'll seam together later. In each square, the colours will radiate from dark-to-light or light-to-dark, alternating like a chessboard.


My inspiration is a delicate granny square blanket featured in Jared Flood's blog post about the Icelandic Textile Museum. I tried out a few different kinds of squares, and decided to go for super-simple solid crocheted squares rather than classic granny squares.

The small square I made as a swatch (with only one round per shade) is the perfect size for a coaster. :)


I've had some undyed corriedale wool from the Little Wool Company in my stash for a couple of years, which I'd intended for a cardigan but couldn't get gauge for the pattern I had my eye on (as this is quite a thin 4ply). I think a blanket like this will really let the natural sheepy colours shine! I have 200g cones of natural white, oatmeal, and silver. The yarn will be held double, with two crocheted rounds per colour or colour blend.


Here are all the details, if you'd like to make your own gradient squares...

Materials: 
  • 4ply yarn in three colours, about 31g or 140yds total per square. I'm aiming for a 5x7 blanket (about 40"/102cm x 56"/142cm), so I will need about 1200g or 5,472yds of yarn which should include enough for seaming and adding a border. Holding it doubled definitely eats yarn!
  • a 4mm crochet hook (or size that makes a fabric you like).
  • a needle for weaving in ends.
  • a blocking board (optional).

Tips: 
  • If I'm using a wool yarn, I like to crochet over the yarn ends as I go to reduce weaving-in later.
  • It's nice and easy to spit-splice 4ply wool, especially non-superwash. I do tend to dip my finger in my water glass (or tea cup or wine glass) rather than spit, however - I'm prissy like that. :p
  • After I finish each square I wash it, squeeze out the water, and stretch it out on my homemade blocking board: four nails in a piece of scrap wood, with 8 1/2 inches between nails as you go round the square. The corner-holes of the crocheted square go over the nails (see photo below).

Abbreviations (in US crochet terms):
  • ch = chain
  • dc = double crochet
  • sc = single crochet
  • st = stitch
    Note: If you're more familiar with UK crochet terms, there's a handy translation chart here. The relevant terms for this project are US dc = UK tr, and US sc = UK dc.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    How to make a square (about 8"/20cm wide): 

    With colour A held double, make a magic ring OR ch 5 and join with a slip stitch.

    Round 1: Ch 2, 3 dc into ring, *ch 3, 4 dc into ring, repeat from * twice more, ch 3, join to top of initial ch 2 with a slip stitch.

    Round 2: Ch 2, 1 dc into each of the next 2 sts, *(2 dc, ch 3, 2 dc) into corner space, 1 dc into each of the next 3 sts, repeat from * twice more, (2 dc, ch 3, 2 dc) into corner space, join to top of initial ch 2 with a slip stitch.

    Break yarn and fasten off. With colour A and colour B held together, join yarn to any side of the square.
    Rounds 3-4: Ch 2, *1 dc into each st until you reach the next corner space, (2 dc, ch 3, 2 dc) into corner space, repeat from * three more times, 1 dc into each st until you reach the initial ch 2, join to top with a slip stitch.

    Break yarn and fasten off. With colour B held double, join yarn to any side of the square.
    Rounds 5-6: Work as established in Rounds 3-4.

    Break yarn and fasten off. With colour B and colour C held together, join yarn to any side of the square.
    Rounds 7-8: Work as established in Rounds 3-4.

    Break yarn and fasten off. With colour C held double, join yarn to any side of the square.
    Rounds 9-10: Work as established in Rounds 3-4.

    Round 11: Ch 1, *1 sc into each st until you reach the next corner space, 4 sc into corner space, repeat from * three more times, 1 sc into each st until you reach the initial ch 1, join to top with a slip stitch.

    Break yarn and fasten off. Weave in any remaining ends, and wet block the square.


    When the time comes, I'll write a post about seaming the squares together and adding a border. I think picot stitches around the edge could look really pretty - but I'm getting ahead of myself now. 2 squares down, 33 to go...

    Thursday, September 15, 2016

    New pattern: Folia Loop

    Folia Loop is the second design in my La Folia Collection of accessories featuring leafy lace and garter stitch. It's a lightweight cowl that can be worn draped as a long loop or doubled up for warmth. I was lucky enough to have my Mum agree to model it for me!



    It requires only one skein of fingering-weight yarn - I used Malabrigo Mechita in 'Pearl', a soft grey with a pretty tinge of mauve. It's a little more tricky than the Folia Crescent shawl, but aside from the provisional cast on and the final grafting it should be relatively intuitive once you've knit the first section or two of the lace. And the garter section is of course smooth sailing!

    If you haven't tried a provisional cast on before or would like to try a new method, this is my favourite tutorial, using the crochet hook method: Crochet Provisional Cast On.



    Features:
    • a diagonal leafy lace panel surrounded by squishy garter stitch
    • long enough to wear looped either once or twice
    • knit flat with a provisional cast on and grafted to finish
    • a stitch marker keeps track of the lace/garter boundary
    • a one skein project in fingering-weight yarn, perfect for that precious single skein
    • one size, easily enlarged by working extra garter stitch rows
    • pattern includes full written instructions and hybrid charted + written instructions

    You can see all the details and download the Folia Loop pattern via Ravelry, Loveknitting, Etsy, or Craftsy.

    The remaining pattern in the collection, a triangular shawl, is currently being test knit and will be released in late September. You can find the collection-so-far here on Ravelry: La Folia Collection. The triangular shawl pattern will be added to the ebook once it's released.

    Curious about the name La Folia? I introduced the collection and its musical inspiration in my earlier post, New pattern: Folia Crescent.

    Monday, September 12, 2016

    A tale of two sweaters

    You guys, I finished a sweater... and it only took me two-and-a-bit weeks! For me, that is FAST. It was my big Ravellenics project, so I was determined to get it done before the deadline. I put my other works-in-progress aside for the two weeks and just worked on this whenever I could. Result: a new knitted garment that didn't take me several months. ;)




    The pattern is Ysolda's Blank Canvas, and I used less than five skeins of Longrider DK from Madelinetosh in the 'River Water' colourway. I'm still completely in love with the speckles!

    One thing I would do differently next time is to knit the sleeves on similar needles to the ones I used for the body: I used wooden double pointed needles on the lower part of the sleeves and slippery metal needles on the body, and the gauge is visibly looser on the sleeves. Ooops. 

    I've been wearing it regularly for a few weeks now, and so far the only signs of wear are a few pills under the arms. I still need to block it, but I'm waiting for warmer weather so I won't be without it for long while it dries. <3

     

    To keep my garment-knitting momentum going, I dug out an old half-finished WIP from 2014 and decreed it my new Weekend Knitting project. The pattern is Laura Aylor's Park Slope tee, and the yarn is Vintage Purls Sock in 'Across the Universe', with subtle swirls of midnight purple and blue.

    I've nearly finished the ribbing at the hem, and then I'll just have the sleeve ribbing and neckline ribbing to go. And then I'll have another new top to wear, just in time for spring.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    New pattern: Folia Crescent

    The first pattern in my new La Folia Collection is out! It's a sweet, simple one-skein shawl called Folia Crescent. This one was very quick to knit, straightforward and not requiring much attention after the first repeat or two. Watching the lace emerge kept things interesting, and of course knitting with such beautiful yarn is always a pleasure.



    Features:
    • a leafy lace panel surrounded by squishy garter stitch
    • easy-to-wear crescent shape
    • a garter-tab cast on and an i-cord bind off
    • suitable for beginner lace knitters
    • stitch markers keep track of the lace section so you don't have to
    • a one skein project in fingering-weight yarn
    • perfect for that precious single skein of sock yarn
    • one size, easily enlarged by working extra repeats
    • pattern includes full written instructions and hybrid charted + written instructions

    I used one skein of Merri Creek Sock yarn from local dyer and colour genius Miss Click Clack. The colour is called 'Ambergris', and it's an absolutely stunning glowing gold. The beauty of a small (6 row) lace repeat in this shawl is that you can keep knitting and use up almost all of your yarn. I'd recommend putting a lifeline in first before doing extra repeats, just in case!



    The remaining two patterns in the collection, a drapy cowl and a large triangular shawl, will be released in mid-September and late September, respectively. They feature the same leafy lace and garter stitch combo, put together in different ways to suit the different shapes of the cowl and shawl.


    You can see all the details and download the pattern via Ravelry, Loveknitting, Etsy, or Craftsy. An ebook with all three La Folia patterns is also available - the cowl and triangular shawl patterns will be added to the ebook as they are released.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I chose the name La Folia for this collection partly because folia means 'leaves' in Latin (just right for a botanical lace design), and because it's the name of a famous musical form based on a standard bass line. You can read about the history of the Folia bass line here, and find the sheet music for various versions here.

    More than 150 composers have used variations on the La Folia theme in their music, including Corelli, Vivaldi, Marais, J.S. Bach, Handel, Liszt, and  Rachmaninoff. There are all kinds of riches to be found by searching for 'La Folia' on Youtube! Here are a few that stood out to me.

    A performance of Vivaldi's variations on "La Follia" (RV 63) with Baroque dancers:


    A Folia in the Spanish style performed by the viola da gamba player Jordi Savall:


    And the Australian group Latitude 37 recording their own set of variations on La Folia:

    Wednesday, August 3, 2016

    The travelling cowl

    Most knitters have long-term works in progress. This is the tale of one of mine. Although, to be honest, it's not terribly long-term compared to the half-jumper that I started in 2014 or the blankets I started a couple of years before that! This one's only been around since January.

    It's a colourwork cowl which I'm knitting in the round and will eventually graft into a seamless tube. I love the design and the colours, and the yarn is lovely to work with (it's Fino by Manos del Uruguay).

    Isn't it pretty?

    So what's caused the hold-up? Other projects have: other designs I've been excited about, and time-sensitive projects like birthday presents. Then I realised it would be more sensible to release a pattern for a double-thick tubular cowl later in the year, when most of the world's knitters are heading into cooler weather.

    I carried my cowl around Europe with me, without having much time to actually knit any of it. Here's a snap of me working on it on the train from Munich to Florence, back in April. There was some amazing mountain scenery (and snow!) as we passed through Austria:

    #placesyoucanknit

    After the trip, I put it to one side while I knit a few more shawls and things, and kept feeling kind of guilty that I had a lovely barely-started cowl languishing in its project bag. Finally, I brought it to New Zealand with me where it has at last made it to the top of my priority queue! The photo with the cup of tea shows my progress as of yesterday. :)

    This brings me to an idea Willie and I sometimes talk about, the Guilty List: the part of your to-do list that you don't like to think about, that big daunting task, or those small things that get delayed and procrastinated and delayed again. For me, it's often things like cleaning the bathroom or booking in for a flu shot.

    Right now, it's getting my Europe Trip photos organised, culled, cropped, processed, and posted to Facebook albums for my family and friends to see. I also want to write a few blog posts with my best photos and stories from the trip, but first I need to sort out the photos.

    Here's the way to deal with something on the Guilty List: you can do it, delegate it, delay it, or ditch it. For my photos, it's an easy choice - I have to do it! And I've finally started (the train photo above is proof). My pretty and well-travelled cowl was delayed for months, and now I'm doing that too.

    So here's my challenge for you: if you have a Guilty List too, get something off it. Do it, delegate it, delay it, or ditch it. Let me know how it goes!

    Friday, July 15, 2016

    Up for a crafting challenge?

    Like any popular website with a big social element, Ravelry has its own traditions and special events. One of my favourites is the Ravellenic Games, held every two years to coincide with the winter or summer Olympics.

    Ravellenics participants choose one or more projects that will be a personal challenge, and try to finish before the closing ceremony. The next Games are coming up in a few weeks beginning on the 5th of August, so if this sounds like fun you still have time to pick your projects. Joining a team is optional, but definitely adds to the fun in my opinion!

    Last time around I crocheted a great big rainbow blanket:


    I'm still super proud of it, and it's fantastic to have a real wool lap blanket in the lounge when it gets cold.

    This time, I'm going to go big again and knit a Blank Canvas sweater. It's DK-weight, with 3/4 sleeves, and using a pattern I've knit before, so it shouldn't be impossible to finish in two-and-a-bit weeks (I hope). But it will still be a stretch for me, since I usually take ages to finish a garment. My plan is to halt all design-related knitting during the Games and concentrate on making myself a new comfy jersey. :)

    Swatching ahead of time is encouraged (by analogy to 'training' for an event), so I've begun my quest to get my gauge correct. This is my first swatch in Madelinetosh Longrider DK, which I need to undo and knit again on smaller needles:


    Wish me luck!

    Monday, July 4, 2016

    WARMing up

    Have you heard about the WARM project? It's a community textile art project to reflect on climate change and sustainability, which will take the form of two giant pictures made up of small knitted parts, to be installed in the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery this September. You can read about the inspiration for the project here.

    My contribution is a batch of knitted gum leaves. I've made six small ones so far, which I'll put in the post today. If I have time, I'd like to make another batch of leaves.



    I found some fallen leaves and flowers under the gum trees at our train station today, very conveniently for my photos!

    If you'd like to knit something to contribute to WARM, you can find the all of the patterns (devised by Georgie Nicholson) here on Ravelry - you can make different kinds of native flowers, or wind turbines, or simple lace squares for example. All items need to be made from 100% wool yarn, and using stash yarn is encouraged. Contributions are due by the 12th of August.