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Snowstorm Projects

It’s grey and overcast.  Every once and awhile I see a stray flake drift down from the sky, and there’s a hushed breath feeling to the air when I stepped outside this morning.  Like any good snow-day or snowstorm, I have on a ratty sweater with penguins on it, and my favorite pair of pajama pants.  Unlike my childhood snow-days, my list is full.  Self-employment (especially when you work from home), means you get to keep working until the power goes out – and sometimes you don’t stop then.

Still, I’m planning on knocking out all my internet things this morning, and curling up with a blanket and my projects this afternoon.  Just in the time I’ve been typing this, the snow’s started to come down harder, and is starting to show up on the walkways.

So what will I be working on as the snow comes down?

Hairpin lace against a table

hairpin lace, looking like some strange creature’s spine

I’ve got a hairpin lace project I’m working on for Piecework – I have to get it off by next week.  I’ve created a lovely swatch, and now need to get cracking on the real piece.  One of the things I love about Hairpin is how it comes together so quickly, once you get the strips done.  I’ll put on an audiobook, and get a good chunk of it done this weekend.

still working on the puppy-chewed blanket

still working on the puppy-chewed blanket

This blanket is turning into the project I can really only work on for two-hours at a time – before my brain needs a rest and my back needs to stop hunching over it.  This too has to be done by the end of next week.  I’ve got one more big hole to fix, one smaller hole, and a bunch of worn places to reinforce.  I’m really happy with how this is working out, and hoping to get a good picture of it when it’s done.  This is logistically a little difficult right now, as our downstairs guest bedroom has become a staging ground for a larger home project, and the upstairs really doesn’t have a good spot.  I’ll figure something out, though.

The final project I don’t have a picture of, but it’s my near full-to-the-top meding bag.  It’s one of the larger bags by erin.lane (seriously good project bags – she doesn’t do anything revolutionary, other than having really cute fabrics, a well-lined bag, and sturdy reinforcing at stress points… but really, isn’t that all you need?), and it’s filled with hand-knit socks that need darning or reinforcing.  I made a dent in them this week, and I’m hoping to make a bigger dent in them, as I’m down to two pairs of handknit socks, and that really isn’t enough.

And now, in the simple 40 minutes I’ve been working on this, the snow has really started to pick up.  We’ve got accumulation on most of the concrete surfaces, and Mr. Turtle’s chomping at the bit to walk into town, get our snowstorm wine and cheese, and take a romantic walk in the snow.  So, I must be off!

What’s your snowstorm project?

Repairing a Puppy-Destroyed Blanket

New Year brought a small, temporary break in the designing workload – thank goodness!  I took the time to catch-up on some of the repair work that’s big and cumbersome, including repairing a puppy-chewed blanket.

Over New Year’s I was able to work on repairing a family blanket that had been “savaged” by a puppy.  This is a tricksy repair, with lots of patterning.  I’ve been working my way through it, taking the time to trace out the pattern in waste yarn before making the final repairs.

 

Take a look at some of my progress:

 

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Here I’ve got the tools of my trade: good solid waste yarn that’s smooth and not prone to breaking.  I’ve got a bent-tip needle, locking stitch markers, a crochet hook, and the project.  You can see the hole closed up now, with the yarn ready to be traced over.

 

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And here we have the final repair, the new yarn nearly invisible.  You can find the fixed area by looking at where the orange marker is poking through.

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Another hole, this one near the edge.  The repairs are made a bit more difficult because every other row the knitter worked is twisted.  Twisted stitches are NO FUN to repair because the top unraveled bit looks like a backwards loop cast on.  Every other row has to be manually detangled instead of just dropping things back to a good starting point.

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Here, working the pattern using a crochet hook.
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And now, the hole ready to be traced over with the new yarn!  Halfway finished!

Stay tuned, as this blanket has several more tricky holes that I’ll be tackling.

3 Essential Rules to Work on Granny Square Crochet Blankets

Tomorrow morning I’ll be winging off our a week long vacation with my family in Alaska, and then I’ll return to quickly packing up for three weeks of summer camps in Rockville, MD.  So I’ve been trying to wrap up a few long-term finishing projects.

Sometime soon I’m going to write a post on how to properly finish off a granny-square blanket so it doesn’t fall apart in 30 years. (Or really, any blanket for that matter.)  Still, it seems like all I’ve been doing lately is repairing granny squares.

It’s meditative work at the best of times, and dead boring at the worst.  I normally like to put on a book-tape or podcast and crank out the repairs.  This time around I took a few photos to share, and decided to add my 3 rules of working on granny square blankets.

Granny Square blanket with split seams

The first blanket, featured above, had two major places it was broken: the last row of the square didn’t have its ends woven in, and I needed to rework the last row and reattach.

Rule #1: Properly weaving in ends is essential in a blanket that you want to last.  Crocheting over them doesn’t cut it.

Repairing hole in Granny Square Blanket

Repairing hole in Granny Square Blanket

As a corollary to Rule #1, the closer an end is to the center, the more stress it takes.  REALLY weave in the ends at the center of a blanket.

Which brings me to my next rule.

Rule #2: include care instructions when you give a blanket to someone.  Don’t expect them to know how to care for the blanket and the fibers!

Let me show you some examples:

Center of granny square lost of love

Center of granny square lost of love

Slowly adding back the center of the Granny Square

Slowly adding back the center of the Granny Square

Granny square center replaced!

Granny square center replaced!

All the black that's  not a

All the black that’s not a “frame” for the granny square is replaced & repaired.

The blanket above is one that’s been well loved, but also subjected to light and heat damage.  The fibers are very very delicate, and I’m working to repair the largest holes so this can be gently loved again. Still, proper care of textiles can extend their life a hundredfold.

Finally, my last rule.

Rule #3: REALLY, REALLY weave in your ends.  Seriously.  Nearly 80% of the granny square repairs I do is in places where they ends have come unraveled, instead of the fibers degrading.  Weave in the ends.  Use a sharp needle.  Skim them in.

Are there things you can think of to extend the life of your afghans?  What are they?

Students Report In!

One of my favorite things about being a knit and crochet designer and teacher is that I get to live vicariously through my students.  Because most of the projects I crochet are original designs, I rarely get to try out the beautiful other patterns other designers produce.

Elizabeth was one of my students a couple of months ago.  She came into The Yarn Spot for some private lessons, and simply took to crochet like water.  Next thing I know she’s taking some of my intermediate classes and showing me pictures like the ones to the side.  In a few short weeks she had made ENTIRE AFGHANS.  Do you know in the many years I’ve been crocheting how many afghans I’ve made?  One.  And I stopped early because I got bored.  It ended up being a lap blanket.

So in order to get in the head of someone so incredibly motivated and excited about her new hobby, I “invited” (really demanded, but she’s accommodating) Elizabeth to answer a few questions about herself.

Look how large this blanket is.
Why did you want to learn to crochet?
Two of my favorite things in my home are a blanket made by my Aunt Connie for me when I was little and a housewarming gift made by one of my best high school friends. Both are chevron crocheted blankets. I have always felt loved cuddling up in them and being able to make those for other people in my life is what made me want to learn to crochet. 
What would you like to learn to do in the future?
I’ve just started making stuffed animals, and I think, at some point, lace might be fun. But really I have no idea :)
Quick! Your’re an animal, what are you?
Penguin.
What type of projects are you looking at doing next?
I am working on a stuffed dinosaur and a blanket for my husband. I think, after that, I would like to try a project involving granny squares. 
What words of encouragement would you say to other crocheters or knitters who are just starting out?
Keep at it! It’s fun and relaxing all at the same time, and the feeling of finishing up your first gift is amazing. 

This one is pretty big too – and the stitches came out beautiful and regular.

Thank you Elizabeth for stopping by and showing off your hard work.  Keep at it!

Are you a student that’s taken one of my classes or a private lesson?  Have you ever worked one of my patterns?  I’d love to hear about you and your projects!