Well, 2016 is over – at last! It’s been a strange year in all sorts of ways, for lots of people, but the strangest thing that happened to me was that I suddenly seemed to become a crochet designer.
This time last year I’d never thought about it. Ever. I had never made a whole big pattern from scratch. I probably jumped into the deep end, with the Demelza blanket, but that said, I had crocheted a whopping 31 blankets (as well as myriad hats, scarves, amigurumi, shawls and other miscellany) before I set to work on my very first blanket design.
So I thought, at the beginning of a new year, I’d write a blog post about some of the blankets I made along the way, to share with you all a little of my crochet ‘journey’. I’m not going to post about all of them – that would bore everyone to tears, myself included! – but if you head over to my Ravelry projects list, you’ll find all the missing ones there.
Where to begin? Well, the beginning, obviously.
This was the first blanket I ever made, and the biggest project I’d embarked on at that point. It is, of course, Attic24’s Granny Stripe blanket. I made three Granny Stripe blankets in total – one for a friend, one for my mother, and one for my brother. But this was the first, and therefore obviously the most special. I made this in late 2011.
But I quickly figured out that I don’t like back-and-forth blankets. My tension went wiiiildly uneven, and I ended up with wobbly edges, one end narrower than the other, and feeling like I should just swear off blankets altogether.
But I decided to persevere, and to see if I had the patience to make blankets worked in individual squares – or, in fact, individual hexagons, because I started off making a hexagon blanket.
I made – I kid you not – four of these. Three single bed sized, one double-bed sized, one of which was kept, while the others went to friends. I loved doing these blankets. I loved putting the colours together, I loved the way the piles of little squares just kept getting bigger and bigger, and I loved the triumph of laying out all those squares, figuring out the right order, and thinking ‘oh yes, this works‘. And it was a great way to try to work through a bit of stash – but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that I almost always end up buying a bit more of this colour or that colour when I’m trying to stashbust!
This one was the first blanket I made for me. An ‘Around the World’ blanket, I made 729 three-round granny squares for this. Oh yes. Oh boy did it take a long time. But I love my blanket so much. One of the purples is a great match for the colour of my bedroom walls! It still has pride of place on my bed – except when it’s too hot in the summer, when it gets folded up and transforms into a mat for the cats!
Eight blankets later, I embarked on another project in order to stashbust, and obviously ended up having to buy more of various colours. But the results were worth it!
I love my rainbow blanket so much, and the combination of squares and rounds worked effectively centre-out meant many of my difficulties/unhappinesses with back-and-forth one piece crochet blankets were gone – ie, I could keep my tension even, and there were no wobbly edges! I’m still so pleased with this blanket, and it’s the best thing to snuggle under on a cold, dreary winter’s day.
I made this next one in 2015. It took a loooong time, but it was a present for my mother, and every stitch was made with love.
I used a cotton 4 ply yarn for this one, so the stitchwork is so delicate and perfect. The patterns for the squares were all from Jan Eaton’s ‘200 Crochet Blocks’; fifteen square patterns in total, each of which I made fifteen times in different colour combinations. 225 squares in total – for specifics on colours used, check my Ravelry project page, because I kept meticulous notes!. I learned so much fantastic technique doing this blanket. Before this I’d made some lovely things, but mostly they were relatively simple and relied more on colour choice and layout to give them flair. This, though – this was hard work, and I definitely learned new stitches and techniques. I braved 3D flowers, and puffs and clusters and spike stitches and long stitches and endless, endless numbers of ends to sew in. It’s the biggest blanket I’ve ever made, and will remain a favourite forever. I called it ‘Flower Meadow’, and my mother says that every night when she goes to bed, she remembers anew how much she loves it.
On that note, I am required by her to include this next blanket.
This has the unfortunate nickname of ‘pneumonia blanket’, because I made most of it while visiting her in hospital in the summer of 2015 when she had, yes, pneumonia. Another stashbust (or attempted stashbust!), this was as simple as it gets – just plain granny squares – but that can be a relief after a more complicated project. The interest here comes from the colour placement and also the join, which is so effective with plain granny squares. My mother says this blanket also shows off the stitchwork, which comes down to it being a 4 ply cotton yarn. (there, Mum, I featured the blanket like you asked 😛 )
This final blanket is the last one I made before embarking on designing Demelza. The patterns are from Polly Plum’s Fools In Love booklet of patterns, inspired by characters from ‘Pride and Prejudice’. I made a kind of nine patch with them, as you can see – nine different colour variations of each of the nine squares. Then I joined it with the celtic lace join. This is another blanket where I learned a huge amount, in terms of stitches (placement, texture, etc), and it’s probably the blanket that made me register how much I adore post stitches. All my colour combinations can be found on my Ravelry project page. I called this blanket ‘A Little Seabathing’.
And then I plunged in with the Demelza blanket, and then the Ross blanket. Onwards and upwards. Never underestimate the number of hours it takes to become good at something – that’s definitely what I’ve learned! I think they say you need 10,000 hours of practice to properly learn how to play an instrument (and play it well). I don’t think there’s quite 10,000 hours work in my blankets, but there’s certainly an awful lot. I think people tend to see ‘talent’ and not hard work, which is probably as it should be – serene on the surface, paddling furiously underwater – but I tell you, an awful lot of hard work has got me to the place where I felt able to try my hand at designing, and I have the callus on my finger to prove it.
I guess that’s why I still feel so weird when people call me a crochet designer. I’m just a woman with a hook, practicing my hobby like other people practice playing the violin. But it’s a good kind of weird, really. I have a feeling I’ll have to get used to it, because I don’t seem to be showing any sign of stopping!