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Creating

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Moby Blanket aka The Great White Afghan

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It started with a couple balls of Noro Silk Garden over a decade ago.  I’d planned a little felted bag or two – but the first bag didn’t turn out like I wanted.  So I frogged the second one, and slowly collected more Silk Garden, for a variety of failed ideas over the years. That first little bag was finished on a car trip with my then-new boyfriend (who is now my husband of almost eleven years).  Sometimes projects take me a while*.  I’m sure you all know how that goes.

In the early summer, I was amalgamating my stash**, and collected all my Noro Silk Garden, both yarn and partially complete projects.  I, uh, have a significant amount.

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I divided the yarn into piles – sort of neutral*** and sort of colourful, then partnered the colourful up with Cascade’s Eco yarn (which I also had a goodly amount of).  I don’t crochet much, and when I do, most of the time it’s this Circle-In-A-Square .  It’s what I used to try and make a replica Crunchie for E___ years ago; it’s what I use for baby blankets. img_0792

I spent the early part of the summer cranking out the circles; I got about 4.5 circles from a ball of Silk Garden.  After I finished about 75 circles, I started turning the circles into squares with the Eco; I could get about 16 circles into a square with one big bump of the Eco.  I used a 5.0mm hook; and as is the nature of any stash busting project, I OBVIOUSLY needed to go and buy more yarn.

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I needed more yarn a couple different times.  This turned out to be a blessing in disguise – I borked the background colour choice a couple times and actually have three slightly different tones of ‘natural’ or ‘off-white’ or ‘cream’.  I didn’t notice this until well into the process… and I couldn’t face frogging back, waiting for the right colour to be ordered in, buying yet more yarn, and then re-crocheting the circles back into squares again.  I’d finally found the right project for the yarn and I was feeling every bit as obsessed as Captain Ahab chasing Moby Dick… which is how I named the blanket Moby.

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By late summer I’d finished eighty squares and decided I was ready to start joining the things together.  I’m truly unable to embrace randomness, so I headed to the backyard with a white sheet and good intentions.  I thought maybe if I just laid them out willy-nilly… or maybe if I rearranged them… or maybe if I… or maybe… (Don’t I look optimistic in that selfie? Little did I know that deciding the order of the squares would literally take more time than joining them.)

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Hours passed and it got dark and dewy (and I suspect my mom and S___ got tired of virtually identical texts from me that said ‘what about this one?’) so I came inside and rethought my strategy.  After a couple days, I grouped my squares from light to dark by colour family.  I sort of swapped them around to be roughly equal, then filled out my blanket shape with the darkest in the corners, shading to the lightest in the center.

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The cats supervised the process closely.

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I basted the squares together with neon acrylic (just because), joined them with Eco, and went around the edges with Silk Garden.  Then I tossed the whole thing into the washer then the dryer.  Start as you mean to go on – and if this blanket is an every day, used-by-everyone blanket, it is going to be machine washed…

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The cats and the rest of the family love the blanket.  This is me, rolling myself up in Moby Blanket, just to give you a sense of scale.  I’m 5’10.  Moby Blanket is LARGE.

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He lives on the couch; and because I derped the background colours and he’s not ‘perfect’, I don’t need to live in dread of the first time someone drops something on him.  (As well, see above, about machine washing.)

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Moby Blanket took about five skeins of Cascade Eco; and about 18 skeins of Noro Silk Garden.  There’s almost 4,000m of glorious yarn in Moby Noro… and don’t mention to non-crafters about what that much yarn is worth…

Once I actually decided what all the yarn was SUPPOSED to be, the project went by quickly enough, I guess!  June 7 – September 15 2016, according to the date stamps on my photos :)

*Lets not talk about the quilt I started in 1995 or so for S___.  Or fine, since we mentioned it, I have an unfinished quilt that is, uh, like twenty years old. Whatever.

**Totally a thing, if you keep your stash in more than one place.  Which is totally a thing for me.  I keep my favorite skeins in my office, so I can pet them more often.

***Yes, I know, I have just as much of the neutral as I did of the colourful Noro.  Shhh.

And Sometimes It’s Just To Keep Going

There’s a phrase that’s been rolling around my head a lot lately – “Start the way you mean to go on”.  Seems like good and straightforward advice, right? So why has it been so stuck in my head?

After mulling, I think it’s because it’s easy.  Starts are exciting, and new, and shiny, and it’s easy to work up enthusiasm for a new project*.  But to continue to have enthusiasm for an ongoing project, well.  Sometimes that’s more of a challenge.  And sometimes when projects have been going on for long enough that they don’t even really seem like a project anymore, they just become part of the background and rote activities.  And then you realize that everything important feels like old habits and the ‘excitement’ is new otter videos and then it’s perhaps time to reflect on things.  And step back from social media a tad.

Perhaps the trick is to keep going; accept that maybe some of the shiny intentions and ideas are maybe not as shiny as they used to be, but good things are worth persevering.

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(Live, from the kitchen table! It’s a PD day today, so my laptop is on the kitchen table so that I can supervise the littles playing minecraft on the old laptop.)

My new project is all my old projects.  Evaluating and re-engaging.  I want to be more mindful and involved in the world around me; I’ve been a bit wrapped up in just a lot of nothing.  I’m mulling what’s really important to me; what’s a priority to me; what’s worth working for.  In short, seeing new kitten videos on facebook is not on the top of that list**.  What is? Helping the littles grow into successful people***.  Being creative.  Being grateful for everything around me.  Staying connected to the people that are important to me.  Helping others.  Staying fit so I can stay healthy as long as possible****.

Maybe it’s that I turn forty this year, maybe it’s that the littles are not-so-little anymore, maybe it’s just that it’s fall.  I don’t want to feel like I’m wasting time, I want to cherish all the moments I have.  So in that direction, I started a new daytimer.  It’s a basic black moleskine, which is terribly functional but also sort of boring.  It’s actually like the new go-cup I got – it was on sale, but it’s so bland and innocuous that I keep forgetting it’s mine.

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Happily, I know just how to fix things.  If, by fix, you mean “change to suit myself”.  Altering things is not something I am typically scared of.  I have the skills and tools to modify quite a few things, actually…  For the boring day planner and go cup, I decided to skip stickers or decoupage (both of which are fun), and go for alcohol inks (which I have in my stash).  I’ve been puttering with alcohol inks for a while; I have quite a few finished works that I am really pleased with (the preceding orchid picture is one).  They are typically done on Yupo paper, or other non-porous surfaces like acrylic or glass.  I’ve never used it on a surface like the cup or book… but I figured worst case I can wash a stainless steel cup in rubbing alcohol and if the book cover went sideways, I could always head to ModgePodge.

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I’m pleased with the planner – it has a slightly luminous quality that I like.  I hadn’t planned on the etched surface texture, but one of the paintbrushes I was using decided to up and shed like crazy.  So that scratches were my technique to get the hairs off without trashing the surface I was happy with.  It has dried nicely with a pleasant finish; it’s not sticky or gummy or weird or anything.  The cup I am also happy with – although it took a little tinkering.  The indigo colour I used ran waaaaay more than I anticipated; so one side of the cup was really terrific, and one side was a solid blue blodge.  I washed it to make sure of the water-fastness – yep, water doesn’t disturb the inks at all!  Then I decided to add some surface texture… which mean that I scrubbed it with steel wool.  It abraded the dark blue into a lighter and more interesting colour, and didn’t change the pink or orange too much.  So it’s voted a win too!

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(It’s a montage!)

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And now that I have rebooted the blog yet again, I am off to work on other things for the day.  Sadly my deep thoughts haven’t extended to a clever closing paragraph, sooo… I’ll just leave… and feel awkward…  I’ll be folding towels, which is part of Project: Creating Home.  As opposed to The Endless Monontony of Housework.  I reframed how I look at taking care of the house.  I’m still not nuts for housework, but it helps to view it as a way to create home.

*At least, for me it is.  Ask any knitter with chronis start-itis…

**Although I do love a good kitten video.  Misdirection with cute kitten videos once helped me get the littles through the heartbreak of the end of a movie…

***People that are kind and loving and have joy in their life.  Success is not about preassigned goals of career or wage, in this house.

****All my favorite hobbies involve a nice, brisk sit.  Knitting, reading, watching movies… It takes me some work and focus to get active.

What Is It About Tiny Things?

I’m not obsessed with miniatures, by any means.  I don’t have a collection of any wee little things, unless you count buttons or stitch markers as miniatures; I think of them more as tools of my craft.  But occasionally when I run into a tiny replica of something, it evokes a visceral SQUEE IT IS SO TINY reflex in my brain.  No idea why.  Maybe it’s something to do with childhood memories, of being a small person in a big world?  I don’t know that it actually matters why I get pleasure from miniatures, I just do.  I was exceptionally pleased with myself when I came up with a plan for Mother’s Day.  At the garden center, I’d picked up a couple flats of succulent ground cover (I’m slowly planting them all over the place).  I was admiring them and thought… these would be so sweet in a tea cup! Or a little mason jar*!  I HAVE MASON JARS OH YES IT’S ON!

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So I rounded up my little mason jars (and I put their rings on them, just to make them look a little festive), and I put a bit of sand** in the bottom of each.  (Mason jars with sand… Pinterest eat your heart out!)

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I carefully ripped appropriately sized chunks of succulents out of the flat.  I know careful tearing sounds like an oxymoron, but I learned last year that a) the roots grow together like whoa and b) there are two different layers of a plastic mesh woven through the roots.  It adds stability to the plants as a whole but does make it hard to cut it into pieces.  Then I lovingly nestled plants into each jar; topped the edges up with sand, and gave them a teaspoon of water each.

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And I decided to bust out my Tiny Mail Activity Kit*** and make little tiny letters for each recipient.  I’d love to say I wrote something deep and heartfelt in each letter, but my tiny writing skills are not so sharp, so I stuck to “Happy Mother’s Day”.  The envelope isn’t much bigger than my thumbnail.

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Then I sent them out to the world!  The littles delivered a couple around our neighborhood; and I have a couple that I hope to get delivered today.  Moms will understand the lateness.

And moms that are out in the world, know that I wish you well even if you are too far away for one of my kids to drop off a little jar of plants. It’s a tough job, and you are doing great.  And if you can’t accept that you are doing great****, accept that  you are doing the best you can, and when you can do better, you will.

 

*I know.  Mason jars.  They are part of the hipster craftpocalypse.  I used them at Xmas to hold hand scrubs.  I am refusing to go buy more even though LOOK AT THE TINY PLANTER!!

**Sand recently released from the tyranny of the sand box.  Part of mud kitchen/garden supplies now.

***I can`t describe the awesome.  Just go look at it.  Leafcutter Design’s Tiny Mail Activity Kit.

****Slightly uncomfortable look in the mirror, here.

Introducing Clairity

I love puns… and I also love the members of my local knitting community. Recently, one of us survived a life changing accident. She is moving through it with grace, strength and humour; all proceeds from will go to help modify her reality to accommodate her new needs. This pattern has been inspired by Clair – she prefers rectangles and small stitch patterns. Work with bulky for a lush stole, in fingering for a scarf, or in anything in between.  The pattern is available now on Ravelry for $6.00USD, link is here Clairity  (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/clairity).

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This shawl is a parallelogram, with increases and decreases that shift the direction of the knitted work to the bias. In order to keep the edges as elastic as the knitted fabric, each row has a YO that is dropped on the subsequent row.

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• Bulky: Diamond Luxury “Baby Alpaca Sport” 100% baby alpaca; 100m/109yd per 100g/3.5oz skein; color: 1971; 4 skeins
• 9.0mm/US #13 needles in style of your choice

Sarah from Sea Turtle Fiber Arts came up with a special colourway for the fingering version…

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• Fingering: Sea Turtle Fiber Arts “Star Fish Sock” 84% superwash merino; 390m/430yd per 115g/4.1oz skein; color: Cosmos; 1 skein
• 3.75mm/US #5 needles in style of your choice

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Fingering Gauge: 23 st / 31 r = 10cm / 4” in stockinette stitch, flat
Bulky Gauge: 11 st / 14 r = 10cm / 4” in stockinette stitch, flat

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It’s a good scarf with a single skein of fingering; I’m very fond of the stole as an oversized scarf too.  It will work well in any weight of yarn, and written and charted instructions are given to customize the size.  The total purchase price of this pattern will go to Clair’s crowdfunding; it’s available now on Ravelry for $6.00USD, link is here Clairity  (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/clairity).

And if you would care to read more about Clair or donate directly to her crowdfunding, the link is Help Clair’s Army make her home Accessible .

Ever Notice That There’s Always Something?

Have you ever noticed that?  That sometimes, it seems like whatever you want to do or have planned, there’s some higher power out to thwart you.

There isn’t.  There really isn’t.  If there is a higher power (and I sort of think there must be), I am confident that it is as about as interested in my knitting projects (and able to directly affect it) as I am in an ant`s attempt to move a breadcrumb.

For example, I have three patterns I’m in varying stages of writing, and a year of bookkeeping for the company to wind up.  I’d like to get all of this done by the end of next week.  And of course, a couple evenings ago, my ceiling chose to fall.  Does that sound dramatic?  It sort of was.  The littles had been in bed for maybe twenty minutes; the man & I were watching tv, and SPLAT.   Part of the ceiling stipple fell down.

SPLAT!  Splat splat.  The man got a drill, I got a bucket and a drop cloth, and we spent the next several hours messing with the ceiling and trying to figure out what was happening…

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Turns out that one of the lag bolts on the toilet was broken, and the wax seal was either broken or unseated or had decided it really needed a break, and short of a trip to a beach in the Bahamas, the Calgary landfill would do.

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I was feeling oppressed by it.  I’m glad we were home and awake when it happened – that would have been an awful surprise to wake up to – and the first chunk of ceiling landed on my favorite chair.  So I fixed** it.  With a staple gun and a roll of craft paper.

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Call it an art installation – Phoenix Rising.  It’s about the emotional life of the ceiling.  Conceptual art.  Very high concept, actually – I could hardly reach the ceiling with the staple gun!

Anyways, despite the little voice in my head that says “Man, it’s a sign. This pattern is crap and you should trash it and do something useful”, I continue to edit the three patterns.  There’s always something; and I’ve learned that every single project of mine goes through a stage where I just want to walk away from it.  It varies from a mild feeling of distaste to a strong desire to light it on fire. It’s a neat trick to discern between that demoralizing voice, and the voice of reason that occasionally pipes up and says “Gee, that doesn’t look like the right ____and it hasn’t looked like the right ____ for about ten rows now…

I tend to err on the side of optimism, which means a good deal of the projects that I end up frogging have more work invested into them than they really should have – but I am happier knitting on an obvious failure that trashing a really fine idea.  Depression and self-doubt are sneaky bastards, I have to be vigilant against them.

Speaking of vigilance, I am due to start to work on the bookkeeping.  There is a deal I`ve made with myself – a couple hours on patterns, a couple hours on books.  The books are a heck of a lot easier, and yet, less fun!

*First we both ran upstairs – because that spot is pretty well directly below the kids’ washroom.  There was no water visible.

**Fixed, as in, rendered it funny so that until it is properly fixed by a professional, it makes me want to laugh, instead of cry.

Introducing the Lady Jayne Hat!

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I’m a nerd – this is not news. And my latest nerd-inspired knit is here – the Lady Jayne Hat. Jayne is a mercenary who works in space; he has a unique hat that he wears because his mom made it for him. I found the Sweet Georgia Party of Five yarn kit, and I just had to make a hat for myself.  It’s available on Ravelry now for $6.00.  buy now

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The beading and lace might be a bit much for even the toughest man; but I love it. The instructions are written and charted, and there are instructions to include or omit beads and how to use a group of graduated colours.

It’s in two sizes; Small[Large], with a brim circumference of 42[48.5]cm / 16.5[19]”.  The brim to crown measurement is 24cm/9.5”.

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It works well in any fingering weight – while beads in a toque might seem counter intuitive, they don’t add any chill and the lace pattern isn’t open enough to let much coldness in. That said, I tend to use it as a fashion accesssory, not as a winter survival hat. :)

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It’s available now on Ravelry for $6.00USD. buy now

Introducing Suki’s Shawl

This is Suki.  Best Knitter’s Cat EVER.  Suki’s shawl is dedicated to him; the pattern is available here: Suki’s Shawl Link for $6.00USD.

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Last year, I let go of him. He was a good cat, who spent many hours purring companionably next to me. The last thirteen years and the initial version of this shawl were worked under his close supervision, and every time I wear this I think of him. I loved him as well as I could, as long as I could.

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This pattern is for two sizes of shawl – one smaller, and one that’s almost generous enough to use as a blanket; both are a size progression of a single motif, from largest to smallest. You may work additional repeats of SECTION II, II, or IV, OR Chart B, C, or D. If you choose to work additional motifs, you will need to work extra repeats across subsequent rows, and be aware that you will need additional yarn. As well, if you wish to move from smaller to larger motifs, you will need to make sure that you have an appropriate number of stitches for the repeats to work.

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Small[Large]: Upper wingspan 150cm/60”[210cm/84”]; center depth 75cm/30”[105cm/42”]

Small: Malabrigo “Rios” 100% superwash Merino wool; 192m/210yd per 100g/3.53oz skein; colour: 027 Bobby Blue; 3 skeins.

Large: Verdant Gryphon “Mondegreen” 60% Blue-Faced Leicester wool, 20% silk, 20% baby camel; 183m/200yd per 113g/3.99oz skein; colour: Nude; 6 skeins

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Available here: Suki’s Shawl Link for $6.00USD

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Introducing the Dapple Shawl!

 

 

This is Dapple, a small shawl worked in fingering weight.  It softens the colors of highly variegated yarns, just as dappled sunlight softens the brightness of a garden. An interesting but not overly complex knit, it’s compelling to watch the colors combine and recombine in the doubled yarn-overs.  Available here: Dapple Shawl for $6.00USD.

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Dapple contains simple stitches and a rhythmic design but still presents a challenge. The double yarn-overs mean that a marker for the spine can’t be effectively used, so you will need to be able to read your own knitting. The instructions are fully written and charted, and there are notes on how to increase the size of your shawl if desired. To make your knit easier, stitch counts are provided for every row, and the double yarn-overs of the central spine are bolded in the written instructions. The cast-on is interrupted by two twists so that the upper edge will mimic the double yarn overs of the spine.

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The upper wingspan is 130cm/51” and the central length is 43cm/17”.

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Available here: Dapple Shawl for $6.00USD.

Introducing the Adriatico Cowl!

Alana Marchetto’s cowl was inspired by the waves of the Adriatic.  It’s available here: Adriatico Cowl for $6.00USD.

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The Adriatic Sea can be as varied as the countries that border it. Sometimes it’s warm and calm; sometimes it’s cold with white capped waves. This cowl was inspired by the changeable Adriatic, and it is beautiful whether you use a monochromatic yarn, a semisolid, or a dizzying variegated hand-dye. Wear it long over a light dress for a late night in the summer… or double it up to keep you warm while sipping espresso in the piazza in winter.

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The single ply yarn gives drape to the soft waves in the simple but effective stitch pattern.  The two samples are knit in Tosh Merino Light and Malabrigo Mechita.

 

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The pattern is written, and gauge for this pattern can be easily adjusted (but you may require additional yarn). Any elastic cast-on will work, but the long-tail cast on best coordinates with the bind-off. The depth is easily adjustable.

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Cowl measures 22cm/9” high and 173cm/68” around.  It’s available here: Adriatico Cowl for $6.00USD.

An Afghan for the Big E

We woke up to snow.  The kids are happy about it and I don’t even mind that much – but this photo of roses from Costco made me smile so I thought I’d share it.  Plus, it matches the afghan.

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Anyways – we sometimes call  my father -in-law the Big E.  He recently changed his living situations and in lieu of trying to tell him how much we all care and how we think and worry about him, I turned to what many would turn to: yarn*.

I decided to make him an afghan.  The colour choices were predicated both by his room decor and his favorite hockey team**; the fiber was chosen because of the anticipated laundering techniques.  And it’s a crochet blanket because for some reason, blankets are better if they are crochet.***

I started off using Fireworks Blanket by Becky Simmons.  As usual, I am bad at following patterns,  so it became more of a guideline for me.  That is purely a reflection of me – the pattern was well written and clear and it’s a clever way to make a granny square really engaging.  I used Uptown Acrylic Worsted, and it’s a very fine yarn, for something that is acrylic and meant to be machine washed and dried.

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I was making excellent progress, and actually almost finished, when I noticed something.  I had borked a notch; about three rounds back I’d forgotten one decrease.  Now, I rip back work merrily all the time, but I was at the point in the blanket where a couple rounds of used a whole ball of yarn.  The picture above is what was SUPPOSED to happen, and did actually happen in three out of four spots.  The two pictures below are what was actually going on in that one darn spot.

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I decided to try to fix it without frogging the whole darn think.  So, armed with time (Z___ had an ortho appointment) & my Swiss Army knife (which I actually got in Switzerland), I cautiously snipped and reworked and wove ends in. IMG_8877 IMG_8878

First, I nipped the thread and unwound a certain amount of that row.  Then I did the same for the next row, and the next, until I was back to before the spot where I’d missed the decrease.

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Note the three little balls of yarn, and the staggered missing rows.  I reworked the rows in order, tied a solid knot between the sections of each row, and wove in the ends.

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I don’t know if this is actually the way to do things with crochet – but it seemed to make sense.  And the big knot seemed right because crochet is really just a series of knots, anyways.  I’m really much more of a knitter.

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Ta-dah!  It took less than an hour – and that’s much less time that it would have to rip it all back and rework it.  If you know what you are looking for and you are actually holding the blanket in your hands, you can tell it’s there, but for the muggle or everyday use, it’s not noticeable.

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The finished blanket is about six feet square – I was aiming for something nice to snuggle under while sitting in a chair.  The Big E was a tad confused but pleased by the gift, and I hope he’s using it today while it snows.

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(This is a sort of terrible finished object picture – it doesn’t show the blanket off to it’s best.  And it’s before I’d washed and dried and washed and then hung it dry – the shape has properly flattened out and all the joins held.)

I’m off to the gym – I’ve already shovelled the driveway but my fair weather habit of exercise should carry into the winter work-out, right?

-K.

*“Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit either.” – Elizabeth Zimmerman

**The Edmonton Oilers.  I found it funny watching Calgarians admire the afghan in progress, and then recoil when they realized it was the OILERS.

***Totally irrational.  Also, not always true, I made a lovely knitted blanket once.  Godzilla vs. Evenstar