Saturday, 14 October 2017

Blanket happiness

I did say earlier that for me 2017 would be the year of the blanket.  So far I have made around a dozen blankets (pictures of all of them are on the  2017 - Blankets page of this blog).

Back in May, I posted about a blue blanket that I was really enjoying making, in fact I called it my favourite one so far.  This is the one I mean, made from a pattern by the Crochet Crowd:

In June I sent it off, with other items I had made, to Operation Orphan.  As they were getting ready for their distribution of warm winter clothes and blankets in Moldova, I assumed that this blanket would go there, but as with virtually all the things I make for charities, I didn't know where it would end up.

Moving forward to last week, I was reading a blog post from Brad of Operation Orphan, describing how he had managed to get aid to Antigua and Barbuda in the West Indies. following the devastation of Hurricane Irma.  The post included lots of photos, and as I looked at the final ones, I noticed a little boy clutching - yes, you guessed it - the blue blanket that I had sent them.  He's the little boy on the far right in this photo:

I feel so happy to be able to see exactly where this blanket has ended up!

On the personal front, I was delighted this week to meet my great-nephew, Sebastian, for the first time.  He was born on Sunday 8 October, and so of course, he had to have a blanket.  I toyed with making him a tartan blanket (his surname is MacLeod), but several abortive attempts later, I changed the plan and made him a Tumbling Blocks blanket instead.  It was really simple to do (just double crochet diamonds) but the optical illusion it creates is so effective.  I based it on the Vasarely Blanket pattern on Ravelry

His mum, my niece, was delighted with it.  So two lots of blanket happiness to report.

Friday, 15 September 2017


Have you ever read T S Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, or maybe seen the musical Cats?  If so you may have come across one of my favourite cat characters, Jennyanydots the Gumbie cat.  She's a cat who lazes about by day, but at night she keeps the mice in order:

She is deeply concerned with the ways of the mice—
Their behaviour's not good and their manners not nice;
So when she has got them lined up on the matting,
She teaches them music, crocheting and tatting.

I just love the thought of a cat who can crochet! 

This week we have adopted a cat from the RSPCA, and named her Jenny after this fictional cat.  She is approximately three years old, and hasn't had the best time in life so far.  Her tail is very short, so she must have had part of it amputated at some point.  She was brought to the animal shelter last October (almost a year ago) after she was found by the side of the road, having been hit by a car.  She was badly concussed, but hadn't broken any bones.  As she recovered, it became clear that she was deaf.  There have been two previous attempts at rehoming her, but neither of them worked out.  As we live in a very quiet area with little traffic, we hope she will do better with us.  

She is a tortoiseshell cat who loves stretching out in the sun.  The only slight hiccup in settling her in so far was when I found her gingerly clinging on to the pelmet above the curtains.  I managed to rescue her, and hopefully she won't try that manoeuvre again!

She loves cuddling and is definitely a lap cat. I'm pleased to say that she doesn't mind me crocheting while she is curled up on my lap.  Aren't her eyes beautiful and trusting?  We're looking forward to lots of love and fun with this girl.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

A bit of sewing for a change

I don't do a lot of sewing, but sometimes Loving Hands is asked for sewn items and the challenge of making them appeals to me.

The Neonatal Sister at University Hospital Coventry and Warwick asked for some small drawstring bags  to hold memory items for bereaved parents.  Without the bags, parents would have to take their precious items home in a paper bag.  Among the fabric stash I found some Peter Rabbit fabric and a small piece with nursery animals on.  These two pieces made eight bags, which will be sent off later this week.  Other Loving Hands members have made some bags too, so hopefully we can keep the hospital supplied on a long term basis.  

I've also enjoyed myself making some hand puppets.  The charity Knit for Nowt supplies family puppets (which can be either sewn or knitted) to social workers and therapists for use with children.  The puppets have two faces, one happy and one sad, to enable children to express emotions that they may not otherwise be able to show.

So far I have made four puppets: Mum, Grandma, Girl and Boy.  Grandad is under construction, and Dad is at the cutting-out stage!

Can you spot the differences between the two photos???

Friday, 4 August 2017

How many strands?

Chunky yarns are very useful for making warm hats, scarves and mittens ready for winter, especially the cold winters in middle and eastern Europe.  I don't have much in the way of chunky yarns, but I do have lots of thinner coned yarns which I have been combining to make chunky or thereabouts weight for knitting mittens for adults in Bulgaria.

The first pairs were made with charcoal and blue yarns.  If you look closely at the picture above, you will see that the 2 balls of yarn comprise 5 separate stands - one of 4 ply, 3 of 3 ply and one of 2 ply.  A total of 12 ply is roughly chunky, and knits into a tight fabric on 5.5 mm needles.  The pattern I used is Marlene's mittens.

Using so many strands slows my knitting a bit as I have to check that I am working all of the strands all of the time... Occasionally a couple of stitches have to be unpicked and reknitted because of a lost strand or two.

After making a couple of pairs in the grey/blue mix, I moved on to a brighter combination of colours:

How many strands this time?  Well, actually it's seven:

There are two strands of 3 ply and five strands of 2 ply - 16 ply altogether.  In fact the white and black strands may only be 1 ply, so I could be exaggerating slightly!  It is definitely knitting a thicker fabric than the grey/blue.  I have found that stacking the 3 balls on top of each other makes it much easier to control the strands, and there is really no difference in knitting with seven rather than five strands.  The mix of colours works well together too:

Mitt number one still missing a thumb.  For some reason my strategy when making mittens is to knit the bodies of both, then to knit the thumbs after.

Can I beat 7 strands?  We shall see!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Little things finished

Here in the West of England we are enjoying warm weather at the moment, although as is normal, two or three hot days mean that thunderstorms will follow.  They followed at around 3 am this morning, and, although I have a hearing impairment which means I normally sleep through loud noises quite happily, I certainly heard these storms as they passed over.

Warm weather makes crocheting full size blankets a bit of a challenge, so I have put the current aran monster to one side.  It is roughly 30 inches by 58 inches at the moment, and I'm aiming to get it about another 12 -15 inches bigger all round.  

We did have a few cooler days at the start of July, which meant I was able to finish off the other aran blanket; it was a corner-to-corner, made with 2 strands of coned yarn.  I do like the stripe design of this one, and will be going through my remaining cones to see whether I can plan another.

But on to the smaller things that have been finished; firstly the fingerless gloves: 3 pairs in 3 different sizes, all made from the same pattern, and using different combinations of coned yarn.

And then the baby blanket made from 4 ply.  I pondered for quite a while over the layout of this blanket, sorted one out, and then sewed it up completely differently by mistake!  Never mind, it looks fine as it is and at 33 inches square will keep a baby cosy and warm.

Next will be another baby blanket, this time for a family member; my niece is expecting a baby boy in October, and as their family surname is MacLeod, I had the rash idea of making a tartan blanket for him in the clan tartan.  I have ordered the wool, but will have to make the pattern up as I go.  Watch this space!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Little things

I seem to have spent a lot of time lately working on large blankets.  When I found a large bag of 4 ply in among the yarn that RAFT gave me to make more blankets, I was rather pleased, because 4 ply to me says baby blankets, which are a lot smaller than the ones I have been doing.  There were four colours of Patons Diploma 4 ply, a lovely soft yarn.  As a bonus, I also had a couple of balls of the same yarn in a fifth colour in my stash.  Small squares were needed, so I went for a simple approach:

Just a plain treble crochet square.  But what colour order should the squares be set out in?  Decisions, decisions....

I'm probably going to go with the top order.  The squares need a white frame to border them too:

So far I have 15 colour squares, 3 with borders.  So I need to do another 10 colour squares and a lot of borders:

The finished blanket will be about 32 inches square, just right for the baby packs that RAFT put together to go to refugee camps.

Another little project has been to make small, warm items for a charity called Muddy Footprints, which distributes them in impoverished areas of Bulgaria.  I have been using coned yarn with a high wool content to make fingerless gloves.  The pale green is two strands of 2 ply Alpaca yarn while the multicolour is 4 ply super wash 100%wool.  These should be very warm to wear.  The pattern I am using is a very simple one I found on Ravelry called Easy Fingerless Mitts by Calypso Knits.  Although it is written for dpns, I am using the magic loop method on a circular needle.

By the way, there is also a large corner to corner blanket on the go, but it has been a bit too warm to work on that one much.  However, today has been cold and wet, so it might get dragged out this evening for a little more work!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Blankets off to their destination

Stacked on the ironing board are the seven blankets I have made so far for the 60 Million Trebles project.  Lady Dorothea Mousevaark is perched on top, inspecting the pile.

Today I drove to Taunton to deliver them to Refugee Aid From Taunton (RAFT) who co-ordinate and dispatch aid via various charities to refugees across the world.  I had read on RAFT's Facebook page that they were desperate for donations of blankets, and also summer clothes for refugees in Greece, so I was able to turn out some clothes and light shoes to take along, as well as some toiletries.

At RAFT, Lesley was delighted to receive my donation.  In return, she asked me to take some wool that had been donated to make some more blankets.  How could I refuse???  More blankets coming up!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Drum roll for number ten

This really is turning into the year of the blanket; number ten is now finished.  I mentioned a few posts back that I had received a donation of yarn to make a blanket (or blankets) for the Sixty Million Trebles project.  This is the selection I received, a mix of pinks, greens, white and cream, with a couple of darker shares thrown in as well. In all, there was a kilo of double knit, enough to make one large or two smaller blankets.

After I had admired for a while, it really seemed like it would make a single bed size cosy stripe blanket (using Lucy at Attic 24's pattern).  I have made this blanket before, and enjoyed the way it grew quite quickly.  The only change I made to her pattern was to change the colour for the stripes randomly, rather than follow a regular pattern of colours.  This was because the colours I had came in different quantities ranging from 50g to 200g.   I also added in a ball of gold coloured yarn from my stash, and off I went.

This is it at the half-way point, in mid-May.  It is four feet wide and about 3 feet long at this point, and its randomness works well for me.

This was the project that I lugged to craft club every Monday night for several weeks, then once the Modern Chevron Afghan was finished, I was able to work on it at home too. Finally on Saturday it reached the six feet mark, and I started the border.  One round of trebles in turquoise, one round of half trebles in white and a final round of doubles in turquoise finished it off neatly.

It weighs 991g, very close to the 1 kilo that was sent to me.  I'm very pleased with this blanket, it looks very cheerful and bright and it lives up to its name in terms of cosiness.

So now, it's on to blanket number 11.  I have started a corner to corner blanket using some more of the coned yarn........

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Favourite so far?

As this year is my Year of the Blanket, I have been looking at different patterns and styles beyond my normal Granny Afghan or Corner to Corner designs.  Looking on the Crochet Crowd website in March, I found a new pattern called Modern Chevron Afghan, by Jeanne Steinhilber.

It appealed because of its unusual construction with 5 diamonds (OK, squares joined point-to-point) as the start, then colours built up around.

I had 2 large balls of Aldi Aran in bright blue that I thought would work with this pattern, and some oddments of different colours that I could use to add colourful accents.  I started with 5 bright blue squares, then added the first band of colours.

I did a few rows of blue, then another band of colours, meaning this to be one end of the blanket.  Turning it around, I carried on in the other direction, with more colours then a long expanse of blue.

The chevron effect is really deep and interesting to work.  Somehow it made me think of Native American beadwork.

I carried on until the blanket was long enough to cover a single bed (or to put it another way, when I had used up the 800 grams of  aran yarn), and then I put a final band of colours in place to finish it off.

The pattern has no borders, but mine didn't look finished, so after consulting my Loving Hands friends, I crocheted a narrow band of navy blue down each side.  I was worried that I would run out of yarn, but there was just enough.  So this is the finished blanket:

It weighs just over a kilo, and is destined for Operation Orphan's Keep a Child Warm project.  I found it very enjoyable to make as it looks really bright and cheery, and it grew really quickly.  Overall it is probably my favourite of the 9 blankets I have made so far this year.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Let's go fly a kite!

In the UK, next week is Dementia Awareness Week (May 14 - 20).  My dear Mum developed dementia towards the end of her life, and was cared for very kindly and lovingly in a home for people with that awful disease.  Last year I started volunteering with our local branch of the Alzheimer's Society, and on Thursday 17th May our local Dementia Action Alliance are holding an awareness day in the Bay cafe, which is on Weston-super-Mare sea front.

Our theme is 'Let's go fly a kite', which is of course the title of a song from the Disney film of Mary Poppins.  We have been thinking all things kites for several weeks.  I thought that knitted kite badges would be a good awareness raising idea, and after several different attempts, came up with a basic mitred square with a crocheted tail and small button for decoration.

They each have a badge back or a safety pin sewn on the back.

I've done them in variegated yarn, glitter yarn, snowflake yarn, tweedy yarn made from several strands of coned yarn, and some of them are sitting in their box (above) waiting for Thursday.  Several other people are making these too, so we should have quite a wide choice available.

Laura, the manager at the Scrapstore, has made us this marvellous fish kite from offcuts of hot-air ballon material, which Cameron Balloons kindly donate to the Scrapstore.  She has also made several others which we can use to draw attention to our event on the sea front (it is always breezy on our sea front!)

We thought it would be good for people to make or decorate kites for us to display on the day.  Luckily the Scrapstore has loads of sticky-back plastic in a range of colours, so we have cut out lots of stars and hearts, and I've been busy cutting A5 card into kite shapes.  In my stash I had an amazing ball of yarn that is like ribbon decorated with bows, just perfect for kite tails.

And in best Blue Peter tradition, here's one I made earlier! Can you see the tiny little bows on the tail?

We have a large piece of netting all ready to display the decorated kites.  We are now keeping our fingers crossed for a fine day.  If you are in the area, please do come and join us!

Monday, 24 April 2017

A finished blanket and a surprise delivery

Last week, the ladies running the 60 Million Trebles group changed the rules, and I was in full agreement.  I wrote previously that, while I supported their project to produce a massive blanket that would contain 60 million trebles, I had reservations about all those smaller blankets sitting around keeping nobody warm while refugees were in desperate need.  As the group approached the 30 million trebles mark, the plan of physically making the huge blanket was dropped. This also meant that there is no need for the blankets to be 36 inches now (that was for ease of sewing together).

I had a blanket nearly finished.  It had some donated squares, and a central square that I made to add a bit of contrast.  I'd already completed its border, so to make it bigger I added a few more rounds, then added 2 bands of trebles at the top and bottom, and gave it a second border.  This used up pretty much all of the yarn I had for this blanket.  So now it is 3 feet 6 inches by 4 feet 8 inches, which makes it just about big enough for an adult to sleep under.   Not the best photo (why don't I notice the imperfections in the shot before I take it???), but the iPad isn't playing at the moment so I can't retake it just now.

The surprise delivery also came courtesy of 60 Million Trebles; there are people in the group who don't knit or crochet themselves, so provide yarn to others to make blankets on their behalf.  One lovely lady sent me a kilo of yarn in a great variety of shades to make a blanket.

This was totally unexpected, but very gratefully received.  I am going to embark on a single bed size Attic 24 Cosy Stripe blanket.  Aren't people kind?

Friday, 14 April 2017


Gosh, I never thought I would be writing a post on the scintillating topic of knitted buttonholes!  Let me go back a couple of weeks, when I discovered a free Sirdar pattern on the Black Sheep Wools website.

It's a simple pattern for 4 ply yarn (I have a couple of cones of baby 4 ply), and ranges from small premature baby sizes to  6 months old size.  Best of all, there is a V-neck option, which I like for very small babies so that they don't have anything tight around their necks.

I knitted the second size (12 inch chest - yes, it's hard to believe but babies that small do survive) and followed the pattern for the buttonholes when it said for each one to cast off one stitch, then cast on a stitch in the next row to complete the hole.  But the buttonhole rib was knitted on very fine needles (size 12 in old UK size, or 2.75mm), so the hole made was very tiny indeed.  I went through all my buttons, and believe me, I have a lot.  Even small shirt buttons were too big.  Eventually I found some tiny rectangular pearl buttons which I was able to coax through the buttonholes.  

I decided that when I knitted another of these cardigans, I would have to make bigger buttonholes, no matter what the pattern said.  Fast forward to this morning, when I am knitting the buttonhole rib on my second cardigan from this pattern.  What do you do when you want to know how to make better buttonholes?  You use Google, of course!  And I found the perfect instructions on the website of a US magazine called Creative Knitting.  The buttonholes this time are 3 stitches across, and are the neatest that I have ever managed, thanks to these instructions.

It was so easy to find buttons to fit, I was spoilt for choice. I decided to go for some circular pearl buttons which fit easily through the buttonholes.

 And so I now have a new technique as well as two preemie cardigans ready to go off in my next parcel to Needles and Hooks, Angels and Preemies

Happy Easter!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Worry Monsters

In the world we live in, children sometimes have concerns and worries that make them anxious and stressed.  They can become fearful and obsessed with things that might happen but in reality are most unlikely to happen.  The Worry Monster is a soft toy with a zipped mouth that can 'eat' their worries if they either write them or draw them on paper and feed them to the monster, then firmly close the zip.

Knit for Nowt, the Yorkshire based charity that Loving Hands supports, has been asked for these worry monsters by people who work with children, so this week I had my first attempt at making them.

Meet Humpty.  He's made of fleece offcuts in green and purple, with a red pocket for a mouth, which can be firmly closed with a black zip.  His nose and eyes are buttons sourced from the Scrapstore (I especially like the nose button!), and his eyebrows make him look rather worried himself.  I called him Humpty because he reminded me of a stuffed toy of that name who featured in a long-running BBC children's programme called Play School. I remember watching it as a child, and also watching it with my own children twenty-odd years later.

 There was more fleece left, so he acquired a big brother, Dumpty.  I gave Dumpty a bow-tie made from one of my husband's discarded ties.  By placing his features a bit lower, he looks an altogether less stressed monster!

They will be going off to Knit for Nowt along with the dragon hand puppets.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Hot off the hook

This morning at my knitting group I finished off blanket number 6 for this year.  Every other Tuesday a small group of us meet up to knit, natter, drink coffee and eat cake provided by Carole, whose Guest House we meet in.

The others all knit, but sometimes I crochet, and this morning I was able to finish off my very colourful lap blanket.

It was made using a pattern called Twilight Shells, which I found via Ravelry.
Altogether there are twelve different colours of double knitting yarn, using 3 different shades of purple, orange, green and blue.  The main part came up a little smaller in width than I had expected, so I plumped for a wide border.  There are 12 rows of half trebles, which give the blanket a nice solid edge.  I tried doing a final row of shells around the outside of the border, but I wasn't sure about them.  The consensus of the knitting group was that a plain edge was the better option, so the shells were pulled out.

This one will be going to Chemogiftbags, to be donated to someone undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.