Tag Archive | blanket

Day 17: I made

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I made an afghan! Last spring, Rana pointed out that, with the exception of the quilt on her bed and one sort of scratchy blanket, she only has baby blankets. Kind of hard to stay warm under a pile of tiny blankets. She asked me to make her an afghan that would cover her whole bed. I went through my pattern books and marked a few that I would be willing to make. I had just come off the dog afghan and I needed something a little bit simpler and faster after the intensity of that project. Rana chose this afghan which is featured on the cover of my “Wishes and Wonders” crochet book.

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The pattern is simply named “Hearts and Flowers,” by Katherine Eng. Rana said that she liked the colors in the photo. As you can see, however, that’s not how it turned out. When I was buying yarn, I remembered it as more green rather than teal. Rana was gracious and told me that she liked it anyways.

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Another picture afghan

Earlier this year, I mentioned having a couple of “commission” projects that I needed to get done before I could truly start on any of my own things. The first was making a Roman shade for a friend out of some sunflower fabric she had been hanging onto for years. It was my first go at making a window dressing more complicated than a rod pocket or tab-top curtain. I spent a lot of time reading tutorials and pondering the logistics of it. So that was January. When I finished up the shade (which I did not photograph, sorry), I immediately began working on an afghan for a friend whose canine companion of 14 years had just died right around Christmas. This wasn’t so much a commission as an idea for which I managed to convince some other friends to help fund me (not that they took much convincing — we were all heartbroken for our sweet friend, S, and wanted to do something to help lift her spirits). I presented my idea to them and the photograph I would use to make the afghan — a picture of S’s dog wearing a birthday party hat that she had posted on Facebook a few years ago. What a fun way to remember her little dog! I worked on this afghan everyday and felt like I couldn’t (shouldn’t) work on anything personal until it was done because I had a whole bunch of people counting on me, plus, I just wanted to get it to S as soon as possible.

I used a J Tunisian/afghan hook and Caron Simply Soft yarn; I like it for the sheen and the softness. Here are some “work in progress” pictures with the grand finale at the end.

A little weird and abstract at the beginning

A little weird and abstract at the beginning

Now it looks like a dog! 2/3 of the way done.

Now it looks like a dog! 2/3 of the way done with the picture.

All done and with a border on it!

All done and with a border on it!

I finished it late one night at the beginning of April and mailed it off the very next day. One of the other ladies contacted S’s husband to let him know that “a package” was coming and when it was to arrive so that he could grab it off the porch before S got home from work. He had agreed to video her opening it and then, with her permission, post it for all of us to see since we’re scattered all over the country. S had no idea that we had been doing any of this, so it was all a huge surprise. She was speechless! But she and her family loved the blanket and that totally made my day. I’m so glad I was able to make something so special for her.

Since then, I’ve been working like a maniac in the garden. Or rather, I made gardens out of overgrown patches of land along our driveway and cleared out another overgrown flower bed. I’ve just about got everything planted and I’m really feeling the itch to sew again, so there should be more consistency (I say. ha ha ha) coming up!

I may be worthless, but my girls are productive

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I still haven’t made anything. I’ve been doing some more drawing, practicing my crayon skills. I’ll post on that another time. But for today, an actual finished project completed by Granota!

The other day, she came to me asking to “sew little squares.” A quick rummage through my scrap fabric yielded a nice assortment for 6 little squares. Ok, techinically they’re rectangles. She can’t thread a needle by herself yet and she needs me to anchor the first two stitches, but after that, she’s good to go. She spent all yesterday afternoon happily sewing away while watching Curious George.

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First, she sewed the squares in pairs, then she laid out her little strips in an arrangement that she found pleasing. She’s a diligent little worker. Her stitching is a little large and uneven, but I was really impressed at how much she has improved since last spring — and she hasn’t even had any practice! I guess an extra year gave her a steadier hand and more disciplined approach.

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With all of her colored squares together, she heaved a sigh and said, “This isn’t turning out how I expected.” I realized she had been looking at the wrong side all this time, not understanding that it was the other side that would show. I flattened out her little quilt and showed her the right side and she was much more pleased. Then I cut out a large rectangle of white for backing and explained how she was going to sew around, but leave a hole at the end so we could turn it right side out. She followed instructions well and thought it was funny when it came time to reach her little arm inside and pull it all out through the hole. A little pressing, a little whipstitch over the opening and she’s now the proud owner of a tiny quilt for her stuffed animals.

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And I’m very proud of her! She had such a good time doing it, that today she has been working on a new little blanket for Rana. What a sweetie.

I mentioned that both of my girls were productive — I’ve been helping Rana sew up a little dress for her favorite stuffed bunny. Rather than do it all myself, I’ve been teaching her how to read a pattern, lay out the fabric, cut it, etc. I know she won’t retain all of that information this first time around, but I wanted to at least plant the seed! I’ll post her little dress when we’re done.

Just a little patience

{Insert fanfare here}
Hooray! I finally finished my Axl Afghan!! You saw the completed portrait part on the 4th of July (and if you didn’t, shame on you. Or, just tell me you were shooting off fireworks or something and make me feel better).

Complete with border

I had lots and lots of yarn tails to weave in. 261 yarn tails, give or take a couple (yes, I saved them all for the express purpose of counting them like an obsessive weirdo). That’s where the patience came in. Many evenings were spent weaving in little ends. There were times when I wanted to quit, but then I wouldn’t have this totally rad afghan.

The finished back. No more little yarn tails! No more fuzzy back!

I blocked Axl out (took him two and a half days to dry — that Tunisian crochet is pretty dense). I added extra black to the sides to widen the panel and make it more blanket-shaped rather than beach towel-shaped. And then I added on the granny square-style border using all the main colors from the portrait. I wanted a lighter stitch for the border since the center part is so thick and heavy. I like the effect.

This photo refuses to flip. Turn your heads to the right.

There is a little problem, however. In my first round of granny square border in black, I made too many of those 3 dc across the top and bottom of the portrait. Then, with every round I added, the ends got wider and wider, which is why the border looks a bit ruffled. Axl Rose and ruffles. I’m sure he’d be thrilled. Oh well, he doesn’t have to use it (how weird would it be to use a blanket with your own picture on it…?!). There are plenty of us here in the cabin who are vying for a cuddle with Yarn Axl. Nothing warms a mother’s heart like hearing her daughters argue, “It’s my turn to sleep with Axl!” Step aside, girls; he’s mine.

Granota grinning and Rana “sleeping”

So now they’re putting in their requests for their own Axl Rose afghans. Granota very specifically stated that she wants one with a picture of him dressed like he is in the Sweet Child video. That may put my skills to the test; it was a lot easier to do one of him half-naked. Rana hasn’t specified her request yet. Mr. Gren has already told me that he wants a Larry Bird afghan (who wants to snuggle with Larry Bird?). I have a feeling that there won’t be as much fighting over that one.

This ain’t no velvet Elvis

Several weeks ago, I was perusing Craftster to kill some time. I hadn’t been on in awhile and decided to check out what was happening over there. I was hanging out on the crochet boards when this caught my eye. Seriously, click it. It was so cool! I had no idea such fabulous things could be done with crochet. I didn’t have any projects going on at the time, so I knew I had to make a portrait afghan. HAD to. As in, it was all I could think about for days. The girl who made the Audrey afghan gave a link to knitPro which automatically graphs any picture you give it. It’s great and such a time saver! I was getting ready to graph my own picture when I saw that link. Now, not every photo turns out looking great once it has been pixelated, so I ran through a few trial photos before I settled on the one I wanted to use. I did consider doing a black & white (or pink or background color of my choice) outline picture, but then I saw another girl on Craftster who has made several portrait afghans and she used colors and shading. Even more awesome! All of these are done in Tunisian crochet or afghan stitch with an afghan crochet hook. Up to this point, my combined Tunisian crochet experience was the failed first (several) attempts at Granota’s Cuddle Muffin dress and most of a dish towel (still need to finish that one). I was a relative newbie to the art. So why shouldn’t I choose something as difficult as possible to really get initiated? Makes perfect sense to me.

Obviously, subject matter is kind of important for a project like this. Audrey Hepburn is cool and all, but I don’t really consider myself a fan. Her presence in my house just wouldn’t make any kind of sense. So I considered other options. For all of about 10 seconds. Really, was there any question who I would do?

Well, hello there, you red-haired firecracker!

That’s right, folks, it’s Axl Rose at Rock in Rio II —  the first time he wore those American flag shorts. Aren’t you feeling patriotic already? I know I am.

Right now, Axl is more the size of a bath towel than an afghan; it was a particularly long and narrow picture. I am adding bands of black on either side to widen it a bit and then I will put a wide border all the way around it. But I just couldn’t wait to show you the portrait part because I’m just so dang proud of it.

A little size comparison. Granota and her hero.

I started from the bottom and worked my way up figuring I’d get my feet wet with fewer color changes at first. I did about two rows before I realized that something wasn’t working. The work was gapping in between colors. There had to be a way to keep the separate colors connected to each other, but I wasn’t sure how and my Tunisian book insisted that color changes had to be done at the end of a row. Pfft. Shows what they know. So I turned to the almighty Web and found this nice lady’s site where she quite helpfully explains how to change colors mid-row and eliminate gaps. Once I started over and used her method and other helpful tips, working this up was really a breeze. That’s the great thing about this — it looks uber complicated, but if you can do a simple afghan stitch and count little squares, you can do this!

Chart in progress, marking little X’s across as I completed a row

The hardest part about the whole process is the mess of working yarn you get on the back side. It’s like something out of a Sci-Fi movie.

Box o’ yarn attached to the back of the afghan

There were times when I could have up to 11 balls of yarn going at one time because of all the frequent color changes. For the most part, I tried to avoid cutting off the yarn until I absolutely had to. But once I was finished with a color, I had to cut it and leave a four inch tail to weave in later. I’m still working on that part.

Axl’s hairy back

Ok, Axl’s body is as smooth as a baby’s, but we’ve got some serious work to do on his yarn counterpart. And by “we,” I mean “I” because no one else will help me do this. Weave in ends. Hundreds of ends. Little yarn tail ends. {sniff} Right now I’ve got his shorts done, so that’s, what… maybe a 1/4? ha Yeah, I’ll be doing this for awhile. Once I finish weaving in all the ends, I’ve got to block this out and then I will add the border around it. I’ll show you again when it’s all finished, but I won’t have to talk about it as much because you already know all about it now!

A little close-up action

Uh, yeah, excuse the diaper box in the above photo. One thing about Tunisian crochet is that, until it’s blocked, it wants to curl up like a scroll. So the diaper box is there to hold ol’ Axl down for his photo shoot.

Happy 4th of July, everybody!

The Incredible Hulk

It’s big! It’s green! It’s mean! Ok, it’s pretty much the opposite of mean. It’s soft and fluffy and warm. And it is the secret project I alluded to last week! My friend, Mrs. G, needed an afghan in her life. She was having a lousy day awhile back. Her cat had puked and made a mess and it was a cold, dreary day to boot. Mrs. G lives on the other side of the country from me, so I couldn’t do anything all that tangible or practical on that particular day, but I was struck with the idea that a comfy afghan could alleviate one of the problems.

I had a pattern in mind that pictured an afghan made using two strands of yarn together in two slightly different shades of burgundy. The result was a sort of trompe l’oeil shimmery effect as the colors played off each other. I purchased two skeins of Caron One Pound, one in forest green and one in Kelly green because Mrs. G’s favorite color is green (as is mine!). For reasons that I now cannot remember, that original pattern wasn’t working out so well. So I switched over to my Vanna White crochet book and found an afghan she had done in bulky yarn. Two strands of worsted weight makes a pretty good equivalent to bulky weight! The two strands of yarn together make this afghan super squishy.

One of the most fun (funnest?)  things about crocheting this afghan was the chance to use my ridiculously huge Q hook. I originally bought it as a toy for Rana when she was about 2. She always wanted to play with my crochet hooks but I was afraid that 1) she’d lose them or 2) she’d skewer herself with one of them. No worry of that with the Q hook. Well, she did lose it and I ended up buying another one, but then we found the first hook, so now we each have one.

From left to right: Steel hook #7, size G hook (good for almost everything), pencil, Q hook

It was fun, but really different to use. For one thing, I had just come off crocheting the lace for my peasant top, so the change in hook size was drastic. Also, since it’s plastic, it doesn’t glide through the yarn as smoothly, which fatigued my hands a little bit. Still, that can’t compare with the way I was able to race through this afghan. If you’ve read much of anything on my blog, you’ll know that, while I do enjoy the creation process, I enjoy the finished product as much or more.

I also really enjoy making things for people and it’s especially fun if it’s a surprise! I stuffed it into one of those medium sized flat-rate postal boxes and Mr. Gren mailed it off for me last weekend. I had to send it to Mrs. G’s parents’ since her apartment mail delivery is a bit dodgy. Ack, the suspense was killing me! But on Sunday, she let me know that she had received it. And she loves it! Mission accomplished! (And, Mrs. G: If the cat pukes on the afghan, machine wash cold, dry low heat. 🙂 )