Monday, 27 January 2014

Stash Blanket Project - Blanket Number 2 - Amie

Hi and thanks for visiting me here at The Wool Nest. Yet again the weekend has flown by although I enjoyed a nice catch up with my lovely family.

I also found time to make blanket number 2 - meet Amie, which means love. Can you see the cute little hearts inside the granny squares??  I love them and I'm so pleased with how this blanket has turned out - exactly as I'd imagined.

It took a few attempts to get the heart grannies sitting correctly and I tried a few different patterns until I was completely happy. Here's how I made it:

Step 1:
Choose your colours.I chose 4 colours of double knitting from my stash. 2 x 50g balls of Sirdar Snuggly in White (which is super soft and perfect for baby blankets), approx 30g of  Freedom Gorgeous DK in Fuchsia, approx 30g of Sirdar Snuggly in a purple colour and some pink acrylic with wool (sorry can't remember the brand). 

Step 2:
Choose your granny. I wanted to feature little hearts in the centre of my granny and after trying out a few free patterns, I eventually found this one here by Emma Lovepie (what a lovely name). I did tweak it quite a bit, but all instructions are included below if you'd like to try it with my tweaks.

Step 3:
Make your centre squares. I made 9 centre squares - 5 with a purple heart, 2 with a pink heart, 2 with a fuchsia heart. First I make the hearts. I followed all of Emma's instructions for this cute mini heart. Click here for the pattern.
I tied off all of the yarn ends, weaving them into the back of the heart before trimming.

Next, I started to work a traditional granny square around the heart in my main colour, white. Make a slip knot onto your hook with white. Join with a slip stitch to the back loop only of the 4th stitch, counting from the centre of the 2 humps:

Make (3ch 2tr 2ch 3tr) all into the back loop only of the same stitch (1 corner made). Note, the first 3ch count as 1tr (for US crochet terms replace tr with dc)
Next, make 1ch then miss the next 4 sts and work (3tr 2ch 3tr) into the back loop only of the next st (second corner made):
Next, make 1ch then miss the next 3 sts and work (3tr 2ch 3tr) into the back loop only of the next st (third corner made):
Next, make 1ch then miss the next 4 sts and work (3tr 2ch 3tr) into the back loop only of the next st (fourth corner made). Slip stitch into the 3rd of the first 3 ch made at the beginning of the round:
The first round is complete, however, your hook isn't in the correct place to start round 2, so you need to work a sl st into each of the next 2 treble then work a sl st into the corner space:
Your hook is now in the correct place to start round 2.

Continue to work a basic granny square starting with (3ch 2tr 2ch 3tr) into the first corner on every round, *1ch, 3tr, into the spaces between the corners and (3tr 2ch 3tr) into every corner. Join every round with a sl st into the 3rd of the first 3ch then sl st into the next 2 tr and sl st into the corner space, ready to start the next round. Fasten off after 4 rounds.

Step 4:
Join the grannies: I stitched my 9 small squares together to make 1 larger square for the centre, using a slip stitch join on the wrong side, following Lucy's tutorial here.

Step 5:
Working around the centre  grannies. Next, I started to work around the large centre square, starting my first corner with (3ch 2tr 2ch 3tr) then working 1ch, 3tr into each space and (3tr 2ch 3tr) into each corner. Join every round with a sl st into the 3rd of the first 3 ch and slip stitch across the next 2tr and slip stitch into the corner space (exactly as you did when working around the hearts). I worked 2 rounds white/3 rounds pink/1 roundwhite/3 rounds fuchsia/1 round white/1 round purple/1 round white.
Note: After joining the 9 squares, along the outer edge, there is one corner space on either side of the join line (from the individual squares). For beest results, work 3tr into the join line and (missing the spaces on either side). This keeps your blanket nice and square.

Step 5: 
Edge your blanket. I always like to finish my blanket with a defined edge, so I worked a treble border all around the edge in Purple. I worked 1tr into every treble and also 1tr into every 1ch. Into corners I worked 5tr.

And there we have it - approximately 9-10 hours of crochet and again the result is rather lovely (I hope you agree).

So blanket Number 2 is done. You can see blanket number 1 here and all my blankets so far here

Now, I need to get a move on with the next 2 blankets, so they may be simple granny stripes, but they will still be lovely I hope.  Happy Crafting, Lynne x

I've been asked by the popular Woman's Weekly Magazine to host this competition on my blog. If you answer the questions correctly you can win a free pattern - I won the teddy bear but I rather fancy the cat. If you prefer to enter the competition from their main website, you can find it here xx 

Monday, 20 January 2014

Stash Blankets for preemies - Blanket Number 1 - Ansell

Hi and thanks for stopping by at The Wool Nest. I hope you've all had a lovely weekend. Mine was nice a relaxing. I barely looked at the computer and I enjoyed my lovely family.

But it's time for confessions. Last week I had what I thought was a great idea - to empty up my yarn stash onto the spare bed and see what I had, decide what to make with it etc. I started with great gusto, cooing over the gorgeous colours and textures, but I soon began to feel somewhat deflated and a little overwhelmed as the yarn seemed never-ending. I'm sure I have magic boxes as I really can't see how all this yarn could possibly fit into my boxes and bags. Where did all this come from??? (and this isn't all of it!!!)

So the question is - what can I do with it? Give it to friends? Organise a yarn swap? or do something useful with it. So I sat and had a long think and my little head started spinning with ideas. I've really enjoyed being part of the crochet camp granny square one-a-day project and so I hatched a plan.

I decided that I would try out all of the fabulous free patterns for granny squares that we've been pinning to Pinterest (here) and make mini granny blankets that are suitable for premature babies. That way I can enjoy my yarn, enjoy the process of trying new squares, try different techniques for joining squares and share my experience with you. Then at the end of the project I'll have lots of small baby blankets that I can donate to charities or hospitals for premature babies and hopefully I will have inspired others to do something similar.

So I mooched into my stash and found some oddments of acrylic yarns that I've had for years and years. Indivudally they're not very exciting really, but put them together and you get something really pretty (and practical too).  Say hello to Ansell - my first baby blanket. Ansell means "God's Protection" which I thought was fitting for a preemie blanket. 

Here are the steps you can follow to make your own Ansell blanket and I've also documented the problems I came across:

Step 1. Choose your colours:
I chose 5 colours of double knitting from my stash - cream for the main colour and 4 contrast colours. You'll need around 35g-40g of each contrast colour and around 60-70g of the main colour.

Step 2. Choose your granny:
I kept it simple for the first one and chose a plain 4-round granny square following the tutorial here, I was inspired by this pretty image over at a conversation with moo

Granny Square Baby Blanket_8asml 

For each granny I worked the first round in a contrast colour and the remaining 3 rounds in my main colour cream. I made 4 with a yellow centre, 2 with a blue centre, 2 with a variegated blue centre and 1 with a navy centre.

issue 1: my yellow yarn, although it's double knitting, was very thin compared to the other yarns, therefore the stitches were noticably smaller than the other colours. 
Solution: I frogged my yellow centre and re-worked it with a large hook (I tried 5mm and it worked a treat).

Step 3. Join the grannies:
I stitched my 9 small squares together to make 1 larger square for the centre, using a double crochet on the wrong side, following Lucy's tutorial here. However, I mistakenly worked through both loops of each stitch and mistakenly used double crochet instead of slip stitch, so my joins look a little different on the front, although still nice and neat. The seams shown below are the wrong side of the blanket and I think the seams are a little too thick for my liking so I'll do it correctly next time!!:

Step 4. Working around the grannies:
Next, I started to work around the large centre square, working 3 treble into each space with 1ch between each set of trebles and 3tr, 2ch, 3tr into each corner. I worked 2 rounds cream/3 rounds yellow/1 round cream/3 rounds variegated blue/1 round cream/3 rounds blue.

issue 2: After joining the 9 squares, along the outer edge, there is one corner space on either side of the join line (from the individual squares). Initally, I worked 3tr into each of these spaces, but when I'd completed the round I could see it looked a little ruffled and I realised there were too many groups of treble along each side.  
Solution: I frogged the round and instead of working 3tr into each corner space on either side of the join line, I worked 3tr into the join line and missed the spaces on either side. This reduced my groups of treble by 3 on each side of the blanket and it worked perfectly.

Step 5: Edge your blanket:
I always like to finish my blanket with a defined edge, so I worked a treble border all around the edge in Navy. I worked 1tr into every treble and also 1tr into every 1ch. Into corners I worked 5tr.

And there we have it - approximately 10 hours of crochet and the result is rather lovely (I hope you agree).

I just hope I can find the time each weekend to make a blanket. My plan is for one a week which hopefully means 52 blankets in a year. Now that should make a nice hole in my stash and also bring comfort to those born early.

What do you think? If you'd like to join me then please feel free and we can work out where to send our blankets when we're ready. I'd love to hear if you're interested. Happy Crafting xx

Monday, 13 January 2014

Planning your Granny

Hi and welcome to the Wool Nest. I hope you've had a good weekend. Mine was a busy one - cleaning, washing, visiting family and enjoying a nice meal on Saturday evening. I also made a start on my new year resolution to "Use it or Lose it". This means that I will be working my way through the "STUFF" that is in my Wool Nest and using it, otherwise it goes to friends, charity or a yarn swap. Brutal I know - but entirely necessary I'm afraid.

First on the agenda is my granny square blanket. I bought the yarn for this blanket some 2 years ago - can you believe that I've had a large quantity of unused Debbie Bliss Donegal Luxury Tweed Aran hidden away in a bag for 2 years? It's a crime, I know. So I'm now on a mission to finish this long awaited blanket. The problem with storing yarn for so long is that the shades are no longer available. So I'll have to work with what I have.

One of the main questions I'm asked when teaching granny squares is  "How much yarn do I need to make a large blanket?" Well - it basically depends on the yarn you use, the size of your blanket and your tension. But I thought I'd try to help and provide a solution, just in case you're thinking of making a granny square blanket yourself. They're super popular at the moment thanks to Lucy at Attic 24, who is now the columnist for Simply Crochet (Congratulations Lucy!!). Her first post is about her love of blankets. If you've looked at them with longing but don't know where to start and feel slightly overwhelmed then here are some steps to follow in Planning your Granny. You may need a cuppa and a biscuit at this point:

1. Firstly, decide on the type of granny square that you want to make (e.g. basic square or more decorative). There is a board on Pinterest here which is a growing collection of free granny square tutorials and patterns, so you should find something you like for free. The board is a result of Kat Goldin's fabulous Crochet Camp.
2. Decide on the weight of yarn you'd like to use (e.g. double knitting, aran, chunky etc.).
3. Have a mooch in your yarn stash and find a ball of yarn of that weight along with an appropriate sized crochet hook (look on the ball band and it should tell you which needle/hook size is recommended).
4. Make up one granny square of your choice with your yarn and hook (don't worry if it's all in one colour - it's just a test square).
5. Measure the sides of the square and make a note.
6. Weigh the square and make a note.

So at this point you now know which granny square pattern you are using, the weight of yarn you are using, approximately how big each square will be and approximately how much yarn each square will take. 

For my blanket, I chose a basic granny square with 5 rounds. Little Tin Bird has a great tutorial here.
I'm using Aran weight yarn with a 6mm hook so my 5-round squares measure 15cm along each side. I chose aran weight and a 6mm hook purposely so that my squares worked up a little more quickly than double-knitting.  Each square weighs 11g.

We're well on our way..... now for the maths.

Armed with this important information you can now work out roughly how much yarn you need for the whole blanket, following the steps below. You may find a calculator useful at this point:

7. Decide how big you would like your blanket to be, e.g. this could be 140cm square (54 inches square) or slightly smaller at 115cm square (45 inches square) or you could make a rectangular blanket at 140cm x 115 cm (54 inches x 45 inches) or even a smaller pram blanket at 90cm square (36 inches). Remember you're in charge so it's entirely up to you. BUT the larger the blanket the more yarn you will need.
8. Divide the desired width of your blanket by the width of one square - for me this is:

140cm (my blanket width) divided by 15cm (my granny square width), which is 9.3. This tells me that I need to make 9.3 square to achieve my desired width of 140cm.

Round your answer up or down to the nearest even number. I rounded 9.3 up to 10. So now I know that my blanket needs to be 10 squares wide to achieve my required width.

9. Next, divide the desired length of your blanket by the length of a square - for me this is 115cm (my blanket depth) divided by 15cm (my granny square depth), which is 7.7.  This tells me that I need 7.7 granny squares to achieve my desired depth of 115cm.

Round your answer up or down to the nearest even number. I rounded 7.7 up to 8. I now know that my blanket needs to be 8 square deep  to achieve my required depth.

10. Times the number of squares needed for the width (step  8) by the number of squares needed for the length or depth (Step 9)  - for me this is 10 x 8 = 80 squares.

11. Times the number of squares by the weight of yarn needed for each square (step 6). For me this is 11g x 80 = 880g. Round this up to the nearest 100g to account for all the yarn ends = 900g.

Now I know that to make 80 squares for a rectangular blanket of 140cm x 115cm using Debbie Bliss Luxury Donegal Tweed and a 6mm hook I need approximately 900g of yarn.

 There are just a few more things to consider:

12. The squares will need to be joined and this also requires quite a lot of yarn so I'd add an extra 100g of yarn in a joining colour.

13. Your chosen squares may use more yarn of one colour. So, for example if 2/3 of your squares are one colour, make sure you buy 2/3 of total yarn in that colour.

14. I would recommend buying an extra ball of each colour, just to be on the safe side. Remember, you can always make a matching cushion with left over yarns.  Alternatively, if you run out of yarn, just re-jig your blanket and make it smaller.

So now you have all of the important information that you need to make  a start on your granny square blanket. Now you just need to decide how much you want to spend. If you need say 1200g of yarn and each 50g ball is £5, then you'll need 24 balls and your blanket will cost £120.00. Alternatively if you only spend £3 on a 50g ball your blanket will cost £72 which is a big difference. Remember, if you're on a strict budget you could use acrylic yarn, or acrylic with wool. These often come in 100g balls and can cost as little as £2-£3 which means you can make a large blanket for approximately £24-36.

Of course, if like me you have a huge yarn stash, you could raid your stash for similar weight yarns in bright or subtle shades and make your blanket for free.

I really hope that these steps help you plan your Granny. I'd love to hear what you think or if it's been useful, or if you have any questions.

I'll be keeping you posted on my granny blanket and will share links showing you how to join your squares.

Happy Crafting, Lynne x

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Essential Tools - Notebook, pens and pencils

Hello, and welcome to The Wool Nest. My cosy corner is back to normal and we're all back in our little routines. The days are flying by already and I can't believe it's the 11th. Jan!! I love, love, love my Orla Kiely toolbox from Santa. It's now my work in progress box (or one of them!!!).

In my last post I talked about being more organised and I thought I'd share something with you - my trusted notebook. In my previous life (when I had a 'proper' job) I always had a notebook. It was absolutely essential for taking notes at those all-important meetings that I often had. For many years, I was a waste strategist (basically I planned and implemented schemes that would help the North West deal with its' waste in a more sustainable way). So my meetings were always with high level people and notes were essential, just to make sure that I didn't forget anything.

Well I'm now applying the same principals to my own little business. Notebooks are essential!!! I read with a wry smile Rachel's post here on her note making resolutions. Indeed - I pondered whether Rachel has somehow slipped into my house and had a mooch around. Those little bits of paper looked rather familiar!! It seems I'm not alone in the realisation that I need ONE notebook for all my scribbles. Now, this is quite hard for me as I'm a perfectionist. I like things neat and tidy, organised and symmetrical. I struggle with randomness, mistakes and crossings out. Therefore I don't really like the thought of scribbly notes in my note pad. But what the heck!!! It's time to change, especially if it means that all my notes will now be in one place - here in my trusted notebook. I've colour-coded things that are critical (in red) and completed (in green). Things that are none urgent are orange. My To-Do list is at the front along with a monthly planner and my individual project notes and ideas are at the back.

I know it's not the most exciting notebook - it's just grey and lined, but it's the content that counts. I did hint for a bright, shiny new notebook but alas Santa didn't hear. Perhaps I'll find one in the sales and I'll save it for next year. I do have a special sketch book for submission sketches, and I'm happy to keep those separate. I've just filled 3 pages of notes from my current project, and I can't believe how useful it's been. Now if I get any questions regarding the designing process I can refer to my notes and not have to rely on my memory (which is failing badly these days!!!)

 So here's the start of my new resolution - I'm sure it will evolve as the year progresses.  How do you stay organised? I'd love to know. Happy crafting, Lynne x

Monday, 6 January 2014

2014 starts today - Use it or Lose it

Hi and a Happy New Year to my lovely followers and readers. My New Year starts today. Here at the Wool Nest, everyone is back at school/work (including me!) and I've made a great start with my To Do list for Today.
My main aim for 2014 is to be more organised. I've started a new note book for my designing, teaching and writing and I'm hoping to keep everything in one place, instead of having bits of paper all over the place, which tend to get lost or misplaced (especially if hubby has had a tidy up!!!).
I tidied up The Wool Nest just before Christmas and had a little sort out of yarn. I promised some yarn to my daughter's friend who crochets cute little things to sell. I've sorted out a bagful but I'm sure I could make more of an effort and part with a little bit more. My motto for 2014 is "USE IT OR LOSE IT". Basically, I'm going to sort through The Wool Nest and if I haven't used something for ages, then it goes - either to a friend or charity. I might even sell a few things too in order to save some pennies for my yarny trips to Wonder Wool Wales and Yarndale. It includes magazines, books, yarn and fabric. I either use them or lose them.
So what else is in store for 2014?
  • I'll be sharing lots of patterns this year. I have so many designs sitting on my computer that I could share. They just need a sample working up then it's all systems go. So don't forget to follow my blog by email so that you don't miss out.
  • I'm working on a new book with Search Press called Crochet Fairy Tales. I'll keep you informed of progress and let you have a sneaky peak of designs where possible.
  • I'll be running knitting and crochet classes through the Sandbach Adult Education programme my next crochet course is here: and my next knitting course is here:
  • I'm hoping to continue to work with the lovely editors that I've been working with for a few years now, plus some new magazines that I haven't worked with before, which is great news. So look out for my latest designs each month in your local newsagents.
  • I'll be running giveaways with some lovely prizes including a signed copy of my Fun Hats Book, published in 2013 by Search Press.
Most of all I hope to inspire you all to take out your needles and hooks and make something lovely.
What are your hopes for 2014? I'd love to hear them. Happy crafting, Lynne x