The Blanket That Won’t Make Itself

I’m struggling, you guys.

I had (and still have) the best intentions when I excitedly told my friends that of COURSE I would make their children a new blanket, since the one they’ve had prior to now only fit them as babies and it was more of a stroller size.

When I got the request, I did all of this research to find the “perfect” blanket and ended up choosing this one from Red Heart, which uses honeycomb squares in Tunisian crochet surrounded by standard crochet borders that you slip stitch together before adding more lovely border.

I got all of my squares done in the requested colors and then the daunting task of doing the bordering began. I only have eleven three more of these to do and it feels like Mount Everest.

I thought I’d have this blanket finished by now, honestly. We’re into June and this thing is not even halfway finished.

I feel like I’m allergic to bigger projects or something. How can so many people whip out blankets left and right and I’m STUCK?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m  determined to stick this out and finish it. I just hope my friends’ children aren’t teenagers by the time I’m done with it.

I posted my progress in a group I’m in on Facebook, and a woman said she’s made TWO of these already.

O_o

Once I finish the remaining three squares, I have to weave in All the Ends, have a drink, and attempt to tackle the joining (using the slip stitch join).

Here goes nothin.

Any seasoned crocheters out there who have joined motifs and have any words of wisdom or encouragement for me–please leave some!  ❤

Tunisian 1_zvc Tunisian 2_zvc Tunisian 3_zvc Tunisian 4_zvc

 

 

Love is: Diamonds in the Rough Tunisian Scarf for Men

Diamonds in the Rough - Diamond CU
I think me and everyone else in the crochet world are having a love affair with Tunisian crochet. Everywhere I look, it’s Tunisian this and Tunisian that. Tunisian crochet adds just enough of a twist to standard crochet to make it interesting on its own, but with different possibilities, and of course limitless creations!

I remain blown away by what people come up with for patterns using stitches, negative space (read: holes), and their imaginations. For example, has anyone seen the explosion of graphghans that people are making with Tunisian crochet? I cross-stitch and it overwhelms me to see what people are doing with this technique.

Since I am still relatively new to the art of Tunisian crochet, I wanted to try my hand at a smaller worn accessory, such as a scarf. My husband was in need of a new one for the coming chilly months, and when I saw this pattern online, I immediately knew I had to try it out.

The designer, Michael Snow, has created a lovely and simple design that looks a lot harder than it is. It uses Tunisian Simple Stitch and Tunisian Purl Stitch.

If you’re like me, you might have groaned when you realized that you have to use TPS in this pattern. But once you master it, and of course that comes only through lots of repetitive practice, it becomes second nature, and the scarf will work up so fast you’ll wonder how you blinked and missed it. The most helpful tutorials I’ve found are from Kim Guzman and Stitch Diva Studios–give them a look-up if you’re stumped on mastering the purl stitch.

The diamond pattern is subtle but stands out nicely against the Simple Stitches. A relative had sent me some gorgeous Capra DK yarn from KnitPicks in shades of dark brown, light brown, and cream in order to get me out of my usual vibrant or pastel-colored wheelhouse. I decided I would use it for the scarf, even though the original pattern calls for fingering weight yarn. In doing so, I got a deliciously warm, wide, and long scarf, perfect for a guy on the go who wants something professional looking, but also cozy.

For those not in the know, Capra DK is merino wool and cashmere. Can you say YUM?

Folded Diamonds in the Rough Scarf

I did not intend to make this scarf a listing in the shop (at least not right away) but when I showed it to someone while it was being made, excited at how it was going to turn out, she immediately asked if I could make one for her son-in-law. Then someone else heard about the scarf and asked me if I could make him one, too! It’s hard not to want one when you see the pattern and feel the luxe softness of the yarn. You just want to cocoon yourself in it all winter long. (It also reminds me why participating in craft shows is so fun–once people can see and touch the stuff, you want to take it home!)

While my original scarf for my husband–who loves it, by the way–was done in color blocks, the IMG_1161 zvcothers I am making will be all one color, and I think it will show off the diamonds a bit better, because you don’t get distracted by the color changes. That said, it’s still a real showpiece. Hats off to Michael Snow for his ingenuity with two easy stitches!

My husband wanted a longer scarf, so this used five balls of the Capra, but if you want to go shorter, you certainly can. There’s no question he’ll stay warm in the frigid winter temps that Illinois brings. Furthermore, even though this is “men’s” fashion, it is a unisex pattern that would look great on men or women. I think it would be fabulous in a deep red, green, purple, or even pink; I guess I’m thinking jewel tones here. But no matter who you make it for, that person is sure to fall in love with it as soon as they lay eyes on it. I know I did!

Diamonds in the Rough Scarf - Color Blocks

Inspiration and Then, A Dishcloth

Almost immediately after publishing my post about what to DO with some pretty yarn I had on hand and was aching to try out, inspiration struck when I came across a pattern for a Tunisian crochet ripple scarf. It was less of a “Eureka” than a “DUH” moment. Of course I should be making a Tunisian ripple scarf. To recap, the yarn in question is a beautiful angora and acrylic blend, so it has some stiffness mixed with softness to it, but also has some wisp. It is a fingering weight blend (weight class 2) but I thought it would work up nicely, and to my delight, it has! Tunisian Ripple Scarf_Square_zvc It took me about ten rows or so to memorize the pattern completely and get comfortable with it, especially since I was still mastering the Tunisian Purl Stitch, and there is one purl stitch right in the center of each row. (If you’d like a great close-up tutorial, Stitch Diva Studios does a fantastic job of it.) It got easier and easier as I went along, though, and now I feel like I could purl all day long. One tip I have for anybody who wants to try their hand at this pattern is to make sure to loosely do the return pass for the first half of the scarf, and then tighten up as you finish. It will even it out better, as it has a tendency to curl on one side and look lopsided. I feel confident that some light blocking will also help stretch it out and get it more symmetrical looking. The recipient of my scarf still remains a secret but I know this person will love it! In the middle of making the scarf, as I am wont to do, I became impatient and wanted to whip out a project that I could quickly complete and give me that crowning sense of achievement. I decided on a Tunisian dishcloth in Tunisian Knit Stitch and it felt like it worked up so fast. In reality, it probably took me a couple of hours, but here is a shot of of the finished project, including single crochet border: Dishcloth_tunisian_zvc My husband and I were streaming some terrible movie (of my choosing) on Netflix and so it made this dishcloth go by all the faster, since I was focusing on it much more than the movie. I finished it off with a single crochet border and it sits in my sink as I write this.

Tunisian crochet has really turned out to be the “vacation from crochet” when I still want to create but don’t want to do single crochet in the round for hours on end, as in making amigurumi, or doing double crochet patterns, such as granny squares. I’m always in awe of how much there is to learn and do with this craft! Until next time, friends. Just keep hooking….just keep hooking….

Shot of the fully finished scarf

Shot of the fully finished scarf

Wending My Way Through Tunisian Crochet

For the better part of two years, I have largely focused on amigurumi projects, with a few baby garments and the random accessory here and there. Then I received a terrific book with all kinds of different patterns in it, entitled Crochet One-Skein Wonders. Isn’t that cute?


In it, there are several patterns which refer to Tunisian crochet. I had no idea what an afghan hook was or how this differed from what I had been doing, but I was certainly intrigued, especially by the pictures of the thicker, woven texture of the end products.

My book notes: this book contains projects that are largely for advanced beginners and advanced intermediate crocheters, so they do presume you have a baseline skill set. They give both written and chart instructions where they can, which is also helpful. Lastly, they organize the book by yarn weight, going from lightest to densest, which spoke to my little organized soul. It boasts a nice index.

I began heavily researching Tunisian crochet to see if I wanted to invest more time and money into new hooks and new techniques. Short answer: yes. From what I could tell, this was a distinct twist on my crochet skills that I felt I must have in my repertoire. My basic desire was to be able to create more densely made items that weren’t as “loopy” as standard crochet. For whatever the reason, knitting just does not call to me. So being able to create “knitted” things with a twist on a crochet hook held a strong appeal.

Once I acquired some hooks, books, and even more different types of yarn (mainly cotton blends so I could make All the Washcloths and Pot Holders), I also sunk a little spending money into two Tunisian crochet classes on Craftsy when they were having one of their big sales on classes. If you haven’t checked out Craftsy yet, I strongly recommend it. They are a go-to for any kind of major creative craft medium out there and feature tons of classes, shops, patterns, etc.

After practicing a lot of the stitches on a swatch (some quite unsuccessfully), reading through stitches and patterns, watching YouTube videos, and following along with a number of lessons in one of my Craftsy classes, I finally began to grasp the concepts without flailing about awkwardly with these stranger crochet hooks and different stitch techniques. Because Tunisian crochet is a blend between crocheting and knitting, it takes a bit of practice to get to a baseline comfort level. Once I got the hang of it, though, I started wanting to make more and more items. I’m excited to go to the next level in my class, which creates a colorful shawl/tunic.

Let’s get to the fun stuff; time for some show and tell! These are all beginner projects, mind.

The first two things are washcloths that were part of my online class. They’re the same pattern but in different colors. They utilize three different kinds of stitches to form a lovely embedded square pattern. Here are those stitches up close:

Stitches

Simple Stitch is as easy as it gets. Honestly what is difficult with Tunisian crochet is getting the hang of your tension and making sure the sides even out. Another aspect of Tunisian crochet that I like is, generally speaking, the stitches are universally named. One doesn’t have to convert from UK terms to US terms, for example.

Tunisian Knit Stitch is probably one of the more popular stitches to use, at least from a beginner’s standpoint. It looks exactly like knitting and gives a nice tight weave and beautiful look to the project.

Here is a full shot of the white washcloth after it was steam blocked and left to dry. It still looks a little wavy and uneven but that’s just due to my novice hand. I made this with KnitPicks Shine Sport. It is super soft and I have used it on my own very sensitive skin. I will be making more with this yarn blend of pima cotton and bamboo, but I’ll try out other colors.

First spa washcloth
Next up is the tri-color washcloth. I made this with CotLin, a blend of cotton and linen, also from KnitPicks.

The challenge here was changing colors at the end of each forward pass, each reverse pass, and keeping the sides even.

IMG_7223_webFinished and steam blocked (no pins necessary, thankfully):

IMG_7227_web
Once I conquered this thing, I wanted to go back to the book I mentioned before and try out the pot holder pattern I initially saw. Because it was entirely in Tunisian Simple Stitch and I wanted to create a slightly different look, I decided to wing it and make my own pot holder without any assistance from a pattern. I know, crazy talk! I have never just begun crocheting without a pattern. But I forged ahead.

I made two squares, same height and width, two different colors, with a third color for an accent color on the border when I crocheted the two sides together. Not too shabby!

PH side 1 PH side 2PH side by side
Because I was using up the CotLin yarn, this is definitely more of a lightweight potholder, but I still think it will do the trick. I’ll have to experiment with bulkier yarns for heavy duty pot holders in the future.

I feel like I’m on my way and I’m looking forward to tackling more complex stitches and patterns that aren’t in simple shapes. I have heard tell that you can do Tunisian crochet in the round, something that intrigues me as an amigurumi maker (since I can now crochet in the round in my sleep). In the second class I purchased from Craftsy, the end project is a fitted sweater vest, which involves shaping, increasing, decreasing, and other scary sounding verbs. I’ll get there.

I absolutely recommend learning this form of crochet for anyone out there who is on the fence, doesn’t know what the heck it is, or has the same desire I did, which was to create less holey items and learn new kinds of stitches. It is seriously fun and interesting, if you geek out over this kind of thing as I do. And I do.

Until next time, friends.