Monday, January 25, 2016

Seersucker Crochet Squares #1 & 2

It's an overcast, dreary, cold day today.  Sounds typical for this time of year - at least where I live :-)  If you find yourself somewhere warm and sunny - send some my way!

Ok - so lets get going on these squares, shall we?

We'll start off our afghan with the seersucker squares.  This is a super simple pattern that utilizes basic increases and decreases to create a seersucker effect.  It's a rather unexpected twist for crochet, not something seen too often.  I love unexpected things in crochet - they make life more exciting - in a good way!

Here is the solid version of the square.
seersucker crochet square #1
And here it is striped, using a different color on the increase and decrease rows to accent the ripples created with this stitch pattern.
seersucker crochet square #2
Once you learn the pattern - it's very versatile and makes the fabric super interesting.  I used a self-patterning yarn in the seersucker baby blanket below.  This is an awesome project if you or someone you know has a baby coming in the near future.
seersucker crochet baby blanket

Seersucker Crochet Squares Pattern

Yarn and Gauge Information here

Note:  Turning chains DO NOT count as stitches in this pattern.  Stitch counts at ends of rows do not include the ch 2 or ch 3, only the specified stitches are counted.  

Special stitch:
dc2tog (double crochet 2 together):  Yarn over (YO), insert hook in stitch, pull up a loop (3 loops on hook).  YO hook, pull through 2 loops.  YO hook insert in next st, pull up a loop (4 loops on hook).  YO, pull through 2 loops (3 loops on hook).  YO pull through last 3 loops. 

Foundation Ch & Row 1: Ch 33. Hdc in 3rd ch from hook and each remaining ch. Turn.
Row 2: Ch 2. Hdc in each hdc from previous row. (31 hdc) Turn.
Row 3:  Repeat row 2.
Row 4: Ch 3. Dc in first hdc. Make 2 dc in each remaining hdc. (61 dc) Turn.
Row 5: Ch 2. *Dc2tog in next 2 dc. Repeat from * until one dc remains. Dc in last dc. (31 stitches) Turn.
Row 6: Ch 2. Hdc in each stitch across. (31 hdc). Turn.
Row 7, 8: Repeat row 2.
Rows 9-23: Repeat rows 4-8

For 2 color striped variation:
Rows 4 & 5 use color B.  All other rows use A.

Join the conversation and share your progress on social media #taraduff2016cal

Friday, January 22, 2016

2016 Crochet-A-Long Sampler Afghan Introduction

January brings birthdays for us - one is my sweet baby girl (I know she's 9, but she will always be my baby girl), and the other is my 11 yr old (soon to be 12).  My girlie's b-day was on Saturday.  It's a fine line to walk with a child with autism on their birthday.  How to celebrate in a way that is going to work for them is the dilemma.  Making peer friends is challenging for her - plus all of the hullaballoo of a big party would be a bit much for her.  This year she asked to go to the local trampoline park, and was happy with a cake (which she asks for but never touches), some organic gfcf homemade rice crispy treats (that she happily ate) and opening presents.  One January birthday down and one to go.  My 11 yr old really does enjoy a party, lots of friends, a true birthday cake and ice cream.  So that's in store next week.

Well friends, are you ready to see our crochet-a-long project for 2016?  I'm keeping with the theme of 10 inch squares, so these will be totally interchangeable with the squares from our 2015 project.  

Some folks like sampler afghans, some don't.  I happen to fall into the 'love' sampler afghans category.  I have a pretty large stash of yarn - and love putting it to use.  My parents were the type to pick up yarn whenever they would find it at a yard sale and bring it to me.  So - when they brought me yarn, it was typically by the box, and often pretty random colors and types.  So, instead of purchasing yarn to make sure this project was all matchy matchy, I just pulled various yarns from my stash to use.  One thing I have found, is that as a general rule, a border will go a long way in tying randomness together.  So, while I really did use just whatever I had around for the blocks, I picked one yarn to border all of the blocks with, join them together, and put a final border around the entire thing.  In our 2015 project, the blocks were all whipstitched together at the end.  This one is a join-as-you-go (jaygo) project.  This means that as you add the finishing border to the blocks, you'll actually be joining the blocks in the final round.  If you've never done a jaygo project, it's a great technique to learn!

Here is a photo of my finished afghan, but remember yours will look different depending on the yarn you use!
taraduff 2016 CAL
This afghan is essentially made of only 12 different squares - however, each square has a variation so all 24 squares are different.  Some of the variations are simple color changes and others are a little more complex.  For example, the granny square block on the 4th row down, 3rd block from the left and the granny square block on the bottom right hand corner are the same pattern.  One has color changes in rounds, and the other features the color change on the diagonal.  The exact same stitches produce a very different look with a simple change.  So - we'll be doing one block each month and one variation to that block.

Things you will need:

Yarn:  #4 yarns (worsted) from your stash (some yarns featured in mine are caron simply soft, red heart soft and Deborah Norville Everyday Worsted) For the border, I used 3-4 skeins Caron Simply Soft in Dark Grey Heather

Hook size: US H8/5.00mm (or size needed to obtain gauge)
Gauge:  In double crochet 13 stitches x 10 rows = 4 inches square

This is the only gauge I will give for this project.  Each square is a different stitch pattern, so watch your blocks that they all turn out approximately the same size (10 inches square)

And here's one more pic of the afghan. 

Anywho - the first two blocks are coming soon.  I promise I'll have them posted early next week.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Finishing Your Sampler Afghan

Hello friends, I hope the first week of 2016 has treated you fantastically well!  I have enjoyed having the hustle and bustle of the holidays over and some time to regroup.  I'm typically not one to set New Years Resolutions.  I do however take a look at my life and assess how the previous year went.  What things worked? What things didn't?  Then I look at doing more of what worked and abandon the things that didn't.  I'm still in the assessment of 2015 phase. 

For the last 3 months I've been going to a functional medicine clinic to see about improving my health and uncovering and resolving the underlying issues that led to the health crisis I experienced this last year.  The specialist I see treats autoimmune disease patients in particular.  The first time I went to see him - we went over a lot of things from my labs and history.  He told me a lot of things, but there is one thing that stuck out that I will always remember.  He said that from what he has seen, autoimmune disease seems to be the disease of 'overwhelm'.        -----------------    That hit me like a ton of bricks.  I have a lot on my plate.  And unfortunately, I tend to add more to it quite often.  There are many responsibilities that I have that are mine to bear - and others that I take on voluntarily in an effort to ease the burdens of others - or supposedly enrich mine or someone's life in some way.  Sound familiar to anyone?

As I assess, I have been making an honest effort to look at what is on my plate and decide which things are and are not going to get done.  The hardest part I think is making that decision and then being OK with it.   I feel like I should be able to do everything, right?  I can't.  And if I kept trying, I would end up back in the hospital and significantly decrease my quality and span of life.  It's ironic isn't it?  My efforts to love and serve the people I care for could in the long run shorten my life.  As a special needs parent, there is almost not a day that goes by that don't I wonder about the future of my child.  Will she be alright?  If she outlives me (which she almost certainly will), will she be at a point where she can take care of and provide for herself?  Is it fair to put that responsibility on my other children?  Can we realistically make enough $$ to put away to provide for her forever?  And find someone trustworthy to love and care for her and help her manage things?

So reality check, I don't know what the future holds.  My sweet daughter may very well learn and grow and progress and be able to care for herself and those around her better than I can.  She certainly is able to enjoy life more than I do.  I often look at her in amazement and realize I really need to learn from her.  She lives in the moment.  She enjoys the moment.  I watched the movie 'The Legend of Bagger Vance' a few days ago.  I had seen it before, but it had been a long time and I didn't remember much about it except that there was golf involved.  It was much better than I remembered.  There was a phrase in the movie that really spoke to me.  Bagger Vance is a golf caddy who is caddying for a young man (Mr Junuh) who had been an excellent golfer before he served in the war.  He came home from his service a broken man.  Some years later, he agreed to play in a golf tournament and was performing terribly.  As he begam to confront his demons - his game improved.  As he was struggling with one particular shot - Bagger explained to him that golf is a game to be PLAYED, not won.  It was obvious that he was also talking about life.  Life is here to be lived and enjoyed, not won.  It is an unfortunate habit of many to  focus on what's on the other side of the fence, not allowing room for enjoyment or fulfillment until that unreachable goal is met.    I think I do need a resolution this year - to play and enjoy life more.  That's a bit too general for me to have any success though.  I need to break it down into small things that are specific and more measurable for it to actually work for me.  This will take some thinking on my part....

OK - so back to the subject at hand.  Did you finish your squares?  Are you ready to assemble them into a lovely finished blanket?  First things first now.  Prepare the blocks to be stitched together.  Do you have ends that still need to be woven in?  It's easier to weave in the ends on the individual blocks than after you've stitched it all together - so if it's not already done, put that as #1 on your to do list.  #2 is to check the size of your blocks.  They should all measure close to 10 inches square.  Now don't panic if some of them came out slightly different.  Blocking can solve a lot of problems - so try blocking the squares to the right measurement.  If you have one that is too small, feel free to add a row of sc or hdc around the edge to add extra length and height needed.  After those steps are complete, find a place where there is enough space to lay out all of the squares.  Start by arranging them how I did in the one pictured below.  Feel free to move things around until you have an arrangement that you like,  The main rule to follow is for every other square to be a solid one - like a checkerboard.

taraduff 2015 CAL sampler

My preferred method of joining these is to use a whipstitch.  Use the color you chose for the solid squares.  If you chose to do a scrappy blanket instead - pick a color you plan on using to make the border and use that to stitch your squares together.  Stitching them together is pretty self-explanatory.  The only word of caution is to be sure the ends are all secure after stitching.  The stitching should be permanent - sturdy enough to hold through use and washings, so take your time with this part.

One more thing to note - be sure to catch all of the yarns that were drawn up the side of the blocks from color changes in your stitching.  The whipstitch will hide them perfectly.   One such block is the diagonal stripe block.  You can see the yarns drawn up the sides in the photo below.  Those are the strands that you want to be sure to catch in your stitching.
Notice the yarn strands drawn up the top and right sides of this block.  These strands need to be caught in the whipstitching to be hidden.
OK, so once you have them all stitched together, it's time to add the border.

Border Pattern

Special Stitches:  
2 double crochet cluster (2 dc cluster) Yarn over, insert hook in designated stitch, yarn over, draw yarn through the stitch, yarn over, draw through 2 loops on hook, leaving last loop of this dc on the hook.  Yarn over, insert hook in same stitch, yarn over, draw yarn through the stitch, yarn over, draw through 2 loops on hook, leaving last loop of this dc on the hook (there are now 3 loops on the hook). Yarn over, pull loop through all 3 loops on hook (this completes one cluster).

 Row 1:  With same color used for solid squares, make 1 row of sc around the edge of the blanket.  Begin with one sc in any corner.  *Make 28 more sc in the side of the corner square. Make 27 sc in the side each other square until the next corner square is reached.  Make 28 sc in the side of the corner square**, then 3 sc directly in each corner.  Repeat from * 3 more times ending last repeat at **.  Make 2 more sc in same space as beginning sc.  Sl st to beginning sc to join.  Do not turn.

Row 2:  Ch 5 (counts as hdc, ch 3).  2 dc-cl in 3rd ch from hook.  Skip next 2 sc.  Hdc in next sc.  *Ch 3, 2 dc-cl in 3rd ch from hook, skip 2 sc, hdc in next sc.  Repeat from * across to corner.  Ch 3, 2 dc-cl in 3rd ch from hook.  Skip 1 sc, hdc in next sc.  Repeat from * around.  Sl st to 2nd ch of beginning ch 5.  Do not turn.

Row 3:  Ch 5 (counts as dc, ch 2), dc in next hdc, *ch 2, dc in next hdc. Repeat from * to corner.  Ch 7**, dc in next hdc.  Repeat from * around ending last repeat at **  Sl st to 3rd ch of beginning ch 5.  Do not turn.

Row 4:  Ch 1.  Make 3 sc in each ch-2 sp.  Make 9 sc in each corner space.  Sl st to beginning sc to join.  Fasten off and weave in ends.

Optional row 5:  With contrasting color, working in the back loops only, sc in each sc around the edge working 3 sc in each corner sc.  Fasten off and weave in ends.
close-up of border
taraduff 2015 CAL sampler - alternate color scheme
This version of the blanket with the white squares has the last row made in the darkest color from the colored blocks.  Feel free to modify things any way you wish.  One reason I love to crochet is because it is versatile, easy to change things up to get them just how you like them :-)

I am currently working on finishing the sampler afghan for the 2016 CAL and will continue to post new square patterns each month.  I hope you join me :-)

Please feel free to comment here with any questions you run into when assembling and bordering your afghan.  I'd love to hear from you!  And I'd be over the moon to see photos of your finished blankets!

Much love,