Wednesday 18 March 2015

Getting Ready!

The first patterns for the Lily Pond Blanket Crochet Along (CAL) project will be available for you to download for free from the Stylecraft Yarns web site on the 7th April.

The response to the project has been incredible – we sold out of our original yarn kits in just 2 days and many other retailers here in the UK had a similar situation. We now have mixed yarn kits in stock, but only have a few left. The global response has also been amazing – the patterns are currently being translated into Dutch and we have had lots of interest from crocheters all over the world.

With less than 3 weeks to go until the launch of the first patterns I thought it would be a good idea to give you a bit of information about what you can do to prepare for the CAL so that you can start working on the project just as soon as you have downloaded the first set of patterns.

Choosing your yarn:
The patterns have been written for Stylecraft Life DK. This is a true DK weight of yarn that knits to a tension of 22sts and 30 rows on 4mm knitting needles. If you have found a substitute yarn then check the ball band for the knitted tension information. Most yarns give the tension for knitting and not for crochet – you will find information on the crochet tension further down this post.

Stylecraft Life DK comes in 100g balls and has a length of 326yds/298 meters. If you have chosen an alternative yarn please make sure that the length is as close to the Life DK as possible. Yarns that have a different fibre content or a slightly different yarn twist can have varying lengths of yarn, even though they weigh the same. If you are using Stylecraft Special DK instead of Life DK you do not need any extra yarn as there is only a tiny difference in yarn length per 100g ball.

Crochet Hooks:
I used a 3.5mm, 4mm & 4.5mm hook in the project.
The 4mm hook is used for the majority of the project, but it is important that you do have all 3 sizes as using the incorrect hook size will affect the appearance of your piece.

I am a big fan of Clover Amour hooks. They have a elastomer handle which is slightly squishy and stops your fingers from slipping. The ergonomic design of the hook also means there is a flat area for your thumb to rest on.

There are lots new hooks on the market now, many of them have a plastic type handle and I can vouch for the fact that a sturdy handle really does help if you struggle with sore wrists or fingers when you crochet. You could take a look at the Knit Pro Waves, Prym or Clover Soft Touch as an alternative to the Clover Amour.

Other Accessories:
Along with the crochet hooks, you will need a few extra pieces of equipment when working through this project.

Stitch Markers:
In order to help you through the making up process of the blanket I suggest within the patterns that you use stitch markers to denote certain stitches or help when you are joining your seams later on.

I tend to use small locking stitch markers – these look like little nappy pins and are really safe as the stitches cannot escape. Locking markers are especially good for holding crochet pieces together while you sew up seams. I have suggested you use a stitch marker to mark every corner stitch on the square motifs, of which there will be a total of 21 pieces. If you mark each piece with 4 markers and plan to leave them in your work the whole time then you will need a total of 84 markers. This is a lot of markers, so you could mark your stitches with spare pieces of yarn or small pins if you prefer.

Knitters Sewing Needle:
You will have a lot of yarn ends to sew in as you work through the project. It is my suggestion that you sew in all your ends as you go along so that you don’t end up with a massive making up job once you have completed all your crochet. The blanket will be crocheted together using double crochet, but you will need a sewing needle to sew in all the loose ends.

I use a Chibi bent tip needle. These are great for sewing up knitting and crochet projects. They come in packs of 2 needles and have a handy little container too!

Other bits and bobs:
You will also need a sharp pair of scissors and a tape measure.
You might also want to sort out a dedicated bag for your project. I like to make sure that I don’t muddle up my yarns with other things or misplace any of them - canvas bags or baskets are great for this.

Stitches Used:
This project is aimed at an intermediate level of crocheter. It is important that you know your stitches and have a good grasp of techniques. If you are planning to use this project as a learning tool then it is a good idea to make sure you know your basics before you start.

The project is written using UK terminology. I have posted a table below with US stitch equivalents for the stitches used in the project:

If you already have your yarn and the correct hooks then you are ready to work your tension pieces.

Taking the time to work these blocks can seem like a pain, but it is REALLY important that you are sure you are working to the same tension as the tension the patterns are written for. A failure to work to the correct tension will mean that your project will come out a different size and that you will use a different amount of yarn.

If you are using Life DK or Special DK and have full 100g balls you will have enough yarn in almost all of the shades to work your tension pieces and still have enough to complete your CAL project. When I completed the project I had at least a 3rd of a ball of all shades except the Fern and Teal left over – I only had approx. 20g of these 2 shades left so I would suggest you don’t use these for your tension pieces.

When working a tension piece it is a good idea to work on more stitches and rows that the suggested tension. I used 28 or 29sts and worked at least 4 more rows of the stitches so that I could measure a true tension within my pieces. See my images below for a guide.

Double Crochet – dc (US single crochet – sc)

Using 4mm hook
Tension = 20 sts and 22 rows

Treble Crochet – tr (US double crochet – dc)

Using 3.5mm hook
Tension 20sts and 10 rows

Please note the hook sizes above – a smaller hook is used to achieve the treble crochet (US double crochet) tension

The tension is taken from unblocked swatches – I stuck mine down to the work surface with double sided tape (being careful not to stretch them) so that they were less curly and easy to measure.

If your tension is different to mine, then change your hook sizes accordingly and try the tension swatches again.

If you have a loose tension use a smaller hook
If you have a tight tension use a larger hook

Charts and Images:
I am really pleased to have been given the chance to work along side Stylecraft yarns on this project, especially as they have taken over the checking and layout of the patterns. The patterns have been checked and double checked and I have tried to write them in a way that makes them easy to understand.

The patterns include step-by-step images to help guide you through the making process. All step-by-step images have been taken on my little camera as I worked through the project. My images have not been photo shopped (other than to brighten them up a bit) and where applicable I have not cropped out the edges. I think that images like this can be really helpful and are a great alternative to charts (which are not included in the CAL patterns this time) and I feel it is important that you see how the pieces look as they are worked on, even if they look a little curly and uneven.

Yarn Usage:
As I have said earlier on, all yarns have a varying amount of left overs, with Teal and Fern having the smallest amount remaining once the project is completed.

It is my advice that you keep hold of all your yarn until the end of the project – by this I mean all the pieces you might undo and any pieces that look a bit frayed. Don’t be tempted to use any of the yarn for any other project until you have completed this one and make sure you keep everything in a safe place.

For those of you who have bought the original or mixed yarn kit via the Janie Crow web site we will be sending you a free download pattern for a bag that you can make to use up your left overs. The pattern will be sent to you from the 7th April via email, but please don’t be tempted to make it with your project yarn until you are sure you have enough left over!

Help is at hand:
Stylecraft and I want you to enjoy this project and we will do our best to make sure that any queries you might have get answered as soon as possible. The easiest way for you to make contact is via the facebook pages. You can find the Stylecraft one here and the Janie Crow one here.

You might find the answer to your question within previous blog posts or facebook postings, so do take the time to read through all the information we have given you.