Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Sunshine and Showers - Getting Ready!

The Sunshine & Showers crochet along (CAL) project was featured in the first 13 issues of Crochet Now magazine between March 2016 and April 2017. Using the months of the year as the design theme the crochet blanket project was designed by Jane Crowfoot and was originally released as a mystery crochet along – which means that the design was not revealed completely until the end of the project. Each month of the year saw the release of a new pattern within the magazine.

The Sunshine & Showers crochet along project was very successful over it’s first year of release so, now that the patterns revert to us here at Janie Crow, we have decided it would be a good idea to do it all over again!

Yarn Stories Version
Stylecraft Version
Between April 2017 and April 2018 the CAL project will once again be released in monthly ‘bite size’ pieces. This time the patterns will be released by me (on this blog) with a home print download copy as an option.

If you would like to join in the project you simply need to look out for the pattern releases each month and then you can choose whether to follow the blog posts free of charge or download a pattern for a minimal fee. You also have the option to choose to purchase a dedicated yarn pack (we have a pack that uses Stylecraft Special DK and a pack that uses Yarn Stories Fine Merino DK) or, as this is a great stash busting project you could choose to source the yarn shades yourself.

The following blog post contains all the advanced information we think you will need to work through this project - the images and yarn information on the blog is for the original Stylecraft Special DK version. You can access a free download of this information by following this link and you will find a download for the Yarn Stories version by following the same link.

If you would like to follow the project (as it featured last year) within Crochet Now magazine you will need to source back copies. Magazine issues 1-5 have sold out, but you can purchase a brochure with these patterns in via our web site. 

What is a CAL?

It seems that the concept of mystery blankets or ‘make along’ projects originate within the patchwork and quilting craft sector, where ‘block a month’ or ‘Mystery Blankets’ have been common place for more than a decade, however, I first came across the idea in relation to knitting when my friend and accomplished hand knit designer Debbie Abrahams released her knitted equivalent in 2007. There are many KAL (Knit Along) and CAL (Crochet Along) projects around these days and many of them are free to join in.

Lily Pond CAL 2015
Frida's Flowers CAL 2016
The beauty of a CAL project is that a design is broken down into bite size pieces. It can feel really daunting being faced with a large project, with many different stitch sequences or techniques to learn as you progress through the design and crocheters can often feel a bit demoralized or lost along the way, especially if they think they are not progressing fast enough. Dividing a large design into doable pieces makes the whole process so much easier and, with the invent of CAL groups on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and of course Ravelry, crocheters can also now feel less isolated whilst still carrying out the solitary (yet incredibly therapeutic) craft from the comfort of their own homes.

About this project:

Unlike all my previous CAL designs, this one is worked as a sampler so that you will be working lots of different stitches and techniques in rows of crochet. To get an idea of sampler style crochet blankets take a look at the following links:

Spice Of Life CAL blanket by Sandra at Cherry Heart which is pictured below.

Rainbow Sampler Blanket by Kirsten Ballering who is also the designer of the lovely Hygge CAL project currently being run by the yarn brand Scheepjes.

As-we-go Stripey Blanket by Hannah Owens

When I design a new project I almost always do so with a theme in mind. There are quite a lot of sampler style blankets already in existence, so I wanted to design something that had a recognizable design element carrying through the whole project. I decided on the idea of making it a seasonal sampler blanket.
The CAL runs over the course of the year and so each section of the blanket will have a theme that relates to the month in which you will be making it.

What level of expertise do you need?
I have designed the blanket so that it starts pretty easy. To complete the first part of the design you will need to know how to make a chain, how to work double crochet stitches, half treble stitches and treble stitches.

This project is not aimed at complete beginners and there is an assumption that you know your basic stitches and terminology. When an unusual or slightly complicated technique is featured the patterns include step bt step images and short written tutorials. For basic stitch terms and tutorials we advise you to look on Youtube or a crochet techniques book or publication.

Getting Ready:

The Sunshine & Showers blanket is made using Stylecraft Special DK in a range of  15 shades. The project uses 1 x 100g ball of each shade.

Special DK shades

The yarns pictured above are as follows (Left to Right - Top to Bottom)

1711 Spice
1067 Grape
1023 Raspberry
1241 Fondant
1080 Pale Rose
1709 Gold
1065 Meadow
1712 Lime
1820 Duck Egg
1005 Cream
1063 Graphite
1027 Khaki
1078 Petrol
1722 Storm Blue
1068 Turquoise

You can find the shades and yarn amounts for the Yarn Stories Fine Merino version within the download version of 'Getting Ready'.

Crochet Along projects are a wonderful way of using up yarns from your stash, and the fact that we have used a true DK weight of yarn for our blanket means that you can easily make yarn substitutions, but just make sure you are using yarns with a similar length to the Special DK (295 meters per 100g ball), other wise you could run out of yarn.

Yarn Usage:
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. 

You will possibly a combination of the following hook sizes:
3.5mm, 4mm, 4.5mm & 5mm hooks

The hooks you use will be dependent on the tension you achieve – please read further on for more information about tension.

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 and so that you don’t unravel your stitches between each pattern release it is a good idea to use a few stitch markers. I tend to use small locking stitch markers – these look like little nappy pins and are really safe as the stitches cannot escape.

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. I really like bent tip needles, but if you don't have one of these just make sure you have a needle which is not too sharp and that the eye is large enough to accommodate the yarn without splitting it.

Scissors, tape measure and bag:
You will 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.

Abbreviations and Stitch Conversions:

The patterns are written using UK terminology. You will find a conversion chart and information about abbreviations and terminology within the free 'Getting Ready' document that you can download by following this link. This document is designed to give you a taster of what the download versions of the patterns will be like - download versions of the patterns will be available at a cost of 95p each from the beginning of the project in May and will be available for both yarn versions of the project.

Crochet is by nature an organic and creative process – it is wonderful to pick up some yarn and a hook and create motifs and decorative pieces that eventually make up a larger project. Many crocheters are used to doing just this without thinking too much about how big their pieces come up and whether things are being worked to the correct tension.

Before you start work on your crochet along project I urge you to check that you are working to the correct tension, that is the number of stitches and rows measured over 10cm (4in).

If you achieve a tension tighter or looser than the suggested tension you will find that your project will differ in size to mine, that you will use a different amount of yarn and possibly that your pieces will fit together properly in the making uop stages.

The look of the crochet stitches can also differ – a looser tension is not as neat as the standard tension, whilst a tight tension can make your work stiff or cardboard like.

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

Spending an hour or 2 to work these blocks can seem like a waste of time, but it is REALLY important that you are sure you are working to the same tension as the tension the patterns are written for. As I have said at least twice already, 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 Special DK and have full 100g balls you should have enough yarn in almost all of the shades to work your tension pieces and still have enough to complete your CAL project, but to be safe I worked my pieces using a couple of colours I already had.

Before you start your tension piece have a think about whether you consider yourself to be a tight, loose or ‘middle of the road’ crocheter in relation to tension. If your work tends to be a little stiff or you have trouble getting your hook through your stitches, then the chances are that you are on the tight side of ‘normal’, however, if your work tends to be a little floppy and your stitches are quite open then the chances are that you are a loose crocheter.

Special DK is a standard DK weight yarn, however I tend to use a size larger hook for it that I do for other DK weights (I use a 4.5mm instead of a 4mm)

When working a tension piece it is a good idea to work on more stitches and rows that the suggested tension. I used 29 stitches for both samples.

Double Crochet – dc (US single crochet – sc)

Using 4mm or 4.5mm hook make 30ch,
Foundation Row: skip 1ch, 1dc into each ch to end, turn (29sts)
Row 1: 1ch (does not count as a st) 1dc into each st to end, turn (29sts)
Repeat last row until a total of 32 rows have been worked (including foundation row)
Lay your sample on a flat surface. Using a tape measure place pins 10cm (4in) apart along a central row (horizontally) and count the stitches between the pins

Stitch Tension = 20 sts

Using a tape measure place pins 10cm (4in) apart along the central point of the swatch vertically and count the rows between the pins

Row Tension = 22 rows

Treble Crochet – tr (US double crochet – dc)

Using 3.5mm or 4mm hook make 31ch,
Foundation Row: skip 3ch (counts as 1tr) 1tr into each ch to end, turn (29sts)
Row 1: 3ch (counts as a 1tr) skip st at base of 3ch, 1tr into each st to end, working final st into 3rd ch of 3ch made at beginning of last row (tch), turn (29sts)
Repeat last row until a total of 15 rows have been worked (including foundation row)
Lay your sample on a flat surface. Using a tape measure place pins 10cm (4in) apart along a central row and count the stitches between the pins

Stitch Tension = 18 sts

Using a tape measure place pins 10cm (4in) apart along the central point of the swatch vertically and count the rows between the pins

Row Tension = 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.

There is a slight difference in stitch tension between the 2 pieces. A small difference (1 or 2 sts) will not affect the appearance of your piece as repeated rows are rarely worked for more than a couple of rows, however, if you find your work is getting wider when working the rows with long post stitches (such as treble and double treble crochet) the try using a hook another size finer.

Factors that can affect your tension:
Many things can make a difference to the tension you achieve; I have listed 5 of the most common below:

1. Your level of expertise:
If you are a newcomer to the craft of crochet you may well find that your crochet tension will change as your ability improves. When launching into a project like this it is worth making sure you have put in enough ground work to ensure that you are working in the right way and that you have the ability to work consistently.

2. Your mood or situation:
If you are a bit stressed or have had a bit of a tough day you may find that this will have an affect on your crochet tension. Equally, having a few glasses of wine or watching a funny or enthralling movie whilst crocheting can also cause your tension to differ. As a general rule try to crochet in the same kind of situation whenever possible to ensure that everything stays as it should.

3. Number of stitches:
It is quite common to achieve the correct tension on a swatch only to find that it is not correct over a larger piece. This is because tension can change as we relax into the rhythm of a repetitive crochet action.

Make sure that you measure your tension at all the places I ask you to within the pattern just to be sure you are continuing to work with the correct tension

5. Measuring your tension swatch too soon:
It is really important that you measure your tension to at least 10cm – if in doubt measure over a larger piece, say 15cm or even 20cm just to be sure. Putting the ground work in at this stage can save you a lot of unpicking later on.

If you have achieved a different tension to the tension in the pattern:
If you have done your tension pieces and achieved more stitches and rows to 10cm this means you are working too tight. Rather than trying to change your crochet method (by consciously crocheting looser) simply change up to a size larger hook. If you are still too tight then try another size larger. Make a note of how many sizes you have had to change by so that you are sure to make the swap for each of the hook sizes.

If you have done your tension pieces and achieved fewer stitches and rows to 10cm this means you are working too loose. Rather than trying to change your crochet method (by consciously crocheting tighter) simply change down to a size smaller hook. If you are still too loose then try another size smaller.  As above, make a note of how many sizes you have had to change by so that you are sure to make the swap for each of the 3 sizes.

Having trouble with your tension over treble crochet (US double crochet)?
Look at the way you work the stitch
Because of the nature of a treble crochet (US double crochet) it is common to find variances in stitch length and width even if the correct hook has been used in relation to the one used to achieve the correct tension over double crochet (US single crochet)

When we make a treble crochet (US double crochet) we wrap our yarn around the hook first and then work 3 movements drawing yarn loops through others to create the stitch. The tension achieved over each of these movements and the angle at which we hold our hook can have an impact on the tension of each step of the stitch.

There is a video link to Youtube here that explains yanking, riding & lifting.

Pattern Launch Dates:

The patterns will be launched very 4 or 5 weeks (depending upon the month) and you will find a list of dates below:

Pattern Set 1: Tuesday 9th May 2017
Pattern Set 2: Tuesday 6th June 2017
Pattern Set 3: Tuesday 4th July 2017
Pattern Set 4: Tuesday 8th August 2017
Pattern Set 5: Tuesday 5th September 2017
Pattern Set 6: Tuesday 3rd October 2017
Pattern Set 7: Tuesday 7th November 2017
Pattern Set 8: Tuesday 5th December 2017
Pattern Set 9: Tuesday 9th January 2018
Pattern Set 10: Tuesday 6th February 2018
Pattern Set 11: Tuesday 6th March 2018
Pattern Set 12: Tuesday 3rd April 2018

I hope you will enjoy this project and have my fingers crossed that the forth coming year brings more sunshine than showers!

Janie x