Friday, June 19, 2015

Notes from the Sophie CAL 2015

I promised that I'd share some of my thoughts on the CAL on here as well as on FB and Ravelry so here I go:

Getting started

Before you start there are 2 things you need to think about carefully - what you'll use it for and where you will display it, both of which make a difference to your choice of yarn for the project. If you want something that can be thrown in the washing machine without worrying then you might like to consider a 100% acrylic yarn or one with a wool/acrylic mix. If you want something to wrap yourself in to keep warm you might want a heavier weight yarn. Remember that the weight of yarn you choose will determine its finished size so if you want a large blanket you probably need to use an aran weight yarn.

Think about the cost of the project, especially if you choose to make the larger size as it's a real yarn-eater! I used yarn from my stash which I'd bought over many years at a fraction of its retail price. If I'd had to pay full price for it then the project would have been a non-starter. More about how much yarn I used later.

Lots of people said they had trouble choosing their colours which I can fully understand as I have seen many variations that I adore and could easily have gone in a completely different direction from the one I chose.

Here are some suggestions on choosing your colours:
  • Remember that it's your project and so it doesn't matter if other people don't like your colours as long as you do. 
  • Think about where you want to display it. Do you want it to tone in with the area or contrast? I chose colours to tone but I would also have been happy with bright clashing colours if it had been for a different area.
  • Do you want to use pastels or bright colours?
  • Have a look at some of the single colour ones as they have a completely different feel.
  • Choose your main colours and then find 1 or 2 to use judiciously perhaps to highlight a special round.
  • Play around with the colours and see how they work together (of course this is easier if you've got some in your stash or if you physically go into a Yarn shop rather than buy things on-line!).
  • My own choice of colours came from the curtains in our lounge & music room which is where it will live:

It took several attempts before I got colours I liked for the centre

Seeing how it looked with other things in the room

Following the pattern and tweaking it to suit you

The pattern was well written and had been tested incredibly well too so I found it a joy to work with. I didn't look at any of the 'How to' videos but people said they were very helpful. There were lots of links to tutorials and I thought the stitches were explained clearly, so much so that I felt it was fine for new crocheters as well as those with more experience.

I had the benefit of starting after the first few weeks and so I could see how the pattern was progressing. I noticed that the beautiful texture of these bobbles and petal-like shapes didn't show up if you used different colours for each round so I worked out my stripes accordingly so that the petals were formed by the cream colour I'd chosen as my background. I read that some people carried their yarn at the back in order to do this but I didn't - I just added the new yarn in when required which was much less wasteful.

In this next photo you can see how the petals and bobbles really stand out in the cream colour. You can see how I've used the pale yellow, one of my accent colours, as a stripe just to keep a link to the starting point. For the border around this area there was the option to use crab stitch which I did - shown in dark red. This really helped define the area. A lot of people find crab stitch difficult as it can seem odd at first so I'd suggest practising on a test piece so you become confident it in.

Lay your work out at each stage to see if the colour sequences please you. It's much easier to rip back one row than to continue and have to do it several rows later.

When I wasn't sure which colour to use for the next round I'd get some colours together and lay them against it. Sometimes I'd even work a line of stitches to see which I preferred.

Make sure your accent colours are well balanced within the colour sequences. My 2 accents colours werer the pale yellow and the dark red.

Make sure you count, count and count as it's very frustrating if you find you've got the wrong number of stitches, especially when your stitch count is around 400! The pattern always tells you if you need to include the so-called 'hidden' stitch which comes after the corner. I count in 10s or 20s and place a marker on the 10th/20th stitch so that if I lose count it's quite easy to work it out.

When you get to the butterfly border there is an option to use backpost stitches at the start and end. Please just do it or you'll regret it as it forms a lovely edge and defines the area beautifully. One of the final stages addresses this for anyone who has omitted it and uses surface crochet which I think is much more fiddly than backpost stitches.

I made a slight modification as well - the row after you finish the top of the butterfly said do sc then dc (US) but I did hdc then dc (that's htr and tr in UK terms) instead as I think it makes the border look more balanced. The butterflies look ragged until you straighten them out a bit so don't worry - see here for more details.

To block or not to block

Throughout the instructions you are told to block your work. However, unless your tension is not quite right this shouldn't really be necessary at every stage. I blocked my work for the first time when it was squared off and it worked out fine.

As your work gets bigger and bigger it will get very heavy. This is more of an issue when you're using an aran weight yarn as I did. If you work with it on your knee you'll find that it will stretch out of shape as it dangles down so what I did was to crochet whilst sitting on the settee so that my work was supported as much as possible.

The best tip I can give is to smooth and flatten out your work on a table or the floor after each crochet session. This really helps to keep it in shape without the constant need for blocking.

Finishing Edge

I chose not to add any extra rounds or squares but I didn't like the way it was finished in the instructions so tweaked it ever so slightly. For round 112 I did dc (sc in US) in pale blue then 113 I did htr (hdc US) in a mid blue which gave a firmer edge.

Then for the final round I used the really dark blue to make backpost dcs (bpsc US) which made the edge sit better than in the written version.

Sorry I can't show it any better than this but the colours are quite close so there isn't much contrast:

The end result

I love it. What I love most is that, because of the yarn I used and the lovely raised stitches, it has the feel of a candlewick bedspread (do you remember them?). I almost wish I'd made it for our bed but then I can always make another similar one can't I?!

I'm very happy with my colour choices and it looks great on the settee and near the curtains shown here in the lounge:

We have the same curtains in the music room which adjoins the lounge so it was bound to work in there too. What we also have in there are large stencils high up between the beams so it looks great with them too!

At the moment it is draped over the piano and really adds a splash of colour there.

Yarn & hook details

Hook: I used a 4mm hook throughout as that is my preferred size when using Rowan Summer Tweed.

Yarn details: Rowan Summer Tweed (now discontinued but I have a huge stash of it 'cos I adore it!), 70% silk 30% cotton, 108m per 50g ball.

Colours used:

10 x 508 Oats
10 x 515 Raffia
3 x 514 Reed
2 x 538 Butterball

3 x 522 Smoulder
3 x 526 Angel
2 x 541 Blossom

2 x 527 Sprig
2 x 522 Bamboo
2 x 550 Hedgerow

1 x 500 Powder
2 x 548 Swirl
2.5 x 529 Denim
2.5 x 547 Navy

Thankfully I rarely paid full price for the yarn as I bought batches of it on eBay for an average of £2.50 a hank but even so at 47 hanks it still cost a fair bit!

Finished dimensions:  150cm square unblocked.