Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Doing This One By The Book

I don't know what it is about summertime, but it seems to kick start my craft and home-related projects into high gear. I think I thrive on the warm weather and sunshine or something. At the moment I currently have two crochet projects in the works.

The first is a fairly simple baby blanket. When I say simple here, I do not exaggerate either. The piece is just side-to-side worked rows alternating between single crochet and double crochet. It gives a very nice clean look with just a touch of texture to it. Partly I chose this pattern because it is very easy and works up quickly, and partly I chose it because the yarn is so pretty I wanted a pattern that wouldn't distract from that. I am pretty satisfied with how it is coming along.

Here's what I've got so far:

Baby Blanket Delta as of July 11, 2011.

A closer shot of the pattern. Clean and simple, no?

As for the second project, I am participating in Lion Brand's summer Crochet-Along. They do a Knit- or Crochet-Along a couple of times a year. I don't always join in, I have to really like the pattern they choose, which is what happened this time around. We are making the Mesh Raglan Pullover for this CAL, and this is a pattern I have had on my radar for quite some time now, so it seemed silly not to join in.

For those of you not in the know, a KAL or CAL is when a group of people all decide to work on the same project at the same time. Sometimes the group will set a specific pace for the project, though Lion Brand likes to let everybody work on their own schedule. The way Lion Brand runs their KALs and CALs is that they will post a new blog post every week with the project leader discussing various stages of the project, from choosing yarn (including picking a substitute if you don't want to use the yarn called for in the pattern), to how much of it to get, to making gauge swatches, to making the pieces of the project, to finishing and assembling them. It's actually a really great way to try your hand at a new type of project for the first time. Say you want to make a sweater but you've only ever crocheted blankets or toys, a CAL would be a big help to you. Not only does Lion Brand put up a blog post each week going through the various steps of the project, they also host forums on Ravelry for the participants to ask questions and discuss amongst themselves the joys and pains of their endeavor. The forums are a great place to go for advice if you are stuck or confused to find out if anyone else is having the same problem and how other people are fixing or getting around it.

The yarn called for in the pattern for the pullover is Lion Brand's Recycled Cotton, a yarn I had not previously used. I have been discovering the joys of working with cotton yarns lately though, so I decided to give this one a try. I chose the colorway named (appropriately) Sunshine, which is a mellow, yet happy, shade of yellow. (You have no idea how hard I had to fight the urge to buy the blue or green yarn though, seriously. I know that there are other colors out there, my brain just doesn't seem to care most days.) The yarn is kind of cool because the "recycled" part is actually remnants from t-shirt factories. It is the bits that aren't used when the fabric is cut to make the shirts. That knowledge just makes me happy. Yarn out of t-shirt fabric? This is custom-made for me. It also gives all of the shades in this line a really cool and unique not-quite-heather look.

Now, normally I am pretty much allergic to doing gauge swatches. I have just never seen the point. But as I get further along in my skill development, and look over my body of work as I move into wanting to make things I can actually wear, I am starting to acknowledge that gauge is, in fact, very important for projects like sweaters and socks. (I think my mom is more than a little relieved to hear this.) A little extra effort at the start is worth it to come out in the end with a piece that fits and that you are happy (and able) to wear. So. I actually did my gauge swatch over the weekend before starting the project.

Bonus: It will probably make a decent wash cloth.

I even washed it and let it dry out before measuring. This took a bit longer than I would have liked (the letting it dry bit), but thankfully my gauge was spot on for the first try. I very much doubt that will ever happen again, but it was quite encouraging for my first gauge swatch, I have to say.

Once gauge had been determined as acceptable, I got started on the sweater itself. It is worked in one piece from the neck down (holes are left for the sleeves and then once the body is finished you go back and work them onto the openings). I got a few rows of the yoke done.

So far, so good.

All in all, I think that is off to a spectacular start. I expect I should probably be able to keep up with the basic pacing the blog has outlined for us without sacrificing progress on my baby blanket as well.

I love this productive feeling, I really do. Hooray for summer!

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