Favourite Block Directories

200 knitted blocks

Top 4 Favourite Block Directories

1. 200 knitted blocks for blankets, throws and afghans
2. 200 Crochet Blocks for Blankets, Throws and Afghans: Crochet Squares to Mix-and-Match
3. 150 Blocks to Knit and Crochet: The Anything-but-the-square Collection
4. 200 Stitch Patterns for Baby Blankets: Knitted and Crocheted Designs for Crib Covers, Shawls and Afghans

In my current bath mitt designing frenzy, I have been buried knee deep in piles of books and pieces of paper. I like to use block directories when designing things like blankets (or indeed bath mitts). They are a useful way to see things in a modular way and often help inspire me to use more unusual texture and colour combinations.

I am both a knitter and a crocheter, so I have included books on both. These books are really useful when creating gifts (like baby blankets) and are also nice just to leaf through when looking for inspiration. These book all (rather helpfully) have a gallery of thumbnail images at the front which make them helpful to see all the blocks at a glance.

1. 200 knitted blocks for blankets, throws and afghans

200 knitted blocks

This was my first block directory and it is starting to fall apart from near constant use. It is a good mix of texture, lace, cable and colourwork blocks with a helpful difficulty rating icon. The front of the book also has some suggestions for blankets made up of blocks, which is useful inspiration.

As a beginner knitter I liked the fact that it has good clear photos with help boxes for any new techniques/abbreviations. As an established knitter I like the fact that it has a “mix and match” suggestion at the bottom of each pattern (three other blocks that look nice with it). I can flip through the book for idle inspiration, or use the thumbnail images at the front to try to track down a half remembered block.

Favourite Pattern
What a mean question! There are many lovely ones but I especially like 12 – surface cables as it plays with non-crossing cables to good effect.

2. 200 Crochet Blocks for Blankets, Throws and Afghans: Crochet Squares to Mix-and-Match

200 crochet blocks

This is a sister book to the knitting one and uses English (as opposed to American) crochet notation. Like its sister book, it has blanket suggestions at the front and a mix and match selection for each square. It uses a variety of approaches (from centre cast on, to back and forth to modular) and a good mix of statement blocks (like the lacy flowers) and textured “filler” blocks.

Favourite Pattern
Another difficult choice, but I think I will go for 58-peach rose which is a nice centrepiece for a blanket.

3. 150 Blocks to Knit and Crochet: The Anything-but-the-square Collection

150 blocks to knit and crochet

Trying to tackle “anything but the square” has given this book a fresh approach to blocks and is divided into circles, diamonds, squares, triangles, hexagons, octagons, pentagons, snowflakes, stars, flowers, hearts, shells, leaves and connector shapes. It has good clear instructions and uses English (as opposed to American) crochet notation with charts as needed. The unusual shapes encourage a quilt like approach to the blankets and this helps to suggest fresh approaches for gift ideas.

Favourite Pattern
I like the heart shapes (and have a plan for a heart-themed blanket). I am currently torn between the crochet and knit pattern.

4. 200 Stitch Patterns for Baby Blankets: Knitted and Crocheted Designs for Crib Covers, Shawls and Afghans

200 stitch patterns for baby blankets by Jan Eaton

A follow-up book to her 200 series, and one that continues to use her nice layout and clear instructions. These patterns are a nice range of techniques and use some applique techniques to good effect. It includes a handy section on different types of trims and edges, as well as one that talks through colour choice and how it affects the tone of the object.

Favourite Pattern
93 coral seas. It is a crochet wavy line pattern but one that is both textured and eye-catching (and would look fabulous in blues).

LouBug

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Cheapskate Woolly Hat – New WIP

WIP

My latest WIP is – ta dah! – another woolly hat! Just one more to go and I’ll have the full quartet of KnitWit family hats. Am excited already at the vision of us all trudging through the cold in our hand-knitted head warmers.

The hat I’m currently creating is for Mr KnitWit, and I’m using the same pattern (Tala) from the book Rowan Patterns Easy Winter Knits. It is knitted with superchunky wool and has plenty of ‘give’, so I figure it’ll fit over a man’s head no problem (plus I got Mr KnitWit to try on the precious pink version to be sure).

Now, as fond as I am of Mr KnitWit, when it came to parting with £17.00 for two balls of Rowan superchunky I must say I did hesitate. Would he be grateful enough? Would he wear the grey wonder? I just couldn’t be sure, so rather than risk knitting insult to financial injury I decided to try my hand at yarn substitution. Two balls of Serenity superchunky for about £7.00 – much more like it!

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My history of yarn substitution has not been good (see the teal hat for evidence), but luckily I had LouBug bossing me around guiding me.

Serenity Superchunky

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Rowan Superchunky

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The tension square information was a good enough match, and the wool content comparison looked fine as well. The only small problem was that the two balls of wool were from different dye lots. I decided to do the rib brim from one ball, and the rest of the cable hat from the other. The very slight difference in colour would hopefully then be hidden.

Progress has been good so far. Only one unravelling session (knitting the ‘bumps’, rather than purling), which isn’t bad compared to last time. In fact, the whole rib brim has been completed without a hitch – best post a photo quick before I am forced to eat my words.

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KnitWit

Bath Mitt Frenzy

BathMitt

It was always inevitable that ‘Finish-Up February’ would stutter to a halt with half term and ‘Crazy Cast-On March’ would begin early (although I am now on the sleeves of the big green jumper!). It is this time of year when my project bag collection, love of new needles and prolific stitch marker making suddenly pay off. It is unusual for me to focus on just one area of knitting (usually it is a scatter gun of casting on anything from blankets to egg cosies) but I am currently mad about knitting bath mitts.

Flannels annoy me. They either have to be bunched up in your palm or flap about while trying to soap up. Bath mitts are a genius item that allow a languid, relaxing bath moment to happen while also being practical and allow gentle soaping alongside much needed exfoliation.

I haven’t really made many bath related accessories before, but I have been aware that they are a big thing with our knitters across the pond. I have always been a bit reluctant to dismiss it as a knitting activity, as I appreciate that my sock knitting is regarded as mildly barmy by some knitters. However, the moment is now with me, fuelled by the fact that my favourite bath mitt has gone way beyond “well-loved” and is now firmly in the “not-even-for-dusters” camp.

The time has come, my friends, I have bought my last bath mitt!

BathMitt2

I like to approach things mildly logically and my first step was to get stocked up with some likely yarn. Luckily KnitWit was down at LouBug HQ this weekend and so we hit the shops. I think I have pretty much cleared out my local yarn shops of all of the likely varieties of cotton (I might have gone a bit mad, but it was rather pretty and I can always use it).

Second step is well underway; I have fired up the old sketchbook and I have been bouncing ideas around to see what I can see. The real joy of bath mitts is that one side is plan garter stitch (for exfoliation) but the other is a blank canvas of possibilities. The main thing stopping me at the moment is every time I am about to start knitting the main side I come up with a better idea!

The third step is still to come, the testing phase. Me (being me) I have carefully noted everything down and I fully plan to test, wash and check all the outcomes. I have no wish to make a bath mitt that leaves my arms an interesting shade of orange (even though I do come from Essex) or one that turns my whole wash blue.

Now, I am aware that my various obsessions have led to me making multiple versions of an item (just look at my project bag, stitch marker and sock collections). I am currently ignoring the fact that if I make one from each of the yarn types then I will have more bath mitts than a reasonable person needs. Factor in the fact that each ball should make about two and all I can say is “Be warned friends and family members, this Christmas is likely to have a bit of a gift theme…..”

LouBug

Woolly Madness

Franklins2

Ding ding, one stop to Woolly Crazy Town! Every time I go to LouBug’s house (complete with an entire room dedicated to her obsession craft), I am slightly surprised she hasn’t been carted away in a knitted crazy bus. There are woolly blankets, knitted pillows, and crocheted delights EVERYWHERE! Thank goodness LouBug has Mr LouBug, or I fear she might just forego the whole thing and knit herself a partner.

Admittedly it was pretty chilly on Saturday (so cold that even I wore a hat, despite my ‘hat hair’ issues), but I fear LouBug took it to another level. Sifting through carefully packed clip boxes, she finally decided on the right combination of hand-knitted hat, gloves, scarf, cardigan and even a knitted bag.

Franklins

All in all, a successful trip. First stop Franklins (don’t judge this book by its cover) – level after level of all you can knit produce. LouBug helped me pick out a sock yarn in red for the shawl she gave me a pattern for (hopefully less of a pain challenge than the last one I attempted). Bargain of the day was definitely the 50p circular needle charity shop find. Perfect for this project.

Shawl wool

charity needles

I also picked out some super chunky grey wool for the hat I plan on knitting for Mr KnitWit. It’ll be from the same pattern that I had for my pink hat. Matching his ‘n’ hers winter hats. Not weird at all.

Hat wool

LouBug went a bit crazy at the shops (although maybe normal behaviour in her knitting world, not sure I want to find out…). She chose 10 different kinds of cotton yarn to knit up into bath mitts, just to find the best type and most suitable. I know she has a post ready to go tomorrow about Operation Bath Mitt, brace yourself.

KnitWit

Oh Joy, Oh Joy!

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Endurance, perseverance, stamina and the organisational skills of Seb Coe – No I’m not talking of plans to scale the North Face of the Eiger, I am powering-through half term holidays. LouBug’s last post confirmed my vision that (as a teacher) she spends her half term having fun, knitting and drinking coffee. I (on the other side of the fence), have been spending my half-term holiday at swimming lessons, frozen parks and, well, drinking coffee.

But joy, oh sweet joy! My reward is on the way! I’m off to visit LouBug for the weekend – hurray! We’ve got a busy Saturday planned, with the first stop being the knitting Aladdin’s Cave that is Franklins. I shall be reporting back our every move with short reviews and musings on the various emporiums we plan on frequenting.

Wait patiently with bated breath my little readers…

KnitWit

Spring is in the Air

spring 1

Thank you for all for your kind comments! I really enjoy reading them, but will need to check with KnitWit on how to respond (as she deals with the new-fangled techno stuff).

After the horror of the brown stripe, I am glad to report some success! My half-term treat was to buy “Downton Abbey” series 1+2 boxset (proving that it is possible for the same person to have the Terminator and costume dramas in their DVD collection) and to sit down and knit. Feeling that the Firedancer socks had eaten up enough of my life, I sat down and finished my honeycomb socks.

spring 2

I used the foot detail of reducing “cells” from Socktopus “V-junkie” and I have been happily padding around the house in them.

The lovely thing about Noro yarn (apart from the jewel-like colourways) is the fact that, despite the fact that they must be hand-washed as they can felt in the machine, they get softer each time they are washed. I have a pair I made a few years ago and they are kitten soft. I also have a pair I intentionally felted and they are actually softer than my cashmere blend socks. Bright colours and soft, warm feet – you had me at hello!

spring 3

After the dreaded brown stripe incident, and proving that pain can be a great teacher (just ask Ofsted), I am even happy to overlook the fact that the heels don’t match! Basically, to avoid interrupting the colourway on the top of the foot (and creating a jog), I used extra yarn – from the middle of the ball – to make the heel flap. I then tried to colour match it on the second sock. This epically failed, as the colour repeats where so long on this sock that there wasn’t any more orange (notice that the whole sock is on one repeat and there were two colours that I didn’t get to). I settled on pink and powered through.

My reward was to cast on a pair of new socks (yes, I know I should still be in “Finish up February” mode) which happen to be in the perfect shade of bluebell blue. I think I will make these my new lunchtime knitting socks.

spring 4

I will try and be good and finish up my big green jumper, but the sun is out and I do have a rather nice shawl to finish.

LouBug

The Curse of the Brown Stripe

Firesock

The only thing worse than seeing a problem, is seeing a solution that you can’t be bothered to do. Problem: brown stripe is in the middle of the leg and makes the leg look weird. Solution: rip it out and re-start it before you put too much knit time into the item.

So naturally I ignored this. I completed the sock, put it on and stared at it – or more accurately I stared at the annoying brown stripe. I then noticed that the brown stripe ended on a simple knit/purl part of the repeat (3 rows of this, spanning rows 34, 35 and 36).

I could see a solution, but didn’t want to go there and, being so far in denial I could see Cleopatra sail past, I started the next sock but on a brown cuff. Thirty four rows later and I reached the point that the brown stripe had occurred on the other sock and stared at it. Many of you have already seen where I am going with this (I can hear the slow motion “nooooooo” coming from you). For many of you the idea is so dumb that you probably don’t think anyone would try it, for me it represented a quick fix.

FireSocks2

Yes, I tried to graft the new bit of the sock to the point below the dodgy stripe. For those familiar with the cutesy YouTube song “Dumb Ways to Die” feel free to mentally edit this song to “Dumb Ways to Knit”. To remove a few variables, I put in a life line (on what would be row 36) on the finished sock and threaded a life line onto the new bit (row 34). I then pulled the needles from the new bit and carefully snipped and pulled out the row above the life line on the finished one. I then stretched the two pieces over a handy bobbin case to make it easier to see the pattern.

FireSocks3

From here on in, the photos stop and the swearing began. Four damn hours. Four damn hours utterly failing to get a seamless graft that would not be noticed. To make matters worse, this all occurred over (and over, and over, and over) the same 3cm of pattern. In my defence the knit facing bits looked fine (as I have had hours of practice grafting toes together) but I stink at purl grafting. I even tried turning it inside out to graft it knit face! If my life had depended on it, and it was an historically important item (proving that knitting was invented by aliens) I probably could have pulled it off, but I then reached two simple conclusions:

1: Effort versus Gain
How much effort would be required to seamlessly graft this? Would I ever be able to graft it perfectly enough to prevent me ripping it out when I see it next to its non Frankenstein twin?

2: Where is the Fun?!
This is my hobby. A single sock takes me just over 12 hours to make and I have just spent 4 hours not making a sock.

Luckily for me I still had the life line in the new bit and I knew exactly what row I had been on. Basically I have just spent the best part of a weekend getting my sock back to the point it was last week. But at least it doesn’t have a weird brown stripe…..

LouBug

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