Turns out that when I thought I was slow at sewing, I had no idea at all how slow I might be at crochet.
Back in lockdown #1 (remember that?) I started the first proper crochet project I’d ever undertaken. I’d bought the kit when I went to the Stitch Festival in March, before the world went topsy-turvy, encouraged by my sewing-friend and work mate Vanessa. It’s the Kasbah Blanket by Black Sheep Wools – and I was attracted by the beautiful sample on show, the colours and the encouragement from Vanessa that it was all pretty straightforward and that I could definitely do it.
My previous experience at crochet was extremely limited. I learned to crochet a bowl with Elisalex at the Village Haberdashery in a class many years ago now – with my mum and step-sister. We had an enjoyable evening, and I felt a huge sense of achievement making my t-shirt material jersey bowl. I came home and made another. And another. And then I realised that I had no practical use for crocheted jersey bowls and I stopped. That dear reader, was the total sum of my skills – so when I was reassured that I could definitely do this, it’s fair to say that I was doubtful that this project would ever be completed.
There was another good reason for doubt here – it takes a sodding long time to do a crochet blanket. For motivation, I committed to making the blanket for my eldest daughter Ellie, who was heading off to university and leaving home in October. I wanted her to have something to take with her that she knew had taken a lot of effort, and which might make her think of home (well me basicallly) when she was off having a fabulous time at college. Privately I wasn’t convinced she would receive it before her graduation, but we started.
The enormously patient Vanessa showed me how to chain stitches to start (because even the basics had left me at this point), and gave me Zoom lessons to learn the treble crochet stitch that this blanket is pretty much made up of. The thing was started. What I realised quite quickly is that each row of the blanket was 175 stitches. Each stripe of the blanket was made up of 3 rows, so each stripe needed 525 stitches. There were 39 stripes, and then a border going round the whole thing with another 13 stripes. The grand total was – a whole lot of stitches. And a lot of time.
Slowly – very slowly – the thing grew. While work was bananas, working from home and the Easter long weekend meant time spent in the garden, getting very gradually faster and absorbing some vitamin D, listening to an audio book (actually many of them) and in a reasonable amount of time it was looking like the photo on the left.
Anyone who knows me well, will know what happened next. Clearly I thought I had it taped, that I had ages to finish it before Ellie went to uni, and that something newer and shinier was the priority. It was there in the background and I knew I needed to pick it up again if it was ever going to get completed – but it lurked and I did nothing.
August and A level results day was a happy one in this family (appreciate that this was not everyone’s experience because it was an utter fiasco) – but as well as having to get my head around my firstborn child leaving for university, I had the sinking realisation that I had left things far too long and that even if I spent all of the time between results day and her planned departure day doing nothing but crochet, it still probably wouldn’t be finished. [This may be something of an exaggeration, but you understand my point.]
She left early October, and it wasn’t finished. I felt guilt, I worked at it. And now ….. (drum roll) …. about a month late and as the UK enters Lockdown #2 ……. I’m very happy to have completed and gifted the wonkiest crochet blanket known to mankind.
What you don’t see in those close up photos that I used before in this blog is that I clearly fudged a bunch of stitches and narrowed the rows quite significantly as I went through. Look carefully (or even casually really) at this photo, and you can see that there is a big difference between the width at one end and the other.
It very clearly doesn’t sit flat, and for some reason the border is way too tight at the wider end as well – and while that narrows it back down a bit, it hardly looks professional. No question, it’s got holes where there shouldn’t be some, the stitches are inconsistent, and I’m not sure that the double crochet I used for the border was in any way right – I looked it up on You Tube and was quite proud of teaching myself – but it doesn’t really look a lot like the photo that came with the kit, so was probably wrong.
You know what? I’m still prouder of this thing than most things I have made. I still love the colours, I love the fact that Ellie has a blanket for her uni room that was made by me, and I’ve learned to quite love the repetitive action of crochet. I’ve got plenty of leftover wool (probably due to that narrowing of my rows that missed out a bunch of stitches) so maybe I’ll make a scarf? Try something new?
In terms of the kits from Black Sheep Wools – I think they’re excellent value, as you get everything you need except a crochet hook – and they probably sell those too. For a complete novice like me, the instructions would have been impossible to follow, but they make a bit of sense to me now. For anyone who knows what they’re doing, I’m sure they’d be perfect – if a bit basic. I’ve seen some of their other crochet designs that are lacy and beautiful, and I think that they’re well beyond my abilities.
I mean, I think that’s obvious to everyone at this point.