Mystery Blanket Club 2017: post 2, March

Seth MARCH

HELLO AND WECOME TO THE SECOND INSTALMENT OF THE 2017 MYSTERY BLANKET! The excitement is building this month as the Mystery Blanket Club members make a start on the second set of patterns, and I have enjoyed reading some lovely emails from you, so thanks for all your messages.

But, before I make a start on this month’s Mystery Blanket news, I want to share the latest photo of Seth with you. He has been coming on in leaps and bounds ever since he purchased his tablet with his Christmas and birthday money! And as you can see from the photo, he is totally absorbed by what is happening on the screen. He has quickly learnt how to use it too, swiping through the pages with ease and loading up his choice of games and Peppa Pig programmes! Next he’ll be asking me to teach him how to knit!!!…now, that could come in really handy for mummy!

THE PATTERNS FOR MAIL OUT 2 were emailed to everyone on the 1st March. We know that several of you did not receive them, however, you are all correctly inputted into our database, so at the moment the reason why this happened is a bit of a mystery. Sue has sent a link to the patterns to all the members who have contacted us, but if you have not received the patterns by email, please let Sue know and she will send the link to you. Fingers crossed this was just a bit of a glitch, and next month all of them will be delivered ok. The printed patterns for members who opted for them have all been posted, with the overseas posted slightly ahead of the UK patterns. So hopefully you will all receive them very soon. Please be aware that you will not receive a yarn parcel this month, the second and final one will be posted at the beginning of May. Those of you who paid for printed patterns, these will continue to be sent to you monthly until November, when the Club finishes.

AS FAR AS WE ARE AWARE ALMOST OF YOU HAVE NOW RECEIVED YOUR FIRST YARN PARCEL, and those of you who are still waiting, we do know about and are dealing with it. However, if you have not received your parcel and have not told us, please can you let us know as soon as possible by emailing Sue at sue@debbieabrahams.com. I want to thank everyone who has waited very patiently for their parcels, particularly some of the overseas members who have had to wait for 3-4 weeks. Unfortunately after the parcels leave us and they are in the hands of the post office, we have no control over the completion of their journey to your doorsteps. And in most cases when parcels are delayed, we are unable to find out why. I can only assume that some of the delayed overseas parcels got stuck in customs, where they can sit for weeks before they are released. I know that this is very frustrating if it happens to your parcel, but fortunately now it looks as if they have all been either received safely or they are well on their way to their destinations.

REMEMBER TO KEEP ALL LEFT-OVER YARN AND BEADS FROM THE SQUARES THAT YOU KNIT and do not throw anything away as even short lengths can come in handy. When I knitted my Mystery Blanket I kept all my bits and pieces of yarn in a basket and when I needed to embroider or knit in a small amount of colour, I used them. Remember that your tension will affect the amount of yarn that you use, so please try to match it as closely as possible. I have included in the complete kit 10% extra of each colour so you should have enough to knit up your blanket. However, I would still advise you to be careful and not to throw any odd bits away until the end of the project.

IN THE FIRST PARCEL YOU HAVE RECEIVED SOME PART PACKETS OF BEADS, colours Lime (48) and Blue (46). This was because our shipment from Hong Kong was delayed and had to be split into two separate deliveries. So you will be getting more of these beads, as well as a small amount more of Lipstick (207) and Amethyst (41). You might find that you run out or almost run out of the Lime and Blue beads after knitting your Mail Out 2 squares this month. We measure them all manually on scales, so there is a chance that human error occurs sometimes, even though we do aim to give you quite a lot more than the amount you need for the blanket. So if you find that you run out of either the Blue or the Lime beads this month, don’t panic because you will get more of them in your next yarn parcel.

I HAVE SOME VERY EXCITING NEWS ABOUT A SPECIAL MYSTERY BLANKET WORKSHOP RETREAT THAT I AM RUNNING IN AUGUST! I have booked the very charming Rookery Hotel and Spa which is located in Nantwich, Cheshire. You should have all received an email from us about it a few days ago, but if you didn’t then this is what it’s all about…

Set in thirty-eight acres of Cheshire countryside, Rookery Hall was built in 1816 for the wealthy William Hilton Cooke, but over the years it has been renovated and enhanced to transform it into the luxury venue that it is today. With a health club and spa and stylish new bedrooms, it’s the perfect place to unwind in the heart of the English countryside. Rookery Hall has a relaxed, homely atmosphere and attentive service that makes you feel extra special.

rookery-hall1rookery-hall2

As well as an award-winning restaurant (two AA Rosettes), the hotel has been awarded the AA Four Star Inspector’s Choice for Country Houses. It has seventy bedrooms which are an enchanting mix of the old and new. Debbie has booked twenty Classic bedrooms in the 1990’s wing of the hotel, in which you can enjoy snuggling down under a sumptuous duvet on a cashmere mattress with the finest fibre pillows – perfect for some late night knitting! And if you want an extra treat during your stay then you could pop across to the Old Stables which has been developed into a fantastic onsite health club and spa.

Awarded the prestigious “5 Bubble Spa Award”, it has seven treatment rooms, an indoor heated swimming pool, a hydrotherapy pool, sauna and steam rooms, and the Amber lounge and relaxation room. Treatments at the spa can be booked directly with the hotel at an additional cost. (If ten or more people book into the spa for a treatment then a 20% discount will be honoured on all bookings).

During this retreat Debbie will be running some workshop sessions to help you with your Mystery Blanket knitting techniques. Each participant will be given a special Debbie Abrahams knitting kit to work on, however, if preferred, personal knitting projects can be brought along instead.

During your stay there will be the opportunity to relax with your knitting in the elegant sitting rooms of the house, take some time to enjoy the beautiful gardens of the house, or take a stroll around the surrounding countryside. And if you fancy a bit of retail therapy, then the charming town of Nantwich is only a few miles away.

To find out how to book onto this fabulous trip (I can’t wait!!!) then please visit my webshop for more details about how to book. We have sold over half of the places on it already, however, there are still some up for grabs. So if you want to join me for a super retreat in the beautiful Cheshire countryside, don’t delay in securing your place: http://www.debbieabrahams.com/rookery-hall-knitting-retreat/

THE THEME FOR THIS YEARS’ MYSTERY BLANKET has already been guessed by many of the members, so well done to these people: June McBain (the first member to send in the correct guess!), Karine Sauquet, Nancy Ferrier, Chris O’Rorke, Jane McKeag, Claire Bennett, Felicity Miller, Annabel Casey, Kathryn Fowler, Caroline Evans, Anne Scullion, Sheila Street, Alison Cossons, Valerie McNulty, Hazel Lackie, Anne Etheridge, Clare McGettigan and Jane McCandlish. And anyone else who I have missed off this list, well done to you too! I have had some very interesting suggestions as well that are not quite right, but almost there. So, with another letter to help you, can you guess the theme of this year’s Mystery Blanket?!?…this month the letter I am giving you is “I”:

  • _  _  _  _  O  _  _  _  _  _  I  _  _
  • Please send your guesses to Sue at sue@debbieabrahams.com. There are no prizes for the correct answer – it is simply a bit of fun each month!

THE GUESSING OF FEBRUARY’S FIVE SQUARES (for which there is a prize), was won by June McBain, so very well done to you! June has actually been a member for all the ten years that the Club has been running, so she is a much deserved winner of the first “Guess the Squares” quiz. Kathryn Fowler and Miranda Shelley also guessed all the squares correctly and are very worthy winners too (although you’ll have to guess again correctly next month to try and win a prize).

Some of the squares in the February instalment had influences from more than one previous Mystery Blanket square. However, I am going by which squares I have pinned onto my layout board for the design, which were the very first sources of inspiration for the 2017 Mystery Blanket. So these are the correct answers for the February patterns:

Square 36: Untitled – Celebration of Sport (2012)

Square 37, Option One: Nordic Stars– Nordic Adventure (2013)

Square 37, Option Two: Frosty #1 – Nordic Adventure (2013)

Square 43: Untitled – Arabian Nights (2009)

Square 44: Country Stripe – In The Country (2008)

It has been brought to my attention that because of the different time zones around the world, the plan to announce the first correct answer for this quiz is unfair on some of the members. Therefore, our latest decision is to accept all correct answers which are emailed to us within 48 hours of the launch of the new patterns, and then all of them will be put in a hat and a winner picked out. That way everyone has a fair chance of winning.

THESE ARE THE SQUARES THAT YOU WILL KNIT THIS MONTH:

Square 1: Untitled – textured stitches and beads (same for both options)

Square 38: La Belle France – lace pattern with beads and bobbles (same for both options)

Square 46, Option One: Triangles – geometric intarsia motifs with swiss-darned detail and a button

Square 46, Option Two: Untitled – striped cable pattern with beads

Square 47, Option One: Untitled – geometric intarsia motifs with swiss-darned details and a striped section

Square 47, Option Two: Untitled– striped and beaded cables and a multi-striped section

Square 48: Country Cable #1 – cable pattern with bobbles (same for both options)

Advice on How to use this document, Working the Mystery Blanket, Knitting techniques, Knitting with beads and Embroidery on knitting fabric are not included in this mail out. You will need to refer to Mail Out 1 for this information.

On each pattern page there is a list of Pattern notes and tips that are worth reading before you start to knit each square. These bits of advice will help you by pre-warning you what to look out for and giving some useful information about how to knit the square. In the following notes below I am going to give you a few extra tips about some of the squares, which should help you further with your knitting:

I HAVE BEEN ASKED BY A FEW OF YOU WHICH CAST-ON METHOD I WOULD RECOMMEND TO USE FOR THE BLANKET SQUARES. And my answer is that I always use a thumb method (which is the same as Long Tail, Continental, German and many other names that is goes under!) Basically it uses one needle and your thumb and or fingers. I use this method because it gives a more elastic edge to your knitting than a two needle method. And that will come in very handy when you pick up stitches along the bottom edge of the some of the squares to knit the edging. But that is the only reason I use it, so if it is not for you, then it really does not matter. At the end of the day, all of the edges will be hidden in seams when you complete your blanket, so the cast-on edges will not even be seen. 

A FEW MEMBERS HAVE BEEN CONFUSED ABOUT HOW THE SQUARES IN THE PIECING DIAGRAM ARE NUMBERED, so hopefully the addition of numbers in both the Option One and Option Two grids will be a big help to you. I took for granted that this was a foregone conclusion, forgetting that many of you have joined the Club for the very first time this year. So apologies for assuming and I hope that the numbering of the squares is clear to everyone now.

THE PATTERN FOR SQUARE 38, LA BELLE FRANCE , has no errors in it (phew!), however, it has been pointed out to me that my knitted sample in the photographs has! It was one of those terrifying moments that you think, “Oh no, it can’t possibly be true!!!” – a bit like when you suddenly notice that the cable sweater that took you MONTHS to knit has a cable crossed the wrong way!!! However, it is indeed true that I have missed out two rows in my knitted square. I have decided not to reknit it but to keep it as it is as the undoing is just too unbearable to think about! So please take care that you don’t do the same silly thing as me!

Also on Square 38, I have a bit of advice about the bobbles. A few of you have commented to me that your bobbles have knitted up rather flat and are not “bobble-like” at all. So this is what I do to get my bobbles nice and perky…after I have completed the increase to 4 stitches I then pull very firmly on the loose tail of the bobble at the back of the work until the first stitch tightens up. I repeat this at the end of each row of the bobble and at the very end of the bobble too. And when all the bobbles in one row are completed and I am several rows past them, I then pull tightly on both loose ends of the bobble yarn and knot them together with a double knot, before snipping off the loose ends. You should then find that your bobbles are nice and rounded and are very much “bobble-like”!

Oh, and just one more note on Square 38, and that is to say that all of the beads are hooked-in on this square, so you will need your crochet hook or your dental floss at the ready! It means no pre-threading as well, which is good news I am sure for some of you!

AT THE END OF SQUARE 46, TRIANGLES, OPTION ONE, I forgot to say to sew the button onto the centre of the square, but I am sure you will all do this anyway. And if anyone wants to know which colour to use for this, I would say it is totally up to you, but I went for Seville, just to add that little spark of bright orange to the centre of the square!

TO KEEP THE DESIGN OF THE BLANKET BALANCED, FOR SQUARES 46 AND 47, I would advise you to knit the same option that you chose for Square 45. It does say this in the left-hand column of the pattern page, however, I have had a few queries this month about it. When there is no note about this in that column, then it means you can choose either option to knit. And, if preferred, it is fine to mix both options in your blanket if you want to, as long as you choose the same option when you are instructed to do so. This provides a bit more flexibility and means that you can make your own Mystery Blanket a little bit more unique if you want to!

I AM GOING TO TALK NOW ABOUT TENSION, as it appears that some of the members are having an issue with it. There are many different ways to hold the yarn and needles when knitting, and this is what creates differences in our tension. So it might be the case that with some of the patterns you knit you do not achieve the stated tension, and hence your squares knit up either bigger or smaller than the rest of them. The tension stated in the Mystery Blanket is for stocking stitch fabrics (knit 1 row, purl 1 row), but it will be different for some patterns that are not stocking stitch. However, when the stitch structure does affect tension I have suggested that you use a different size needle to the usual stated size of 3.75mm, ie, in Square 38, La Belle France. You should find that this helps to maintain the correct size of your square, however, in some cases it might not. So if this is the case, you will need to alter the needle size you use to one that does suit you. Most of us should find that the needles stated in the Mystery Blanket patterns are fine and that the squares all knit up to approximately the same size. But if they don’t then you may just have to tackle each square individually and decide yourself which size knitting needles to use. And if this is the case, you could keep all your notes about it in your Mystery Blanket notebook so you don’t lose them.

FOLLOWING ON FROM THAT, IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT THAT YOUR MYSTERY BLANKET SQUARES ARE BLOCKED AND PRESSED as this will not only improve the look and the feel of the fabric, but it is one way to make sure that all your squares are the same size. You can do this quite simply without the need for an iron. I pin out (block) my squares with the wrong side facing upwards, making sure with a tape measure that they are pinned to the correct dimensions – I pin them to a piece of gingham fabric which has the dimensions of the square marked out onto it. I then spray them with cold water, making sure that they are damp all over, then I leave them to dry. When the pins are taken out they are perfectly set and ready for the next square to be knitted onto them. It is quick, easy and successful, so if you haven’t blocked and pressed before, I would suggest you give it a try.

AND NOW FOR SOME TIPS ON PICKING UP STITCHES, which some of the members have asked me about this month. There are several ways that you can pick up stitches. However, I always prefer to pick up through the middle of stitches rather than through the cast-off edge as this gives a cleaner look to the front-side of the work. This is what I would suggest you do if you are picking up the stitches to knit on the next square:

Along a horizontal edge (cast-off edge): with the right-side of the work facing, take the needle through the middle of the stitch just below the cast-off edge. Loop the yarn around the needle and pull the new stitch through. Repeat this all the way along the edge, making sure that you pick up the correct number of stitches along the edge of each square. If you need to ease in or ease out stitches then you can do this as you are picking up. An example of this is between squares 36 and 37 in Mail Out 1. Square 36 has 39 stitches and Square 37 has 41 stitches. So this is what I did…I picked up 13 stitches putting my needle through the middle of each stitch. Then I picked up one stitch BETWEEN the stitches. I then continued to pick up another 13 stitches as before, then picked up another stitch BETWEEN the stitches, before finally picking up the remaining 13 stitches, resulting in 41 stitches picked up along a cast-off edge of 39 stitches – bingo! If the number of stitches was reversed, in other words you were picking up 39 stitches along a cast-off edge of 41 stitches, then I would space the picked up stitches in the same way but I would skip over a stitch after picking up the first and second batches of 13 stitches. Hopefully that makes some kind of sense, however, if you are still puzzling over how these techniques work, you could look up picking up stitches on YouTube where there are several very good demos.

IT IS ALWAYS LOVELY TO SEE WHAT THE MEMBERS HAVE DONE WITH THE MYSTERY BLANKET PATTERNS, so I was very excited to receive a photo from Celia Smithson of her very innovative idea for a chair cover, created from squares from the French Romance blanket. I thought that it was a brilliant idea and made very good use of some of the left over yarn (although she did have to purchase some more of some of the colours to complete it).

Celia Smithson 1Thanks for your fabulous photo Celia, it might just give some of the other members an idea of what to do with their left over yarn.

CLAIRE WIGHTMAN HAS ALSO BEEN VERY BUSY WITH HER LEFT OVER YARN FROM LAST YEAR’S MYSTERY BLANKET, and decided to knit up a matching cushion-cover. This is also a really lovely project and so inspiring to see! This is what Claire had to say about it:

“I thought I’d share a couple of photos of a cushion I have made with the left over yarns from the 2016 mystery blanket. I chose option two on the blanket but liked the cake designs as well so decided I would make a complimentary cushion to the blanket using the cake designs. I love the mystery blankets – this is my fourth, this year such good value for money given all the yarn (and spare) is included!”

Claire Wightman (front)Claire Wightman (back)Thank you so much for these photos Claire. I just love the mixture of squares you have used in your design, and the bright stripes on the back of the cushion-cover are really brilliant, very inspiring and lovely to see!

YARN IN NOTTINGHAM STARTED THEIR MONTHLY MYSTERY BLANKET CLUB MEETINGS THIS WEEK, and I went along to the first one on Wednesday where members Liz Jenks, Mary Leeson, Joan Bray, Jane Muggleton, Helen Jones and Esther Withers joined me for a couple of very enjoyable hours.

Yarn March 1Mary (far left) is concentrating very hard on her knitting while I chat to Jane (next to Mary) about her squares.

Yarn March 2Sarah (far left) chats to Helen (in the middle) and Mary about their Mystery Blanket squares. You can see Mary’s fabulous Mystery Cushion from last year in the foreground.

Yarn March 3 MaryAnd here is Mary with her fabulous 2016 Mystery Blanket, all completed and ready to take to a talk she is doing to a local craft group.

If you would like to join us at Yarn for future Mystery Blanket meetings then you can join the list that Sarah has set up for members and she will send you an email each month to confirm the date of the next meeting. Yarn is at 55 Chilwell Road, Beeston, Nottingham NG9 1EN, tel: 0115 9253606, email: info@yarn-in-notts.co.uk

APPLICATIONS FOR THE 2017 MYSTERY CUSHION CLUB WILL LAUNCH THIS COMING MONDAY ON 6TH MARCH, when it will be available to buy in the online shop on my website. As with the Mystery Blanket Club, memberships will be limited and sold on a first-come, first-served basis. So if you want to ensure your membership, it is advisable to sign up as soon as it is launched. The design for the Mystery Cushion is always different to the Mystery Blanket, so there will be a whole new project with a new theme to knit up. And whereas the Mystery Blanket focuses on anything that inspires me, the Mystery Cushion is based on a current Spring/Summer trend. This year I am using a mixture of Rowan 4-ply weight weight yarns for the project, including Summerlite 4-ply and Superfine Merino 4-ply – plus of course, plenty of Debbie Abrahams beads! And the good news is that 2017 Mystery Blanket members get a discount on their Mystery Cushion membership fee, so that might just tempt you into a second Mystery adventure with me this year! You will be emailed the discount code for the Mystery Cushion Club which can be used in the online shop. The Mystery Cushion Club is a five month project, and this year it will begin on 1st July and run until 1st November.

AND I HAVE ONE LAST BIT OF EXCITING NEWS TO TELL YOU ABOUT…my sister Jenny Still has been working in the Debbie Abrahams Studio on some lovely little beaded projects, aimed at knitters who want to learn the art of knitting with beads using the slip-stitch technique. All kits come with everything you need to make the project, including lining fabric and a zip.

Lavender Stripe purse

There are four purse designs in her first collection, with more to follow at a later date. They are perfect for knitters who are new to knitting with beads and they would make an ideal gift as well for a girl or boy who are eager to learn the craft. We will send you all an email about these kits and how you can purchase them at the beginning of April. So keep an eye on your inbox!

AND FINALLY FOR THIS POSTING, THE MARCH MYSTERY BLANKET CLUB PRIZE DRAW!!! Each month a member is picked at random to win a Debbie Abrahams prize.

PRIZE DRAW TWO (MARCH): this month’s winner is member 118, Cherry Wilcock from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK. Well done Cherry! Please choose a prize from the following selection:

A Debbie Abrahams book: Blankets and Throws to Knit/More Blankets and Throws To Knit/25 Beaded Knits/Kaleidoscope

A Debbie Abrahams dvd: More Blankets/A Professional Finish

Four packs of Debbie Abrahams Beads from the selection on www.debbieabrahamsbeads.co.uk

A £15 voucher towards a Debbie Abrahams Mystery Club (2015 Mystery Cushion or 2016 Mystery Blanket)

I will contact Cherry directly to discuss her choice.

In less than a couple of weeks time I will be packing my bags to join twenty-six Mystery Blanket Club members in the Scilly Isles for what promises to be a fabulous holiday. So I will be back next month with a report about that, plus all the other Mystery Blanket advice and news for the next instalment. So until then, keep busy and don’t forget to send me your Mystery Blanket stories and photos!  Debbie x

about the author