Mystery Blanket Club 2017: post 4, May

Steve and Seth golf

WELCOME TO THE FOURTH INSTALMENT OF THE 2017 MYSTERY BLANKET CLUB! A lot has happened in the last month…we held our first workshop event at Rudding Park Hotel near to Harrogate with Jane Crowfoot (which was a lovely few days!), we enjoyed a really lovely Easter break (with far too much chocolate!), all the Mystery Blanket parcels were posted, and little Seth had lots of fun when he played golf for the first time at Odds Farm in Berkshire. So to kick off this month’s blog, here is a picture of him under the tuition of his daddy. He looks as if he is concentrating very hard on the task in hand. You never know – he might just be the next Rory Mcilroy!

AS I JUST MENTIONED,  WE HAD A WONDERFUL TIME AT RUDDING PARK HOTEL A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO, where we were joined by twenty-six knitters and crocheters (plus five husbands!), for our first Inspired Minds workshop of 2017. Many of the ladies were Mystery Blanket Club members, so it was great to see so many familiar faces – but it was great to meet lots of new people too! The weather forecast wasn’t great, but much to our surprise we enjoyed a lot of unexpected sunshine (although admittedly there was also rain, cloud, wind and hailstones!). The ladies worked on a Mandala project that Jane and I had designed – a version in both knit and crochet. I designed the knit version, creating a circular piece of knitting by short-row shaping, and Jane designed the crochet version which was worked from the centre out. We asked the ladies to choose their own colour palette for the project, inspired by the “Four Seasons”, and everyone embraced this with great enthusiasm! Here is a selection of what the ladies came up with. I think they are all amazing, so well done to everyone!

Mandalas

Wendy Atkinson from Lewes in East Sussex was at Rudding Park with us, and one evening she amazed us all with her dazzling sweater creation, made up from bits of pieces of left over Mystery Blanket and Cushion projects. She said that her design had been inspired by the mixture of patterns in the Mystery projects she has knitted up over the years resulting in this fabulous blend of textured and multi-coloured stitches. She also knitted a variation of it for her daughter, Lucy, using one colour to show off all those lovely textured stitches. Hasn’t she made a fabulous job of both them!

Wendy!Lucy!

THE FINAL YARN PARCELS FOR THIS YEAR HAVE ALL BEEN POSTED, ahead of our original schedule. We made this decision due to the shortage (for some members) of Cypress and Pebble yarns to ensure that the knitting could continue on without stopping. Plus we wanted to get them posted before the UK Bank Holiday as we know how many of you like to knit your way through your holidays! I do know that some of you (mainly overseas) are still waiting for their parcels to arrive, and we do appreciate your patience. This is the last parcel you will receive for this year’s Mystery Blanket, so now you have all the materials that you need to complete it. Now all you need is another six sets of patterns…!!!

YOU WILL FIND IN YOUR YARN PARCEL A SMALL PURPLE ENVELOPE, IN WHICH IS YOUR WOVEN LABEL. We put them inside a sealed envelope so that you could decide whether or not you want to reveal the theme – that is, if you haven’t already guessed it. I thought that it was too early on in the project to reveal the theme as I usually do this after the fifth instalment, so now I can keep the excitement of the mystery going for some of you until the very last month…which is when I will reveal the theme. So if you haven’t already guessed it, don’t open that envelope, and keep guessing!

A COUPLE OF MINOR ERRORS HAVE BEEN FOUND IN SQUARE 49 – they won’t affect your knitting of the square, but I thought I should let you know about them. The square is titled as “Option Two”, when in fact there are no options on this square. And Cypress has been left off the list of “Materials required for this square” (this is the yarn that is used to swiss-darn the triangles). As the errors don’t affect the actual pattern I won’t issuing reprints of this page to members that opted for printed patterns.

MY SPECIAL KNITTING BREAK AT ROOKERY HALL IN AUGUST HAS NOW SOLD OUT,  which is fabulous news! However, just in case any of you wanted to go, but were too late, do drop us a line and we will put you on the waiting list. Then, if we do get a cancellation we will be in touch to let you know: sue@debbieabrahams.com

HOWEVER, THERE ARE STILL A FEW PLACES AVAILABLE ON MY SIX-NIGHT FESTIVE PROJECT WORKSHOP THIS OCTOBER WITH KNITTING HOLIDAYS IN FRANCE. So if you fancy a weeks knitting while being very well fed and watered in a beautiful part of France, then why not join me for my festive bunting workshop!?! I will be re-visiting Sue Culligan in the beautiful region of Charente-Maritime from 22nd – 28th October 2017. We will be working on a festive bunting project – which in case you are wondering, is a different design to the Festive Bunting kits that are available in my web-shop. And for those of you who are a bit more adventurous, there will be the opportunity to add in your own designs to the project using proportional graph paper to create your own pieces of bunting! So if you would like to join me on this very exciting new knitting adventure, please contact Sue Culligan directly to book your place: Knitting Holidays in France, rue de la Verderie, 17770 Brizambourg, France; Email: sueculligan@gmail.com; T +33 (0)5 46 94 08 53; M +44 (0)7986 199662.

THE THEME FOR THIS YEARS’ MYSTERY BLANKET still remains a “mystery” for some of you. So if you haven’t already guessed the theme, or opened your little purple envelope, here is another letter to help you. The letter I am giving you this month is “T”:

  • _  _  T  _  O  _  P  _  _  T  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!

SO NOW FOR THE GUESSING OF MAY’S FIVE SQUARES (for which there is a prize). This is the monthly bit of fun where I invite you to guess from which Mystery Blanket each of the squares were inspired by. The April quiz was obviously a tricky one to guess as none of the members guessed all of the squares correctly. So let’s hope that you all have more luck with this month’s squares.

These are the correct answers for the April patterns:

Square 2: Country Cable #2 – Back To The Country (2014)

Square 3, Option One: Untitled – House of Aphrodite (2011)

Square 3, Option Two: Untitled – House of Aphrodite (2011)

Square 4, Option One: Triangles #2 – Perugian Perspectives (2015)

Square 4, Option Two: Untitled– House Of Aphrodite (2011)

Square 15, Option One: Starlight #1– Perugian Perspectives (2015)

Square 15, Option Two: Untitled – Arabian Nights (2009)

Square 16: Lattice – A French Romance (2016)

Just as a reminder, we accept all correct answers which are emailed to us, and then all of them are 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 (MAY):

Square 8: Untitled – striped pattern with textured stitches and beads (same for both options)

Square 9, Option One: Nordic Folk – motifs using the fairisle technique with beads

Square 9, Option Two: Frosty #2 – slip-stitch mock fairisle

Square 10: Petit Fleur – lace pattern with beads and bobbles (same for both options)

Square 17, Option One: Untitled – fish motif using the intarsia technique and a hooked-in bead

Square 17, Option Two: Untitled – stocking stitch and garter stitch stripe pattern

Square 49: Untitled – textured stitches and beads (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  included in this mail out.

I JUST WANT TO CLARIFY THE INSTRUCTION FOR ROWS 11-12 IN SQUARE 8, AS I HAVE HAD A FEW QUERIES ABOUT IT. The instruction says, “using Tender yarn, [K1, P1] to last st, K1. So this is the instruction you follow for both rows 11 and 12. On re-reading this I can see that it isn’t absolutely clear – but hopefully it is now!

THERE ARE BOTH HOOKED-IN AND SLIP-STITCHED BEADS IN SQUARE 9, NORDIC FOLK (OPTION ONE), and there is a note about this in the Pattern notes and tips. It might not be obvious from the chart, but on Chart rows 13 and 33 you hook the beads onto a Seville stitch from the previous row and knit it using Bilberry yarn. The beads on Chart row 23 are all on Watery yarn and have been pre-threaded.

SQUARE 10, PETIT FLEUR, HAS BEEN GIVEN TO YOU IN TWO FORMATS – AS A CHART AND AS A WRITTEN PATTERN – so you can choose to work from either one. For the novice chart knitter, this square gives you the perfect opportunity to give it a go as you can follow the chart and check what you are doing against the worded pattern. Personally I much prefer a chart as it gives you a visual picture of what you are knitting. Plus you can see very easily and at a  glance exactly where you are in the pattern, what you have just knitted and what is coming up next. All you need to get used to is reading the symbols. One bit of advice I can give you is to do EXACTLY what it says for each symbol – nothing less and nothing more. Follow  that rule and you will be ok – and remember, there’s always the worded pattern to back you up.

ON SQUARE 49 THERE HAS BEEN A FEW CONCERNS ABOUT WHETHER THE SWISS-DARNING ON THE CHART IS IN THE CORRECT POSITION –  and the good news is that it is. However, I can see why there has been some queries over this as the swiss-darned squares on the chart look out of sync with the beads, but there is a reason for this. When you knit in beads using the slip-stitch technique, the beads look as if they have been placed on the row below – this is because they hang from a loop. So although on the chart the beads look as if they are in line with the swiss-darning, they actually sit just below the embroidered stitches.

…AND TALKING OF SWISS-DARNING, HERE ARE SOME EXTRA TIPS ON THIS TECHNIQUE…

  • + always use a blunt ended needle so that you avoid splitting the stitches and the yarn.
  • + if possible, begin at the bottom of a motif and work towards the top, rather than top to bottom.
  • + when working stitches in a vertical column, swiss-darn them in the opposite direction to the last stitch. For example, if you swiss-darned the first stitch from left to right, swiss-darn the second stitch from right to left.

+ don’t pull too tightly or quickly on the yarn as you pull it through the stitches. The tension on the yarn needs to be as close as possible to the tension of the knitting so that it lays flat and covers the stitches properly, not too loose or too tight.

ELIZABETH WHENMOUTH FROM AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND sent me a very interesting email about the knitting she has been doing with school children. This is what she had to say:

“I have shared my knitting with a class of 8/9/10 year old children and their teacher in a low economic school who are trying to learn to knit using chopsticks – growing a class blanket to give to the City Mission. They are so excited and the teachers are realising what a great cognitive and social activity knitting is especially these days when socialising is often via devices. However thank goodness to YOUTUBE as trying to teach knitting to 29 children can be quite tricky!! I have reassured their teacher that knitting falls into many curriculum areas, above all it helps children primarily learning  to co-operate with one another, let alone maths, art, languages (multi-ethnic groups), and Ako. The concept of ako describes a teaching and learning relationship, where the educator is also learning from the student and where educators’ practices are informed by the latest research and are both deliberate and reflective. … In Māori, the concept of ako means both to teach and to learn. This is highly significant in NZ.”

Knitting surely is a great way to help children learn, and I found it fascinating to hear that Elizabeth’s Mystery Blanket has been the inspiration for their own blanket for the City Mission. Thank you Elizabeth for sharing your lovely story with us!

SHARON RICHARDS FROM CATERHAM, SURREY is not a big fan of swiss-darning, so she thought up a much better way to fiinish off square 16, Lattice, and avoid all that embroidery. This is what she did…

“I thought you might like to see a variation on one of the squares. I am hopeless at Swiss Darning. I mean totally useless at it! Normally I can work out the square to use intarsia (like on the square below) but I couldn’t for square 16. I tried a couple of ideas but settled on this. They are little star buttons sewn on using the colour scheme on the square. I’m really pleased how it turned out! The buttons are from an Etsy shop which is actually only a few miles  from me. They are pearl like the buttons used and thought the stars matched up with the triangles in the squares”.

Sharon Richards Lattice squareI think that this is a lovely idea – and a great solution to all that swiss-darning! Now I’m off to Etsy to look for some of those little star buttons – aren’t they adorable!?!

CYNTHIA WENDEN FROM LONDON SENT ME SOME PHOTOS OF THE WONDERFUL CUSHION SHE HAS MADE TO MATCH HER “CELEBRATION OF SPORT” MYSTERY BLANKET… 

Front panel of Cynthia's "Celebration of Sport" cushion...

Front panel of Cynthia’s “Celebration of Sport” cushion…

...and the back panel.

…and the back panel.

Cynthia says about her lovely creation: “A couple of years ago I sent you some  pictures of the cushion I’d knitted to match  the 2013 blanket – Nordic Adventure. I have decided to give the blankets to my grandchildren when they leave home & follow them with a cushion to match. Last year Josh ( my second grandchild) chose the 2012 Celebration of Sport as his blanket. Here are a couple of pictures of the cushion I knitted him to match it. I had to alter the colours of some of the squares as I didn’t have enough of the original colours And I did the back in triangles to match the border of the blanket. I made the football shirt blue as he is a Chelsea supporter.”

I think that’s Cynthia’s cushion is fabulous! I would love to see what design Cynthia is going to come up with to match this year’s blanket! Thank you Cynthia for your story and lovely photos!

SALLY HART FROM LOWTON IN WARWICKSHIRE SENT ME THESE PHOTOS OF HER SWEET LITTLE  PARROT, DEXTER, and this is what she had to say about him and his interest in knitting:

“He’s a two year old African Grey parrot, and when he’s not knitting he talks non-stop – he has quite a lot of words and sounds. He greets you with a hello in a fine northern accent and mimics all sorts of sounds. But the funniest is when he copies the dog, you honestly can not tell it’s not the dog! He’s an absolute sweetheart! He’s still learning, and as you can see, is very good at tangling yarn!”

Dexter!Dexter tablet!What a very clever parrot Dexter is! And he certainly seems to be a great help to Sally when she knits! The latest news from Sally is that Dexter has now learnt how to sew up, taking hold of the sewing needle in his beak and weaving it through the knitting to join the seams! – I saw the evidence on a video she took of him in action. I think that we all could all do with a little Dexter at home, especially if he enjoys all that finishing off! When he finishes knitting his first blanket square, do let us know Sally!!!

SINCE THE LAST BLOG I HAVE BEEN TO TWO MYSTERY BLANKET MEETINGS AT YARN IN NOTTINGHAM, where I was joined each time by a lovely group of members, including Helen Jones, Melanie McAdam, Jill Fenby-Taylor, Catherine Pope, Kath Owen, Liz Jenks, Mary Leeson, Esther Withers, Jane Muggleton and Joan Bray (and apologies if I have missed anyone off that list).  At both meetings we enjoyed a couple of hours together, knitting up blanket squares and discussing techniques over a hot drink and a biscuit. The meetings are very enjoyable and give members the opportunity to get advice and help with their blanket, as well as meeting other members in the Club. So if you live in the Nottinghamshire area, why not join us at the next meeting at Yarn?!? Sarah is planning the next meeting for Wednesday 7th June between 4.00-6.00pm (to be confirmed in an email). Yarn is at 55 Chilwell Road, Beeston, Nottingham NG9 1EN, tel: 0115 9253606, email: info@yarn-in-notts.co.uk.

PLACES ARE SELLING OUT FAST NOW, BUT THERE ARE STILL SOME MEMBERSHIPS AVAILABLE TO PURCHASE FOR THE 2017 MYSTERY CUSHION CLUB. You can secure your membership very easily by visiting the online shop on my website and selecting your Mystery Cushion package. If you want to find out more about the Mystery Cushion Club and how it runs before you sign up, then you can read further information about it on the Mystery Cushion FAQs page on my website: http://www.debbieabrahams.com/shop/mystery-club-shop/mystery-cushion-club/

Just as a reminder, the yarns I am using this year are a mixture of 4-ply weights from the Rowan collection, including Summerlite 4-ply, Superfine Merino DK and Pure Wool DK. And I can tell you that the colour palette is a mix of “vintage” shades including deep-plum, teal, soap-green and stone. But as always the theme is a “mystery”, so I will say no more!  The 2017 Mystery Blanket Club begins on July 1st when the first set of patterns will be emailed to members, followed by the yarn and bead parcels.

AND FINALLY FOR THIS MONTH’S BLOG, THE RESULTS OF PRIZE DRAW FOUR (MAY): this month’s winner is member 80, Mary Shepherd from Brixworth, Northamptonshire, UK. Well done Mary! 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
  • 4 packs of Debbie Abrahams Beads from the selection on www.debbieabrahamsbeads.co.uk
  • a £15 voucher towards a Debbie Abrahams Mystery Club (2017 Mystery Cushion or 2018 Mystery Blanket)
  • a knitting kit from the selection on Debbie’s website

I will contact Mary directly to discuss her choice.

This time last month I was getting ready for our first Inspired Minds workshop of the year at Rudding Park, and now our second event is fast approaching in less than two weeks!!! I know that some of the members will be joining us there in Bournemouth, so I look forward very much to seeing you. And to the rest of the members, don’t forget to come back and “see” me here again next month. In the meantime everyone, keep busy, keep happy and keep knitting! Debbie x

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