Saturday, January 28, 2012

Circle Cloth Blanket

Finally my Circle Cloth Blanket is finished! Yes, completely finished, seamed, edged and all those ends are all woven in and it's ready to make it's way to Farley of the Pine Street Inn Knit-a-thon. I'm either late, or early for the next knit-a-thon ;) I'm a so happy it's finished. I started knitting the squares July 1, 2011 and I finish the blanket on January 25, 2012. It seemed to take forever and I have to admit it got to be very monotonous. I persevered. I did not give up. I finished it...yay!! Would I make another? Not now, I need a big break, but I do love how it turned out. Maybe someday in the distant future :)  It's going to be hard to give it up. Here it is in it's glory:

100_0065 100_0066 100_0056 100_0061 Now that you know the end of the story, I thought you might like to know more about what inspired me to knit this blanket. Here's the tale of the circle cloth blanket....and who better to tell the story, but the one who inspired me.

The Tale of the Circle Block Blanket by Anita Jones

"Listen! Can you hear us? The shish click of knitting needles and swish of crochet hooks pulling yarn accompanied by voices--sharing ideas; discussing patterns; learning new stitches; suggesting colors; and admiring completed afghans. Talented fingers and creative minds are at work with a common goal; to provide warmth and comfort for local people in need. Who are we? We are a Lexington chapter of Warm Up America (WUA), volunteers who knit or crochet blocks of yarn that can be assembled into warm afghans to be distributed by local groups whose purpose is to aid those in need. Our group is sponsored by The Stitch Niche Inc, a Lexington Kentucky needlework shop. Owner Amy Jones provides a place for us to meet weekly, collect donations and to assemble afghans. Ms. Jones felt so strongly about Warm Up America’s mission that she encouraged and supported a small group of customers and friends to establish a WUA group in 1994. The original members of the group had just a little donated yarn but tons of enthusiasm and a will to succeed. We are proud that there was such a strong foundation for our chapter. In 2010 our volunteers completed and distributed 856 items including afghans, blankies, hats, scarves and even gloves! We still rely on donations and the work of volunteers. Not all volunteers are able to join the Tuesday meetings so they send in blocks for afghans or other useful items such as hats or scarves. Occasionally we are blessed with gifts of yarn as well. If you wish to help people in your own community, look for a chapter of Warm Up America near you. Blocks can also be donated in other ways, just check the organization web page to find what will work best for you.

Needle workers are naturally very curious and interested in the projects and stitches of their peers. Our group cheerfully shares stitches, techniques and project ideas. In May one of our excellent hookers (crochet that is!) brought in her friend’s knitted block with a most intriguing pattern. JoAnn couldn’t tell us how it was knitted, but she had a copy of the pattern. We looked and wondered. Then we stuck our fingers through the holes, a very common reaction. We debated how the layered effect was achieved--it looked difficult. We studied the pattern and shook our heads in wonder. It just didn’t seem like it would work. Nancy didn’t resist the challenge; the next week she amazed us with the progress she had made in decoding the pattern and creating a beautiful bright yellow block. She said it really wasn’t hard—uh huh. I took up the challenge next, and delighted in watching the circle pattern develop under my fingers. The others got that uh huh look again as Nancy and I assured them it really wasn’t as hard as it looked. Then, the really big question—What are you going to do with those blocks? The answer was “Let’s make an afghan!” I just couldn’t bear ripping out such beautiful work. Nancy was willing so we enthusiastically threw ourselves into the adventure. I’m sure we both wondered at times if we’d taken on more than we could do, but this project kind of developed its own life. As Nancy and I shared our blocks on Tuesdays, others expressed interest and were willing to make blocks too. We did insist on Red Heart yarn and a white background for some consistency. After that, we made it up as we went along. Originally we hoped to have 9 blocks and then add a nice big border to it. Eventually we realized we had many blocks done, in progress or promised; so we just raised our goal to 25 blocks for a nice size afghan. Wow! It is so exciting to see how it all came together. But how do you seam circle cloth blocks? I began experimenting with seaming techniques. I discovered Hakucho on Ravelry and figured the creator of the circle cloth pattern would know what to do. I do believe we surprised her, but she was up to the challenge with lots of good suggestions. Using different ideas, I used crochet to make borders or to slip stitch blocks together. We would discuss the samples and, honestly, none of us were really happy with them. I had all that churning around in my mind when I went to sleep, and perhaps that was truly fortuitous as my dreams solved the problem. We could pick up stitches, do a couple of rows and then do a 3 needle bind off. Of course I had to find a friendly internet video to learn how to do this technique, but oh my goodness, it was worth it. I could hardly wait for Nancy, JoAnn and the others to see the effect. The next group of samples included some of the revised ideas and the 3 needle bind off. I had to resist the urge to promote the 3 needle bind off, but the ridge effect that mimicked the circle cloth was the deciding factor because it didn’t distract from the pattern. Since I don’t mind pick up and knit, I volunteered to do the seaming. As the various blocks were completed, colors were plotted, and the seaming process could begin. Every week we shared the afghan so the group could see and discuss our progress. Their support has been wonderful. Hakucho has been very supportive and curious throughout the making of our circle cloth afghan. She asked if we would share our story and include the directions for seaming the blocks together. We have enjoyed creating this beautiful afghan so much. It has given our creativity and talent an outlet as well as exercised our brains. We certainly hope others will be as intrigued as we were and take up the challenge of creating a multi-block circle cloth afghan."

Circle Cloth Afghan created by the
Lexington Stitch Niche Warm Up America group
Summer 2011.

My approach to my blanket was a little different. I had an advantage...when knitting my blocks I cast on 2 extra stitches. Total stitches cast on was 48. At the beginning of each row I slipped the first stitch. This is the secret to a nice edge. Perfect for picking up stitches.  Other than that I pretty much followed the rest of the pattern. I made 35    -   9 inch blocks with a size 7 needle. Being lazy,  I didn't want to pick up stitches to put the strips together. I crochet them together using a slip stitch.
100_0048100_0047100_0049100_0050 It makes a nice invisible seam. Then I joined the strips together using Anita's method of the 3 needle bindoff. After picking up the stitches I did one purl row on each of the two sides I was joining and then bound off. To finish off the blanket I followed Anita's suggestion of using an applied i-cord. Again I took the easy way out. I picked up only one stitch at a time as I went around the blanket. It's a little difficult to explain my method. Basically this is how I did it: Using 2 dpn's I cast on 4 stitches on one needle. With the same needle I picked up one stitch from blanket edge. Total stitches on needle = 5.  Using the 2nd dpn knit starting again from the right just like a regular i-cord pushing the stitches to the right. Knit 3, then the last 2 stitches knit together through the back loop. You will now have 4 stitches on your needle.Pick up the next stitch on the edge and repeat and there you have it ...a beautifully bound off edge :) Sorry, I neglected to take photos while I was binding off, but hope you got the jist of it nevertheless.

Anita so kindly wrote out her directions for the seaming. Her wonderful directions illustrated with how to photos can be found on my design page.
Click here to download the PDF: CIRCLE CLOTH BLANKET SEAMING

In addition Anita has shared with us a table simplifying the circle cloth pattern. This is what members of her group using when making their blanket squares. I have uploaded this as well to my design page.
Click here to download the PDF: CIRCLE CLOTH CHART
enjoy :)

Thank you very much, Anita, for all your hard work writng the "Tale of the Circle Cloth Blanket" and sharing your story including all the how to's :) You were very inspiring to me and I LOVE your beautiful blanket :)

Copyright ©2006-2012 hakucho, All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

New kitchen discovery instead of knitting

Since I really don't have any finished knitting to show you I thought I'd share with you my newest discovery in the kitchen.

IMG_1467I think I have found the easiest and quite possibly the healthiest cinnamon rolls that I know of. They are so easy that you could make them everyday if you wanted to. I've even made a bunch and froze them. Twenty seconds in the microwave and you have a warm cinnamon roll for breakfast. My family loves them and me for making them :) The dough is just flour, yeast, salt...that's it. No eggs, no butter or oil. Fat-free! The only fat I used was just enough melted smart-balance margarine in making up the cinnamon and sugar filling.

How is it that they are so easy? Well, I use the master bread recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book. Here's the link to Zoe and Jeff's blog that shows you how to make the cinnamon rolls. I don't use the brioche dough and I use a simple icing of milk (skim), confectionery sugar and vanilla. I make the peasant bread version substituting 2 cups of whole wheat flour for some of the all purpose flour.You can even make them up the night before and let them rest in the fridge overnight and bake them in the morning.

IMG_1466 I also have been making sandwich rolls using the same recipe. I have been freezing the rolls and making up sandwiches with the frozen rolls and then by lunch time they are all thawed out and you have a sandwich on a fresh roll. Delicious. Enjoy :)

Copyright ©2006-2012 hakucho, All Rights Reserved.