Makings - Crochet Willow Square Blanket

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Back in June I shared that I had put aside the Crochet Along blanket that I was working on in order to work on another secret project using these colours.

Clockwise from top left (All Stylecraft Special DK): 
Storm Blue, Duck Egg, Silver, Sherbet, Cloud Blue
(After looking at the colours for a while I decided not to include Cloud Blue, the bottom left colour.)

Well, now that the secret project has been gifted I can finally reveal what it was, and I have so been looking forward to sharing it as it is one of my most favourite makes ever. In fact, had it not been for such a special occasion and for such a special couple then I would have been so sorely tempted to keep it for myself and just find another gift instead!

In August my mum and dad celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary and so I wanted to be able to give them something special for it. 

I soon decided on making them a blanket, and in shades of blue so that it would fit in with their bedroom colour scheme. I knew what square I wanted to make as I had always wanted to make something with the Willow Square, which is from the book 200 Crochet Blocks. It's such a pretty square that I knew it would look amazing in a blanket.

At first I thought I would make the blanket using just the one colour, Stylecraft Special DK in Sherbet, and with each square edged in either Cream or Parchment. Since I couldn't decide which of the two colours to use I asked my Instagram friends for their advice and found that they couldn't decide for me either! Opinion was split almost exactly half and half in favour of each colour.

So I put off the border colour choice until joining time came.

Then when I went to the little yarn shop near the boys' school to buy more yarn in the colour I had chosen for the main square colour, I started playing about with adding some other colours in and that's how I ended up with the combination in the first photo. I had a photo of the wallpaper in my mum and dad's bedroom with me, sneakily sent by my youngest brother, and that inspired me to add in the other colours. I'm so glad that I went with that idea now!

The Willow Square is a lovely square to work on. Each round is different and so it never gets boring to make. Because each round is different, it took me about 10 squares to memorise the pattern. Once I had really got the hang of the pattern I decided to time myself and found that it took 20 minutes to do one square.

I started working on the blanket properly in June, and I had worked out that to make the blanket big enough for a double bed I would need 120 squares - 10 across and 12 down. I gave myself the target of 10 squares a week, which would see me finishing off the squares around August time. I also had to leave plenty time for joining and edging the blanket. 

 The wedding anniversary was in August, but my mum and dad were due to spend a few days down here in September when they returned from their anniversary cruise, so that was the deadline I gave myself to finish off the blanket.

Amazingly, I did actually finish off the squares by the end of August as planned, and the next decision was how to organise the squares.

I've never been very good at random patterns, my brain is a little too OCD and in need of order to be able to just put colours in a random pattern. This was why I had initially thought of making the blanket in one colour. But a quick google search found my perfect solution here -  a random granny square generator! It was just what I needed. I made up three different random combinations of the colours and then chose which of these I liked the best.

Once I had laid out my squares in the order suggested, I decided that I loved the colours so much together that I didn't want to border them in cream/parchment after all. My artist boy, James (16), who has an amazing eye for colour, agreed with me so that confirmed it for me!

Next, I bundled up each row and labelled them, ready for joining. 

I told you my brain was a little too organised and OCD! I'm not quite sure how it survives living in a houseful of boys!

Don't those colours look gorgeous all mixed up?

To join the squares I just double crocheted (US Single Crochet) them together, right sides together. First of all I joined all the squares horizontally and then I did the vertical joins.

For a border I chose border no 93 from the book Around the Corner, as I had seen it used on other blankets and thought it was the perfect pattern to go with the Willow Squares. I didn't do the final round of the pattern for the border though, as I thought it looked a little too spiky and I preferred the curved look of the second last round.

Finally I just had to sew in all the ends, and then the blanket was done, a couple of days before my mum and dad returned from their cruise!

Now, if you've stuck with me this far then you are probably keen to see the finished result, so without any further chat, here it is. From quite a few angles!

I laid it out on our bed, which is Kingsize so it doesn't quite reach the edges of ours.

I did have a little assistant with me while taking the photos...

The back of the blanket has a raised cream seam between the squares, which I think also looks quite nice, although I prefer the smoothness of the front.

Have you seen enough of it yet? 

I haven't, so here's a couple more!

One day I really must make one for ourselves.

 Although for a Kingsized bed it will take even more than 120 squares and 4 months to make!

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Doors Open Day 2016

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

At the weekend it was Doors Open Day in Edinburgh, a chance for the public to see inside buildings that are not usually open to them.

James (16) had volunteered to help his grandad as a doorman at the old Magdalen Chapel in the Grassmarket, but before we went to see him there, the other boys and I headed along to the Lothian Buses Depot.

They had a couple of vintage buses parked outside alongside one of their newest styles.

It was a popular attraction and I was glad we had arrived there just after it opened, because by the time we were leaving it had got really, really busy.

Most of the buses that were on display inside the depot were open for you to climb aboard. The boys have always wanted to go on an open-topped bus and so that was the first one they headed for.

This bus went into service just after the second world war.

Inside the vintage buses we noticed how much narrower they are than today's buses, and how sitting next to a complete stranger on those buses would have been much more of a squash! Perhaps we were less socially awkward in those days though?

We didn't find out why this lorry was here, but David (10) was thoroughly impressed with it!

One of the buses was jacked up with all the parts of the undercarriage labelled.

As well as all the buses, there was a stall selling some bus memorabilia, and we had to fight our way through some serious bus anoraks to get something there, but I'll save that for the end.

After we had seen all we wanted to see at the bus depot we made our way across to the Grassmarket and to the historic Magdalen Chapel. The chapel was built in the 1500s, and if you are interested in history you can read more about the history of it here.

When we were finished at the chapel, and James was relieved of his doorman duties, we walked up from the Grassmarket and towards the Royal Mile.

I have lived in or around Edinburgh for over 20 years now, and I never tire of the beauty in it's streets.

Once we were at the Royal Mile we headed down towards St Giles.

We weren't going to see the cathedral though, but the Supreme Courts which sit just behind the chapel.

The building dates from the 1600s and the main hall, Parliament Hall was where the original Scottish Parliament used to sit.

I was too busy watching a 2 year old to read all the info that was around about the Hall but I did manage to snap this photo of one of the information boards!

Further into the building we saw into one of the courts, we looked into the cells, and Ally (7) was able to try on the robes, wig and mace of a judge!

There were quite a few maces on display. This one that David is holding was the oldest there, dating from around the 1500s. Or maybe it was the 1600s. Anyway, it was really old either way!

Immediately outside the courts is the burial place of John Knox., now car parking space no. 23.

By the time we were finished looking round the courts we were all very hungry and so we grabbed a bite to eat. Rather appropriately, having spend the morning looking around so many historical Scottish sites, I went for some haggis and chips.

Suitably fuelled up again we headed across the Royal Mile and down to the train station to catch a train home.

Now, remember the bus memorabilia I mentioned? The bus company were raising money for a couple of charities and were selling off all their old bus stop signs. The signs were all in bundles against a wall and it was quite a scramble to get in to them, as there were quite a few eager bus fans all keen to get one! I wanted to make sure that we got one for a stop that was relevant to us in some way and was delighted when we saw one for Blackford Pond. 

Back in my earliest days in Edinburgh, and when my husband and I started seeing each other as more than 'just good friends', my in-laws lived near Blackford Hill and so we had many walks up the hill and around the pond. One of the buses that stopped at that stop was also one that I used to get to University so the sign has a double significance to us. 

David carried it about Edinburgh the whole day, and we had quite a few people stop us and ask where we had got it from! I have no idea where we are going to hang it in the house yet though!

There were lots more buildings open for Doors Open Day and if you have one near you coming up then I highly recommend you get along to see what is open. After all, you can't get much better than a free day out, can you?!

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