Mystery Blanket 2020: post 1, February

HELLO AND WELCOME TO MY FIRST MYSTERY BLANKET BLOG FOR 2020! It is an absolute pleasure to welcome you all on board for my thirteenth Mystery Blanket Club! Every year we have knitters signed up from all over the world, and this year is no exception, making 2020 another truly global project. Taking part in this year’s KAL are members from Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Malaysia, Israel, Norway, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Denmark, Finland, Ireland and the UK.

This is where you will need to come every month to read my monthly newsletter and find out all the latest updates about the Club, including tips and advice on the squares you are knitting and lots more useful information which will help you through the project. So it would be a good idea to make this your regular port of call each month before you make a start on your squares.

THE 2020 MYSTERY BLANKET CLUB STARTS ON THE 1ST FEBRUARY and on this day the first patterns for the blanket have been emailed to all the members. As in previous years we are continuing to use three post offices and three postal teams to send out the huge amount of yarn parcels in two instalments - parcel one now and then a second parcel to arrive on or just after the 1st May. This is a huge task which involves weeks of preparation and planning, and we do our very best to try and get the parcels to you at the same time. However, this is a difficult task with so many postal services being involved around the world. So if you have not received your parcel yet, it will be with you very soon. We kindly ask UK members to wait for at least a week after the 1st February before you contact us about your parcel, and for overseas members, we would ask that you give your parcels at least two weeks to arrive. We have a tracking number/barcode reference for all the members who opted for Tracked & Signed Delivery or Special Delivery, so if you would like us to email it to you please let us know. However, unfortunately we cannot track or trace any of the parcels which were posted by standard delivery. If any of you have any worries about your parcel then you can contact Sue at: sue@debbieabrahams.com and she will do her best to help you.

PLEASE CAN YOU NOTIFY US IMMEDIATELY IF ANY PART OF YOUR POSTAL ADDRESS IS INCORRECT. We have done our very best to ensure that the addresses are correct, but occasionally human error intervenes and there are slight errors. Any discrepancies can affect the speed at which your parcel is delivered to you, or at worst it may not arrive at all. So please let us know and we will update our files: sue@debbieabrahams.com

ALL MEMBERS THAT HAVE PAID FOR PRINTED PATTERNS will receive them in a separate card-backed envelope in ten monthly instalments.

In the printed brochure (and in the emailed file too), there are additional pages for making your own notes - a useful place to record anything you need to remember as you knit up your blanket squares. All members, including the printed pattern members, will be emailed the remaining patterns on the 1st of each month from March - November. So please keep your eyes on your inbox and if nothing turns up, please remember to check your Spam folder before talking to us as often this is where they end up.  

EACH MONTH, IN ADDITION TO YOUR EMAILED PATTERNS, YOU WILL BE ABLE TO DOWNLOAD THE FILE FROM YOUR ACCOUNT ON MY WEBSITE. This is a quick guide to how you can do this:

  • Log into the website with your username and password: https://debbieabrahams.com/account/login
  • Under "MYSTERY CLUB DOWNLOADS" click "View all downloads"
  • Your latest available mail-outs will be visible here in PDF format to download

YOU HAVE ALL BEEN GIVEN A UNIQUE MEMBERSHIP NUMBER FOR THE 2020 MYSTERY BLANKET CLUB, so please quote it in any correspondence to us. We can locate your details such as postal address and email much more quickly if we have your number, and this means that your query will be dealt with more efficiently. Your membership number was included in the confirmation email we sent to you when you signed up, and it is also written after your name on the address label of your parcels.

IF WE HAVE IMPORTANT INFORMATION TO PASS ONTO YOU, such as a pattern addendum, then we will send everyone an emailed newsletter. So it is really important that you check your emails (and your Spam folder in particular) regularly for any updates from us.

YOU HAVE A COLOUR CODER IN YOUR FIRST PARCEL – and I would advise that you set this up before you start knitting as it will help you to identify all the different shades. It’s a good idea to tie a small amount of each yarn onto the card and write the name and/or shade number next to it. There are many shades in the kit that are very similar to each other, so please pay extra attention to these when you use them.

It would be a good idea to keep each colour of yarn in a separate bag together with its ball-band or a note of which colour and shade number it is. Then you can be sure to pick up the correct colour and not risk knitting with the wrong one. If you use the wrong colour then you could run short of yarn.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE COLOURS IN THE MAIL-OUTS MIGHT NOT BE COMPLETELY ACCURATE TO THE COLOUR OF THE ACTUAL YARNS – both in the printed paperwork and in the digital files – so please be aware of this when working each square. We have done our best to make sure that the colours are as accurate as possible, however some discrepancies might occur. So it is always best to read the name of the colours to use in the pattern instructions, rather than going by the photographs of the knitting and the graphics in the mail-outs.

THE SECTION IN THE MAIL OUT CALLED ‘WORKING THE MYSTERY BLANKET’ is on page 3 and has some important information about the project which I recommend you read before starting to knit your blanket. Here you will find information on tension, the size of your squares, how to knit the squares in vertical strips (highly recommended!) and how to block and press your knitting.

On pages 19-21 there is some further information on knitting techniques including intarsia, knitting with beads (hooking-in and slip-stitch techniques), embroidery on knitted fabric and an abbreviations list.

AS IN PREVIOUS MYSTERY BLANKETS YOU WILL BE GIVEN OPTIONS ON SOME OF THE SQUARES. So when there is a square that involves the intarsia technique you can opt to knit an alternative square that replaces them with a textured, beaded or striped stitch pattern which is easier to knit. Each pattern clearly tells you when there is an option and you can also see this on the piecing diagrams. Throughout the project you can stick completely to either Option One (Pink-headed pages) or Option Two (Blue-headed pages), or, if preferred, you can choose to mix your options. Patterns that do not have an option are Purple-headed. Mixing options gives the project increased flexibility and means that although you are all working on the same blanket design you can make yours look different, if you choose. However, to keep the design balanced, you should take care to note when I advise you to choose a particular option and follow my instructions. And just in case you are not sure, Option One is the more tricky option to knit and Option Two is the easier one.

This year there are only seven squares that have two options. They are Squares 22, 10, 12, 25, 38, 40 and 28.

THE TITLE OF THE MYSTERY BLANKET is always kept a secret until you either guess what it is yourself or wait for the reveal in the final instalment. But as well as clues in the monthly squares, I also give you extra help with your guesses each month by giving you a clue in a "letter" quiz. Here is the first clue for the title of this year’s Mystery Blanket. In each blog I will give you another letter to help you guess the title of the Mystery Blanket. This month the letter I am giving you is “I”:

_  _  _  /  _  _  _  _  I  _  _  _ / _  _  _  _  _

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

THESE ARE THE FIVE SQUARES THAT YOU WILL KNIT THIS MONTH:

Square 29, Dunes – striped pattern with textured stitches and cables (same for both options):

Square 36, Silt – lace and cable pattern with hooked-in beads (same for both options):

Square 37, Shingle – striped moss stitch pattern (same for both options):

Square 43, Sand and Surf – striped pattern with textured stitches (same for both options):

Square 44, Shells – cable and lace pattern with hooked-in beads (same for both options):

On each pattern page there is a list of Pattern notes and tips that are worth reading before you start to knit each square. This advice will help you with your squares, pre-warning you what to look out for and giving you some useful information about how to knit them. Also take note of the description under the title of each square as this tells you about the stitch structure and whether there are any embellishments or embroidery.

In the following notes I am going to give you a few extra tips about this month's squares…

SQUARE 29, DUNES: large cables are combined with stripes and moss stitch which gradually fade from Pebble through to Sand. At regular intervals you are instructed to change your needle size, and when this happens it has been hi-lighted in the pattern with bold text – just so you don’t miss it! This change of needle size will maintain the tension of your knitting and ensure that the width of the square remains the same.

All of the cables are knitted with the stitches held at the back (c8b) so that they twist to the right. However, they are knitted on both wrong and right side rows, for which instructions are provided in the Abbreviations list on page 21. To be honest, it’s just as easy to cable on a wrong side row as it is on a right side row, and if you haven’t done this before, then now is your chance!

There is just one small error in the Printed Patterns (and not the emailed file) that I need to point out to you. It’s in the first Pattern note and tip on page 6:

‘If you are using a different needle size to the suggested 3.50mm, change the smaller needles used in this pattern (3.00mm) down one metric size from your main needle’.

It should read to change the smaller needles down two metric sizes.

SQUARE 36, SILT: this one-colour lace and bead pattern is a fairly easy one to knit and will give you the opportunity to hook in beads – maybe for you it’s the first time? If it is then there is advice about how to hook in beads on page 20 where I explain how you can use either a crochet hook or a piece of wire/dental floss. If you go for the dental floss option then it has to be a particular type, which is Oral B Superfloss. This is because it is stiffer than ordinary dental floss and will work much better. Personally I prefer to use the floss,  but it’s best to have a go and see what suits you best – either option will give you the same result.

The lace abbreviations ‘yfrn’ and ‘yon’ are the same as ‘yo’ (yarn over). However, in all the pattern instructions we use the UK terms rather than ‘yo’.

SQUARE 37, SHINGLE: this whole square is knitted in moss stitch (also known as seed stitch), which gives it a high row density – you need many more rows of moss stitch to achieve the same length of knitting as stocking stitch. You are instructed to use a smaller needle than the main needle size which will keep the stitches neat and even.

It’s an easy pattern to remember as every row is the same: K1, (P1, K1) to end of row. Just remember to change colour when instructed and pick up the correct colour to use next as some of them are very similar to each other. Before I knitted this square I lined up the eight colours in the correct order to make sure I didn’t make a mistake, and put away each one after it had been used. You might want to do the same and see if it helps.

Throughout this square three colours are rotated and and a new one is introduced every ten rows. This means that at the end of every row you will need to carry a yarn up the side of the work so that you can use it on the next row – that is unless you have been instructed to cut it off.

SQUARE 43, SAND AND SURF: this is a stripe pattern but with a difference as what is usually the reverse side of the fabric is used as the right side. This results in a gradual blend of the colours and eliminates hard lines between the stripes.

Three different needle sizes are used in the pattern and it is essential that you change them over when instructed in the pattern as this will keep the square a uniform width.

On Rows 4-6 and 19-21 and their subsequent repeats you are actually knitting basic fairisle. But don’t panic if you haven't knitted fairisle before as it is really easy. Simply alternate knitting stitches using the two different colours, making sure you pick them up and drop them back in the same way so that the yarns do not becomes twisted around each other (ie, one yarn on top and one yarn underneath).  Specific instructions for picking up and dropping the yarns are given in the pattern and it is important that you follow them and keep them consistent to ensure that the strands on the right side of the work all look the same.

SQUARE 44, SHELLS: you can follow worded instructions or a chart for this square – or both, if you prefer! In fact, if you are new to reading knitting patterns from charts then this gives you the perfect opportunity to give it a go!

The beads are hooked in and they sit within the lace pattern. You need to read and follow very carefully the instructions for this on Rows 3, 7, 11, 15, 19 as the technique of hooking in the beads is very slightly different – when you ‘K2tog’ this is the stitch with the bead and the stitch next to it. These instructions are printed in green in the pattern and need to be followed whenever you see the symbol for this on the chart.

On Rows 1, 5, 9, 13, 17, 21 and their subsequent repeats you are instructed to keep ‘yarn held at front’ as you ‘sl 1 knitwise K1, psso’. This is essential to create an increase which balances out the decrease resulting from ‘sl 1, K1, psso’.

Cables are knitted with the stitches held at the back (c6b) and at the front (c6f). And they are knitted on both wrong and right side rows, for which instructions are provided in the Abbreviations list on page 21. Just watch out as every cable is not knitted on the same row, they are staggered – which can be clearly seen on the chart on page 18.

There's one small error in this pattern (in both the printed brochure and the emailed file) that I need to point out to you. It’s in the boxed needle information on page 16. It says to use 3.50mm and 3.00mm needles, but only 3.50mm needles are needed for this square.

IF YOU HAVE A QUERY ABOUT YOUR MYSTERY BLANKET THEN YOU MIGHT WANT TO JOIN THE DEBBIE ABRAHAMS MYSTERY BLANKET THREAD ON RAVELRY, where you will find a bunch of very helpful and informative members who will be only too pleased to talk to you about your project. It is a great way to get help and answers to your knitting queries. And if you are not already a Ravelry member, then it is very easy (and free!) to join. Just follow the instructions on their website: http://www.ravelry.com

I HAVE BEEN BUSY PLANNING MY WORKSHOP DATES FOR 2020 AND YOU CAN VIEW THEM NOW ON OUR EVENTS CALENDAR. Workshops are a great way to meet other knitters and improve your existing skills, as well as learning some new techniques. So I really hope to see some of you at my events this year for a really fun and enjoyable day out!

Below: knitters enjoy a Mystery Blanket workshop at I Love Ewe in Stamford.

These are the dates that have been scheduled. Please contact the individual shops for details about how to book your place:

  • Saturday 27th June: Basic Design at Yarn Loft, 118 Hucknall Road, Nottingham NG5 1AD. Contact Doreen for more details: www.yarnloft.co.uk
  • Sunday 28th June: Subject to be confirmed at The Knitting Corner, No 5 Mitchells Shopping, Weeford Road, Sutton Coldfield B75 6NA. Contact Amy for more details: 0121 792 0774
  • Saturday 18th July: Sparkling Colour at Osprey, The Saddlery, Woodcock Hill, Coopers Green Lane, Hatfield, Herts AL4 9HJ. Contact Donna for more details: osprey@mezcrafts.com
  • Sunday 11th October: Subject to be confirmed at I Love Ewe, 4 Stamford Walk, Stamford, Lincolnshire PE9 2JE. Contact Rachel for more details: www.i-love-ewe.com
  • Saturday 7th November: Professional Finishing 2 at Yarn Loft, 118 Hucknall Road, Nottingham NG5 1AD. Contact Doreen for more details: www.yarnloft.co.uk
  • Friday 13th November: Beaded Project at Black Sheep Wools, The Warehouse Studios, Glaziers Lane, Warrington WA3 4AQ. Contact Amy for more details: blacksheepwools.com
  • Saturday 14th November: Festive Project at Black Sheep Wools, The Warehouse Studios, Glaziers Lane, Warrington WA3 4AQ. Contact Amy for more details: www.blacksheepwools.com

AT THE END OF THIS MONTH APPLICATIONS FOR THE 2020 MYSTERY CUSHION CLUB WILL OPEN IN OUR ONLINE SHOP, offering you the opportunity to take part in a brand new Debbie Abrahams Mystery project. And there’s good news for 2019 and 2020 Mystery Blanket Club members as you all get a discount on your 2020 Mystery Cushion membership!

Above: Mystery Cushion 2018: Eastern Promise.

This year is the tenth anniversary of the Mystery Cushion Club – I know, I can’t believe it either!!! – and to celebrate this momentous occasion we are producing a fabulous 2021 Mystery Cushion Club calendar! The first fifty people to sign up to the Club will receive a free calendar. But if you are not fortunate to win one it will be available to purchase in our online shop. The calendar will feature beautiful photographs by Sara Hazeldine of my Mystery Cushion designs from 2011 – 2020 and will be available to buy from 15th November.

Below: Mystery Cushion 2014: Sugar Rush.

The Mystery Cushion is a much smaller project than the blanket, lasting for five months from June to October.  It works in the same way as the Mystery Blanket, with a knitting kit sent out to members at the beginning of the project and monthly emailed patterns. I write a separate blog for the Mystery Cushion as well so you can get all the help and support you need as you knit along.

Above: Mystery Cushion 2013: Tropical Paradise.

I am always very cautious about giving too much away about the design of my Mystery projects. However, I am able to give you a little bit of information about the Mystery Cushion without giving the game away. It’s knitted in Rowan Baby Cashsoft Merino – although it is NOT a baby themed project. It’s just that the colours are perfect for the theme, and the yarn knits up so beautifully that it had to be this yarn! The colour palette is vibrant and colourful and ranges from bright fuchsia pink and orange to deep jade and charcoal, with black and cream details and a glimpse of neon. And not only will it have plenty of sparkling beads, but it will also feature some beautiful rhinestone studs – just to up the sparkle!

The Mystery Cushion Club will be on sale in our online shop from Friday 28th February. We will send out a newsletter to let you know as soon as it is live, which will include the discount code for your promotional offer. Come join me – it will be another fun-packed knitting adventure!

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN SEEING WHAT THE MEMBERS DID LAST YEAR WITH THE 2019 MYSTERY BLANKET (PLUS MANY DEBBIE ABRAHAMS PROJECTS), then you might want to check out the Member's Gallery blog which went live on my website recently. On there you will see several examples of Winter Wonderland which was the design for my 2019 Mystery Blanket Club. Thank you to everyone who took part in the project and sent me their photos and stories. It was wonderful to see all the blankets knitted so beautifully, and all of the other lovely Debbie Abrahams inspired projects too!

Below: June McBain's 2019 Mystery Blanket: Winter Wonderland.

Above: Elizabeth Bishop's Winter Wonderland inspired Let It Snow Mitts.

I love to see and hear how you are getting on with your Mystery Blanket knitting so please feel free to send me any news or photos that you would like to share and I will include them in my monthly blog. It's always lovely to hear from the members, and it makes the blog so much more interesting and colourful to read!

AND FINALLY FOR THIS POSTING, THE FIRST 2020 MYSTERY BLANKET CLUB PRIZE DRAW!!! Each month a member is picked at random to win a Debbie Abrahams prize. So it is worth reading right the way to the end of each blog to see if you are that lucky member!

PRIZE DRAW ONE (FEBRUARY): this month’s winner is member 443, Kim McLean from Roseville, NSW, Australia. Well done Kim! Please choose a prize from the following selection:

  • A signed 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
  • A £15 voucher towards a Debbie Abrahams Mystery Club: 2020 Mystery Cushion Club; 2021 Mystery Blanket Club.
So, now it’s time to grab your knitting needles and make a start on the first five squares of this year’s Mystery Blanket! Hopefully the information in this blog will help you with your knitting, but if you do have any queries we are always here to help you. And if you have any stories or photos you would like to share, don’t forget to send them to me at debbie@debbieabrahams.com and I will include them in the next blog. Until next time, take care and happy knitting! Debbie x

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