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Mystery Blanket Club 2018: post 2, March

HELLO AND A WARM WELCOME TO YOU ALL TO THE SECOND INSTALMENT OF THE 2018 MYSTERY BLANKET! And as the wintry weather takes a firm grip on the UK this week, I hope that your Mystery Blanket squares will not only keep you busy, but nice and warm as well this month!

So, first of all, let’s see what Seth has been up to since his last appearance in the blog. Here he is at the hairdressers last week getting himself a very grown up haircut at his favourite salon in Nottingham, Whyleys! https://en-gb.facebook.com/whyleyshairdressing/

He was a very good little boy and sat very still so that lovely Jay could cut and style his hair. And to complete his new look, she used some hair putty which he absolutely loved! We bought him his own little pot of it too, so he can continue to style his own hair every day. What a little dude!?!

SO NOW ON WITH THIS MONTH’S MYSTERY BLANKET NEWS… as far as we are aware, almost all of the yarn parcels that we posted in January have now been received. And to those of you who have had to wait a bit longer than the others, thank you for being so patient. We understand how frustrating it must be when you have the patterns but no knitting kit. However, unfortunately after the parcels leave us they are in the hands of the postal services, and from then on we have no control over the completion of their journey to your doorsteps. We are only able to access information on the parcels which have been sent Special Delivery (UK) or Tracked &/or Signed (overseas). So if you have paid for this extra option, remember that you can ask us for your tracking number so that you can see for yourself where your parcel is in the postal system.

PLEASE NOTE THAT IF YOU PAID FOR SPECIAL DELIVERY/TRACKED & SIGNED DELIVERY, then it is only the two yarn parcels and NOT the printed patterns which are posted using these special services.

REMEMBER THAT THERE IS NO YARN PARCEL THIS MONTH. The second and final parcels of yarn and beads will be posted in April to arrive at their destinations from the beginning of May. (So no jumping on your postie this month if he walks straight past your house!)

THE MARCH PATTERNS HAVE BEEN EMAILED TO ALL THE MEMBERS ON THE 1ST MARCH, so please keep your eye on your inbox. And if nothing turns up, please let us know as soon as possible so that we can check your details in our database: sue@debbieabrahams.com. It’s also worth remembering that if you bought your Mystery Blanket membership in the online shop on my website, you will be able to download the patterns directly from a link on there, as follows:

  • Your latest available mail-outs will be visible here in PDF format to download

IF YOU ARE PRINTING YOUR OWN PATTERNS, then you might want to select individual pages and miss out some of the blank “My Notes”. You should be able to do this quite easily by selecting the pages you want to print in your Print Range.

PLEASE 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 a minimum of 10% extra of each colour so you should have enough to knit up your blanket with a small quantity of each colour left over. However, I would still advise you to be careful and not to throw any odd bits away until the end of the project.

THE GUESS FOR THE THEME OF THE MYSTERY BLANKET is now truly underway! And much to my surprise, many of you have already guessed it correctly. So big congratulations go out this month to this very long list of members, all of whom got the correct answer:  Rose Chapman, Elaine Workman, Kathryn Fowler, Janet Holdsworth, Rosy Platt, June McBain, Nicky Faulconbridge, Caroline Evans, Susan Cumming, Penny Lawrence, Linda Howarth, Lindsey-Brooke Hessa, Angela Thomas, Elisabeth Price, Catherine Pope, Linda Warne, Kate Gill, Valerie McNulty, Gail Coles, Debbie Medhurst, Helen Lawton, Siobhan Donnelly, Pippa Taylor, Alison Cossons, Kate Plantholt, Anne Parker, Vicki Palmer, Celia Hockaday, and the lovely Curborough ladies at the Knitting Corner in Lichfield, Staffordshire. I think that we’ve included everyone on this list, but apologies if we have missed anyone off it. And for those of you who are still mystified, here is another letter to help you on your way. This month the letter I am giving you is “T”:

_  _ S  _  /  _  _  T  _  _  _

Please send your guesses to Sue at sue@debbieabrahams.com. There are no prizes for the correct answer – it is simply a tradition with the Mystery Blanket and hopefully a bit of fun for you all too!

THESE ARE THE FOUR SQUARES THAT YOU WILL KNIT THIS MONTH…with two of the squares having a second option:

Square 4, Option One: Flora – intarsia motif with textured stitches and swiss-darning

Square 4, Option Two: Confetti – textured stripe with slipped stitches

Square 5: Pillars #2 – three-colour stripe cable pattern (same for both options)

Square 6: Ocean Blues #2 – multi-coloured wave pattern using Japanese short-row shaping (same for both options)

Square 8, Option One: Star – intarsia motif with textured stitches

Square 8, Option Two: Slant – three-colour striped pattern with textured diagonal stripes

Don’t forget that 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 to plan how to knit each square up, and pre-warn you about what to look out for. Also, there are indications in the description of each square (under the title) of what the square entails. For example, Square 4, Option One states that it is an “intarsia motif”, so this technique must be used to knit this square.

SQUARE 4, Option One, FLORA: this square uses the intarsia technique, which means that it is a single thickness multi-coloured fabric. You will find tips and advice about this technique towards the back of your pattern file. Just watch out for the colours Azure, Jade and Indigo as they are similar in shade on the chart and in the photo: Indigo is used to knit the triangular shape which is pointing towards the right, and the other three triangular shapes are knitted using Azure; the larger expanse of colour making up the four petals in the middle of the motif use Jade yarn. Also, it is recommended that the outline of the triangle in the centre using Stone yarn is swiss-darned onto the knitting rather than knitting it in. However, if you don’t fancy the swiss-darning you could try knitting it in instead – I would say to do whatever works best for you! And if you don’t fancy knitting intarsia, then you can choose option two instead…

SQUARE 4, Option Two, CONFETTI: the slipped stitches in this square result in a higher row count than other squares in the blanket, so a smaller needle size is recommended to knit it. But you may have to experiment a little bit with needle sizes if your square is knitting up either too loose or too big. To help keep the tension tight I have advised in the Pattern notes and tips to knit the first and last stitch of every row, which will create a one-stitch garter stitch edging. Also note that the instruction for “pull up loop” on rows 5, 11, 17 and 23 is in the Pattern notes and tips on page 8.

SQUARE 5, PILLARS #2: the subtle striping in the square is achieved by working a three-row repeat stripe pattern throughout the whole square – which is what you did for Square 3, Pillars from Mail Out 1. It is really important that you keep this colour sequence correct otherwise you will end up with a wider band of one colour in the knitting. I found it very helpful to write a list of the row numbers, and then beside each row I wrote the colour to be used so I could keep a check on it. You could do this using the “My Notes” page opposite on page 11 to write your list.

SQUARE 6, OCEAN BLUES: this is the same pattern as Ocean Blues from Mail Out 1, but Azure and Indigo yarns have been swapped round with each other. Hopefully after having a go at Japanese short-row shaping last month you should cruise quite easily through this square!

SQUARE 8, Option One, STAR: this is the second square this month that uses the intarsia technique, so for those of you who are getting to grips with it, this is a good month to give it a lot practice. However, if you don’t fancy the intarsia then you can go for option two instead…

SQUARE 8, Option Two, SLANT: this striped pattern is easy to knit but it looks more complicated than it actually is because of the diagonal textured stripes. There are seven stitches between each diagonal stripe which means that once you get the stitches set on the first few rows, you could almost knit this without looking at the chart – just make sure that your diagonal textured stitches keep going in the same direction, which in this square is towards the left. And keep an eye on the colour stripe too!

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. 

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 very simply without the need for an iron. I pin out (block) each square with the wrong side facing upwards, making sure with a tape measure that it is pinned to the correct dimensions. In your Welcome Letter last month I recommended a blocking board –“ June Tailor Inc. Quilter’s Cut ‘n Press” – and this is perfect for the blanket squares as it has measurements in inches marked around all four edges on a grid, (I have the 10 inch board). I then spray the knitting with cold water, making sure that it is damp all over, then I leave it to dry. When the pins are taken out the knitting is perfectly set and ready for the next square to be knitted onto it. It is quick, easy and successful, so if you haven’t blocked and pressed before, I would suggest you give it a try.

I HAVE BEEN ASKED BY SEVERAL MEMBERS THE REASON WHY YOU ARE NOT ADVISED TO SIMPLY “KNIT-ON” THE NEXT SQUARE IN A STRIP, so this is my answer. Basically, when you pick up the stitches across the cast-off edge of one square to knit on the next square, you create a seam at this point in the knitting. And a seam gives any knitted (or woven) article strength. And because your completed knitted blanket will be quite heavy, these seams are really important as they will help the squares – and the blanket – keep its shape. I have given some tips below on picking up stitches, however, if you do not fancy doing this, there is nothing stopping you from knitting each square individually and sewing them together instead. The picking up method just eliminates a huge amount of sewing up – which I know a lot of you are not keen on!

SO HERE ARE SOME TIPS ON PICKING UP STITCHES…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. There is no easing in to do this month, so I will advise you how about to pick up more or fewer stitches in a future blog.

MY INVITATION TO ALL OF YOU LAST MONTH TO SEND IN YOUR KNITTING STORIES AND PHOTOS WENT DOWN EXTREMELY WELL! So in this next section I am handing over to the many members who wrote in, beginning with Liz Bishop from Herne Bay in Kent, who is thrilled to have completed not only one, but two Mystery Blankets!

Above: Liz’s 2017 “Retrospective” Mystery Blanket, completed and proudly on display. What a great achievement Liz! This is what Liz had to say:

“After completing my 2017 Mystery Blanket I am now returning to my 2016 blanket which I had sewn up but not done the border! Now I have done one border I am more confident in completing the other one.”

And here is Liz’s beautifully knitted “A French Romance” Mystery Blanket. Wow Liz! – two Mystery Blankets completed – you must be very happy to have finished them both so that you can crack on with this year’s Mystery Blanket!

Elisabeth Price from Exeter in Devon has also been catching up with her “Mystery” WIP’s and was thrilled to have completed her 2017 “Retrospective” Mystery Blanket recently too! Elisabeth made a few changes to the design, which I think have worked really well. This is what Elisabeth had to say about her latest “Mystery” achievement:

“I've made one or two changes, partly to 'lose' the 2007, as it is only my second Blanket, and also to incorporate the buttons I bought on Bryher, which I think look rather nice. So, now I can allow myself to get started on this year's Blanket-hooray!”

I love those buttons, and they are extra special because they are from the beautiful isle of Bryher in the Scillies where Elisabeth joined me last year for my Mystery Blanket holiday. What a great idea and a lovely memory of a wonderful holiday to include in your blanket!

Kelly Symons from Alexander, Kansas, USA has also completed her 2017 “Retrospective” Mystery Blanket and was thrilled to have learnt so many new techniques along the way. Here is her blanket with a very interesting personalised centre square and redesigned edging:

Kelly said: “I wanted to thank you for sharing your talents through your Mystery Blankets. I have learned so much, enjoyed the knitting process, and had fun with the excitement of new monthly patterns. By the end of the year I have a beautiful blanket I am proud of! Since I missed out on the earlier blankets, I decided to put my home in the centre square. Thank you again for such a great experience.”

Sue Bartlett from Congleton in Cheshire, UK joins Liz, Elisabeth and Kelly in successfully completing her 2017 “Retrospective” Mystery Blanket. And although Sue is now a master of the Mystery Blankets (having knitted several of them over the years), she still found some of the squares a welcome challenge. This is Sue’s lovely blanket and what she had to say about her Mystery Blanket experience:

“I completed the last few stitches of my Retrospective 2017 blanket a few days ago and aside a couple of minor blips, I’m thrilled with it. It challenged me a bit more and taught me not to do anything too complicated if enjoying a glass or two of red wine!! Sunday saw me tidying my “blanket” drawer and box containing bobbins, notebook/pen dental floss etc ready for the next mystery. So bring it on!!!”

Angela Thomas from Great Shelford in Cambridgeshire, UK sent in this lovely photo of herself with Mystery Blanket knitting friend Pippa Taylor at the start of their 2018 Mystery Blanket knitting adventure:

Angela said: “Pippa and I had a select little cast-on party on Saturday – but unfortunately not all our locals could be there.”

Despite the small group at your cast-on party, it looks as though you had a lovely time together, and how brilliant that you can sit and knit the blanket squares together! I hope that you continue your knit-a-long get-togethers and keep us all posted about them too!

Elaine Workman from Bishop Sutton in Bristol, UK spent Christmas with her Mystery Blanket knitting sister Andrea Fabis at her home in Germany. And for this special occasion they both knitted festive placemats from a previous Debbie Abrahams Bead Club. They look spectacular on the Christmas dining-table and must have made your Christmas together even more special!

Here is what Elaine had to say:

“I thought I would share with you the photos of the Christmas placemats from the Bead Club that Andrea and myself managed to complete before the festive period!  We spent Christmas together in Andrea's home in Germany. As you can see they formed the colour co-ordinated look of the table - and I think they look fab.  Andrea has also put her festive bunting up as well."

 Helen Lawton from Inverness in Scotland, UK was thrilled to complete her “Rock-A-Bye-Baby” blanket from my Blankets & Throws To Knit book, meaning that she can now make a start on this year’s Mystery Blanket. This is a very challenging blanket to knit, mainly because of the amount of intarsia in it. So I think that Helen has made a splendid job of it and knitted it brilliantly.

Helen said: “I thought Debbie might like to see the Rock-A-Bye Baby blanket that I have just finished for my 22 month old grandson Harris to go on his first bed. Now I can start MBC18!”

I am sure that little Harris will be absolutely thrilled with his new baby blanket! What a lucky little boy he is to have such a talented grandmother!

Anna Chandaria from Hatch End in Middlesex, UK also took on a very challenging blanket, which I am sure she was very pleased to have completed. Here is her spectacular “Circus” blanket from my More Blankets & Throws To Knit book:

Caroline Evans from Lewisham, London, UK used the Dorset button-making skills that she picked up from one of our Inspired Minds events to make these wonderful buttons for her Mystery Cushion.  Not only do they look fabulous but they are such a good use of small quantities of left over yarn.  And I really love all those beads in them too – they look like precious pieces of jewellery. I will have to brush up on my button making skills and have a go at it myself!

Miranda Shelley from Southampton, UK was at the same Inspired Minds event as Caroline last year and she brought along her lovely Jane Crowfoot crochet project to show me, which she made using some of the left over yarns from a Mystery Blanket. What a stunning piece of work and another great way to use up leftover balls of yarn!

And finally, Marieke Mulder from Dalfsen in the Netherlands thought she would pass on a very funny comment made by her eight year old daughter about one of the squares in the first set of patterns for this year’s Mystery Blanket.

Marieke said: “I knitted the first part of the short rows in Ocean Blues this month, and along comes my eight year old daughter, Lean. She said, “Mummy, is this a blanket for girls?” So I ask, why?
And her answer was, “because you are knitting small boobs!” I looked at the blanket and I
was absolutely flabbergasted. What could you say to that? My husband ended up with the hiccups because he could not stop laughing. Here my story with the first time knitting Japanese short rows!”

Thank you for sharing that with us Marieke. It’s really funny what children come out with sometimes, and that was one of those classic moments!

YARN IN NOTTINGHAM START THEIR MONTHLY MYSTERY BLANKET CLUB MEETINGS THIS MONTH, so if you fancy a couple of hours of Mystery Blanket knit and chat in Sarah’s very lovely and welcoming shop, why not join myself and other members at the next meeting on Wednesday 14th March?!? We have been in touch with members in the local area who have agreed to be emailed on a monthly basis by Sarah at Yarn with news of the next meetings. However, if you have not been contacted and would like to receive these emails, please email Sarah direct using the address below. Sarah said that she will be sending out an email about the first meeting this year on March 14th at the weekend, so keep an eye on your inboxes. I really hope to see some of you there. It’s a lovely couple of hours and Sarah always provides a hot drink and a biscuit too! Yarn is at 55 Chilwell Road, Beeston, Nottingham NG9 1EN, tel: 0115 9253606, email: info@yarn-in-notts.co.uk

IF YOU NEED ANY HELP WITH YOUR MYSTERY BLANKET, DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT THE DEBBIE ABRAHAMS MYSTERY BLANKET THREAD ON RAVELRY! Here 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. You will need to search for the group called "Debbie Abrahams Handknits" at http://www.ravelry.com. And if you are not already a Ravelry member then it is very easy (and free!) to join. Just follow the simple instructions on their website. The Debbie Abrahams Handknits group is run by two moderators who keep an eye on the group and help where they can with any questions about the Mystery Blanket. I don't visit the group or take part in any of the discussions, so you can chat together freely about the project and hopefully resolve any queries you have, as well as make new "Mystery" friends!

…AND IF YOU WANT EVEN MORE HELP WITH YOUR BLANKET… then why not join me at one of my Mystery Blanket Club knitting workshops!?! Not only will you have the opportunity to get all the help you need with your Mystery Blanket squares, but each participant will also be given a small accessory kit inspired by the techniques in the blanket to knit up during the workshop (or to take home). Workshops are a great way to meet other members of the Club and improve your existing skills, as well as learning some new techniques. So I really hope to see some of you at my Mystery Blanket events this year for a really fun and enjoyable day out! These are the dates that have been scheduled. Please contact the individual shops for details about how to book your place:

  • Sunday 8th April: Janie Crow, Hadley House, 17 Park Road, Barnet, Herts EN5 5RY, website: https://janiecrow.co.uk/presta/
  • Sunday 24th June: I Love Ewe, 4 Stamford Walk, Stamford, Lincolnshire PE9 2JE, tel:  01780 763838, website: http://www.i-love-ewe.com
  • Saturday 1st September: The Knitting Corner, Curborough Hall Farm, Lichfield WS13 8ES, tel: 01543 415837
  • Saturday 8th September: The Kast Off Group in Norfolk, contact Jean Gosling, contact details to be confirmed.

And some more dates will be added to this list soon…

WATCH OUT THIS MONTH FOR THE LAUNCH OF THE DEBBIE ABRAHAMS 2018 MYSTERY CUSHION CLUB, which will open its doors for signing up from mid-March to June. Everyone in the database will be sent an email very soon with details about the project, including information about the yarn and colour palette.  This brand new "Mystery" club will begin mid-June and continue for five months until mid-October. It is run in the same way as the Mystery Blanket Club with monthly patterns and a yarn kit. It will be a completely different design to the Mystery Blanket, and the good news for 2018 Mystery Blanket members is that everyone who signs up to it gets a 10% discount on their membership. So keep an eye on your inbox!!!

AND FINALLY FOR THIS POSTING, THE SECOND 2018 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 TWO (MARCH): this month’s winner is member 393, Jane Davidge from Ottawa in Ontario, Canada! Well done Jane! 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
  • A £15 voucher towards a Debbie Abrahams Mystery Club (2018 Mystery Cushion or 2019 Mystery Blanket)

Thank to you everyone who sent in their stories and photos for this blog, which have been a joy to read! I hope that you have found this month’s news interesting and informative, and that the new squares in this month’s instalment keep you busy and happy. Next month there will be lots more tips and advice to help you through the project. And don’t forget to watch out for the launch of my brand new 2018 Mystery Cushion Club which will give you the opportunity to join me on another knitting adventure this year! Until next month, take care (and keep warm!!!), Debbie x


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