Mystery Blanket Club 2020: post 2, March

WELCOME TO THE MARCH INSTALMENT OF THE MYSTERY BLANKET BLOG! And with Spring not quite sprung here yet in Nottingham, it’s time to cosy up and get your knitting needles at the ready for the next five blanket squares…

…FIRST OF ALL, 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. Then you will have the full contents of your knitting kit with the full colour palette revealed.

THE SECOND MAIL OUT HAS 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.  Printed patterns for overseas members were posted on Monday 24th February, and the UK were posted on Thursday 27th February.

MY BRAND NEW AND EXTRA SPECIAL TENTH ANNIVERSARY 2020 MYSTERY CUSHION CLUB IS NOW OPEN FOR SIGNING UP! So if you fancy another Debbie Abrahams knitting adventure why not pop across to our online shop to purchase your membership today?!?

Above: 2017 Mystery Cushion, Metropolis

This Mystery Cushion is a shorter project than the Mystery Blanket, beginning mid-June and running for five months until mid-October. Each member receives a knitting kit with all the materials to make the cushion-cover and patterns are emailed monthly – just like the Mystery Blanket Club. There is a dedicated monthly blog for the Club which gives lots of advice about the project as you knit along. And the even better news for 2019 and 2020 Mystery Blanket members is that everyone who signs up to the Mystery Cushion Club gets a 10% discount on their membership. A unique code for this to be used at checkout will be emailed to all the Mystery Blanket members. There are just two-hundred memberships up for grabs, so don’t delay if you want to join me!

Below: 2019 Mystery Cushion, Classical Ornament

To celebrate the ten year anniversary of my Mystery Cushion Club we are producing a very lovely 2021 Mystery Cushion Club calendar. And the first fifty people who sign up to the Club will receive a free one. However, if you are not fortunate to win one it will be available to purchase in our online shop from 15th October.

Below: 2014 Mystery Cushion, Sugar Rush

I am going to tell you a little bit about the Mystery Cushion design – not too much, but just enough to see if I can tempt you! So, it’s knitted in Rowan Baby Cashsoft Merino – although it is NOT a baby themed project. The colour palette returns to my favoured vibrant and bright shades from the Rowan range, including fuchsia pink, vivid orange, deep jade and lime, with charcoal and cream details and a glimmer of neon. And it has, of course, plenty of sparkling beads, plus some beautiful rhinestone studs to add a touch more glamour. A mixture of techniques are involved including textured stitches, stripes, beaded patterns and some colour work. So it’s the perfect small project to brush up on your existing skills and perhaps learn some new ones too!

Are you tempted?!? I do hope so!

KNITTING HOLIDAYS IN FRANCE ARE HOSTING A ONE WEEK BREAK WITH ME IN APRIL, AND A SPACE HAS BECOME AVAILABLE. This holiday sold out almost as soon as it was advertised last year, however there has been a cancellation. The break is from April 18th – April 25th 2020 and will be a fabulous mix of knitting, eating, drinking and sightseeing in the company of a small group of knitters. The Barn is in a quiet hamlet just outside the town of Brizambourg in the Charente-Maritime region of France.

Above: the spacious workshop room enables participants to knit in a relaxing environment

I have designed a knitting project for the participants to work on during their stay, and tutoring will be given by me on various techniques within informal daily workshops. But don’t worry, there will be plenty of time for sightseeing and shopping too!

The room which is available (see below) can be booked as a single room with en suite bathroom (cost £1050) OR a twin room with en suite bathroom (can only be booked by two guests travelling together, cost £795 per head)

The price of the holiday includes full board, workshops and materials and transfers from Bordeaux airport to the venue, all you have to do is get yourself to France with your knitting needles. For further details email sueculligan@gmail.com

Above: the garden provides the perfect place to knit, relax and enjoy refreshments

If you are available and fancy a week of knitting and relaxing in France, then please come and join me. It will be so much fun!

WITH ONLY A FEW CORRECT ANSWERS RECEIVED SO FAR, THE TITLE OF THE MYSTERY BLANKET REMAINS A ‘MYSTERY’ FOR MANY OF YOU. But well done to Catherine Pope who guessed it correctly first, followed by Valerie McNulty, Julie Brown, Becky Edwards and Meredith Thompson. If you are still guessing then here is another letter to give you a clue. This month the letter I am giving you is “A”:

_  _  _  /  _  _  _  _  I  _  _  _ / _  A  _  _  _

If you think you know what it is, 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 until you guess it!

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

Square 8: Silt 2 – lace and cable pattern with hooked-in beads (same for both options):

Square 15: Dunes 2 – striped pattern with textured stitches and cables (same for both options):

Square 22 (Option One): Sandstone – intarsia with small bobbles, hooked-in beads and embroidered details:

Square 22 (Option Two): Sandstone – striped pattern with slipped and textured stitches:

Square 23: Strata – moss stitch and reverse stocking stitch stripes (same for both options):

Square 30: The Beach – textured stitch 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. These bits of advice will help you with, pre-warning you what to look out for and giving you some useful information about how to knit the square. Also take note of the description under the title of each square as this tells you what the stitch structure is.

Here are some extra tips about this month’s squares…

SQUARE 8, SILT 2: this is the same as Square 36 from Mail Out 1, but the 3-stitch cables twist to the left instead of to the right. And don’t forget that there are both Sienna and Shell beads hooked in, so make sure you pick up the correct ones when instructed to bead as they are close in colour.

SQUARE 15, DUNES 2: it’s time for a bit more revision with the same cable and stripe pattern as Square 29 repeated in this square, but this time the cables twist to the left instead of to the right. Two different needle sizes are used to maintain even tension, and they are written in bold in the pattern instructions to make sure you don’t miss them!

SQUARE 22, SANDSTONE (Option One): this is a brand new square and it combines together several techniques including intarsia, bobbles, beads and chain stitch. Intarsia is a single thickness multi-coloured fabric, so this means that individual small balls of yarn (or yarn wound onto bobbins) should be used to knit it. Unlike the fairisle technique there is no carrying across of yarns at the back of the work – only carry across yarns when absolutely necessary – so this means that the background colour of Camel needs to be split into two small balls before you start. When you cast on you are instructed to cast on in the colours used in Row 1 of the chart. If you find this difficult to do then cast on using Camel only and then introduce the other yarns as you knit Row 1. Advice on the intarsia technique is given in the Knitting techniques section of your mail out on page 19.

Four of the bobbles have an embroidered circle around them using chain stitch. On the chart the circles look a bit larger than what they actually are. I embroidered my circles quite tightly around the bobbles, as you can see in the image of the square on page 10. But you can choose to embroider them as small or as big as you like, or don’t embroider them on at all – it’s up to you!

Instructions for the bobbles and chain stitch are given on pages 19 and 21 respectively.

SQUARE 22, SANDSTONE (Option Two): if you don’t fancy knitting intarsia then you can choose to knit this alternative option instead. It creates a multi-colour effect through striping and slipped stitches rather than intarsia or fairisle. Due to the stitch structure it requires a smaller needle than the main needle size and has more rows than the usual 50-54 of the other squares. Just make sure that after knitting it, as you block and press the square you spread it out to the correct measurements. I had to ease the width out quite a lot, whilst the length needed minimal easing.

It is important not to let the stitches bunch up on Rows 1-2 and 7-8 (and their subsequent repeats), which are the rows on which horizontal strands are created across the sets of three slipped stitches. Keep spreading out the stitches along the needle as you work these rows to avoid puckering.

There are alternate rows of hooked in Sienna and Shell beads, so be sure to pick up the correct colours when instructed to bead.

SQUARE 23, STRATA: this square follows on after Square 22, so you can choose to knit it separately or pick up the stitches along the cast-off edge of Square 22, for which instructions are given on page 15. I have given advice further on in the blog about how to pick up stitches, so this might be worth a read before you start this square.

It’s actually a nice easy one to knit with reverse stocking stitch stripes (purl on right side rows, knit on wrong side rows) alternated with moss stitch stripes (alternate knit and purl stitches on every row). The textured stripes create a gentle fade of colours from sand at the bottom to grey at the top. You are instructed to use a smaller needle than the main needle size for the moss stitch stripes as this will help maintain a neat and even tension.

The only thing you might be slightly niggled by is the amount of loose ends you will have – there will be two at each change of colour. However, these can be knitted in on some rows or sewn into the back of the work later on when the squares are sewn together to complete the blanket.

SQUARE 30, THE BEACH: this is another easy square to knit with multi-coloured beads set between  reverse stitches in a regular 8-row repeat pattern. All of the beads are hooked in which can be time consuming – especially if you are new to this technique. But with such an easy stitch structure it’s one that's ideal for ‘tv knitting’! (I have been asked!)

A smaller needle than the recommended main needle size is used for this square. This is because hooked-in beads create a longer stitch in comparison to stocking stitch, therefore increasing the overall length of a piece of knitting. So the smaller needles ensure that the square knits up to the correct measurements.

If you are wondering why I suggest to thread up the beads onto a spare length of yarn before starting to knit (see page 16), then this is purely to make sure that you hook them into the knitting in the correct order. If you do this pre-threading (which is optional), then you simply slide one bead off the yarn each time you need to hook it in and you know that the colours will be in the correct order. And believe me, it saves a lot of time!

I HAVE BEEN ASKED BY SEVERAL MEMBERS THE REASON WHY I DON’T ADVISE TO SIMPLY “KNIT-ON” THE NEXT SQUARE IN A STRIP, so here’s my answer. When you pick up 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 a piece of knitting strength. And because your completed 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 some of you are not too 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 are instructed to pick up an extra stitch then do this by putting your needle into the gap between the stitches rather than through the middle of a stitch. And if you are instructed to miss a stitch then simply skip past a stitch and onto the next one.

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. I use a blocking board with grid lines on it for this. But a template of the square drawn onto a piece of gingham fabric works just as well and will help you to pin out your squares to the correct size more easily. Once pinned out I 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.

Below: my blocking board

If you need to ease in or ease out some of your squares to get them to the correct measurements then this is the time to do it. As you pin out your square you can use your fingers to gently spread out the knitting until it is the correct size. And then when it is damp, smooth over the stitches from edge to edge with your fingertips, making sure that the stitches and rows are sitting straight.

You can choose to block each square as you go along, or, if you are knitting in strips you can block each strip when it is completed. I prefer to block and press each square as I go along, but this decision is entirely up to you.

ANNABEL CASEY FROM WINDSOR, LONDON, UK WAS THRILLED TO HAVE COMPLETED HER 2019 MYSTERY BLANKET, ‘WINTER WONDERLAND’. And after a bit of a hesitant start, she embraced the project wholeheartedly, declaring this one as her favourite in her ever growing Mystery Blanket collection!

Annabel says: “I thought I would send some photos of my finished Winter Wonderland. I was a bit iffy about it when the wool arrived last February as it was definitely not my colour palette at all - not an orange in sight! But now it is finished it is my favourite blanket by far and I love the sparkle. I added a little more sparkle at the corners as you will see - and a little red to one of the Rudolphs. Now to start on MB2020!”

I love those little extra touches that Annabel has added to the design. The silver embroidery on the corners is really beautiful, and Rudolph’s little red nose is just brilliant! It might give some of the other members who are still knitting it ideas as to how they can personalise their Mystery Blankets too!

SUE BARTLETT FROM CONGLETON, CHESHIRE, UK ALSO COMPLETED HER 2019 MYSTERY BLANKET RECENTLY AND WAS DELIGHTED WITH THE RESULTS! Sue has knitted many of the Mystery Blankets and this one is the latest addition to her fine collection of knits.

Sue says: “I finally finished the blanket a couple of days ago after putting it on the blocking boards for the final block. I am really, really pleased with the finished article! We have a watercolour painting hanging in our bedroom by a local artist of our local ‘mountain’, and as soon as I started working on the blanket it was just as the scene depicts. So when you wrote about the inspiration behind last year’s Mystery Blanket my connection between the two was confirmed! “

It’s another splendid piece of knitting, and how lovely that Sue could connect the inspiration for the blanket to her painting of a snowy landscape. I think it’s always interesting to learn about the inspiration behind a design and this one certainly struck a chord with a lot of people who, like me, have romanticised memories of their own Winter Wonderland.

JOAN BRAY FROM MELTON MOWBRAY, LEICESTERSHIRE, UK WAS ALSO THRILLED TO HAVE COMPLETED HER MYSTERY BLANKET, BUT HER ACHIEVEMENT WAS THE 2017 DESIGN ‘RETROSPECTIVE’. I see Joan regularly at the Mystery Club meetings in Nottingham and she is always working on a ‘mystery’ project, either a cushion or blanket. So to see this one finally completed, and so beautifully knitted, is fabulous. Well done Joan!

Joan says: “I decided to use the time over Christmas to get the blanket finished.  I know you won't mind but all our family names have replaced the dates, and I am really pleased with it. Now on to 2020!!! Thank you for your designs and the time and love you put into them.”

What a great idea to personalise the squares, it makes them so much more unique. I am sure that Joan's family are thrilled that their names have been incorporated into the design. It’s makes it a beautiful heirloom.

ALL OF MY WORKSHOP DATES FOR 2020 ARE NOW ON THE EVENTS CALENDAR ON OUR WEBSITE. So if you fancy a day out in a relaxed environment, learning new skills in the company of other knitters, I hope you can join me! 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

AND FINALLY FOR THIS POSTING, THE 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 TWO (MARCH): this month’s winner is member 13, Kate Ison from Bromsgrove, Birmingham, UK. Well done Kate! 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.

Thank you for reading my March blog and I hope you have found it helpful. Remember to keep sending in your stories and photos, and who knows – you might find yourself featured in my next post in April! Until next month, take care and keep knitting. And hey, you never know, Spring may have Sprung! Debbie x


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