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Mystery Blanket Club 2020: post 8, September

HELLO AND WELCOME TO THE EIGHTH INSTALMENT OF THE 2020 MYSTERY BLANKET!

It’s been a very busy and exciting month with both the Mystery Blanket and Mystery Cushion clubs for 2021 underway in the design room, and new kit projects for the forthcoming months in full swing! We are now even closer to the end of this year’s Clubs, and with the finishing line in sight the full ‘mystery’ of both the Blanket and the Cushion will soon be revealed…

THE SEPTEMBER PATTERNS WERE EMAILED TO ALL THE MEMBERS ON THE 1ST SEPTEMBER, so the file should be in your inbox. But remember that you can also download it from your account on our website.

The printed patterns were posted to the overseas members on the 21st August followed by the UK on the 27th August, so if you have not already received them they should be with you very soon.

THE 2021 MYSTERY BLANKET CLUB LAUNCHED ONE MONTH AGO AND THE SALES HAVE BEEN FABULOUS! So thank you to everyone who has made the decision to join me on another knitting adventure next year. It will be a totally different experience to this year, with bright, vibrant colours and plenty of sparkle to keep you motivated as you knit your way through 2021. This is a reminder of what I have in store for you…

The previous two Mystery Blankets focused on soft colours with cosy yarns to match. However, next year sees a return to a bold, vibrant colour palette, combining together several of Rowan’s best loved yarns from their Autumn/Winter collection including Felted Tweed, Alpaca Soft DK, Alpaca Classic and Softyak. 

Below: a sneak preview of some of the colour swatches for the 2021 Mystery Blanket:

I am thrilled to be able to tell you that also included in the palette are some bespoke shades of Pure Wool DK which have been dyed up exclusively for this project. These shades will only be available to buy in the blanket kit, so they really are super special! And of course there are plenty of beads in it too to add a touch of sparkle!  Techniques will include fairisle and intarsia as well as textured stitches, cables and stripes. Two options will be offered on some of the more tricky squares which will enable knitters of all skill levels to take part.

We have had a very high demand for memberships so far with over three quarters of them selling within the first month. So if you have not signed up yet it might be a good idea to put this on your list to things to do so that you can secure your place before they sell out. There is a signing up deadline of 31st December 2020, however, the Club will close if the memberships sell out before this.

Above: Mystery Blanket Club 2009, 'Arabian Nights'.

If you would prefer to pay for your Club membership in monthly instalments then we have an extended payment plan which means you can spread your payments over five payments with no interest or administration fee. Simply choose the Instalment Plan option for the 2021 Mystery Blanket Club in our webshop and follow the onscreen instructions.

You can visit our online shop today to purchase your membership. You will find various options for UK, Europe and World Zones 1, 2 and 3 including Printed Patterns and Tracked delivery. Please note that due to the uncertainty of Covid-19 and possible disruptions to postal services, Tracked and/or Signed delivery is mandatory on all World memberships.

If you want to find out more about next year’s Mystery Blanket, then pop across to the FAQ page on our website where you will find lots more information under ‘Mystery Club FAQS’: https://debbieabrahams.com/pages/faq

THE 2020 KNITTING & CROCHET GUILD ‘UN-CONVENTION’ TAKES PLACE FROM THE 9TH – 15TH SEPTEMBER. Due to Covid-19 this year the annual Convention will be online with many exciting events, talks and workshops planned throughout the week. As a patron of the Guild I have been asked to do a talk about my work, so you might want to tune-in to listen to me talking about my inspiration for a Mystery Blanket design. I am also doing an Instagram Takeover on Thursday 10th September where I will put up several posts and videos throughout the day about me and my work. There are a ton of other very exciting things happening too including talks and workshops by fellow patrons Jane Crowfoot, Kaffe Fassett and Lorna Hamilton-Brown.

Un-Convention will be open to all yarn lovers but interactive sessions will be available to Guild members only. The event will include:

  • Presentations by keynote speakers (these will be recorded)
  • Videos prepared especially for Un-Convention that cover a wide range of topics about crochet, machine knitting and hand knitting topics
  • Interactive workshops that will allow people to learn new skills
  • New demonstration and information videos that people can view when it suits them
  • Discussions with members in the Facebook Group and Instagram
  • Show & Tell
  • An area for members to link to their own web pages and for those without one to share their ideas through the Un-Convention web site
  • Recognising that these are difficult times, there will also be an area for members with yarn-related businesses to link to their business websites

You can join the Un-Convention by following this link: http://b.link/kcg-unconvention

I do hope to see some of you there!

IF YOU HAVE NOT YET GUESSED THE TITLE OF THE MYSTERY BLANKET, THEN HERE’S YOUR CHANCE TO HAVE ANOTHER GO IT! We have had correct answers this month from Paula Barham, Beth Schoenbrun, Sally Chambers and Lori Yelvington, so well done to you ladies!

As you can see below, you have already been given quite a few letters, and with just two more chances to guess it before the reveal in November, I think you might just be able to work it out - but let’s see! This month I am giving you the letter “O”:

O U  _  /  _  _  _  C  I  O  U  S / _  A  _  T  H

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. There is one brand new square which has two options, and the other four are variations on squares from previous mail outs so you should find them fairly easy to knit…

Square 6, Woodland – cable and lace pattern with hooked-in beads (same for both options):

Square 7, Pasture – striped pattern with textured stitches (same for both options):

Square 14, Foliage – lace and cable pattern with hooked-in beads (same for both options):

Square 40, Option One, Shoal – intarsia with small bobbles, hooked-in beads and embroidered details:

Square 40, Option Two, Rockpools – striped pattern with slipped and textured stitches:

Square 41, Heath  – striped moss stitch pattern (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 6, WOODLAND: you might recognise this square from Mail Outs 1 and 4. It is similar to the square ‘Shells’, however, if you look closely there are some differences. Not only is it knitted in a different colour, but the cable pattern is different too. All of the cables twist to the right (c6b) and they are all knitted on the same rows instead of staggered.  There is a repeat of the beaded lace pattern between the cables, but two colours of beads are used instead of one.

You have been given both written instructions and a chart for this square, so you can choose to knit from either, or both if preferred. This is the perfect square for learning how to knit from a chart as you have the written instructions to check if you are unsure about any of the symbols.

SQUARE 7, PASTURE: this square is a variation on several squares you have already knitted – Sand and Surf, Slate and Perfect Storm. But the change of colour palette gives it a new look which is fresher, reminiscent of meadows and grass.

As you’ve knitted a similar pattern to this several times before there probably isn’t too much advice I can give you about this one. Just remember to keep the stitches spread to the correct width on Rows 4-6 and 19-21 to avoid puckering. And don’t forget those needle size changes which will help to keep your square the same width all the way from the bottom to the top.

SQUARE 14, FOLIAGE: remember ‘Silt’ from the very first mail out? This is very similar to that square but it’s knitted in a different colour and has different coloured beads too.

Just keep an eye on the lace instructions and make sure that you work the increases correctly otherwise you will not end up with the right number of stitches at the end of the row. Just as a reminder, when you work ‘yon’ you already have the yarn at the front of the work after ‘P1’, so you must keep it there as you knit the next stitch so that the yarn goes over the needle (yarn over needle) and creates a stitch. It’s very easy to do but it is where most knitters go wrong with lace increases as the natural instinct is to take the yarn back between the needles to knit.

SQUARE 40, SHOAL (Option One): this intarsia square is the sister to Square 12 and features similar fish motifs with embroidered details, bobbles and beads.

The background colour (Winter Blue) should be divided into several small balls so that you can ‘knit around’ each fish motif. Remember that intarsia means creating a single thickness fabric with no, or very little carrying across of yarns at the back of the work – it is not a fairisle square. So it’s best to prep your yarns before you begin knitting by winding them onto bobbins or cutting them into lengths before you cast on. Personally I prefer to use bobbins as I find they help to keep my yarns organised at the back of the work. But lengths work well too – at the end of the day it’s whatever works the best for you!

I blocked and pressed my square before I did the embroidery. This is not essential, but I found that it evened out the stitches and made the task a lot easier to do.

SQUARE 40, ROCKPOOLS (Option Two): this is exactly the same as Square 12, Option Two, so it’s time for a bit of revision for some of you! Just remember to use a smaller needle size than the suggested main needle size otherwise it will knit up enormous!

SQUARE 41, HEATH: and this is exactly the same as Square 13 from Mail Out 7, which was one of last month’s squares. It’s a nice easy one to knit up so you should be able to sit back and enjoy this final square for September without any problems!

IF YOU HAVE KNITTED YOUR SQUARES IN STRIPS, THEN AFTER KNITTING THE SEPTEMBER SQUARES YOU WILL HAVE THREE STRIPS COMPLETED – which means that you could get ahead and sew them together. I am always asked which is the best yarn use for this, and the answer is quite simple. Use any of the yarns in your kit which are strong and not too fibrous. So that means not Felted Tweed, but any of the others are fine. I opted for Summerlite DK in Pear because it is strong and I had plenty of it left over.

I always use Mattress stitch to sew my strips together, so if you haven't tried it before, it would be worth giving it a go. You can use it for sewing together both vertical and horizontal seams. If you have knitted your squares individually then you will need to sew them together first before sewing together the strips. Here are a few tips on both types of seam:

You work with the right-side of the work facing towards you, so at all times you can see how the seam is progressing. And if you do happen to go wrong, it is very easy to undo. First of all you need to look very closely at your knitting and identify the edge stitch. In stocking stitch this is an open ‘V’. Then you need to find the bar (‘running thread’) between the edge stitch and the next stitch in – there is one for each row. It is these bars, between the edge stitch and the next stitch in, that you need to insert your needle under to sew up. These bars exist in every piece of knitting, even in textured knitting. So you need to get yourself familiar with them and where they are as they are sewing up as follows using a blunt-ended needle.

Use the Chart for Stitch and Row Reference on page 5 which shows the number of stitches and rows in each square that you have knitted so far. Then you will be able to work out where you need to ease in stitches/rows if one square has more in it than another. I found this a massive help when I sewed together my strips.

  • Horizontal (if you have not worked in strips and need to sew the squares together): with right sides facing, lay the squares flat with square one at the bottom and square two above square one (and so on throughout the strip). Beginning at the right-hand side of the work, take the needle from back to front of work through half a stitch of square one, inserting the needle just below the cast-off edge. Then take the needle under one whole stitch of square two, inserting the needle just above the cast-on edge. After this continue to take the needle under one whole stitch on each square. This means that on square one the needle is always coming up through the middle of stitches and on square two the needle is coming up between the stitches.
  • Vertical (to sew together your strips): with right sides facing and with two strips sitting next to each other, take the needle from the back to the front of the work under two bars at a time, inserting the needle under the bar between the edge stitch and the next stitch in. To keep the edges level at the bottom, begin by taking the needle under the first bar of the first square (the one on the left), then take the needle under the first bar and the next one up (two bars) of the second square (the one on the right). After this take the needle under two bars on each side, zig-zagging back and forth between the two strips, and making sure that your needle always goes back into the same gap between the bars each time you take it under the bars.

Happy sewing up!!!

AND NOW FOR SOME STORIES AND PHOTOS FROM THE MEMBERS, WHO ARE CONTINUING TO KEEP VERY BUSY WITH MANY DIFFERENT PROJECTS.

I begin with a very interesting story from Jo who lives a long way away in Cairo in Egypt. She was thrilled to have recently completed her Love You To The Moon & Back Baby Blanket for her new grandson, but it was not without a great deal of anxiety. This is what Jo had to say:

“Here is my finished baby blanket about to be delivered to my new grandson along with a specially personalized cushion I knitted with all the odds and ends left over:

What a story this has behind it! Previously I had knitted the 2015 Mystery Blanket, now one of my most prized possessions. I really wanted to repeat the lovely experience of the club but was drawn to the baby blanket idea as I was hoping to have another grandchild, and the materials come in one package. I didn’t want to jinx anything but thought I would always find a baby to knit for and went ahead and subscribed. To my delight my daughter told me within a couple of weeks that a baby was due end of March!

I am British but have spent most of my adult life in Egypt and raised my three children here. They are dual nationals but as they were born here their children can only have British nationality if they are born in UK or have a British parent. So my daughter planned for the birth to be in London and travelled the beginning of February. I was to follow a month later........ But of course I couldn’t travel as planned, which was so hard for me, and eventually Mansour arrived right in the middle of the pandemic! Fortunately his dad managed to get to London earlier so the family were in lockdown before and after the birth. Next was the problem of the birth certificate and passport for the baby with all the government offices shut! In early July they were able to start the process and two days after his passport arrived Mansour and his parents were on the plane home. I have now met him in person at last, but at a distance in their garden, when it’s cool enough! Today I’m taking the blanket and cushion to them as they have had time to unpack and settle in now.

I was so grateful last summer when a huge effort was made to get the supplies to me while I was still in England and I delighted in the monthly instructions coming through. I knitted nonstop the first half of March so I could bring it to England and every stitch was done and I even lined it with a lovely Winnie the Pooh fabric. To the last minute I was determined to fly back but it was not to be.......

The good news is that my daughter’s quarantine is now over and the last two days have been very happy ones for me as I can now hold him and cuddle him and play with him. It’s too hot to use the blanket for now but he is lying on it and having tummy time, and the bright colours seem to attract him.

Long story but I thought you might enjoy it, probably not many like it! I dream of coming to one of your workshops one day or even a knitting holiday. You never know!”

What an amazing story Jo, and thank you so much for sharing it with us. It just goes to show that with determination you can make things happen, and in the end, after a pretty anxious time for you all, everything turned out well!

KATHRYN HOUGHTON FROM NEWARK IN NOTTINGHAMSHIRE, UK HAS KNITTED A FABULOUS VERSION OF SHERBET DIPS & CANDY TWISTS – which is a blanket you may well recognise from my book More Blankets & Throws To Knit:

Kathryn says: “Thanks for the bunting edging pattern. It really has finished the blanket off so well. I was worried whether I had chosen too bright a set of colours for it, but it isn't until they all go together that the design comes alive. It really is a lovely blanket.”

I absolutely love all those bright colours – you know me! – and I think it looks fantastic! What a good idea to change the edging to the bunting style pattern – it really does set it off and makes it a very cheerful, jolly blanket. Thanks for sharing!

HAZEL LACKIE FROM BRISTOL, UK, has knitted many blankets, not only my Mystery ones, but others too including her own creations. This time she chose Martin Storey’s ‘Nordic Throw’ as her starting point and had a lot of fun decorating it with floral motifs. I think it looks amazing!

Hazel says: “I knitted flower appliqués as my daughter-in-law loves her garden and her initial is in the centre square. There are sixteen colours of Felted Tweed used for the squares - eight for the plain and eight for the fairisle, then another two for the pips and border. Then there were more colours for the flowers.

I decided to knit the squares separately. But it was a marathon sewing them up into strips! It also meant many more ends, it was bulkier, and I found it made it tricky to sew the strips together. Never again!

As I have so much Felted Tweed I am knitting another blanket with owl appliqués and this time I have drawn a grid first and allocated the colours so I can knit in strips. 

I’m really looking forward to next year’s blanket. I am watching the development of this year’s with interest, it looks amazing!  And I am very much looking forward to next year’s bright colours and wool yarns!”

It will be great to have you back on board again next year Hazel – although with another of these blankets on the needles now, you are going to be super busy. Have fun!

CAROLINE EVANS FROM LONDON, UK, took the plunge and ordered a Hyacinth Cushion kit. And right on form, here it is finished and knitted beautifully!

Caroline says: “I thought you might like to see my Hyacinth cushion. I really enjoyed knitting this, and have come to the conclusion that lace with beads is my favourite style of knitting. I might even try another one in a different colour scheme!”

What a great idea Caroline! In fact, I am planning to expand Hyacinth into a lace and bead collection of cushion-cover kits which will offer several different designs to mix and match together. So watch this space!

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 EIGHT (SEPTEMBER): this month’s winner is member 37, Celia Winterbottom from Nottingham, UK. Well done Celia! 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 membership for the Debbie Abrahams 2021 Mystery Blanket Club.

So that brings me to the end of another newsletter, which hopefully you have found inspiring and interesting to read – especially all those lovely stories from the members which I always love to hear. With Summer gradually coming to an end and Autumn on the way, we have many new exciting things in store to keep you going to the end of the year. My brand new knitting kit, ‘Autumn Bag’ is due to be released within the next few days. And then we begin our Festive Knits promotion at the beginning of October with our Mystery boxes and festive inspired home and fashion accessory kits. And that’s without this month’s Mystery Blanket squares to knit up! So I will sign off now and let you get on. But please come back next month to catch up with all the latest Club news which will include the penultimate instalment of this year’s design! Until then, keep safe and well, Debbie x


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