HELLO AND A VERY WARM WELCOME TO MY 2018 MYSTERY BLANKET CLUB! I am absolutely delighted that so many knitters have decided to join me this year in my brand new "Mystery" knitting challenge, with a really good mixture of returning members and plenty of new members too! So a big thank you to everyone who has signed up this year. This is where you will find my monthly newsletter with all the latest updates about the Club, 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.
Returning members will be familiar with how I begin the blog each month, and that is with a photo and short comment about my son Seth, who is now the grand old age of three! He came into this world at the beginning of the 2015 Mystery Blanket, and since then has enjoyed a regular slot on my blog - due to the ongoing demand from Mystery Blanket members. So here goes with the first photo of the year...it's Seth being very cheeky at Christmas, having enjoyed a very good visit from Santa!
Maybe it was the mince pie and glass of sherry that encouraged Santa to be so generous!?! Let's hope he's as good to little Seth this year - who is already counting down the days...
RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE FIRST MYSTERY BLANKET CLUB IN 2008, THIS HAS BEEN A GLOBAL PROJECT with members signing up from all over the world. And this year is no exception with knitters joining from all of these countries: USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, China, Malaysia, Bermuda, Israel, South Africa, Norway, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, Greece, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Austria, Bulgaria, Italy, Denmark, Portugal and the UK. It's very exciting to think that there are members all over the world knitting up the same design. And even if there aren't any Mystery Blanket members living near to you, remember that you are never alone as you are now part of a Club where you can meet virtually or in person with other members at many of the knitting groups that are created online and in communities around the world. I will tell you more about the Debbie Abrahams group on Ravelry later on in this blog, but next a word about the parcel and patterns for Mail Out 1...
1st FEBRUARY IS THE OFFICIAL STARTING DATE OF THE 2018 MYSTERY BLANKET CLUB, and this is when the patterns for the first Mail Out 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 at the beginning of May. A couple of weeks ago I sent an emailed newsletter to all the members with lots of information in it about the Club, including details of the the postal dates of the parcels. World Zones 1 & 2 were posted week commencing 15th January, Europe posted week commencing 22nd January, UK Special Delivery posted on the 29th January, and all the remaining UK parcels were posted First Class on the 30th/31st January. This is a huge task which involves weeks of preparation and planning, and we do our very best to get the parcels to you at approximately the same time. However, as you can hopefully appreciate, this is an impossibility 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. I kindly ask UK members to wait for at least a week before you contact us about your parcel, and for overseas members, I 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. And if any of you have any worries about your parcel then you can contact Sue at: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com
ALL MEMBERS THAT HAVE PAID FOR PRINTED PATTERNS will receive them in a separate card-backed envelope in ten separate monthly instalments. This year I have decided to go with a brand new format which is an A4-sized brochure. And you will notice that in the 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 patterns on the 1st of each month. So please keep your eyes on your inbox and if nothing turns up, please remember to check your Spam folder before talking to us. We usually find that with the first mail-out we have a few teething problems, however, a lot of these are often solved when the Spam folder is checked. But if you are still without the patterns after checking the other folders on your computer, then please let us know as soon as possible so that we can resolve the problem with you: firstname.lastname@example.org.
AN EXCITING TECHNICAL DEVELOPMENT HAS BEEN MADE THIS YEAR WITH THE PATTERNS! I am very excited to announce that each member who purchased their membership from my online shop will be able to download the patterns each month directly from my website - as well as accessing them via email. (Unfortunately this service is not available to anyone who bought their membership outside of my online shop). Details about how to do this have been included in your first emailed newsletter, but 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 2018 MYSTERY BLANKET CLUB, so please can you 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 and printed patterns.
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. We use software called Mailchimp to send the newsletters and this enables us to monitor our mailings so that we can see who has received the email, who has opened it and who has not. It also tells us if the delivery of the email has been unsuccessful – in which case we will contact you. So please be email-aware as there may be some important information sitting on your computer that you need to know while you are working your way through the Mystery Blanket!
YOU HAVE TWO COLOUR CODERS IN YOUR FIRST PARCEL - and that's because there are so many colours in the blanket this year! I always advise that you set this up before you start knitting as it will help you to identify all the different shades quickly and easily while you are working on your squares. I suggest that you tie a small amount of each yarn onto the card and write the name and/or shade number next to it. There are a few shades in the collection that are very similar to each other, so please pay extra attention to these when you use them. These are Lilac, Stone, Oyster, Marble and Pale Blue (first picture below), and Jade, Emerald and Lime (second picture below).
It is very important that you use the correct colour yarn for the correct patterns otherwise you could run short of yarn. As you are all aware this year I have had my own range of colours dyed up in Rowan Glace Cotton, so you won't find them on the Rowan shade cards (apart from Oyster which is shade 730 from their collection). They are all unique shades for Debbie Abrahams - and they have my name on the ball-bands too -yay!!!...
...AND THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT IF YOU REALLY LIKE ANY OF THE SHADES AND WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE MORE OF THEM FOR YOUR OWN PROJECTS, I will have some stock of all of the shades available to purchase from May. Stock will be limited, but I will let you all know as soon as it becomes available.
And this is not the complete colour palette - there are three more shades to come in your second parcel!!!
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” 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 the last three pages of the mail-out there is some further information on knitting techniques, including intarsia, Japanese short-row shaping, knitting with beads (hooking-in and slip-stitch techniques), swiss-darning, chain stitch and an abbreviations list. Questions that you have may well be answered here, so it is well worth taking the time to read all of this information before you begin knitting.
YOU MIGHT ALSO FIND MY DVD "MORE BLANKETS AND THROWS", a useful companion to have to hand to help you with some of the techniques in the Mystery Blanket. On the dvd I show you several different techniques including knitting with beads (slip-stitch technique), intarsia, swiss-darning, Mattress stitch and picking up stitches. We are offering this dvd at a 20% discount (before shipping) in my online shop for a limited period of one calendar month, beginning on the 1st February. Simply input BLANKETSDVD20 into the coupon box at checkout to receive your discount. The dvd will play on a UK dvd-player and on both Mac and PC computers.
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 I would say 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. Please note that there are no options to choose from in the first mail out in February. And just in case you are not sure, Option One is the more tricky option to knit and Option Two is the easier one.
THE THEME FOR THE MYSTERY BLANKET is always kept a secret until you guess what it is yourself. 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 name of the Mystery Blanket. This month the letter I am giving you is “S”:
_ _ S _ / _ _ _ _ _ _
Please send your guesses to Sue at email@example.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 THREE SQUARES THAT YOU WILL KNIT THIS MONTH:
Square 1: Trencadis – textured pattern with hooked-in beads and chain
stitch details (same for both options)
Square 2: Ocean Blues – multi-coloured wave pattern using Japanese short-row
shaping (same for both options)
Square 3: Pillars – three-colour stripe cable 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. In the following notes below I am going to give you a few extra tips about some of the squares, which should help you a bit more with your knitting...
SQUARE 1: TRENCADIS: this square has hooked-in beads so you will need to use either a crochet hook or a piece of dental floss/wire for this technique. By using the hooking-in technique the beads can sit close together - in some parts of the pattern they are directly on top of each other or sitting side by side - which you can't achieve with the slip-stitch method of adding beads. I used a piece of Oral B dental floss, (which is stiffer at one end than regular floss), and found that the yarn was much less likely to split than if I used a crochet hook - so this may be worth considering for your hooking-in. Also take care with the colour of the beads as they are quite similar in shade - Emerald, Lime and Sienna. I blocked and pressed the knitting before I embroidered the details onto it in chain stitch. These are organic, fragmented shapes, so you don't need to worry about creating perfect outlines - in fact, little irregularities will only add to the beauty of this square and enhance it. Use the chart and photo as guides, and take care to use the correct colour for each embroidered outline. They are embroidered using Emerald, Moss Green and Lime.
SQUARE 2: OCEAN BLUES: if you haven't tried Japanese short-row shaping before, then this is your chance to give it a go! And if it is a brand new technique for you and you are feeling a little out of your depth, I can assure you that once you get going with it you will find it both intriguing and enjoyable to do. There are notes about this technique in the Knitting Techniques section towards the end of the February file, so it is advisable to give them a good read before you start. Basically you are knitting partial rows to create wavy coloured shapes, which means that you are knitting so many stitches before you turn and work back the other way across the row. Before you turn the work there is an instruction to attach a marker to the yarn and then slip a stitch, and then when you come back to the marker further on in the pattern you are instructed to "close the gap" which is essential to prevent gaps in your knitting. The best marker to use is one that opens up and locks (see image below), but equally as good is a safety-pin. Locking stitch markers and safety pins can be purchased from Janie Crow: https://janiecrow.co.uk/presta/37-accessories?p=3. You will see why these work better than other types of markers when you attach your markers to the yarn. My general advice for Japanese short-row shaping would be to keep the stitches knitted and slipped as tightly and firmly as possible to keep them neat and even. And when you attach a marker, make sure that you hold it firmly against the knitting so that it stays there and does not slip back down the yarn. If you want to see some good step-by-step instructions for Japanese short-row shaping then I thoroughly recommend that you take a look at this link for further help: http://www.basixknitting.com/short-row-shaping-japanese-short-rows/
SQUARE 3: PILLARS: the subtle variation in colour in this square is achieved by knitting a three-colour stripe in which each colour is used in strict rotation throughout the whole pattern. And the good news is that you never need to cut off and re-join any of them as you will always be at the correct end of the work to pick up the colour that you need for the next row. Just take care to make sure that you do change colour at the beginning of each row as it is very easy to work back with the same colour, which will then create a two-row stripe and upset the colour sequence - I did it very annoyingly several times! Try to carry the yarns up the side of the work as neatly as you can so that you maintain neat selvedge edges - important for when you sew this square into the blanket later on. And watch out as stitches are cabled on both right side and wrong side rows. This is easy to do and full instructions are given in the Abbreviations section at the end of the pattern file. Have fun!
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.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN SEEING WHAT THE MEMBERS DID LAST YEAR WITH THE 2017 MYSTERY BLANKET, then check out the Member's Gallery blog which went live on my website recently: https://debbieabrahams.com/blogs/news/mystery-blanket-2017-members-gallery. On there you will see several examples of the Retrospective blanket which was the design for my special ten year anniversary. Thank you to everyone who took part in the project and sent me their photos and stories! And don't forget to send me any news or photos that you would like to share this year with the members 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!
WATCH OUT NEXT MONTH FOR EXCITING NEWS ABOUT THE DEBBIE ABRAHAMS 2018 MYSTERY CUSHION CLUB, which opens its doors for signing up from March to June. This brand new "Mystery" club begins mid-June and continues for five months until mid-October and 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. In next month's blog I will give you more information about the design and the yarns, and then hopefully you will decide to join me on another one of my knitting adventures this year!
AND FINALLY FOR THIS POSTING, THE FIRST 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 ONE (FEBRUARY): this month’s winner is member 107, Caroline Rawlings from Norwich in the UK! Well done Caroline! 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
- Four packs of Debbie Abrahams Beads from the selection on http://www.debbieabrahamsbeads.co.uk
- A £15 voucher towards a Debbie Abrahams Mystery Club (2018 Mystery Cushion or 2019 Mystery Blanket)
Thank you for reading my first Mystery Blanket blog which hopefully you have found interesting and helpful. I will be back here at the beginning of March for all the latest news about the second instalment of patterns and much much more! So until then, I wish you many hours of happiness with your new patterns and yarns as you begin your brand new "Mystery" adventure! Debbie x