WELCOME TO THE EIGHTH MYSTERY BLANKET BLOG FOR 2018! We are now getting very close to the end of this year’s project, with just two more instalments to go after this one. And as more of the Mystery Blanket is revealed this month, I am sure that you can all see exactly where it is going – with the exception of the centre square which will be revealed in the final instalment in November! In this month’s blog I reveal the theme of the blanket and give you an insight into the design process behind the project. Plus there’s tips and advice on this month’s squares as well as some lovely stories and photos from several members who have agreed to share their experiences with us all. But before I make a start on giving you all the latest Club news, let’s take a quick look at what little Seth has been up since you saw him here last month…
…and here he is in his brand new house, which we treated him to when we had our garden landscaped recently. We were very lucky to have several weeks of very hot weather in Nottingham last month, so Seth took full advantage of this and spent a lot of time in his new outdoor pad. It’s kitted out with a mini kitchen, a sink and a telephone, so not only can he keep in touch with us while we are busy working indoors, but he can cook dinner for us too! What a marvellous way to spend those long hot sunny days in the garden!
SO THE FIRST BIT OF MYSTERY BLANKET NEWS I HAVE FOR YOU IS UNFORTUNATELY ABOUT AN ERROR IN THE SEPTEMBER PRINTED PATTERNS, which was only noticed after the file had gone to print. The good news is that we have managed to correct the emailed file which everybody has been sent, so it is only the printed patterns which are affected. It is on page 12 and it’s the image of Square 14, Option Two, “Slant #6”, which is upside down. This square begins with a Sunshine stripe and finishes with a Rich Red stripe, but as you can see it is the other way round in the photo. The good news is that the other images of this square in the mail out, which are on the front cover and on the piecing diagram, are correct. So it is only this one that is wrong. And as it does not affect the pattern instructions I have decided not to reprint the file. I can only apologise for this oversight and hope that it does not affect your enjoyment of this month’s patterns.
THE OPTIONAL PRINTED PATTERNS HAVE BEEN SENT TO THE MEMBERS WHO PAID FOR THEM, with the overseas posted last week and the UK posted on the 29th of August. So they should all be arriving with you soon if they are not already with you. The emailed patterns were sent to all the members on the 1st September, so you should all have that file.
Remember that if you paid for your membership in the online shop on my website, you can also download all of the pattern files for this year’s Mystery Blanket through your Debbie Abrahams account. Unfortunately they are not accessible to anyone who paid outside of the online shop.
UNFORTUNATELY ANOTHER ERROR HAS BEEN REPORTED, BUT THIS TIME IT IS IN THE AUGUST FILE. And as I have only had one member contact me directly about it, I can only assume that the majority of you managed to knit the square successfully, despite the error. It’s Square 32, Option Two, “Salon (part 3)” and the error is on page 17 on Row 1. There is a “K1” missing from the increase row, which I have added into the amended instruction, see below in red:
ROW 1 (RS) (inc): using Teak yarn, P2, [(inc knitwise into next st, K1) twice, P4] 4 times, [inc knitwise into next st, K1) twice, P2 (50 sts).
I sincerely apologise for this pattern error, and can only hope that the lack of emails sent to me about it means that if you did stumble across this, you were able to correct it yourself. But please accept an even bigger apology from me if you didn’t.
THE 2019 MYSTERY BLANKET CLUB HAS NOW BEEN LAUNCHED FOR ONE WHOLE MONTH, and we are absolutely thrilled with the sales which have been phenomenal! We offered an Earlybird discount to everyone who signed up to the Club before 1st September, and I am pleased to see that so many of you took advantage of this. We have not sold every membership yet, but we have sold well over two-thirds of them – which is an all-time record. So thank you if you have already decided to join me again next year – my new adventure will be so much fun!
If you have not signed up to the 2019 Mystery Blanket Club yet, then there is still time. You can purchase your membership very easily in the online shop on my website to secure your place in the Club next year: https://debbieabrahams.com/products/mystery-blanket-club-2019
As with all my previous “mystery” clubs, memberships are limited and when they sell out the Club will be closed. So don’t delay and sign up today if you want to be part of my brand new knitting adventure next year!
THESE ARE THE FIVE SQUARES THAT YOU WILL KNIT THIS MONTH…one of which has a second option for you to choose from:
Square 7: Trencadis #4 (the other turret) – textured pattern with hooked-in beads and chain stitch details (same for both options)
Square 13: Mask (part 2) – three-colour stripe pattern with textured stitches hooked-in beads, swiss-darning and chain stitch details
Square 14, Option One: Curves: – intarsia motif with textured stitches and hooked-in beads
Square 14, Option Two: Slant #6 – three-colour striped pattern with textured diagonal stripes
Square 17: Salon (part 2) – lace pattern with hooked-in beads (same for both options) and
Square 33: Salon (part 2) – 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. These bits of advice will help you to plan how to knit each square up, and they 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 14, Option One, Curves, states that it is an intarsia motif, so this is the technique that you should use to knit this square.
ONE OF THE SQUARES THIS MONTH HAS A SECOND OPTION, and I would suggest that you choose the same option that you chose for Square 42 from Mail Out 6. It’s Square 14 which has the choice of an intarsia motif or a striped textured pattern.
SQUARE 7: TRENCADIS #3 (the other turret): this square is similar to Square 7 from Mail Out 7, however, the design has been vertically flipped and the colours of the beads have been changed to make it slightly different.
SQUARE 13: MASK (part 2): this square is the same as Square 30 from Mail Out 9 - it uses Marble, Stone and Oyster in a three-colour stripe pattern repeat. You might remember that in the last blog I suggested that you write the rotation of the three colours onto the chart beside each row so you know exactly which yarn you should be using and when. If you did this and found it helpful then it would be wise to do it again. And if you didn’t and wished you had, then this is your chance! Oh, and I have just noticed that on page 9 it says after Rows 1-55, “Using the photograph and charts as guides…”, however there is only one chart for this square so “charts” is a small typo – sorry!
SQUARE 14: CURVES, Option One: this square is identical to Square 36 from Mail Out 3. I have already suggested to you earlier on in this blog that you choose the same option that you chose for Square 42 from Mail Out 6 to keep the design balanced. Make sure that you use the intarsia technique to knit this square as any carrying of yarns across the back of the work could result in puckering as well as a higher usage of yarn.
SQUARE 14: SLANT #6, Option Two: this is the easier alternative to Option One and is a basic striped pattern with textured stitches. It’s very similar to Square 36 from Mail Out 3, but the stripes have been reversed so that they begin with Sunshine and end with Rich Red. This is the square which has the incorrect image on page 12, but the correct chart and images on the front cover and on the piecing diagram.
SQUARE 17: SALON (part 2): this is the same square that you knitted last month for Square 31…
…AND I AM AFRAID THAT IT IS REPEATED A SECOND TIME IN THIS MAIL OUT FOR SQUARE 33. I suppose there is one advantage in this, and that is that you will be so familiar with the pattern that when you knit Square 33 you should know it off by heart! I don’t like to repeat a square within one mail out, however, it could not be avoided this month as I have to save that final strip of squares 25-28 until the last instalment…
I MENTIONED IN LAST MONTH’S BLOG ABOUT STARTING TO SEW YOUR COMPLETED STRIPS TOGETHER, WHICH SOME OF YOU HAVE DONE. And since then I have had emails from a few members who said that the short-row shaped squares have created a slight waviness in the strips when these squares have been sewn into place. I did have a similar experience when I sewed my strips together, however, it was easily resolved by a good block and press. So this is what I did. I sewed strip 6 to strip 7, then I re-blocked Square 44 on my blocking board, making sure that it was perfectly flat and straight with no undulations. And when this square was completely dry I repeated the same process for Squares 39 and 48.
Here you can see Square 44 pinned out, sprayed down with water and drying. When it was dry and I took the pins out and it was lovely and flat again.
So if you are experiencing a similar problem with your strips, I would suggest that you do this to resolve the problem. It is well worth it to get your strips looking as good as possible. And much easier to do as you sew each strip onto the next one, rather than leaving it to the end when the blanket is completed.
SO NOW FOR THE REVEAL OF THIS YEAR’S MYSTERY BLANKET THEME! But before I do this, I just wanted to announce the names of the members who have recently guessed the theme correctly. And they are Renee Lodes from West Palm Beach, Florida USA, and Sandra Vargas from Solna in Sweden – so very well done to you both! And if I have missed anyone else who has guessed it correctly along the way, then well done to you too!
THE THEME OF THE 2018 MYSTERY BLANKET CLUB IS… “Casa Batlló”, inspired by the Catalonian architect Antoni Gaudi. Over the years I have made several trips to the beautiful city of Barcelona, and have always been overwhelmed by Gaudi’s amazing buildings which dominate the streets. So for me it was an easy choice to use his work as inspiration for my Mystery Blanket – his vibrant, colourful patterns lend themselves perfectly to knitted textiles.
There are many buildings designed by Gaudi in Barcelona including Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera, Parc Güell and Casa Vicens, but for my Mystery Blanket design I decided to focus on just one of them. Casa Batlló was bought by a wealthy Barcelona businessman called Josep Batlló i Casanovas in 1903, and the following year he commissioned Antoni Gaudi to re-design the building to create a family home. It was Gaudi’s revolutionary ideas about architecture combined with his passion for nature which totally intrigued Josep Batlló and encouraged him to approach Gaudi about his ambitious project.
There are many influences woven seamlessly together in the architecture and interior design of Casa Batlló, with numerous symbolic references to places and objects in nature. So I was spoilt for choice for my inspiration when I made a start on the Mystery Blanket design.
When I visited the building in June last year I took lots of photographs and bought several books about the building that I used for reference when I got back home to my studio. And this was my starting point for the design – first assembling visuals of the interior and exterior of the building, and then creating a colour palette from these visuals which I was able to dye up in Rowan Glace Cotton, giving me the exact shades that I needed for my design.
The next stage in the design process was to make drawings from these visuals (above), which I simplified right down to basic shapes and patterns drawn in black outlines. I photo-copied my drawings several times over and then coloured in the ones that I thought would work the best (below), using pantone colours which I matched to my yarns so I had a true representation of what the colours would look like when the squares were knitted up.
After this I spent a lot of time working on the most challenging part of the design – the layout - using my coloured-in drawings to produce a 7 x 7 square grid. This is the original layout that I created (with the October and November squares cunningly blanked out!)
But if you look closely you can see that quite a few of the squares have changed in comparison to the squares you are knitting in the blanket. This is because when I started to interpret my drawings into knitting I found that with some of them either my original idea was too complicated and did not work, or the colours needed to be changed for an more even distribution across the design. And this is something that is quite usual in my designing – it’s an organic process which has many twists and turns along the way, sometimes leading to unexpected results and surprises and often going in a different direction to my first ideas.
If you have taken a look at Gaudi’s work yourself – or indeed visited Casa Batlló – then hopefully you can see the connections between the building and the squares you are knitting. The very first square you knitted was “Trencadis”, which is the technique used to cover structures with a mosaic, using irregular pieces of ceramic, glass or marble tiles.
This was repeated for Square 43, and then a variation was knitted for Squares 1 and 49. I called these two latter squares “the turret” as I designed them to represent the trencadis on the turrets on the roof terrace. I swapped the background colour from Stone to Sky to emulate the bright blue sky which provides the spectacular backdrop to the turrets in the photo I took:
You can also see my inspiration for “Flora” on the turrets, a square for which I used beading and chain stitch to duplicate the outlines of this pretty floral mosaic.
The main façade of Casa Batlló has nine balconies shaped like “Masks”, which dominate the front of this building. They were thought to be inspired by Venetian masks and skulls and they have an almost haunting quality. And although I have had a few comments from members who think they are a little sinister, it was an essential part of the architecture that I felt I had to include in the design. I have to agree that they are rather sinister - intimidating even - but they are an integral part of Casa Batlló – a building referred to locally as “The House of Bones”. Gaudi himself did not see these as macabre motifs, but as shapes that he could use as an architectural feature of the building.
Inside the building the skeletal inspiration continues in the stone pillars in the central room, which also resemble bones. And this is what I used for the inspiration for the square called “Pillars”. Cables seemed the best way to interpret them, and this combined with the three-colour striping helped to achieve the look I wanted of cold stone structures.
The central patio well is one of my favourite parts of the building and this is what inspired the square “Ocean Blues”. This part of the building was inspired by the depths of the sea and Gaudi used glazed tiles in bluish tones to decorate the walls, positioning the darker ones towards the top of the walls and the lighter ones at the bottom. This creates an incredible sense of movement, as if you are standing in the ocean itself. And I decided the best way to interpret this in knitting was by using the technique of short-row shaping which creates soft undulating lines, mimicking waves and the movement of water.
The notion of movement is an important aspect of Casa Batlló, and one which dominates many parts of the building, both in the interior and on the exterior. So I decided to use the short-row shaping technique in a few more of the squares to recreate this in my design, resulting in soft, sinuous lines which undulate and blend gently into one another. In fact, this softness of line and an avoidance of straight lines in Gaudi’s work was something I strove to achieve in all of the squares in the Mystery Blanket. I did this in some of the striped squares by disguising the strict lines of a stripe with either textured or beaded wavy lines – as in Squares “Ripple” and “Waves”.
I was very inspired by the floor tiles inside and outside the building, and chose two of them to create the squares “Star” and “Curves”. I changed the colours but used the patterns in the tiles to create geometric designs, which when placed next to each other – the same design side by side – creates an intriguing tessellating pattern. This is what really fascinates me about these tiles - that when you place them next to each other you see other patterns emerging – just perfect for my knitted squares!
(Above, the inspiration for "Star").
(Below: the inspirration for "Curves").
The final part of the design that I am going to talk about is The Salon, which makes up the central nine squares of the Mystery Blanket. For me this is one of the most stunning rooms in Casa Batlló, designed with generous sized windows which look out onto Passeig de Gràcia, filling the room with golden light. It was designed to be the centre of the private and social activity of the Batlló family, with organic forms inspired by nature influencing every part of it from the curved wooden door frames to the beautiful stained glass patterns in the panels above the doors and windows.
To achieve this sense of light I decided to design a lace square – Salon (part 2) – adding in glass beads to the semi-transparent structure to try and recreate what I was seeing – it was a very hard task and one of the most challenging sections of the blanket to design! On the other hand, Square 32, Option One, is a more literal interpretation of one of the motifs in the coloured glass above the impressive folding screen style door. I copied the shape of the motif from a photo I took and then transferred it onto graph paper so that I could knit it.
There are many other influences from Casa Batlló in the Mystery Blanket, so after reading this you might want to take a look at the building for yourself to see what other connections you can make between Casa Batlló and my design. But hopefully what I have told you has given you an insight into the ideas behind my design and the process I went through to create this year’s Mystery Blanket. I hope that you have enjoyed knitting the blanket thus far and enjoyed taking this journey with me.
SIOBHAN O'DONNELLY FROM IRELAND HAS AN INTERESTING STORY TO TELL. She visited Casa Batllo to see for herself this amazing building and took her knitted squares with her.
Siobhan says: “I really enjoyed my trip to Casa Batllo and even brought some of my knitted squares with me. I love the way Debbie has been inspired by this wonderful artist and architect. The colours are so vibrant. I can't wait to see what the centre square holds and have some ideas of what it might be.”
I am so pleased that Siobhan managed to visit Casa Batllo as it is a truly amazing place and well worth the hike to Barcelona. Thanks for all your lovely photos Siobhan and for sharing them with the Mystery Blanket members. They reinforce all of the things I spoke about earlier on in this blog when I shared my design ideas with you!
PAM AND TONY BURDON FROM YORKSHIRE IN THE UK ARE A KNITTING DUO, who signed up to the Mystery Blanket for the first time this year and are really enjoying their first “Mystery” experience.
This is what they had to say about their 2018 Mystery Blanket knitting challenge:
“We are both enjoying knitting the 2018 Mystery Blanket. We are both retired vicars. Pam has been an avid knitter for many years, and taught me to knit after we retired in 2011. I highly recommend knitting to any men who are looking for a relaxing and fulfilling hobby! The mystery blanket is really great, as we are both learning new knitting techniques and skills, although I am often glad of Pam's help and experience.”
What a lovely story and a great way to spend your time together! I think it’s brilliant that you both share the same passion for knitting and have made this a joint project. There are not many knitting duos out there so this makes a fabulous story. And thanks for sharing it with us!
MARY FUNK-BUTTERWORTH FROM LONDON, UK, HAS BEEN ON HER TRAVELS AGAIN WITH HER MYSTERY BLANKET SQUARES, and this time she has sent in some great photos of her squares on tour with her in Granada and Seville in Spain, and Versailles in Paris, France.
I think that Mary’s Mystery Blanket squares must be the best travelled pieces of knitting that I know of! Thanks for your wonderful photos Mary, it’s great to see that you take your Mystery Blanket knitting with you everywhere you go! I look forward to hearing where they are off to next!...
BARBARA MACMILLAN FROM ABERDEEN, UK, WAS DELIGHTED TO HAVE RECENTLY COMPLETED HER 2017 MYSTERY BLANKET! – so well done Barbara! I met Barbara last year at the Mystery Blanket Club workshop that I ran at Rookery Hall in Cheshire. This is what Barbara had to say about her latest knitting achievement:
“Having at long last finished my 2017 Mystery Blanket, I thought I would send you a picture of the finished project - especially since you had a hand in helping to finish one of the squares - chain stitching one of the petal stamens as a demonstration this time last year at Rookery Hall. I hope you approve of my small tweaks to the pattern - adding my initials in the middle square and changing all the year references to 2017. I am now looking forward to working on my next two projects - the ultimate festive bunting and this year’s mystery cushion.”
By the sounds of it Barbara, there is never a dull moment in your life with one project completed and moving swiftly onto the next! I love the changes that you made to your blanket to personalise it, making it even more unique and special. It’s a great idea and one that may well inspire some of the other members to do the same!
LUCILLE TUT FROM LONDON, UK, SENT IN THIS INGENIOUS IDEA ON HOW SHE KEEPS HER KNITTING BEADS CONTAINED - and in the correct order - for knitting Square 31.
Says Lucille: “I’ve really enjoyed knitting August’s Mystery Blanket squares - just one more to go and I’m up to date. I particularly liked Square 31 with the multi coloured beading and lace work. I was looking for a container to house the beads in the right order and although slightly on the small side, I found an empty painkiller pack was nearly perfect for the job!”
Thanks for that tip Lucille! So many of my beads end up on the floor - it’s always a bit of a nightmare to keep them in one place. I like the fact that there are separate sections to keep the different coloured beads in – just perfect when you are doing multi-colour beading. It’s a great idea and one that I am sure other members will try out too!
IF YOU KNOW OF ANYONE THAT WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE A 2018 MYSTERY BLANKET KIT, then the good news is that one has come up for sale. You can find out more about it by contacting Sue at email@example.com.
YARN IN NOTTINGHAM DID NOT HOLD A MYSTERY BLANKET CLUB MEETING IN AUGUST, however, there is one planned for Wednesday 5th September from 4:00 – 6:00pm. I will be hopping on a bus and a tram to get there for an hour, so if you are a member of either of my Mystery Clubs then we would love to see you there! Yarn is at 55 Chilwell Road, Beeston, Nottingham NG9 1EN, tel: 0115 9253606, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
THESE ARE THE LAST COUPLE OF WORKSHOPS THAT I AM RUNNING THIS YEAR IN THE UK:
If you want to find out more information about these workshops or make a booking then please contact the individual shops:
- Saturday 8th September, Mystery Blanket Purse Project: The Kast Off Group, The Kast Off Group, Barnham Broom Village Hall, Norwich Road, email: email@example.com (contact Jean Gosling)
- Saturday 1st December, Festive Project (half-day): Yarn Loft, 118 Hucknall Rd, Nottingham NG5 1AD, tel: 07825 702433, website: www.yarnloft.co.uk (contact Doreen)
AND FINALLY FOR THIS POSTING, THE EIGHTH 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 EIGHT (SEPTEMBER): this month’s winner is member 350, Joyce Low from Sydney, Australia! Well done Joyce! Please choose a prize from the following selection:
- A Debbie Abrahams book: 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 (2019 Mystery Cushion or 2019 Mystery Blanket)
So! -the countdown to the end of the project has started as next month we reach the penultimate instalment of the 2018 Mystery Blanket Club. And now you all know the theme of the blanket, that part of the “mystery” is over – but there’s still more to come with that all important centre square coming in the final mail out in November! I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog and found the tips and techniques in it helpful. We always love to hear from you as well, so if you have any photos or stories that you would like to share with the members, please send them into Sue at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will include them in the next blog. Until then, take care and keep knitting – you’re nearly there! Debbie x