Monday 5 February 2018

Eastern Jewels CAL :: Pt 1 - Squares S1-S5

And so it begins...

{If you have no idea what the 'it' is of which I type then check out my previous post here!}

My last post explained some of the background for my taking on an unusual project for me, the Eastern Jewels Blanket, including that I would be doing it as part of a Crochet-A-Long  (CAL) with some friends; this post will share my January progress and thoughts on the colour combinations we've worked with so far...

Our CAL Schedule... a guide for us to aim for with no pressure if we're not well enough to keep up or have a good week and want to jump ahead while we can... all prettily arranged by our group's lovely leader 😊

Each (very different) motif is numbered in the EJ colour chart booklet and every Monday the week's square is posted in our group so we can chat about it, cheer each other on and share our progress (and analyse the colour combos and our feelings towards them before, during and after- you might remeber me saying in my last post that understanding mine and others' reactions to colour was a big motivator in making this blanket... well, these people are my friends- old, new and hopefully-soon-to-be - for good reason, it seems, as we all appear to be similarly fascinated!! πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‚). 

I didn't get my yarn until the 18th (when I promptly tipped it all out into my lap to squish and admire- ovbiously... what else do you do with a yarn delivery?!), which was Thursday in Week 3, so I had Squares 1, 2 and 3 to do to be caught up for the next Monday... challenge accepted... πŸ˜‰

{{ The following thoughts were mainly written at the time of making each square and posted on my Instagram, with a few tweaks later to help them make sense when read together in one blog post so plase forgive and gramatical inconsistencies I may have missed due to the ever-present M.E. brainfog!! }}

Week 2 (W/C Jan 8th) :: Square S2 - Thursday January 18th -

Duckegg, Buttermilk, Storm Blue & Pistachio

I made my first Square the Thursday evening my colour pack arrived... I began with S2, though, as I decided to substitute the part-wool Fuchsia Stylecraft Life DK, used in S1, with a Stylecraft Special DK (SSDK) colour, which I needed to dig out from my stash. I did this because I'm sensitive to wool so avoid making anything that will be in contact with my skin with it (which the blanket will be as I anticipate using it in summer when- hopefully!- it will be warm enough for bare arms and legs!!) and also because I didn't want the areas of the blanket that had significant amounts of this colour to feel different... the ball certainly felt a different texture to my beloved 100% Acrylic SSDK- the range each of the other balls in the blanket is from and my go-to blanket yarn πŸ’œ). I really like the peaceful but cheerful blend of my fave Duck Egg and Storm Blue shades with the Pistachio and Buttermilk (I see a baby blanket in these shades in my future!) in this one and really enjoyed getting to know the pattern! 😍

Week 1 (W/C Jan 1st) :: Square S1 - Saturday January 20th -

Boysenberry, Buttermilk, Tomato & Fondant

Two nights later I settled down with my hooks and yarn to make my second square, S1 ☺ After looking at my shade cards I decided to substitute the ball of Stylecraft Life Fuchsia in my colour pack with Boysenberry from the SSDK range... it is ever so slightly darker but barely noticeable and will mean the finished blanket doesn't make me itch wherever the wool touches me- rather important, I feel!! Lol So, Boysenberry ball found, I set to work- I like this square less than the first I did as the combination of pinks and orangey-reds is not a favourite with me (the renowned hot-clashy-colour-hater in me really did not enjoy adding Fondant to the Tomato, which is my least favourite SSDK colour anyway, but the pattern already feels nicely familiar! 😊😊

Week 3 (W/C Jan 15th) :: Square S3 - Sunday January 21st -

Spice, Bittermilk, Duckegg & Mustard

The next evening I did S3, which would catch me up with the group schedule... I love this square- despite my life-long aversion to many hot colours (one of the reasons I decided to do this blanket was to challenge myself with the colour combos as my tastes seem to have changed and broadened this last year or two but Iam very unfamiliar with trying to create combinations including these newly appreciated shades!), I actually really liked SSDK Spice when I used it in a blanket last year as it just seems to glow with cheerful light, and in combination with the Duck Egg and Buttermilk it is just lovely- it felt very Moroccan-inspired... perfect for this cold and gloomy Mancunian winter!! 😍😍

And now I was all caught up... so I started another project to keep me occupied til the new Square was posted in the CAL group... yes, only the next day but I had an hour or so before bed and like to crochet in the morning, too, as I find it helps hugely with my anxiety to start  and end the day with this bit of calm, so I needed something to keep me out of mischief!! πŸ˜‰ I then got so into this new project (whic I hope to share on the blog soon-ish!), however, that I actually didn't do my next CAL Square til the following Sunday!! Typically me there- one extreme to the other!! πŸ˜‚ Anyway... the normal schedule began here...

Week 4  (W/C Jan 22nd) :: Square S4 - Sunday January 28th - 

Mustard, Buttermilk, Vintage Peach & Tomato

So... Sunday night of my first to-the-schedule week before I did my next square, S4... this one is entirely hot colours, including both Tomato (my least favourite SSDK colour!), Mustard and Vintage Peach (neither of which I'm keen on!) so I wasn't expecting to like it much. I really didn't like the Tomato and Vintage Peach together as they seemed very drab... but... with the Mustard around the outside they are lifted and I actually quite like the finished square... go me, challenging my own pre-conceptions- which is the whole point of the project!! We shall see if that lasts, though, as the next square has Vintage Peach and Tomato again... *a lot* of Tomato in fact!! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜Š Several of the others in the group were not at all keen on this one but a couple of others said it was their favourite so far... so a very mixed reponse then with changes of opinion from before to after!! ☺

Week 5 (W/C Jan 29th) :: Square S5 - Wednesday January 31st - 

Tomato, Buttermilk, Sage & Vintage Peach

I managed to find some middle ground timing-wise with this week's square, S5- this one sees us at the halfway point in the squares and  quickly took up the mantle of 'least happily anticipated colour combo' when the pic was posted in the group! I definitely didn't expect to like it- lots of Tomato and more Vintage Peach topped off with a rather jarring dose of Sage green... but actually, I quite enjoyed working on it! *Colour me astonished* πŸ˜‚ I decided to reserve judgment until the next day when I could look at it in daylight and, yep, I still liked it! ☺ Never judge a book by its cover... or a granny square by its photo, it seems!! πŸ˜‰ This was also the first time I'd not needed to double check any of the pattern in my booklet... which was great... but it did mean I missed the prompt to switch to a bigger hook halfway through so had to pull out and redo Round 5... after I'd already sewn the working end in nice and securely, of course!  πŸΈπŸ˜€

So, to sum up now January is over- I have thoroughly enjoyed the process so far... the pattern is lovely to work on with the crossed stitches adding enough challenge to keep it interesting but still relaxing to do. I've also been pleasantly surprised by my reactions to the colours and even like the hot/clashing combos of S4 and S5 now they're finished... they may never be my favourites (that's S3 so far- also a bit of a surprise with all that orange!- followed closely by S2 😍) but they're streets ahead of S1 which I really don't like much at all and seems to be the least favourite amongst most of the group, too!! Lol And it has been lovely to share with the group and also on Instagram and my little blog!! 😊 See you again in a while with the next batch or over on IG if you can't wait to see the next installment!!

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Eastern Jewels CAL :: Some thoughts before I begin

Hello everyone! (If there's anyone still bothering to check between the tumbleweeds for actual posts around here anyway!!) I've been away an extremely long time as last year was a tough one healthwise along with some new creative endeavors and there was little energy for crafting besides the crochet I can do from my bed... but I have decided to try and post as and when I can about whatever creative thing is at the forefront for me at the time and am going to start with a Crochet-A-Long (CAL) I'm going to be joining in with this year and hopefully continue by sharing update posts every so often... so here goes with a bit of background about the project...

If you crochet or even just follow any crocheters' blogs or social media, you will have seen the Stylecraft Eastern Jewels Blanket mentioned all over the place when it was announced a few months ago... if not, it is a stunningly intricate and colourful blanket which is actually a pattern released a few years ago (the Persian Tiles Blanket by Janie Crowfoot) given a new lease of life with a beautiful and bright colour palette by one of the Stylecraft Blogstars, Lucia Dunn, and there are already many finished blankets out there!!

At the time the colour chart and yarn pack for the new version was released, a group of my friends from a Facebook group for chronically ill creative-types hatched a plan for a leisurely- ie. chronic illness-friendly!- CAL (Crochet-A-Long) of their own which would begin in the New Year... I joined the new group but was hesitant to commit to joining in and buying the yarn pack as (glossing over the startling amount of yarn and WIPs I already have for a moment!) I just wasn't sure if the blanket was really 'me'- I don't normally do that many different colours from all across the spectrum in one place!! 

A good friend has been slowly attempting to persuade me that the whole rainbow at once is an awesome thing, though, and thanks to working on a few of her lovely original cross stitch patterns, including this one and this one, I am noticing my tastes are branching out beyond (my still-very-much-favourite) purple and teal tonal palettes and this blanket seemed a good way to challenge my own preconceptions of what colour combinations I could or couldn't enjoy! My friend has also said that, should i find I don't love the blanket when it's finished, it would have a very loving home with her, which made me feel easier about making it as I didn't want to feel it would be sat in a cupboard here unused and unloved... from what I have done so far I suspect I will love it when finshed, though!! Lol

Janie Crowfoot's original Persian Tiles Blanket:
Photo : Lucia's Fig Tree

Lucia Dunn's more 'random' version:

It's also a very busy pattern compared to my usual tastes- in fact the original colourway actually wreaks havoc with my illness-induced sensory overload issues and makes me feel rather queasy... like looking at one of those optical illusion pictures! Lol - but the new version, while busy, is so well balanced and varied in it's colours that it breaks up the repetitive effect of the motifs so that it doesn't have that effect on my brain at all. The dufferent shapes and stitch patterns within each motif will also give me something a little different to get my teeth into compared with the plainer blankets and cowls I tend to spend much of my time making.

I have always been extrememly affected by colours around me and I do find the way colour affects myself and others, physically and emotionally, absolutely fascinating, so this project seemed a good way to learn more and our group has already had some very interesting dicussions about what we do or don't like about the colours we have used so far! ☺

The slower pace of the CAL, to allow members of the group who aren't able to spend much time crocheting due to energy, pain or cognitive issues, will also prove to be a challenge to me as I tend to get carried away when I'm enjoying a project and barrel on at (my) top speed! I really want to keep to the group schedule so as get the full enjoyment from working alongside my friends (albeit from our own individual beds and sofas around the country, and even the world, thanks to the wonders of the internet!) and I think the execise in patience (and Pacing- a byword for success and frustration in chronic-illness communities!) will be good for me- and as the intention of the group is to work on this throughout the whole of 2018, I will have plenty of time to practise!! 

So, with all that in mind, I decided to give it a go... and then the search for a colour pack began as it has been so popular that it's out of stock everywhere!! I found just one pack left in stock, though, on Woolzone, a site I'd never even heard of before... but I took a gamble and placed my order and I'm so glad I did as it arrived in super-quick time with lovely personal service from the owner, Julie!! :) I am taking this project on with the hopes of learning more about colour, pattern, crochet pattern construction and myself in relation to all those things while also enjoying the connection and social aspects of working along with a group of friends old and new... and I am so excited to challenge myself and produce something I will hopefully grow to love! I was certainly incredibly excited when the postie knocked on the door and have thoroughly enjoyed getting caught up with the first few squares already! 

So, there are some of my thoughts on beginning the blanket... I'll be back soon with pics of my first batch of motifs and I hope you'll enjoy journeying with me in to a new, more technicolour land this year!! 

{{And if you would like to read more about the process of designing a blanket like this, Lucia wrote a wonderful post for her blog when the blanket launched... it's a great read if you are as fascinated by design, and colour theory as me and reading it was probably the moment I first seriously contemplated actually joining my friends in out CAL and is also the source for any images in this post not watermarked as my own 😊}}


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