This is me with my friend Kat (in the middle of the picture). Each summer, Kat organises a team of volunteers to work at music festivals, behind the bar, in order to raise money for Justice For Colombia. This is made possible via the Workers’ Beer Company, who have been enabling volunteers and activists to raise money for campaigns and good causes for years.
We usually work at the Leeds Festival on the August bank holiday weekend, although we’ve volunteered at other festivals too. Therefore, much of my friendship with Kat has involved campsites and camping – as you can see from the picture, Kat likes to do things in style!
Kat luxuriating in her palatial, floral wigwam-for-one
…so much so, that Kat has been given the nickname, ‘Nana Blanket’, on account of her love of lovely knitted and crocheted throws, which we can buy from the Oxfam stall at the festival.
This year is Kat’s 30th birthday, so I thought it was time she had a blanket made especially for her. She’s getting on a bit, you know! (ok so I’m 18 months older than her, but who’s counting?) I’ve found a brilliant yarn shop on Ebay called Kingcraig fabrics. It’s based in Brora, up in the Highlands of Scotland, and they offer gorgeous natural yarns in a variety of delicious colours. I chose a 75% lambswool, 25% silk mix in a lovely primrose yellow colour, and awaited its postal arrival.
However, when it arrived I was a little confused – I had inadvertently bought machine yarn, which I had not used before. What I have since learned is that machine yarn is much the same as hand yarn, but it has been lightly oiled in order to run through the machine cleanly.
There are two options to using this for a hand-knit or hand-crochet project. Either wash the yarn before using, and then re-wind the yarn using a mechanical winder; or, make up the project and wash the finished item at the end. Given that I am the impatient type, and that I didn’t have a winder, I decided to go for the latter!
The fact that the yarn has been oiled down means that it looks finer than it really is. After washing, one would expect the yarn to puff up and look much fluffier, which meant I had to be careful about the tension. I made a small sample piece at first and washed it, to check how the blanket would turn out.
Before and After:
Once I had tested this out, I set to work on the blanket. I had a really limited amount of time to get this project done (5 days), so I decided on a simple design of 4 large granny squares, attached together to make a 60″ square, and then finished off with a border of dtr crochet shells. It took a lot of discipline to keep the tension loose, so that it didn’t look too bunched up after washing. In order to help with this, I used a size 10 hook, so that the stitches stayed quite open.
I gave the blanket a final embellishment by making 4 large tassels, one for each corner of the finished item. To make tassels, I wound the yarn around the side of a DVD box 10 times, and then tightly tied up the bundle before cutting one end to free the strands of yarn. Then came the truly nerve-wracking part – plunging the finished item into soapy water!
After following my mother’s advice, I added a small quantity of washing up liquid to a bathtub half full of cold water. I then very carefully agitated the blanket in the water, being careful to rinse the suds away several times before gently patting the excess liquid off, and folding neatly to dry.
Below is a before and after of the effect of the soap on the oiled yarn.
I was so relieved that it worked! I was worried for a moment that my frantic crocheting for 5 days would have been wasted due to the blanket shrinking, or worse, staying exactly the same!
I hope to post pictures of Nana Blanket snuggling in her new gift at this year’s music festivals. In the meantime, you will have to make do with a rather messy picture of our whole Justice for Colombia team, celebrating the final night of Leeds 2012.