Magic carpet ride

November 18, 2010


(US terms used throughout: fpdc – front post double crochet, UK tr/rf; bpdc – back post double crochet, UK tr/rb; dc – double crochet, UK tr)                                                         

This is, in some ways, a cautionary tale. Flushed with success after making the “Sunny Spread” for a Help for Heroes fundraiser I began work on another item. I knew that there were a number of H4H fundraisers undertaking sponsored events and auctions or raffles so I looked for a motif that would reflect what they were doing. I looked for one that that would suggest mountains before offering it to a particular group and ended up with one that is probably substantial enough to keep you warm at the top of one! I also found myself thinking of traditional American quilt blocks such as “Delectable Mountains” that make use of triangles.

My first mistake was to forget that the stitch used to create the motif drinks up yarn, thereby breaking the rule I have about fundraisers – spend less on the materials than you might raise by making it!. If, however, you want to create a warm winter weight throw I cannot recommend the “Triangles Afghan” motif by Ellen Gormley more highly. It uses fpdc and bpdc to create a rib effect. The motif increases simply and effectively at the corners and I found that it eventually took me half an hour to make each triangle as I learned the pattern very quickly. The stretchiness created by the rib means that the triangles seem very rounded at first but this effect disappears when they are joined and I got what I was after, crisp triangles that suggested mountains. At the sides the rounded edges give the points a Moorish look. Which brings me to my second mistake.

 I gave first refusal to a team who were going to Morocco and got a very positive grateful response. They would raffle it at an event. I asked them to let me know if they changed their minds about using it as soon as possible (ideally before it began to look Moroccan) so that I could offer it to someone else. I understand that plans can change so I wasn’t going to get annoyed with them about it as long as they told me. For some reason those concerned changed their minds about it and felt they could not tell me. I will never know if all my messages were missed or ignored but I appreciate that they were busy. I should have taken the hint at the time rather than rushing to complete it, risking RSI in the process.I chose a yarn available in a range of colours that suggested mountains, opting for Robin Aran with Wool in Taupe (1006), Denim (1001) and Graphite (1080) for the mountains against Sky Blue (1020). Morocco brought to mind hand woven rugs and camel tassels in shades of red. I looked through a number of books on north African textiles, in particular “Tribal Rugs: a buyer’s guide” by Lee Allane and found a picture of a Berber rug from the Atlas Mountains that features diamonds and triangles in reds, gold and black. I added bands of Matador (1016) between the blocks of mountains, using a 6.5mm hook throughout the project.Each row was made up of fifteen equilateral triangles, allowing two rows to make a curved point at the sides onto which a tassel was eventually knotted. Were I to make this again I would probably use fewer but longer rows, so that the tassels ended up on the narrow ends. At the time it seemed more logical to organise them this way. When it came to joining the motifs I decided to use what has become my favourite method, slip stitching through adjoining loops of each motif on one side and then the other. If you do the same think about the colour you are using to join motifs and how it will look against the motif. It lends a blanket stitch quality and some colours will stand out more than others when used this way. I made sure when joining the red bands to the others that I let the red seam lie against the red triangles. To show the different effects I worked dark grey and red motifs each way. One creates a solid red line against grey, the other a broken one. Loose ends were drawn into the channel created by the seams.

It is quite important to remember not to make these joins too tight. These motifs are quite flexible and their edges stretchy so if the seams are rigid and tight they will sag noticeably within the joins. I had to undo my first attempts at joining when I realised this and found the best thing to do was to allow a slight curve by working a tiny bit loosely. Thinking about it I can’t understand why I didn’t just use a bigger hook for joining but I may have fallen into that trap of being keen to finish. In the end no harm was done and it draped and stretched well. The tricky bits are always the parts of a seam that include chain stitches as it is easy to twist them round. Check at the time, don’t ruin your masterpiece by not bothering!

Having joined the rows I worked an edging all the way round in dc through both loops, working three stitches into the chain spaces at the points and making three chains for the tassel. On the straighter edges I worked three dc into the spaces and one into the seam in between. The tassels were made by wrapping them around a hardback book and cutting through all the yarn at one end. Don’t pull the yarn too tightly, it will stretch and spring back to a shorter length, and make sure you allow enough to knot the tassel easily. I found it really difficult to do this neatly.

I began making it on the 17th June and completed it on the 30th August. That included almost a fortnight waiting for a delivery of yarn from a cheaper online company that said it was in stock at the time of ordering. So, my third mistake? Not buying the yarn from my local shop where it really was in stock!

This motif has a very strong “aran” look and I can imagine the same throw made in creamy natural wool, making the most of the texture created by the directional rib. Consider it if your bank balance is up to it because, as I said, this motif guzzles yarn. The reason being that by working round the post instead of through the loops you are overlapping stitches and covering part of the same ground again. In the end the throw weighed almost 4kg and whoever ends up with it will be able to turn the heating down a notch!

The fact that it will end up belonging to anyone at all is down to a Dynamic Duo in the form of Connor Mayes and Lyndon March. They, and Connor’s mum, really did come to the rescue when I told them that I had something to raffle but no one to raffle it. Earlier this year they completed a sponsored London to Paris bike ride in aid of Help for Heroes (the mere thought of this effort makes me feel fragile) and are now adding to their total by holding a raffle. Not bad considering they are so young. At that age I found getting out of bed on weekdays a challenge. Follow the link to learn more, buy raffle tickets or donate.

This magic carpet reached its destination in the end but it took a detour. I could have kept the throw but it would have felt as though I had let down the injured soldiers I wanted to help and I would have remembered that every time I touched it. There was a real danger that it would end up in a box in the loft as it got to the point where I couldn’t bear to look at it. The point about spending money on yarn for charities is that I increase its value by making it into something that others want to pay for and here it was being tripped over and sworn at.

From now on I will try to stick to the following rules when making fundraisers: 1) Complete a project before offering it to anyone. 2) Assume that I will end up keeping the finished item because it is no longer wanted. 3) Never tie the project to a specific event in its design or colour in case plans change. 4) Use economical stitches and patterns. 5) It’s about raising money for those who need it, not the pride and convenience of those raising it.

I am trying to be positive about this experience because it has taught me a number of things about fundraising and human nature. That communication and honesty are really important, as is the realisation that you can only be flexible up to a point. That people tend to say what they think you want to hear and they may do or not do things to keep available what you have to offer. Those who don’t crochet may not understand just how much money/time/effort it takes to produce something like this throw. Those who do may forget that there is more to the event than their work of art. You can’t please all of the people all of the time.

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