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Make the Eastern Jewels Crochet Blanket with Julia

When the Stylecraft Eastern Jewels Blanket Pack arrived on my doorstep I have to say I was rather overwhelmed by just how much yarn was included and a slight fear of how long this project might take! This seemed like a rather large project to undertake but it has actually only taken a month of spare time to complete, unlike many of my other projects which lie unfinished for a much longer length of time.   

The pack comes with 14 balls of Stylecraft DK yarn and two instruction booklets; the original Persian Tiles instruction booklet by Jane Crowfoot and an additional booklet showing the new Eastern Jewels colourway by Lucia Dunn.

I like the fact that it comes as a pack - someone else has worked out all the colours to use and created a beautiful design for me to follow so I don’t need to think about what will go where, what colours look good together or worry about if I’ve got enough yarn to finish the project.  My usual process of making blankets is to find a pattern I like, start using up the balls of yarn I have in my stash and then run out of yarn mid-way through!

The design is formed of 16 octagons, 9 squares, 12 triangles and 4 corners, joined together with double crochet stitch and 7 rounds to create the border.  I started with the octagons since the instructions take you through the octagons first.  I was really happy to find that the instructions were all written in UK terminology as this is my preferred and familiar language, although a crochet chart is included with US equivalents and it’s quite easy to switch.  The stitches used are only just beyond a beginner level, involving working in a round, chain, slip stitch, double crochet, half treble crochet, treble crochet and double treble crochet. If you can confidently work a traditional granny square then you can give this a go.

The instruction booklet is easy to follow and has photographs showing just about every step of the construction process.  You have to use both booklets at the same time which might appear confusing but is actually very straightforward. The Eastern Jewels booklet shows the layout of the crochet motifs and lists the colours used for each round of each shape. You start with this booklet, selecting the right colour for the motif and round you are working on and then turn to the Persian Tiles booklet for the instructions on what to do with your hook.

I did think that the colours depicted in the photos on the Eastern Jewels booklet are not quite the same as those in the pack and I think someone has used some filters on their publicity photos.  I’ve had to lighten my photos too due to mostly working on this in the evening without natural lighting so you’ll only truly know what the colours of this project are if you buy one or search it out in a shop.  The colours are really lovely though, regardless of photographic alterations.

The equipment required is stated as 3.5mm, 4mm and 4.5mm hooks, locking yarn stitches and a yarn needle.  Hook sizes are written in bold so you can clearly see which to use and the instructions also explain when to use the stitch markers.  This pattern calls for a lot of stitch markers – 214 in total as one is used in each corners of the motifs.  I had about 10 stitch markers in my craft bag that came free with a magazine some time ago.  They were such poor quality that they snapped when I used them and I was left with about 2 useable ones.  I decided to invest in some new ones from Minerva Crafts – the Knit Pro Plastic Markers £2.59 for a pack of 30. These were perfect for the job but they didn’t go very far so I resorted to my usual choice of stitch marker – a bit of scrap yarn, I certainly have plenty of that in my craft bag.  I thought I might skip the bit about using stitch markers and leave these out but they really are very useful when you come to the making up part.

I would advise reading through the instructions for each round before starting. I tended to start the round, think I knew what I was doing and then go wrong, having to undo and start again.  As such, the first octagon was a bit slow to make and took me nearly all day to do.  I also realised that it would be really important to keep track of which motif was which, so I could match them up correctly according to the diagram once I’d finished so I pinned a label to each one as it was completed.

Another technique I use (as instructed by my late grandmother) is to take the yarn from the centre of the ball, rather than the outside, thus keeping the ball band in place and making it easier to identify which colour is which. This is quite important in this project since there are so many different colours.

The pattern suggests that you sew in the yarn ends as you go along – this is certainly worth adhering to as if you leave all the yarn ends until the end it would be a nightmarish task to darn all the many ends in before you can then piece the motifs together.  Where possible I tried to crochet in the ends, forming my crochet stitches over loose yarn ends, to save time in having to sew in the ends.

After completing all the motifs, I blocked them to flatten them out and make it easier to pin and crochet them together. It is a lot easier to block them at this stage as individual motifs rather than trying to find a large enough platform to block and press the entire blanket once it is completed.

To do the blocking I used a pattern cutting board and a towel – the pattern cutting board is made from corrugated cardboard and you can pin into it (a cork pin board would work perfectly too.) I laid a towel over the top of the board and took each motif one by one. I used the water spray function on the iron and squirted each motif with water (you could use a spray bottle if you had one) and then stretched out and pinned the pieces to the towel / cutting board. 

I pinned some motifs on top of each other to save space and also to help keep them all the same size. The suggested tension and measurements of each motif are included throughout the pattern but as it is a blanket and not a garment it doesn’t matter too much if your tension is off, so long as all your pieces are worked with the same tension. While pinning out the pieces I measured them and was really pleased to see that my tension was pretty much bang on what it was supposed to be! Success!!

After pinning out all the motifs I stood the towel board up in the airing cupboard and left it there overnight. Once the motifs were dry I unpinned the pieces and then began laying them all out in the order shown in the Eastern Jewels booklet.

I did notice an error on the chart at this point – S3 is shown twice but one of these should be S4, it’s quite obvious which one so not really a problem.  I pinned the pieces together using safety pins and some tiny hair clips I have – these hair clips are really the perfect thing for pinning together knitted or crocheted pieces and I usually use them for the making up phase of yarn projects. 

I then started the process of joining all the pieces.  This is done with a double crochet stitch from the wrong side of the work.

This results in a really neat finish on the right side

and a few more yarn ends to darn in.

After the pieces are put together the border is worked.  I was a bit confused by the instruction ‘you will probably have uneven blanket edges… to make an even edge you need to work a round of stitches before working the edging...’ Does this mean to work a round of stitches to even up the edges and then follow the border instructions?  Which stitch am I supposed to use?  Or am I meant to follow the instructions from round 1 and this will even up my edges as I go…? On the Persian Tiles original blanket, it looks like there are 6 rounds for the border but on the Eastern Jewels version it looks like there are 7 rounds and indeed the pattern shows colours for 7 rounds, including a ‘foundation round’. I decided to go with my instincts, following the instructions for round 1 – as this round combines double crochet and half treble stitches I thought this would fix my uneven edges.  I then worked a round of half treble and then followed on from round 2, working treble stitches and so on to the end of round 6 (or my round 7).  This method worked out well, regardless of whether it was right or not and I’m really pleased with the results. 

There’s quite a lot of yarn left.  I wonder if you could actually make two blankets out of this amount of yarn, substituting some of the buttermilk and storm blue used in the making up phase for another colour. I’ll be adding the left overs to my ever growing yarn collection for a future project!

I’ve been waiting for the rain to stop and some sunshine to appear so I could take some decent final photos but I’ve not quite managed the level of brightness outside that I wanted. I thought I’d try to recreate the photo on the front of the Easter Jewels booklet by standing in front of my fence. 

I think the model in the booklet pictures is a lot smaller than me so when she holds the blanket it appears rather large but when I hold it up, due to my size, the blanket looks a bit smaller.  I’ve photographed it on my 2-seater sofa for another size comparison.

Thanks to Minerva Crafts for the Crochet Kit, this has been one epic project and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed making this blanket – once you get started it becomes highly addictive.  I think I might add a backing of fabric and wadding to make it thicker and therefore warmer… I’ll add that to the growing list of project ideas that I might get round to one day… for now I’m very happy with is as it is.

Julia @ Julia Hincks

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