The Eastern Jewels Heirloom Blanket
Posted on Tuesday the 29th May 2018 by Anna-Jo Sews
I’ll admit it, I’ve had my eye on Janie Crowfoot’s Persian Tiles Blanket Crochet Pack for some years now. I first saw it on Pinterest in the original colourway and was instantly smitten. I’ve always loved the geometric patterns and rich colours in Moroccan tiles, and here was that translated into a craft I’ve had plenty of practice at.
So why didn’t I make it back then? Well, it’s a huge project, and I know my interest in such things can waver. I was worried it would join the pile of UFOs in my loft, which already features several quilt tops. So the idea was shelved for a long time, until one day I was distracted by the absolutely beautiful Eastern Jewels Blanket Pack banner on the Minerva website. Hands up who else has gazed longingly at that gorgeous and colourful blanket while browsing for something else here?!
Yes, I knew I had to make it. I have wizard crochet skills, and what’s more, I had the perfect reason: a bun in the oven! At that point I had no idea if I was carrying a boy or a girl, but I decided I didn’t care if the blanket had lots of pink in it. I was going to make it anyway, and if I had a boy I could still wrap them in it as a baby, then keep it for myself when they got older and too cool for pink. I’ll admit it, though, I was crossing my fingers for a girl as I knew that’s what my partner was hoping for (I already have an older daughter, but we only have a son together so far), and in the end it’s all worked out perfectly as we welcomed little Lauren into our family on May 6th.
The yarn supplied with this kit is mainly Stylecraft Special (100% acrylic), with one ball of Life DK (75% acrylic, 25% wool). A couple of the colours were substitutes—in my case the Pistachio and the Tomato, but I’m happy with the way the colours all worked together so clearly they were well-chosen substitutions.
I’m generally a natural fibres snob and prefer to work with wool yarn, but for a project like this I’m happy to use something that’s a bit easier to care for. Let’s face it, this is going to need chucking in the washing machine fairly regularly if it’s a baby blanket! I also must say, I’m impressed by how soft the handle of this yarn is. It doesn’t feel plasticky like some acrylic yarns do.
With the yarn you also get two instruction booklets. One gives you the classic Persian Tiles Blanket stitch instructions, and the other only provides the colour sequence for the Eastern Jewels version. You definitely need both booklets to make this blanket! Mine were thoroughly dog-eared by the time I’d finished the blanket, but still perfectly usable.
If you’re buying the kit you’ll also need to make sure you have crochet hooks in three sizes (3.5mm, 4mm and 4.5mm). I used some metal ones I’ve had ever since I first started crocheting, but if I were in the market for new ones I’d be buying the Clover Soft Touch Hooks as they’re my absolute favourite to use.
The only other thing you might need is stitch markers. I say “might”, because you can use yarn to mark your corner stitches instead, which is what I did (great tutorial here). If you choose to use stitch markers, fair warning: unless you join the motifs as you go, you’ll need over 200!
The picture below shows what my yarn markers looked like before I stitched the motifs together. I actually think in the end they were easier to use than regular stitch markers, but your mileage may vary.
If you’re a complete crochet beginner I wouldn’t recommend starting out with a project this complex and time consuming, but in terms of the skills involved it’s actually surprisingly easy. The pattern instructions in particular are really clear and simple to follow. Each step is written out in plain english (with British crochet terms, which I prefer as they’re what I started out learning) and there are excellent photographs to illustrate each step, as well as hand-holdy tips and hints. It’s a whole different level of instructions than the Stylecraft knitting ones I’ve previously used—which are basic to say the least—so you can definitely learn as you go along with this pattern.
The one thing this pattern doesn’t have is a diagram. I know not everyone likes crochet diagrams, but I find them really helpful. However, this was so well written I didn’t miss it, and didn’t even feel the need to draw my own diagram like I often do.
If you’re relatively new to crochet and want to make this pattern I reckon you’ll have an easier time if you’ve practised some of the skills already. Really, though, all you need is to have made a few granny squares and joined them using double crochet rather than stitching. That covers pretty much all you’ll need for this, and you can pick up any extra stitches (like working around the post of stitches in lower rows, and working several double trebles together) as you make the tiles. Believe me, by the time you’ve completed a few of these tiles you’ll hardly need to glance at the instructions any more! I had the stitch pattern pretty much memorised well before I was halfway through the motifs.
Small word of warning: watch out for the slip stitches you use to join a round at the end. They can look like proper stitches when you get to the next row, but if you crochet into them you’ll be adding an extra stitch you really don’t want. Keep counting your stitches to make sure this doesn’t happen, and if for any reason it does just deal with it by working a decrease on the next row (yes, I had to do this several times despite my careful counting!)
The only changes I made to the original pattern was to work triple trebles rather than double trebles for the front post stitches (the ones that make the pale crosses in the outer rows of all the motifs), as that worked better with my tension, and then to work double rather than half treble stitches in the first row of Storm Blue in the edging. I did this because I wasn’t sure I’d have enough yarn to finish otherwise, as the instructions said you might run short if your tension was loose, and I knew my motifs were already a little larger than the instructions specified so it was going to be a close thing. I also worked in yarn ends by crocheting over them whenever possible (tutorial here), which greatly reduced the number of yarn tails I needed to weave in at the end.
I’d say the scariest thing about making this blanket was the sheer amount of time I thought it would take. I planned ahead and worked out how much time I had, then divided number of tiles by the number of weeks so I knew my goal for each week. In the end my well-laid plans were thrown out the window as I suffered with a bout of anaemia that robbed me of all energy for a few weeks, then I had to play catch up and crochet like mad.
I’ve completed this blanket in around ten weeks, and have probably averaged a couple of hours a day on it. Those were lazy hours while bingewatching Mad Men on Netflix, so you could probably do it faster if you really set your mind to it and didn’t mind risking RSI.
Yes, it’s a big project but it’s doable, and fortunately the frequent colour changes and variety of stitches in the different rows kept my interest high—something I’d have had difficulty with working this number of plain granny squares!
One of the joys of crocheting a blanket made of smaller motifs is that you can work at it on the go without having to lug the whole blooming blanket about. That said, this particular project posed a few problems with portability as there are so many colours involved. There was no way I could squish all those balls of yarn into my crochet bag—believe me, I tried!
Here then, are my top tips for working this blanket on the go:
There are a few triangles and squares that use the same four colours, so work these at the same time.
Have several octagons using similar colours on the go, and get them all to a point where you need the same colour yarn for the next row. You can then go out with just one ball of yarn!
Save sewing in the yarn tails for when you’re out and about. There’s going to be a lot of them, so I reckon they’re best saved for those times when you can’t easily be crocheting the rest of it. Take it from me: coffee and cake helps take some of the sting out of a rather tedious but necessary task!
Work the octagons up to and including round 9 at home, then you’ll only need two colours for the last five rows, and one of those will always be buttermilk. The last five rounds also have the most stitches, so they should keep you busy for a couple of hours.
Here’s me doing my best impression of the Stylecraft cover model:
I’m so happy with the finished blanket, which is every bit as vibrant and beautiful as I’d hoped. I’d never have chosen to work some of these colours together myself—there were even a couple of motifs I didn’t really like as I worked them—but once they were all joined up they looked stunning. I’m just hoping Lauren loves her blanket as much as I do! I’ve had it in my head that this is going to be a blanket she keeps for life, and whenever she looks at it or wraps it round her shoulders on a cool evening, it will remind her of how much her mum loves her. Maybe she’ll even pass it along to her own children one day!
I’m also really pleased to have a decent amount of most of the colours left over at the end of this project, and I’m making plans to turn them into some cute striped knitted clothes for Lauren. Perhaps a cardigan and matching hat for the autumn. Better get searching for patterns!
I can’t yet say whether Lauren loves the blanket, but her big brother certainly does. Maybe I’ll make him one in the regular colourway… eventually!
I’m now going to be taking a break from the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network for a few months while I get used to having Lauren about, and figure out how I’m going to fit sewing in around looking after her. I hope to be back later in the year, though, and in the meantime you can always see what I’m up to on my blog or Instagram (links below).
Until then, happy sewing, everyone!
All materials for this make were kindly supplied by Minerva in return for an honest blog post. Thank you, Minerva!