Monday, April 23, 2018

The Diamond Mine Afghan

My nephew Luke is getting married in August 2018. I have thus far managed to refrain from telling him how cute it is that he is getting married (in light of the fact that he is 30 and a 200+ pound millwright), though it is difficult. I've had to try to channel my doting aunt impulses into something more constructive: the making of a wedding present for him and his bride-to-be.

Some years back Luke moved out of Ontario to take a job in a mine. A few years after that, he made another transprovincial move to take a second job in a diamond mine. And as a result of that move, he met his intended, Emily. They dated for several years and then, on New Year's Eve 2016, he proposed with a diamond engagement ring he'd had made using a diamond purchased from the mine where he worked, and both his proposal and the ring were accepted. The job that made it possible for them to meet also provided the diamond for Emily's beautiful ring, which was a pretty tidy bit of symbolism.

Not being one to let a good symbol go to waste after only one use, when the time came to make an afghan for Luke's wedding (I'd made one for his older sister when she got married and a good aunt and knitter is always even handed), I decided I really ought to use a diamond pattern afghan for the project. I searched Ravelry and chose the Reversible Diamonds pattern by Shari Haux. I've made it twice before, the second time back in 2014, so I already had the pattern book in my library. It's an easy and attractive pattern, and I like that it looks good from both sides. As for the yarn, I chose the worsted weight Lion Brand's Touch of Alpaca in Dusty Blue, a neutral grayish blue colour I thought likely to work somewhere in Emily and Luke's house. I also decided to make a matching cushion to go with the afghan. I planned ahead of time to get this project done in March, as there was no way in hell I was knitting an alpaca worsted afghan in May, June, or July. My love for my nephew and knitting does have its limits.

Money's beyond tight with me these days, so I went to some effort to keep the total cost of this project low. I bought the 1200 grams of yarn and the pillow form at Michaels, using a 50% coupon printed off the Michaels' website for each separate item. One can only use one such coupon per day, so this meant I had to make seven weekly trips to Michaels to purchase the six skeins of yarn and the pillow form. The closest Michaels store is 2.6 km from my house and I have chronic fatigue issues, so this was a bit of an undertaking, but I was in luck and able to purchase all the skeins I needed before the store ran out of the yarn.

Then, it turned out that my 6 mm circular needle kept coming apart at one end, and of course every time the needle came apart I'd have to pick up the 30+ stitches that promptly fell off it. At first I thought I'd have to buy a new one, but luckily it occurred to me to try gluing the one I had back together first, using the super glue I had on hand. I gave the job a minute's work with the super glue and 12 hours to bond, and the needle never came apart again. If you have a circular needle that's been coming apart, I definitely recommend trying to glue it back together again. It'll save you a trip to the store, the price of a new needle, and keep one more item out of our landfills.

Other than the gruelling process of shopping for the yarn and the lack of cooperation on the part of my circular needle, the afghan knitting proceeded smoothly. When it came time to wet block it, I stripped my guest room bed and used the mattress as an impromptu blocking board -- and spent a couple of days hoping devoutly that I would not have any unexpected overnight guests, as it would seem inhospitable to invite them to lie on a bed of pins.

Here's the back and front view of the finished afghan. It's roughly 4' x 6', which I consider a good size for an aghan: big enough to comfortably cover an adult (or two snuggling adults), yet not so large as to be unwieldy.

With the afghan done, it was time to turn to the cushion phase of the project. I'd bought a 20" x 20" pillow form, so I calculated the number of stitches the cushion cover would have to have to be large enough to wrap over both sides of the form, and set to it. I knitted the cushion cover in one piece so that I'd only have to sew up three seams, but if I'd thought a little harder I would have realized that knitting it in the round would have left me with only two seams. Knit and learn, sigh.

I ran into difficulties when I got to the stage of putting in the zipper. I tried to use the crochet hook method described on Frog Knitting, but had to give it up as a bad job after spending an entire evening struggling with it. The head on my crochet hook was too small to grip that worsted yarn and pull it through the zipper. I tried using some gray blue fingering that I had on hand, but that wasn't much less difficult. Exasperated, I threw my tools in my workbasket beside the bed and called it a night, and then in the small hours of the morning I woke up with the solution: I would make a crochet chain of yarn and then sew it to the zipper with my sewing machine. (It would also be possible to hand sew it, but a sewing machine will do a neater, stronger, faster job of this task.)

I did just that the next day and it worked well. The above photo shows the zipper with a crochet chain sewn to each side of it. That done, it was straightforward to seam the cushion using the crochet loops on the zipper as holders for my stitches.

Here's a photo of the finished cushion with the zipper side foremost. It turned out quite neatly. I must remember this "sew the crochet chain in place" zipper installation method in future.

And here's a picture of the completed afghan and cushion, which seems likely to do its part to contribute to the comfort and cosiness of the newlyweds' new home. Where Luke and Emily will probably refrain from playing the Blue Rodeo song "Diamond Mine" too often, as it's a little too on the nose.

I purchased new yarn for this project and finished it with just scraps of yarn to spare, so it neither added to nor lessened my stash size.