Crocheting around the world

08.30.11 | 13 Comments

During our trans-Pacific journey on the Cap Cleveland, I wanted to make sure I had plenty to entertain myself during the long, ocean-only days. Aside from books and paint, I brought some yarn to crochet. My first few projects were cute stuffed animals and a blanket for my, then yet-to-be-born, half-sister Gaïa.

We landed in Auckland, New Zealand, with no plans and a slow first week getting our land legs, finding our bearings and making plans for the next few weeks. I had quite a bit of yarn left, and obviously lots of time. So I thought, why not get into another project? Perhaps for my 4 year-old niece, Luna. I had a big skein of off-white yarn, and small green, pink and purple skeins. Based on what I used on the ship, I surely had enough left to make a bigger blanket. Flipping through my Crochet World magazine, I found the Confetti Stars design by Martha Brooks Stein which looked simple enough.

The pattern was pretty straight forward: “ch 3, join in first ch to form a ring, ch 5, dc in ring, ch 2, [dc in ring, ch 2] 5 times, join in 3rd ch of beg ch-5…” Translation: make an eight spoke wheel of color, and crochet a white square around it, leaving an 8 inch thread to stitch the squares together. Once all the squares are stitched together and all threads are tucked, crochet 4 border rows.

From wheel to square to stitched.

Color-wise, I chose the horizontal order purple->green->pink, staggering them each row. All was good… until I stitched about 3 or 4 rows together. The blanket looked pretty narrow. What happened? Oh! I was using light yarn instead of medium yarn which made my squares smaller (barely 2″ instead of 2″3/4). Oopsie! I also realized that I needed to adjust the pattern size from 52″x76″ to 50″x84″ to fit a French twin bed. After some calculations (thank you Justin!), we came to the conclusion I needed to make more squares. 293 additional squares to be exact. For real? Yes, for real. Ok, no problem.

Crochet… crochet… crochet.

In Queenstown, it was pretty cold and rainy so we decided to find a room for two nights instead of camping in our Spaceship. The next morning we woke up with a few, really itchy bites. Ack! What if it were bedbugs!? We decided to leave the hotel, after drying all of our clothes, backpacks…. and crochet material (heat kills the bugs and their microscopic eggs). I put the yarn, crocheted squares and the stitched piece into a bag to avoid major tangling with other stuff in the dryer. We took things out relieved, as nothing was damaged… but the bag of yarn came out majorly tangled! It was a solid ball of yarn mess! I seriously considered just chucking the whole thing.

Then, I thought of my niece. Nothing obliged me to keep going, but wouldn’t she like a little blankie made by her Tata Steph? Ok. I proceeded to untangle the mess, one string at a time. It took me several days.

Back on track and bug-free I continued to make the little squares wherever we were. Justin helped tucking threads on a train (thank you Justin!) and I even took the yarn on our 6-day Abel Tasman trek, much to the surprise of other trekkers.

Not even remotely halfway through, I ran out of white yarn. Great. I looked online to see if I could order a new skein, but the websites wouldn’t ship outside of the US. Inevitably, I turned to Justin’s sweet Mom, who went to the store and bought the Ecru Bernat Baby Sport skein to ship to our next WWOOFing gig at a Marlborough winery. (Thank you Kathy!) In the meantime I made a bunch of colored wheels.

I received the new white skein and cranked the production to the max everyday after returning from working in the vines. It was November. I thought to myself… I can get this done by Christmas.

Crochet… crochet… tuck… tuck… stitch… stitch.

Stitched squares.

We left New Zealand and flew to Bali mid-December. In Bali, it was the rainy season, which in theory meant we’d be in indoors quite a bit, enabling me to make progress. Well, it was hot and extremely humid… I did not need any extra heat on my lap. Also, swimming in pools and walking around rice fields was very distracting. What do you know? I blinked and Christmas was here.

I was a few rows from being done with the first half when we flew to the Philippines. Since I had slowed down the pace in Bali, I thought to myself… I’ll definitely be done by the time we leave the Philippines. Yeah right. Our stay there was so action packed (and wonderful!) that I made little progress. Once in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), we slowed down considerably which enabled me to savor watching music videos while tucking threads. Looking at my progress though, I was never going to be able to finish anytime soon. Since the stitched part was getting pretty bulky, I needed to ship what was done to Mom in France. That way, I could lighten my load and do the assembly when we got there.

The post office being closed when I tried to ship it in Saigon, I took advantage of our boat ride up the Mekong Delta on our way to Phnom Penh to make/stitch a few more squares. The 1st half was complete, it was time to ship it to Mom. Yeah but… how would I make sure the 2 halves would match? Make a color pattern, of course! So I put together a spreadsheet. Geeky, but oh so helpful!

The color pattern, with the half mark, row and column numbers.

The blanket then followed me to Siem Reap, where I worked on it in between temple visits. Then I took a break in Hoi An (Vietnam) because we were too busy getting clothes tailor made (blame me again…). I resumed in the train up the Vietnamese coast to Hanoi. I paused during our 3-day Halong Bay cruise (too busy being in awe, eating and thinking about familiarity). I resumed back in Hanoi, to forget about the gloomy weather. I continued in Luang Prabang (Laos), followed by Chiang Mai (Thailand). I also took the blanket with me at the Yoga Retreat on Koh Phangan, which made for a nice evening occupation… when I had electricity. In Bangkok, Justin and I hadn’t seen each-other in 2 weeks, so the blanket was pushed aside for a bit.

By then I was sure I’d be done with it, but oh no, I still had much stitching and tucking ahead. That meant I had to take it to India, which was not my preference. In the end, I was glad I did. It enabled me to do something familiar, in the great, constant unfamiliar. Most of my squares being done, I stitched on trains, buses, in our hotel rooms, always making sure to lay the blanket on something clean. It made for the entertainment of a lot of people on these rides.

In Mumbai, soon before our departure to Nairobi, I had most of the 2nd half done, with just a few more squares to make, about 2 rows to stitch and threads to tuck when… I ran out of white yarn. Again! Since I didn’t want to bring the blanket with me in Africa (we’d be camping the whole time and I didn’t know how dirty we might get), I ordered a skein online and had it shipped to Justin’s Mom who then shipped it to my Mom (thanks again, Kathy!). I also shipped the 2nd half to France, so I could resume “production” there early June and surely could finish it in time for Luna’s birthday on the 13th. Plus, I could use a crochet break.

The beautifully stitched box containing the 2nd half of the blanket (and other things) sent from India to France.

As soon as we arrived in France, I hit the crochet hook right away, with the end in sight. I made good progress and started crocheting the border rows. But oh was there so much thread tucking to do! So many little buggers to thread on a needle, slip into the pattern and cut the tip. Hundreds! Mom started to help me (thank you Mom!) but clearly I wasn’t going to finish it for Luna’s Birthday. Grrr.

Typical scene in Mom’s garden: me crocheting, Justin on the laptop.

I did as much as I could before we left for our road trip through a chunk of France (via Dad’s house in the Rhone valley) and northern Italy. While we were driving our little hearts away, Mom was tucking threads at home (thanks again, Mom!). When we returned, we had 2 weeks left before taking a train to Le Havre to catch our ship across the Atlantic. I simply had to finish the blanket! I only had one last border round to do.

Crochet… crochet… final tuck. Phew! It was done. At last!

Et voilà! It went really well with Mom’s garden.

Detail of a corner and border.

Luna had seen me work on it a little bit, so she wasn’t surprised at all when I gave it to her. She said: “But you showed this to me before!” I laughed and replied that I wasn’t done with it the 1st time, but this time it’s all finished and it was hers. I asked: “Do you like it?” She responded: “Yes, it’s beeeeeautiful!”

This blanket has seen the world and has been seen by the world. It was one of the biggest projects I have ever gotten into. It has also proven that I am apparently ETA*-impaired. But I am very proud of it and it is now living a happy life on Luna’s bed… where it fits just about right.

Luna, the bed and the blankie from Tata Steph.

PS: For the geeks… here are some figures about the blanket.

Started: Oct 2010
Completed: Aug 2012
Length of white yarn: ~ 3000 yards / **** meters
Length of colored yarn: ~ 1200 yards / 1 097 meters
Crochet hook size: H and I
Number of squares: 19 x 36 = 684
Number of border rows: 4
Number of threads to tuck (3 per square): 2052
Time per square (color + white): 10 – 15 minutes
Time per border: 90 – 120 minutes
Time to stitch 1 row: 60 – 90 minutes
Time to tuck one thread: 30 seconds (0.5 minutes)
Estimated number of hours of work:
Minimum: (684*10)+(4*90)+(2052*0.5)+(60*36) = 10386 minutes = 173.1 hours
Maximum: (684*15)+(4*120)+(2052*0.5)+(90*36) = 15006 minutes = 250.1 hours
Average: 12696 minutes = 211.6 hours. That’s 8.81 days of non-stop work without sleeping, eating or peeing.
Countries visited while crocheting: New Zealand, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, India, France.

* Estimated Time of Arrival