Thursday, 13 November 2014

Random Versus Order

I've been thinking a lot lately about creative processes lately, about why I work the way I do, why I dislike randomness so much. As you know I'm making a blanket. A really big blanket. You know, the sort that takes a year. (I don't believe I've mentioned it here before....)

I told you about making my 225th square. But I forgot to tell you that, just before this, I realised I'd actually miscounted and, when I came to lay them all out on my bed, found that I only had 224.  

Pants.


I was so annoyed! I kept searching in my crochet basket, upending bags, looking under the sofa, refusing to believe that I'd made a mistake. I mean, I counted them so many times. I had to quickly crochet one more. 

The Grand Arrangement Of The Granny Squares was actually quite a casual affair by my standards. I cast my eye over them, made sure there were no two colours together, re-shuffled some clusters that didn't work, then left it.

But how to remember which square goes where? I wanted a way to work on the blanket without having to lug the whole thing around with me wherever I was. So, I divided them into nine smaller squares, which I then gathered up and secured into bundles with safety pins. Each needed a label (Square A, Row 1 etc) and Bella was my scribe. Her handwriting is really a lot neater than mine, I'm not joking.


I know this seems like a huge amount of work, but really it isn't. It was the best way I could think of to attach the squares in their chosen order. 

Now, when I'm ready to start a section, I take out all the bundles labelled "A" or whatever, and lay them out. I attach them together with safety pins, then off I go, crocheting them all together. This means I can just forget about the arrangement and relax, whizzing up and down the rows, not worrying that I've accidentally attached one back to front.


A finished square looks like this.


A bit lumpy and bumpy, really. But after blocking...


Much better! I think the pattern stands out more afterwards, and the darker colours benefit from the extra white around each motif. Also it makes the whole square a couple of inches bigger all round which is no bad thing as I intend this blanket to go on our king size bed.

So far I've done six of the nine sections. They have a satisfying weight to them.


Would you do something as ordered and systematic as this, or would you just randomly grab the first square you came to and trust that it will all work out? I know this must seem like lunacy to some, but I can't bear the thought of spending all that time (and money) on a blanket, all that thought, that planning, that effort, to then look at it at the end and feel disappointed. To think, oh, why did I put those two squares next to each other? 

Honestly, I think a small part of me will be relieved when this project is done. I'm not cut out for blanket making, it's exhausting!

71 comments:

  1. Can't wait for the final Tah-Dah!!! It looks beautiful!!!!! Have a happy weekend!!!
    Love
    AMarie
    xxx

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  2. That is so totally how I would end up doing it! Except if I had not read of your doing it, I would have found this method by going the long way around my bum! LOL
    I can't wait to see the finished blanket. It is looking lovely!
    ttfn
    Jenn

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  3. Ooh, looking forward to the finished blanket. Just the word 'random' sends a shiver down mine spine!! I'm with you, do the planning upfront. Sarah

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  4. It's looking great and I'm sure will be worth all the hard work. Yes - I spend ages making sure the squares / blocks are right and would actually leave them on the lounge floor if it weren't that other people live here too! I often take a photo so I can put it together again. x

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  5. Gillian, your blanket is looking super. It will be gorgeous when it is done. I am a random girl myself, I am just finishing up a giant grannie stripe which is completely random!! You have come up with a good method for joining up in ordered sections.... bring on the final Ta dahhhhh!! xx

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  6. You are not alone - and lovely! I realise I am not either! I just LOVE organising projects and working in stages - I call it my assembly line addiction!

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  7. I would!.. and I did with some patchwork curtains I made for my daughter... what would happen if you ended up with the final two squares being the same colour? Best to break a big project like that into sections anyway so it doesn't become overwhelming (at which point I find something more instantly gratifying to do). Beautiful blanket x

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  8. I made a very similar blanket last year. I just randomly picked them out of my box, lined them up on the floor, shuffled the odd ones around and then piled them up row by row, holding them together with a rubber band. I probably got the piles mixed up... It looks just great now but just after finishing, I did think a few times why I put two squares next to each other. But I am not patient enough to spend a long time arranging and rearranging. I guess I like random! I very much look forward to seeing your finished blanket, I love your colours. x

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  9. What a brilliant way to keep the pattern in order! I love it! I would say I'm sometimes random, sometimes wanting the order. It would depend on the blanket/project. I could see doing a stripe randomly, but a year long project like this - definitely in order! I am really excited to see your blanket completely finished, it's just too gorgeous!

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  10. I did something similar when I made my daughter's blanket recently. I did mine in strips, keeping them in order with a piece of yarn through the centers of each bundle of 16. I would not be able to do a blanket like this randomly. I bow to anyone who could.

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  11. I would do the same, it takes a lot of planning to achieve random. I usually take photos and check them out on the laptop as well, it is amazing what stands out on a photo.

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  12. Brilliant idea how you organized the "crocheting together" !!
    I've not yet made a granny squares blanket, so I don't know how I would proceed, but probably I would use your method - I always want to work nicely organized, and you just revealed a perfect way :-) !

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  13. I can't wait to see the finished object! I think I'd tackle it the same way you did, I wouldn't want to leave it to chance! I guess what we want is 'carefully controlled randomness' :-) xx

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  14. I meant to ask, what yarn have you used for this, Gillian?

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    1. I am using Rowan Pure Wool DK and a 4mm hook. x

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  15. I did similar for my granny blanket, trying each row with a length of wool and labelling with a number. I have seem some rather fabulous huge safety pins (about 6 inches long) used for a similar purpose. I was very methodical ensuring a did the same number of squares in each colour for each round to ensure the colours were evenly distributed, I couldn't possibly do true random. I'm not sure what that says about me, but I'm happy with my end result. And you should be too - its looks fantastic.

    With stripes I plan 5-6 rows ahead and take a photo to remind me of the colours I'm using next

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  16. Spooky Gillian, I just labelled all my 270 quilt squares with post it notes and pinned them together in groups of nine with pins!! Blocking is amazing isn't it? Jo x

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  17. Hi Gillian,
    Your blanket looks amazing-oops on the missing square!-I empathise with you.
    Nothing so organised as you here in my house-I lent over the bed, crochet hook in hand, back aching and did row by row-tea breaks were several.
    I admire your mathematical mind which is so much better on the back ache.
    Enjoy seeing your blanket come together.
    Best wishes
    Helen

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  18. Wow it looks amazing I am working on a very similar blanket too, what stich did you use to join, it looks great, well done x

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    1. Thank you! I am crocheting them together on the "wrong" side. x

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  19. it is going to look fantastic, cant wait to see it finished. But what if you did it random and then you found out after stitching it together that it was off as you had all the green in one area? I would have to unpick it. It would drive me nuts.

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  20. Gosh no, crocheting something of that size would be lunacy for me but, if I ever did manage, I'd certainly make sure I had it all arranged to my satisfaction. I always play around when arranging quilt blocks.....and I'm fairly lax about some things but can't imagine anything worse than going to all that effort and then being permanently annoyed by two clashing or same blocks together.
    I think the finished blanket will be stunning. Juliex

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  21. If I ever crochet a granny square blanket I would have to have some sort of organizational game plan like you and Jo and Jennifer, Gillian. My Windy Weavers sewing group in northern CA debated the issue and one member said I should put my quilting squares in a paper bag and just grab and sew but I am fairly certain I could not bear the result even though I am a woman of faith :) Thanks for sharing your process and especially for showing the difference between the blocked and unblocked squares! xx

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  22. I'd do the same! I'm useless at random. When I made my waterlily blanket, I came up with a sudoku method!! See it here - http://dinkidots.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/blanket-squares-get-random-look-sudoku.html
    I wish I could do random, but I need a plan!
    Your blanket is looking gorgeous - I'm looking forward to seeing the end result!
    Maria x

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  23. I'm definitely with you and don't do random. Part of the fun of creating is arranging and rearranging! I use different methods depending on what I'm making but I often photograph things these days as it also helps in case I want to put it back the way it was about 4 attempts ago! Your blanket is a stunner. x

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  24. I'm totally with you on this. I made a quilt by hand a while back, and laid every square out, and re-arranged until it was right. Then I labelled each and every square and carefully picked them up in order. Like you, it would drive me bananas if there were two similar ones together or something jarred. The blanket is looking brilliant. The power of blocking is quite transforming isn't it. You've made a beautiful job of crocheting the blocks together, something that I struggle with. I shall look forward to seeing it finished. CJ xx

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  25. The blanket is going to be stunning! Where were you.......on top of the wardrobe? Ha ha 😉

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    1. Standing on the bedside table!

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    2. Ha.....the things we do for our art !

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  26. It still is random really as there is no repeated patterns. I am not a fan of repeating patterns over again. I prefer the disordered, the random and the unique. It is more artful, more enjoyable to look at and more fun if more challenging to do. I think your blanket is always going to look good whichever squares go where, the colours are all lovely and all harmonise. There really is no need to stress about it. It's all good.

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  27. The blanket will be fabulous. I tend to be in, the arraange and rearrange, unti it looks right, camp!
    Jacqui x

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  28. I think I want to be organised and then I descend into random!

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  29. It looks lovely Gillian and the randomness actually makes it great. Take care.

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  30. It is looking beautiful Gillian! It is very hard to be random, and then to keep them all in the order that you have worked out. Apparently in nature, true randomness actually results in clumps of things together with large gaps in between, so don't worry too much about the random! xx

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  31. It looks fabulous, I think I would go with random squares. A bit like putting your hand in a bag of pick & mix. I could then see me pulling my hair out by trying to match the strips then! After the time spent making your squares I can see your approach being quite calming & methodical.

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  32. A great way to put your blanket together and not an easy task. I do like to see randomness but I am actually an orderly person if that makes sense. A blanket that is just casually hanging over someone else's chair looks perfect but over one of my chairs, well that's a completely different thing. It fidgets me so much that in the end I have to go over and straighten it.
    Your blanket is going to look amazing when it is finished!

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  33. the blanket is looking amazing. What a huge undertaking! I wouldn't have a clue how to make one square let alone 225. And what is blocking?? I will have to google that. Well done!

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  34. I love the look of the blanket, can't wait to see it finished!, I think I am organised, but having children around always changes that:)). Have a great weekend!

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  35. This is all very inspiring - although I do feel your pain about the missing square! That gap in the top picture is like a physical punch ;)
    I am also inspired by your tenacity and progress, as I am currently about 2/3 of the way through a sofa blanket which is depressing me somewhat. I've been crocheting it off and on (more off than on) for about a year, and sometimes I think how pleasing it will be when it's finally done, and sometimes I think it will never ever ever be finished and will hang around the house until I am an old lady, and sometimes I want to throw the whole thing out of the window and make something small. Maybe a bobble hat for a teddy?
    Anyway. I am renewed. I will make more squares this weekend. Little by little.
    I can't wait to see what your blanket looks like when it's all done - so exciting.

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  36. When I put together my granny square blanket, I played them out on the floor and then threaded them through the centre of each square on a very long piece on yarn for each row. The next square in the right order was there.

    I love the white edging, really sets it off. CNN

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  37. I am not a random person, I am very, very symmetrical. I would have done just as you had. Love the blanket so far, you are doing a great job.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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  38. I have spent hours in the past getting my 'random' colours just right. I, like you, would be disappointed after all that work to have the wrong colour combination in the finished article. However I have to sometimes take myself in hand and say sternly to myself that there is no more shuffling, that it will do and that the tiny difference of this colour against that is not going to ruin the piece. I applaud your tenacity on this one and look forward to the finished blanket in all its random glory.

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  39. I use a system like you do! And honestly, I much prefer stribed blankets just because it means that I don't have to go through all this. It also motivated me a lot more to see the blanket grow stribe by stribe than to watch the pile of squares grow...

    However, one of the most beautiful blankets I made, is one with squares...

    I think your blanket will be gorgeus!

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  40. I love the blanket so far. I would love to embrace random but I would have to do it the same way as you!! Looking really good, can't wait to see it in place... xx

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  41. I'm always losing bits I need and they always turn up after I've made another hehe. Wow your blanket is going to be amazing can wait to see it finished x

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  42. Great idea! The blanket is looking wonderful :) x

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  43. Gillian, it is just so lovely! I am not the blanket project type of girl - way too long between start and the satisfaction of completion. And I would probably just randomly arrange the squares. But that being said, I will not have a stunning, handmade blanket to snuggle under this winter. Enjoy this last stretch of work!

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  44. I'm liking your plan the safety pins are a great idea and the blankets looking just stunning.
    Clare xx

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  45. Great idea to keep everything ordered. It will be a beautiful blanket when finished. Bee xx

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  46. This blanket is looking so gorgeous! I love your system for keeping everything in order and together. I love making big blankets although they take ages, they are so worth it.
    Marianne x

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  48. Beautiful blanket! The colors are soothing yet vibrant at the same time and we love the pattern. J+C

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  49. Hi, I have just found your lovely blog and have enjoyed reading back through some of your posts. I am an 'order over random' girl every time! Will follow you on bloglovin so I don't miss any of your posts. X

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  50. I've learned from my previous attempts that random doesn't really work well for me. I'd take photos of all the squares laid out together so that I'd have a reference just in case, then divide them into smaller sections like you've done. It's more orderly plus it makes working on it more manageable. Otherwise sewing together 225 squares is just too overwhelming. Well done for persevering...you'll have a beautiful blanket soon! x

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  51. Quite frankly I have no words. The fact that you could crochet that amount of beauty is beyond my comprehension.
    Leanne xx

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  52. How very beautiful! I do quilts in much the same way. I spread the blocks all over the floor, arrange them the way I want (which sometimes takes a couple of days of thinking), and then I stack and number the rows. Now every once in a while I still confuse myself....but it turns out in the end. I'm amazed how much difference the blocking makes, too.

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  53. I'm exhausted just looking at this ... I've knitted blankets where each section is worked on from the next, that's doable, and warm toward the end, but I wouldnever have the patience for what you're doing here. I would want to conrol the 'randomness' though, that I understand.

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  54. But you are cut out for blanket making since you've (very nearly) made one! This is an excellent way to organise the squares for joing them. I would do something very similar (if not exactly the same). It isn't a good idea to leave it to chance and just pick up any square to join next. Actually, a good way to make sure you're happy with your layout before starting to join is to take a picture of it. If you like the layout in the picture then go for it. Any 'patches' of squares that are too similar in colour will really show up in the picture. You've done really well and will be so happy when it is all done. I'm about half way through a king size blanket but have left it aside to do Christmas things.

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  55. Just remembered about my snowflake - I made some last night and then lost one. I searched for it everywhere. Then, when I wasn't even looking any more, it turned up. I was thinking about the way you're joining your squares. You join 5x5 to make a block using the join as you go method. So you will end up with blocks of squares that have to be joined. What way are you going to join the blocks? You will no longer be able to use the join as you go method and the last row has already been crocheted on the outer squares of each block. Of course you could sew them together. Hope you know what I mean.

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    1. I'm not using the join as you go method, but crocheting the squares together on the wrong side. So hopefully joining the 5x5 squares together should be fairly straightforward, and look the same too. x

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  56. I would have to do something similar to your method, I would want to know that it wouldn't annoy me when I finished it. It is looking great, so pretty!

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  57. By the way - further to my previous comment - there are several ways of joining the 9 blocks apart from sewing them. I can explain if you need me to.

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    1. I've replied above - but thank you! All advice gratefully received. x

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    2. That's great - you'll very soon be finished!

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  58. I would do exactly as you are doing Gillian, it makes sense to be 110% happy with the finished placement. You've earned your random badge in the making of the squares!!
    By the way, it's looking absolutely fabulous, and I know from experience with making my own big bed blanket that five years down the line you will love it more, the love grows with each passing year of warmth and comfort.
    enjoy the process!
    Lxxxxxx

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  59. It's so beautiful! I would need some sort of order too because it would drive me mad looking at it and seeing something that jarred. x

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  60. Oh, your blanket is going to be beautiful!!! It will truly be a work of art.
    My first instinct would be to grab random squares, but in the end, I would fight that urge to be random and take the slow tedious route. Like you said, after putting that much time and money into something, I would want to be completely satisfied with it.

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  61. Your blanket is beautiful, I'm itching to get on with mine now. When I am putting patchwork together I take a photo of the layout. For some reason I can spot two colours together etc far easier on a photo. Maybe it's just my brain that works that way :)

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  62. No way I could work random, but I am afraid, I would never, ever be as organised as you are. It looks very beautiful, I like very much the colours you have chosen.

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  63. Random is good. I think you've come up with a brilliant plan, after all the time it would take to sort them each time you got them out would be such a faff and you'd end up getting fed up with it!
    Good luck with the completion.
    Lisa x

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  64. Oh I absolutely have to approach it this way too. Random, in an organised and structured way' is my aim!

    S x

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