Monday, September 10, 2007

Sudoku Afghan

I finally finished my Sudoku afghan. It was a birthday present for my brother, who loves the sudoku puzzles. If you've never done sudoku, it's hard to explain, but basically it's a puzzle with 9 rows of 9 squares. In each row, each column, and each 3 x 3 block, you have to put the numbers 1 through 9 with no repeats. That is, each row must have every number from 1 to 9, and each column, and and each block. The puzzle starts out with a few numbers filled in for you. The more numbers you start with, the easier it is to finish.

I find sudoku well nigh impossible, myself. My brain just doesn't work that way! LOL! For my brother and many like him, though, sudoku is completely addictive. He loves it so much he made some artwork that mimics the sudoku concept, creating a grid with different sizes and colors of circles instead of number squares. It was very pretty, and gave me the idea of making an afghan, using nine different colors. When I think of anything to do with squares, my mind just goes to afghans!

I started it at the end of July 07, and put it in the mail to my bro on Sept. 10. So it took a while, but not too long. I worked on it almost every day, for varying periods of time.

The first thing I did was pick the colors. I had to have nine colors that worked together and went with my brother's decor. His house has kind of dark, earthy tones in the furnishings, so I wanted the same kind of "autumn" colors and feel. I also wanted to incorporate one of my favorite color combinations - the six "rainbow" colors of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Finally, the yarn had to be easy to find and buy in a local store (and easy to get more of if I ran out!), washable, and durable. Red Heart to the rescue! My local Ben Franklin Crafts has a wide variety of RH in lots of colors, so I ended up getting it all there. The colors I got were: Ranch Red, Carrot (orange), Gold, Dark Sage (green), Soft Navy, Dark Orchid (purple), Country Rose (pink), Cornmeal (soft yellow), and Windsor Blue. I could not have been more pleased with the way the colors looked together.

The next step was to make nine squares of each color. I decided early on to use the Diagonal Box Stitch, or Corner Start Stitch, to make each square (Google for many websites with instructions). After a little bit of trial and error, I decided to make each square with 8 "blocks" on a side (8 increase rows and 8 decrease rows). To finish each square, I did the following edging with the same color yarn (starting the edging from the last row, without fastening off and reattaching): sc in the space between blocks, ch 2, repeat, with an sc in each corner. This made a simple yet small edging that made the squares very easy to put together. It also meant only two ends to weave in per square! Each one is about 6.5 inches square. Here is a picture of a finished square, in gold:

As I completed the piles of squares, I learned a few things. For one, I wove in the ends immediately upon finishing each square! If I had waited to do all the ends at the end, I'd still be doing them! LOL! But the biggest surprise was the difference in the thickness and texture of the yarn colors. Some colors (navy, orchid, gold) were so thick that I ran out of a Super Saver skein before making nine squares. Other colors were so soft and thin (cornmeal, carrot) that I had enough to make ten or eleven squares! I think if I ever did this again (ha!) I would make each square only seven rows. The smaller square would mean plenty of yarn in a Super Saver skein for nine squares, no matter what.

Next, I had to figure out the layout. Rather than completing a sudoku puzzle myself, I looked in the daily newspaper. Next to each day's sudoku puzzle is the solution to the previous day's. I just cut out one of the solutions. Then I copied the numbers into and Excel spreadsheet, and used the fill-in feature to color each square. Here's my diagram:

Once I had 81 squares and a layout, it was time to assemble! I chose RH Aran for the joining, I liked the way the off white looked with my colors. The joining had to be visible, to mimic the lines in a sudoku puzzle grid. Also to mimic the puzzle, I made nine blocks of nine squares each, 3 x 3. Like this:

For the joining, I did 2 sc into each 2 ch space on the square edging, and ch 1 over each sc. I did 2 horizontal lines, then 2 vertical lines, then went around the edge of each block the same way (2 sc, ch 1). For the block edging, I put 3 sc in each corner.

Here's my progress partway through the block construction:

Then I joined up the nine blocks. I wanted the extra thickness between the nine blocks, since the sudoku puzzles have darker lines between each block. I'm not sure I really succeeded in making these lines thick enough. I tried about a dozen ways to join the blocks and ended up just reversing my first joining method: sc in the chain spaces and chaining over the sc. It made a nice defining ridge, but I think it should be thicker on those lines.

After joining the blocks(again, two vertical, two horizontal lines), I went around the edge of the whole thing with the sc, ch method, then a row of sc, then a row of hdc.

And here - Ta Da! - is the finished product, spread on a queen size bed:

Overall, I'm pleased with it, with a few exceptions. For one, making 9 blocks to join meant a ton of Aran ends to weave in, and only a thin line of same color stitches to weave them into. I did a lot of knotting, so the blocks won't come apart, but it was very difficult to hide those ends. Also, you can see a little gap on the edges of the blocks where they are joined, where the line didn't cross from one block to the next. I don't like the gap, but I couldn't figure out how to fix it. At the time. As I was weaving in all those ends, I brainstormed some other ways I could have done the joining, but by then, I was committed and not about to frog a single stitch! LOL!

I think I've figured out a variety of ways to do such a design differently, like using a tapestry method and just changing colors in each row, but I can't imagine ever making another sudoku afghan! It was fun, but I think the next sudoku fan in my life gets a book or a calendar or something! LOL!