I'm going to guess that I'm not alone in saying that there is something special about handcrafted blankets. There's something extra snuggly and cosy about being enveloped in a blanket that has been lovingly crafted, one that has had hours of love poured into those perfectly formed stitches. These stitches seem to hold an abundance of memories, memories whose warmth, love and existence is embedded into the yarn.
I have two beautiful crochet blankets that my mother made. Two giant double sided super snuggly granny squares. These blankets are made up of scraps of leftover yarns and jumpers that had been pulled down once they had served their purpose. These jumpers were ones that my mother had knitted for her six children. The yarn may have come from other places as well, I don't really know. These blankets are well loved in our house. The memories they hold are like secrets though, as I don't remember any of the original garments the wool came from. I wonder if my mum does. I suspect if I asked her if she remembered what some of the original garments were though, she would laugh at me!
But this using of leftovers is the traditional way blankets were created, this is the whole premise behind a knitted blanket. It's a great canvas to use up leftovers, pulled down garments, excess yarn.
I've knit two blankets so far; one for each of my children. I have to admit I didn't take the traditional approach with these blankets.
The first blanket I knit was made out of Noro Kureyon. 10 balls of Noro Kureyon. Hardly a thrifty pursuit.
But it is a beautiful blanket, a much loved blanket called Sam.
The second blanket I made was out of 16 ply organic Australian merino, a now discontinued yarn from WOOLganics. This blanket is almost queen bed size and weighs in over 1.6kg. Again, hardly a thrifty pursuit but again still a very loved blanket called Blankie.
My kids love their blankets so very much. They sleep with them every night in winter. They come camping with us. They snuggle with them on the couch. They take them on sleep overs.
I've just started knitting my third blanket, this time one for my bed. This time I am using leftover yarn all in 8ply/dk weight. All these leftovers are from garments and accessories I've knit for family or friends. The wonderful thing about being the crafter of such a blanket is that I am the one embedding the memories, and each time I select a new leftover yarn it brings back memories of the original garment and where I was at in my life when I knit that original piece. This blanket holds memories of longies made for Lily from the much-lusted after Four Bags Full Merino, the first longies Toby ever wore as a not so teeny newborn, the first milo I ever knit, and various cardigans, jumpers and vests for both my kids and nieces and nephews. There are snippets of garments knit for me. Leftovers from the kids' school jumpers. There are even some leftovers from doll clothes. As a designer, this blanket also serves almost as a virtual map of a variety of my designs; milos, zeg warmers, ziggy, uwland, lavender, what big eyes you have, tully, gwendolyn, griffin, cassia and many others have been captured in these stitches.
The kids are snuggling the blanket already, small as it is and love asking where each of the squares come from. They love hearing that this one was a pair of longies I knit for Asher that Lily helped dye the yarn for and that one was the yarn leftover from the vest Toby is wearing. I don't expect them to retain this knowledge or these memories, but it's nice to know that they do have an understanding of the process of this blanket and the memories that are being knit into it.
I've been sharing my blanket progress in my Instagram feed and had a number of people ask about the pattern. I haven't really used a pattern as such but there are plenty out there. If you google or search on Ravelry for mitred square blankets, you'll find a ton. Some are sewn and I'm guessing there will be patterns for those created modularly, as mine is. My suggestion is to ditch the seaming and go modular.
Anyway, this is how I made mine.
Square one: (Pink square in bottom right hand corner)
Using a 4mm/US#8 needle cast on 40 stitches.
Row 1: (WS) knit placing a stitch marker at the halfway point, 20 stitches in.
Row 2: (RS) knit to 2 stitches before the stitch marker, k2tog, slip the stitch marker, ssk, knit to end of row.
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until 2 stitches remain.
Square two: (Green square above pink square)
Cast on 20 stitches. Place stitch marker.
Holding the first square as a diamond with the cast on edge at the bottom, pick up and knit 20 stitches along the right side of the square.
Continue as for square one.
Square three: (blue square next to pink square)
Pick up and knit 20 stitches along the left side of the pink square. Place stitch marker.
Cast on 20 stitches. (I usually cast on the first stitch using a backward loop and the next 19 using a cable cast on.
Continue as for square one.
Square four: (yellow square diagonally above pink square)
Pick up 20 stitches from the left side of the green square. Place stitch marker.
Pick up 20 stitches from the right side of the blue square. Knit across all stitches.
Continue as for square one.
Continue building the blanket as set out by the first four squares. You will need to build the edges (repeating squares two and three) before knitting inner squares (repeating square four).
Picking up along a garter edge is slightly different to picking up along a stocking stitch edge. The best way to do it is to pick up all the stitches first by sliding your needle from left to right through the stitches closest to the edge (not the little knot thing that forms on the edge itself) then knitting the stitches onto your left needle once they're all on your needle. Easy peasy.
So are you thinking about knitting a blanket?
I say do it! Don't feel that you have to finish it all at once, but I suggest making sure that you get a reasonable amount done initially. Four squares is pretty easy to ignore. But a good 20 or so is a blanket of promise, particularly when you can see the design or colour palette unfolding. I spent a week knitting nothing but my mitred square blanket. It's now a sort of almost usable size that is encouraging me to add further to it. It is quite addictive too I must say! I took the same approach with both of my finished blankets. A good bit of initial time, and then I would pick them up intermittently.
Consider carefully whether or not you're a seamer. Or even a bit of a lazy crafter whose strong point is not finishing. If so, consider going modular. All the blankets I've shown here were knit as you go, modular knits. The squares in the Noro Mystery Blanket were actually grafted together rather than sewn. You'd need to like grafting a bit to tackle that one is my suggestion. I do so love grafting. Seaming, not so much.
I'll keep posting updates of my blanket on Instagram (click in the icon in my footer to find me) and the occasional one here. I'm tagging them on IG with the hashtag #tikkisscrapblanket. Yes, very original, I know.
Right now I have a whole heap of prototype knitting to do but I'll still be squeezing in a square here and there. The progress is just going to be a bit slower from here on in. Besides, I need to create more leftovers! Now, I'm finding myself in the situation where I'm contemplating what colours to knit next based on the colours I think the blanket needs more of! Orange yarn, I'm looking at you.
If you're knitting a blanket too, I'd love to see your progress shots either on IG or Rav. Shoot me your username in a comment. It's pretty magic watching them grow.
Many moons ago when I published the bloom pattern, a wee flash of an idea began to form in my head. All these years it's been residing there as a little spark, a spark that would flicker and grow brighter and bigger and then fade.
Last year, when Susannah told me she had purchased WOOLganics that spark just about burst. It lit up so bright it was like a catherine wheel, it simply could not be ignored anymore. And so I knit this.
Do you recognise it?
Maybe this photo will help you a little bit more..
Yes, it's a cardigan to match the bloom dress.
And I so love it. See this gorgeous wee pink one. That's in a newborn size and is shown over the small bloom dress. How cute is that! And the yarn, well, it's the new WOOLganics 4ply/fingering weight which is all a bit lovely and lush. How much fun I had knitting this!
The bigger yellow one is a 23" and it's knit with size 8 lengths in the 8ply/dk weight.
So yes, the pattern will come in both 4ply/fingering and 8ply/dk sizings from 15-30" chest size and is being released to help celebrate the re-launch of WOOLganics. The pattern is written with WOOLganics yarns in mind but you can substitute.
The only problem is that I'm absolutely stumped for a name for this pattern. I literally have nothing. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Usually, I have an inkling but this time I'm really drawing a blank.
You see, I want the name to tie in with the bloom, but I don't want to call it the bloom cardigan. Blossom seemed like the obvious choice but a fellow Aussie designer has a pattern called the Blossom bolero, so I think that's out. (Check it out by the way, it's a very cute pattern!)
And so I have a pattern without a name. You see my problem.
So I'm throwing it out to you readers.
Give me a name for this sweet cardigan.
A name that compliments and works with bloom.
GOSH! Look how much Lily has grown! This bloom is the largest size, it was a dress on her when the pattern was released.
If I decide to use the name you suggest for this pattern, you will receive not only a free copy of this pattern but also a lovely gift pack of WOOLganics yarn in your colour choice and weight choice so you can knit the pattern. The yarn has been generously donated by WOOLganics.
Suggest away. I have a couple more patterns to come to compliment bloom so I am looking for a bouquet of names and we hope to be able to give away more than one gift pack and choose some future pattern names.
I'll leave the competition open for a week or so. That should take us pretty close to the pattern release date.
Perfect. I'll be more specific with a closing date and add it here when I'm more sure of the release date.
Once a name is suggested, take that entry as belonging to that person, and please do not re-suggest the name.
Now get your thinking caps on!
pssst.... don't forget to pop over to WOOLganics and check out their yarns, their glorious colours. *wink wink* Link in the logo below.
This year I'm approaching life with a new mantra.
I'm not using the word busy.
In reference to myself or my situation; it's out of bounds.
I've been surprised at how liberating but yet at times challenging it has been. Mostly it has been very liberating and freeing. I feel more peaceful and less stressed. I'm not constantly worrying about deadlines or overdue emails or needing to be somewhere. Those things are still there, but as I'm not approaching them with my mind tuned to how busy I am, they seem less daunting. That very small shift of mind has made all the difference.
The word busy has really become a modern-day mantra, along with the word stressed. I think in our society at times we almost wear "busy" as a badge of pride; you have to busy to be anyone important, to accomplishing anything or to have a satisfying life. How often in conversation do you hear "I've been really busy" as a response to the question, "How have you been?" I suspect that seeing yourself as being busy all the time brings with it a lot of unnecessary stress and pressure, pressure from within that needn't be there. I think some of us also use busy as a reason in this context to not engage, either in a conversation or an activity. Losing the word busy means having to actually converse and talk about what you have been doing or even involving yourself in something you may not have otherwise tried or done. We complain about being busy but at the same time it's like we almost use it as a security blanket.
We build such little personal empires as modern people, put up our busy walls and keep others out. When people tell us they are always busy, it does make them unapproachable. It's a shame really, and it is possible there is a connection between the loss of community and the increasing use of the word busy. I do wonder how many experiences and opportunities we miss out on by telling ourselves we don't have the time for that as we're too busy.
I have a friend whom every time I run into her, our conversation is basically a repeat. She tells me how crazy busy she is, she appears flustered, she hasn't seen anyone for ages because she's too busy, she must make time to catch up, etc. etc. You feel rushed having a conversation, albeit one-way, with her. We don't engage, reflect or even connect in such a conversation. It's just a one way gush of busyness. I honestly don't think she is any busier than the average person, and recognisably we all have a lot of challenges and time commitments in our everyday life. Nevertheless, I do think much of it is a mindset. It's a mindset that seems to plague our society. Have you ever noticed that those people who truly are 'busy' who are involved in every committee, seem to be everywhere with their kids doing things, activities every day after school, involved in all kinds of artistic, musical or sporting endeavours and seem to have very very full lives don't use the word to describe themselves.
As parents we are probably the most guilty users of 'busy', we use it as a fob-off with our kids all the time. I know I'm not the only one who's ever responded to a child's request to do something with, "Later. I'm busy right now." You know what, there's no reason that the busy stuff can't wait until later most of the time. Obviously, if you're in the middle of cooking dinner it might be a different scenario!
So I'm slowing down, appreciating the moment. Realising that yes, there are deadlines and things I need to do, but the missing internal pressure of being busy and worrying about what the next thing is, means everything actually gets done more efficiently. And if it doesn't, it's always going to be there tomorrow. Not being busy means suddenly there is time to enjoy the beauty around, more time to engage fully with our children, friends and partners, and more time to reflect and being more aware of the present moment. For mothers particularly, this is so important. Our children are only at the stage they are at at this one time in our and their lives, so enjoy it now.
At the start of this year when my youngest started school I read the book Buddhism for Mothers of School Children by Sarah Napthali. This one small section about busyness of this fabulous read really resonated with me and stuck with me. Sarah talks more about the idea of doing away with busyness in her book Buddhism for Mothers of Small Children. I enjoyed Sarah's books so much, I'm going to read them again. I think there is still so much more I can get from them.
Buddha, of course, spoke quite eloquently on the subject: "The restless, busy nature of the world, this, I declare, is at the root of pain.
What do you think?
Do you think we focus too much on being busy as people?
I'd love to know your thoughts.
This post today has nothing to do with knitting. Except for providing some tasty morsels to eat while you are knitting.
Some of my Instagram followers have asked for these recipes and rather than posting them there where they tend to get lost and you can't google them, I thought I'd post here. (I know how hard it is to find a recipe posted in IG comments from experience. There is a chocolate chia pudding recipe that is Lily's favourite but it takes me possibly longer to find it than to actually make it. I really should take a screen shot of it next time!
I hope you enjoy them!
This is a wonderfully surprisingly fresh pesto, everyone who has tried it has loved it and asked for the recipe. I think that speaks volumes. It is the easiest way to use up zucchinis.
I made it in the thermomix, but any processor will do, just ignore my thermomix instructions and blitz away to your liking. You will need a frypan for the wee bit of toasting and sauteing involved.
30g sunflower seeds
1 clove garlic
1 small piece of leek, about 15cm
30g baby spinach
a couple of large handfuls of mixed herbs, such as mint, parsley, sage, thyme, oregano, marjoram
30g olive oil
200g zucchini, cut into large pieces
50g shiro miso
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Toast the sunflower seeds and linseeds in the TMX bowl for 4 minutes at 100 degrees, in Reverse on speed Soft. Place aside.
You could use cashews instead of the seeds, if so I wouldn't bother toasting them.
Pop the garlic, leek, spinach and herbs in the TMX bowl. Chop 3 seconds on speed 6.
Add oil and saute 2 minutes at 100 degrees in Reverse on speed 2.
Add zucchini and chop 5 seconds on speed 5.
Add all the other ingredients (seeds, miso and lemon juice) and mix 10 seconds on speed 6 or until mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
If you want a dairy based pesto, you may be more interested in the original recipe, which can be found here:
Zucchini Carrot Yoghurt Cake
This is the yummiest cake ever. Seriously.
I have been baking this since I made in high school, with some modifications along the way and is undoubtedly our family favourite.
I've TMXed the recipe, which makes it super dooper quick. I've added the normal approach measurements and methods in parenthesis.
125g butter, roughly chopped.
80-100g rapadura sugar. (2/3 cup)
about 200g zucchini roughly chopped (1 cup grated)
about 100g carrots roughly chopped (1/2 cup grated)
1/3 cup natural yoghurt
2 cups spelt flour
3 tsp baking powder
Grate zucchini and carrot for 5 seconds at speed 5. Set aside.
Blitz sugar on speed 9 for about 20 seconds or until fine.
Add butterfly, and butter and mix speed 4 until it looks a bit creamed. i'm a bit lazy about this step.
(Cream butter and sugar)
Add eggs (one at a time and mix) and mix at speed 6 for 6 seconds.
Add zucchini, yoghurt and carrot. Mix in Reverse on speed 4 for 10 seconds.
Add flour and baking powder and mix in reverse on speed 4 until mixed through.
Pour into greased and lined ring tin.
Bake at 180⁰C for about 40 minutes.
Stand for a few minutes in tin before turning out on wire rack to cool.
You can ice with a butter icing if you like but in all honesty I never do!
So there you go. Go and attack that zucchini glut.
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Textile artist, knitwear designer and teacher.
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