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.
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Textile artist, knitwear designer and teacher.
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