Tuesday 14 October 2014

Blankets, blankets, BLANKETS!

I like blankets to much the same level that Benny in The Lego Movie likes spaceships. I LOVE them. And this is no secret. Blankets are an excellent solution to many problems: too cold, wrap up in a blanket; too hot, make a tent for shade; feeling poorly, snuggling up on the sofa wrapped in a blanket may not have official medicinal qualities, but it will make you feel better; feeling far from home, just looking at the blankets my mum has made for us over the years makes me remember that we are loved, even if our families don’t live round the corner.

In my family blankets are important. My mum has always knitted blankets, made up of her 6 inch tension squares that build up in piles until they are eventually stitched together and edged with a long garter stitch ‘worm’, usually in the recipients colour of choice. When we were small and other families used duvets, we stuck with our blankets. There were always spares in the cupboard, and we were never cold. Many of my fondest memories of childhood revolve around blankets: rainy days indoors hiding under the dining table, which had been draped in a blanket to make a tent; outdoor dens made of a clothes horse, a blanket or two and many clothes pegs, a welcome shelter from the sun. Even though I’ve been knitting since I was seven, I still have blankets knitted by my mum. We have two double sized blankets on our bed (it saves arguments), one of which was a joint project between my mum and me; I had started it, and wanted a crazy paving blanket, so had just set about knitting squares and rectangles in whatever yarn and pattern took my fancy. There are chunky squares, aran weight squares, cables, moss stitch, ribbing… No two blocks are the same. Of course when it came to sewing it up it wouldn’t fit together at all. It turns out ‘random’ requires planning. My mum salvaged it, knitting little bits to fit in the strange shaped gaps. I think it drove her crazy; it ended up trapezoidal in shape, but is excellent for wrapping oneself up in and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

So when the first of my close friends got married, I decided that the perfect gift would be a blanket. I’d recently learnt to crochet, so decided on a fairly classic hexagon blanket. Each hexagon was a different colour, but they were all DK weight (the previous blanket experience had taught me something) and I was immensely proud of the final blanket. Since then I have made many more wedding blankets. Not for every wedding; weddings seem to cluster, and there’s no way I could make more than two a year. But there have been several, mostly crocheted as I find knitting something that large a little intimidating. 

In the twelve month period in which we got married we attended three other weddings. One fell at the end of the summer during which I’d been waiting to start a new job, so the couple received a brightly coloured patchwork blanket made up of double crochet (UK) squares in two sizes. They still use it now, it appears in the background of several of their photos, so definitely isn’t just for show. Making a blanket for their new baby this summer was an honour (it’s the blanket used as the background for this blog); this couple are very knitworthy! Early the following year, I gave my friends in Cambridge a second hexagon blanket, which they proceeded to use as a throw on their sofa.

In 2013 we attended four weddings (see, I said they cluster). My friends in the North West received a ripple blanket for the first wedding anniversary – I had intended for it to be finished in time for their wedding, but a busy period at work scuppered that! For the other summer wedding couple I knitted an entirely cream aran weight blanket made up of squares featuring textured hearts and a moss stitch border, along with their wedding date knitted into one of the squares. Many of the squares were knitted on flights between the UK and US (plastic children’s needles are fine, apparently), and I was very relieved when it was finally done, even if it was a couple of months late (I am forgiven, the bride loved it, especially as the personalisation meant her mother couldn’t adopt it).

The other two couples last year didn’t get blankets. I made the cake for one couple, and the other couple live in Florida, where blankets aren’t quite so necessary (I did knit them matching cup cosies though, I couldn’t not knit them anything). I can’t actually work miracles!

This year there’s only one wedding, which means plenty of time to make a blanket, right? Well maybe. I had a baby in the summer, so had avoided starting anything big, just in case I found myself unable to craft after the baby’s arrival. But I’ve figured out how to knit and crochet whilst nursing, so this weekend I started crocheting them a blanket. Their wedding invites are pearlescent cream, with snowflakes in turquoise, blue and purple. I considered crocheting another ripple blanket, but they do require some concentration, which isn’t the easiest once the blanket gets big, so decided against it. Then last week I saw a lovely blanket on Stylecraft’s facebook page, so did a shout out to see if I could find out what the pattern was (I can’t reverse engineer crochet, I’m definitely at a follow-the-pattern level of skill), and fortunately the person who’d made it saw my post and let me know that the pattern was Beatrice by Little Doolally. So I bought the pattern and then deliberated about which yarn to use. 

As the wedding is in December I wanted to use aran weight yarn so it’ll be finished on time, but couldn’t find anything online that matched the invite colours well. Then I remembered that I had a few balls of aran in the cupboard, so had a look at them and came up with three darker tones of the snowflake colours, and a lot of cream. I did a test swatch and loved it. Admittedly I didn’t have enough in stash to make the whole blanket (it’ll be 2 metres across), but after a few calculations I worked out that I’d only need to buy three balls (the purple is the limiting factor, it might be that I have to finish a repeat or two early, but it’s not worth buying another 400 g when I only need another 36 g; I’ll have to wait and see). So now I’m frantically crocheting (well, waiting actually, I’ve done five repeats and now need to wait for the three extra balls to arrive), but will hopefully be finished in time. Just this once.

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