Magic Blankets

Photo detail of machine quilting

Around here, magic blankets are not something you can buy in a store.  You’ve got to know the right people.

Photo detail of machine quilting

Back when our first baby was born, we took swaddling seriously (shout out to Harvey Karp, he’s spot on), but the things sold in stores as receiving blankets at that time were little better than oversized burp rags.  No exaggeration!  So off I went to the local big box craft store and bought 5 one-yard lengths of flannel in fun prints.  A couple straight hems and BAM, we had a pile of swaddling blankets.

Our first child loved swaddling and we got a lot of use out of the big blankets.  When he got to be about 2 years old, I sewed two blankets end to end, then another two end to end, then quilted those together with a made-up meandering stitch.  Without a walking foot.  That’s what we call a labor of love, friends.  I sewed the fifth blanket into a pillowcase that is still in use today (on the pillow that is propping me up while I write this, in fact!).

Photo of the pillowcase made from a flannel baby blanket

My son loved this blanket as only a child can unconditionally love the wonky things we make for them.  He declared it the magic blanket and, eight years later, it is still a cherished possession.  So much so that my younger child was eventually jealous.  I needed to make her magic blanket, and soon, lest she stage a Leverage-style attack to take permanent possession of her brother’s blankie.

Photo detail of machine quilting

Of course she also had 5 (no, 6!) one-yard lengths of flannel that she used as a baby — although she was not one who liked to be swaddled.  No, instead she wanted to be held constantly.  For three months.  Not that I am scarred or anything.

Ahem.

Photo of quilts from flannel baby blankets

For her blanket I got fancy.  I did a bunch of math (cooped up much?) and decided that 9″ squares would make the most efficient use of my fabric.  I cut the blankets up and sewed them back together in an eye-blistering pattern of colorful delight that is different on each side.  I ran out of patience at this time and quilted the whole thing together with straight lines, and machine bound it with commercial bias tape.

Thus was balance restored to our universe.

Photo of quilts from flannel baby blankets

I take deep satisfaction in upcycling, but this project took it to the next level because of how much my kids love having something I made just for them and having something that is a direct connection to their early years.

I toyed with the idea of writing this up as a sort of tutorial, but the real message is: just sew that shit together!  Your kids will love it, you will learn some things, and whatever you make will be NEW and get used, rather than gather dust in the basement or sadly slip away to a marginal existence in a thrift store.

My Inner Child Wants Everything to Be Rainbow-Colored: Afghan Edition

Raise your hand if you remember me starting a scrap project to use up the yarn left over from the scrap blanket I made for my daughter when she was born.

Yes, I am a serial scrap blanket maker.  I pull out a pile of yarn (or fabric or cut up t-shirts… my desires to both thrift and make things feed each other), decide I am going to use it all up on a scrap project, choose a project, start said project, run out of something and go buy more materials, finish said project, and then — and only then — realize that I have more materials left than when I started.  Doh!

First there was Squeaky, the quilterly knitted blanket I made for my daughter (ostensibly to use up random balls of Wool-Ease) while I waited for her to spring, fully formed, from my womb.  Which, she pretty much did if you’ve ever heard THAT story.  Oh and I ended up buying a lot of yarn to make the colors in the blanket work.  Wool-Ease has a weird palette.

About six exhausting months later, I lit upon the idea to crochet an afghan to use up Squeaky’s leftovers.  I had spied a pattern that was basically a giant granny square, but looked like an Around the World quilt.  I’m not much of a hooker, but I can handle a granny square.  So I lined up my leftover Wool-Ease and soon realized I had a rainbow palette.  Well, almost.  I just had to buy a bit more yarn.  [Cue scary music.]

Four and a half years later, the rainbow afghan of my dreams and nightmares is finished.

Photo of a crocheted afghan in rainbow stripes

 

What else do I have to say about this project?  I didn’t work on it constantly.  In fact, years passed sometimes between putting hook to wool.  It was really fun at first because crochet is FAST.

Also, I am never actually sad to buy more yarn, which this project amusingly and repeatedly required to be completed to my spec of 4 repeats.  It has 13 different colors, 12 Wool-Ease, 1 Plymouth Encore (light blue) because Lion discontinued the delft colorway.  (Why do companies get rid of good, basic, timeless colors like baby blue?  It’s Lion’s loss ultimately because now I have seen the Plymouth Yarns website and know what an amazing palette their wool-acrylic blend Encore has.)

About 2/3 of the way through this project, the rows became very long, hours to finish just one, and it was a slog.  I just wanted to be done.  I could have stopped at any time, but stubborn ol’ me wanted to stick to The Plan.

So I did.  And now the rainbow afghan lives on my couch and gets fought over — when we’re not all four crammed together with it draped over us.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

…you knit a doll blanket with ridiculously cutesy yarn!

Just...one...more...stripe...tonight...

Today I went to the yarn shop — with my preschooler — thinking to indulge myself in a single beautiful skein of something to make something with.  (I was deliberately keeping my options open.)  And there she was, being such a good girl in such a grown up store, skipping down all the aisles, pointing out every single pink skein and squealing with delight over them all.

The conclusion was obvious and I am really enjoying this diversion knit.  I thought I was busy last year, with a husband in grad school, both of us working, a kid at home, and a kid in school, but we have managed to take it up a notch this year.  Oy.

I have been reduced to hiding in my bedroom on a Friday afternoon, knitting pink yarn, and watching Downton Abbey.

Of course when I write it down it doesn’t sound bad at all.  Perhaps I do have a sense of self preservation.

The yarn is Plymouth Encore Colorspun in the poetically named color #7722.  Now, if you don’t mind, the blue stripe is waiting…

Can’t…stop…casting…on…

My Castonitis has gone critical.

Here’s my latest symptom:

Mitered mittens; pattern by Elizabeth Zimmerman; yarn is Malabrigo.  What can I say?  My hands were cold Friday and Saturday.  By Sunday all arguments that I at least finish my scarf first–because I could use the leftover yarn and have matching accessories, a thing unheard of in this house–were broken down by my stronger self and I even took the DPNs away from the entrelac (they are happy on straights so there’s no project abuse going on here).

The project I was going to write about next that was trumped by mittens:

An entrelac scarf for moi using yarn my brother gave me for my birthday.  As Matt said, “It looks like that yarn was made to do that.”  By “that” he means “entrelac,” I’m pretty sure.

But since this is a post about my Castonitis, we’ll move on to the next symptom:

Yes, in fact, that is the same photo from last post.  Because that was probably the last time I touched these. Uh… Out of sight, out of mind?  I have no excuse.  I am weak.

Then there’s this beauty of an excuse to buy yarn for a project that was begun to bust stash:

I do actually pull this out and work on it a bit here and there because, turns out, the only thing more mindless than stockinette is shell stitch.

It breaks down from here because I cannot find all these pictures again….they’re too old…hah… So I direct you to pictures on my Flickr page.  I’m sure I could embed them somehow.  (Resolution #491: learn how to do technical stuff on your blog.)

An overdue gift and socks I started one year ago to this day:

Lace Ribbon and Jaywalkers

And this, my birthday gift:

Hourglass Stole

So that is … seven unfinished projects I am copping to.  And I am dying to start my Ribby Cardi.  Gulp.

Sacrilege

What is this?

Crochet?!  Not just crochet but a giant granny square.

Not just a giant crocheted granny square but I am watching Elizabeth Zimmermann‘s PBS series Knitting Workshop while I work on this!  The granddame of knitting – ha!

Oh and I am breaking my no-TV resolution to boot!  Ha HA!

And what happened to the Lace Ribbon?  Oh yeah, there it is, next to the oft-neglected Jaywalker

Enough with the sins, now for the graces: I am putting a dent into my basket of Wool-Ease!  In addition to this new project, I have also given away a couple of skeins to a friend.  Abbey is not just any friend but a crocheter whom I have recently brought over to the knit-side.  That was a few weeks ago.  Fast forward to today: Charlotte and I were knitting and chatting and I showed her this pattern (scroll down to see a few examples), deciding on the spot that I would make this blanket per pattern, but I would challenge myself to only get yarn for it by trading or buying inexpensively via Ravelry.  No going to the store, not even for a sale.

Charlotte then left and I was alone with these threads of ideas swimming around in my head.  In a flash, the basket was out and yarn was lining up on the table.  It all happened so fast, almost of its own accord.  I quickly perceived that I had a veritable rainbow of partial skeins.  I made one or two adjustments and then, simply, began.  I won’t lie; it may only be a granny square, which I have made before, but it was slow-going for a few rounds because I had to relearn how to double crochet and how to create a granny square.

Granny square: NOT like a bicycle.  But still not so hard at all.  Just as happened gradually with knitting, I find I am able to “read” my crochet better now that I have been playing with it for a few years (two, I think).  That’s exciting.  It’s progress.  It gives me hope that I may someday have a decent grasp of this.  But I can never be brilliant at crochet because that is my sister’s domain, you understand.

My other grace?  After much hawing and heming, the zipper has been ordered for the Urban Aran Cardi.

And to close with wise words from EZ herself: “This just goes to show you…people will wear anything on their heads!”

(Matthew in his ubiquitous Greek fisherman’s cap and Elinor in a cotton cap knit by grandma with yarn she dyed herself.  This is a much cuter picture than the one I considered of Zander wearing his underwear on his head.)