Sunday, April 22, 2012

Gingham Blanket, finished



How easily a blanket like this gets started. How cavalier I am about these things. A moment of inspiration--oh, gee, here’s a good idea, I think I’ll make a blanket--a few minutes in the yarn shop, and then…seventy gazillion-million identical stitches later, here it is.


Actually, I figured how how many stitches there really are in this blanket.  Two hundred-forty thousand, two hundred and forty.  It is 104” x 88”. Whew.


I began it on a whim last fall, and it has been my continuous companion ever since, keeping my hands busy while my mind was occupied with other things; while I rode in the car, looking out the window, watching the world go by.  When I just wanted to be knitting something, without having time or patience to peer at a pattern, I worked on it.  When I couldn’t settle on a different project, I worked on it.  When I found a good book I couldn’t put down, I worked on it.  This blanket was there for me.


It was a lesson in patience.  I loved it, and also hated it.  It bored me, but comforted me.  It was meditative and also mind-numbing.  Quieting, stultifying.  It began, after awhile, after the first five or six identical rows of squares, to feel like anti-knitting, like I was knitting in a vacuum, like I was moving my hands and the needles were clicking, but the yarn was not making anything.  It felt like swimming backwards.  Push on, push on.  A marathon of knitting.  It was knitting, boiled down, a concentrate.  The simplest form—garter stitch scarf, no counting, no thought required, no focus necessary, but requiring focus of a different kind, something not like counting, but deeper.  I had to focus on it with my heart. 


Making this blanket made me dig deep.  Now, on the other side, the last end woven in, I really like that.  It feels like I went on a long journey, and am home now. 


If you’re ready for your own knitting vision quest, here are my notes: 

1. To get this gingham effect, you need cream, taupe, and a marled yarn that is a mix of the cream and the taupe.  Happily, Patons Classic Merino comes in these three colors.  I started with eight balls of taupe, eight balls of cream, and sixteen balls of marled taupe/cream, and I ended up with a few extra balls of cream and marled, but had to buy two more balls of taupe. 

2.  You will make long strips—essentially, garter stitch scarves—of blocks of alternating color, and then sew them together.

3.  With taupe yarn and US 6 needles, cast on 30, and work 28 garter ridges, or 56 rows.  Change to the marled yarn and work another 56 rows.  Change back to taupe, work 56 rows.  Continue in this manner until you’ve made 13 squares, ending with taupe.  Break yarn and set it aside.  Make five more just like it. 

4.  With the marled yarn, cast on 30 and work as above.  After 56 rows, change to cream…and so on.  Make five of these. 

5.  You have six long scarves of taupe and marled yarn squares, and five long scarves of marled yarn and cream squares.  Sew them together, alternating strips from each pile.  This takes a lot longer than you think it will.  Get all zen about it.  I whipstiched them together, which results in a nice flat finish, and no obvious “wrong” side to the finished piece.  Because a square of marled yarn is on either one side or the other of the seam, use that yarn to sew the seams—it’s almost invisible. 

6.  When all the strips have been sewn together, add a simple border, as follows:  join cream yarn to the edge, chain one.  Sc two more times in the same space, then skip 2 “spaces” and 3 sc in the next “space”.  Take care to observe a pattern in where you stick in the hook, and if the border appears to pull in, leave more spaces between sc clusters; if it appears to ruffle, leave fewer spaces.  Work one row all the way around, and join with a sl stitch to the first ch 1.  Weave in all your ends. 


Because this project was all about the process, I used a beautiful pair of antique knitting needles and kept the strip-in-progress in a lovely little basket with a handle.  I took it with me everywhere.  It was an agony of bliss.  That’s all I can say.