June 30, 2013

The Failed Blanket Saga

One may or may not recall that the principle garment I produced during my first years of knitting were useless bits of fabric that never served any purpose. Once, I managed to knit a shawl that was really a scarf, but then I went back again to knitting for the sake of knitting, not actually making something useful.

But then I'd like to think that I matured as a knitter, (just a little bit) and I started trying to decide what I wanted my project to be before I started it. I could only hope the piece would turn out as I intended and actually be completed at one time or another. Unfortunately, my luck was not so abundant during these first years.

Because I knew quilts were such a key part of sewing and the coolest thing someone could learn to make (in a 3rd grader's Little House on the Prairie mindset), a quilt was one of my first sewing projects. I worked on it all year long during third grade sewing club. I actually did sew twenty squares together and find a piece of cloth large enough to function as the backing and even pin it together, but I never finished it.

Years later, I was digging in my sewing box and found the UFO blanket. I  remembered how proud I was of "finishing it" years ago, but when I looked at it with more mature eyes, I was shocked. The stitching was terrible and I used a different colored thread every time and I didn't even make seams and the squares were of different fabrics and...basically, it was horrible. I promptly ripped the whole thing apart, threw away the fabric, and that was the end of that. Now, I wish I had taken a photo of the mess I had worked so hard on, but envisioning it is not too hard. Just think of what it would look like if a 8 x 8" square of your curtain was sloppily sewn to the fabric of the same size from your mom's wedding dress and your dirty painting jeans. A beautiful sight, and a perfect blanket, obviously. 

So I tried again on a new day.

I decided that this time, I was going to knit a blanket. But this wasn't going to be the normal kind of knitted afghan, where you cast on a few hundred stitches and knit a repetition of some fancy pattern and then hope on your lucky stars that you will actually finish it before you lose patience and rip it out. No, I didn't even invest enough trust in myself to expect to actually succeed and complete such a challenging project. It was too big a risk. I wanted to start smaller. And since I had just as much sewing as knitting experience in fifth grade, I decided to make a knitted quilt-blanket. This was an easier concept for me to understand. This way, I could make small, manageable squares, a few at a time, and eventually (this is where the lucky stars come in) I might finish it. But probably not.

So I knit a lot of squares (twenty-seven, to be exact) and I used up a lot of yarn, and I made a mess. Once, I tried to sew them together, but I realized that my squares didn't have a color palette in common and that, once again, this wasn't going to work. The sizes of the squares were different (because I hadn't paid attention to gauge), the colors were too strange, and I made way too many blue squares. Oh well. There goes all my 5th grade knitting. 

(A funny note is that my younger sister is actually trying to sew these squares together to finally realize my goal of turning this into a blanket as we speak. No, seriously; these squares are sprawled out all over the hallway between our rooms. But I am certain even she will lose patience before she sews them all together. I guess there is always next time.)

Stockinette squares from various acrylic yarns, mostly made 2006 - 2008
Then I went to sixth grade knitting summer school class and realized I knew too much about knitting to take the class. So I was going to make the most advanced project ever! A blanket! (How original!)

I designed a few patterns and even knit a few squares with my designs, but then I got bored, as usual. And then the class ended, and unsurprisingly, the project took a permanent haitus there. Especially because these squares were not the same size or "make" of the previous blanket-quilt attempt.
2007 summer school knitting project. The upper-right square is supposed to be  a sky with sand and ocean with an upside-down crap and flying turtles. Don't try too hard to see it. ;)
But I still wanted to make a blanket or a quilt. So I signed up for a class at Eddie's Quilting Bee to make a surfboard quilt in 2006 and 2007, and after twelve hours in three different classes, I finally made it. A real blanket

My surfboard quilt involves a whopping ten pieces of fabric: the sky, the ocean, the sand, surfboard #1, surfboard #2, surfboard #3, the tan stripping, the thick honu (turtle) border, and the back (sea foam green flannel). It was some intense work, and I learned a ton about pinning, and cutting, and how to use a sewing machine, all that fancy shmancy shtuff. And although it doesn't even fold exactly into a rectangle (one corner is a little too small and un-straight), it remains the only completed quilt I have made and an occasional ornament to my bed. Most significantly, it's the first blanket project that I actually finished.
I have worked on quilt projects before and since, but I have never finished a single one of them. Quilt squares have been completed, but never a quilt. But, since I still need another semester of CTE credits in order to graduate high school next year, I get to take fiber arts and make a traditional quilt. So I'll have another quilt to add to my meager collection before high school is over. What a relief. 
Quilt squares I have made over the years. Many of these fabrics have been previous projects completed or attempted either by me or my grandmother.
Eventually, I started to realize how hopeless my situation was: the fact that it was doubtful I would create and finish another blanket ever again. And this situation didn't change during my middle school years due to the fact that my crafting performances during this lovely and mature time did not include anything other than knitting over 100 baby hats and basically surviving middle school. 

But then high school hit, specifically sophomore year. I gave my flying sticks a second run, learned new advanced knitting techniques, and became interested in knitting something more advanced than something I had already knit 100 times. So I made a few scarfs with more advanced stitching (see my previous scarf post), and, remembering that my number-one bullet on my bucket list was to make a blanket, I decided try yet again to fulfill this dream. It took a few months, but I finally finished it! :)


"Ripple Lap Wrap" blanket (about 3' x 5'). Made with red Rainbow Boucle yarn. Pattern from Teach me to Knit: Cool Stuff. Made May 2012 - December 2012. First completed knitted afghan!

So on another typical boring day exactly eight days later, I decided to start another blanket. I made up the pattern on the spot and knit 80% of it during the next week (in Hawai'i), but then only worked on it sporadically until I finally completed it a few months later. It's only about 2 x 2 feet (a little on the small side), and as it's the first baby blanket I've ever knit (I've made others with other media), I'm going to keep it. But future blankets (unless they are jaw-droppingly gorgeous...highly unlikely) will be donated along with all my hats to Lucille Packard Children's Hospital NICU, because how many baby blankets can one teen handle! 
"Checkered" baby blanket, made December 2012 - April 2013. Green & white acrylic baby sport yarn. 



And because I had nothing else to do in Europe this month, I started another baby blanket combining two stitch patterns I found. As I am over 75% done, I expect to finish it before the end of July and donate it to the hospital, but who knows what will really happen. 
"Bluebell Yellowbell" blanket, started June 5, 2013. To be donated to Lucille Packard Children's Hospital NICU. White & yellow acrylic baby sport yarn. Still a work of progress.
I hope to continue to have blankets coming out of my fingers. I really enjoy making blankets now that I have come over the hump of knitting and learned to focus long enough to finish a project (that and learning to design a project that is worth finishing). There is still a lot of yarn in this world to be knitted with as well as cold babies to be warmed up. It's also a great way to get community service hours while in the car, in front of the TV, or in bed. ;)

Until next time,
Happy Crafting!
~Elizabeth