Tuesday, 22 November 2011

NaNoBlogMo 22 - Knitting My Lizard Ridge Blanket

There is one project that I knit for myself that has more meaning than any other. Perhaps I am cheating for writing about it in this blog when I already wrote about it in my blog from when I was in Shanghai, but not everyone knows the story, its not really all in one place and I am running low on material for my NaNoBlogMo challenge.

A while back, I fell in love with THIS pattern from Knitty.com. I thought it was beautiful and I wanted to make it. The only problem was that the yarn the pattern calls for, Noro Kureyon, is a bit pricey. While paying $7-9 per skein isn't too bad if you are making a scarf or other small project, when you need to buy 20+ to make a blanket, the cost really adds up. So I put the blanket on my knitting bucket list and didn't think about it for a while.

Then came the genius idea. I can't remember if I came up with this idea by myself or in conversation with my friend Bonnie, but the idea came and I loved it. I was a senior in college, just about to graduate and planning to live in China for a year (which ended up being 2 years). What if I asked all my friends and family, if they wanted to get me a graduation/going away present, to buy me a skein of Noro. They could pick whatever color scheme they wanted, I would keep track of who gave me each skein and knit the blanket over the course of the year. I would knit the squares in China and think of the people at home that cared about me and when I got home I would have a blanket to remind me of my time in China.

People were far more generous than I was expecting, although the continued generosity of the people in my life never ceases to surprise me. I figured I might get 12 or so skeins, which would give me a good sized lap blanket and if I wanted to make it bigger I could fund the rest myself. I ended up receiving over 70 skeins of yarn. Family. Friends from high school and college. Former coworkers. Family friends. All together I had yarn from a wide variety of the people in my life.

Some colors that people got I am sure were random or just picked out because they liked them. I got a lot of a particular blue colorway (as you can see from the pictures) that could be because blue is one of my favorite colors. One woman said she picked the colorway she did because it looked like a sweater of hers that I loved and complimented often. A family friend picked a colorway that reminded her of army fatigues because her son (and my former classmate and 7th grade sorta-boyfriend) is in the army.

I packed one skein of yarn for each person/family (as some people gave me multiple skeins). I was panicking about needing to pack everything I thought I might need for a year of my life (take for example that I knew I would never find bras or dress shoes that would fit me in Shanghai), but I knew I needed to pack my yarn. I ended up using those vacuum bags to pack all the yarn. They ended up being one of the first things I unpacked when I arrived. From my first days in my Shanghai apartment, I had one drawer in my living room dedicated to craft supplies.

I was already knitting blanket squares on the airplane ride there. I remember knitting in the airport lobby in Shanghai after I arrived while I was waiting before taking a taxi to the school. When I was asked to be the teacher adviser for the school knitting club, I was happy to agree. I often brought whatever square I was working on to the club meetings and knit and chatted with the students. One square, though I can't remember which one, has one row knit by one of my former students.

I knit a lot of the squares in the beginning of my first year when I was frightened and nervous about being in a foreign country. Knitting actually helped me to reach out and I ended up meeting up with two women who lived in JinQiao (the area I was living) to have coffee and knit a few times. The more I started getting out and doing things, the less time I spent squirreled away in my apartment and knitting (but of course I still found time for it).

I knitted all the yarn I brought with me while I was in China for the first year and brought it back to me when I came home to visit during the summer of 2009. I realized I could knit about 3 more squares and have a 6x6 blanket, but when I laid the blanket squares out it seemed just a tad too small. So I decided to bite the bullet and knit 9 more so I could have a 6x7 blanket. The fact that it totaled up to 42 squares, the answer to life, the universe and everything, only finalized it for me. I knit 9 more squares, this time not keeping track of who each skein was from, since everyone already had their representative square.

If I remember correctly, this was the first project where I did blocking. Because the squares were slightly bubbled and all various sizes (despite being knit of the same yarn on the same needles by the same knitter), it was pretty much essential. It was unbelievably worth it, too. I spent a lot of time going back and forth about layout. I tried to keep like colors separate and have some good variation between lights and darks. Once it was decided I started to sew the squares together.

Once all the squares were sewn together, I used my carefully documented pictures to identify who had given me the yarn to make each square and labeled them, partially for my own sake and partially so I could show everyone where their gift ended up on my blanket. The 9 blank squares are the ones I knitted to get myself up to 42 squares. They are still yarn that was given to me by someone whose name you see on the blanket, I just didn't make a note of who.
I was so excited once all the squares were together and the blanket was actually blanket-shaped that I curled right up in it for the next few days. Even though it was August and a bajillion degrees out. Knitty was having a contest at the time to have people to take pictures of projects made using their patterns for a calendar, which explains this clearly staged picture below. I never ended up submitting the pictures, but I still like them.
The blanket is still unfinished, technically, even though it has been on my bed and I have been using it ever since. I still plan on adding the crochet border that the pattern calls for, or a border of some kind....eventually. Maybe. The longer the blanket sits there, still being wonderfully blanket-like, the more it convinces me that it doesn't need a border.

I loved this idea and how well it turned out. I love that my friends and family were a part of a project I did. I think I would like to do something like it again someday. Maybe something for if/when I get married. Have the guests give a skein of yarn and then knit a blanket with them during my first year of marriage.

Thank you again to everyone that gave me yarn that ended up in this blanket. Everyone was so kind and giving and took my idea to heart. I love my blanket and I really do use it every night. And I love telling the story about the blanket to anyone who asks (and sometimes to people who don't).


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