Friday, February 13, 2009

The Ever-Present Blanket

So way back in the day, I got crazy inspired by Cara's mitered square blanket. I cannot now recall if I already had a copy of the first Mason-Dixon Knitting book, or if I picked it up later. But the colors! They were awesome, some planned, some unplanned, but all gorgeous. I had to have me one of those.

Tahki Cotton Classic

So I started buying Tahki Cotton Classic, which comes in a boatload (literally) of colors. Not trusting myself to come up with good color combos by choosing randomly, and being secretly worried I would be paralyzed by too many options, I limited myself to colors I associated with irises (flowers, not the part of the eyeball): purples, greens, yellows, and blues. A second rule: I would only use one skein of any given color dye lot + color number combo (this rule did not last, but was helpful at first). I began with something like 8 skeins of yarn, and the idea that I was going to be economical and mathematical about the process. I would keep track of how often I used one particular color and for what combination of stripes, calculate (roughly) how many mitered squares I could get out of a single skein, and thus be able to predict how many squares total I could get out of a given amount of yarn. Behold block #1:

Royal Purple Square
(The colors are off, the "background" color should be a deep royal purple, not the dark blue it appears to be here. This was way before I knew how to edit photos properly).

Oh, and I have a knitting-pattern rule. All four squares in one "block" would have the same main color, and I could basically do what I felt like with the contrasting colors. I've been a bit all over the map here. All four different contrasting colors, three contrasting colors (one repeated over two squares), one strip different from all the other contrasting colors (this arose in an attempt to use up tiny little leftover balls that I started accumulating at about the halfway point). So far I haven't used more than three colors in a single square, and no more than five colors in a signle four-square block. With my yarn in hand, I started to knit squares and collect new colors of TCC whenever I saw them in yarn shops. With my no-repeating-colors rule, it got to the point where I had to carry a list around of what colors I already had, so I wouldn't accidentally buy a second skein of lily pad green or pale lavender. All my data made its way into a spreadsheet, where the computational/archiving/obsessive side of my brain could indulge in all the minute details. Meanwhile, the visual, creative side of my brain is pleased by other aspects:

Lilypad Green Square
(One of my favorite blocks, especially because the purple is so unexpected. The blanket's theme is Irises, but this block reminds me of water lillies.)

The blanket has been my fall-back project for almost two years now, spanning five yarn stores, 48 unique colors, and several days' worth of knitting time (72 squares at about 2 hours per square). I've turned its hibernation tag on Ravelry on and then back off twice since I entered it into the database. I tend to bring out the project bag when I've just finished something big, or when I can't think of what I want to knit next, or when all my projects are complex or fiddly or at a sticky bit and I just want to knit something mindlessly. Several of these factors coincided in my knitting life recently: I'd just finished the two Noro scarves and a ton of spinning. With no idea of what to make next, not wanting to go back to the sewing-intensive Brie gloves, and needing something in a flash for my knit night, I grabbed a few colors at random and my size 6 (4 mm) Addi Natura circulars a few weeks ago. This morning, I spent about two hours updating the spreadsheet: adding in recently purchased colors, entering in two newly finished squares, checking totals, and re-estimating how many blocks I could reasonably get out of my current stash. I also planned out the next five blocks. I'm now past the halfway point, whether my ultimate goal is 30 blocks (5x6 block blanket) or 36 (6x6 block blanket), and I got all excited about the color combinations and the prospect of finishing the dang thing. While going through the completed blocks, I noticed this:

Mitered Square blanketMedium Lavender Square

My first inadvertent duplication. (Ok, I'm using the word duplication loosely. There are actually no repeating colors from one block to the next. I swear. I checked three times.) The formula: lighter purple background with one dark green contrast color, one dark purple contrast color, and two washed-out green contrast colors. I even photographed the blocks with the same orientation of the contrast colors (although one is rotated 90 degrees compared to the other), completely unconciously. I started to wonder if I'd been knitting this thing for too long, when another voice in my head reminded me: It's going to be an enormous sewing project after it's done being an enormous knitting project.

For the rest of the currently completed squares, here's the Flickr Set. I know I don't need to buy any more yarn, and I hope now I can power through the rest of the squares. They certainly don't take long. On the other hand, when I started this project I neither belonged to Ravelry nor owned a spinning wheel. Maybe it'll take another two years.


dre_ah said...

Sewing will totally be painful, but it's gorgeous and going to be totally worth it.

teekay said...

i applaud your dedication. how about a seaming party when the squares are done?

Anonymous said...

I will help you if/when you are ready to sew up