The Story of a 10 Month Secret Knitting Project
As soon as I heard my best friend, Ailey, was getting married (so some time in January 2010), I started to think about the perfect present. I couldn’t just get something off the registry. I love giving gifts. The perfect gift is an incredible thing – a chance thing that combines something-I-need-but-didn’t-know-it with she-knows-who-I-am. I wanted to put love into this gift. The thing was, not only was this my best friend getting married, but the guy she was marrying, Adam, is perfect for her. I wanted to show how much I felt that. How much I blessed them and was excited for this new chapter of their relationship.
The thing I know how to make – because it was clear to me that the perfect gift was going to be something I made – is knitted stuff. So of course I turned to Ravelry. I hunted using various now-forgotten keywords for wedding gifts and came to realize that the general best knitted wedding present is a blanket. Who doesn’t love cuddling under a warm knitted blanket?
Thing was, most of the results for “wedding blanket” or somesuch were lacy, frilly, loveydovey patterns. And those just aren’t Ailey and Adam. I couldn’t see them using such a fussy thing. Plus, lace blankets have that toes-getting-stuck-in-the-weave problem. Ick. No.
So I started searching just for blankets and bingo – the Moderne Log Cabin Blanket by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne (Mason-Dixon Knitting). It was perfect. Easily personalized with color choice while being a solid modern pattern. It looks like this pattern is available for free download even if you’re not on Ravelry. The book Mason-Dixon Knitting is also available for purchase on Amazon. The pattern is given both for adult and baby size blankets. The adult-size blanket calls for 9 blocks using 4 colors of yarn.
The thing Ravelry excels at is showing all the different ways you can come at a pattern by linking everyone’s projects to the pattern. I spent about a month reviewing color choices, yarns, and borders (unfortunately one of the ones that influenced me the most doesn’t have photos on Flickr. Ravelry-only link). Early in March, I decided upon Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice Solids & Heathers (yes, that Vanna, as in White. She’s a crocheter). It’s soft, machine washable AND dryable, comes in a wide variety of colors, affordable (important when you’re buying enough to make a queen-size blanket). I mocked up a few options to share with a small, trusted circle. We decided on option 3.
I ordered 2 skeins of each color mid-March and received the package at the end of the month. I figured I’d see how much I really needed of each before ordering more.
- Size 9 (5.5 mm) 36″ circular needles – for main knitting and border (I recommend Takumi by Clover)
- Crochet hook – for weaving in ends (I find size 7 (4.5 mm) is good to have on hand for most projects)
- Ball Winder – for winding yarn into center-pull balls
- Contrasting color yarn for invisible cast-on used in border – see videos linked below for details
- Calculator, measuring tape, scissors
By late April I figured out the math and decided on some major adjustments to the pattern.
4/23: Gauge and pattern adjustments. I’m getting 4 sts/in [stitches per inch] instead of 5.5 sts/in in the pattern so I multiplied the original CO [cast on] by the difference (.7272727272) and got a new original CO of 55. I hope this works out correctly. My row gauge is similar enough (10 sts/in instead of 11 sts/in) that I don’t think I need to make an adjustment.
Changing the original CO means I have to recalculate the number of sts to cast on or pick up for the next blocks, but it’s pretty straightforward. Perhaps later I’ll make an image of the changes since I think that’ll be easier to understand.
I could post all the changes I made, but it wouldn’t be particularly helpful to anyone picking up the pattern. Every knitter’s gauge is different depending on how loosely or tightly you knit, needles you use, yarn you use, etc.
Also decided on doing an applied i-cord border per these videos: Applied I-Cord Border Basics (uses the Moderne Baby Blanket too, so it’s really easy to apply this to this pattern), Applied I-Cord Turn (continuation), I-Cord Kitchener Join (finale). They are super detailed and helpful!
After doing gauge, throwing another knife at the board (because I’m crazy) and tried out Brooklyn Tweed’s Romney pattern just to break up the garter stitch a little and give the blanket (and me, the knitter) some interest. I don’t think I could add anything more complicated or it wouldn’t line up, but the gauge swatch I did for this pattern seemed to work well. In the photo, the point where the cast on end is coming out is where the color would actually change (the join).
The Knitting Process
Even before I finished the first block (Beige) I knew I’d probably need more yarn. Block 1 ended up taking one skein plus enough from the second skein to cover 9 rows (10 w/ bind-off). It definitely pays to use affordable yarn for this project.
I finished Block 1 (10% of the project, I figured at the time) in 11 days. I used the bind-off I used on the Daybreak Shawl and began Block 2 (Dusty Blue) in early May.
5/4: I love the Dusty Blue. Knitting the blue block is such a joy. I love how the entire blanket builds off the first cast on row. It’s making the construction and progress very satisfying and the pattern mod I’ve done is working out quite well. It repeats every 6 rows (odd numbered rows are RS, even = WS) and each repeat of 6 includes 3 garter ridges (well, 2 plus one flat). So the division works perfectly (66 garter ridges is 22 repeats of 6 row pattern; 33 garter ridges is 11 repeats of 6 row pattern). Yes, the ridges go horizontal and vertical depending on the block, but that would happen anyway!
Block 2 took me 9 days. Block 3 (Espresso) took a month and nearly two skeins. Block 4 (Silver Blue) started shaping up to be even bigger, but I ran out of yarn in that color and began a series of slimming-down modifications to make the blanket realistic to finish by the early October wedding. It says something that by mid-June I was already starting to panic.
Ordered 4 more skeins in each color in early July. A bit of a drastic decision, but I figured I would be able to return any unused yarn by the deadline (Lion Brand has a nice big window of 90 days).
7/3: Decided to rip back to 48 garter “ridges” (two ridges and a flat or 96 rows) because it’s divisible by 3 and 6. That leaves this block 5” too narrow, but I can make it up by adding 5” elsewhere to the width. Just want to keep the momentum going since I won’t get new yarn for another week (it’s shipping).
7/5: Finished ripping back to 48 and binding off Block 4! Picked up stitches for Block 5.
7/18: Finished Block 5 today! It took a skein and a half. Eeks. Getting to the big ones now. But my box of yarn arrived on Friday so I definitely have enough to finish the project.
I was a bit surprised how large the blanket was at 5 blocks. Perhaps I could have done with the baby blanket, I began to think.
8/1: Finished Block 6 (finished a skein around 21 garter rows). Decided to keep it at 33 and not add the 5” I lost in Block 4 because it’s going to be wide enough for two people as is. That and I need to finish this by October 1!!!
8/2: Finished picking up sts on Block 7 and the first 6 rows. Need to make this happen!
The Machine Attempt
Myrrhia is a lovely member of our knitting group The Yarn Wranglers and a wizard with knitting machines. I messaged her in August on Ravelry in a panic hoping I could make some serious progress on the blanket by machine. She graciously offered her help and we spent an afternoon trying various options. But basically we learned a valuable lesson: you can’t do garter stitch on a knitting machine. That’s overly simplified, of course. You can, but it’s a royal pain. I persevered with hand knitting.
Race to the Finish
The last few blocks turned into a blur. I was determined to finish the blanket in time to give it to Ailey and Adam AT their wedding.
8/21: Finished Block 7 with 42 repeats of 6 instead of 66. The blanket is long enough to cover me from my neck to my toes if I stretch it and Blocks 9 will make it longer. Cast on Block 8 and did the first row. Hands are so tired!
9/12: Finished Block 8 with only 33 repeats. On to block 9!
9/28: Finished Block 9 with only 33 repeats. The blanket is about the right length for a queen size bed, but only about half the width. Weird. It’s definitely big enough for two people to cuddle!
On to the border. It’s going well thanks to the videos linked above. Crunch time! The wedding is Saturday!!
10/8: It’s DONE! Decided that I didn’t need to deliver it half finished. Waiting until my friend gets back before I give it to her and her husband. The wedding was gorgeous. That weekend was about them and the event. I want them to have time to appreciate the blanket when they get it!
As I was working the border, I realized I had read the instructions weirdly and tried to do the border with needles two sizes SMALLER than the blanket. So I worked to complete the border with size 7 (4.5 mm) needles instead of the same size or, what was actually recommended, two sizes LARGER (which would be size 11s). I’d sneak in time each evening at the wedding (it was a weekend affair) for painful knitting with too-small needles. Perfectionist that I am, I realized after sitting with it for a while that it just wasn’t going to cut it.
The Redo and Gift-Giving
I ripped out the curly border on October 10th and used size 9 needles for a tight weave, but relaxed border. It took me seven days to complete it, but I’m so glad I did. Now it was perfect and I was ready to give it to Ailey and Adam at their house (much more cozy).
I gave them their present on the 19th of October in the bedroom so the blanket could be laid out on the bed, where it’s still being used, I hear. There was much bouncing and clapping and hugging.
10/19: The blanket has been delivered to its home! All those months of work totally paid off in the reactions tonight. I have the best friends.
I don’t know that I’ll be making another blanket – much less one of that size – for quite a while yet, but I am very very proud of the finished product and so glad I was able to give my dear friends something so warm and cuddly to celebrate their marriage!