Summer of Baby Blankets, vol. 2 – Annie’s Levi Blanket

We’re on to the second blanket in our self-imposed Summer of Baby Blankets (make sure you go look back at vol. 1!), and it’s just such an astonishing piece of loveliness that I am surprised I made it.

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I mean, come on. If I didn’t spend so much time with it, watching Flashpoint and Endeavour while navigating its intensely cabled wonderland, I’d swear that I could never make such a thing.

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It’s almost like we should it Impostor Syndrome: the blanket.

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This blanket is going to my friend and co-worker Annie, who is expecting her first child in the next few weeks. She is, to me, someone who exudes a sort of class and grace about her that I can only aspire to, especially when I am concentrating very hard on not spilling something on myself or dropping something very breakable.

She’s lithe and blonde and will undoubtedly have the most beautiful and graceful daughter possible, so I figured she’d want to have something graceful and charming with family-heirloom potential. I clicked around for a long time on Ravelry, trying to find something that possessed those same characteristics. Something in lace or cables, for sure, but nothing that looked like it was an exercise in crazy celtic love-knots or impossibly difficult cabling. Just something classic and simple, but interesting and difficult enough to hold my attention.

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Enter Levi’s Baby Blanket by Lindsay Humphrey.  Three separate cable motifs, all symbolizing the unity between a baby and its parents.

Braids…

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…keyhole twists…

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…and a set of three heart motifs running up the center?

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Yes, please.

It’s got everything you could want in classic baby elegance, plus a cable chart that’ll knock you over sideways. It’s color-coded, for pete’s sake. Does it get any better?

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I went again with Cascade 220 Superwash Merino, this time in the color Tuffet (02), which is the most amazing cross somewhere between soft brown and gray. Like a really delicious mushroom. Or the color you’d expect Martha Stewart to have in every room of her house.

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When it was blocked, the merino relaxed into gorgeous silkiness, while still keeping perfect stitch definition for all of those twists and turns. I may have shoved my face into it for a second.

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And speaking of blocking, blocking wires are definitely your friend here. They are the perfect solution to making sure that every cable is stretched out perfectly both horizontally and vertically, and in getting those wavy blanket borders to lay flat. I got mine here, and have used them for almost every project since. They are a fantastic investment.

I did make a tiny bit of modification here from the original pattern, in order to make my yarn choice and desperate need for symmetry to work together.  The original pattern calls for a DK-weight yarn, and the Cascade 220 Merino is more of a light worsted, so things are going to be a little different height-wise. Also, I knitted the whole thing on size 6 needles, which may seem small, but really gets those cables to pop right in your face. To accommodate for this, I had to change the ending point of the pattern.

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The pattern calls for three repeats of the chart, then working up until row 56 on the 4th go-around. Because my yarn was larger, I found that I was at a really good length at three repeats, and then I just continued until row 9 so that my top and bottom cable twists on the 2nd cable motif were symmetrical. However, this made me go on to a fifth ball of yarn that I had to frantically special-order. If you’d like to make this pattern in the same yarn, you could probably just stop on the third chart repeat at row 73, then start your border from there. That way, you get your symmetry and you don’t have to scramble for that extra ball of yarn.

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Ugh, even the wrong side is pretty.

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Stay tuned for the exciting finale in the Summer of Baby Blankets, as soon as I finish it. Which might take a little bit. Hopefully we don’t bleed into the Early Fall of Baby Blankets, because it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Summer of Baby Blankets, vol. 1 – Autumn Vindauga, plus a rainbow friend

It’s the self-imposed “Summer of Baby Blankets” over here at Casa Jingersnaps. This summer, not one, not two, but three of my coworkers are pregnant, and I just couldn’t let those opportunities to make adorable baby blankets pass me by.

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First up, the Autumn Vindauga Blanket.

My friend Christina, who you all remember from her Moderne Baby Blanket a few years ago, is going to have her second baby later this summer, and to say that I am extremely excited about it is a vast understatement. Christina is one of the world’s loveliest people, and she deserves all of the happiness possible in the universe. I try to do my part with general at-work goofiness, but when I get the chance to make things for her, that’s when I feel like I can really show her the love that she deserves.

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In college, I used to take the paint strips from home improvement stores and use them as bookmarks. It seemed like an arty thing to do while in theatre school, but the habit stuck. Dan regularly brings home new paint strips for me whenever he goes to buy gardening stuff, and they dutifully mark my place in all of my novels and textbooks to this day.

What on earth does this have to do with anything, you may ask? Well, when Christina and I started looking at baby blankets on Ravelry, we were struck by how insanely beautiful Astrid Sivertsen‘s Vindauga Blanket was. It’s a huge project, with seemingly 64 different unique colors, all made out of hand-dyed sample mini-skeins that the author made herself. It’s stunning, and absolutely a masterpiece of dying and handknitting skill.

However, I am not a hand-dyer in any way, and I would probably ruin hundreds of dollars of yarn in the attempt to make anything even close to this thing of beauty. What I do have though, is a mastery of the subtle art of drawing things out on graph paper, plus a love of little boxed of color stacked on top of other boxes with white borders in-between.  You see where I’m going with this?

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I sat down with the color chart for Cascade 220 Superwash Merino (a workhorse yarn with amazing stitch definition that still somehow makes one of the softest, squishiest fabrics possible after blocking) and some colored pencils, and I plotted out a plan. Since the original Vindauga pattern is more of a recipe with changeable elements, rather than a strict pattern, I knew I’d be able to adjust things without too much stress. I plotted out 7 rows and columns, 7 colors ranging from brown to green, passing through reds and golds on the way, going through the blanket on the diagonal.

If you look closely, you’ll see that the whole thing is plotted out like a crossword puzzle, with diagonal symmetry, pairing the darkest with the lightest color, then the next darkest and lightest, then the next set, until everything meets in the middle. Those among you that enjoy these things can then catch out the inconsistency if you wish. Give up? The center block doesn’t follow these rules, mostly because I just wanted an extra block of that gorgeous burnt orange, so that throws off the whole thing a tiny bit. Oh well, it was worth it.

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For those of your who’d like to make your own with the same autumn colorway, here’s the colors: Rich Brown (03), Raspberry (22), Burnt Orange (06), Golden Yellow (05), Artisan Gold (08), Dark Moss (10), and Tree Top (15), with the “frame” color of Cream (01). You’ll need 1 skein each of each of the window colors, and 2 of the border color, and you’ll be knitting it up on size 7 needles, or whatever gives you the fabric you desire. My Prismacolor pencils weren’t exactly the right shades, but you get the idea.

After all of the colors were picked, then I knitted the strips for the blanket. Because the original pattern calls for 2 strands of what I assume is something sort of fingering-weight held together, I had to make some modifications to adjust for the light worsted I was using. Each vindauga (window in Old Norse!) is 24 sts wide and 14 ridges high in garter stitch, with the frame borders 3 ridges high.

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I was in love with my little garter stitch sushi rolls.

After all of those strips were knit, there were a lot of ends to weave in.

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See? A lot.

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It’s hard to see, but because of how stretchy the garter stitch fabric is, I chose to weave in each end by following the stitch lines, mimicking the last row of stitches to both conceal the ends, but also to allow for the blanket to stretch and move without working out the ends accidentally.

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If you’re following along at home, that’s 7 windows per strip, plus 6 border areas, which means 26 ends per strip. Not to mention the ends still to come with joining the strips together. It’s a little maddening. You just have to keep thinking good thoughts.

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Then came the process of grafting the strips together. I’m sure that the process used in the original pattern makes sense, but I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Instead, here’s what I did. I picked up and knit 2 rows of cream onto the sides of each seam. Then, I held the right sides together and grafted them together with Kitchener stitch, but I treated both rows like the right side. That means, for each stitch, I pulled the yarn through knit-wise to take the stitch off, and then pulled through purl-wise to leave it on, rather than switching between the two depending on their needle position. This will make more sense when you’re in it, trust me.

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That way, I ended up with perfect purl bumps right in the middle of the frame. It took a bit of perfecting over time, especially with keeping the tension just-right, but after doing 6 of them, each 116 stitches long, it became second-nature.

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Ugh. So pretty. What a cool way to join strips. What a cool way to make a blanket in general. Astrid, you’re the coolest.

As for the border, the pattern has you do provisional cast-ons, and you leave your stitches live at the tops of each strip, so picking up your stitches is so much easier than you’d think. I picked up 2 stitches per “frame” section between the strips, just to keep things nice and even.

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In the corners, you increase two stitches on opposite sides of the corner each time to keep the corners flat and pointy. I just did bar increases, leaving the little row of knit stitches in place to mark the corner lines. I really like how it makes it look sort of “beveled” there, but you can do whatever increase strikes your fancy.

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Then, you weave in all of those remaining ends. Of which there are…26 more? I think? So 208 ends? I’m glad I didn’t know that before I started, or I might not have had the strength.

And then you can block it, which is really just a magical experience with the Cascade 220 Superwash Merino, because it just turns into this gorgeous silky stuff with amazing drape, while still keeping your garter stitch ridges all popped and perfect.

And then, just marvel at the thing for a while.

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And then wonder if you have the inner fortitude to make a queen-sized one, because you want to cover every horizontal surface in your house in those perfect little garter-stitch windows. They’re so good.

Now, if you did yours the same way that I did mine, you’ll end up with a tiny bit left over of each color. Just enough to make you think that you need to make a extra something special for the big sister. I’m a big proponent in getting presents for the other kids when there’s a new baby, so they don’t feel left out of the celebration.

Enter I Can Knit a Rainbow, a puffy little piece of adorableness designed by Clare Doornbos and featured in Knitty‘s First Fall 2014.  I used each color, moving from greens to brown, accidentally leaving out the Artisan Gold, but then ultimately not being too broken up about it because it came out so dang cute.

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Look at that 70s modern kitchen color template action. All that mustard and burnt orange and avocado. Turns out, I can knit a 70s rainbow, and it’s even cuter than I thought it would be.

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It’s so soft and squishy and adorable. I want to make a million more of them and hand them out on the street to everyone. The more rainbows, the better.

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And so ends the first installment of the Summer of Baby Blankets. But don’t worry, there’s plenty more cables and colorwork and nit-picky pattern adjustments to come.