Mary Blanket Squared

Well, it’s been a bit. I have no excuses other than clinicals eating my life this past semester. Everyday is a little bit closer to my degree, and now that I’ve actually physically started my doctoral project, the simultaneous feelings of being-close-to-being-done and still-having-so-much-work-to-do are doing my head in a bit. How do we fix that?

We knit baby blankets!

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And this one, my friends, was really something special.

My friend and co-worker Mary is just a lovely person. You might remember her from nearly two years ago when I knit her a stripey chevron baby blanket for her first baby, and now she’s gone and decided to bring another wonderful person into the world. How very like her.

Mary, in addition to being a fantastic nurse, is also a wonderful visual artist. You can check out (and buy!) some of her art here: Art by MLeon. Her visual language is really striking, particularly if you are a person from New Orleans, and I have been lusting after one of her abstract swamp paintings for a long while.

I figured, after taking a little trip through Ravelry‘s baby blanket pattern section with Mary (and speaking of Ravelry, hell yeah Ravelry, you go Ravelry, good for you Ravelry), that I’d take her preferences into account, but add in a few little extras so that she knew how much I admire her talent and style.

Her oyster paintings really caught my eye, with their swathes of pearls and greys, along with metallic accents. So did this particular colorway of Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in Pearlescent. And the handful of beads that I had left over from my exciting venture into beaded shawls. A plan was starting to come together.

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The pattern is Baby Blanket Squared by Jennifer Donze, and it really shows off all of that lovely subtle variegation. From far away, it just looks like varying shades of gray, but up close…

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…you’ve got hints of blue, purple, and cream mixed in, just like an opalescent oyster shell.

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The beads are Toho Japanese glass beads, the clear glass with the silver foil inner lining, size 6/0 E, and you won’t even need a full container. The original pattern doesn’t include the beading, so let me tell you what I did, in case you want to fancy it up with me.

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For each beaded stitch, you take a tiny crochet hook and thread the bead onto the stitch that you are about to knit, just right on top of it, and then place it back on your left-hand needle and knit it normally. Starting with the border chart, I put beads on every corner stitch on the pattern rows (the odd-numbered rows).

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Then, with row 26 (the last row of the pattern chart, where you’re just working plain stitches around), I placed beads on every stitch that had previously been a double-decrease on the row below, to mark the tiny clusters. This makes that last row take approximately a thousand years, but something about those tiny little bits of sparkle make me happy.

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Then, on the bind-off row, I beaded the corner stitches one last time before binding them off, just to make sure the sparkles went all the way to the end. This is optional, of course, because then you’ve got to block it really aggressively to make sure all those little beads lay totally flat.

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Because this is a pattern where every other row makes the blanket grow larger, you will get extremely irritated with it and shove it back in the bag after every few rows, just because you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. My last few rows and the bind-off alone took 1.5-2 hours each, since at that point you have over 600 stitches of sock-weight yarn on your needles. It’s hard not to go a bit stir crazy.

But when you’re finally done and you get to admire all of that hard work?

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It’s so worth it.

That Stroll sock yarn is such good stuff, it’ll have you thinking crazy thoughts like, “Hmmm, maybe I’d like a whole sweater out of this.”

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I mean, can you blame me? It’s just got such a lovely drape and squish. It would probably take 10 skeins to make something that would fit me, and approximately a bajillion years to finish it, but damn if it doesn’t sound appealing right now, in the hazy fog of finishing a project.

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I can only hope that Mary loves her blanket just as much as I do, and that it becomes something special to her, just like she is to me.

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