It was a blanket that I’d knitted way back (about 15 years ago, long before the eight-year knitting hiatus) and it had taken me ages. But I liked it, and I’d recently heard about sampler blankets (or afghans, as they call them in America) and I thought it would be fun to make my own.
Step one (as it nearly always is for me) – buy a book. In this case the Knitting Stitch Manual by Lesley Stanfield (I can’t link because it’s out of print but the various stitchionaries out there would be equally useful). There were some GREAT cable patterns in there and I was really excited about putting a load of them together. This was going to be easy!
Step two – buy yarn. I didn’t have much cash at the time and as it was for a blanket I thought a cheapish but all-wool aran weight would be ideal. I picked the Wendy Traditional Aran because it comes in enormous 500g balls and is pretty good value. (This was the only thing I was right about, incidentally.)
Step three – cast on. This is where things started to get iffy. Having recently heard about blocking and believing (wrongly) that it could resolve all ills, I cheerfully knitted blocks according to how much I liked a pattern, without regard to a consistent number of stitches, or how many cables there were in the pattern (not realising that the more cables there were, the more they would ‘pull’ towards the middle. I also periodically forgot how many stitches at the edges and how many rows at the top and bottom I was leaving as a border, meaning some had skinny borders and some had fat.
Step 4 – realise that my squares Are Not Square. Block some of them, sew them together and realise that this Really, Really Isn’t Working. The heavily–cabled ones couldn’t be blocked square and the few blocks I’d sewn together just looked awful. (This was also the point at which I realised that at some points I’d knitted too few rows or stitches of border). Here’s one of the heavily cabled ones that also has uneven borders.
Step 5 – give up for about three years.
Step 6 – read about compensating for cable-pulling by adding stitches.
Step 7 – run out of anything else to knit (I can thoroughly recommend this approach for finally forcing you back to a misbegotten project).
Step 8 – take a deep breath and start frogging. I probably unravelled 13 of my original 16 or so blocks.
Step 9 – start reknitting. This time with a consistent stitch count at top and bottom (72), a hard lock on how many rows (12) and stitches (6 per side) I was using as a border and with extra stitches in the middle of cabled blocks to compensate for the cables doing their pulling-in thing. I also discovered the heady (read quick-to-knit) delights of simple knit-purl patterns, so there’s now about 50% knit-purl and 50% cabled blocks.
Step 10 – Be Happy. It’s working. Each block is now about 13.5″ square and – wonder of wonders – they block square. So here’s where I am at the moment, with another row of four blocks busy drying and then to be sewn on.
One more row of four to go and then it’s the border, and I will have a very warm blanket that covers a double bed or acts as a throw on the sofa.
Happy with that!