Anatomy of a Pattern: Something Strange blanket

Inspiration comes from the strangest and most unexpected places sometimes. The story of the Something Strange blanket began with a text message from my gorgeous friend Sarah:

At the time I was wandering around in a museum in Chicago, so that weekend was spent researching patterns and yarn in between sight seeing and eating hot dogs.

I'm not used to designing within constraints. There were three main things I needed to balance:

  1. It needed to look right! This meant getting the stitch and the colour pretty accurate.

  2. It needed to fit within the production company's budget.

  3. I needed to be able to make it in a few weeks.

Someone told me recently that constraints set your creativity free, and while it sounds like a contradiction, it turned out to be pretty true. These three elements ended up affecting basically every aspect of making the blanket, and allowed me to flex my problem-solving skills.

Yarn Choice

The first thing I needed to settle on was yarn. I'm usually averse to acrylic, but I went for it to fit into the budget. The next thing I was optimising for was the look - I wanted to use the same yarn for the whole blanket which meant I needed a yarn that had a yellow and white that looked correct. I spent a decent chunk of time in the yarn department at my local Michael's - it turned out that finding a nice pearly white was harder than finding the right yellow, but thankfully Caron Simply Soft had good options for both colours.

Stitch Repeat

This style of blanket is traditionally a crochet pattern. I flirted with the idea of crocheting it but given that I needed it quickly and my crochet skills are pretty basic, I decided to make a knit version. After doing a bit of research, I figured I could do a modified Feather and Fan

stitch. Feather and Fan patterns create nice waves (like I needed), but they also have little holes in them (which I didn't want), so I had to adapt a little. A Feather and Fan is basically a few rows of stockinette with one row that includes a series of increases and decreases, and the holes come from the fact that the increase is a yarn over - it's done intentionally as a decorative element. So to get rid of the holes, I just needed to do a different increase. This left me with lots of options, each with their own pros and cons:

  • KFB: Very quick to knit but visually not great, since it leaves a little purl bump

  • M1: Exactly what I needed visually, but they're a little fiddly to execute and I didn't want them to slow me down

  • Afterthought Yarn Over: This was a new one to me, which I found on Knitting Help's Increases page. It knits up quickly and leaves a smaller hole than a normal yarn over.

For speed's sake, I started off with the afterthought yarn over. It was nice and quick but the holes were still quite noticeable, so I ended up going with the M1.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Sullivan

Photo courtesy of Sarah Sullivan

Yarn weight

Caron Simply Soft is 10 ply (worsted weight). Given how big a blanket I was making I needed something very thick, so I played with holding several strands together. I've made a large, super chunky blanket before so I tried three strands together on a 10mm (US 15) needle, but it was way too unwieldy and the waves ended up being huge. So I ended up using two strands at a time, which looked great.

Execution

Once all the elements were in place, I just had to knit it. And boy, did I have to knit. I ended up knitting so much, so quickly that I actually made my arms quite sore. Blocking something this large was quite a task too - I had to hang it up on my balcony rail. But at the end of the day, it worked out quite well! 

Sarah initially had to keep the venue for the job she was doing under wraps, but it turned out to be a set at the Google pop-up store in Manhattan. I went and visited at one point and it looked absolutely stunning, and so many people saw and used the blanket! I found a few news and events websites that were featuring it too, which was pretty neat.

Overall, the blanket was a pretty fun experience. I learned a lot from the design, and given that knitting patterns for this style of blanket are rare, the next logical step was to share it with all of you. If you'd like to cast on, you can find the pattern on Ravelry or Etsy. It's available as an individual pattern or as part of my Deep Winter '18 collection, which will get you Something Strange as well as the Stepping Stones Scarf pattern. Happy knitting!

Katrina WalserComment