The Adventure of the Stealth Blanket: Part Three
For an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here.
For the first installment of this series, click here.
The design process is, at bottom, a series of questions. The more honest your answers, the better your design.
Most of the questions are Am I happy with this?
Facing the Swatch
This sixteen patch Ohio Star block is probably the largest single swatch I’ve ever knit for a project.
As I wrote in Part Two, I liked it well enough to begin an entire quilt-inspired blanket. But an even, good swatch suggests what you might do better.
I wanted a few changes.
First: more color. There’s not a shade of Kenzie I don’t like–it’s been a favorite of mine since it was introduced. The blue and grey are perfectly handsome, but too quiet for my current mood. This blanket is going to take a lot of time to knit, so I want it to make a statement. A bold statement. A really bold statement. If I could make it dance the hippy hippy shake while singing “Ain’t We Got Fun?” I would.
Second: more heft. The Kenzie fabric is soft, drapey, and sweet to cuddle. However, I live in Chicago, in a Victorian apartment house, and I don’t use blankets as decorative accents. Come February, I use them for survival. Heavier is better.
The Hikoo line offers a yarn I think of as Kenzie’s bigger, fancier cousin: Kenzington. The two share similar fiber blends– both have New Zealand merino, nylon, alpaca, and silk noils.* Kenzington is thicker, though; and rather than being twisted, it’s held together by what the industry calls “chainette” construction. Look at it closely, and you’ll see the strand is, indeed, a teeny weeny little chain.
When I first wrote about this yarn, someone asked me if it’s as soft as it looks. I told her it feels like an extremely stylish angel kissing you on the cheek.
Am I happy with this?
Oh, you bet I am.
The Unnatural Colorist
Now, which colors of Kenzington to use?
There was a time when this question would have sent me straight under the bed to shiver among the dust bunnies. I am not what you would call a natural-born colorist.
I lay this partly at the feet of my mother, who had a remarkable aversion to color. Our house and most things in it were a low-key mélange of brown, tan, ecru, beige, and rust. When she was in a carnival mood, she’d throw in a dash of hunter green.
How, you might ask, could such a person be a quilter? Well…in her all-too-brief lifetime she turned out a heap of beautifully made quilts in brown, tan, ecru, beige, and rust (with an occasional bit of hunter green). Such was her taste.
What’s more, as an American boy I was conditioned to limit myself to the so-called “masculine” palette of black, grey, blue, and khaki with a touch of moss green. Unless it was a color you could find on a battleship or a rotting log, I wasn’t allowed to wear it.
I overcame this to become a knitter who is in middle age perhaps almost too fond of mixing colors together in my work. In fact, these days I teach other knitters how to do it. It’s not–as I used to think–an arcane talent with which one must be born. You can learn, if you apply yourself a little and mess around a lot.
Coloring the Block
Here’s how I did it for this project.
I started with a color I really liked: Color 1015 Boysenberry, the purple.
I chose it for no other reason than that: I liked it. I figured I would enjoy knitting with it.
I had an idea that this would be the dominant color in the star; but I didn’t want it to stand alone. I wanted a second, closely related color, and reached for Color 1027 Takahe, the blue.
The two are similar enough (cool, dark in value, containing blue) that a star made of both would (or should) still read as a single unit of design.
For the background, I needed something that less intense that wouldn’t draw attention to itself. Grey had worked well in the Kenzie swatch block, so it was easy to choose a similar grey, Color 1018 Seal, in Kenzington.
If the star has two colors, why not have the background in two colors as well? Kenzington offers a pale tan, Color 1000 Pavlova, that is similar in value (very light) to the grey, and so should read well as a continuation of the background.
This is where, once upon a time, I would have stopped. All these colors sit nicely next to one another. Nothing jars. I have learned, though, that therein lies a problem. If everything goes together too well, the mix is inclined to be quiet. That can be soothing; but just as often can be dowdy or boring. I needed a jolt energy, and that comes from adding something very different.
So into the cool mix I dropped Color 1005 Bayberry, an orange-red. This would be primarily for the diamonds between the blue-and-purple stars. There would be less of it, and so I didn’t need to worry about it overwhelming the blanket–I hoped. You never know, do you?
Am I happy with this?
Indeed I am.
Before knitting the new patches I drew a sketch of the block, so I would know how many of each patch I’d need.
As the patches were finished, I laid them out to watch the blocks shape up.
When I had finished the first block, I was happy enough with it to knit the second. Then the fun really started.
My original plan was these two blocks, repeated.
Cute, right? I mean, fine. Yeah.
Am I happy with this?
Kinda. I mean, it was…fine. It wasn’t bad. It would work.
But as long as the squares were all laid out, I figured I’d not try some other arrangements. Like this.
Or even set aside the Ohio Star entirely and try something else. Why not?
And suddenly, in my head and stomach, the happy little vibrations that tell me, “That’s it. That’s the answer,** right there.”
Am I happy with this?
Yes! Yes! Yes!
Never. Stop. Playing.
I have a whole lot of knitting and sewing to do. And I think we are going to need a border to finish this thing.
See you in two weeks.
*Kenzie also includes a touch of angora.
**The answer for me. Your answer may differ, and that’s as it should be.
Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue
Kenzie by Hikoo® (50% New Zealand Merino, 25% Nylon, 10% Angora, 10% Alpaca, 5% Silk Noils; 160 yds per 50g skein). Colors 1002 (Grey Salt) and 1013 (Tekapo).
Kenzington by Hikoo (60% Merino, 25% Nylon, 10% Alpaca, 5% Silk Noils; 208 yds per 100g skein). Colores
addi® Click circular needles
Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His new book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book has just been brought out by Soho Publishing.
He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, Squam Arts Workshops, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.
Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News,Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Twist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Knitty.com, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.
He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet. On an average day, upwards of 2,500 readers worldwide drop in for a mix of essays, cartoons, and the continuing adventures of Dolores the Sheep.
Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, two looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.