Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Finishing a blanket, from the 1940's

Mostly done, with leftover yarn
 Not long ago, I was referred to a lady with an unfinished object (UFO).  What she had was a mostly-completed blanket, and leftover yarn, her mother worked on in about 1944 - seventy years ago!  This was most likely a Red Cross project, part of the war effort.  She also remembered knitting some squares as a young Girl Scout, herself, for a troup project, at the same time, but was not sure if any of her squares were part of this piece.

This was a common Girl Scout project, with each girl in a troup making a few squares, to end up with one or more blankets to donate to a local charity.  Squares from different stitchers come out different sizes, yet the elasticity of the stitch makes them all conform to each other when joined together.

The pattern goes like this:  Using sensible yarn and needles to match (say, worsted weight and 4.5mm, or sport and 3.5mm), cast on 20 stitches.  Garter stitch (knit every row) for 20 ridges (40 rows).  Bind off.  When you have a whole bunch of these squares, sew them together to make a blanket.  Embellish, if desired.  You can do this in any yarn, though worsted or sport weight are the most sensible, with the yarn most available.

Squares are done, ready to assemble and finish
The beauty of this teaching project is that it covers a range of basic skills:  casting on, the knit stitch, binding off (not too tightly), joining squares (preferably all the same direction), and, optionally, embellishment techniques like embroidery or different joining techniques.

It is also a meditation on the square gauge of garter stitch – carefully alternating the direction of the squares all worked in the same color makes a good textural design.   A well-chosen color scheme adds to the appeal of the project, or at least a main color that pulls it all together.  Otherwise, it gets pretty dull by the second square.  Once you get the hang of it, squares can be cranked out pretty quickly. The project is very portable up to the assembly stage.

This is the kind of project countless people have started and never finished.  Like many beginner projects, it is not terribly exciting unless it is planned or curated carefully.  Well educated, reasonably affluent women, however eager to do their part for the war effort, may feel that their skills and talents are under-utilized.  They may be dismayed to see that all the education and affluence in the world does not make something exciting out of something dull, in the absence of the skill that comes from practice.  And yet, using good yarn, good colors, and good skill, the result can be sublime.  Here’s how the project finished:
How it ended up

I added new, matching yarn only for the edging.

As we age and downsize to smaller living quarters, these projects surface from time to time.  It’s good to get closure.  Now this lady, in her ninth decade, has a completed reminder of a different time.

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