Wednesday, 6 November 2013

How To Knit a Sky Blanket

In 2012 I knitted a Sky Blanket (though it took me until quite late in 2013 to finish sewing all the squares together!), choosing the colours for each square based on the sky that day.

My blanket was inspired by Lea Redmond's awesome Sky Scarf project. Over at Lea's site you can find free instructions for knitting a sky scarf (as well as yarn bundles to buy if you want to knit a scarf like hers) which lots of people have followed to make some amazing scarves. If you want to make a sky scarf, or your own blanket project inspired by Lea's idea you don't really need to read this blog post... but every time I've blogged about my blanket's progress I've had questions about exactly how I've been making it, so I thought I'd share the details of my process so that if you want to you can knit a blanket just like mine :)


I knitted a blanket square a day for 360 days - not quite a whole year, but almost! I had hoped to knit a square a day, sew up the squares gradually and have the blanket finished by the start of 2013 but, alas, life (and deadlines!) got in the way. Better late than never though, right?
The most important thing is to remember to look at the sky each day so you can pick your yarn colours. The weather is so changeable here in the UK that I thought picking colours to represent the whole day's weather would be pretty impossible so I decided to look at the sky each day at the same time (midday) and use that for selecting my colours. I ended up with some days where it was clear and sunny for most of the day but cloudy in the middle of the day (so the square for that day was grey, despite all the sunshine), but saved myself a lot of bother umming and aahing about what colours to choose when it had been sunny and rainy and cloudy all in one day!


So, you look at the sky and choose your colours for the day. Set an alarm on your phone if you want, but it's okay if you forget - just look up as soon as you can and make a note of how the sky looks.

Each square of the blanket is knitted from a double thickness of yarn, so you can use two strands of the same colour (e.g. two bright blue strands for a clear sunny day) or blend two colours together, to create an inbetween-colour (e.g. bright blue and light blue) or to represent a sky that's got some clouds in it (e.g. light blue and white). This is easier on some days than on others (I remember some days seeing all 5 colours in the sky! and the sky can be so many different shades of blue!), but it doesn't need to be a perfectly accurate record of the weather - just go with your gut and choose the colours that feel right. This is knitting, not science!

Then make a note of your chosen colours on a calendar or in a notebook. You'll need to know what colour(s) to use when knitting that day's square, but you also need to keep a record so you can sew the squares together in the correct order.

 

I used Stylecraft Special DK to knit my squares. It's an affordable acrylic yarn that's soft and lovely to knit with, and (most importantly) it comes in some very nice sky shades. I bought mine from Country Crafts.


Light Grey = "Silver"
Dark Grey = "Grey"
Bright Blue = "Aster"
Light Blue ="Cloud Blue" 
White = "White"

I used 6mm needles. I cast on 12 stitches, knitted 20 rows of knit stitch then cast off (creating a square in garter stitch). Each square is about 8cm wide and the finished blanket is just the right size for a single bed. I left a long tail of yarn at each end of the square so I could make sure I stitched the squares together later with matching yarn. The large needles and double thickness of yarn makes the squares very quick and easy to knit!


I found it helpful to tick off the days on the calender as I knitted them, and then to mark the days off on a chart as I stitched the squares together. This was especially helpful when I fell a bit behind sewing the squares together, as I could look at the blanket and the chart and easily see where I'd got up to, and not get in a muddle.

I arranged my squares in rows from left to right, like on a calendar, so the top left square is the first day and the bottom right square is the last day. Sewing the squares in date order means you can sew the blanket together gradually as you knit the squares, and when you look at it later you'll have a visual record of how the weather changed through the year. Each row of my blanket is 18 squares wide, and the blanket is 20 rows long.

 

Do try and keep up to date with sewing the squares together if you can, as otherwise the boring task of sewing them all together (and weaving in all those ends) will become a bit overwhelming!

I stitched the squares together in alternating directions - so the rows of knitting are horizontal in one square then vertical in the next and so on. I used a large needle and whip stitched the squares together with the double thickness yarn tails, always sewing from the same side so the blanket has a neat front and a messier back with visible seams. Take care not to sew your whip stitches too tightly, so you can flatten the seam a bit afterwards. 


Once you've sewn together a section of the blanket, you need to weave in all the ends... which sadly takes ages as there are 4 per square! When the ends are woven in neatly, the back of your blanket should look something like this:



When I finished the blanket, I used a bit of spare yarn to sew on a polkadot blue button to mark the first square (many thanks to whoever it was who left a comment suggesting I use a button for this!). This way I'll always remember where my knitted year begins.

Knitting a sky blanket (just like knitting any blanket) is time consuming, but if you do it bit by bit it's amazing how quickly it grows through the year. It's also a great way to make something fabulous if (like me) your knitting skills aren't that great. The squares are easy to knit and sew together but the end result is very impressive!

The trickiest thing about this project is actually guessing how much yarn to buy. I worked out roughly how much yarn I thought I was going to need for the blanket, then divided that up into the sky colours I thought I'd use (so, more light blue and grey than bright blue and dark grey) and added in an extra ball of each colour just in case. ... but I still ended up needing to buy more light grey and ended up with such a big stash of yarn left over that I used it to knit another blanket! You need to decide for yourself if you want to buy the yarn as you go along (and risk some of the colours being slightly different) or to make a guess like I did.

Based on the weight of my test squares, I guesstimated that the blanket would need about 22 100g balls of yarn... so I bought 22 (divided amongst the colours) plus 6 extra balls (one extra of each colour). I bought: 6 light blue, 5 bright blue, 6 light grey, 5 dark grey, 6 white ... then later bought 7 more balls of the light grey because I'd run out (7 ended up being too many, as the winter months turned out to be a lot less grey and depressing than I'd expected, but light grey was definitely my most-used colour... it turns out that England is quite cloudy!). This is what I had left over... I think I used about 24 balls of yarn in total?


This is a really fun project to do, I really recommend it. In fact I almost wish I'd done it for a second year - the weather this summer was so different to last year, the two blankets would have turned out so different, with a gloomy spring and then a whole summer of bright blue skies like this.

 

The finished blanket is a really special, meaningful thing (a whole year recorded in a blanket!) and it's also a lovely object to own. I said when I started that I had no idea how it would look finished, but that I'd love it even if it was really peculiar-looking, but actually I think it's rather beautiful and the double thickness of yarn makes it warm and cosy and a bit like a patchwork quilt.

If you decide to knit your own sky blanket, do let me know! I'd love to see some pics of your progress :)

14 comments:

Chrissie said...

Wow, this is an amazing and beautiful blanket! I absolutely love the concept, congratulations on finishing it! Here's to bright blue skies ahead...Chrissie x

Rebeckah Austin said...

Lovely! Thank for sharing. I want to make one, maybe next year...

Silly Little Sheep said...

I love the way it looks and I very much enjoyed reading your blog posts about how you were making it with pictures of the blanket growing and growing... Are you keeping it or selling it?

BugsandFishes said...

Chrissie - thanks! x

Rebeckhah - do let me know if you give it a try :)

Silly Little Sheep - oh, I'll definitely be keeping it! It's getting packed away for a while though as I don't want to let my parents cat (who currently spends every night asleep on my bed) anywhere near it!

HildeTodnem said...

This is such an amazing blanket, you have inspired me to have a go in 2014 :) Since I am lazier than you when it comes to sewing squares together and weaving in ends, I plan to knit long stripey "scarves", one stripe every day making up one "scarf" for each month, and then sew them together to make a blanket. Thank you for sharing such a great idea! :)

BugsandFishes said...

Oh, that sounds like a fun way to do it! Best of luck with your year of knitted skies :)

Lissy said...

Hey Laura,
I've started a Ravelry group for making a 2014 sky blanket, and given you full credit for giving me the idea - I really hope you don't mind. The group's proving quite popular already, with 25 members and counting in a couple of days!
Thank you so much for the idea of a sky blanket, I love blues sooo much and love making blankets, but I find it hard to make a blanket's colours random enough - I really think this idea will achieve a nice random effect.
Best wishes,
Lissy

Lulu said...

wow, came out beautiful

BugsandFishes said...

Thanks Lulu! :)

Mary Boyce said...

Thank you for the inspiration! We were living in Iran and did a lot of embroidery in the evenings while watching TV..but my eyes became a problem and because I hate to sit still and do nothing...took back 6mm and chunky wool ..cast on 20 stitches...for my little bits of spare time...everytime i sit infront of TV ..i make myself knit...
Well I have about 50 squares so far...i am not a greAt knitter...friends laugh at how slow I am...but so what...i will have a lovely cream, wheats and brown, blanket soon!
Mary Boyce ex Assaluyeh, now Sasolburg South Africa

Baiba said...

this looks heavenly :)
I have an question - if one would want to avoid all that sewing in the right order - one could knit it together from beginning, like domino or entrelac? or that would get too bulky after a while?

BugsandFishes said...

Mary - good luck with your squares! I am also a slow knitter but so what? Knitting is a fun thing, relaxing thing to do no matter how long the project takes :)

Baiba - I think it might get a bit bulky as a knitting project?? I am not a knitting expert by any means tho so maybe there would be a way to do it. I guess you could knit each row in one piece then just sew the rows together at the end?

Heather Leavers said...

Excellent idea, but definitely a challenge too far for me!

BugsandFishes said...

It is quite a big challenge! Each square is simple and quick to knit... but all those squares add up! You definitely have to have the motivation to stick with it through the year :)

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