Friday 20 April 2018

Knitting a Patchwork Blanket of Mini Squares with Leftover Yarn

I finished my mini patchwork squares blanket this week! Yay!

This project has been a work-in-progress for such a long time, I thought it might be nice to take a look back at how it's developed over the years. 


I started knitting mini squares in September 2011 (the arrival of autumn always makes me want to knit stuff - how about you?).

Each square was ten stitches across, knitted with moss stitch on size 10 (3.25 mm) needles.

I didn't have a plan for what I was going to use them for, I just wanted to make something out of the yarn (in a general spirit of "waste not want not") and thought knitting little squares was a good first step towards turning my leftover yarn into something useful. Every time I had a small ball of yarn left over from a knitting project I'd knit some more little squares, then pop them in a bag with all the others. By July 2012 I'd knitted about 150 squares and the bag continued to fill up.

In the summer of 2014 I decided to use the squares to make a blanket. It was originally going to be a small picnic blanket (inspired by having been to a picnic where everyone but me had lovely picnic blankets) but I soon decided it was going to be a curling-up-on-the-sofa blanket instead.

I decided to build up my blanket gradually, sewing the squares into blocks then sewing the blocks together to make up the blanket. Here are the first few blocks I stitched together:

It was quite exciting finally having a plan for the squares and making a start on sewing them all together.


As the months went on I continued to knit mini squares whenever I had any leftover yarn...


... sewing the squares into blocks...

 ... then adding them to the growing blanket.

It was really fun seeing the blanket develop organically as I just went with the flow and used whatever colours I had, adding to the blanket little by little.

By January 2015 I had 270 squares stitched together and the biggest section of the blanket looked like this:

Unsurprisingly, everyone always says this blanket reminds them of the video game Tetris!

I love these blocks of colour. They give the blanket a kind of controlled randomness, showcasing the colours and making the whole design look consistent instead of being just a jumble of individual squares (which I think would have driven me bananas). Really importantly for me, using the blocks meant I felt happy starting sewing the squares together way before I had enough squares for a whole blanket. 

There were, of course, a lot of ends to weave in and trim along the way!


I originally joined the blocks together in a few different sections, so I could spread the colours out more evenly across the blanket. I finally joined them into one big piece in December 2015, when I laid all the pieces out on the floor, worked out the final size I wanted the blanket to be (30 x 30 squares) and decided how the already-knitted pieces would best fit together within it.

Because I am a nerd who enjoys making charts, I decided to use a bit of squared paper and some felt tip pens to make a little chart to track my blanket's progress and get a better idea of how the "design" was developing.

I'm really glad I did this because it ended up inspiring the final design of my blanket!

Instead of spending many years slooooowly knitting another 400+ squares from leftover yarn, I decided to stick with a central sweep of colour and keep the rest of the blanket plain white. I loved how the colour popped against the white but I also loved the idea of actually getting this blanket finished before my 40s.

Of course, this meant I needed to knit a LOT of little white blanket squares. I started knitting them in the spring of 2016, but not yet joining them to the coloured squares in case I wanted to add extra squares to the central sweep.

Knitting the white squares was pretty repetitive (and not particularly photogenic) but it was a great relaxing task to do in front of the TV in the evenings.

By March 2017 I had a big bag of white squares and the main section of the blanket looked like this:

I abandoned the blanket for months at a time, working on the project in fits and starts. Sometimes the idea of it totally bored me and other times I worked on it obsessively. This is the kind of labour-intensive, repetitive project which could easily become infuriating if you worked on it when you weren't in the mood to. I'd added 514 squares to the blanket by the spring of 2017 and that's a lot of hours of knitting and sewing!

I began joining the white squares to the blanket later that year, sewing together the stash of squares I'd knitted so far then gradually adding new squares as I knitted them.

I had to do a bit of unpicking in November 2017, as this dark red block was really bugging me and I decided I could stand it no longer. It didn't fit nicely with the sweep of colour across the blanket and the squares didn't look remotely square, so I cut it out and replaced it with white. Unpicking all that red yarn took forever but it was totally worth it!

I slowly knitted more white squares over the winter, adding them to the blanket as I went along. Then with the end in sight (always an exciting time) I did a big push in March to get to the finish line. It started really looking and feeling like a proper blanket instead of just a big unwieldy yarn shape, and I couldn't wait to get it finished!

Here it is with 52 squares to go in late March.

After a flurry of knitting, I finished the blanket this weekend. The final job was, of course, to weave in a whole bunch of white yarn ends.

I knitted the first few squares in September 2011, and wove in the final yarn ends in April 2018... so it's taken me about six and a half years from start to finish. Is that a long time to be working on a blanket? I don't know. It feels wonderful to finally have it finished, anyway.

Six and a half years. 900 mini squares knitted and sewn together. 1,800 yarn ends woven in. I have no clue how many hours I've spent on this project, but it's a lot!

I'm going to lazily bask in that glorious "finished project" feeling for a bit, then take some nice photos of the finished blanket to share with you guys asap. If you fancy making your own mini squares blanket and have any questions about how I've made mine, do let me know in the comments. 

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Kay said...

With the amount of work you have put into this, it will certainly be well loved and appreciated when you use it. I have an EPP quilt that is taking me years too, it is done in fits and starts. Well done, you will love using this when winter returns. x

Maria - A Playful Stitch said...

I love this post! It's great reading the story of the blanket, and I can't wait to see the pictures of it in all its finished glory! I think it was a great idea to complete it in white, with the sweep of lovely colour across it - such an effective look.
I've been working on a crochet stripy blanket (on and off) for 4.5 years and it's not done yet... so I might end up matching you on length of time!

Beth said...

WOW! So much work. It's so great to finally finish projects. I've been wondering how far along with this blanket you were, so it's lovely to see that you have finished.

Littlelamb said...

This looks gorgeous. Well done!

Linda aka Crafty Gardener said...

Considering the size and number of squares, the intensity of the project, and all the other projects and designs you do, I think the time frame is reasonable. It looks wonderful and gives me hope for the mitre squares I started and unstarted with sock yarn.

Bugs and Fishes said...

Maria - thank you! These on-again off-again projects really can drag on, can't they? I think we'd run the risk of getting totally sick of them if we did them all in one big burst though!

Beth - yes, it took a lot of hours of knitting to get all those squares done! Definitely worth it though, it's hugely satisfying finally having it finished :)

Littlelamb - thank you! I'm very happy with how this one turned out.

Linda - haha, yes, it's not like I've been slacking off on the crafting front in the meantime, is it? It's great having this project finally finished though, I was starting to get very bored of knitting little white squares!!

Unknown said...

Well done! I admire your patience and determination to get it finished.
I am doing a knitted blanket but rather big squares. I know I would not have the patience to sew all those little squares together. It is going to look lovely.
again, WELL DONE!

Bugs and Fishes said...

Annette - Mini squares are great for using up scraps but there was definitely a LOT of sewing (and weaving-in of ends) involved in this! I find that quite relaxing to do while watching TV, etc, but I know it's not everyone's cup of tea :) Best of luck with your blanket!