Grey Aran blanket

What did I make?

A grey aran cable blanket 1.15 m by 1.20 m.

Why did I make it?
For several years I had spent most of my spare time making baby shawls for family members and baby toys for friends and colleagues. Suddenly no one was pregnant and I didn’t know what to knit. My husband said I should knit something for myself. I decided to make a blanket throw, something comforting to snuggle when I was sick, cold or tired.

What planning did I do?
I went to the knitting shop and searched for blanket patterns. This was in the days before Ravelry when you either had to buy a pattern or make one up. I bought Jo Sharp Book 4: Home with a pattern for a cable blanket with seed stitch bands between the cables. The blanket in the book was knitted in traditional creamy aran wool. I decided that I would use grey wool to evoke the architectural use of crossed cable patterns in celtic and gothic stone work.

I didn’t do a test of the pattern before starting.

What did I buy?

  •  Jo Sharp Book 4: Home
  • 16 skeins of grey aran yarn (10 ply).  Enough yarn for the whole pattern.  I was very enthusiastic about the project at this point
  • 5mm circular needle (I bought the largest size I think 90 cms)
  • Packet of 4, 5mm cable needles
  • Packet of markers

What happened?
I went straight home, cast on the appropriate number of stitches (it was over 300). I think there was a border and that went fine. I think I did the set up row for cables and set the markers on the day I bought the pattern. The next day was a Sunday. Still bursting with enthusiasm I got immediately into knitting the cables. After a few rows things seemed to be going wrong. It’s easy to tell when things are going wrong with cable. If you are doing it right you should see set bands of pattern and cable broken up by the ground of reverse stocking stitch used around cables to make them stand out, these bands should align with the markers. Usually, if you can’t see the pattern fitting with the markers after a few rows it means you have stuffed up.

I wasn’t too surprised that I couldn’t make the pattern work on the first go. It’s very easy to make a mistake in reading a pattern or setting markers when there is a long row of knitting with several repeats. As I’d only done a few rows I just unravelled the whole thing back to the border and started setting the pattern again. But it still didn’t work on the second go. This time I didn’t just pull the work off the needles and unravel it, I unpicked stitch by stitch.  I counted stitches and read the pattern backwards as I unpicked.  I was trying to work out where I had gone wrong. I went right back to the start of the border row but couldn’t find where I had gone wrong. I started again anyway. On the third run through the first ten rows of the pattern I started to feel there might be something wrong with the pattern. But I couldn’t work out how to fix it. By then I had used up the whole of Sunday. My new plan was to start again the following weekend.

The next Saturday I looked through the pattern book more carefully before starting to knit. I discovered that there were some errata for this pattern on an insert in the back of the book. I found the errata quite difficult to follow. I photocopied the pattern pages and tried writing in the errata. I then started again but it still didn’t work.

I think it was at this point that I got out my trusty stitch guide “The Ultimate Sourcebook of Knitting and Crochet Stitches”.

This book, now rendered almost obsolete by online information, has pages and pages of stitch and cable patterns.  I thought if I could find the panels that made up the blanket pattern I could use the instructions in the book to replace the panels which I couldn’t make work. But I couldn’t find a match to the cables in the book.

So I made up my own simpler pattern, with columns of lattice cable interspersed with columns of double moss stitch and thin bands of stocking stitch.

Once I had a simpler pattern I didn’t have any more serious problems. Every repeat of the lattice pattern worked it into my long term memory and soon i could tell where I was without having to look at the pattern.

Still, it was easy to get discouraged about progress. There were so many stitches in each row that for a long time I just had a strip of knitting that didn’t look like anything. So I would get frustrated and start working on something else. After it got a bit bigger the work became very heavy and I would just knit in small bursts until my arms got tired. Eventually the work reached the point where I could rest most of it on my lap. I started to feel I was really getting somewhere when the finished portion fell below my knees.

How long did it take to finish?

I think it took about six months to knit all the yarn I had at which point I declared it finished. The final blanket is just off being square but it is a good length to cover someone who is snuggled up on the sofa

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