08 May 2012

Baby Blanket

Some years ago, on a quest for an affordable but fun vacation, we swapped houses with a British couple who live right outside of London.  While we stayed in their house, they stayed in ours.  They brought with them their two adult children, their daughter's best friend, and their son's girlfriend.  While they were here, the son and his girlfriend got engaged - in a romantic fashion, on a carriage ride through Central Park.

We remain good (if long-distance) friends.  I fancy that I am somewhat responsible for the newlyweds, given that they became engaged while staying in my house.  So I was delighted to hear, this past winter, that they were expecting their first baby.  I sharpened up my knitting needles.  What to make for the little one?  The gender of the baby was to be a surprise, so I settled on one of my specialties: a blanket.  I consulted the grandma about the couple's preferred colors and, with her advice, decided on a cotton/linen blend (for a spring baby) in a color called "lilac."  The yarn is darker than lilac, though; it should more properly be called "aubergine."

Now, making a baby blanket is a huge undertaking.  It takes weeks of work under the most ideal of conditions. I don't knit full time; I am what I like to call an interstitial stitcher, picking up my work during those otherwise-unoccupied moments in life.  I knit in between work assignments; at the orthodontist's office, while a child is in a singing lesson or a rehearsal, while waiting for dinner to be ready, or while waiting at night for a teenager to get home.  In this manner, I can usually finish a sock in a couple of days, but even the most basic baby blanket can take several weeks.

No matter.  Simply said, I like these people a lot.  They are genuine and kind, warm and friendly.  This sounds silly, but those are actually hard qualities to find in friends these days.  It's awful that people are too busy to find the time to be warm.  I wanted to make sure that the newest member of their clan stayed warm, too.

I chose a classic pattern, basketweave, for the blanket.  I've made this pattern before, but never in such a lightweight yarn.  At the beginning of April, I cast on my blanket and knitted a few rows, just to see how it would look.

Note my Saint Bernard stitch markers (far left).  Few people know that I have a weird affinity for Saint Bernards.

I liked the effect.  Now the marathon began, filling every empty space in my days with knitting.  I carried my knitting bag everywhere:  on college tours (yes, my oldest daughter is already looking at colleges), to my twentieth law school reunion, to meetings, rehearsals, lessons, and karate classes.  My knitting bag lived alternately in my car or in the front hall of my house, where it was frequently tripped over or kicked aside.

There is something wonderful about knitting that I can't quite put my finger on.  My grandmother taught me to knit and sew when I was a little girl.  At age eight, I could have won a prize for World's Most Careless and Useless Knitter.  My stitches, when I didn't drop them, were uneven and ugly.  I gave up in frustration and took up sewing, which required less direct concentration.  I became a pretty accomplished seamstress; by the time I was in college I had a good collection of handmade clothes.  Once, a classmate complimented the suit I was wearing to a job interview:  "Is that Christian Dior?"

Nope. Simplicity.

But sewing became impractical after I had children and started spending my days in the car or in waiting rooms.  I wanted something just as creative, but more portable.  Knitting seemed to fit the bill.  I took it up again and found, to my surprise, that I wasn't as terrible at it as I had thought.  At thirty, I had much more patience with myself than I had had at eight, or even at twenty.  I'd call myself a good knitter these days.  I love the feeling of starting with nothing, and then seeing something - a sock, a blanket, a sweater - take shape out of thin air.  I love the infinite variety in patterns and colors, and the fact that I will probably never be an expert.  There will always be a new technique or a new pattern to tackle.

My friends became the proud parents of a healthy baby girl on April 23.  I finished tackling the aubergine baby blanket on Sunday night during a particularly harrowing session in the emergency room of our local hospital.  (Everyone is fine, thank God, but you see what I mean?  I knit everywhere.)

I blocked it in my little basement workshop, on the cutting/blocking table my husband made for me.

Then I treated myself to a trip to the Container Store, for a nice box, and to the local craft store, for some silk flowers.  Wrapping up a hand-knitted gift is lots of fun.  I always want the recipient to be awed when she opens her present, and little details make the difference.

I made a quick stop at the post office, and my blanket is now winging its way from New Jersey to Buckinghamshire.

There is no better news than the birth of a new baby.  It's a reminder that, amid the minor stresses and major hardships that everyone faces, there is still room for joy and the possibility of a bright future.  There is no better feeling than packaging up a gift for a new little one.  Whether you choose it carefully at the store or make it yourself, you become part of the joy.

Postscript:  I have bought myself two new knitting books, and I am now trying to teach myself to knit socks from the toe up (I have heretofore made them only from the top down.)  Stay tuned.


Ann Fromholz said...

The blanket is beautiful. But more important, it is a personal gift and one made with love. I learned to knit -- badly -- when I was at Dartmouth and you've made me want to try it again. Not only does it produce something, which is wonderful, but it makes you slow down, which is something I am very very bad at doing. I also love that your wonderful husband made you a table. He's pretty great. Thanks for writing this.

jhl said...

Beautiful blanket. I knit one thing this winter and learned that I have even less patience than I thought, and that I'm more uptight than I imagined. Clearly, it's something I need to practice. :)

Any name said...

WOW!! That is just beautiful!! I love the basket weave stitch in knitting. How long were your circular needles?

The yarn is gorgeous too!

Congrats on a job well done.

Maria said...

The blanket is a real credit to you Jennie; it's beautiful!

Jodie @ The Haby Goddess said...

The baby blankets I received with my girls were the most cherished so I know this gorgeous blanket will also be loved