Last night I got to attend the Foothill Fiber Guild monthly meeting for the first time in a long while, and was so delighted with Netta Kandell's presentation on the Story Blankets she creates for family and friends.
She showed several examples and described the design process for us. She starts with an idea based on who she is making the blanket for.. this will also determine the size and sometimes even the materials. She uses highly washable yarns for all the small people, and even when she knows that the adult recipient will give their blanket heavy use. She also almost always lines the reverse side with a fabric, often cut from a sheet, which will match the large-ish size without needing to be cut and seamed down the middle. The fabric lining provides both stability and a way to disquise that not-so-beautiful 'wrong side'.
This first photo shows a blanket she made several years ago for her grandson, with lots of input about what his favorite things were... there's a square representing his favorite holiday (bet you can guess what it is!), one depicting his dog, the house he lived in at the time, and even one where she traced around his foot and hand and graphed out the design! This blanket was made up of 12 squares, and crocheted borders tied the whole piece together.
Here's a close up of the blanket above, which is being held by Barbara Sue on the left and Netta on the right. Netta copied Tigger from a shampoo bottle, and added duplicate stitched black lines to outline both Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, which she said helped define them and made them look better. It all looked pretty impressive to me!
Netta reminded us that knitting graph paper is different than the kind you might remember from geometry... it is scaled in the proportions of the knit stitch, which is taller than it is wide. Our group discussed several ways to draw out designs, including Stitch Painter, suggested by Ginger L.
Netta also reminded us that it helps to be flexible when making such a Story Blanket... as you work, more ideas will come to you! She asked early in the evening if we had any ideas for Story Blankets of our own; before the evening ended, I had come up with a tentative plan, but have to keep it a secret!
This next photo shows an amazing and elaborate creation Netta made for one of her dearest friends. She allowed the friend to come up with much of the idea, but together they translated it into a living canvas.... I had a difficult time getting a good enough photo, but what you are looking at is a voluptuous nude woman, reclining on three different types of 'blankets', with four different screens behind her and a red laquerware box with a brass handle near her feet! The background is black, and Netta finished this blanket with a backing of black velvet, making it really luxe.
The screens are of different textures - in the photo, the leopard print one is most identifiable, while the purple one next to it has a geometric design featuring gold threads. The red screen incorporates an antique piece of needlepoint; Netta made a knitted opening (bind off, work two sides separately, then cast back on when the length you need), and sewed this piece in later.
She also incorporated some of her friend's antique jewelry pieces, around the woman's neck and in her hair. The close-up allows you to see the screen portions in more detail, but didn't capture the three different textures of the blankets the woman is reclining upon... one a two-colored basket weave. The box is at the far right in bright red, and the handle, hidden by the person in the foreground, was knitted in metallic yarn to give the 'brass' look desired.
Netta has also developed a 'windowpane' style of making a blanket, that allows her to utilize a whole piece photo, but broken down into manageable squares to knit. She draws out the original, say a bouquet of flowers or the abstract mountainscape in the blanket pictured below (made for her husband), then enlarges it to the size she wants to make, such as 40 x 50 inches for a couch throw. Then, she draws 'windowpane' lines to divide the large drawing into 12 equal rectangles, and cuts the drawing apart to use as her guide for each portion. She uses crochet to provide the dark 'windowpane' line around each and re-assembles them when completed.
My photos don't do Netta's work justice, and neither did the flourescent lighting in our meeting room! However, what she is creating is so unique and inspiring, another interpretation of our beloved art of knitting, that I wanted to share it with all of you and inspire you.
Netta provided us with a handout that gave a more detailed breakdown of her methods as well as a list of a few sources, and reminded us that there is no need to re-invent the wheel...lots of charted designs already exist for everyday objects you might want to incorporate into your own Story Blanket. Debbie Abrahams is the author of two books on afghan squares that have been one of Netta's most useful sources, and while looking at her designs, I was also reminded of the colorwork of Kaffe Fassett.
I also managed to complete another few inches of my Shalom sweater while listening... I am working top down and just past the waist now!