“Calliope’s Castle”

Last May I received an email that started a surprising and rewarding venture toward a blanket like I’d not made before. It opened like this:

“Hi, Joanie – I have an 8-year-old daughter and over the years she has accumulated tons of beautiful wool and cashmere sweaters. When she was four I asked Caroline Unruh to make a patched blanket out of my daughter’s old sweaters and the result was spectacular. I can’t seem to find Caroline now, but I found you! The next batch of outgrown sweaters is ready. Is this something you do? “

Since, as I wrote previouslyCaroline Unruh unknowingly gave me my start in sewing with wool, I considered this a huge honor! But there was that little question in the back of my mind: How does such a young girl end up with multiple cashmere sweaters?? I was soon to find out…


The client and I began an email exchange followed up by a phone call, and I learned that this little girl is so fortunate as to have a New York fashion executive for her momma! Ah, the pieces fell into place. I soon received the client’s box. This is corny, but I felt like a youngster on Christmas morning as I opened it. I had never seen so many beautiful sweaters all in one place.


Since I had several custom orders already lined up, I had to put this project on hold for a bit. But my mind was already at work on the puzzle before me: What to do with an entire rainbow of colors? I’m accustomed to working with 1 or 2 centerpiece sweaters provided by a client, but this was completely new territory.

One afternoon as I once again pulled the sweaters from their box and considered how to incorporate as many as possible, I realized that their colors reminded me of the illustrations in a book of poems I read to my daughters when they were little. I got out the book. I got out a couple other children’s books as well for inspiration.


And when I got to this book of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, illustrated by the wonderfully talented Lisbeth Zwerger, the ideas started triggering like explosions in a high-scoring game of Bejeweled. Especially when I saw the page below. For I recalled that Calliope, the young owner of the sweaters, enjoys making things by hand (a girl after my occupational-therapist heart!). And one of those things is CASTLES.


Yes! A fruitful idea! I don’t know if Calliope’s parents chose her name for the Greek muse, but I did feel grateful that some muse had finally tapped me on the shoulder :).

As I worked on the blanket, I frequently recalled my own daughters’ imaginary worlds when they were young — “I wish I could live in the Berenstain Bears’ treehouse!” “Mom, will you build blocks with me? Let’s make a house with a zoo next door.” “I want to live in England someday!” Oh, wait. That’s what Daughter #2 says now.

Guided by a clear idea, I plowed ahead, working out what I saw in my head. It meant I had to devise some new ways of putting the wool pieces together to create the hills and the clouds. Thankfully, I hadn’t promised the completion of the blanket until fall.

I did make the deadline, although admitting to that suggests a certain amount of lameness, doesn’t it, since I didn’t post it until now. Ah, well.

I added Calliope’s initials to the castle doors just before sending the blanket to its new home. For the font, I adapted PR Celtic Narrow by Peter Rempel — appropriate for a castle, I think!


Calliope, I hope you continue to use your imagination for years and years, all through your life. It’s a precious gift we humans have, one we should never outgrow!

“Calliope’s Castle” (86″ x 95″, for a queen bed)

[This is a custom-ordered blanket.]

13 thoughts on ““Calliope’s Castle”

  1. Incredible! I absolutely love this! I amazed how the colors gradually flow like a rainbow!

  2. Oh Joan! I’ve made a few felted baby blankets last year, but this one of your’s is really in a class by itself. It truly is exceptional. My admiration for your talent with this art work continues to grow exponentially, especially because I also make felted quilts. Thanks so much for sharing your art.

  3. Thank you, everyone. I wish there were some way I could show you this one in person. A photo never can do justice to the lovely quality of the wool itself. It amazes me every time.

  4. Joanie, what a lucky little girl to receive a beautiful blanket you designed,absolutely gorgeous .

  5. Beautiful! I have some of my boys clothing that I would love to have someone make into a blanket or quilt.

  6. Dear Joanie, This is just lovely what a treasure for a little girl to dream under. I love the way you used the pinks in the sky, like the colors sometimes at sunset.

    Bonnie J

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