Hello, Folks! Just a quick post to say the Felted Wool Blanket Master Classstarts tomorrow! You can step right in and begin forthwith to create your own felted wool blanket. This is a great time of year to work on a blanket, as life is a little quieter than usual…plus, um, it’s cold.
Want to learn more? Go here to read all the info about the class. You can sign up there too.
(Please note: Enrollment for the class will stay open an extra week (through January 26) as I inadvertently caused a frustrating sign-up glitch when I first launched enrollment. Ugh! If you have any trouble signing up, contact me directly and I’ll help get you squared away.)
It’s a day for kicking back, enjoying something out of the ordinary, maybe dreaming about 2019. I won’t interrupt all that.
But I do want to announce that this winter’s Felted Wool Blanket Master Class is NOW OPEN for enrollment. Woo hoo! If you’ve ever wanted to make a wool blanket of your own, this might be the time. Go here to find all the details. If you’ve got any questions, ask them right here at the bottom of this post.
Class starts January 12. Work can be done along the course timeline or at your very own pace—as you will have access to curriculum indefinitely. There’s also a private Facebook group for all sorts of helpful interaction, which you’ll be invited to join as soon as you enroll. Enrollment will remain open through 1/12/19. Sign up here.
In August my hubby and I celebrated 35 years of marriage in England and Wales. In October I was in San Clemente, California, to celebrate my mom’s birthday. And last week we headed west again, to Seattle this time, for an extended-family Thanksgiving and a granddaughter’s baptism.
Packed in that little paragraph are four generations of people and celebrations. So ordinary and yet extraordinary at the same time.
I’ve been thinking about these people whom I love and how we have shared years, influences, loves, skills, preferences, and gifts. Such richness.
In Mom’s living room, there is a blanket I made for her back when I was first figuring these blankets out. For Mom (half of the wonderful parental team who transplanted themselves from the Midwest to the Wild West to start their family), I wrangled up colors that made me imagine a rough-skinned cowboy up on his horse, his hat low to shade his eyes. And a Franciscan padre trading for Mexican textiles to furnish his living quarters in an adobe mission. And heat. Lots and lots of dry, bone-piercing heat.
My parents passed on to me a love for these things. (And my mom taught me to sew. There’s those influences and gifted skills, right there.) I have brought those western US influences into our home in northern Illinois, with a couple of pieces of Mission furniture, a Navajo-woven rug on the wall, and a painting of rugged California mountains above the piano. They ground me still!
Sitting one morning last month under that blanket with my morning cup of coffee in hand and the tissue-thin bougainvillea outside made brilliant by the California sun, I realized I had never taken photos of this pre-blog blanket. I finally captured a few with my phone. (Tricky lighting for me, but you still get the picture.)
The whip-stitched edge works just right for this one. Because that cowboy had a worn laced-leather wallet in his pocket, don’t you think?
These blankets started out being in tribute to a wonderful mom named Nancy, and in the end became about her entire family. In a way, that can hardly be helped when a Legacy Blanket takes shape.
Nancy passed late last year, and as Cindy and her sister Jennifer sorted through Nancy’s belongings, Cindy wanted to see what could be done with this glorious collection of cashmere sweaters. That’s when I heard from her. She wanted to have two blankets made, one for her and one for her sister. There were plenty of sweaters to do these up in!
After several email exchanges, Cindy and I talked by phone. Talking was harder than expected, as Cindy had lost her mom so recently. So we covered what we could and decided to take a break.
(This is where the design process begins for me, with a simple interview about the person whom these blankets are all about.)
Cindy emailed me later. Her note was fresh and tender with reflections on her mom’s life.
Nancy—high school history teacher,
wife of Barry (biology professor),
mom of two,
grandma of three (all girls),
and (significantly) cashmere-wearer.
I learned Nancy grew up in Michigan, married a man with a beautiful voice, raised her family in Idaho, earned Teacher of the Year several times, was a voracious reader, lost her beloved nature- and animal-loving husband 16 years ago, and was warm and funny and enjoyed people.
But what was uppermost in Cindy’s mind was that Nancy adored her daughters and granddaughters and would do anything for them.
Allow me to introduce the two blankets that came out of all that Cindy provided me.
First is this colorful one. It’s for sister Jennifer, who loves bright colors. In my mind was a mish-mash of inspiration from the galaxy of people Nancy cared about—family, friends, students. So I made this blanket part Milky Way, part van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” and part Mexican traditional dress. (That last piece was part of the mish-mash because Jennifer is fluent in Spanish.) This blanket has lots of liveliness, fullness and joy!
But there’s also that stripe the color of Dr. Pepper right up the middle of the blanket, from one of Nancy’s own sweaters. Diet Dr. Pepper was her favorite. So when Cindy saw this blanket’s photo, she named it on the spot: “Bubbles in My Dr. Pepper.” Perfect!!
This second blanket is the quieter blanket, with space for musing, memories, and simply noodling around, kinda like these pups. This one is for Cindy, the neutral-lover.
Cindy told me stories about the seven dachshunds her parents owned over the years since she and her sister were little. In fact, Cindy has a scar on her hand from when as a toddler she tried to bite Nipper on the tail—and he bit her back.
Nipper was the first and was followed by Nugget, Natasha, Greta, Heidi, Darby, and finally Coco— who now lives with Cindy’s family. This blanket is “Name That Dog.” I hope each dog’s personality can be found here!
“Name That Dog” has five pearly purple buttons in the corner for the five loves of Nancy’s life: her two daughters and three granddaughters. And purple, because that is the color of generosity. Two brown buttons are from dad Barry’s sweater. And everything is wrapped in a playful striped binding from one of Nancy’s sweaters.
Jennifer and Cindy,
As you each travel this new terrain of not having your mom around to call, to hug, to play Trivial Pursuits with, may these blankets, made with her very own sweaters, be a comfort and reminder of her great—and greatly demonstrated—love for you. xo
One evening this note popped up in my Etsy conversations:
“I am looking for an artist to make a sweater blanket from the sweaters I inherited from my mother. She knit them. Do you take on projects like this?
Thank you, Kelly”
Notes like this thrill me with their prospect of an exquisite new challenge!
In her next note I learned Kelly had eight sweaters ready to send and was hoping for two blankets, one for each of her teenaged twin sons.
And then I learned more. Kelly’s mom Sandy had passed away suddenly two years earlier. Sandy had been extremely involved with Kelly’s family. The loss was devastating to them.
Kelly, the only girl among her siblings, had put her mom’s sweaters in storage, not sure what to do with them. “My boys were very close to her. I think this would be a wonderful way for them to enjoy her work. I know my mom would love the idea of her sweaters being out and enjoyed!”
Sandy was not only a knitter. She worked in costume design and was an artist in several other media as well: watercolor, beadwork, paper artwork and freelance interior design. Prolific! Above all, though, for Kelly, “She was my best friend.”
Kelly had told me ahead of time, but I’d forgotten: Sandy was only partway finished with one of these sweaters when she passed away. When I brought Kelly’s box in from my front stoop and sliced it open, I wasn’t prepared for the emotion of seeing one navy-and-red piece, still on Sandy’s knitting needles. It was a tender reminder of the fragility of life.
Did I mention? Sandy was Norwegian. Her roots surface in many of her knitting patterns!
As part of the custom-order process, I spoke by phone with Kelly to learn what she was hoping for in having these blankets made. I asked about her mom and I asked about her twin sons, Bren and Sean. It’s when I get a feel for the people involved in the sweaters and the yet-to-be-made blankets that the design process begins for me.
After that conversation and after seeing all the sweaters, I decided to make each blanket have its own individual personality, and yet share some design elements. Each one would also contain something of each of Sandy’s eight sweaters. (Like twins: two individual personalities with a shared lineage and “design elements”!)
SO, in no particular order (and with faint apology for rather blurred blanket titles),
here is “The Norwegian Artist,” which as it turns out went to Bren:
And here is “The Artistic Norwegian,” which went toSean:
Happy Valentine’s Day, Bren and Sean!
May your grandma’s beautiful sweaters keep wonderful memories of her
very close to each of you.
The thing that surprised me most? How much fun it was. Every day I looked forward to coming home from work, hopping on my computer and joining the ongoing discussion.
“How did sweater shopping go?” “What colors did you find?” “Who’s got a blanket ‘first draft’ laid out?” “Are you making yours for a girl or a boy?”
I miss it!!
Finally—here’s a little gallery of our work. I figure we were able to complete about 15 blankets, and here are 11 of them. The variety reflects the regions in which we live, what our resale shops held the day(s) we went shopping, aaaand…our many personalities. (Click on each photo to view it larger.)
The best part: how these bright and talented people made our virtual classroom feel pretty darn near to a real one.
Patti’s ready to ship
Ranae’s final draft
Ranae’s finished blanket
Ranae’s ready to ship
Linda’s finished blanket
Pocket finger puppets
Linda’s ready to ship
I love pockets :)
Ana Maria’s blanket
Annie’s with red border
Annie’s ready to ship
Annie’s black border
Timary’s first draft
Timary’s final blanket
Pat’s final blanket
Details on Pat’s blanket
Cris’ final draft
Cris’, awaiting binding
Cris’ finished blanket
Diane’s finished blanket
My finished blanket
¹”Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”