Janja’s Christening

Last weekend was the christening of little Jane Elizabeth. She was baptized with the name Janja, a Croatian word meaning “little lamb.” Janja is also the dear woman Jane was named for.

When Jane’s mama asked about a special blanket for the occasion, she had already searched this website and found the blanket I made for my own granddaughter’s baptism. What a pleasure it was to recreate this sweet lamb!

There was a small but meaningful bond I had with Jane Elizabeth as I worked on this for her—for my “maiden” initials (pre-marriage) are JEM too.

Blessings on your christening and most especially on your life, Janja. Such a wonderful name you have!

© Joan Olson
“Little Janja” (38×40)
Felted Wool Sweaters

Love isn’t love until…

Interested in making a felted wool sweater blanket, possibly with my new class? Sign up for free access to a video I’ve put together, Find and Choose Good Sweaters for Felting. It gives pointers on how to select great sweaters for making a blanket. This also adds your email to The Green Sheep newsletter list. (If you’re already on the newsletter list, your email won’t be duplicated.) Or learn more about the Felted Wool Blanket Master Class here!

Do you remember that little song? Love isn’t love until you give it away ♥. It’s true. And it happens with these shoe boxes.

For the past two years I’ve made a cozy wool blanket to pack into a shoe box with lots of other goodies for Operation Christmas Child. Last year, on the spur of the moment, I invited the folks on my email list to make one along with me and pack it for the same purpose.

Over twenty brave souls gave it a try!

I quickly learned to make videos and post them in a Facebook group, and we leapt into this project together. WOW. We had a really enjoyable time, we all learned a lot from each other, and the blankets turned out beautifully.

And since it’s fall + shoebox-packing time again, I am reminiscing by re-posting photos of some the blankets that came out of that venture. Check out these lovelies! You guys are so talented!

(Each blanket is made from thin felted wools
l
ike cashmere or merino and measures about 40″x50″. This way
they roll up tightly and fit in a shoebox with other fun and useful items.)

We were able to track where our boxes went, and of the ones I learned about we know 2 went to Honduras, 2 to Rwanda, 3 to Ghana, 1 to Madagascar, and 1 to “A Hard To Reach Area.” It’s delightful to know these blankets are out upon this planet, keeping children warm.

Guys, packing a shoe box is such a simple way to share all that love in your hearts. There certainly doesn’t need to be a handmade blanket in it! I’d love to encourage you to visit the Operation Christmas Child website and see what it would take. (Operation Christmas Child is sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization which also does a lot of work with refugees around the world.) The shoe box deadline isn’t until mid-November. I’m going to try to make a blanket (from scraps I already have cut, so it’ll go quicker), but even if that doesn’t happen, I’m packing a shoe box. Anybody with me?

This year—although NOT in conjunction with the shoe box project—I’m offering a full-fledged, not-on-the-fly class to learn to make blankets: the Felted Wool Blanket Master Class. Fall is the time we start thinking of keeping warm, making gifts, and bringing beauty inside our homes. Many of us are ready to hunker down with a project. If this is you, the class is open for enrollment through September 28. Class itself starts on September 29. Just a week away! Questions? Leave them here or click on “Contact” in this page’s header.

By the way, there’s significance to the term “master class.” In the musical world especially, it refers to a seminar where advanced students are given individual attention by the master musician. I am not exactly a master and you may or may not be advanced, but one real value (and joy!) of this class is the interaction, support and feedback from each other and from me.  You are also completely welcome to do the class on your own and without interaction. But I hope you’d give it a try the other way first. I’d love to get to know you!

 

 

Blanket-Making Class is Open for Enrollment!

Interested in making a felted wool sweater blanket, possibly with my new class? Sign up for free access to a video I’ve put together, Find and Choose Good Sweaters for Felting. It gives pointers on how to select great sweaters for making a blanket. This also adds your email to The Green Sheep newsletter list. (If you’re already on the newsletter list, your email won’t be duplicated.)

Read on ↓↓↓ for more about the new class.


Oh, my—I just got to spend a beautiful, restful time in GREEN (England and Wales; these photos are all Wales), and I am excited to be back and launching my blanket class!

Have you been dreaming of making a blanket from wool sweaters you’ve collected? But you don’t know where to begin? Maybe you’re afraid of ruining the sweaters or hesitant that your blanket won’t turn out to be full of the loveliness you imagine. I know all those feelings!

At the tail end of September I’ll begin walking a group of blanket-makers step-by-step through the process of making a “sweater blanket” from upcycled wool sweaters. The class includes video and written instructions so you can choose your favorite learning style. If that described you in the paragraph above, consider joining the Felted Wool Blanket Master Class with me.

In addition to teaching the mechanics of putting together a basic “Green-Sheep style” blanket, I’ll also help you think through and plan the design stage of your unique blanket using the sweater colors and textures you have available. The course is designed as a work-along class, presented in three sections of 2 weeks each, to enable you to actually finish your blanket. Also, since you have complete freedom to decide on the size of blanket you make, you can influence how much time you will need to spend on the project. (The larger the blanket, the more time required.)

This class’ super-power is that we’ll have a private Facebook page throughout the project, a virtual meeting place for asking questions, getting input from me, sharing what we’re doing, encouraging each other and designing together. This part is really fun!

What is a basic “Green-Sheep style” blanket, you ask? It is—

  • a blanket made from strips of felted wool sweaters of similar weights
  • it consists of one layer and has very narrow raw seams on its backside (to preserve the wool’s gorgeous drape and avoid any machine-washed surprises from variations in felting)
  • it’s bound with a bias binding also made from a wool sweater

The techniques for this style of blanket, once learned, are easily transferred to other creative blanket ideas!

Interested? Find more information about the course here. Also, I’ll send you a link to a helpful video about how to begin collecting your sweaters for designing a blanket! Just sign up here:

Questions about anything? Contact me via this form.

Dachshunds and Dr. Pepper

[Interested in reading other Legacy Blanket stories? You can find a list here.
Each is linked to its own blog post.]

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),
dachshund-lover,
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

[Interested in reading other Legacy Blanket stories? You can find a list here.
Each is linked to its own blog post.]

© Joan Olson
Bubbles in My Dr. Pepper” (66×78)
Felted Wool Sweaters

© Joan Olson
Name That Dog” (66×78)
Felted Wool Sweaters

“Jonathon’s Bear”

JUNE. Spring turns to summer and school is out. Gardens shoot forth new growth where there was none. There are graduations and weddings and births. And so much celebrating!

So much NEW.

I deem it an entirely appropriate time to share a new baby blanket.

This one’s for a little guy who is still on his way. When he arrives, among the many loving arms awaiting him will be those of a particularly playful roly-poly polar bear cub.

For the record, cubs think waiting is hard.

Writing this made me think of Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne and a poem (of course!). Here is the last stanza of Milne’s “Us Two.”

So wherever I am, there’s always Pooh,
There’s always Pooh and Me.
“What would I do?” I said to Pooh,
“If it wasn’t for you,” and Pooh said: “True,
It isn’t much fun for One, but Two,
Can stick together, says Pooh, says he. “That’s how it is,” says Pooh.

Jonathon, may your life be full of people friends, animal friends, and some toy friends too.

They’re all terrific.

“Jonathon’s Bear”
38″ x 39″
This blanket has gone to a good home.

 

“The Things We Love to Wear”

“Do
the best you can
with what you have.”

—Debi T.’s grandmother

Debi and I communicated briefly on Etsy and then a little more by email. She had a collection of cashmere sweaters she had been wearing and was eager to have them made into two blankets. Her enthusiasm came through with each interaction:

She was seeking simple! Modern! Eclectic!

The box of sweaters arrived on my doorstep one evening while my husband and I were out. By drone, I wondered? It’s nighttime! Why are packages being delivered in the dark?! But I was eager to get home and open the box. What color theme would show up in the mix? What harmonies would these particular sweaters be singing together?

But when I sliced the tape, pulled back the flaps and peered inside, I couldn’t hear singing. I admit I was jarred by the cacophony of color. (Sorry, Debi! True confessions!)

There was pale blue, bright red, barely-there tans, black, a high-contrast argyle, deep green, hot pink, lavender, gray, and a determined yellow-and-blue stripe. Practically all I could see were dissimilarities. If you had asked me then, I would have said most were not playing nicely across the color wheel.

Because Debi had already written me with her preferences, I tried to get started. But honestly, I was floundering. I had no imagination, no inspiration, and a heavy heart about all the highly contrasting stuff I was about to put together.

I emailed Debi and asked if I could call her. This piece of the process—voice-to-voice communication—has become essential to me, and yet here I was, trying to skip it. Debi and I found a moment when our work schedules matched up, and we talked.

What is it about hearing a person’s story in their own voice and with their own words?

Debi told me about her grandma, who lived to be 104 years old. Her grandma loved cashmere, and when Debi was in college, she wore several of her grandma’s vintage sweaters. Debi has never quit the cashmere habit, and her teenage daughter has picked it up as well. They hunt for resale cashmere in good shape, wear it as long as possible, then turn it into blankets. (I’m not their first blanket sewist!)

Debi shared one of her grandmother’s life lessons: “Do the best you can with what you have.” (I noted to myself how fitting this was to my current project.) Then she ended with, “My husband is an architect. I love art and I appreciate the artist—but I’m not one!”

With that, she trustingly handed me carte blanche, and we said goodbye.

It was enough. I divided the prepped sweaters into two groups, threw in a few pieces from my own sweater collection, and immediately began laying out the first set, all without an ounce of floundering. I can’t explain how that little conversation made the difference, but it did. And I ended up having a ball creating these two unique blankets.

♦ • ♦ • ♦ • ♦ • ♦ • ♦ • ♦

This is “The Things We Love to Wear (Bright)” —

This is “The Things We Love to Wear (Muted)” —

And here they are side-by-side, singing and playing together nicely, after all —

 

*Photos taken at Cuba Marsh Forest Preserve

© Joan Olson, “The Things We
Love to Wear (Bright)” (61×68)
Felted Wool Sweaters

© Joan Olson, “The Things We
Love to Wear (Muted)” (64×70)
Felted Wool Sweaters