This one has been under wraps for a very long time. I am a member of Glasgow Knit'n'Stitch - Glasgow's biggest knitting community with almost 400 members. When I first moved to Glasgow, I knew very few people and GKS was instrumental in me connecting with people outside my very small circle of acquaintances. One of my closest friendships is with Elaine of SoCherry. Elaine is getting married this year and this led to some of us discussing what to make her and Future Mr SoCherry. Originally we wanted to make them a quilt but once other members of GKS heard about our plans, the plans .. grew. They grew so big so rapidly that the focus was quickly shifted to a communal project - one that everybody could contribute to no matter their skill level or amount of time they could devote.
We briefly contemplated using The Great American Afghan pattern book, but it did not have as many sampler blocks to choose from and several of our less experienced knitters expressed concerns.
Instead we chose to use a US knitting pamphlet - Leisure Arts no. 932 - which contains 60 different sampler blocks ranging from beginner-friendly squares to rather complex cables. It proved a great choice and I would heartily recommend the sampler to anyone wanting to increase their skill sets by making a blanket. You have a good selection of squares to choose from and all of the patterns are clearly written out.
We already knew that Elaine loves her Aran-style blankets and although we finally ended up with a mix of lace and cables, the emphasis is very much upon texture and cables. This also influenced our choice of yarn. Paula and I were in charge of the yarn-sleuthing. Again, we had a set of criteria: it had to be British, it had to be cream-coloured/natural, it had to be aran-weight, it had to be pure wool and it had to be superwash. We also had a budget in mind which made yarn-sleuthing even more fun! Eventually Lilith of Old Maiden Aunt came through for us and we ended up with an amazing yarn: superwash Bluefaced Leicester Aran. (Lilith is currently dyeing this base and fourteen GKS knitters can vouch for how incredibly nice yarn is! We feel very privileged that we were allowed to knit with it before anybody else!)
Elaine had no idea, of course. Parcels were exchanged under the table; secret meet-ups were arranged; Tam Shepherd's became our mid-city drop-off for parcels & yarn pick-up; cryptic messages were sent out; and at one point Lilith was distributing yarn from the back of her car in the pouring rain. Yes, it felt rather like we were running a drug gang!
Looking back it is incredible that nobody slipped up and that everything went so smoothly.
One GKS member even knitted her square in Australia whilst there for work. Another GKS member had yarn sent to her in Amsterdam where she now lives. I know several other people wanted to have taken part - Emma and Mags, I am thinking of you - but the planning stage was no more than a week at best. It was so touching to see just how many people were keen on getting involved and how much Elaine and her fiancée meant to people.
Then one Sunday not so long ago most of us gathered at Paula's house to finish the blanket. It was a very special afternoon watching squares turning into strips turning into sections turning (finally) into a blanket. I imagine making barn-raiding quilt would have been a bit like this: women gathered together making something. We worked at it from every angle - at one point one person was crocheting the double crochet edging and another person was crocheting the lacy edging on top. Chain gang, if you will pardon the pun!
From left to right: Alison, Fiona, Paula, Karie, Catherine, Janice, Lynette, and Julia.
Not present: Jules, Lisa, Kathleen, Eleanor, Kerry and Gloria.
Gloria also created a beautiful scrapbook detailing how much work went into the blanket, how we had made it and how much it was a labour of love.
And we did think of it as a blanket of love. For me, personally, the blanket represents how much I learned from being involved with GKS; how my life has changed since I embraced being a Knitter; and just how amazing knitters are when they get together. We make things and we give so much of ourselves to others through our making. I made this blanket together with thirteen incredible women with each their own story - and we made it for a couple with their own story-making.
And then everything almost went haywire. We had planned a small knitterly hen-night for Elaine and we wanted it to be a surprise. On the morning of the hen-night Future Mr SoCherry texted me to tell me that Elaine had had to leave work due to a nasty migraine. Eventually we managed to coax her out to a quiet knitting night but certain members of GKS did have mild panic attacks prior to that.
Subterfuge was finally done away with - and we presented her with the blanket. I think she liked it.
Fourteen knitters, three countries, two continents, three months, fourteen hanks of Old Maiden Aunt BFL Aran and A LOT OF SUBTERFUGE..
.. equals one blanket of love.