Featured Image: Natalie Selles’ Community Blanket
I am one of those knitters who came back to knitting when I was pregnant with my son. Is there some knitting switch that is tripped when we start nesting that makes us want to knit baby booties and tiny sweaters? It happened to me—did it happen to you too?? Thankfully, I found my yarn tribe after my return to knitting and I stuck with it, even when having a new baby made it seem impossible to get a few stitches in.
My baby is almost 11 years old, but I still enjoy the thrill of finding out that a friend is pregnant or being asked to knit something for a friend of the family. There’s just something so satisfying about knitting little things. Plus the instant gratification factor is a huge bonus too!
When I was pregnant I returned to knitting but I wasn’t really a Knitter at that point, so I’ve always felt a little bit wistful that my little guy never really had his own baby blanket put together by my knit night group. Happily, I had the honour and the pleasure of participating in a couple of these blankets for other members of our community, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The idea of a community blanket isn’t something new. In the New World, quilters used to come together in a bee to make squares for a soon-to-be married couple that were assembled into a larger quilt. While many hands made light work, it also sped up the process as engagements could be short and time away from rural chores was limited.
Knitters and crocheters have adopted this method with their own form of community blankets. Often these blankets are made in a similar way: they are knit or crocheted modularly (in pieces) and then assembled together before being given to the recipient. What I love about this is how many options there are! There are blankets that can be knit in pieces and assembled in different ways like quilt blocks such as Fly Away by Tin Can Knits, or crocheted in a multiple of colours like the Bear’s Rainbow Blanket by Purl Soho. There are also blankets that can combine both knitting and crochet by using the same shape like Erika Knight’s hexagon Patchwork Throw (textured knit version here and crocheted version here). There are even blankets that everyone can work on together using up mini skeins or sock yarn leftovers, like the now iconic Beekeeper’s Quilt by Tiny Owl Knits.
Maybe you have a smaller group and want to keep your community project more intimate? Why not try working on it all at the same time? Natalie Selles’ Community Blanket ticks all the boxes of unusual construction, forgiving gauge, and lets four people work on it simultaneously.
As Natalie explains it, “The Community Blanket has four knitters sitting facing each other, knee to knee. This means you are chatting and experiencing the knitting together. I think beginner and less experienced knitters get a lot out of it as they have someone right there to ask for help when they make a mistake. You are sharing and getting to know each other more. I have knit on this blanket with close friends and complete strangers and every time the conversation is flowing, there is very little difference between the two situations! It can be knit by a small group, or a larger one with people swapping in and out as they can. This is in comparison to blankets where knitters have made their contribution alone at home while the blanket is made by the community it isn’t necessarily made AS a community. It is a wonderful activity for community building as much as anything.”
Even more brilliantly, the Community Blanket helps to smooth out any gauge issues that might arise from knitters working on a single piece that might come out a different size to that of their neighbours. According to Natalie’s construction, a single knitter is responsible for one of four rows at a time so a looser or tighter gauge really only happens on a single row, as opposed to a patch on a single piece of a larger blanket.
Of course there are other options too for having a single blanket going – maybe something simple like Stephen West’s Gartner Squish and have people from your community take turns knitting rows or stripes. This one is great for using up odds and ends leftover from stash too.
Whatever you choose there are plenty of ways to celebrate special occasions within your own communities. Pieced or all-in-one, wonky gauge or not, the result is sure to be a treasured heirloom and a recipient touched with the thoughtfulness of your entire group.