The first blanket took nine months to knit, but the second one, worked the same way and in the same size, only took two weeks. Projects don’t normally take a long time for me. Stitch by stitch, I forced myself to push along on that first one. The garter stitch was a length of tortuous, pot-holed-filled miles as long as the roads between Tennessee and Florida. Maybe even longer.
My last conversation with my baby sister, shortly after she announced her second pregnancy, didn’t end on a positive note. We already don’t talk much, so it dried up quick for several months. The distance between us isn’t exactly a gulf, but with the combination of different personalities and values, the turmoil of American politics, insanely busy lives, and perhaps even jealousy, the strain was more than noticeable. It sat heavy back there, like a heavy snow at the end of spring. You know the ones; where the freeze browns those lush cherry blossoms that had just bloomed.
I pulled out four skeins of yarn, because… well, that’s what knitters do. We knit. It was enough to make two coordinating blankets – each with the same variegated, but a different semi-solid. Starting off with four stitches, it grew quickly enough at the start, but it wasn’t long before discomfort set in. Rows and rows of nothing but garter stitch to occupy the senses. For a believer in meditative knitting, it should have been jackpot. But, I squirmed. Each stitch demanded I let it go. Just push it forward and move on to the next one. Guilt, pettiness, bitterness… they clung tight. The tension inside was making me strangle the yarn. Apparently, a meditative guru I am not.
I shoved the blanket into a box. It sat there, hidden in the dark for a good couple of months, bringing the deadline for Baby #2 ever closer. When that new baby boy’s due date was only a month away, I decided to try again. Except, it was a mess when I pulled it out of the box. Stitches had somehow fallen off the needles, unraveling so much that the only repair was a complete rip. Back to the beginning.
Cast on 4. Knit.
Join the new colour. Knit some more.
I remembered when we hid under blankets with flashlights in the dark, whispering against the thunderstorm. The booms rattled the old rickety windows of the ancient farmhouse, but tucked in with my sisters, we were safe.
There were those times we tied blankets around our chests, letting them drag on the floor like long gowns. My sisters and I were as beautiful as the princesses locked in towers from the fairy tales. We hiked those “gowns” to our hips to climb our magical steeds, determined to handle the escape our own selves.
Blankets tied around our necks like capes turned us into comic book heroes. Or ghosts when they were over our heads. Or brides intent on an amazing wedding when they acted as veils.
Knit. Knit. Knit. My sisters. Family. A bond, like those that have been woven through sturdy loops, that doesn’t just evaporate.
When my new nephew arrives, he and his brother will soon have their own special sibling bond. The blankets I’m knitting will be the same for them. Sails for their pirate ships, walls to the forts they build, or hiding places when they need to escape the goon hiding under the bed. The blankets are just containers to their imaginations. They hold my memories, leaving room for their hopes and dreams. Bonds and blood. Yarn and stitch. Knit together so perfectly that the miles end up not really mattering. Strong enough to withstand the strain, warm enough to soften the hardness, soft enough to ease the ache.
Funny how two blankets become more than just a new baby gift, but rather a healing remembrance of that first real community: sisterhood.
Make Your Own Two-Colour Garter Stitch Blanket
With MC, CO 4 stitches.
Row 1 (RS): K1, kfb, kfb, k1. 6 sts.
Row 2 (WS): Sl 1 wyif, knit to last st, sl 1 wyif.
Row 3 (RS): With CC, k1, kfb, knit to last 2 sts, kfb, k1. 2 sts inc’d.
Row 4 (WS): With CC, sl 1 wyif, knit to last st, sl 1 wyif.
Row 5: With MC, k1, kfb, knit to last 2 sts, kfb, k1. 2 sts inc’d.
Row 6: sl 1 wyif, knit to last st, sl 1 wyif.
Repeat Rows 4-6 until about half of your yarn has been used.
Row 7 (RS): With CC, k1, ssk, knit to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1. 2 sts dec’d.
Row 8 (WS): With CC, sl 1 wyif, knit to last st, sl 1 wyif.
Row 9: With MC, k1, ssk, knit to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1. 2 sts dec’d.
Row 10: sl 1 wyif, knit to last st, sl 1 wyif.
Repeat Rows 7-10 until 4 sts remain.
Abbreviations: CO – cast on, dec’d – decreased, inc’d – increased, k – knit, k2tog – knit 2 stitches together, kfb – knit front and back, RS – right side, sl – slip, wyif – with yarn in front, st – stitch(es), WS – wrong side