Well I’ve shown you the best thing I finished in December, so perhaps it’s only fair to turn my attention to the second best thing I made this year, and a serious piece of ‘show off’ knitting.
When I was expecting Kitty I spent months knitting cute little baby cardigans, booties, bibs and one very lovely Alice Starmore baby blanket, the Point Reyes pattern. Well this time I still had all of the little bits of knitwear, most of which are in fairly neutral colours (at least in the newborn sizes), so aside from my Olympic, sorry, Ravellenic knitting, to make a ‘just for Elma’ baby surprise jacket, there was only one thing I really wanted to make for this new baby; his or her own Alice Starmore blanket.
I ordered the kit over the summer and I really did mean to start sooner, but in the end it was mid October before I cast on my first line of little blue and gold Elephants. When Elma surprised us all by turning breach at 38 weeks I knit on the assessment ward as we waited to see the registrar; and when we turned up two days later for an ECV only to discover that she’d turned back all by her sweet little self, I knit as we waited for a room, knit as the registrar sent out for the portable ultrasound to double check her position, and knit as we waited to be discharged back to our usual clinic appointment. I think more midwives came to see the blanket than the baby.
At the time it looked very like Elma might arrive before the blanket, especially when (despite getting gauge) I ran out of Corncrake and had to do a bit of hasty online ordering while the shoulders of the ninth row of elephants languished in a woolly pile at the end of the sofa.
But it seems that my babies like to wait for their knitwear, and so the blanket, finished the day before my due date, was ready long before Elma made her appearance.
As with the Point Reyes blanket, I made a little tweak to the finishing. The pattern suggests that you trim the steeks nicely and cross stitch them to the back of the blanket, but I wanted this to be perfect inside and out so I made little facings to enclose both steeks (using this idea from the Rainey Sisters again).
To make the facings I cast on four stitches, then, with the edge of the blanket away from me, I picked up both loops of the stitch that I’d picked up for the edging pattern down one side, cast on eight stitches for a little steek at the bottom and repeated the process back up the other side before casting on a final four stitches to complete the top steek and joining to knit in the round.
If it helps to visualise it, I basically pick up stitches as if I’m knitting the facing going the ‘wrong’ way; if I kept just knitting in the round at this point my facings would be in reverse stocking stitch, so I turned the direction of my knitting in the middle of the first steek, just after joining in the round, and worked back the other way, knitting an approximation of the arch pattern from the centre panel with what remained of Limpet (the purple) and Sundew (golden orange) and then Mara (blue) and Golden Plover.
And for the final touch, the date; just so we know whose blanket it is.
After six rounds I cast off in Golden Plover and cut down the centre of the top and bottom mini steeks. A quick press with a steam iron underneath a pressing cloth to flatten them out a bit and to help the mini steeks tuck under each end, and they sewed down neatly to the floats to hide any wiggly ends of yarn that might proove irresistible to tiny fingers.
Perhaps it is an easier pattern than Point Reyes, or perhaps with time and practice my fairisle has got better, and I’ve become more relaxed about the length of my floats and my ability to space them nicely, but I found this an easier, though no less enjoyable knit, than my first blanket, and I do love the fact that you can see the elephants in negative on the back.
In as far as we can tell, Elma appears to approve of her blanket, and it’s certainly kept her nice and snuggly warm as we toddle around putting the finishing touches to Christmas. I hope that someday both my girls will treasure their blankets, and even if the patterns or the colours seem horribly dated or strange at whatever time they have their own homes, and maybe even tiny snuffly babies of their own, they will recognise that these blankets are love; hours and hours spent by their Mama thinking about them, and dreaming about their futures, wanting and hoping for the very best for them.
Certainly, these two blankets represent the very best of my skills; and neither Kitty nor Elma deserve anything less, so as immodest (and very un-English) as it sounds, I am unashamedly proud of this blanket – as I said at the beginning, it is definitely showing off knitting.
Alterations: The addition of little facings to hide the steeks. Other than that it’s as the pattern tells it.
Time to make: 1.5 months