On January 1, 2019, I had absolutely no inkling of plans to knit a blanket. By January 1, 2020, I had knit an entire blanket large enough to cover an entire bed. I am still amazed that it even happened!
Ten days into the new year of 2019 I was scrolling through Facebook: checking on friends, smiling at photos of little people I know, ignoring anything political.
Suddenly what my eyes spied set my brain to bubbling and buzzing. A post by a former student, Jodi Leonard Hunter, contained a suggestion that reeled me in: knit a row a day to make a blanket. With my sister’s late January birthday niggling at my brain, the vision of a blanket began to form.
The idea: each day check a chart of yarn colors ranging from dark blues through shades of green into a series of oranges and yellows, each hue representing a range of temperatures. Find the high temperature of the day on the color chart and knit a row in the color indicated. By the end of 2019, I could have a blanket to present to my sister in 2020 as a spectacular birthday gift. I was poised to leap in with both feet – I mean, hands.
Before I committed, however, I seriously considered a couple of major questions: would I faithfully knit a row every single day or fall so far behind as to be forced to wield my circular needles 24/7 in December in a desperate attempt to complete the project? Were my knitting skills up to such a huge task?
The vision of my sister unwrapping such a stupendous gift far outweighed any doubt. I had faith that on January 1, 2020, I would have completed this coverlet, alternately known as a temperature blanket or a thermometer blanket.
By January 16 I had assembled skeins of yarn and new circular needles. Calculations and practice swatches convinced me to cast on 280 stitches for my journey through blankethood.
In that frigid January I was deep into Windsor blue, real teal, and aruba sea – with a couple of rows of deep purple on subzero days. I did my daily due diligence: calling time and temperature every day at noon or shortly thereafter, checking my color/temperature chart, clicking away on my needles.
Approximately three weeks in, however, I detected a distant but distinct sense of discouragement as I struggled to control the 280 stitches on my needles. Occasionally I unknowingly dropped a stitch, forcing me to begin and end each row-a-day with a stitch count – and then unknitting and reknitting to correct any error. A daily stress-filled hour of struggle across a row diminished my pleasure, and the vision in my head began to fade.
There in early February I was on the brink of aborting the project, sending my sister flowers instead on her special day. As I began dreading the noon hour and its scheduled row, I also realized that during the broiling temperatures of late summer, I would be engulfed in an ever-heavier bed cover.
It was time for an executive decision: I started again with a new plan to knit three vertical panels, each 50 stitches wide. I had to knit furiously for a month to catch up to the 2019 calendar, eventually able to accomplish my daily knitting in twenty minutes. My pleasure and my vision were restored.
Just as I grew tired of the chilly blue yarns, slowly but steadily I added tea leaf and spring green, often enough to stow the blues and break out saffron and bright yellow. As April wound to a close, I took the first panel off the needles to begin the second one. Summer allowed me to revel in pumpkin and crimson, and a couple of weeks after the county fair, I was on to panel three.
Having earlier extracted a promise from my Tennessee sister to crochet the panels together and add a ruffle around the perimeter, I finished December with a relatively balmy row of aruba sea. I celebrated by packing everything for the mail trip to Tennessee and celebrated anew when the panels and their rows came back in blanket form. A couple of weeks later the birthday girl completed the vision I had held in my mind for more than a year.
Oddly enough, for the first several days of 2020 I missed my daily knitting routine. And I still find myself thinking of an April day in terms of spring green or dreading another steamy, hot crimson kind of day.
However, I am also left with a few observations from my year of yarn. I committed, faltered, but pressed on – despite uber-frequently comparing my decidedly intermediate handwork skills to another sister’s crocheted temperature blanket, Becky and Ted Jackson’s beautifully-knitted garments and accessories, and my most cherished possession of an original afghan knitted especially for me by my mother, which occupies a permanent spot on the chair right next to me.
I was reminded that any seemingly-insurmountable job becomes surmountable when broken down into smaller, manageable tasks – when perhaps there are times that seeing the trees rather than the forest is helpful.
Finally, a self-realization dawned on me, that my best work, my most worthy outcomes – large and small – have always come to fruition when I trust the visions guiding me through. Who knows when the next one will dance into my brain…
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.