Perennials are not just for garden beds; Knitting Barn-raising blankets for comfort

One of the key elements of planting a garden is, for me, building up the stock of favourite perennials. These are the plants that make your garden home, and as they appear a flourish each year feel like returning friends. While I’m still trying out how various long loved favourite plants will thrive in our new garden and experimenting with how new ones will cope with its harsh heat, in my knitting basket I have a project, Barn Raising blanket squares that I returned repeatedly, they really are a perennial favourite knitting project.

When I started thinking about it and counting them up, even I was surprised by how many of these I have made… I’m currently on my 6th …. and there have also been few odd squares contributed to collective community projects, or collective projects among friends as well as strangers.

I’m not even entirely sure how I first came across the pattern. It must have been on Ravelry, in the early days when people shared projects and then you went and bought the pattern book, because I have Knitalong by Larissa Brown where this pattern originated for me. The pattern may have been around for a while before this, but this is where I first discovered it. In the intervening years I’ve seen many similar and much the same patterns proliferate across the internet. It’s simplicity makes it the perfect candidate for imposters and reverse engineers as well as devotees!

The pattern has many great qualities including:

  • Being small and perfect portable. I have a particular bag that has a couple sets of needles and the scrap yarns I need to whip up squares wherever I go.
  • It’s just stocking stitch worked in the round – no thinking required, so the perfect project to pick up when you brain is needed for something other than knitting.
  • As I sit here in the heat I am reminded that these are the perfect warm weather project, no heavy project sat in your lap while you’re fantasising about rivers, lakes, swimming pools or the sea.
  • Oh, and being portable if you have a handy rock for your knitting bag you can knit on it while you’re in a river, lake or sea…
  • Each square just uses a little 4 ply/fingering yarn; at the stitch count I use 5g is enough for one square, plus the edging, but I also combine smaller scraps to mimic self striping yarn.
  • You can use any odd scraps and if you have solid colours but prefer variegates, speckles or stripes, you can dye your solids easily using food colours or kool aid etc.
  • These squares are pretty self motivating and while I may go a while not doing any, once I get started again I find I get onto a roll.
  • If you work on them as and when, block and put them away, you may be surprised how quickly they accumulate and when you need a quick gift project, Wow! you have a blankets worth!

Barn Raising Blanket No.1 – the one that started it all, was for our old couch and took 4 years (2012-16) and was full of scraps from swap groups. I wasn’t a keen sock knitter then and the colourful hand dyed yarns that sing in this project were both new to me and a little beyond my budget then.

The first Barn Raising Blanket

This blanket took 80 squares and for this first one I worked them to the size directed in the pattern. Each took about 11g of yarn rather than the 5g for the size I do now. I can say for sure that the sewing up and the edging slowed down the completion somewhat, but despite the time it took I enjoyed it all the way through. Just look at those squares, who couldn’t love it!

Blanket squares blocking prior to sewing up

Interestingly this one was edged using the same inexpensive Lidl sock yarn that I’m using again to edge the squares I’m currently knitting too. What’s more I had to dye yarn to make the final squares for this one, something that has been a fun and consistent element of all my Barn Raising Blankets.

Barn Raising Blanket No.2 was knit for my great nephew in 2015. Yes, although I consider this the second it was completed before the first. The thing was that I thought I had more squares than I needed for the first, and I loved the project so much I thought it would be the perfect baby gift.

So I took my ‘extras’, removed the grey edging, replaced it with blue (again the inexpensive Lidl sock yarn), made some more squares sewed them up, added border using the log cabin approach working each strip in garter before moving onto the next (never casting off), and then doing an i-cord cast off/applied i-cord combination edge all the way around.

Barn Raising Blanket 2

Barn Raising Blanket No. 3 – Ok so confession time here, I didn’t just complete one baby version before finishing the one for our couch but two. Having finished and gifted the ‘second’ blanket the feedback from my niece-in-law was so positive I decided that this would make the perfect gift for a friend who was expecting her first child. This time I decided that in the scaled down version I’d try smaller squares. These were edged with the same Lidl sock yarn, but in bottle green this time, and the log cabin style garter edge was made from green brown variegated Lidl sock yarn. Again I did the i-cord edging using the same bottle green as I had edged the squares with.

Barn Raising Blanket 3

So after completing the first baby version in July, the second baby version was completed in October but only just, and the only picture I have of this was taken in the car on the way to the naming ceremony.

Barn Raising Blanket No. 4 – This blanket demonstrates, should you need any convincing, that blankets beget blankets. My niece, having seen the baby blanket I made for my great nephew mentioned that she’d quite like one, perhaps for Christmas. I had to explain that they take a while and that the fast approaching Christmas was unlikely, but I’d start one for the following year. She was just 7 years old then and had demonstrated herself to be totally knit worthy since a baby, so how could I refuse.

For this one I again did the smaller squares and I used a combination of pink purple and grey for the square edgings. The log cabin garter edging was worked in an Old Maiden Aunt merino stellina yarn leftover in a purple colour that I don’t remember the colour way name of and the I cord was worked in a pink Sparkleduck merino stellina.

Between 2016 and 2020 I mainly made squares for collective projects, a knitting group friends baby, a reading group friends baby, various different charity projects etc. I kept making squares, using up leftovers from socks because in the intervening years I had become a full formed sock knitter as this post on socks demonstrates.

So when our next door neighbour here in Italy announced he was getting married to his partner and they were moving into a home together, my partner suggested a hand made gift would be appropriate. The neighbour had lived next door for a number of years from when my parents-in-law were still alive and he’d got on really well with them too, long before they passed away and we moved over.

I looked at my stack of squares which was pretty respectable and plenty for a baby blanket but would struggle to stretch to about half of a full blanket. So I got started working on new squares with my deadline in mind. Pretty soon I ran out of scraps and had to get the Kool Aid out again and dye up some of my own:

I was pretty happy with these skeins. I’d managed to create a range of colours and variations form a limited range of flavours and I liked how the speckles turned out. However this wasn’t enough and I needed to dye some more. In the end I think almost a 1/2 of the squares for this blanket were dyed by me.

Again this project was completed pretty tight to the deadline. I tried to get some nice pictures but outside was too bright and I couldn’t find consistent shade:

In this section of the blanket starting from top left corner working across each row in order, square 1, 4,5,6,7,8,18, 20, 21, 22 and 24 were all had dyed by myself.

These squares were edged with black to create a classic stained glass window effect and again finished with an I-cord around the full blanket.

In my current squares I’m back to edging with yet more of the charcoal grey Lidl 4 ply sock yarn. I’m not sure when they will go into a blanket of for whom, but that’s fine. Again I’m busy dyeing mini skeins of yarn as my sock scraps are depleted and I’m using this as my portable project when I’m at the stage of needing to turn a heel on actual socks. I’m OK working on the flap of a toe up sock any time any place but have been known to have an off centre wedge at the back of the heel as a result of insufficient attention so I generally try to avoid doing this when there are too many distractions. Moreover once I get into the rhythm of these squares and I’m using yarns I’ve dyed, I find that I really want to knit the squares to see how my yarns knit up.

I didn’t think to take pictures of my pie dish dye method to show how easy it is to create these effects with just kool aid/food colurings, a pyrex pie dish, a few small glasses and a tea strainer. Not to worry though I have some more yarn I can over-dye so will try and get a few pictures to illustrate a quick ‘how to’ post in the next few days.

Until next time, if you have patterns that you go back to time and time again and never loose enthusiasm for, or enjoyment of, please let me know in the comments.

Happy Knitting,

Tess xxx

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