Monday, February 15, 2021

The Abominable Snowman Afghan

My sister is what I call "Christmas crazy", meaning she really loves decorating for Christmas and goes all out on it, and she also has a thing for snowmen-themed stuff. A few years ago I got the idea of making her a special Christmas afghan -- something with snowmen on it if possible. 

I searched the Ravelry database for a suitable afghan, and came across the Patons-designed Christmas Eve Afghan pattern depicted above. I thought the happy-looking little snowmen were cute, and that the design had a bit of a country feel to it, which was a good thing in this case as my sister's tastes lean a little country. The afghan design is basically lap-sized with a finished size of 42" x 48", but I decided I'd enlarge it to what I consider the ideal afghan size, 4' x 6' -- large enough to comfortably cover one ordinary-sized adult, yet not so large as to be unwieldy. This meant knitting 60 blocks instead of 48. I decided I would also make a matching throw pillow.

As to the yarn, it had to be a budget type yarn, because I needed a LOT of yarn for this project (1730 grams by my estimate). I looked in my stash and found some orange worsted yarn for the snowmen's nose, while a partial skein of Loops & Threads Impeccable Tweed in Walnut Tweed (leftover from the owl cushion I made earlier in 2020 for my mother) would do for the arms and top hat. I bought one skein of Red Heart Super Saver in Soft White for the snowflakes and snowmen, and for the body of the afghan I bought Bernat Super Value in Forest Green. I did the math and calculated that I needed 8 skeins of the Bernat Super Value. In January 2020, I began walking up to the Michaels at Toronto's Stockyards shopping centre once a week to buy a skein of yarn using Michaels' coupons, which only apply to one item per customer per day. Or rather, I intended to walk to Michaels once a week; the reality was that some weeks I wouldn't get around to it or I decided I'd rather buy something else at Michaels when I actually got there, and as of the end of February 2020 I only had the one skein of Soft White and two skeins of the Forest Green. But hey, no rush, there was still lots of time to shop at Michaels before Christmas 2020 and get the rest of the yarn, right?

This blithe assumption turned out to be quite wrong, because of a little complication known as the COVID19 pandemic. Michaels Ontario had to close in March, and when they reopened a few months later, they had no Bernat Super Value worsted in Forest Green. I waited several more months for them to restock, but it turned out that they'd ceased to stock it at all. By this point, in August, I'd begun working on the afghan and was getting anxious. I searched online, and found that Michaels had some more still in stock in their other stores across Toronto that I could order online and have shipped to my house. I ordered six skeins. Michaels sent me a bag of four skeins and I called them and reported that I was two short of what I ordered. The customer service person arranged for another shipment of two, and then it turned out that I later received the remaining two that I had originally ordered in a separate shipment plus the extra two sent to me because I'd complained of not receiving my full order. I do wish Michaels had added some kind of statement to the packing slip for the four in order to inform me that I would be receiving the extra two under separate cover. But at least now I had no worries about running out of yarn.

Here's the finished afghan. It's a little smaller than I hoped (47" x 68", not counting the fringe), but it will do. I began it sometime in early August, thinking I'd be done in a few months -- I usually can knock off an afghan in one to two months -- only to find that it dragged on for a soul-searing eternity during which I often felt despairingly that I would be working on it forever. It took me over six months to make this afghan and a matching throw pillow -- I took just a week or two off in that time to knit a glove and a half for the tam, cowl and gloves set I'd begun earlier in the year. The afghan is a time-intensive design, of course, with its detailed little motifs. I did eventually get to the point that I had memorized the cabled and snowmen patterns, which helped some with speed, as I could make a block in an evening without so much as a glance at one of the charts. I was never able to do the same for the snowflake motif, and it took me several evenings to make each one. 

It still shouldn't have taken me more than three to four months to make the afghan and cushion, but then I made quite a lot of mistakes. I got a bunch of cable squares made before I realized I'd done them wrong, and I did the same thing with the snowmen squares. I made about snowflake blocks before I realized they were too wide. I think what happened was that the Red Heart Super Saver was a slightly bigger gauge than the Bernat Super Value. I ripped out all of them and reknitted them four stitches narrower than the pattern called for. They're still a little too wide compared to the cable and snowmen blocks, but it was workable. 

Seaming together the afghan blocks was a job in itself, but once that was done, I did enjoy getting to the point where I could begin working on the garter stitch trim on the four sides, because it meant I could use my brand new ChiaoGoo circular needle set for the first time. I'd wanted a new set for years. Then in early December when I realized I was going to have to spend Christmas alone (after an entire year spent alone) instead of going to my parents' house for a few days as I normally do, I went on Amazon to buy a few modest things to cheer myself up. Then I saw on my wish list that the price of this set was as low as I'd ever seen it, and I went a little mad and ordered one. 

When it arrived I sat down at my kitchen table with it and spent so long poring over its many attributes that my cat got jealous. Most of the things I buy are handmade or thrifted or even found items that I upcycle, or things my woodworker dad makes for me, and even when I do buy something new it's usually from the dollar store or some other low budget place. I generally have to go with the cheapest option I can live with. And I'm fine with that -- I think I probably get more real enjoyment out of making and contriving and finding deals than I would if I could afford to just go to the mall and buy whatever I wanted.  But I have hardly ever owned anything top of the line, and it was such a thrill to get something that is the best money can buy for once.  

This was my old, partially incomplete and partially broken set of thrift shop Denise circulars and the assorted circulars I owned prior to my ChiaoGoo set's arrival, so you can see why I was so excited. The Denise circs tended to come apart really easily. No matter how careful I tried to be, the needle would come off the line, dropping 50 or 60 stitches. I would groan and painstakingly pick them up again, and then five minutes later the needle would come off the circular line again. I'm amazed I didn't have a rage stroke. I'll give the assorted circulars to a friend of mine who has just begun knitting, but I really think the Denise set should go in the garbage. 

Here's a photo of the matching throw cushion. It is 20" x 20". The original plan was to make the cushion out of pieced blocks, just like the afghan, but I decided against going that route because it wasn't going to be possible to make the cushion the size I wanted it, and also because it was a lot of work. So, I adapted the cable pattern and used that for the cushion, knitting the cushion top in one long strip and then seaming it on three sides. It's more neutral than Christmassy, but that means my sister will be able to leave this cushion out all year round if she likes. 

The zipper for the cushion. I used my "two crochet chains sewn on either side of the zipper" technique for this as usual. I do wish I could have used a zipper in a shade that was closer to my yarn colour, but between Fabricland only offering curbside pickup shopping these days (which would make if difficult for me to match the colour) and my super tight budget, I decided this olive-coloured zipper that was just sitting in my zipper box would have to do. I made my own pillow form for the cushion. Good thing I'd stocked up on polyfil early in 2020. 

I did not finish this project until February 13th, 2021. Meanwhile, of course, Christmas had long past. My sister's birthday is in mid-January, so I gave her the items I'd originally bought for her birthday for her Christmas present (my mother and sister came to my house in Toronto to do a curbside present delivery and pickup on December 23rd), and I told her that I was working on something special for her birthday present, though I was uncertain as to when I'd be able to give it to her. I still don't know when I'll be able to see her again. I could ship it to her, but that would be expensive and I can't bear to take the risk it might get lost in the mail, and also I want to see her reaction when she opens it. 

My sister has what I would categorize as three basic reactions to gifts. If she loves the gift, she'll laugh in a particular, delighted, staccato kind of way ("Haw! Haw! Haw!"). If she likes it, she just seems pleased, and talks about how she'll use it. If she doesn't like it, she is polite but unenthusiastic and unforthcoming. Of course I won't pressure her to like this afghan and cushion or complain if she doesn't, but I'll be watching her carefully when she opens it, and if I get the "politely unenthusiastic" reaction for something I worked six months to make and that is probably the most time intensive knitting project I've ever done, I think I'll die a little on the inside.  

This project used a tiny amount of orange yarn and perhaps 20 grams of the brown tweed I had in my stash. I had 60 grams left of the white, and thanks to the mix-up with the Michaels shipment, I finished this project with two almost untouched skeins of green yarn (I used just a little of the one when I was finishing up the fringe), so that's a net stash growth of  436 grams. 

1 comment:

  1. A true labour of love. I think it is amazing and I am sure she will love it too!