jenett: Big and Little Dipper constellations on a blue watercolor background (Default)
[personal profile] jenett
So, if you have been reading my journal for a while, you know that about 2.5 years ago, I started working on a blanket to go along with Alternity. It is now completely done (I finished casting off the last square in the last few minutes of Alternity, and I finished the last bit of applying the taselling late on Wednesday, the 21st, the day before getting on a plane to go to the cast party...)

The complete tour is below: the 'individual squares' section includes spoilers for Alternity, but the first section is just about the construction. You can see the whole blanket on my Ravelry account here (okay, barring the very top row) and you can use the individual square links below to see each square in more detail.

Feel free to skip to the squares section if you are not interested in the technical knitting details.

Double sided knitting

The blanket is done with a technique called double knitting, which produces a double thickness of fabric, both sides in stockinette stitch, with the design reversed in the alternate colours on the other side of the work.

I really love doing it : it's really clear what your design is doing, and you get the nice flat sleekness of stockinette without the rolling you get in single layer fabric. (On the downside, it means that for each of these squares, each chart of 44 stitches across by 50 high is actually *88* stitches across in actual knitting.)

It took me - if I didn't pause to type something in the middle, which I often did - about 8 minutes a row to knit, and on a good night, I would do 8-10 rows, and more realistically it was often 5-8. (At the end of the project, when I was pushing myself to finish, I was averaging more like 12 rows a night, and that took really serious determination.) A square a week was a fairly reasonable pace, with a couple of hours of knitting and watching Netflix and chatting online each night.

I also had several stretches of a couple of months where I did no work on it at all.

Design: Blanket overall

I knew at the start I wanted to do 7 squares per year, for 7 years, with a border that included the house animals.

I also knew I wanted to do a small but consistent set of colours. Given the Potterverse, clearly, that needed to include the house colors, so we have (in the KnitPicks Palette yarn for reasons of affordability and colour range)

- Red: Garnet heather
- Golden yellow : Golden heather
- Blue : Marine heather
- Dark green : Aurora heather
- White/silver : Finley heather
- Medium gray : Marble heather
- Black : Asphalt heather
- Brown : Brindle heather

If I were doing this again, I'd probably figure out a way to get one more light colour in there, but it's tricky with that combination. Maybe a tan instead of the medium brown.

The design grew out of that, and out of a desire to make sure we did not get weird pooling of color. (This meant, in practice, no two squares next to each other horizontally or vertically with the same background color, and no more than two squares diagonally with the same background color.) There are a couple of times I ended up putting squares in an order that is not quite perfectly chronological as a result. (generally by having a square for an ongoing event not be in sequence when it actually started.)

The design, also, is limited by some practical aspects: it is possible to knit a different design on the front and back of a double knit square, but it is much easier to do a front design and nothing on the back than it is to do something entirely different on the back. (Hence the chain stitch work in Y7.)

Likewise, I tried a couple of places to do three colour double knit work, and found that that was beyond my practical skills (at least without more time than I ended up having: it slowed things way down, and I kept having to untangle balls of yarn.)

It was, however, clever of me to do the border rows, because it meant I had an entirely portable project where I didn't have to look at a chart while knitting a border square. (There are several people who have seen me working on the blanket for most of the duration, who have never seen me knit anything other than gray and black yarn with no pattern.)

All the pattern squares are charted, because it's really the only way to manage double knitting. In the case of designs where the original wasn't charted, I charted them into a Google spreadsheet, and then downloaded the chart onto my iPad for easier knitting.

When working on a pattern square, I'd put the chart on my iPad, and then move a little arrow up the chart as I did each row, making it easy to keep track. (The charts were done so that the lighter color was in the background, so that I could have things face the desired direction. This took me a little while to figure out.)

Design: Individual squares

In the end:
- 17 squares from existing charts or only lightly modified
- 9 squares with moderate to substantial modifications
- 23 squares I designed the charts for myself

There will be charts of the ones I designed once I can get them usefully formatted (if there's one you desperately want Right Now, feel free to say so.)

I pillaged a lot of dishcloth designs both for actual charts and for ideas for how to make things work. (Sometimes this meant some trial and error - for example, double knitting looks a lot better when you have at least two stitches together of the reverse color, so after the first row, I started adapting patterns to make sure that was true.) The main challenge was finding things that fit the plot events but could be done in (mostly) two colors in double knitting.

Another challenge is that stockinette stitches are wider than they are tall, so 44 stitches across by 50 high produces a wider rectangle, rather than a square. I didn't actually mind this, but it made doing some designs a bit tricky.


The actual construction is fairly straightfoward, if time consuming. Each square is joined horizontally to the square(s) next to it by 2 strands of asphalt heather yarn, making a reasonably solid border. The rows are joined vertically by 4 strands of yarn. I found 4 strands *massively* easier to do neatly, and much less time consuming, so will do that for future projects.

I'd also started the project doing a cast-on that made for a much more flexible bottom to each square than the top, so there are places where I had to effectively gusset one square in the center bottom to make things fit. (but by the time I figured out an alternate, didn't want to have the inconsistency through the blanket.)

I'd sewn together about half of it before I finished knitting, and it took me about 7 weeks to sew together the rest. That part was very tedious. (I ended up doing somewhere between 5 and 12 segments of sewing a day, but of course as the thing gets connected, it got more and more unwieldy, and 5 segments usually took me about 2 hours, with some typing in the middle and rather a lot of pausing to move the cat off the bit I needed to sew next.)

It has tassels (2 strands together = 4 strands per tassel) about every 2 stitches apart, all the way around.

Again, this section has spoilers for Alternity, you have been forewarned. Links not to the actual knitting square go to the Alternity wiki, which has even more spoilers. (Please let me know if links go somewhere odd, and I will fix them.)


The main border squares are solid medium gray and black, on opposite sides.

Corner squares: Each of the Hogwarts house animals. (The Slytherin snake is done on a darker green to keep in tone with the border colors.) I picked the set of House charts I liked best and that fit in the available space best.

The placement was designed to get Slytherin at the beginning of Year 1, and Gryffindor at the end of Year 7. (And I wanted Hufflepuff on the top row.) The Slyth snake is snake 1.

Year 1

Ouroboros : The Ouroboros is one of the primary symbols of the Protectorate. We went back and forth between whether it's the figure-8 version or this one, and they're actually both on the blanket. This is the second snake.

Journal: For the beginning of the journal project.

Sorting hat: For the obvious reasons, first years starting school need to be sorted.

Snitch: For Harry's entry onto the Slytherin Quidditch team.

Unicorn: For the Unicorn Hunt. Note how the unicorn is looking back, toward the past history, this will be relevant later.

Chess rook : For the search for the Philosopher's Stone

Tent: for the first YPL camping trip.

Year 2

Healer's symbol for the Epidemic that took over most of this year. (This square based on an existing chart, with the wand for the canonical symbol chain-stitched over it.)

Pirate hook: for Regulus Black and his decisions over the course of the year. There is a surprising dearth of pirate hook charts, so this is the first one I designed.

Paw print for Sirius's escape in France.

Azkaban for the first Azkaban breakout (Snape and Macnair)

A rat for the transfiguration project, and Sally-Anne getting a rat. (At the time I put this square on the blanket, we had no idea what we were doing with Peter Pettrigrew)

Basilisk, though the fangs aren't showing. Snake number 3. Lives in the Chamber of Secrets

The beginning of the ISS lock as created and tested by the Twins, Lee, and Terry.

Year 3

Private messages are added to the journals (This square is, as you can see, blank on the back side, which was partly to avoid having to deal with the reversed letters.)

Time turner (which we apparently don't have any data in the wiki for, but Harry had one in Year 3.)

Dementors being Dementors

Crib for the children at Moddey Dhoo and the rescued babies

Memorial tree for the creation of the memorial garden at Moddey Dhoo.

Gravestone for Hannah Abbott's death

Footprints for a perfectly exhausting walk (aka Hippogriff night.)

Year 4

Quidditch goals for the Quidditch World Cup

Triwizard Cup for that whole large plot.

Dragon for the First Task

A squid (more or less) for the Second Task (the squid is in Huff colours because of Sally-Anne's prophetic potion experience in Y6.)

Wreath for the deaths in the Frost Faire Games (note the 10 leaves for the 10th deaths.)

Maze for the Third Task

Lincoln Castle (complete with Dead!Amycus) for Terry's escape and rescue (the castle silhouette is based on one of the gates of Lincoln Castle.)

Year 5

Ankh for the arrival of Antonin Dolohov.

The Blood Quill of Dolores Umbridge

November is difficult in Ireland and many things happen.

Ravenclaw Diadem - this is one of the squares where the location is a little weird, but it was a plot that ran through the year

Galleon with rather fewer characters than the Alternity version, but showing Ron's first message : silver rather than gold because of the surrounding colours of squares.

Lion for Arthur's death: note how the lion is looking forward, to the future, balancing the Y1 unicorn in general heraldic style, symbology, and size? I am very proud of that bit of symbolism.

Arista's toy cat for the rescue of Arista and her brother.

Year 6

Radio for the increasingly relevant radio project

Saltash: probably the least obvious square on this blanket, this represents the Tarot card of the five of cups, for the mingled successes and failures at Saltash (I made a couple of attempts at charting something for a NeoFidelius, but failed to manage it.)

Parts for Strangeweale's Device.

Slytherin's locket for Pansy's experiences with it. Snake 4.

Who wants to be a Death Eater? for the Death Eater Recruit Challenge. Snake 5.

End of Year Six events, with the two hearts for the two character deaths people actually missed - Minerva and Raz.

Finding direction: Becuase I was making this thing, I promised myself one square particularly relevant to Siz, and this one fit beautifully: one side has Ursa Major pointing the way to Polaris, the other has a compass rose, for the questions of figuring out direction and next steps over the summer of Year 6.

Year 7

Octoboros for the placement of the 9th Octoboros stone. Snake number 6.

Hogwarts staff : a reverse color background in a square (i.e. black background for the class square on the golden yellow side) indicates that position changed hands sometime during Year 7. The symbols for each class are listed on the Ravelry page. More Hogwarts staff details Snake number 7.

A Roman eagle and wreath for the March of the Inferi

A girdle for the Green Wedding. I sort of wanted to get the girdle in gold, but I hit one of those 'would make pooling colour problems'.

Snake and pennularand heart: for the events of May 16 at Eton. (I tried to figure out how to get the Hogwarts parts in there, other than the heart, and I just couldn't.) Snake 8 of 8. Because eights are important.

The wards and end game: On one side, a map of the British Isles (it will eventually get beads for the Octoboros stones mounted), for the dissolution of the wards and on the other side, a chain-stitched heiroglyph: the heart, which represents Tosha and Barty, and the judgment of the dead.

Phoenix, for the Order's success and done in all four house colours. (The blue and green are even amounts: I thought about trying to do the red and yellow, and did not figure out how to make it work, but since yellow works for both Gryff and Huff, it works out anyway.)

(no subject)

Date: Thursday, October 29th, 2015 03:55 am (UTC)
vintagewitch: (Default)
From: [personal profile] vintagewitch
This ... is stunning. It's amazing. I absolutely adore it.

(no subject)

Date: Thursday, October 29th, 2015 02:22 pm (UTC)
lifesnotasong: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lifesnotasong
So cool!!!

(no subject)

Date: Thursday, October 29th, 2015 08:11 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] jinian
This is absolutely amazing. I never doubted you'd finish it, but the amount of work and creativity that went into it is so impressive. Congratulations on a job well done!

(no subject)

Date: Friday, October 30th, 2015 08:29 pm (UTC)
eeeeka: A time lapse photo of a lighthouse at night. (Default)
From: [personal profile] eeeeka
EPIC is the only word for this.

(no subject)

Date: Wednesday, October 28th, 2015 02:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Wow, this is awesome. I have not tried double knitting, I make mostly fingerless gloves. It is good to know it lies flat!

I have made an afghan once, about 3 years ago. I am still recovering. I really admire your efforts, and the final result looks lovely and is a beautiful reminder of the game that is such a large part of your life.
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