Tuesday 6 November 2012

Bill's Blanket

Despite the photo, this is not a piece about knitting or crocheting.  (Well, it is a little bit, but it's not a pattern or craft tutorial.).  It's a story about lessons learned in the course of making a gift.

My step-dad's birthday is coming up later this month.  He's in his late 70's and lives in an area with very cold winter temperatures. He's a pretty active guy but winter weather keeps him indoors, especially in the evenings.  He spends many of those evenings watching TV but has remarked to me that he gets chilly when he's sitting still.

On a recent thrift shop visit I can across a partially knitted blanket in the discard pile.  The knitter had clearly been a cat lover and, because of the cat hair on the blanket and the low prices hand knitting commands in the shop, the staff felt it wasn't worth cleaning the blanket and offering it up for sale.  

The blanket was made with beautiful, soft, bulky yarn and I thought I could probably clean it up, so - with my step-dad's birthday in mind - I asked if I could have it.  The thrift shop gave me the blanket for free, and I purchased several skeins of yarn that had been donated along with it.  I brought the yarn and the blanket home, congratulating myself on my thrifty find.

Lesson one:  Cat hair is really hard to remove from knitting.  

I washed and dried the knitted blanket.  Some of the cat hair came out but most of it stayed right where it was.  

(I do wish I'd had the forethought to take a picture at this point.  It was a mess.) 

In order to remove the cat hair, I ended up wrapping my hand in packing tape, sticky side out, and patting the glue side of the tape onto the knitting.  It was a labourious process.

Lesson two:  It's difficult to unravel knitting after it's been laundered.

After finally getting the last of the cat hair off the blanket, I looked at it and realized I couldn't complete it by simply continuing with the knitting already started.  I had no idea what size needles had been used, or what pattern the knitter was following.  

I decided to unravel the blanket and to start anew with the salvaged yarn.  

Because the yarn had lots of little loops and different strands of fiber spun into it, it had matted together while being laundered. The  yarn broke several times as I pulled it apart.  I did finally get it unraveled though, and ended up with a ball of yarn larger than a basketball.

I began work on the new blanket and really enjoyed the project. Despite the work it had taken to get the yarn cleaned and unraveled, I was still happy with my purchase.  The yarn was beautiful and, because it was so bulky, the blanket worked up quickly. 

Lesson three:  Just because the wool you're using is a popular brand, don't assume it's readily available.

When my planned pattern was more than half completed I realized I wasn't going to have enough of the contrast colour.  

I knew that Lion Brand was still making that type of yarn so, rather than amend the pattern, I decided I could afford to buy a single skein at full price.  

That single skein proved difficult to find.  It was out of stock all over town, but a friend finally stumbled across some at WalMart and picked it up for me.

Lesson four:  Consider the cost of shipping when deciding upon a gift.

Once the blanket was completed, I needed to get it to my step-dad. It was bulky but lightweight, so I thought it would be affordable to mail.  

I was wrong.  

Canada Post prices packages based upon their size as well as their weight.  Even with my 5% business discount, it would cost almost $27.00 to mail my gift.  I was (thankfully!) able to avoid this expense because a family member was traveling through my parents' area on business, and offered to deliver the package for me.  

The total cost for my thrift shop birthday present?  

$15.86 ($6.00 for thrift shop yarn, $3.50 for laundry, $5.68 for the extra ball of yarn purchased at retail, $0.68 in taxes)  

Was it worth the effort?  

I think so.  

I could probably have purchased a blanket at WalMart for a similar amount of money but it wouldn't have been as well made, nor would the gift have been as personal.  

Would I do it again?

Yes, but next time I make a bulky gift, it will be for someone to whom I can deliver in person!

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