Hemlock Ring Lap Blanket

Pattern: Hemlock Ring Doily (1942 vintage pattern), modified into a blanket by Jared Flood
Started: March 1, 2008
Completed: March 17, 2008
Materials: Cascade Ecological Wool, latte, 2 skeins
Needles: US 10 / 6.0 mm (40" circular)

At most recent count, I am one of 963 people making Jared's modification of the Hemlock Ring. That's on Ravelry alone! The current project count is here for any curious Ravelry users.

I like the pattern. I like the idea. I'm not completely smitten with my finished results. I opted to take it to a dry cleaner to be professionally steamed and blocked, but I don't think they blocked it quite as aggressively as it needs. There's still some rippling in the feather and fan section, and the edges are pretty frilly.

If I had the stamina for six to eight more rounds of increases, the finished piece would be closer to the size I fantasized wrapping myself in on cold days. While I wouldn't exactly call it tiny, it's definitely a lap blanket. To give you a sense of scale, I took a a full-on picture the likes of which I normally would never do. Here it is on my 54-inch diameter table:

See what I mean?

The fact that the center medallion didn't lose all its texture makes me really happy. I like the three dimensionality. Pics like this make me feel all warm and gooey inside:

Deep inside, I know I'm going to have another go at the blocking. I have a professional steamer, so I think I ought to be able to do at least a little good. I'll try to leave the texture in the center medallion and just straighten out the feather-and-fan section.

I do like it! It's warm, and it looks lovely on the back of our comfy chair upstairs!

I'm curious how many more people will make this pattern with the modification. I'm not sure the project really merits all the interest. I'm not sure I'd make it again.

If I had to take a guess at what, exactly, draws so many of us to it, I think it's a sense of being part of something larger than ourselves. We've all seen and knit lace patterns before. There's a comfortable, conventional way we go about it. We use delicate yarn. Doilies are doilies. Shawls are shawls... and so on. But Jared repurposed the doily. He defamiliarized the familiar — made it strange. In theatre, thanks to Bertolt Brecht, we call this kind of defamiliarization Verfremsdung Effekt. And in making the familiar strange, Jared caused us all to start looking at things differently. What other pattern types might we work with a radically different fiber weight than is called for? Are there other doilies that can be expanded endlessly?

It's not enough to simply see the results of Jared's experiment. We need to try it, too, so we can learn the same lessons Jared learned but in our own hands. So we can carry that knowledge, through our fingers, into our own experiments.

The experiment itself may not produce the results we desire, but it's a worthy experiment. It's a learning process, not just the fetishization of someone else's cool project. Jared creates learning opportunities with many of his projects. Just think of all the sweaters being turned into cardigans these days thanks to the influence of his modified Urban Aran.

I think we pick up his projects because they give us new ways of seeing and knowing through the craft of knitting. Well, that and the guy has killer taste!

As for my final take on this particular pattern, the flower attracts me the most. I plan to design a project sometime in the future that makes use of the central medallion in another way, perhaps setting it into a square rather than continuing in-the-round. The wheels are turning... !


Debbie said...

I've enjoyed reading about your Hemlock here on your blog and on Ravelry (I'm "knittingkewpie").

I particularly liked what you wrote about being intrigued with how Jared took the expected lacey doily and turned it on its head, so to speak, by using the bigger yarn and needles. And I agree that there is an element of "I have to experience this myself" in my desire to knit the blanket.

I have three friends who have been unfailingly kind and supportive to me over ten plus years of friendship. I'm going to knit each one of them a blanket and it's definitely a plus that it's a fast knit.

Kathleen said...

I'm in the midst of this pattern. I'm making it in an organic cotton as a baby blanket ala the blue blog. I completely agree with the way you describe the lure of this pattern, though I'm feeling that I'd like to make it in a wool for me.

I have also been contemplating how to get that center medallion into something square. I'm eager to see what you come up with.

Virtuous said...

Luv your mini Op-Ed about why so many knitters folk to Jared's projects and you are right he makes familiar and simple things strange and different to make us want to do it ourselves.

The Hemlock flower is the main attraction for me too! Now...to just CO!! ;op

Hey what row did you finish up your ring with?? Do you recall??

My e-mail addy is: crimsondiva1999@yahoo.com

And I am CrimsonPurl on Ravelry


Zhenya said...

Thanks for the wonderful feedback! I must say that I pick up my Hemlock for warmth and comfort more often than I ever expected to. I even wear it around the house as a shawl!

Here are the details on the number of rounds I knit (numbers correspond to Jared's chart):

Thru row 41 of the chart, I knit as written.

Once I hit row 46, I started putting 5 knit rounds between each increase round.

I did five total sets of increases this way. So technically, I worked through round 65 on Jared's chart. In actuality, this translates to 69 rounds from where Jared's chart picks up.

Not sure that made sense, so here goes again:

Chart Row #46 + 5 rounds straight knitting.
Chart Row #51 + 5 rounds straight knitting.
Chart Row #56 + 5 rounds straight knitting.
Chart Row #61 + 5 rounds straight knitting.
Back to the original pattern for the bind-off row.

Hope that's useful!

Virtuous said...

That was VERY helpful!

Thank you so much for typing it out line by line like that!

I will definitely stop back to visit you when I am all done with mine! :o)

Take care!