Blankets have been on my mind for a while. The concept of knitting and/or crocheting them appeals to me, but I’ve found I stall when trying to make them. Why this happens is varied — I don’t have enough of a yarn or color, seaming requires paying attention, general boredom on the repetitive task, and very often all of the above.
I know that modular construction, also know as join-as-you-go works better for me. I’ve been crocheting a granny-hexagon blanket for several years now out of my fingering weight leftovers. At the start I decided to join-as-I-go and weave in the ends whenever the mood struck me. To my surprise the cats don’t seem bothered by the unfinished state. It’s Dot’s favourite blanket and we snuggle on it most afternoons.
A few weeks ago I realized I needed something mindless to work on while watching TV. I decided to combine two strands of my leftovers and knit a blanket in garter stitch stripes, joining as I go. It’s definitely something I can knit without thinking about, however I wish I’d been more mindful of the overall look before I jumped in. It definitely looks … scrappy.
I probably won’t rip it out, but it got me thinking about what resources existed to help me design a better designed modular blanket.
I borrowed several books from the library including one very new publication. Three of the titles focus specifically on modular knitting techniques, the fourth is a collection of blankets. Every title offers insight to various knitting techniques — shapes and construction and also ideas on construction. They differ in what area they chose to focus on and how they approach describing the techniques.
by Vivian Høxbro
Published in 2000
Author website: viv.dk
I first read this classic in 2006, I remember standing in NYPL’s Mid-Manhattan library — it was next door to the office I worked at and I would spend most of my lunch hour reading. My jaw dropped and I couldn’t get to the circulation desk fast enough. Sadly, at the time I only wanted to knit popular patterns. It took a while to understand which books were more useful long-term. This title was never added to my shelves nor did I work my way through much of it — I didn’t understand the value of swatching as play. Fifteen years later my initial take that it’s “easy to understand” still holds true.
Today I can say this title is useful beyond teaching the domino technique, there’s super clear line drawings showing the knitted cast-on, weaving in ends, icord borders, and how to count ridges. One detail I also love is that it shares how Høxbro first learned the technique from Horst Schulz in 1993 and also shares her research on other sources of the technique, such as Virginia Woods Bellamy’s 1952 title Number Knitting.
While many of the projects may look dated it’s a tiny book packed full with the details to one fundamental approach to modular knitting.
Module Magic: Creative Projects to Knit One Block at a Time
by Ginger Luters
Published in 2004
This title shares details on building and combining different shapes in countless configurations. I believe I passed over it years ago because the designs didn’t appeal to me and I didn’t take time to read and recognize the depth of technique that’s covered within the pages.
Each section covers a new shape (squares, rectangles, triangles, miters, stripes, bias, and more) and introduces the basic idea. It then shares how to create variations on the theme, different stitches and colors can have a significant impact. There are many helpful tips for creating successful modules of many different shapes. I was delighted to discover the solution to a challenge I had in a non-modular design! You never know where you might find that one tip that will fix your problem!(It relates to triangles knit in a stockinette versus garter stitch.) after each shape is introduced there are several patterns (mostly garments) showcasing how they can be used. While they may look dated I think it would be straightforward to bring them to a more modern style.
I also appreciate that Luters shares where she’s learned much of her methods, Horst Schulz has a rich knitting legacy! While I don’t see myself knitting any of the garments, Module Magic, definitely sparked my design fire.
No Pattern Knits: Simple Modular Techniques for Making Wonderful Garments
by Pat Ashforth & Steve Plummer
Published in 2006
Author website: woollythoughts.com
available in the UK as Modular Knitting
I don’t know how I’d never come across this title by the matheknitician duo of Ashforth and Plummer. This is why libraries (and interlibrary loans) are important — you will discover something you never knew existed before!
The first part of the book shares their techniques, often with step-by-step photos tutorials. There are charts to help you get the right number of stitches to join edges and diagonals successfully. It also includes the basic shapes — squares and triangles — then branches to trapezoids, parallelograms, hexagons.
Once you master these shapes there’s instructions on combining, mixing, and joining. There are many notes to help you fit shapes together in different ways. There are also helpful formulas to help you size and fit shapes in different combinations. If you’re interested in creating garments, there’s pages devoted to different methods for shaping sleeves and adding pockets, for example.
The authors have also included many tips for combining color not only striped solutions but also how combining yarns creates different marled effects. If all of that weren’t enough there’s tips on creating and working with recycled fabric and plastic! One final note, the patterns included in the fourth section were designed by Luise Roberts.
This is a title I will be adding to my shelf — it checks every box to interest me — they combine math and knitting in delightful ways. As I spend more time with this title, I expect to have more to write about it.
As I was researching links, I came across a blog post by Ashforth specifically showcasing many of their afghans which includes links to purchase many of their patterns from their site as well as Ravelry, Payhip, and Lovecrafts.
Geometric Knit Blankets : 30 Innovative and Fun-to-Knit Designs
By Margaret Holzmann
Published in 2021
Author website: theknitwit.org
I was delighted to see a current year publication offered by my library system. Geometric Knit Blankets is full of notes, techniques, and 30 patterns. If that weren’t enough, the author has both an extensive section on their website devoted to the patterns.
The design and layout of this book is stunning. The table of contents includes thumbnail illustrations of each design for quick reference. It’s a small detail that makes sense. I’ve seen this at the end of many books, but it makes sense to include it here.
Holzmann begins a very brief list of fundamental skills that are helpful for all the designs. Then you jump straight into the blankets. Further thought to the design of the book as well was the projects is apparent on every page. There is a large clear photo of each blanket on a solid background as well as what I’ll term a life-style photo. The construction roadmaps and illustrations allow you to see at a glance how each blanket is put together and there are often instructions for multiple methods — often sewn and join-as-you-go.
The other detail that I am impressed with is the range of yarns and fibers included. There are hand-dyed indie options as well as a super saver acrylic blanket that is stunning. While I default to natural fibers as often as possible, I know personally that’s not always possible, especially for a blanket!
I do wish that there were blank line drawings that I could color in myself to see how different combinations might work. It’s a minor quibble and my biggest challenge is figuring out which one to work first!
One final blanket and technique I want to mention is Miriam Felton’s Granny Log Cabin (available from the designer). It combines granny squares with knit a log cabin motif and is fun to work up.
As I drafted these reviews for this post I couldn’t stop thinking of ideas. I don’t yet know where this will lead, but I expect my leftover yarns bin will be knit up as I explore.
Pat Ashforth says
I’m glad you found No-Pattern Knits useful. (In UK the same book is called Modular Knitting.)