The Tale of the Long-Awaited Blanket

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Three years ago at this time, I was preparing to study abroad in Vienna, Austria for the Spring Semester of 2016. I had always loved traveling and I had always planned on studying abroad - but there was still the fear of leaving everything I knew and loved lingering over me. So I was probably 95% pumped, 5% terrified. Before I left, I stress knit an entire sweater in 4 days.

Vienna blew my mind. The culture was slower, more intentional than I was used to. People treated grabbing coffee like an art form - heck, they treated everything like an art form. Everything, and pretty much everyone, was thoughtful and slow moving. It was an absolute gift to experience the Viennese way of life, and I try to bring little bits of it into my own life every day.

I included some photos below if you’d also like to cry at the great beauty of Vienna with me:

Anyway, back to this blanket.

I knew that I needed a “yarn purchasing strategy” when I left. Not only did I plan on soaking up all Vienna had to offer, I planned to travel to different places across Europe. This was kind of the beginning of my Yarn Pilgrimages - traveling intentionally with a certain fiber destination or connection in mind, like a yarn store or a festival. And I was at a serious danger of buying sweater quantities at every single store, which #1 Was not really in my budget, & #2 Would not have fit into my suitcase(s) on the way home.

So I decided I was going to make a blanket. I’d always wanted to knit a blanket, but it always seemed unfeasible to buy all that yarn at once. I figured I could purchase a skein wherever I traveled, and by the end of the semester I’d have enough to make a big giant cozy travelogue.

And so off I went - knowing there were some Yarn Pilgrimages I had to make, & also just wanting to travel to cool cities and hoping they had a yarn store. It was a great way for me to meet people, support local businesses, and squish a lot of yarn.

Some of the yarn places I went were amazing, and some were just okay. The photos above show some of my absolute favorites. From left to right: WolleWien in Vienna, Austria (where I made my first Austrian friend!), Stephen & Penelope in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Mrs. Moon at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Loop London in London, England (the yarn store that made me fall in love with yarn stores).

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But each individual stripe on this blanket means something to me, whether or not the yarn store itself blew my mind. Sometimes it was stumbling upon the store in the middle of teeny winding street, sometimes it was the person I met at the store, and sometimes it was the friend who I was traveling with that made each stripe special. I picked each color based on the feeling I got in that city, or the feeling I got on the journey to get that yarn.

I’ve listed their origins below (from left to right as seen in the photo above). If you’re interested in more information on each color and place, I’ve also included that at the end of this post.

Berlin, Germany
Brussels, Belgium
Bruges, Belgium
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Hallstatt, Austria
Bratislava, Slovakia
Edinburgh, Scotland
London, England
Dublin, Ireland
Salzburg, Austria
Innsbruck, Austria
Prague, Czech Republic
Verona, Italy
Venice, Italy

and all surrounded by Vienna - the blue tassels.

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It’s a simple blanket - just seed stitch with slipped edges. This was meditative knitting at its best, and the absolute best way to reflect on my travels. I highly recommend blanket knitting for anyone looking for a way to document & process their travels.

And yet, it took me two years to finish this blanket. There was no reason for that other than I kept putting it off - I think keeping it as a WIP (work-in-progress) for so long made it feel like it wasn’t all over yet.

I got an impulse to finish it this past summer, and I’m so glad I listened to that. This blanket has brought so much joy and warmth to our home, & it has the opposite effect of making it all feel “over”. Now I get to relive each of my yarn-y adventures every time I snuggle up under it. Bonus: Queenie totally loves it!

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As promised, I’ve included a bit more info on each of the stripes below if anyone is interested. I didn’t keep track of all of the stores - especially the ones I stumbled upon. Thank you for following along on my travels!

Sky blue: inspired by the art on the Berlin Wall

Origin: Berlin, Germany
Purchased At: Wollparadeis Fadeninsel
Notes: This was the first store that I went to, and honestly I was overwhelmed. I decided to choose a bulky yarn because it was their largest selection, not thinking a ton about what kind of a blanket bulky yarn would make. Verdict: it makes a very cozy blanket.

Variegated blue/yellow/green: a little messy, but warm & welcoming

Origin: Brussels, Belgium
Purchased At: Kaleidoscope
Notes: I walked to this store in the pouring rain, determined to make it there before they closed. I arrived with about 10 minutes to spare, totally flustered, and the shop owner was SO nice to me! I’d go back here in a heartbeat.

Blush pink: as soft & peaceful as the most adorable little city

Origin: Bruges, Belgium
Purchased At: Unknown - somewhere off the main square
Notes: I didn’t expect to find a yarn store in Bruges - this was the first place that I really stumbled upon. It was also the first time I experienced “over-the-counter” yarn buying, which was very odd.

Deep red: rich & complex, like the city of Amsterdam

Origin: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Purchased At: Stephen & Penelope
Notes: I was in Amsterdam for 3 days. I went to Stephen & Penelope every single day I was there. It was just magic - they carried local yarn, had friendly staff, and just beautiful, beautiful walls of yarn.

Light blue: like the soft, snow-capped peaks of the Alps

Origin: Hallstatt, Austria
Purchased At: Unknown, but it was a little house that we stumbled upon & I loved every bit of it
Notes: I visited Hallstatt with my mom & sister, not expecting to get anything to add to my blanket. And then my sister spotted yarn in a window, and the rest is history.

Variegated red/brown/orange: layered and deep, like Bratislava’s architecture

Origin: Bratislava, Slovakia
Purchased At: Unknown
Notes: Bratislava was the second place I went with my mom & sister, and I was amazed by how vibrant of a city it is. This was another stumble upon.

Bright coral: as vibrant as glorious Edinburgh (& my first yarn festival!)

Origin: Edinburgh, Scotland
Purchased At: Edinburgh Yarn Festival (EYF)
Notes: I couldn’t even begin to sum up all the joy that I felt in Edinburgh. Next to Vienna, it is absolutely my favorite city in Europe. It’s friendly, cobblestone-y, and somehow both industrial and natural. 10/10 would recommend, especially EYF!

Deep purple: warm & cozy like Loop London

Origin: London, England
Purchased At: Loop London
Notes: I remember stumbling upon Loop London on Instagram (& I think Ravelry) like 10 years ago. I immediately fell in love. In fact, my first sweater was Sous Sous, a pattern Norah Gaughan designed for the shop. I am so happy to report that Loop did not only meet my extremely high expectations, it exceeded them.

Citron: bright & light as Ireland

Origin: Dublin, Ireland
Purchased At: The Constant Knitter
Notes: Ireland was full of yarn-y goodness. I even made a trip out to Galway & the Aran Islands, but as their name suggests they really had nothing other than aran weight yarn. I purchased this yarn in Dublin, with the intention it it would encompass all of my Irish travels.

Mint: inspired by the pastels of Salzburg

Origin: Salzburg, Austria
Purchased At: Unknown - somewhere near the city center
Notes: This was another over-the-counter yarn store experience (so weird), but color was perfect to mimic the sweet pastels of Salzburg. The entire city kind of looks like something out of a fairy tale, and that’s how this yarn makes me feel.

Rich blue: like the waters of Innsbruck

Origin: Innsbruck, Austria
Purchased At: Unknown
Notes: I went to Innsbruck with my parents. They had been before, but it was my first time & I loved it! All cities in Austria are charming, but this one had an interesting richness and vibrancy to it that I tried to convey with my yarn selection.

Sparkly purple: as Disney-like as Prague itself

Origin: Prague, Czech Republic
Purchased At: Unknown - I think somewhere in a mall?
Notes: Prague feels like Disney World. Seriously. It’s like stepping into Sleeping Beauty with its beautiful twisty towers and castle overlooking the city. It was the perfect excuse to buy sparkly yarn!

Purple/pink: letters to Juliet

Origin: Verona, Italy
Purchased At: Jenny Klaer
Notes: “In fair Verona, where we lay our scene…” - in the setting of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, it’s hard to not feel a little bit of magic. It’s charming as heck and the yarn store we stumbled upon in a backstreet was like the icing on the cake.

Mossy green: remnant of the canals

Origin: Venice, Italy
Purchased At: Unknown
Notes: I love Venice, honestly I do, but those canals are not clear and for some reason I really felt called to grab this yarn that reminded me of the murky water. But it’s a lovely yarn color!

Midtone Blue tassels: Vienna encompassing it all

Origin: Vienna, Austria
Purchased At: WolleWien
Notes: My favorite city, my European LYS, my whole heart. While all of my travels were special, it was truly my time spent in Vienna that made those few months so sweet.

Cue “Vienna” by Billy Joel with all the feels: