Birthday Blanket Raffel

I’ve finished the Birthday Blanket and am ready to raffle it off for charity!

If you’d like the chance to win a handwoven (by me!) king-sized, mostly wool, blanket. All you need do is donate money directly to Doctors Without Borders and then email me and tell me the amount that you donated. There is no minimum donation required; give what you can. One entry per person. On February 19th, I’ll randomly select a winner from all of the entrants and mail the blanket to them.

Birthday Blanket Hem

If you’d like to see the blanket in person, I’ll have it in the rotunda at Madrona Winter Retreat in Tacoma on Friday (2/15) and Saturday (2/16). I don’t have a booth or any formal support, so just look for the woman spinning on a Pocket Wheel with a ginormous folded blanket next to her.

The blanket is delightfully cozy. I used Highlands Shetland in Black Cherry as the weft and it became lofty and soft once washed and brushed. The other yarns are mostly-ish wool. They range from hand-spun silk and cashmere, to alpaca, to acrylic, to various types of wool. They were sent in by people all over the U.S., and some overseas. Much of it is handspun, including some of my first yarn, a lovely three-ply by Brenda Dayne, and some singles yarn spun by my son Kai when he was three years old.

The binding is recycled silk from old shirts. I folded it over as in a quilt binding and hand-stitched it on. This blanket is full of intention and love. It’s light enough for three-season use in most parts of the United States. And it’s a generous king size. If you have a smaller bed you can probably fold it in half and use it. Here’s what it looks like on my king-sized bed.

It’s been a long time since the project started, so let me restate what this is. When I was 39, for my 40th birthday I asked that people would send me 40 yards of a yarn that represented them. My plan was to take their warp yarns, weave it off with a weft that represents me, and have a wonderful reminder of all the people in my life who encouraged and supported me.

I got yarns from WeaveCast listeners, WeaveZine readers, friends, family. I was heart warmed by the amount of yarn that came in. I had a birthday party / warping party in which people, both weavers and not, helped me wind 21-yard warps. The plan was that I’d weave off two king-sized blankets. One to become my bedspread, and the other to raffle off to charity to support Doctors Without Borders.

Then life happened, or rather life and fear. Or if I’m completely honest, mostly fear.

I hate to disappoint people, and ironically, that often leads me into doing exactly that. Fear that what I create won’t be good enough can paralyze me.

So the fact that this blanket is finally finished, and that I’m posting it here is a triumph of sorts. A slow, painful triumph over eight years of fear and exhaustion.

I’m trying to learn from this experience how I can get out of my own way when working on big projects. Some of the things that made this one hard were:

  • Being afraid of failing, of disappointing others.
  • Fearing the technical challenge of weaving a warp with so many different yarns, each with different shrinkages.
  • Fearing my new-to-me AVL loom, with all its unknown complexity.
  • Moving house, and being afraid to re-assemble my loom.
  • Working insanely long hours at Amazon and coming home too exhausted to think.
  • Having a breakdown from overwork and getting diagnosed with a chronic condition.
  • Looking away from the project because it had been sitting idle too long, and I was embarrassed it wasn’t done. (repeat endlessly)
  • Avoiding the project while writing a book.
  • Avoiding the project while working at Google.
  • Finishing and then being too embarrassed to write this post or ask for help getting the word out about the raffle.

Through all of this, however, I never forgot the project. I felt that I owed finishing it to the folks who’d sent me yarn. Slowly, quietly, I worked on it. Not as often as I could, not as frequently as I should. Now it is finally done, and I’ve gathered up the courage to write this post.

The emotion I’m feeling is some combination of pride at never giving up, embarrassment at how long it took, and relief that I can finally get this out into the world and let it go.

The blanket is lovely. Like me, it’s imperfect. It was created with love and intention. I hope the person who wins it enjoys it.

19 thoughts on “Birthday Blanket Raffel

  1. What a wonderful journey. I’m proud of you and hope the lessons you learned are helpful in your continued journey through life.

  2. You have every reason to take pride in your accomplishment because not only did you do a beautiful piece of weaving, you persevered, you committed yourself to reach a goal even through your own self doubt and all the curves life just throws at people. Kudos to you!

  3. So proud of you. I danced back and forth nearly as long on my Big Project and look at us. Both managed to complete. Yes, with the help and encouragement of family and friends. <3

  4. Nine years ago your podcast was so encouraging it helped me through a time of transition and into a new more productive weaving adventure. Good for you!

  5. I too suffer from fear of finishing, as long as it is a Work in Progress it can grow, it can get better but when I finish I have committed to this piece of work which I will surely wish I could have done better. This is an incredible feat and it looks beautiful! Sue

  6. Syne, I still listen to your podcast whenever I am warping and weaving. You are one of my seminal influences. Things that I learned listening to you helped my through a bout of cancer and a doctorate. Congratulations on finishing this beautiful project and I really envy you a loom large enough to handle it.

    • John, I am humbled and honored that you found the stories on my podcast helpful through two major life journeys.

      As for the loom, it was 48” wide. A lot of hand-worked mattress stich brought several panels together. It’s surprisingly durable and invisible after wet finishing. I’ve been using the companion blanket to this one on my bed and it’s as if it was woven in one big piece.

    • Yay! I’m so glad to hear it. Getting this thing done that had been weighing me down for so long has broken up a log-jam in my psyche. I’m now chewing through many other long-delayed projects and it feels great.

      Have fun with your UFOs!

  7. Hi Syne,
    I first listened to your podcast 4 years ago when I dipped my toe into the weaving pond. I had no idea what you were talking about most of th time but I just loved hearing you talk about weaving. You got me so excited! I set aside my rigid heddle loom and bought a floor loom on Craigslist. Then we moved and my loom got packed up. Fast forward 3.5 years and I get a request from my church to do a weaving demonstration (my friend told them I had a loom). Panic set in! I’d never even warped my loom before. I unfolded my Baby Wolf and took a Craftsy class. During the warping process, I fell madly in love! I started weaving and couldn’t stop. I had to stop myself from weaving off all 7 towels before the weaving demonstration! During this time, I started listening to your podcast again. Wow! It all made sense to me! Not only is the content so rich but your interviews are so well-done. I marvel that you had the forsight to capture such pillars of the weaving community before they passed from our lives! Those are cherished episodes! My husband and I did a podcast for a while (The KnitWits) and for many reasons, I never felt I could conduct an interview. You wielded the mic with knowledge and confidence and let us see a little of your personality as well. I’m so thrilled to finally be weaving and to get back to listening to (and understanding) your podcast! HUGE congratulations on finishing this monumental project! I will be making my annual drive up to Madrona on Saturday,2/16, and would love to come by to say hello. My husband and I have been talking about resurrecting our podcast. Any chance you will resurrect Weavecast? In my opinion, it’s still the best weaving podcast out there.

    • Hi Carin! Congratulations for coming on over to the warp side. 🙂 Glad you’re enjoying the podcasts. I may put out another episode or two as I have some recorded interviews I’ve not yet edited. I probably won’t get back into it as a going concern. It’s a tremendous amount of work (I’d spend 40 hours editing each episode–truly! Perhaps I went a bit overboard but I was striving for the best possibly quality I could get.)

      I’ve heard there’s another weaving podcast out there now, “Weave, a podcast” I think it’s called. I haven’t listened to it yet. Folks have said good things about it though. You might check that one out.

      Yes, come by on Saturday and say hi. You can also pet the blanket, as I’ll have it with me.

      Happy weaving!

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