Ravelry Design Spotlight
In a bid to overcome the Winter gloom we decided to break out the colour in this issue and what better way to infuse this issue with a lovely riot of hues than the Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket by Celeste Young.
As Celeste herself points out on the Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket project page ‘The formula for the round ripple is nothing new’, but that hasn’t stopped her version from being one of the most popular baby blanket makes on the site.
We’re thrilled that Celeste was able to squeeze in a little time to tell us about her crafting journey and the Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket.
You knit, crochet and spin, when did you learn and who if anyone, taught you?
I’ve been knitting the longest since I was about eight years old – my Gramsey, my father’s mother, taught me. She just turned 95! I remember sitting with her, painstakingly wrapping the yarn around these giant, gold-colored metal needles and being so frustrated by all the holes in my work. I knit long, wavy swaths of fabric that I would wrap around my dolls as scarves, blankets, dresses – these memories are so clear to me, and I come back to them often. When my first book was published, I wrote her a long note to thank her for this early experience, as it had such an incredible impact on my life. She was shocked and told me that she literally only knows how to knit – no purling, no pattern reading, etc. She insists that I made my own way, while I insist that she was the beginning! I picked up crochet as a freshman in college back in 2002, because no one I knew was knitting – Ravelry didn’t even exist yet! I’m pretty industrious, and more than a little stubborn, so I taught myself and only later, when my stitches were so tight that the metal hook was squeaking across the acrylic with each stitch, did I ask one of my hall mates to help me. Spinning came last, and I learned that while I was in graduate school in Tempe, AZ – there was a sweet little shop called Tempe Yarn & Fiber, co-owned then by my now dear friend Jen Heinlein. I took an introductory class and that was that I was bitten by the fiber bug and have owned somewhere around 8 spinning wheels since. I love cleaning up antique wheels, getting them going again and then giving them to my friends or selling them to other spinners. I tend to research and practice techniques on my own but have enjoyed taking classes from designers and master knitters and definitely learn something new every time. It’s amazing how many different ways there are to do the same thing!
Which of the three crafts do you most enjoy?
My love for knitting, crochet, and spinning is ever-changing. Right now, I’ve committed to spinning 15 minutes a day in 2018 because I find it very calming, almost meditative, and I’ve made more yarn in the last two months than I’ve made in years (little kids love spinning wheels, but spinning wheels don’t always love little kids)! I tend to prefer the fabric of knitting and love the swatching and sketching process for my knitting patterns the most, but when I’m tired or the kids are around, I love to crochet because I find that it’s more forgiving of my subtle gauge changes day-to-day and easier for me to memorize. Long story short, I love them all but for different reasons!
Do you remember your first project and if so what was it?
I consider my first “real” project, the one for which I used a pattern and made a swatch and everything, to be Breezy Cables by Kathy Zimmerman (Interweave Knits, Spring 2006). I saw the pattern in Interweave Knits when I was in grad school, and just had to make it for my mom. I don’t know what possessed me; I’d never made a garment before, and never really followed a pattern – certainly never a chart. I’d also never cabled before! But that’s just like me, to set a lofty (ridiculous!) goal and really push to accomplish something. The pattern was so gorgeous that it really inspired me to make it happen. It’s ingenious too, because your gauge swatch becomes a pocket lining – perfect for a newbie horrified by the “wasted” yarn and time of a swatch! My mom still wears it, and I’d love to knit one for myself someday. That experience is one I often refer to when I teach classes, as I encourage my students to have “goal” patterns to really inspire their learning. After all, everything is just knits and purls!
Do you prefer to design in knitting or crochet?
They’re so different for me, it’s hard to say. I’ve designed more in knitting as those were the opportunities presented to me for publishing, but I have such an urge to crochet these days. If forced to choose, I would have to say I prefer to design in knitting, but am enamored of the possibilities for crochet!
Can you tell us a little about your designing process and how it’s evolved over the years?
I’ve always made things; my mom and grandmother are both artists. As a kid, I never followed patterns – I knit and knit and knit, and then folded and sewed the finished fabric into the shapes I wanted. That’s definitely changed! I tend to sketch a bit first, often talking ideas through with my mom, then search for stitch patterns in my various stitch dictionaries, playing with order and arrangement until I arrive at what I have pictured in my mind. Then it’s time to swatch! I prefer wool, but really enjoy trying new yarns and especially hand-dyed varieties. I usually use two to three needle sizes, and block my swatches before settling on a fabric. The sketch becomes more refined at this point, with calculations for my sample size, and then I start knitting, writing the pattern as I go. It’s incredibly satisfying to see the sketch come to life, especially when it works just as you’ve imagined it!
Where does your inspiration come from and who do you admire within the industry?
I always have a few vague ideas rattling around in my brain, but the best ones have come from design calls. Companies like Interweave Knits, Vogue Knitting, and various other magazine and book publishers will put out a general list of topics, garment/accessory types, and even mood boards with colors and photo inspiration for upcoming publications. These always get my brain going, often with more ideas than I can reasonably knit! I also turn to vintage patterns for inspiration, as I did with my Sensible Shawl (Jane Austen Knits, Fall 2012). I have so many favorite designers, but right now I most admire Michele Wang, Jared Flood, and Norah Gaughan. They’re each so prolific, and I think so individual. And the cables!!! I respect their portfolios so much – I love to look at how their work has progressed over the years. It’s very inspiring!
Where did the idea for the Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket come from?
Before Ravelry, I belonged to a message board called Crochetville. There were several of these round, ripple-y blankets being made, all a little different, and none using a set pattern. I took my favorite elements and put them together to make my own, and when asked by my friends on the ‘ville, I wrote the pattern down. Drew Emborsky and Annie Modesitt were on there too, encouraging new designers to publish their work. I actually wrote the blanket pattern first, then set it aside and went on to publish my City Girl Cap and Bobbling Along Aran Tote at their encouragement. The Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket was my first official Ravelry pattern, put up for free when I joined the community as a designer.
The design is hugely popular, how many have you made yourself?
It’s my go-to gift for new babies, as it’s perfect for a cozy blanket in the car or tossed on the floor as a soft play mat. It’s also great for older kids with strong opinions about colors and color order! My son has two he “designed”, one rainbow and the other in BB-8 (Star Wars) colors.
The Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket is your most popular design on Ravelry, with over 4500 projects listed, which of your designs is your personal favourite now?
It’s mind-blowing how many people have made it, and it’s now been downloaded more than 250,000 times! I continue to receive messages about it more than 10 years after writing it, and the amazing community on Ravelry has translated it into 5 additional languages. It’s so gratifying and humbling to receive a response like that, and I’m amazed by the innovations crocheters continue to make with it! The Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket is hands-down my personal favorite crochet pattern, while my favorite knitting pattern is my Cardinal Cap, designed for my first book Knits of a Feather (Sellers Publishing, Inc., 2013) and modeled by my sister and brother-in-law. That pattern came to life exactly as I’d imagined it!
Do you still knit and crochet for pleasure and if not, what do you like to do to relax instead?
I do! I spin a little every evening, knit or crochet when watching tv, and love to take projects in the car, too. After my second child was born I was surprised by how long it took me to get back to it; I was just so exhausted! But now I’m back on track, making things for my kids and for my new niece. I’m even beginning to design again, as I feel like I finally have a little brain space for it. I used to dream about knitting, and those dreams have begun again! I don’t feel right when I’m not creating.
Do you have any exciting plans for the future that you’d like to share with us?
Yes! I have two knitted accessory projects in the works with independent dyers and a few more collaborations beginning to take shape. I’ve also been sketching out some new crocheted blanket designs – it’s time! I’ll need pattern testers, and will post a call in my Ravelry group when I’m ready. Stay tuned!
A little Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket trivia for you.
- The Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket Ravelry design page was created on September 18th 2010.
- There are over 4,700 Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket projects uploaded on to Ravelry.
- One of the makers we spoke to, Courtney aka SaturatedLifeCro on Ravelry has made 61 Rainbow Ripple Baby Blankets so far and even has them listed under a separate tab under her project pages. The beautiful stained glass version on the right is one of hers and we’d recommend you pop over to her project pages to see the rest.
- The pattern calls for 1100 metres/1200 yards of worsted weight yarn, however many of the projects on Ravelry have two or three times as much yarn. There are even several versions on Ravelry that have taken over 6000 metres.
- Celeste made her original blanket using Berroco Comfort Solids & Heathers.
- The most popular yarn for crocheting a Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket in is currently Red HeartSuper Saver Solids, with CaronSimply Soft Solids in second place. As we scrolled down the list of Yarn Ideas on Ravelry, the first we noticed more readily available on this side of the pond is Stylecraft Double Knit which has been used 117 times.
- The pattern is written using US crochet terms and has versions available in Norwegian, German, French, Danish and Spanish.
We had great fun looking through all of the Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket project pages on Ravelry and got in touch with some of the makers to see if we could feature their projects here.
Space in our gallery is limited, so we would urge you to pop over to the project pages to check out lots more fantastic photos.