What are thermal blankets? Activists reinvent the knitting trend as a tapestry of climate change

Thermal blankets are experiencing a resurgence on social networks and are gaining relevance in the collection of climate data. (Photo: Knitaly Co./Mary Sturmlaw)

Social media users may notice an annual trend that appears on their feeds around late December and early January, as people post colorful knitted blankets, bragging about the 365 days of effort put into a single craft. Although the pieces likely look very different, the tapestries are collectively known as temperature blankets, which are crocheted records of daily local temperatures throughout a year.

The trend has been around for years, according to social media posts and expert knitters, but Becky Wenzel, 23, said it was a TikTok post in December 2020 that caught her eye and inspired her to create. a thermal blanket from her. clean for 2021.

On January 1, 2022, Wenzel took to social media herself to show off her finished work, measuring 6.5 feet by 8 feet, to her followers. “I started knitting this blanket on January 1, 2021 and I knit a row each day with a color that corresponded to the highest perceived temperature of that day,” she explained in the video that counts. 3.4 million views. “Every day for the whole year and I just finished it.”

Wenzel then showed the color chart she used to organize her yarn colors and the temperature ranges they each corresponded to to represent 365 days in Long Island, New York. But others around the world are also showing their own covers depicting different regional temperature variations.

Nathalie Bouffard, who lives in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, told Yahoo Life that she has been creating her own thermal blankets since 2017, when she first discovered them on Pinterest. For her, it was an exciting new challenge for an already established knitting and crocheting hobby.

“What mainly caught my eye was that while you select which colors to use and carefully match them to a temperature range, the weather decides the order and frequency of use of each color. ‘between them,’ she said. “I tend to be very organized and like to plan things out, so letting go and seeing how the weather would affect how the final project would look seemed like an interesting idea.”

The two designers showcased the planning process that goes into making one of these tapestries, explaining that they used other people’s blankets to determine the color patterns they would use to personalize their project.

“Most of the covers I had seen looked good, although they were beautiful in design and execution, the color schemes weren’t a wow factor, I’m not sure why, but most of them felt old, bland or too crazy and unsuitable for my personal taste,” Bouffard said. “As I knew it would be a long project, I wanted to be sure I liked the end result, so I I spent a lot of time playing with colors and making sure each color went well with all the others.”

For the co-founders of The Tempestry Project – a collaborative fiber art effort created to provide data representative of climate change – the colors used in a thermal blanket are less about personal preference and aesthetics than they are about tracking global weather trends.

“We started our project in 2017, kind of in a more political and educational context. You know, the idea of ​​thermal coverage had been around for a long time, but we wanted to make it more of a sort of data representation project on the climate change for people around the world to start consuming,” Emily McNeil told Yahoo Life.

Co-founder Asy Connelly added, “People would just pick the colors they had in their stash and assign them to different temperature ranges for their region. And those were just very individual efforts. And you couldn’t compare two temperatures. blankets together,” she said. “Our thought was to take all of this effort that goes into these covers and temperature pieces and create a framework so that they could be compared. And you would end up over time creating an overall mosaic of all of these works.”

McNeil was running a yarn shop in Washington when the project launched in 2017 and was exploring innovative ways to participate in a knitting expo she was invited to. Connelly, who has a background in data processing and an interest in climate change, suggested creating climate data might be that idea.

” Upstream [presidential] inauguration in 2017, there were stories in various publications about scientists and hackers getting together and downloading tons of climate and environmental data from the federal government lest the new administration would wipe it out,” Connelly recalls. “We joked one night that we should record data in forms that are harder to delete, like cuneiform tablets or tapestries. And then it was kind of the spark that started it all.”

Over the years since, The Tempestry Project has worked with various knitting communities to share data, yarns and guides that form a uniform process for using tapestries for collective data. “You can look at the ones from Alaska and know that they use the same temperature and color increments as those from Death Valley, California, or other parts of the world,” McNeil explained.

Two tapestries depict temperature changes in Nevada's Great Basin National Park over 100 years.  (Photo: Lisa Waterman/The Tempestry Project)

Two tapestries depict temperature changes in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park over 100 years. (Photo: Lisa Waterman/The Tempestry Project)

But even though people continue to focus on individual projects outside of these data collection efforts, McNeil and Connelly said their group’s initiative is still supported.

“A tapestry takes 20 to 30 hours to make,” Connelly said. “So if I look at each piece as someone who spends this much time thinking about the climate and the weather, whether it’s one of our storms or individual efforts, it all helps.”

“It connects people to how they experience their surroundings. And that in itself is a really powerful conversation and experience to have,” McNeil said.

Wenzel told Yahoo Life that while her 2021 cover sits on the end of her bed, she intends to keep it in hopes that it will continue to have meaning in the future — that it be kept in his family or used for wider purposes.

“I’ve been trying to think of a good way to write and keep some sort of journal entry or letter to keep with the cover on what 2021 was like for me, but I haven’t figured that out yet. “, she said. “In the meantime, I just added a tag I bought on Etsy that says ‘2021 Temperature Blanket – Made by Becky’ because so many people commented that I had to add the year for which it becomes a heirloom family or is subject to climate research.”

Bouffard agreed that whatever intention each knitter has at the start of her project, the result is a keepsake of countless important memories.

“They can be a great way to remember a special year in your life, like a new baby’s birth year, a new date or a couple’s wedding year,” she said. . “It’s a subtle way to incorporate those special moments into your craft. And there’s none of the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a year-long project.”

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