I've been wanting to crochet a "cold water swimming temperature blanket" for a long time now, but never seemed to be able to get myself organized in time. But this year is a special for me, my first full season of cold water swim training in our new home province of New Brunswick, Canada. I've been cold and ice swimming for many years now, and have swum 3 ice miles that were ratified by the International Ice Swimming Association (1.6km in water under 5C/41F). When we moved here last January I couldn't wait to head into the chilly waters of the Northumberland Strait, I was delighted to find that stepping into chilly sea water is like slipping into silk, very delicious!
Since September is quickly drawing to a close, the start of cold water season is slowly creeping in, and I wanted to commemorate our first full year here by making a cold water swimming temperature blanket. A temperature blanket is created by crocheting or knitting a row for every swim you do, using a different colour yarns for a series of temperature ranges. It's a great way to capture a snapshot in time, documenting and displaying your swims. I'll be starting mine on October 1st, and finishing by April or May, depending on how many swims I get in and how long the blanket is getting. It will be a fun way to stay motivated too.
So if you're the crafty type, pick up your crochet hook or knitting needles and join me!
Step 1: Determine your temperature range and colour palette
The idea here is simple - use different colour yarns for different temperatures. Start by creating a chart of your temperature ranges, and choose increments that make sense for the temperature range in the area that you swim. It all depends on (a) how much difference there is in temperature in your waters and (b) how much variation you'd like to see in your blanket. If your water temperature doesn't fluctuate much, go with smaller increments. I decided to go with 2-degree increments, since our sea water went as low as -2.3C/27.86F last year. A different colour yarn will be used for every 2 degrees as I swim down the thermometer to zero (and below!). I used a glue stick to adhere the bits of yarns to my palette chart.
You can choose any kind of palette, some people use noticeably different yarn colours to create lots of contrast, but I chose to use colours that gently fold into one another, and which reminded me of the sea and waves. I laid out my yarn on the floor before buying it, to see how the colours would look once they were in a blanket. It's best to pick a brand that has lots of colours, is easy to get stock of once you need more, and is priced well for your budget. I started with buying just 1 roll per colour, as I have no idea how much of each one I'll really need until I get further into the project. I'm not worried about matching dye lots when I go back to buy more, this is meant to be a fun project so I'm trying to keep things easy.
Step 2: Choose a design for your blanket
If you're a beginner, keep it simple! You can do a standard crochet single stitch, or any stitch you're comfortable with. I started looking around for something that would suit our water theme, and came up with the long wave stitch, it reminds me of how the waves on our beach roll in low to the water. Find a video of your stitch, and practice a little beforehand!
Step 3: Decide on the dimensions of your finished blanket
I decided to make a lap blanket, about the size of a twin bed blanket, something I could cozy up under in front of a fire after cold swims. Whatever size you plan to make, start by creating your chain, and lay it out to see if the width works for you. I always err on the "bigger is better" side of things. Next, decide how many rows per swim you plan to do. I am able to get into the sea for a swim at least once or twice a week, so a single row per swim will work well. But if you can't get in that often, you can always crochet several rows per swim. If your blanket starts to get too long, then stop if you want to. Or if it's not long enough, keep crocheting your swims into the spring/summer until you have the length you want. There are no rules here, this is a fun creative project!
Here's a final handy tip...if you can't sit down to crochet right after each swim, just keep a log of the water temps so you can come back to the project when you're ready. Make a chart in excel, jot it down on a calendar, or use a notes app in your phone. You'll want to track the date, water temp, and a way to check off that you've added the swim to your blanket once you get around to it.
If you're new to cold water swimming, please be careful. It's wonderful way to experience nature and continue swimming throughout the year, but comes with risks and needs careful planning to ensure safety. I documented my own practices here as a way of sharing what I do: https://www.wildbigswim.com/cold-ice-swimming
Safe swimming and happy crafting!