Growing up I never imagined I would become the Baby Blanket Lady ! How did it all start ?
I was born Ellaine Caplan and raised in St Catharines, a quiet city in Southern Ontario. Even as a child, I loved crafts and was always making things with my hands. My mother, who taught me how to knit, still tells how my nursery school teacher, Miss Currie, saw my artwork and praised me for what she considered my natural talent. I did it all: embroidery,needlepoint,knitting, crochet, sewing, macrame, rug hooking, sculpting, painting and even designing my own creations for my beloved Barbie doll.
When the time came for University, I had my sights set on the Ontario College of Art( now OCAD ). But in those days, the OCA only granted a diploma, not a University degree,and my parents wouldn't hear of it. So, I went off to York University for a " real" education in Psychology, only to discover the newly created Fine Arts Department. Each year, I took more and more Fine Arts credits, and by my fourth year, I was totally immersed. After graduating from York U., I attended University of Toronto Faculty of Education and received a Bachelor of Education degree in Art Education. I landed a job with the Scarborough Board of Education and taught High School Art for 5 years. During this time I enjoyed my real love of textiles as we developed a Grade 12 textiles course that covered spinning, dyeing, weaving, needlepoint and knitting..all the things I loved. On my own I wove large freeform wall hangings of hand spun and dyed wool, and had my first one-woman show at the gallery in the Scarborough Civic Centre.
At a Club Med holiday in Playa Blanca Mexico, I was introduced to hand painting on silk with French Dyes and I went home and started painting scarves, garments and challah covers for the Jewish Sabbath. When boutiques in Downtown Toronto began selling my creations, I was featured in articles in the Globe and Mail National Newspaper. At this point , I left teaching to devote myself entirely to a career in the Arts. I enrolled ( finally ) at the Ontario College of Art ( now OCAD ) and studied textiles. It was there that I was introduced to Machine Knitting !
When pregnancy with my first child Benji forced me to stop using toxic French Dyes, I enrolled in a course at George Brown College to study Machine Knitting. While studying there, a cousin gave birth to a baby and I decided to knit a blanket with the baby's name, and so began my long and rewarding career as the Baby Blanket Lady !
The first blanket was made of Sayelle, a synthetic yarn and looked nothing like the blankets of today. I developed my style through experimentation and finally sourced out a local brand of cotton that came in a beautiful array of colours. People began to place orders and suddenly business was booming....many of my contemporaries were having babies and when people received a blanket as a gift, they wanted to give them to their friends...the business spread by word of mouth !
I was constantly knitting and when I became pregnant with twins, Cory and Robyn , I was sitting crocheting edges on my blankets while in the labour room !
Shortly after they were born, we moved to a very large and very beige house. This prompted me to study Faux Finishing which was just becoming popular at the time. I studied at the Finishing School, a very well respected school in Great Neck, NY and I was soon accepting commissions for faux finishing and stencilling in other people's homes, while still producing baby blankets.
There were roadblocks, too. The firm that manufactured the cotton in mid town Toronto closed and Brother stopped producing knitting machines. Nevertheless through it all, the blankets were still made, as did new inspiration and new classes in mixed media painting at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. I also had the great privilege of studying with acclaimed doll maker Akira Blount. I also attended Teesha Moore's Artfest in Port Townsend WA many times. I loved studying with wonderful artists such as Claudine Hellmuth, Janet Cooper, Lesley Riley, Juliana Coles, Lynne Perella and Michael de Meng, to name a few. All had a tremendous influence on my creative career.
I feel that I have flourished as an artist because of the loving support of my children Benji, Cory , and Robyn as well as my life partner Leo.
Today I am making second generation blankets....Babies that loved my blankets are now becoming the parents and buying my blankets for their children and friends...even my own son Ben who had many blankets as a child has his own three sons, Yoni, Ezra and Shaya and they are enjoying my blankets.
I get phone calls all the time, and the first question is "Are you still making the baby blankets " and they are thrilled that the answer is is " YES ". I hear so many warm stories from people about how the blankets have impacted their livesin such a wonderful way. I love hearing how children now in their 20s and 30s still have their blankets !
Thanks for stopping by. Now you have a bit more information about the person behind the baby blankets that you have come to love. I feel privileged that so many thousands of children call my creations their " blankie" where they cuddle for comfort and warmth.It truly warms MY heart.
To you all, my deepest thanks for making me " The baby blanket lady ""
click here to view me in my studio
Ellaine Caplan Feferman
personalized cotton knit baby blankets