baby blanket

A new thing

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The Blanket of Exacting Requirements, as I have named it is done, off the needles and blocking as I type. I’m really pleased with it and my son (who has aforementioned requirements) is mightily pleased too. This is my first time using West Yorkshire Spinners Colourlab DK for a blanket - having taken the decision earlier in the year to refrain from using acrylic yarns from now on - and I have to say that I love everything about it.

The colour range is good, it’s an impressively all-British produced yarn and it retails for under £7 per 100g. I know this reads a bit like an advert and I apologise but really, I promise I haven’t been paid to promote this yarn. I just really like it.

Whenever you mention knitting with pure wool though the issue of price always rears it’s head, with the assumptions that pure wool is expensive and impractical for blankets. So I thought I would do a little road-test and report back on this blanket at intervals so you can see how it is holding up. I have two boys and an equal number of cats and so knits in our household are very much used and abused.

As for price. I used approx 7 balls of this yarn in various colours which equates to less than £50 for the whole project (7 x £6.95). It’s absolutely not the cheapest yarn available but for something that will be used and loved for years that’s a price point that I’m very comfortable with. Price isn’t something we often speak about in relation to our finished objects. We talk about yardage and colours used but actual hard cash is frequently overlooked in our discussions.

So from now on I’ll be adding the estimated cost of a project to my Ravelry page. Sometimes with deep stash a price will probably be a best guess but it’s better than nothing. And hopefully it might go a tiny way towards dispelling the myth that all wool is expensive and that acrylic is the only affordable option.

Knitting a square in the round

Fuss Free baby blanket knit in West Yorkshire Spinners ColourLab DK

Fuss Free baby blanket knit in West Yorkshire Spinners ColourLab DK

There’s a lot to be said for knitting a square blanket in the round, rather than knitting it flat. I don’t know about you and I’m fairly sure it defies the laws of physics but I’m convinced that a square knit flat takes far, far longer than one knit in the round.

At some point when I have three-quarters of  a square I always start doing a heck of a lot of measuring, certain that after these last few rows I will have knit enough. Or if all else fails I start trying to convince myself that everyone really wants a wide, short rectangular blanket rather than a square one. Obviously they don’t - it would just look weird and exactly like you’d given up three quarters of the way through but such are the tales I try to tell my inner knitter.

Instead I find that if you knit a blanket in the round it’s all bunched up on your needles and you can keep knitting and knitting, through films, kids playparks and all manner of events. It’s easier on the hands and (if you are doing stocking stitch) there’s the added benefit of no purling. It does mean of course that it’s harder to spread it out for photographic/measuring purposes but you can’t have everything and I’d rather just keep knitting so that the eventual size is a happy surprise when I finally bind it off.

If you’d like to try knitting a blanket in the round, as with everything there is more than one way to go about it.

Knit a central square - this is my favourite method and one I come back to time and time again. In my Fuss Free Baby Blanket (a free download on Ravelry) it starts with a central garter stitch square. You then keep the live stitches on the needle, place a marker and pick up the same number of stitches along each of the 3 sides - adding a marker at each corner. You then alternate a mitered increase round with a plain round building up the square from the centre out. Easy peasy. You can add stripes or whatever takes your fancy make the most of fuss free, portable knitting.

The other option is to start with a small number of central stitches - usually on DPNs - and build the increases from there. This can be a bit more fiddly but is perfectly straightforward to master. My basic recipe for this is as follows:

Cast on 8 sts and divide equally across 4 DPNs

Rnd 1: kfb in each st (8 sts inc)

Rnd 2: k

Rnd 3: *kfb, k to last st on DPN, kfb. Rep from * 3 more times (8 sts inc)

Rnd 4: k

Rep rnds 3 and 4 - each increase round adds 8 sts. Once you have sufficient sts you can switch to a circular needle. I like to switch to a 60cm cable once I have about 80sts in total. It might be a bit tight for the first few rounds but as you add more stitches it soon becomes easier.

Two ways of achieving the same result, but both with the nifty feature of avoiding the tedium of an “almost there” blanket knit flat.

False starts and firm opinions

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It was the kind of scenario you just couldn’t make up. 

Picture the scene. I am doing a bit of flatlay photography for my one Instagram photo of the week. I’ve got my little blanket project in progress, my coffee still hot and the junk on the bed shoved to the side out of side.

In wanders my eldest son, he glances at the bed and asks if that’s his new blanket I’m working on. “Why yes it is” I answer, “Just like the one you asked for”.

His old baby blanket suffered a sad demise a few years ago, courtesy of our old, incontinent cat and he had been asking for a new one for a while.

He expressed concern that this new blanket, whilst using the same colours ‘looked different’ to how he remembered it. There then followed a slightly confusing conversation which only after careful consultation with my Ravelry project library did we determine that we were in fact each talking of an entirely different baby blanket.

The one I was remembering - a Moderne Baby blanket - of log cabin-like construction had in fact belonged to his brother (oops). The one he was picturing with fond memories was in fact the first baby blanket I ever designed - the Fuss Free Baby Blanket - which starts with a central square knitted flat and then has stitches picked up around that square to be knit in the round.

Realisation dawned as we looked at each other across my lovely flatlay. 

But luckily the central patch would serve just as well for the other blanket and I really hadn’t done more than an hour or two’s knitting on it. 

So, I learnt a valuable lesson. To always check what’s in someone else’s mind when they ask for a knitted something. And he learnt how to frog and rewind yarn!


Why we knit?

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In the midst of all the social media noise it is sometimes easy to lose sight of why we knit. Or at least that’s how I’ve found things over the last few days and weeks. I’ve spent a lot of time (probably too much, if I’m honest) on social media recently - the fact that Instagram now tells you how many hours per day you have spent on the platform doesn’t help but certainly brings the issue into sharp focus.

Handing over this finished baby blanket to a newly created family of three this weekend though, really brought me back to why we knit in the first place. We knit because we want to create beautiful things. We knit because we want to put love out into the world. And for us (by which I mean Knitters with a capital K) we best express our love in the form of yarn and needles.

Watching the new, slightly sleep-deprived parents unwrap their gift and instantly wrap their new baby in it brought a little tear to my eye, and theirs. They had been through a long journey to become a family and in that moment they felt welcomed and supported as new parents in our small rural community. Yes, it was just a blanket. But it was a blanket knitted with love and good thoughts, and knit just for them.

And that feeling that we all had at that moment - that’s why we knit.