Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Baby Blanket from Heck

The Baby Blanket from Heck

In my original how-to-knit book, there was a nice baby bootie pattern.  I used it to make booties for several different people who had babies.  When I started having grandchildren, I decided to graduate to the next step – The Baby Blanket.  I currently have 13 grandchildren and have made 9 baby blankets.  I guess I should go back and make 4 for the older kids, but I’m not sure how much a 10 year old would enjoy a baby blanket. 
Simple block pattern
            Baby blankets are really just a big square.  You don’t have to worry about gauge because it really can’t be the wrong size – somewhere between 28 and 48 inches square – and square – or nearly square.
           You can do square blocks, stripes, solid, diagonal, or even entrelac.  I have done at least one of each.  It’s fun to compare my knitting skills progress from blanket to blanket. 
The quickest blanket that isn’t just straight garter stitch is probably the diagonal blanket.  You can find the pattern all over the web.  Normally it’s for a wash cloth or something else like that – but what’s a baby blanket but a big wash cloth.  The pattern is simple.  Basically you increase every row until it’s big enough, then you decrease every row.  You end up with a square.  Here’s the pattern:
Diagonal Baby Blanket (or wash cloth or whatever)
·       Cast on 5 stitches
·       Knit one row
·       Increase row:  K3, YO, K to end.
·       Repeat Increase row until blanket is half done.
·       Decrease row: K2, K2tog, yo, K2tog, K to end
·       Repeat Decrease row until there are 5 stitches remaining
·       Bind off

I had to do 2 blankets close together (my kids should learn to space their children out better.)  I made the first one using the diagonal pattern and two colors of yarn together.  For the baby girl, I used white and pink.  I went from several rows of two white yarns, to several rows of one white and one pink to several rows of two pink yarns – and then reverse.  It turned out pretty cool with diagonal strips blending from white to pink and back.  It was also very fast since I used large needles and a very simple pattern – nearly all in garter stitch.
Since the blanket was so easy – I decided to make another one using blue and white in the same way.
Dexter tries out all my knitting first
         I also tried an entrelac pattern for a baby blanket.  My daughter-in-law says she has been stopped by people on the street commenting on the blanket.  Entrelac looks hard, and is not.  If you haven’t tried it, do it.  A baby blanket is a great place to start because it uses large stitches and the gauge doesn’t matter.  Of course a huge drawback is that it is not at all reversible.  The right side is beautiful.  The wrong side looks like the wrong side.
So, my oldest granddaughter didn’t get a baby blanket (I hadn’t started making them when she was a baby.  I decided I should make her a “big girl” blanket.   She loves rainbows so I decided to make her a rainbow blanket.  I went back to the good old diagonal pattern.  My wife always gives me a bad time about my stash - so I threw about 40 different balls of yarn into a big bag.  Fingering, worsted, bulky - whatever.  Then I would randomly pull a ball out, knit a row, throw that ball into a different bag and grab another ball.  When I finished all 40 balls, I just start over.  I left the ends about 10 inches long on each end.  Then every row, I would tie the end with the end left from the previous row.  I used over 40 different yarns – all different sizes and materials, chunky next to fingerling.  When I got done, I trimmed the ends to about 6 inches.  Even though she’s now 8 – but she loves her rainbow blanket.  It was the best stash burner ever.  You know – you can never throw any yarn away longer than 3 feet.  You never know when you might need it.  In fact, I liked the idea so much I made a “rainbow” scarf for my newest daughter-in-law.  Figured she should know right off that she had a crazy knitting father-in-law.
Again with the dog
        I also made one blanket based on an afghan pattern I got for free.  It started with a large square.  Then you pick up the stitches along one side and knit for a while.  Then pick up the stitches along the side of the 2 pieces and knit for a while.  Keep going until you have a blanket – kind of like a log cabin blanket only you just keep building.  (I also made a Log Cabin blanket)
An important part of making a baby blanket is that it has to be reversible.  Babies tend to mess them up so if there’s not a “right” side, it helps.  The diagonal blanket is great for this because it’s all garter stitch which is the same on both sides.  With this in mind I saw a pattern for a reversible shawl.  I saw it on  It’s called Courtyard Drape  from Reversible Knits © 2009 by Iris Schreier.  It is multi-colored with white cables going across one side.  The cables are cleverly worked on one side only and don’t even show on the other side.  I saw it and immediately thought it would be a cool baby blanket with soft white cables going down one side.  The pattern said to use US size 5 needles – so I did.  I learned a valuable lesson - never use anything smaller than US size 8 on a baby blanket.  The above diagonal blankets I mentioned used double strand and US size 11 needles.  Anyway, the blanket turned out beautiful and it’s one of my favorite baby blankets – it’s not the “baby blanket from heck” but it did take a heck of a long time.
That brings me to the Baby Blanket from Heck.
I knit a set of hats for my granddaughters.  I picked up  a little pamphlet with 3 different hats.  One of them had a cute pattern going around brim with a star stitch design.  Basically it’s knit the RS and on the WS  P3Tog leaving the triplet on the left needle, do a YO, then P3Tog through the same 3 forming a star.  Then Purl one stitch and do it again.  Repeat.  That makes a 2 row pattern of stars.  If you switch colors and on the next WS row you Purl 2 before you start the first star, you’ll build another row of stars that fit nicely down between the stars in the previous row.  Very simple.  Very fast.
           The “stars” turn out to be nice little squares and I noticed they formed a square diagonally as well as up and down.  This gave me the bright idea – make a variation of the diagonal blanket I described above only instead of using simple garter stitch, use this star stitch.
It worked beautifully.  I did one pattern in pink, 2 in white, one in yellow, 2 in white and so on. It looked great.  I got to the halfway point and noticed that the blanket didn’t look too square.  Well, one thing I’ve learned from many knitters – we are stubborn.  I mean, we can see a sweater is big enough to fit a hippo and still press on thinking it will block alright.  So, I ignored what looked like a catastrophe and pushed on.  Near the end, it was clear I was crazy, but I kept on.  Finally, I got to the last row of just 5 stitches and bound off.  Now, I put it out on the floor and had to face the reality that I had just knit an abomination.  It looked like a kite.
So, I was a Jr High math teacher, I told myself I could figure out what happened.  Let’s look at the anatomy of the diagonal blanket.  Garter stitch has the wonderful property of having 1 stitch be almost the same length as 2 rows.  Because of this, if you add one stitch at each end for every 2 rows, you are building a nearly perfect right isosceles triangle with the active row being the hypotenuse.  If I lost you, just trust me, it works great.  Now the star stitch is close to the same measurement as stockinette.  2 stitches = about 1 1/3 rows.  Again, if I lost you that means, it won’t work.
After figuring out what went wrong and messing with the math, I figured out that if I added 2 stitches every other row on the increase rows and decreased 2 stitches every other row on the decrease rows it would work.  I frogged the whole dang thing.  I rolled each color onto its own ball and then reknit the blanket using the pieces I rolled together.  It turned out the pieces were close to the same size (in fact I required a little less which meant I didn’t need to use other yarn.  When I finished I have a beautiful blanket that had to be completely knit 2 times.  I plan on publishing the pattern if I ever get around to it. 

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