Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Easy Baby Blanket Project

I've just updated the project page with details on how I made W's baby blanket. It's a great project for getting the basics of crochet nailed before getting stuck into more complex patterns. Working the rows backwards and forwards is strangely therapeutic and it was great for keeping me occupied when I was pregnant ....

Baby Blanket I

This blanket is in double crochet (US single crochet) using a 4mm hook and a variety of yarns from crochet cottons to baby alpaca - basically a little bit of everything of DK and 4 ply weight that I had in my yarn stash. It is an excellent project for perfecting some basic crochet techniques. It will help you to practice:
  • Making an even chain, loose enough to work, but firm enough to provide a strong edge
  • Double crochet (US single crochet) stitch to a regular tension over a large area
  • Turning your work, including using turning chains and maintaining a straight edge
  • Changing your yarn to create the stripes
  • Working in the loose ends of your yarn
  • Creating a decorative edge

crochet stripy baby blanket

By using a variety of yarns, you will have the opportunity to learn a lot about tension and the relationship between yarn weight and hook size. I used the same size hook throughout and loosened or tightened the tension using my fingers. As a result, some stripes are very solid and firm, and some are a bit looser, which creates slightly different textures for baby to explore. By working this way, I was able to maintain the same number of stitches throughout the project.

To make the blanket:
  • Choose a starting yarn such as a double knit cotton and make a slip knot in the end of the yarn
  • Make a chain that is about 1m long. Focus on making the individual loops as even as possible. Baggy stitches are a sign that your tension is too loose; really small stitches are a sign that your tension is too tight. In my experience, it will be about right when you can comfortably slip your hook between the top V of the stitch and the back loop of the chain (please bear with me while I work on some drawings / pictures / videos!)
  • When you've finished your chain, turn your work so that you can go back the way you just came. Using the same yarn, start by working your first double crochet (US single crochet) stitch into the second loop from your hook. That gives you your first turning chain of a single chain. If we were working in treble crochet, we would need a turning chain that was 3 chains long. The turning chain effectively becomes the first stitch in your new row.
  • This first row, or foundation row as it is known, can be a bit tricky when you're starting out. Focus on keeping your tension as even as you can, by keeping an eye on your stitch sizes - too small and your tension is too tight, too big and your tension is too loose. Make sure you are putting the hook into the same place for each stitch so that you get a good strong even edge.
  • When you get to the end of your foundation row, working in the same yarn, chain 1 to create your turning chain for the next row (remember, it's a single chain because you are working in double crochet). Now turn your work and place your first double crochet stitch into the last double crochet stitch of the previous row, ignoring the the turning chain.
  • Work the rest of the row in double crochet, remembering to keep an eye on your tension, and making sure you place a double crochet stitch in every stitch of the last row. If you make a mistake, it's really easy to unravel your work and do it again. If you spot the mistake early on, this is definitely worth doing, but if you're half way down your work, I'd chalk it down to experience and carry on.
  • When you're ready to move on to your next stripe, select your new yarn.
  • To make a perfect stripe, you join your new colour yarn on the last stitch of the previous row in the old colour. Work your last double crochet as normal for that row, but when you get to the final two loops on the hook, switch to the new yarn.
  • Make your single turning chain in the new yarn and then turn your work and double crochet as before, ignoring the turning chain and putting your first stitch in the last stitch from the previous row.
  • Experiment with different stripe depths and different colour combinations. Aim to keep the stripes the same width by adjusting your tension so that the blanket stays the same width without increasing or decreasing stitches.
  • If you want a square blanket, keep going for 1m. Mine ended up being about 1.5m long.
  • When it's the required length, fasten off the last yarn.
  • Select a yarn for finishing the edges. I used a combination of a single line of white double crochet to create a neat edge to work from, and then a shell edge in red as decoration.
  • You'll need to work in all the yarn ends from the stripes. You can do this individually for each yarn which obviously gives the neatest result, or you can cheat a bit and work your double crochet edge over the ends so that they are effectively wrapped in your edging.
  • By the time you come to do the edging, you will be a double crochet expert, which will help you get this bit right. When you're doing the edges, there isn't a nice neat and tidy line of stitches to work from the last row. You will need to use your judgement and a bit of trial and error to create an edge that is straight and flat. If you pick up too many stitches, it will start to look more like a ruffle than an edge; too few stitches and your work will look puckered. I recommend keeping your work reasonably flat so that you can keep an eye on what you're doing. (If you can manage to make the number of stitches on each side divisible by 6 with one over, that will help you with the decorative shell edge.)
  • Once you've been all the way around the edge and reached your starting point, join your last stitch to your first with a simple slip stitch and fasten off.
  • For the decorative edging, I chose a shell edge.
  • Have a look at your work and decide if you think there is a right side. Then with right side facing, join the yarn for your edging into the fastened off slip stitch you've just made.
  • To create the shell edge, you will work each individual shell pattern over 6 stitches. Ideally, you will have been able to create sides with stitches divisible by 6 with 1 over. If you're a little out, don't worry too much, you'll be able to add in an extra stitch or two as you go - use your judgement here. Only you will know that you've fudged the pattern a bit to make it work!
  • So, with right side facing and your yarn joined in the slip stitch for the last row, miss 2 stitches, then work 5 treble crochets in the next stitch, then miss 2 stitches and finally slip stitch into the next stitch. To create the next shell, you do exactly the same thing: miss 2 stitches, work 5 treble crochets in the next stitch, miss 2 stitches and slip stitch into the next stitch. You should be able to see how that works out over 6 of your stitches from the last row each time. Properly written in pattern terminology, the shell pattern looks like this: *miss 2sts, 5tr in next st, miss 2 sts, 1ss in next st, rep from * to end.
  • When you get back to where you started, slip stitch into the first stitch of the edging and fasten off.

If you've enjoyed making this blanket, then I've created another kind of as a stitch sampler. It's the wavy baby car seat blanket!

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