Thursday’s Theme … (1)

illustration by llana Denis Bauer
illustration by llana Denis Bauer

Start of a new weekly feature.

Each Thursday we will take an in-depth delve into a yarning dilemma. What is the best/easiest heel turn?… How big should a bedspread be?… Who put the Bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp? (sorry, couldn’t stop myself! lol).

There is so much information to glean from Mrs Google and Mr YouTube it can get rather overwhelming. I thought it might be a nice idea to pool some of the most useful and interesting information (together with a smattering of my own ideas/knowledge) into an easy to access format.

The aim is to provide beginners with the tools they need to take that step further into their new obsession…(believe me, it WILL become one, lol) And also to serve as a useful reminder for more experienced makers…I’m not ashamed to admit that even after decades of crafting, I still sometimes need to double-check a technique/sizing guide or stumble across something I’ve never tried before … one of the many joys of yarning, always learning something new!

Ideas for future themes are very welcome.

Theme One (Part 1)

Baby Blankets:

image via purlsoho
image via purlsoho

One of the nicest items to make,  in my opinion, as every stitch is  made with that special little one  in mind and truly becomes a gift  of love. Just as nice is the idea of  them being wrapped up and kept  warm by those thoughts too…

There are, of course, a million  patterns to download but what if  you already have a stash of yarn  you need to use and can’t  warrant buying more? (Many will be thinking, ‘Silly Question!’ but lots of us are on a tight budget, especially at this time of year). Perhaps you just can’t find something that inspires you or fits with your skill level. What you really want to do is pick up your hook or needles and get on with it NOW … even if it is 2 o’clock in the morning.

What size should it be?

TYPES & SIZE GUIDE (It’s a ‘guide’ so don’t worry if yours isn’t exact.)

COT/CRIB BLANKET (big enough to tuck around them as they grow and be used as a play-mat)

36 x 52 inches (92 x 132.5 cms)

RECEIVING (often made of cotton and given to newborns, can double as a burp cloth or used for swaddling/providing shade above a pram) Also a popular size for crocheters because it’s square, but I would add a 3 inch/8 cm border all round if it’s for a cot blanket.

36 x 36 inches (92 x 92 cms)

CAR SEAT (Best designed with an opening, rather like a large button- hole, to incorporate the seat belt)

24 x 20 inches (61.5 x 51.5 cms)

How much yarn will it take?

Yardage Guide

       Gauge                  Cot/Crib                         Receiving                      Car Seat
3sts per inch        891 yards/810m          580 yards/530m         228 yards/208m
4sts per inch        1265 yards/1150m      828 yards/753m         325 yards 296m
5sts per inch        1598 yards/1452m     1045 yards/950m        409 yards 372m
6sts per inch        2260 yards/2054m      1478 yards/1344m     580 yards/528m
7sts per inch        2486 yards/2260m      1626 yards/1479m     638 yards/580m
 Please note: This guide is calculated for a knitted item, crocheters need to allow for extra. The common rule of thumb is to allow 1/3rd more but this depends on the design.

 Tip: If crocheting squares, weigh your yarn before you begin the first one & then again afterwards. It is then simple to calculate how much yarn each square requires and then just multiply that amount by the number of squares you need.

Which yarns are best?

29ed045b8ea45c5b71cf419709a1d8e6 There are of course beautiful baby yarns available but to be honest, the quality of most yarn these days is so good that it isn’t always necessary to buy specialist yarn.

Exceptions to the rule: Any yarn that has very loose fibres or fluff or very ‘scratchy’ yarn, surprisingly some of the most expensive yarns can be the least soft.

This is obviously a subject that many ‘yarn snobs’ revel in … one of which I am definitely NOT. I see no joy in adding to a new mothers workload by providing her with a blanket made of the softest fairy wing silk, if she has to spend 2 hours every day laundering the thing. Merino is gorgeous if you can afford it (but it can bobble) and so is 100% pure wool if you have the superwash kind, but if you are wanting to make a play-mat/cot blanket and have a lovely, soft to the touch, good quality acrylic, go for it! Acrylic is very different these days, the range of colours is unsurpassed and it will pretty much survive whatever the little darling decides to bless it with!

Cotton is absorbent and soft, perfect for swaddling baby in all seasons and is ideal for a newborn receiving blanket. Personally, despite my love of acrylic, I would also recommend using a natural fibre for a car seat blanket, heaven’s forbid but in a worst case scenario you don’t want your precious to be wrapped in something ‘meltable’.

You can use any weight, although my preference is for DK/Light Worsted or Aran/Worsted Weight for beginners and for durability.

3 ply & 4 ply yarns are beautiful for a finer finish and are often favoured by the more experienced and make lovely ‘special occasion’ pieces, (Christenings for example). Also, do remember that you can combine yarns too, either to obtain a different weight or colourway. (Another Theme, Another Thursday?)

How many stitches do I need to cast on/chain?

Sadly, there is no magic formula for this one because it all depends on the yarn and needle or hook choice and your own personal tension. It is the old stalwart of swatching, my lovelies…

Experienced peeps look away now! Newbies please read on…  🙂

Swatching, simply put, is the making of a small sample. Essential for knitters on many items, especially fitted garments but not usually required for a blanket when you are following a pattern. However, we are supposing you aren’t following one. Using the same needles and yarn you plan to make your project from, cast on 20 sts and knit in stocking stitch (alternate a knit row with a purl row throughout) until you have approximately 2 inches of fabric, do NOT cast off.

image courtesy of Craftsy
image courtesy of Craftsy

Using a ruler, not a flexible measuring tape, measure an area of 1 inch by 1 inch square, you might find it easier to mark it with pins.

Now, count how many horizontal stitches fit into that square. Multiply this number by the width (or length if you plan to work sideways) and that will give you the number of stitches you need to cast on. For example, you count 7 stitches and want to knit the larger cot blanket, starting from the short edge, so multiply 7 by 36 and you know you need to cast on 252 sts. But, you may not be knitting your blanket in stocking stitch, I hear you say! Very well said… however this method will still give you a pretty good guide to stitch requirements. If a design appears to be a particular ‘yarn eater’ make allowances by adding 2 or 3 stitches extra per inch or knit your swatch using the proposed stitch design, making sure you work in the recommended multiples.

Crocheters have it easier, just measure your chain!

Tip: By NOT casting off the swatch, it can be easily unraveled to re-use in your blanket; Waste not, want not I say. However, when you are swatching for garments, I’d advise that you do cast off and wash the sample piece before measuring. (This knitting lark is a minefield I tell ya!)

And here so endeth Part 1 … 😀

Part 2 will explore and give examples of the best stitches to choose, the number of squares needed for each size if making a modular design and suggested colour combinations.

Any honest feedback on this new feature is extremely welcome … is it too long/wordy/vague … boring? Please do let me know what you think…

thank-you-smallpreview-f (1)

Happy Yarning.

2 thoughts on “Thursday’s Theme … (1)

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