I tried to adapt existing patterns to no avail, even cast on a hat pattern, but found it was so poorly written that it wasn't worth following. I ripped back & wrote my own version of it, that wasn't nearly as confusing. That will be coming to the blog & Ravelry soon as a free pattern.
After hours of searching, I sighed and thought, 'This is ridiculous. I'll just design something and be done with it.'
Famous last words.
|At least he likes it!|
It all looks so cute & cuddly & easy like Sunday morning there. But how we got there is a much longer story...
First consideration - I want to make a baby blanket. With more than one color.
I didn't want to sew fabric onto the back, for fear it won't wash/wear like the knitting & pucker. Also, I didn't own a sewing machine at the time. The machine I had access to was a bit fussy & wasn't maintaining its tension properly. After the daydream-turned-nightmare of knitting the whole thing twice because the sewing machine ate my knitting, I shelved that idea.
Also, I didn't want to have floats, even small ones, on the back of the blanket. Babies have small fingers and they like to grab ahold of things & pull/squeeze them. Not really conducive to colorwork. Add that to the fact that I've never done intarsia successfully and that idea was also out.
Solution: Double Knitting.
I'd never done any double knitting, but I'd seen it, seen the process and after about 30 minutes of watching various YouTube videos, I felt confident I could do it. Also, I'd been wanting to knit this cowl for ages. Knit the cowl as a practice garment to learn the theory*, design the charts, knit the blanket before the baby gets here in roughly two & a half months. Doable, right? I've knit a sweater in a month. It's just a baby blanket.
Second consideration - Making circles is hard with knit stitches.
Baby lives in Atlanta, A.K.A. "Hot-lanta", so worsted weight wool is out, especially a double layer. Cascade 220 Sport was the winner, meeting all the necessary criteria: affordable, accessible, washable, workhorse yarn available in a crazy number of colors.
Chartminder.com is awesome. I spent a few weeks designing charts based on the ball band gauge, enough to get an idea of how much yarn I would need. I tried all my LYS options - no 220 Sport. The interwebs and a few back-to-school sales took care of that.
|Custom handknit baby blanket - some assembly required|
Note - this is WAY more yarn than is actually needed to knit this blanket. Oops!
Yarn in hand, my first task was to swatch in double knitting. I tried the recommended needle size, a US 5-3.75mm, and then went down, down, down. The closest I came to the recommended gauge was with a US 1-2.25mm needle. And that wasn't making the row gauge. When I put my actual gauge into ChartMinder.com, all my circles & shapes were wonky.
Back to the drawing board, I re-designed all my blanket squares for my real gauge and resigned myself to knitting an entire blanket in sport weight yarn, on SOCK needles. (The upside here is that the ratio of my sport-weight squares is the same as common 18.5/4" for worsted, so these designs will do double duty. Silver lining?)
I told myself I could do it before baby arrived. I had 2 and a half months.
Did I mention sport weight yarn on US 1-2.25mm needles?
Yeah. That combo + tendonitis = lots of breaks between squares, sometimes breaks of a few days or weeks at a time while I worked on other things, giving my hands & brain a rest.
|Ellie was tired of sharing me with my knitting.|
Then the baby was born. I told myself, have it done by Thanksgiving, when my in-laws were headed south to meet the baby. I certainly wasn't going to mail this & risk it getting lost in transit!
The closer it got to Thanksgiving, the more I acknowledged that this was a slim possibility. So then I told myself if the blanket was already going to be late, I at least wanted to be there when SIL & BIL opened it, so I could see their reactions.
I finished the knitting on 12/15 and blocked it on Christmas Eve. Nearly 2100 yards of sport weight yarn on 2.25mm needles. 4 and a half months. 25 blanket squares plus crocheting for seaming.
|Why yes, butterscotch 'beer' does help with finishing hand knits (it's non-alcoholic)|
I must admit, it was pretty cool seeing them open it. My BIL & SIL are very knit-worthy people: by knit-worthy, I mean they are good people who appreciate the time and effort that goes into something handmade & show you that. The look on my BIL's face was awesome - literally, he was in awe. They were both so appreciative, which truly is the best part of any gift knit!
|copyright Donita Westman 2014|
Bonus - once I started posting teaser photos on Twitter & Instagram (@inagaddadonita), my SIL told me that they bought crib sheets to match the colors in the pictures so the blanket would match his crib.
*Irony - I still haven't finished the cowl...