Still playing catch-up with the contents of my knitting basket, I finally finished and blocked the baby blanket started back in August, for the current afghans For Afghans baby-blanket drive.
In spite of the many weeks that have passed since I cast on, this was actually a very fast project, with the actual knitting taking barely more than a week. My simple trick was to knit a (mostly) stockinette blanket in the round, then steek it and knit facings for the two long edges. I took a few photos in the process in order to share the very simple method with other knitters on the lookout for satisfying, fast, stash-busting projects, and especially for those who like to contribute knitted goods to the charity of their choice.
I started with 5 skeins of mohair, Laines du Nord Kiddy Print, in a variegated blue colorway. On its own the mohair was a tad scratchy and I didn't have enough for a blanket anyway, but the stash drawers of blue yarns were overflowing with single skeins of fingering-weight wools ranging from periwinkle to sky blue. I even added a tiny bit of off-white to the mix, to suggest a hint of clouds in my sky-colored rectangle.
A swatch in stockinette gave me the basic gauge, so I cast on about 100 stitches to yield a blanket that would be 40" wide, plus 10 stitches for the center area where steeking would take place later. I placed a marker at the end of the round to mark that center point. This is where I changed colors of fingering-weight wools every two or three rows. The mohair was used throughout. Since I was going to steek, the color jog didn't matter and I didn't bother with weaving ends of joining them, either.
This is what the inside of my knitted tube looked like.
Two years ago, I had knitted a long shawl this way, and that first steeked project had taught me that stockinette knitted in the round wants to curl even more than stockinette knitted flat. It had taken two rows of single crochet to tame that very stubborn roll. This time, I started my tube with about two inches of seed stiches and ended it the same way.
Combining the two strands, I knitted my cylinder with a large #9 circular needle, which meant the blanket grew at a very steady rate, consuming several small skeins of fingering-weight wool at a satsifying clip. I was pleased at how the mohair softened and yet the blanket remained light and lofty.
Before subjecting the finished tube to my sharp scissors, I basted a cutting line in red yarn, smack in the heart of those center stitches.
This step took very little time but garanteed there would be no accident. Then I dusted off my sewing machine; the key here is to work slowly. This is no pedal-to-the-metal sewing, obviously; my machine has a dial on the side that allows me to modify the setting of the pressure-foot. I rarely touch it when sewing regular fabrics, but for something this bulky, it is very useful. One can also use needles designed for knit fabrics but I forgot to do this. Really, all that matters is to take one's time.
You can see the navy thread of the machine-made stitches on either side of the red basting line. In some cases, it is a good idea to sew two lines of stitches on each side of the red line, but mohair is such a secure, sticky yarn that I didn't bother. It was time to cut, a task I always find immensely exciting.
After cutting, the blanket opened up, and the edges looked like this -- a mess of blue, wooly spaghetti. I trimmed them to about 1/2 inch or less, then picked up stitches on the cut ends, using a ratio of 4 stitches for 5 rows, knitting a few rows of seed stitch.
By then I was on my last skein of mohair, so I had to limit myself to a skimpy border, not as wide as I would have liked. After about 4 rows of seed stitch, I knitted one purl row and went on in stockinette. (You can see the thin edging on the photo at the top of this post. Hard to believe there are four rows of seed stitch there. Darn yarn shortage!)
The purl row served as a fold line between the seed stitch edging and the stockinette facing. The facing had to be wide enough to cover all those wild yarn ends. I don't know why it didn't occur to me to keep it in seed stitch. Somehow I thought of facings as always knitted in stockinette, for no good reason, really.
It took very little time to tack on the facings on the inside of the blanket, using one of the thin wools as thread. This was a learn-as-you-go project, and in the future I would probably knit facings for all sides of the blanket to end with a more polished result even though the top and bottom edges don't have any ends to camouflage.
For those who are nervous about steeking and cutting their knitting, don't be. Try it first on a project like this one, where no armhole or neck-shaping is called for. At this point I feel ready for the real thing; several bloggers have done an excellent job of virtually holding your hand through the whole process, most recently the very talented Elinor. She even demonstrates the crochet-steek version for those who lack access to a sewing-machine. Check it out.