Six years ago, my best friend Courtney told me she was going to have a baby. I could have handled the news better. I was worried about her, and I was pissed at my then-boyfriend, now-husband for not committing to me. My desire to start a family even back then was almost unbearable. Looking back I think I knew there was something physically wrong with me deep in the back part of my brain. I felt rushed to make things happen before it was too late.
Of course, I was almost immediately not proud of my reaction and knew that I needed to be a better friend. So I decided I was going to stop acting like a child, be a more supportive friend, and make something really special for the baby. I started making a quilt. I cross-stitched and patterned and embroidered and hand-quilted every inch of the thing. Cayden was born and I was still working on it. Cayden turned two years old and I was still working on it. Cayden went to kindergarten and I was still working it. It kind of became a bit of a family joke: the quilt that would never be finished. Finally, this past Christmas I sewed the last stitches. I wrote a little story about the history of the quilt and wrapped it up as Cayden’s present.
It’s a good thing that I finished it when I did because Courtney announced shortly before the holidays that she was pregnant with her second child. Maybe everything I’ve been through over the last five years has tempered me, because this time I was able to react the way I should have the first time. I was genuinely happy for her, and I think I was able to communicate that. But then I had a dilemma – because there was no way I was making another quilt. Still, I wanted to do something special for this baby too.
I had recently started knitting (never anything more complicated than a scarf), and my mother-in-law had gotten me a really great instruction book called 200 Knitting Tips, Techniques, & Trade Secrets. I flipped through the book and saw these cute little squares and thought, How hard can that be? It seems that I have a knack for over-complicating projects. Also, I tend not to worry about not being capable or having the skills to do the project. It’s just like, “That’s cool. I think I’ll do that now.” Hence, the five year quilt project.
I went to my local craft store and found this really great yarn. It’s called Simply Soft and it’s produced by Caron International Yarns. It’s washer and dryer friendly and lives up to its name. It’s perfect for a baby blanket. I decided to mirror the colors I had used for Cayden’s quilt. I bought two Off White, two Watermelon, and two Soft Pink colored balls. Then I went to my mother-in-law’s and spent an evening learning how to knit the squares.
The instructions read:
Cast on 8 sts and arrange 2 sts on each of 4 needles from a set of five.
Round 1: k through back loops
Round 2: on each needle: k1, m1, k1. 12 sts.
Round 3: k
Round 4: on each needle: k1, m1, k1, m1, k1. 20 sts.
Round 5: k
Round 6: on each needle: k1, m1, k to last st, m1, k1. 28 sts. Repeat rounds 5 and 6 to size required. 8 sts are increased on every alternate round.
This basically means that you’re using five open ended needles – four to hold the loops and one loose to knit onto. You knit in a circle. I used a little green plastic safety pin as a marker so I didn’t lose track of which side I started on, since once you get going it’s easy to lose track of where you are. Also, I found it easier to start on two needles. When I had added enough loops that it was clear which way the needles should be pointing, I transferred half the loops to two more needles, effectively making a square. When you’re just starting and there aren’t a lot of loops yet, it’s really easy to get your needles twisted around and pointed in the wrong direction. This leave the center looking not quite right.
Once I was done making thirty-five squares, alternating between Soft Pink and Off White, I had to figure out how to join them together. So back to my mother-in-law’s I went and she taught me how to crochet, which was something I had never done before either. We decided on a double-crochet around the edges (we went through both the front and the back edge loops for a smoother look). At each corner I added two single-crochets to make it look more square. I went around each knitted piece twice. They ended up looking like this:
Once all of the squares were crocheted around the edges I started piecing them together. I did a double-crochet along the vertical edges to piece five together. Crocheting them this way gave a nice textured ridge and structure to the piece.
I did that for all seven lines, and then did one single horizontal double-crochet the same way, piecing my seven lines of five together. This was a little challenging because even though they all should have been the same – they weren’t. I chalk this up to the fact that my tension changed as I got more experienced with the five needle knitting technique and also that I may have added the two single-crochets at the corners in slightly different places. Still I was able to make it work and got things to line up enough that I could fudge the rest.
Once it was all put together I went around the entire blanket with a double-crochet twice and then did a final round of scalloping. Scalloping was probably my favorite part of the entire project. All I did was double-crochet to the blanket, single-crochet a chain of five, and double-crochet back to the blanket – skipping two loops in between to provide spacing. The final edging looks like this:
Then came the onerous task of cleaning up the back. Each square had a beginning and ending thread for the knitted part, and a beginning and ending thread for the crocheting around the edges. That’s four threads for thirty-five squares. That’s a total of one hundred and forty strings. Then there were two threads for each of the five vertical pieces that were put together. That’s eight threads per vertical line. Then there were seven vertical lines so that’s a total of fifty-six loose threads. And then there were two loose threads for each horizontal double-crochet. That’s a total of twelve threads for the horizontal bits. Finally, there was a beginning and ending thread for the edging. That means I had to weave and hide a total of 210 loose threads. Here’s what the back looked like when I was a little more than halfway done:
Two days before Chloe’s birth I finished the blanket! I was very pleased with my timing. This may be the first project I have ever started and finished on time. I put it in the washer and the dryer just to make sure it would hold up. I’ve heard that washing and drying projects also helps the fibers stick together so nothing comes unraveled. So here’s the final product, which I took to the hospital with me for my first visit with the baby:
Chloe is beautiful. She looks very much like Cayden did when she was first born. I’m so happy for Courtney, Bob, and Cayden. And to top it off, this project was a lot of fun and I learned several new techniques that I can apply to my next project.
Happy knitting and crocheting!