Friday, August 29, 2014

"We're Having a Baby!"

Baby blanket designing in process
Is there another phrase that instantly sets a knitter into motion like "We're having a baby!" from one of your friends? Or friend of a friend? Or family member of a friend of a friend? It's definitely a major trigger, along the lines of "This winter is going to be the coldest winter in living memory."

The last time I heard those four words, it was uttered by my parents in reference to their friends. (No, I don't have another little brother/sister on the way. One is more than enough and he's got two great kids of his own and I'm happy just to be Fun Uncle Steve.) So, of course, it sets off a series of questions I'm sure you're familiar with:
  • Boy or girl? -- Girl!
  • Traditional or non-traditional? -- Surprise me!
  • Fussy or easy going? -- Easy going!
  • Good friends or acquaintances? -- Great friends!
  • Pink, purple or yellow? -- All of the above. And gray! And lots of color! They're not afraid of color!
By the way, "not afraid of color" is another four-word-phrase I love to hear. I like to think I have pretty decent color sense, even if old pictures of me in seafoam green dress pants and bright pink button down shirt with yellow tie might tell you another story. I'd share those pictures but I'm not sure the pixels on your monitor are ready for that kind of horror.

So now I'm working on a baby blanket for a new little girl that won't arrive until December. That's plenty of time to finish a blanket for just about anyone, depending on how ambitious you want to be. I, maybe not smartly, want to be very ambitious.

So here's my design process for this blanket:
  • It's for a baby so I don't want a blanket that's heavy, rough, scratchy, difficult to wash.
  • Pick a yarn that feels nice to the touch, easy care and light.
  • Pick a pattern that's fun and interesting for me to knit.
  • Buy enough yarn for the pattern I have in mind.
  • Knit.
I start by looking through yarns and patterns on Ravelry, especially for baby blankets, to see what yarns other people are using and I also think back on yarns I've used before and I might enjoy again. Last winter, I taught a knitting class using SimpliWorsted by Hikoo and liked it a lot. I looked up it's smaller cousin, Simplicity, and decided that would the perfect yarn for this project. Time will tell.

In the project "brief," I was given the colors gray and pink as a jumping off point. I picked out a gray and a pink that I liked together and then, for fun and to flesh out the scheme, added two darker pinks, a lavender and, for a splash of color, a bright citronella.

For pattern ideas, I turned again to Ravelry and also Pinterest. Most of the baby blankets I came across, though pretty, relied on stripes for multiple colors and I'm not really into stripes right now. No stripes and no ripples and no chevrons. I broadened my search from baby blankets. For example, a blanket pattern might get some inspiration from quilt patterns. In fact, this current blanket takes a little inspiration from the modern quilt idea. One of my favorite quilt ideas is larger blocks of patterns stacked or in a line and put together in a random manner.

So now I have six colors and the idea to have blocks of pattern/color and a border around the whole blanket. Enter Barbara Walker and her stitch dictionaries, in particular, Volumes 1 and 2 (blue and red). I picked out quite a few different patterns, matched them together, fudged pattern repeats and lengths and finally settled on seven patterns:
Roxanna, the baby blanket
  • faux/mistake rib for border
  • slip stitch cable
  • slip stitch texture
  • knit/purl diamonds
  • knit/purl woven blocks
  • stockinette lace
  • knit/purl lace
Randomly assign colors to patterns, move patterns around, use Excel for pattern placement and now I have the basic framework of a baby blanket pattern, tentatively called "Roxanna" after the new baby's mother.

I'd like to invite anyone that wants to join to get in on the baby blanket knitting fun with me. I've already worked at putting a design together and I'll share it freely with anyone that comes to the website to get it. After we finish the knitting, and if we're happy with it, I'll put the pattern together and offer it for sale on Ravelry.

For this project, I'm using Size US 6/4mm needles and I purchased the following colors of Simplicity by Hikoo (it also helped that the yarn was on sale at FiberWild!):
  • four skeins Gun Metal Gray (#37)
  • two skeins Bubblegum (#21)
  • one skein Make Me Blush (#44)
  • one skein Framboise (#14)
  • one skein Lavender (#23)
  • one skein Citronella (#06)
I can't stress enough that I don't know for sure that this is enough yarn. I haven't done specific maths and I haven't knit the blanket all the way through yet. This is my jumping off point. If you're knitting along with me, I expect you to use your best judgment and, if you decide to buy more yarn and have too much, how awesome would a matching Baby Surprise Jacket be?!

In the next post, I'll discuss casting on and the border pattern. I'd love to know if you're knitting along with me. Let me know in the comments, on Ravelry or on Twitter.