Saturday, January 25, 2014

Crochet baby blanket

The Beautiful Baby Blanket by Bernat Design Studio is the most complex crochet project I've ever attempted, mainly because it is a mixture of different stitches rather than DC across the round.  Not to mention that it requires some back and forth.  I'm just much more comfortable crocheting in the round!  

I decided to swatch this piece on my size G crochet hook (4.0 mm) to determine whether I liked the pattern AND to determine the sizing.  Another Raveler determined that Foundation chain length: L = 11 + 8n where n = number of pattern repeats.   For my swatch I chained 27 stitches (so 2 repeats plus the edges.)   The first row of the swatch had one extra CH at the end, but this was easy enough to unravel.   But I had an extra stitch, looks to me more like 10+ 8n....

It wasn't clear to me if this is a pattern of 2 rows of directions since the directions seem to imply that you repeat the second row all the way through...  After starting the swatch, I can see how Row 1 is a set up round and Row 2 is what you do going forward.  Reading directions is important!    Looks like the very last row is to make the bottom edge scalloped like the top edge.  Very nice.  

I learned from the swatch that I want the foundation chain to be really loose so that there is some stretch preserved at the edge.  The swatch of 2 repeats + edge = 5 inches.  Two repeats measures ~ 3.5"  This would put me on par for a ~36" wide blanket if I followed the directions exactly.  I'm planning on crocheting until I run out of yarn.  but I don't want the blanket to be too misshapen...  In the end I decided to follow the pattern as written.  If I only end up with 10" of depth (I should end up with more) it will be fine, or if it is longer than it is wide, that will also be fine. 

Sherry gave me 3 balls of the Pingouin Pingorex Baby yarn (50 g each) last Christmas.  I know she selected the yarn because of the Pingouin brand (we love penguins!) but it turned out to be great since we are having a baby boy.  The color is Guimauve 610002 (0311).  The yarn is 100% acrylic but is super soft... but unfortunately it squeaks A LOT.  

The first few rows of the blanket
Yardage Notes - I intend to crochet until I run out of yarn to make this baby blanket as big as possible.  However, I need to make sure I will have enough yarn left over for one row on the starting edge.  Therefore, I will keep some yarn weight notes to get a sense of how much I will want to have left over.
  • Ball 1 - 53 g
  • After 4 completed rows, 39 g remain.  The piece measures about 2" thick.  
  • After 5 complete rows, 36 g remain.  
  • After 7 rows complete, 30 g remain.  ~3.5" long. I really hope that the blanket will be at least 24" long.  
  • After 9 rows, 22 g remain.  I'm starting to wish that I had "cast on" fewer stitches so it would be less wide.  Right now I think that the end should be 21-24x36, which is a little narrow.  I will try to steam block the acrylic to get some more length out of it.  
  • After 11 rows, 15 g remain.  5.5" unblocked, 6.5 blocked (not the most aggressive... but reasonable puling.)  
  • After 13 rows, 8 g remain.  
  • After 14 rows, 5g remain.  7" unblocked, >9" blocked.  This shawl/blanket seems to be 33" wide when I've "blocked" height wise it a bit (but the width may expand when I block it for real).  It looks like my rectangle isn't going to be SO warped.  
  • After 15 rows, 1 g remain.  The edge can block to ~10 inches when pulled taught, the interior could block further.  
  • Ball 2 - 51 g, started part way into row 16.  
  • After 19 rows, 38 g remain. 9" unblocked, 13" blocked.  
  • After 22 rows, 28 g remain.  
  • After 23 rows, 25 g remain. This is likely the half way point.  Theoretically this could be blocked to 16" wide, which means that I have a shot of getting the blanket to 36" x 32", not bad dimensions at all!  Alternatively I will look for some pale blue fingering weight acrylic yarn to use for edging on either size to expand it a bit.  (I'd prefer to not need to do this.)    Unblocked it measures 11"
  • After 28 rows, 8 g remain.  Can be blocked to 20"
  • After 29 rows, 4 g remain.  
  • Ball 3 - 52 g, started near the beginning of row 31.  
  • After 35 rows, 35 g remain.  Can be blocked to 26"
  • After 39 rows, 22 g remain.  
  • After 42 rows, 12 g remain. 
  • After 43 rows, 8 g remain.  This is likely the second to last row before I do the one row border at the bottom!  
  • After 44 rows, 4 g remain.  Time to cut the yarn and crochet the last row on the foundation chain edge.  I really hope that I have enough yarn to make it across that whole row, especially since my rows have been averaging 3-4 g.  
  • Row 45:  It was hard to remember what the RS of the blanket is since it is technically reversible.  The corner of the blanket with the  yarn end was the beginning of the foundation chain.  If that piece of yarn is in the bottom - left corner then I am looking at the RS of the fabric.  That corner is where I will connect the yarn for row #45.  (After the fact, I noticed that it said to join with sl-stitch to the first ch of the foundation chain... this is what I get for not reading directions carefully enough!)
    It looks like each stitch is being worked into the same chain that row 1 was worked.  This looks a little strange to me, but I am going to go with it.   
I HAD ENOUGH YARN TO FINISH!   1 g remains.  

This project took me a lot longer than it should have.  If I had only been working on this project, I think I could have completed it in just over a week.  However, the fish blanket and some other small projects took precedence.  Additionally, I was working on this blanket during the summer, and the acrylic yarn would squeak and stick to my hook if it was too hot/humid.  Those times made it not too fun to crochet.  As soon as the fish blanket was completed, I knew that I wanted to wrap this one up quickly.  (Actually, this one was technically completed first because I was waiting for the edging yarn to arrive for the fish blanket!)  

Blocking - Normally I wet block my projects, but acrylic is a special case and cannot be wet blocked.  I decided to try to block this by "killing" the acylic fibers with steam.  One benefit of blocking acrylic is that these changes are permanent, and should stay through even washing!  I wove in all loose ends before pinning out the blanket.

Boy, it is hard work keeping the iron above the work without letting it touch!  Not to mention sweaty work because of all of the steam.  I emptied the steam compartment of my iron on the lacy baby shawl.  It definitely feels like there is a lot less tension on the blocking wires. I think that I will do a second pass after the iron cools completely and I can add more water.   The second pass may be less effective because there is some water on the fiber left from the first pass which is cool to the touch, this may make it harder for heat to penetrate the fibers.  I'm still happy that I did a second pass, even if it wasn't necessary.  I feel confident that I covered the entire blanket with steam, and am happy that the fibers still feel really good to the touch.  
I know that wet blocking doesn't help with acrylic, but I want to wait for the blanket to dry completely before unpinning it.

Measurement Before Blocking - 22" x 36"
Measurement Pinned - 33" x 38.5"
Measurement After Blocking/unpinning - 32" long x 39" wide

The blocking worked!  When I removed the blocking wires there was no bounce back, and the stitches held their beautiful open pattern.  The pattern was beautiful unblocked, but I am glad that I was able to coax it into better blanket dimensions!