So your best friend announces that she’s pregnant and you’re a knitter: you know you want to make her something for the baby, but what? There are lots of options – a layette, booties, hats, bibs, mitts, and more. My go-to is a baby blanket. Blankets are useful and have a long life; they aren’t knit in a size the baby will grow out of in 3-6 months. There’s the possibility that a blanket will become the baby’s favorite blanket or, even more endearing, their security blanket that they may very well keep close into their teenage years and beyond. I still have my favorite blanket and teddy bear and I’m in my forties!
Things you should take into consideration when choosing a pattern and making a baby blanket:
- Choose machine-washable yarn. Use a yarn that can be machine washed and dried, whether it’s cotton, linen, hemp, superwash wool, a manufactured fiber (acrylic, etc.), or a blend of these. No new parent has the time or inclination to hand wash a blanket after baby spits up on it for the umpteenth time. Some of those yarns, the natural fibers, will get softer with each wash and with use.
- Choose a fiber suited to the baby’s climate. I would choose a natural plant fiber yarn (cotton, linen, hemp) for babies living in warmer climates and a superwash wool for babies in colder climates. I’d also consider the thickness and warmth of the finished blanket fabric; thinner for warm climates, thicker for cold.
- Choose a neutral color unless the parents have a nursery theme or preferred colors. Choosing a pattern and yarn can be slightly more difficult if the parents don’t have a nursery theme or aren’t finding out or sharing the sex of the baby. However, there are plenty of gender-neutral patterns that could be made in neutral colors (I’m looking at you, green and yellow) or plain old neutral colors, like white or beige or gray. Neutral colors are a good choice as well if you’re unsure of the nursery’s color scheme or theme, if there is one (and there probably is if this is the first baby in the family).
- Choose a stitch pattern without dropped stitches or lace. Babies have tiny fingers that can get caught in eyelets/lace. Toddlers have not-so-small fingers, but they love to poke their fingers in things and pull them out of shape. One of my sons liked to wrap some of the yarn from his blanket fringe around his finger to the point that his daycare asked me to bring a different blanket in for nap time because they were concerned he’d cut off circulation to his finger for too long. Think twice about lace patterns or patterns with long floats, unless you’re planning to make a christening blanket or other blanket that will be used infrequently and stored as a family heirloom.
- Yes, gauge is important, especially since you’re working on a deadline. I once spent what ended up being 4 months laboring over a blanket I made with sock yarn on size 2 needles for my sister in-law. She appreciated the results and it was machine washable, but it was on the small side for a baby blanket and not in the best colors; she ended up not using it. I made a cabled blanket for a friend using worsted weight cotton on size 7 needles (pre-Ravelry; I don’t have details or pictures of it). As the date of her baby shower approached, I realized I wasn’t going to finish it in time. I wrapped it up, needles and all, and gave it to her anyway, taking it back to finish at the end of the party – not an ideal situation. So the moral of the story: pick a pattern, needle size, and yarn size that will allow to you complete the blanket in a reasonable amount of time and be honest with yourself about how much time you can comfortably spend working on it.
- Stripes look great but … that striped baby blanket looks and feels great until you weave in the ends and discover one edge of the blanket is a bit thicker than the other. My only solution to this problem is to cast on & knit lengthwise (instead of width-wise) and turn the yarn tails into fringe.
Even with all these constraints, baby blanket knitting has a lot of creative potential!