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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

5 Steps For Creating A Custom Crocheted Blanket

I love to crochet...I think it's the relaxing repetitive motion and the portability of the craft that make it so appealing. It's a project that is easy to pick up and work on whenever you have a spare moment. I've made a couple of knit projects in the past, but I just don't seem to have the same passion for knitting that I do for crochet.

Crochet and I have a bit of a history. My great-great aunt taught me how to crochet when I was young and my great-great uncle (her husband) whittled my first crochet hook by hand. With my aunt's instruction, I made a scarf out of a pastel variegated yarn. It took me several rows to get my gauge worked out (as evidenced by the dramatic tapering at the start!), but I still remember my enjoyment at watching the scarf grow as I hooked each row. To this day, there is still something magical to me about starting with simple yarn and ending with something so intricate and beautiful.

More recently, I've been hooked (pun intended) on making blankets. Rather than starting with a pattern, it can be a lot of fun to design your own. And, surprisingly, designing your own blanket is really not that difficult. The baby blanket pictured above is an original creation my mom made using this method.

Here are five simple steps for creating a custom crochet blanket:

1. Choose your color or color palette. Decide if you want your blanket to be a single color or striped with two or more colors. If you're unsure of what color(s) to choose, look for inspiration in your favorite clothing or home decor catalog. Catalogs are a good place to find out what colors are on trend.

2. Choose your yarn. As I'm sure you are aware, there are a plethora of different types of yarn. The options range from very simple to fluffy, glittery, textured, and beyond. Pick a yarn that appeals to both your eye and your hands...no one likes a scratchy blanket! Also, if you're a beginner, you will likely find that it is easier to work with a yarn that is not heavily textured or bumpy as those types of yarns can be a bit more difficult to use.

Another option is to choose a couple of yarns that can be crocheted simultaneously. Some of the thinner yarns with sparkle, fuzz, or fringe, can add a bit of excitement when crocheted together with a thicker yarn.

My mom used a bamboo yarn for her blanket. It's really soft and has a nice sheen to it. The only downside to this yarn is that it must be hand-washed. Make sure to pay attention to the care instructions when you're choosing your yarn. For certain projects it might be better to choose a yarn that can go in the washing machine.

3. Choose your stitch. For this step, I'd recommend that you find a book of crochet stitches that you like. My mom and I both have this book (pictured below) and have found it to be really helpful. It has great photographs and clear instructions. For each stitch pattern it tells you what multiple of stitches to use, so you can make your blanket any size you'd like as long as you start with the proper increment of stitches. Keep the type of yarn you are working with in mind as you choose your stitch. If you're using a frilly or textured yarn, you may want to pick a more simple stitch, as intricate stitch patterns will be hidden by the yarn's frill. If you're using a simple yarn, go ahead and pick a more intricate stitch. The simplicity of the yarn will showcase the details in your stitch pattern.

Another option is to choose more than one stitch and alternate them, doing sections of each for the body of the blanket. If you opt for this, just make sure that the stitch increment for the width of your blanket will work for both stitches you select.

4. Choose your hook size. The yarn you choose will likely come with a recommended hook size on the label. The size listed is a suggestion, not a hard and fast rule. If you'd like your blanket to have a looser, more open-weave effect, pick a hook that is one or two sizes larger than the label's suggestion. If you'd like your blanket to have a tighter, denser weave, choose a hook that is a size or two smaller.

5. Choose your border. One of the easiest ways to give your blanket a nice polished and finished look is to add a border. The border can be as simple as a couple rows of single crochet around the perimeter, or a little more complex like many of the options featured in this book (this book is great because it also includes instructions for how to crochet the borders around the corners of the blanket). I've found that borders can really help to square up the edges of a blanket. Some stitches that can be used for the body of the blanket result in edges that are a bit jagged and unfinished looking. By adding a simple border, you can easily hide those edges. My mom and I like to add a scalloped border. It's fairly easy and creates a very sweet, almost lace-like effect.

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