Oh, how I can feel the eyes rolling as I type. Yes, I’m going to make you do a gauge swatch. But – go ahead and breathe a sigh of relief – if you like it, this will be the first block in your new blankie.
Before we start knitting, you have to pick out some yarn. The beauty of this blankie is that you can really use any yarn you want that you think is appropriate for a blanket. Fingering weight sock yarn is actually a little bit insane. A much more rational choice would be a nice worsted-weight that would knit up much more quickly, but the choice is yours (and mine!) The only thing I have to suggest is that you use all one weight of yarn within a reasonable window (as in, Regia sock yarn is a little thicker than Opal, but we can handle that level of difference.)
You’ll need a couple of needles as well. I picked US size 1, or 2.5 mm needles, but I knit quite loosely so go with what ever size needles you would normally knit the yarn or your choice with. Remember, this is a gauge swatch, so if the fabric looks too loose or too sturdy knit up, you can knit another with bigger or smaller needles. I’m using rather short double-points because that is what was convenient in my stash. Double-points are not necessary – you could use circulars or straights if you wanted to. I like the dpns because they don’t stick way out like straights would, and we’re not working on that many stitches at any given time.
For my square, I cast on 31 stitches and I used a provisional cast-on. You can use any odd number of stitches greater than 3 depending on the size of square that you want, but start with 15 for your gauge swatch and go up or down from there if you like. I call the version of provisional cast-on that I use the “itsy bitsy spider” because that’s what Jean, who taught it to me, calls it. There is a very nice tutorial on Knitty showing how to do it. Any provisional cast-on you care to use will work here, and the reason I’m using one is so that I can go back and do an applied I-cord bind-off for trim later. If you want to keep it more simple, you may use whatever favorite cast-on you normally use, just keep it loose, and you’ll be able to skip the I-cord step at the end of the project. Here’s a picture of my square after I cast on the stitches and knit one row plain:
For the next row, and all following rows, we’re going to slip the first stitch as if to purl with the yarn in front, and when we get to the last stitch in the row, we’re going to knit it through the back loop. This will produce an edging that looks like a smooth, untwisted chain, and make picking up stitches easier when it’s time to do the next row of blocks.
We’re also going to start decreasing our stitches two at a time right in the middle of the row – but only on right-side rows. So, slip that first stitch, knit 13 more, then slip two more stitches as if to knit at the same time. Then knit the next stitch and pass the two slipped stitches back over that newly knit stitch, just as you would in a simple bind-off. This produces a double-decrease that is nicely centered and leaves the center stitch showing in the front. I learned this technique from Meg Swansen at her camp, and she describes it nicely in her books as well. You could probably find it somewhere on the internet, too, but it is 1:30 in the morning and I’m tired. Okay, so after your decrease, continue across the row knitting plain, then remember to knit into the back of that last stitch.
Now knit a row just like the one above but without the decrease.
Now knit a row just like the decrease row, but you’ll only knit 12 plain before the decrease.
Keep doing this, subtracting one stitch before the decrease on each decrease row. Pretty soon it will look something like this:
If you keep going till you run out of stitches, you will be doing just the decrease step on that last row, then you can break the yarn and pull the last loop bigger and bigger till the tail pops through. You should now have a square that looks something like this:
My square is about 3 inches or 8 cm across diagonally, but yours can be whatever size you have and it will work out just fine, I promise! Also, because we might need this information later when we go to figure out just exactly how much yarn our blanket is going to take (something I should have done before I started, but I didn’t because I figured I could just beg the Internet for more), I weighed my little swatch. I have a postage scale at home for just this type of circumstance, and it is accurate to a tenth of an ounce. It barely registered one tenth of an ounce, and that is after I breathed heavy on it, including the tails hanging off. That translates to…give me a second….somewhere around 2.8 grams. Let’s be super generous and say 3 grams. See? I told you it didn’t take much for a square! Remember, if you’re using a different yarn or a different number of stitches, of course you’re going to get a different weight at this juncture. Actually, even with the same materials I used, most knitters would get slightly different results if they had a scale that was more accurate than mine. But let’s not be too nit-picky here.
Whoo! That was a bit long-winded, but I’m trying not to assume any skills. That said, no question is a dumb question unless left unasked, so ask away and I’ll do a FAQ tomorrow. Just don’t get ahead of this part. There will be more instructions on the many other steps when I am less tired – I’m running out of hours before the kids get up, and unlike Stephanie and the many other knitters out there in blog-land who frequent the coffee shops, I am non-caffeinated, at least while nursing, so I need my sleep. If you’re really gung-ho and want to start churning out a blanket, you have my permission to make a whole little pile of these swatches. Just make sure you stop when you have enough that when you lay them all point to point in a row they are the length that you want your blanket to be wide. Or, just knit two of these squares and we’ll hook them together with a third one tomorrow.
I’m going to leave you with a rather scary picture of me holding Sophie while wearing my bed-time attire – my contacts are out, the nerdy glasses are on, I’ve got my hair pulled back, no bra, and a slobber stain on my crappy old t-shirt where Sophie has been licking me. Also, I’ve got a nice set of bruises on the flabby back of my arm where Sophie has been habitually pinching me as she nurses. Yeouch! Sorry for the personal stuff for you non-mommy knitters, but this is as much a mommy blog as it is a knitting one. You’ll just have to suffer through it.