There is something about a baby blanket that connotes images of newborns sleeping peacefully, cozy and content, tiny hands curled into balls, smiles creeping on their dreaming lips. Never do I see a little blanket and reminisce of sleepless nights, ever-hungry bellies, and childbirth (or in my case C-Section) recoveries. Maybe that is why, dangerously, when I make a baby blanket for the King Soleil shop, I think, well, maybe just ONE more baby would be nice.
And then I look up and see my 3 year old sprinting around the house singing at the top of her lungs Cinderella’s “A Dream is a Wish your Heart Makes” which not quite overpowers my 1 year old’s screams because I will not read “Brown Bear Brown Bear” for the fiftieth time this hour. And all the while I try to shove yogurt in his mouth because he hasn’t eaten yet today and I figure I misewell take advantage of his open mouth.
Well, I can always make blankets for other people’s precious babies. And I do. And I love it. For a long time I was only crocheting security blankets and stroller blankets, and while I still do this, I have finally found a way to upcycle a baby blanket using adult sweaters. Children’s sweaters just aren’t quite big enough to achieve the security blanket size I love.
Security blankets, or lovey blankets as I like to call them, are great for gifts, portability and storing. If your child is going to fall in love with something and require its presence everywhere he or she goes, better it be a security blanket than your king size down blanket. As an heirloom, storing your lovey blanket for your future children is convientant and compact.
So down to brass tacks, as they say. How do you make one of these blankets? Easy Peasy. First you need an adult size sweater. Quite obviously, the bigger the sweater, the bigger the blanket. A bit like Goldilocks, look for one that’s ‘just right’. A men’s XXL will be shapeless, while a mid-drift baring skin tight woman’s sweater will be much too itsy-bitsy. Look for turtlenecks. You will be sewing the front and back of the sweater together, so you lose a lot of valuable material with deep V-necks. For the blanket, it doesn’t matter whether the sweater is long or short sleeved. However, I like long sleeves because I make fingerless gloves from them (another post coming soon). Think of yourself as a Cheyenne, using every single part of that buffalo you just hunted, making sure to waste as little as possible. Minimal sweater scraps equals successful upcycling.
As important as size is material and quality of material. My favorite is cashmere (whose isn’t?), but fine merino wool, and high quality wool blends work great. For a spring or summer blanket, look for cotton (pima cotton is even better). Avoid beading, buttons, or other embellishments, as these could cause chocking hazards. Prints, on the other hand, are super cute. I currently have an argyle blanket in the making and I love it. Moth holes, armpit stains (ew), pulls, coffee stains, etc. do not make a pretty, heirloom quality baby blanket.
Note: make sure you know how to care for the fabric you are using. Some are machine washable, some are not. No one wants one million little fluff balls on their once gorgeous cashmere from incorrect washing and drying. And remember, this blanket is for babies, not baby dolls. If used properly, there will be all sorts of icky baby things that soil the blanket. If you know you never hand wash anything, don’t use fine merino wool. I know I will never dry clean anything, but I hand wash a lot. If you have lingerie or other delicates that require hand washing, you can add your baby items to that and there you go!
Once you have your sweater, cut the sleeves from the armpit straight up. It is ok if you leave the usually curved sleeve seam, as this adds to the ‘upcycled sweater’ vibe of the blanket. With a shallow v-neck or crew neck, cut straight across the top of the sweater, below the neck, leaving yourself a two sided basic square or rectangle. Try to cut as close to the neck as possible. With a turtleneck, cut off the neck so that the h*** is flush with the shoulders. Put the sleeves aside for another project another day.
Now for the sewing. This is the trickiest part and where you go from here depends on your fabric. If your chosen sweater is a thick cable knit, for example, you might need to machine sew the edges to prevent further unravelling and then hand sew. If you have a thin enough fabric for a sewing machine, I recommend using one.
Flip your sweater inside out. You should have two sides mostly sewn together, an open bottom, and an either open top or h*** where the turtleneck once was. The sides of the sweater might be shaped, as most women’s sweaters are, flaring at the hip and bust. If this is the case, take some pins and make a straight line from the smallest part (usually the waist) from shoulder to bottom on both sides of the sweater. Whether your sweater is fitted or not, use pins to make a straight line from the shoulder down to the bottom, on both sides of the sweater, on the inside of the arm holes. Sew along the pins. You now have a square or rectangle with straight sides and no arm holes.
Keeping the sweater inside out, sew along the top from edge to edge, (whether it is completely open or just a turtleneck h***) closing the neck side with a straight line. Cut away any extra fabric from your new seams. Flip the sweater right side out. You now should have a two sided square or rectangle with an open bottom. With your finger, push the upper corners out. Note: you don’t necessarily have to square off the top of your sweater blanket. You can also round the edges to keep a more ‘sweater’ feel to your blanket, like my sweat pea blanket.
Now is the uber fun part of embellishing your blanket. Although if using a patterned sweater you might want to skip this. Like the time-old accessory rule, after you have planned out your accessories, take one away. Don’t make the blanket too busy. Think of one theme, size it correctly for the small blanket (and person!) making sure not to add any chocking hazards like buttons, or ribbons that could unravel. If you are not sure what could be a chocking hazard, go without. When it comes to babies, they will find any possible way to make something dangerous.
My favorite decoration is to embroider. Possibilities are limitless with design, color, words, and shapes. You could even put the little one’s name or birthday, although I would only go this route if he or she is already born and with gender observed with one’s own eyes. Babies almost never come on their assigned birthday (even C-Section babies as I found out) and sometimes are not even the gender you were told they ‘most probably are’. (Who would have thunk?) If you are going to embroider, get your hoop, needle, and floss, and through the opening in the bottom, stitch away.
And now for the trim. There are many ways to trim out the blanket but my favorite is to crochet trim separately and then hand sew it on. If you do not crochet, you can knit (although I am a knitting novice and cannot give you a pattern), or hand sew a blanket stitch. If you neither crochet nor knit, you can buy trim and hand sew it on. OR if you do not crochet, or knit, or want to buy trim, or simply would rather go without the trim, you can sew the bottom closed and you are done! However, I find that seams on these blankets can be a bit wonky and I like me some nice trim.
To do the crochet shell stitch trim you see on my blankets, here is the pattern:
Make a chain as long as all four sides of your blanket. Example, if your blanket is 15 inches square, make a chain that is (15 x 4) 60 inches long. This seems ridiculously long, I know, but bear with me. I usually chain a couple extra chains just in case. It is much easier to work with trim that is a bit too long rather than a bit too short. You want your chain in multiples of 6, with an extra couple stitches to sew at the end. The specific number of chains doesn’t need to be perfect, as you will have some leeway at the end when sewing, but make sure it is long enough.
In the second chain from the hook, single crochet. Skip two stitches, and in the next stitch (the third from your single crochet) double crochet 5 times in the same stitch. This creates your first ‘shell’. Skip two stitches and single crochet. Skip the next two stitches and make 5 double crochets in the same stitch. Following? It’s that simple. Keep making shells and single crochets separated by 2 skipped stitches until the end. Cut yarn and pull the tail through your stitch to secure.
In crochet language: Ch your desired length. Sc in 2nd ch from hook, *sk 2 sts, 5dc, sk 2 sts, sc* Repeat until end. Pull tail through stitch to fasten.
Now you have your blanket and this super long trim. If you bought trim, you are now at this step. Take the same color yarn as your trim and sew the beginning of your trim in the upper right corner. Keep the trim centered on your seam and insert your tapestry needle (or embroidery needle dependant on the thickness of your yarn and fabric) about 1/4 inch from the trim and begin to sew your trim on a slight diagonal around the sides of the blanket. I pin the trim to the four corners to keep it even and to make sure I don’t run short. When you come to the bottom, pin it closed if it’s easier, and continue sewing the trim. As you sew the trim to the blanket, you will also sew the bottom sides shut. Two steps in one? Yes, it’s true.
Continue sewing around the blanket until you get back to the upper right corner. When you reach the beginning of the trim, place your last couple chains behind your first shell and sew together. Then reinforce by sewing the trim to the blanket through both the beginning and ending stitches of trim. And Voila! You have made a beautiful baby lovey blanket using upcycled sweaters, a little yarn, thread, and imagination. Friendly to your baby AND the earth! Yeah for you!
You can shop for these blankets and more www.etsy.com/shop/kingsoleil