Knit and Crochet Blog Week 2012: Day 5

Here is my contribution to Day Five of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, organized by the adorable Eskimimi. Today’s theme is Something a Bit Different…

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In the process of making the various mitered square blankets that I’ve done — including Gina’s blanket mentioned here, and Gillian’s blanket here — I’ve had a lot of people ask me about how I’m seaming them. I decided to do a tutorial, which is only sort of new for me, but if you keep reading, you’ll find there’s a surprise near the end!

The first two mitered square afghans I made (or at least assembled) were collaborative projects, with people contributing from around the world. We were making a get-well blanket for Alison from Spindyeknit, who had (er, has) Crohn’s, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, and was fighting for her life. We ended up with so many squares that we ultimately made two afghans instead of the planned one!

Afghan 1 - joining complete!

Afghan for Alison -- joining in progress

As you can see from the photo, I used crochet  (half-double crochet, if I have my terminology down) to do the joining and achieve the stained-glass-leading effect. It worked well enough; it was a practical solution given that the participants in the project were so far-flung, and I couldn’t assume that everyone just had some black yarn on hand to edge their own squares. However, I didn’t love the ridge-y seams, standing up on the surface of the blanket. I wanted the black to ground the colours, not stand out from them.

Mitred squares

Mitered squares for Gillian's afghan

So, when I was making an afghan for myself (the one that ended up going to Gillian) I decided to try a different approach. For each square, I cast on and knit the first return row in black, and then switched to the main colour to knit the rest of the square.

Layout

Test layout for Gillian's afghan

This way, even before the seaming happened, the layout of the squares created their own borders.

I lay out the squares on the floor and mess around until I’m happy with the distribution of the colours (and, if multiple knitters are involved, I try to spread out the squares that are either a little too small or a little too big, so the overall grid of the blanket is balanced).

Early layouts

I did the layout for Gina's blanket a number of times, as I kept getting more and more squares...

Once I have a layout I like, I gather the squares in stacks, one per row, always maintaining the same order (right to left or left to right; it doesn’t matter as long as you’re consistent!)

Blanket seaming tutorial

Bundled squares

Seaming is then fairly simple. I get out all the locking stitch markers I can find (the safety pin ones like this) and pin together the first row of the layout.

Blanket seaming tutorial

Squares pinned out

Using a long length of black yarn, I do a modified mattress stitch to join one square to the next. (It’s essentially the vertical-to-horizontal variant described here, except working into garter stitch fabric instead of stockinette.)

Blanket seaming tutorial

I always try to catch at least two strands of yarn with each stitch, as I seam, which provides a much more stable seam than just catching one strand.

I use a separate length of yarn for each seam, and then leave it loosely tacked to the square so that I can use it to join on the next row — believe me, you want to minimize ends to weave in on this kind of project!

Blanket seaming tutorial

The long length of yarn looped through the fabric of the square, so it stays tangle-free

Here’s where the “Something Different” comes into this post. 

I made an animated gif, for the first time in my life. Sooper high-tech, no? (Okay, I know, they’ve been around for forever. But I never thought of using one for a tutorial!) I purposefully used the rather dark picture above, so that the instructions would stand out better.

Look, ma! It's an animation!

As you can see if you follow each set of coloured arrows, I work the seams diagonally, though I work a row at a time. If I were piecing a sewn quilt, I’d probably make long strips, and then seam them together strip by strip, but I don’t think that works especially well for the knitted squares. For one thing, they get stretched out more along the garter-stitch sides than along the cast-on sides, and they stretch more as you add more weight, so you’d be fighting that factor constantly.

That brings me to the edging. I much prefer crocheting on an edging to picking up and knitting more garter all the way around. I find the crochet does a great job of stabilizing things so that the garter sides don’t stretch unduly.

I used a few rounds of half-double crochet for this as well, which is a little more substantial than single crochet. (I don’t have a big repertoire of crochet stitches — I have a hard time even retaining this one from project to project — so there may be a better option out there, but this works fine for me.) The crochet wants to pull in a touch while you are working, but it’s important to work out your particular ratio of crochet stitches to garter rows/cast-on stitches so that you don’t end up with a puckered or ruffly edge.

Blocking, once you’re done, works wonders to even out the seams and the borders, and turns everything into one fluid piece of woolly fabricky goodness.

Uptownknitmob blanket for Gina

Blocked blanket with crocheted edging

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6 Comments

Filed under Knitting for Gifts, Tutorials

6 responses to “Knit and Crochet Blog Week 2012: Day 5

  1. dozenoaks

    Really great animation – very clear! If I ever get round to doing an afghan, I know what to do :)

  2. Pingback: Knit and Crochet Blog Week 2012: Day 5 – Highlights | AnnieBee Knits

  3. Aimee

    That is brilliant!!

    Thank you! I have avoided making any kind of “piece-y” blanket project because it alway stretches out in the seaming process, resulting in a shape that looks nothing like a square/rectangle.

    • Annie Bee

      If it helps, try to remember that seaming doesn’t have to be permanent. I’ve unpicked several seams when it has become clear that they weren’t turning out — and though that’s not the most enjoyable thing to do, the seams have always been infinitely better the second time around.

  4. Awesome, awesome, awesome! That is a great tutorial, and an excellent gif! :)