On baby blankets and shawls

I love lacy baby blankets. Mostly I think I just like knitting lace, because it’s interesting to knit, and it’s always a bit of a shock how nice it looks when it’s blocked. I’ve knitted a handful of lace shawls, but because I’m a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl, I don’t actually wear them, so they sit in a box, hopefully not getting eaten by moths, but definitely feeling like a waste of beautiful laceweight wool.

Baby blankets get used. They’re beautiful, but they’re also warm in those first few weeks when staying warm is essential. And if you have a handknit blanket in the maternity ward, at least a few of the zillion health care workers who drop in while you’re there will be knitters who will admire your work (or the work of whoever made you the blanket).

My problem here is that I used the most beautiful baby blanket pattern in the world to knit Tommy’s baby blanket: Honey Baby, by Anne Hanson. So now I’m spoiled. I spent hours on Ravelry searching for a pattern that would be good enough for Miso, to no avail.


Tommy's Green Honey.

And then it hit me: a blanket can be knit back and forth as a rectangle, but it can also be knit in the round as a square (this is how Honey Baby is constructed). And what is a square but two triangles with the hypotenuses together? In other words, two triangular shawls, knit back to back.

This allowed me to delve into my collection of favourite shawl patterns rather than hunting specifically for a blanket. There are so many more designers developing shawl patterns, so there’s just a lot more to choose from. I selected Damask, by Kitman Figueroa.


The corner of Miso's Double Damask


Juneberry Square in progress

And now, as part of my Year of the Baby suite of projects, I’m making another blanket (for my brother: you have to be family to get a project of this scale). It looks like it’s going to be a Juneberry Triangle, by Jared Flood. Or Juneberry Square, as it were.

Recipe for turning a triangular shawl into a square blanket

The following assumes that your shawl pattern is organised as: edge stitches, main section, centre stitch[1], main section, edge stitches. Usually pattern charts include only a single “main section”, which the written instructions will indicate should be repeated twice… You’ll be repeating this section 4x, with centre stitches in between.

I’ve included loose instructions for shawl patterns knitted from the centre out and outside in (way less common, but Damask is one of these). I’m sure you could adapt a sideways shawl, but it would be a whole other beast, and wouldn’t be knitted on the round.

  • Double the yarn requirement. Obviously.
  • Don’t forget you’re working in the round: if the pattern says purl the WS rows, you need to knit even numbered rounds, if it says to knit these, you need to purl.
  • You’ll need either DPNs or two circulars or else you’ll need to use magic loop when you’re working the centre of the blanket
  • You should place makers on either side of each centre stitch. The end of round marker should be to the right of (before) the first centre stitch.
  • If the shawl is knitted outwards:
    1. cast on 4 sts using circular cast on
    2. join in the round and k all sts
    3. (round 2) (k,yo) 4x (8 sts). I would use a single DPN until this point, now switching to two.
    4. (round 3) k all sts
    5. from round 4, you should be able to follow the pattern. Start on whichever row increases the sts for the main sections of the shawl from 1 to 3 (most shawls work this way: the first charted row involves (yo, k1, yo) on either side between the edge and centre stitches). I would switch to four DPNs at this point.
  • If the shawl is knitted from the edge inwards:
    1. cast on 4x (1+number of sts in one section)[1]. You might have to figure this out from the first chart, or do some arithmetic: e.g. if the shawl pattern calls for casting on 207 sts, and there are 3 edge sts on each side and a centre stitch, each section has 100 sts. You’ll need to cast on 404 sts.
    2. follow the pattern until you have 4 sts left (i.e. just the centre stitches) then finish by threading working yarn through all sts twice.

  1. If the shawl pattern has multiple centre stitches (a centre motif, rather than a single stitch) you can still accommodate this. You’ll need to modify the instructions for the first few rows, or work several rows of knit/yo combunations until you get 4x the stitches you need for the centre motif, plus an early row in the pattern. Or, if you’re working from the edge in, you’ll need to modify the calculation for how many stitches to cast on.

One thought on “On baby blankets and shawls

  1. Pingback: Scattered thoughts | boyknits

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