You will have instructions from Pistey about wool colours and some suggested shops to buy from - personally I buy mine from McA Direct, many use Cucumber Patch, Fingers and Thumbs and Deramores. There is also an eBay Shop. Warning: Hobbycraft do not generally stock the required yarns but John Lewis do. It's not the cheapest, but if you like to look/feel before you buy, it's the easiest!
NB we have two new kids yarns on the block now, alongside the old standbys of Rowan and Debbie Bliss. Black Sheep Wools very kindly donated to the last project and stock the Sublime, which is one of the new yarns.
You will get at least two squares from a ball, and we need plain squares as much as fancy. So please feel free to knit a garter/stocking/moss one to see how it goes before embarking on a complicated design, they will both be appreciated and used.
Each blanket will have its own thread on Mumsnet and in general where two are being worked on simultaneously we run a support thread as well. These will all be in the Arts & Crafts topic on MN. Help is also available via PM, on Facebook and right here!
The question of how many stitches to cast on comes down to the question of gauge; how tight or loose your knitting is with the yarn in question. Best way is to knit a sample (or a plain square); just measuring how wide it is once you've cast on won't be a very reliable measure because it stretches out once you start knitting. Equally, if it's already more than 6" wide you're on a hiding to nothing. For most people, on 4mm needles, 33-ish stitches and about 45-ish rows should give you a 6" x 6" square but don't do a whole one if you're not sure or a slow knitter, as it's mega-frustrating to have to pull it all back down again.
Normally, a particular weight of wool (which is double knitting weight for the blankets, DK for short) has a needle size which is used with it, so 4mm would be 'usual' for DK but the world isn't going to end if you use 4.5. Every person and every wool knits slightly differently, however, so when you're doing something to a certain size you need to work out what gauge your knitting comes out at, so you can adjust accordingly. For a blanket square, you can usually just change the exact number of stitches you do. When following a pattern, though, you need to change needle size to get it to come out to the right number of stitches per 10cm, according to what the pattern tells you is the right gauge.
There’s no right way to cast on but the cable cast on is nice and easy to do and has the advantage of being more similar in width to the rows that will follow than some of the others.
Knitting and crochet terminology varies a bit either side of the Atlantic. This is a handy guide to American terms in crochet you might see.
A note about knitting needles: in the UK these are now sold based on circumference, i.e. 4mm. American patterns often still use a size number, and UK needles used to come in size numbers which aren’t the same as the American size numbers. Confused? Wikipedia explains it all.
Many of the patterns below are sourced from Ravelry, which is the essential resource for knitters and crocheters; it’s free to register and has gazillions of free patterns to try out. Note: these are not all for 6” squares. Many of them are for larger dishcloths and need resizing before they will be 6” in a double knit yarn in your gauge. They are mostly easy to adjust just by removing the number of stitches inside the border of 3 or so garter stitches each side but if in doubt: ask.
The simplest square of all is garter stitch - knit every row. Remember the motto: simple squares are good, simple squares are essential. And if nothing else, you can use it as a gauge square too!
Next - stocking stitch or stockinette as the Americans call it. This is knit one row, purl one row and creates the flat, traditional surface of knitted garments. Stockinette curls at the edges so you can stabilise the square by knitting two rows (garter stitch) first and then knitting the first and last two stitches of each row.
If you want to start with something more adventurous, why not try the Chinese waves pattern? This is very simple but effective.
The simplest textured pattern is seed stitch which in the UK we would call moss stitch. It’s just knit one, purl one and then in the next row, purl one, knit one. However, it is a bit laborious to do if you’re a slow knitter because you have to move the yarn back and forth between every stitch. Also if you lose your place you can end up on the wrong stitch and not creating the pattern you want. You need an even number of stitches.
I got a bit carried away on cat patterns and did six of them. I think they are mostly more suited to two colours (except the final pattern which is three colours!) rather than the pattern being purled on a knit background or vice versa like the sheep (see below). The one exception is probably cat pattern 3. There are currently two written patterns, for pattern 1 and pattern 3.
A lovely abstract cat crochet pattern.
We had a request for birds in particular for the last blankets so we have:
We also had a request for mice (which is actually what led to the profusion of cats)
Hearts were a bit of a theme on a previous set of blankets, when the lovely MinnieBar set us the challenge of working out how to do this heart with double yarn overs in the horizontal borders. We decided we didn’t like it and so I changed the border for something else and the Team Heart was born. We’ve also simplified the pattern to remove the inner border entirely and this is available both as a chart and written instructions.
All three of the next designs are similar and quite challenging to complete
Knitting in more than one colour is a topic in its own right as there are a number of different ways to manage the yarn, of which my favourite is fairisle. If you fancy a bash, here are a few ideas:
If you’re wanting to buy books with great patterns in, MNers have suggested:
200 Knitted Blocks by Jan Eaton
Don’t forget to sew your ends in, but don’t block the squares as it makes them harder to crochet. For sewing in ends, take a large blunt needle like a tapestry needle, and basically wiggle the yarn through a few stitches, then cut the end off. There are fancy ways of doing it but for blanket squares, where the edges are going to be covered by crochet anyway, they can just be hidden along the edges.
After a few blanket squares, many crafters are hooked (no pun intended!) and want a follow-on project. There are lots of things to try, from baby clothes and blankets, to cushions, hats, scarves and full-size blankets as well adult clothes and er, Tower Bridge but one thing that seems popular as a next project is a bag. My two faves are:
Windmill for knitters
Masa for crocheters (although I want to do a knitted Masa at some point)