It’s true and we all know it: A new project is vastly more attractive than a half-finished one. This is especially the case when it comes to knitting. How many times have I gotten three-quarters of the way through a sweater (front, back, and half a sleeve) only to abandon it in favor of a few skeins of beautiful yarn, just perfect for a baby blanket (or shawl, or hat, or, god forbid, another sweater).
I recently discovered an entire toddler jacket buried at the bottom of my stash, complete except for a zipper. While the jacket had remained in stasis, the toddler had grown into a strapping first-grader. I have postponed joining sweater pieces for a year, only to discover that, when I sat down to do the finishing, it took me no more than one episode of Downton Abbey. There’s just so much perfect potential in a new project, and half-finished work usually looks, well, less than perfect.
But there’s joy and satisfaction in finishing projects, too. If it’s something you’ve made for yourself, you can actually wear it! If it’s a gift, you can give it! And weaving in ends, blocking, and adding buttons is pretty much the only way for a sweater to look anything close to what you imagined when you were fondling the yarn in the knitting store.
So, for me, 2015 is going to be a year of finishing. I’ve already added that zipper to the toddler jacket, along with some cute buttons, too. And I’ve dug up a sweater I started at least three years ago. Only two sleeves and a collar to go!
In hopes of inspiring a different kind of finishing, here’s a very simple pattern for using up the odds and ends in your stash, yarn that is left-over from other projects or rescued from the sale bin and then forgotten. It’s a baby blanket, knit from the bottom-right corner to the top-left. Because it is knit in this direction, each change in yarn creates a diagonal stripe. Very sweet. It also makes it easy to modify the size if you realize you are going to run out of yarn sooner than expected (in which case you can proudly present it to the new parents as a “lovey,” or maybe a “washcloth”).
Step one: Gather up as many odds and ends of yarn as you can. Sort for yarns of similar weight. Then pick the yarns that you think will look interesting together. The more yarn you have, the bigger your blanket can be.
Step two: Start knitting. Cast on 4 stitches, using appropriately sized needles and long-tail cast on. For every row, knit 2, yarn over, knit to end. Change yarns as frequently as you want. (This is a modified version of Melanie Falick and Kristin Nicholas’s “Easy Eyelet Washcloth or Blanket,” from Knitting for Baby. If you don’t want to deal with the eyelet edge, replace the “yarn over” with your favorite increase (kfb, m1, etc.).)
Step three: Decrease. Once you’ve created a triangle with each of the two finished edges measuring 30 inches (or you’ve used up half of the yarn you’ve picked out), start decreasing. Every row follows this pattern: knit 1, knit 2 together, yarn over, knit 2 together, knit until the end. (Again, if you don’t want to do the eyelet edge, skip the “yarn over, knit 2 together” portion of this instruction.) When you’re down to four stitches, bind off. Weave in the ends, block, and you’re finished.
The first time I made one of these, I tried not to establish any pattern, and really mixed it up. The resulting blanket looked great, but I had a lot of ends to weave in. Not a big deal in a year of finishing, but something to keep in mind.
Here’s one I did with four left-over skeins (plus a few extra scraps) of Blue Sky Alpacas yarn. The colored yarn is the softest cotton you’ll ever find. The white is something called “Extra,” half alpaca, half merino wool.