There are exquisite blankets and scarves with unusual construction, well-planned patterning and intricate finishing details. When we want to replicate those works of knitting art, we’d better have a pattern. In other cases, even beginner knitters can easily whip up a basic (and not-so-basic!) blanket or scarf without any pattern at all.
All you need is yarn, needles, an idea about a stitch pattern you want to use, an idea about the size of the project and a three-step system outlined in this tutorial.
First, let’s talk about materials.
There are no specific guidelines for choosing yarn to knit a blanket or scarf. Feel free to use any yarn you like in any colour you fancy. Or mix and match colours to use up the yarns you have in your stash.
Just remember that the thinner the yarn, the longer it will take you to finish the project.
Also keep in mind the finished look of your creation – how well the blanket will blend in with the interior of your home, or how the scarf will look with your jacket or coat. If you can’t visualise it, make a rough drawing with coloured pencils or crayons. When in doubt, make your blanket or scarf in one neutral colour.
Depending on the size of the project, you will need at least 100 g / 3.5 oz of yarn for a scarf and at least 200 g / 7 oz for a blanket. You will likely need much more yarn if you plan to make a blanket for an adult.
If you plan to make a wide project, you will have quite a few stitches on the needles. If you use straight needles, all of those stitches will put a strain on your left arm at the beginning of each row, and on your right arm at the end of each row.
To avoid this unnecessary strain on your arms, use circular needles. The tips of the circular needles are quite short, so most of the stitches will be sitting on the cable part of the needle and won’t weigh on your arms. Of course, you don’t need to work in the round. Use circular needles in the same way as you would use straight needles and turn your work after every row.
When choosing the size of the needles, pay attention to the size recommended on the yarn label. This needle size will make a more or less dense fabric.
Normally scarves and especially blankets are knitted with the needles that are thicker than the size recommended on the yarn label. How much thicker? It’s up to you.
The thicker the needles, the looser the fabric of the project, the less yarn you will need and the less time it will take you to finish the project. With all of the above, using the biggest needles seems like a perfect solution 🙂
But! Note, that most stitch patterns won’t look as nice on loose fabric. And that brings us to the choice of a stitch pattern.
If you plan to make a loose blanket or scarf, choose a simple stitch pattern like garter stitch (knit all stitches in every row), simple ribbing (knit 1/2/3 etc stitches, purl 1/2/3 etc stitches) or seed stitch (known as moss stitch in the UK).
For most other stitch patterns, it’s better not to use needles that are more than 4 sizes bigger than the size recommended on the yarn label.
In all cases, it is a good idea to choose a stitch pattern that looks nice on both sides and doesn’t curl at the edges. Use the stitch patterns featured in the Library of Free Knitting Resources or choose any of the gazillions of stitch patterns available online and in various stitch pattern dictionaries.
Here are the most common sizes of commercially available blankets:
- Baby Receiving Blanket / Swaddle Blanket 102 x 102 cm / 40 x 40”
- Queen Size Blanket 229 x 229 cm / 90 x 90”
- Baby Blanket / Stroller Blanket 76 x 102 cm / 30 x 40”
- Lap Blanket / Crib Blanket / Toddler Blanket 92 x 122 cm / 36 x 48”
- Throw / Afghan 127 x 170 cm / 50 x 67”
- Twin Size Blanket 173 x 229 cm / 68 x 90”
I prepared this chart when I was creating the Patchwork Knitting course. I analyzed information about blankets sold in IKEA, Macy’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, Wayfair and Toys R Us and made this list of the most common sizes. Use these sizes as a guideline, but feel free to make a blanket in any size you like.
When it comes to scarves, the measurements vary greatly, so it is safe to say that scarves can be of any size 🙂
Now, that we’ve picked the yarn and needles, and decided on the size of the project and the stitch pattern we want to use, it’s time to get to the most exciting part – planning our future blanket or scarf.
The instructions are the same for both blankets and scarves because these projects are very similar. We can even say that a blanket is a big scarf, or a scarf is a narrow blanket.
Because these projects are quite simple, all planning can easily be done in just three steps.
You probably won’t like it, but I’ll say it anyway – I do recommend to start with making a swatch.
As we discussed in this tutorial, a swatch will help you understand quite a few things:
a) How the yarn you picked looks in the stitch pattern used in the project;
b) Whether the stitch pattern instructions are clear enough for you to follow without scratching your head every other row;
c) Whether you like the look and the feel of the texture, or maybe you’d rather make this project with a different yarn or in a different colour.
And, of course, without a swatch, it will be very hard to estimate the number of stitches we need to cast on to make our blanket or scarf as wide as we want it to be.
So, please, use the yarn and needles you chose for this project, cast on around 20 stitches and work for about 20 rows in the stitch pattern you plan to use on this blanket or scarf.
Because blankets and scarves are not supposed to closely fit someone, we can skip blocking the swatch. There is a bit of variation between the gauge of blocked and non-blocked swatches, but this difference is not as important for blankets and scarves as it is important for sweaters, cardigans and even socks and hats.
There is even no need to bind off stitches. Keep them on the needle and unravel the swatch right after you finish the next step.
Take a close look at the swatch to see whether you like the colour and the texture.
If you do, take a ruler or a measuring tape and measure the swatch as it is explained in this video tutorial to find out the number of stitches in 10 cm / 4″.
Write that number down and move on to the last step of the planning process.
After all the planning we’ve done so far, the last step will give us the answer to a very important question – “How many stitches to cast on?”
Answering this question involves a bit of math, but don’t worry, it won’t be anything complex 🙂
If you feel more comfortable with measurements in centimetres, divide the number of stitches in 10 cm of your swatch (the number you wrote down in step 2) by 10 and multiply the result by the width of your scarf or blanket in cm. Here’s the formula:
number of stitches in 10 cm / 10 x width of the project in cm
For example, I’ve got 9.5 stitches in 10 cm of my swatch. If I want to make a stroller blanket that is 76 cm wide, I would cast on 9.5 / 10 x 76 = 72 stitches (the actual result was 72.2 stitches, but we all know that we can’t cast on a fraction of a stitch, so I rounded this number to 72 stitches).
If you prefer to deal with inches, divide the number of stitches in 4″ of your swatch by 4 and multiply the result by the width of your scarf or blanket in inches. Here’s the formula:
number of stitches in 4″ / 4 x width of the project in inches
For example, the same gauge of 9.5 stitches in 4″ will give us 9.5 / 4 x 30″ (the width of the same stroller blanket in inches) = 71 stitches.
The one stitch difference happened because of the rounding – 76 cm actually make 29.9213″. This number was rounded to 30″ and it caused a one stitch difference in calculations. It’s not a big deal, so don’t even think about these tiny discrepancies. I just wanted to mention it to make it clear that there is no black magic involved 🙂
If you plan to make your blanket or scarf in garter stitch or any other stitch pattern that doesn’t have a pattern repeat, go ahead and cast on the number of stitches we’ve just figured out.
But if you use a stitch pattern with a pattern repeat, adjust the result of your calculations to make sure it can fit a number of full pattern repeats.
For example, if I were to use the Ant Egg Stitch to make a blanket, I would not cast on 72 stitches. Ant Egg stitch has a pattern repeat of 4 stitches + 2 balancing stitches (the ones that help centre the pattern).
Here’s how we can get the number of stitches that will fit full multiples of Ant Egg stitch + 2 balancing stitches:
(72 stitches – 2 balancing stitches) / 4 stitches in one multiple = 17.5
That means, that 72 stitches can fit no more than 17 multiples of the pattern + 2 balancing stitches. So we do the following:
17 multiples x 4 stitches in one multiple + 2 balancing stitches = 70 stitches
That’s the number of stitches to cast on if we want to make our project in Ant Egg stitch pattern.
Of course, there are many more adjustments to make if we decide to add borders to the project or combine different stitch patterns. Once you understand the basics outlined in this tutorial, all of those adjustments are fairly easy to make with a bit more planning and a bit more math.
Feel free to try your hand at designing exquisite blankets and scarves (Patchwork Knitting course will show how to do it with multiple colours), but you don’t have to.
Simple blankets are as warm as fancy ones, and unless you want to challenge yourself, knitting an uncomplicated blanket or scarf will serve as a knitting meditation and will bring you a lot of joy.
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Here are a few more things you might like:
- Learn Russian knitting style to knit faster and more efficient with minimal strain to your wrists.
- Make lots of colourful projects using patchwork knitting technique and 36 patterns for blankets and pillows.
- Knit simple socks and top-down hats in any size with any yarn.
- Download 23 tutorials published in 2017, 42 tutorials published in 2018 and 53 tutorials published in 2019.
- Join the All Tutorials Club 2020 and don’t miss a single tutorial published in 2020.
- Make a flattering Sideways Sweater or a super easy Facile Sweater.
- Or, knit a reversible beanie and cowl duo and comfortable Sneaker Socks for everyone in your family.
Happy knitting 🙂