to start a pinwheel

by Abigail Percy on 04/04/2006

in knitting+crochet+yarn

Babies are round.

Kay, of mason dixon knitting has said it before. I think Elizabeth Zimmerman has pointed it out on occasion as well.

And I think the most perfect baby knitting pattern I’ve come across is round, too. The pinwheel blankie. The pinwheel blankie is a delicious pizza of a baby blanket, knit from the center out, with any kind of yarn and any appropriately sized needles.

pinwheel blankie
How do I love it? Let me count the ways:

1. It’s simple, but elegant.

The round format doesn’t rely on a lot of fancy knitting, but more on the sweet geometric curves that are part of babies, life, and growing.

2. It’s totally flexible.

Any yarn you love, any size you can physically and mentally stand decide to make. And any size needles will work. I’ve done a pinwheel with Danette Taylor sock yarn on size 4 needles, and one on the best kid yarn ever – kona superwash – on size 8 needles.

3. It allows for creativity within structure.

A target made of bold stripes? Eyelet rows every so often? Anything you want to add will fit into the neat spiral structure. In the end, even if you knit yours plain, you come to the point where you must decide on an edging. Personally, I crocheted over 100 tentacles on a blanket for my friend’s baby Truman. Others use seed stitch, create ruffles, or even knit gorgeous leaf shapes (like Ariane‘s below). It’s the perfect opportunity to whip out a Nicky Epstein book and wow everybody.

arianes edge

4. It showcases gorgeous yarn.

So many of us hoard handpainted yarns, yet find that too many knitting patterns don’t showcase them well. Too much detail, such as lace or cabling, creates an instant tension with the colorplay of a gorgeous dye job. This blankie is the perfect format for colorways ranging from total variegation to self-stripes. It’s mostly stockinette, so the colors show up grandly. And it changes size on every other row, so the pools and flashes change too.

Yet, it’s just as delicious in solid cream, the way Cara from january one knit it.

5. It’s good for babies.

It’s a grab-able size, if you stop after about 2-3 feet in diameter like most people do. It fits well into a carseat or stroller. If you make it washable – in cotton or superwash wool – you are sure to be thanked silently a hundred times over by any parent you gift it to.

6. It’s also good for young and/or beginning knitters to make.

With the exception of the first 10 rows or so (see below), this pattern is pure easy knitting. A young knitter would only need to know how to do the knit stitch and a yarn over to go for hours and hours without additional help.

I am so in love with this pattern, I created a knitalong on my web site. Fifty blankies later – after a lot of downloading and resizing and getting behind on keeping up the gallery – I decided to move the whole shebang to flickr. Now you can join any time you like and put up pictures of your pinwheels in progress, or finished.

There are several ways to make a pinwheel. Mary Thomas has a few diagrams for making medallions and circular knitted pieces in her books, which can be had for about $10 each. There is a free pattern by Genia Planck, which uses yarn overs to create a beautiful spiral throughout the blankie. Or you could wing your own version.

All share one drawback. It’s darn hard to get started. The beginning is really fiddly, casting on just 5 stitches and trying to join them in a circle and manipulate them on several double pointed needles. I’ve discussed several ways to get started on my blog.
Today I’ll offer you another way to get started. But promise me you’ll start, and then come join the knitalong/flickr group!

1. Crochet a chain of 5 stitches, and join into a round.
2. Switch to double point knitting needles. You will have one stitch on the needles.
3. Place a safety pin in the front of that stitch to keep track of your start of each round.
4. Pick up and knit in the next chain stitch.
5. Now pick up and knit 2 into each of the remaining chain stitches, for a total of 10 stitches on the needles.
6. New round. Yarn Over, knit 1. Repeat around.
7. New round. Knit.

Carry on with the pattern until you can’t stand it anymore. And check how big your blankie is getting by using this little calculator I dreamed up. Enjoy.

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