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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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Urraca April 4, 2006 at 3:05 pm

I discovered the pinwheel blanket on your blog last year and started one myself in self-striping yarn (the baby came early and I didn’t finish it; when I do I’ll post a picture on your flickr group).

There’s a much easier way to start. Just cast on and join in the round. It will leave a neat central eyelet to match the other eyelets. Plus, how could a baby blanket not have a navel? :-)


2 Sarah April 4, 2006 at 4:31 pm

Just what I was looking for – something for the countless babies that are popping up into my life! Thanks for all the great links and the inspiration!


3 laura April 4, 2006 at 9:48 pm

What an inspiring post! I need to knit a baby gift in the near future — this may be the ticket.

I have found that when I need to cast on a very few stitches and work in the round, it is much easier to use the Magic Loop method. There are many tutorials on the web for this — just google “knitting small circumferences on one long circular needle” or similar.


4 larissmix April 4, 2006 at 11:52 pm

Hi Urraca, I’m so glad to hear you’ll post your photos when you’re finished.

Starting by joining 5 stitches in the round and trying to maninpulate only 5 on dpns has actually proved quite difficult for many knitters. I get emails about it all the time. I myself have to try about 3 to 4 times to get one of these started that way, and I’ve been knitting for 32 years! But I agree with you that the look is perfect that way, and it’s how I’ve done mine in the past.


5 Kim April 5, 2006 at 9:31 am

This post totally rocked my world just now! The next baby item I make will be one of these…


6 corbett April 5, 2006 at 11:20 am

I made a pastie… or the beginnings of a bra…
Not really what I intended or thought would happen.

No real trouble with the dpns, but I guess I don’t really have a clue how to make the first increases from 5 to ten.
I’m following the pattern on
I cast on 5, divide, knit a round…
then what ?
Increase to ten in the next round?
With a M1?
The instructions aren’t exactly clear. The way they are written, there are 4 rounds between casting on and the first round of k1, yo…

And do the increases have to be YO or can they be M1As?

I’m just starting to knit again so…


7 Andi April 7, 2006 at 8:31 am

A very dear friend made one of these blankets in superwash when my daughter was born almost 2 years ago. Mica loves her blanket. It was perfect for use with her infant carrier and swaddled her nicely when we were out and about. Mica loves her blanket and we still use it all the time. We have received more compliments on that blanket in the last 2 years than on any other single baby item that we have owned.

I don’t knit, but I have a friend who is expecting twins in August. I’m seriously contemplating having the friend who made Mica’s blanket teach me how to knit so that I can make similar blankets for my friend’s daughters.

If you are considering knitting this for a friend who is expecting or you are expecting yourself, take it from me, it is the greatest. (Thanks, Heather!)


8 Emelia April 21, 2006 at 8:07 am

You can even make a matching baby hat by simply K2tog right before every YO once you get to the right circumference (that is, if you plan on staying with the Row1: *knitX stitches, YO* repeat to end. Row2: purl format). That is my favorite hat pattern. of all time. My only problem with doing this blanket would be that you would need a seemingly neverending supply of DPNs or infinite length circular needle… I still want to try it, though.


9 Holly October 1, 2011 at 12:43 am

Thank you so so so much for posting this and including all those fabulous links!! I wanted to knit a pinwheel blanket for practically ever but I had no idea where to begin and turns out that beginning the blanket was an absolute nightmare for me! After reading this post and looking through the links provided, I got my first pinwheel up and running …pretty smoothly I might add… thank you again!!


10 Jen January 2, 2012 at 2:01 am

I started this blanket tonight for my cousin’s baby and you ain’t kidding. Those first rows are nasty. And I am not adept with dpns. I’m up to yo, k3 but I must go to bed. I was obsessed with getting started and stayed up way too late.


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