Circle of Friends Baby Blanket

Circle of Friends Blanket 013
Pattern: Circle of Friends Baby Blanket, from Last Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson
Yarn: Knitpicks Shine Sport
Needles: Honestly can't recall... might have been US 4?
Recipient: Baby Lucy Violet!
Collaborator: Miss Amanda J.! Best knitting sport... ever!

Notes: I'm torn about this pattern. On one hand, the spirit behind it is absolutely grand. It provides a canvas for a communal baby gift, which is cool. It's simple, which means knitters at any level can probably handle it, which is also cool. On the other hand, in this case simple = garter stitch, which while straightforward is extremely difficult in terms of getting a consistent gauge and looking regular and even. This is true even for one knitter, but among more than one, it can lead to very inconsistent results:

Circle of Friends: Gauge differences

And as you can see, the blanket did not turn out square, as it was supposed to. I don't know if there was a way to get it there, but if there was, we didn't find it.

There is a TON of seaming (though I grant, less than there would be if each square were individually knitted), and a ton of ends to weave in. And the most frustrating part - which was partly a product of the yarn we chose - is that, since it's a double-sided blanket, one side inevitably has a bunch of wonky-looking yarn ends hanging right out there after you wash it. The solution would be to sew a fabric back on. We both love Emily, but we're not doing that.

Ready to cringe?

Circle of Friends Blanket 006

To be fair to the pattern, a lot of our beefs with this project (including the yarn ends above) stemmed from our choice of yarn. Shine is WAY too slippery, and shows way too many flaws, for this type of project. Also the colors looked different in the catalog from what we ultimately got.

Circle of Friends Blanket 002

It's time for me to admit that I really, really dislike working with cotton yarns. I have never completed a project in cotton (or bamboo, for that matter) with which I was really happy. In this case, we went with it because it's easy to care for, and Shine is machine washable AND machine dryable - and machine drying did improve the texture of the fabric somewhat. I don't mean to downplay that advantage. And with Shine I'm not sure the cotton was the problem so much as the ultra-slippery tencel. But still - I'll be sticking with wool for the time being, thanks very much.

So as I predicted, the finished Circle of Friends is a rustic affair, and made with love. I'm sure Em and Lucy will love it, but not for its aesthetics. And maybe, just maybe, there's a Miss May in Lucy's future to make up in "pretty" what our little blanket lacks.

Posted by jess at November 12, 2006 1:50 PM | TrackBack

I would sew a fabric back on it. It would look quilted even more and probably even out the general dimensions, as the knit portion would be limited by the fabric's sturdiness. I prefer wool over cotton too. And Tencel is just evil to work with.

Posted by: bd at November 12, 2006 2:22 PM

Goodness, despite the ends hanging out of the back, I'm sure they'll love it anyways. Like you said, it's the community spirit of the gift. And I definitely have to agree that I haven't really found a cotton yarn I adore either.

Posted by: Angela at November 12, 2006 3:01 PM

A handmade gift created with love is always appreciated... despite the little flaws. I'm with you on the cotton... I only use it for small-ish projects like tank tops.

Posted by: lisa at November 12, 2006 4:01 PM

One woman's dream is another woman's nightmare...shine is one of my favorite yarns! :)

I think your blanket is lovely but if the exposed ends bother you how about attaching a flannel backing? You wouldn't even have to sew it, you could attach it with washable, iron on interfacing! And for the future, if you put a dab of non-toxic washable fabric glue the ends will stay put!

Posted by: Debi at November 12, 2006 4:10 PM

it's still a really lovely gift.
i'm not a big fan of cotton yarns either, they always seem to leave me disappointed. the only cotton yarns i really like are cotton fleece and cathay, and i think it may be the non-cotton components that make the difference.

Posted by: melissa at November 12, 2006 4:23 PM

Too bad about the ends. Amazing how two knitter's can come up with something so different doing exactly the same thing.

It looks good if you ignore the ends though. I'm sure that they will appreciate the blanket very much since there is thought and love knit into it.

Posted by: Dorothy B at November 12, 2006 4:26 PM

Yes, I second (and third, in fact!) your pique for knitting with always *seems* like it could be a good idea...there are some lovely and soft cotton yarns out there...but the laziness of the fiber just drives me insane.

The communal knitting idea, however, is absolutely sweet and awesome, and a really good idea for blanket-knitting! Lovely, happy colors, too!

Posted by: knittingphilistine at November 12, 2006 4:32 PM

cotton is definitely hard to work with! so many people have given up on it that i'm surprised people still knit with it ;) but i do love tahki cotton classic. even after knitting kyoto in it, i would use it again.

the blanket looks great and i'm sure it'll get lots of love over the years. such a nice present!

Posted by: gleek at November 12, 2006 4:51 PM

I agree with your assessment in working with cotton yarns - there is no give in the yarn and it usually ends up hurting my hands. A few friends and I knit the same blanket, but each of us took one color and knit a bunch of squares - you want to talk about a seaming nightmare. Never again . . . .

Posted by: jessic at November 12, 2006 5:27 PM

Made with love and your knitting time-I'm sure it will be greatly appreciated.

Posted by: brooke at November 12, 2006 5:58 PM

Well, it turned out nice anyway! And I love the colors. Thanks for the review of the blanket...maybe it'll save others from your trouble. I've noticed Shine really shows flaws, too. I knit a top with it once, then did the same top in a Debbie Bliss yarn, and the second looks sooo much better. Knitpicks Shine: thumbs down.

Posted by: Julia at November 12, 2006 6:21 PM

aww...i really like the blankie and i am sure that it will be appreciated! :)

Posted by: amanda at November 12, 2006 6:40 PM

I have your inconsistent gauge problems (mostly because I knit in multiple locations, but I still have problems even if I stay put). I am unable to do any projects with large areas of garter stitch, since it always looks awful. Even plain stockinette is iffy - the yarn needs to be really interesting, like Silk Garden or something like that.

I find the best way to camouflage inconsistent tension is to stick to fancy stitch patterns, especially cabling, and to knit ONLY with wool or wool/X blends where X is silk, alpaca or mohair.

Posted by: Savida at November 12, 2006 6:55 PM

Hey! I just finished seaming a Circle of Fiends (yes, fiends!) blanket also made out of Shine. I believe that the recipient and daughter will love it despite it's many flaws (7 different gauges, 98 crazily woven in ends, funky seams). I can say this: I am glad that the project is done!

Posted by: nicole at November 12, 2006 7:08 PM

for what it's worth, I think it looks great. People cherish handmade gifts for the time and love you put into them, not the store-bought quality. And I can't imagine a newborn being concerned that the squares are unequal:) I'm sure your friend and her baby will give your blanket plenty of love:)

Posted by: Kelly at November 12, 2006 7:33 PM

I am sure the one receiving this will love it, extra strings dangling and all!! I sure would!

Posted by: Lora at November 12, 2006 7:57 PM

Awwww, but that blanket was made with all the love in the world. No one will care if there is an end hanging out while it is being used. And I am sure it will be used, gifts with that much love in them HAVE to be used.

Posted by: Jenn at November 12, 2006 9:07 PM

Well I think it's a cute blanket! I know what you mean about cotton though. I'm still have to keep reminding myself that I really don't like cotton- I seem to keep picking it over and over, only to be unhappy with the results.

Posted by: Kelly B. at November 12, 2006 10:03 PM

Oh, they'll love it, and always remember that you and Amanda made it by hand. Cotton is a pain, though--go knit yourself some wool mittens!

Posted by: Jessica at November 13, 2006 12:19 AM

I love the colors, and hey, it's going to get all broken in anyway. You just gave it a headstart.

Posted by: jessie at November 13, 2006 5:56 AM

I can see how that would be totally frustrating - I hate yarn ends so much! Fortunately babies tend not to notice them!

Posted by: MeBeth at November 13, 2006 9:11 AM

Meh. Stupid ends. Anyway the colors are super cute and the idea of giving a communal gift is really special.

Posted by: jenna at November 13, 2006 10:27 AM

The slightly cringeworthy items are always the ones kids love best. I mean really, kids love to play in boxes. How could she not love your soft and yummy blanket? :)

Posted by: Sarah at November 13, 2006 11:48 AM

you deserve the first-ever award for "honesty in knitblogging" -- you very well could have posted a picture making the blanket look perfect but instead showed us your unwieldy ends. bravo for honesty!

if you want to sew a plain flannel backing on, do it. if not, i think it will look adorable slung over a crib. the baby ain't gonna scrutinize it. the blanket will be loved, i'm certain of it.

Posted by: carrie m at November 13, 2006 5:31 PM

I still think it looks beautiful. You chose great colors for a child - bright and happy hues. I think the recipients will treasure it.
Have you considered maybe sewing on a fabric backing, or is that too much of a p.i.t.a. at this point in the game (after all the effort you have already put forth)?
Again, it's great, and they will truly love it.

Posted by: maritza at November 13, 2006 10:39 PM

Oh, I think that blanket is really cute! And the idea that the two of you made it- I'm sure it will be treasured!

Posted by: Nonnahs at November 13, 2006 11:22 PM

What a shame - it is such a beautiful idea.
I have to say that I hate, hate, hate working in garter stitch. It is so dull and it takes forever to see any progress. Ugh.
This blanket was clearly a labour of love. I am sure it wil be greatly appreciated and cozy as can be.
Miss May would be a fabulous gift to add some pretty to this little one's life.

Posted by: Miss Scarlett at November 14, 2006 1:16 AM

I agree - I have never knit with cotton and liked the result. It lacks the give of animal fibers. Good job on the blanket though, despite your hang-ups with it. I'm sure the recipient will love it!

Posted by: emily elizabeth at November 14, 2006 9:17 AM

It's really too bad those ends did that. The cotton Sonata didn't give me that problem, even after washing and drying. Maybe it's not as slippery? But I think that your blanket is lovely ~ the colors turned out lovely, even if they aren't exactly as you intended.

Posted by: Katie at November 14, 2006 9:32 AM

much agreement with all of the above... there's a lot of love in that blankie, and it's soft and colorful, and the baby will love it. cotton is a pain... the ends never work out as well as wool. in the one cotton baby blanket i've made (intarsia, because i was on crack), i just knotted them and clipped them close and hoped for the best. looked like hell from the back and great from the front... after 8 months of work i was just too ready to send it out!

Posted by: amisha at November 14, 2006 11:37 AM

It's really sweet. I worry about little fingers finding those ends and picking away though--I think it should be backed. But, you know, it looks like the best kind of blanket--made with love, really soft and not so fancy you worry about using it. I used shine to make a baby sweater for the same user-friendly reasons. But you could see EVERY single flaw. Shine really does show them.

Posted by: Jennifer at November 14, 2006 2:49 PM

oh..........i have five other friends and myself making a baby blanket for a friend.........we are each doing 5 squares........ahhhhhh of course i forgot about you think that this is a terrible idea?

Posted by: leslie at November 15, 2006 1:24 PM

"I have never completed a project in cotton ... with which I was really happy"

I've never completed a project in any animal fiber that I could wear... sigh. I wish they'd invent a high quality cotton/synthetic that doesn't show rowing out and mistakes as much.

Posted by: mary at November 24, 2006 2:07 PM

The pictures clearly show Jess' knitting skill and, sadly, my lack thereof. (I am the one who made the horribly distended and sloppy top half of the Circle of Friends blanket.) Jess was very kind in her desription, especially given the fact that she had to do all the seaming herself. But I hope Emily and Lucy enjoy it, and I am glad Jess inspired me to do something more ambitious than my beginner-level scarves. If anyone loves shine sport cotton yarn and the colors we chose, I will happily share my leftover yarn with you--just e-mail me your address (to and it's yours via post. Obviously that includes you, Jess! Clearly you earned it. :)

Posted by: Amanda J. at December 16, 2006 10:16 PM

As the mama's owner of this BEAUTIFUL blanket, I have to say that it is the most loved gift we recieved for our little goose.

Jessica & Amanda -- we are in love!!

Posted by: Lucy's Mama at December 28, 2006 1:22 AM
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