How to start a sock yarn blanket

How to start a sock yarn blanketAfter watching many knitting podcasters show their sock yarn blankets growing over time, three months ago I decided to cast one on.  It’s still a very small corner of a blanket but each time I use sock-weight yarn I look forward to adding another square (and I might have broken in to a few fresh yarn balls just to be able to work on it).

My intentions are to let it grow with time, no particular rush, perhaps in a year’s time I’ll have a lap blanket and a few years later it will be larger still. I find it a relaxing item to work on in between projects where I can let the needles do their thing while I ponder what I want to cast on next.

For anyone considering casting on a sock yarn blanket, I wanted to provide some tips to think about as you get started. It can be an addictive project to work on, but without planning it may mean the difference between a finished beauty or a project bag hidden in a cupboard with a few lonely squares.

Many of these ideas also relate to other scrap yarn projects and could also be thought about with crochet blankets.

Size of squares = yarn usage + time spent per square

I’ve seen patterns ranging from 2-10 grams of yarn per square and many patterns are easily adjustable based on the number of stitches cast on per side of the square.

How to start a sock yarn blanket

The smaller your square, the more yarn ends you will need to weave in but the quicker it will be to add a new square to your blanket. The larger your square, the bigger sized scraps you will need but one square might take an hour or more to knit.

Some patterns are adaptable so that you can use a combination of small and large squares (that are the equivalent of four small squares).

Yarn weight

Even if you use sock/fingering weight yarn, you can also knit with two strands of a lighter lace weight yarn for a square, but using a heavier weight yarn can cause problems. I’ve snuck in a sportweight yarn (that I used to make socks for one of my cousins) in to my fingering weight blanket and it works, but I won’t risk adding a DK weight square because it will end up obviously larger than the squares surrounding it.

A sport weight square in my sock yarn blanket
A cream coloured sport weight square in my sock yarn blanket

If you start with DK weight yarn, your blanket will grow quicker and be thicker, and you can double-up sock yarn for squares.

Remember however that if you double-up striped/patterned yarn then you may loose the pattern and your square will have a variegated look.

Choice of knitting needle

Play around with different knitting needles – some patterns are better suited to double-pointed knitting needles, others for circular needles.

Going up or down a needle size will affect the weight of your blanket fabric and the speed at which blanket grows.

Not all decreases/increases are equal

Different patterns construct the squares in different ways. Some are worked over four double-pointed needles (or a circular needle) working from the centre of the square outwards, while others cast on the stitches for two sides and then decrease to the opposite corner, and there are many other constructions.

Diagonal decreases from the Memory Blanket pattern
Diagonal decreases from the Memory Blanket pattern

Take a moment to study the style of decreases/increases to make sure you like the look of them, and that the stitches involved are ones that you’re happy to do over and over again.

When you add squares, you can decide if you want all of your decreases pointing in the same direction (i.e. creating parallel diagonal lines across the blanket), randomly pointed in any direction, or positioned to create a textural pattern such as diamond shapes or chevrons.

Direction of squares = border complexity

Some patterns position the squares side-by-side in a grid which means that, if you want to add a border at the end, it will have a basic rectangular border.

Other patterns place the squares on an angle so they look like diamonds – this means that if you want a straight edge on your blanket then you will need to construct half-squares around the edge to create a rectangular blanket (see this Sock Yarn Blanket for an example of a diamond construction).

Joining method

If you join the squares as you go, soon your blanket will reach a size where it won’t be as easy to take with you when you travel, however it will keep your lap warm as you work on it at home. There are different methods for joining such as picking up edge stitches or picking up the garter bumps from the adjoining squares which will produce different looks.

I’m using the join as you go method, taking time every 5 squares or so to weave in ends so I won’t have a million tails at the end. I also use the yarn ends to stitch up the join at the corner of the four squares – different joining methods will have tighter joins but my method can leave a small gap so I weave the yarn in through each adjoining square’s corner to tighten it up.

The back of my sock yarn blanket with woven in ends - I've left short tails that I'll snip off after the blanket is finished, washed and blocked.
The back of my sock yarn blanket with woven in ends – I’ve left short tails that I’ll snip off after the blanket is finished, washed and blocked.

If you knit separate squares and join them together at the end, you can easily take a square or two with you whereever you go, but you will have a lot of work at the end as you piece it together. This method does give you the pleasure of spending hours laying out squares and deciding the placement based on a colour scheme or pattern before you stitch them in to one masterpiece.

Placement of squares

If you join as you go, you need to decide where to place each square. Some people knit a long strip the width of their finished blanket and then build up to make the length.

You could also think about whether you want to keep solid colours separated from each other, particular colours group together, if you want to use the same yarn multiple times in your blanket how far apart they should be placed, etc.

I decided to knit roughly in a square shape so that if I choose to stop the project at some time, it will be a regular shape that can still be put to use in some way, and to avoid two solid colours beside each other because I expect to have more variegated yarns than solids in my blanket.

Be ware of the yarns!

While you should enjoy the yarn you’re working with, keep in mind that some yarns will bleed (leak dye colour) when they’re washed. If you haven’t made another project in a yarn and have the certainty that the dye won’t run, you might want to pre-wash your mini-skeins before adding them to your blanket.

Staying motivated

You might not need any encouragement to keep working away, one square at a time, but if you find your interest diminishing, then you could consider creating a goal such as adding two squares per week.

Some people place detachable stitch markers to the squares they make each week to help them see their progress.

Other people create a yarn journal where they stick a scrap of yarn and write down the details for it such as the yarn name, colourway, and what other project it was used on.

Or you could look in to mini skein swaps through a Ravelry group to find yarns that you’ve never tried before and to make new friends who will cheer you on as your blanket grows.

Free patterns

There are many patterns out there for sock yarn blankets but a few ideas to get you started include:

Memory Blanket – Georgie Hallam
Dicke Decke / Big Afghan – Ulli Stuttgart
Generic Mitered Square Blanket – Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall
Sock Yarn Blanket – Shelly Kang
Barn Raising Quilt – Shelley Mackie & Larissa Brown

Once you get started…

Try a few squares – if there’s something about the process or look that doesn’t feel right, take the time to investigate other options. The squares you’ve made could be turned in to a cushion cover and you could start again before you get too deep in to a project that doesn’t make your heart sing.

How to start a sock yarn blanket

Also remember that your first few squares will look wobbly – they need the attached squares to provide structure and shape. Once you have a few joined squares, give them a gentle tug and you’ll see that they will lay out neatly once the blanket grows and when it’s given a wash and a blocking to straighten out the edges.

Niina’s blanket specifications

For my blanket I’m using:
Pattern: Memory Blanket by Georgie Hallam
Yarn weight: Mostly sock/fingering weight yarn
Needle: 2.25mm (US 1) circular needle (I started with DPNs)
Cast on: 26st per side
Square size: 9cm (3.5″) per side
Yarn usage per square: Around 5 grams

If you have other tips for making a sock yarn blanket, or suggestions for patterns, please share in the comments below.