Babette Blanket: 6 Techniques to Improve Your Work

Babette Blanket (click on the image to order the pattern from Interweave)
 I'm a self taught crocheter. I used a book to learn, and I didn't read very much - just looked at the pictures. And I really only learned enough to do free form crochet - I've only done a couple of crochet projects using a pattern - so I haven't really tried to understand very much.

I'm assuming that's the reason I always have so many problems translating what the Babette Blanket pattern is trying to tell me what to do. There are always so many options on how to do a simple action. Like 2sc. Do I go into the front loop, the back loop, through the chain but not the bar below it, throught the chain & the bar? Each option gives a completely different look to the stitch. When you combine that with all the options for all the stitches in combination and then throw in needle size and tension it's taking me days to get my gauge swatches done. I also find myriad other little issues as I'm working that aren't addressed in the pattern. I'm guessing it's because I never learned "the standards". Or maybe it's just that I'm absurdly picky and have very strong opinions about what I like & I don't like. And then there's the whole problem of remembering what I've decided to do. Usually there are sticky notes on top of sticky notes stuck all over the pattern. Most of it is a matter of personal preference. But in the end consistency is important to me. (Although with so many squares I'm sure I can include all these different techniques into the blanket and no one will notice but me...)

So here's a list of my issues & actions I've decided. I've got to write it down or I'll never remember what I've decided & will be lost when the project gets pushed aside for a while as something new catches my eye....

1. Double Crochet: go through the chain or the chain & the bar?

Here are squares done each way:
The square on the left is just through the chain - not through the bar below the chain. the square on the right is through both the chain & the bar. Needless to say - the first thing that is very apparent is that blocking is crucial. I have no idea why the right square is so much more "tweaked" than the left square. Looking at the two squares side by side I couldn't see much of a difference so decided to block them up & call it a day.

After blocking it was easy to see that I prefer to dc under the chain but above the bar. I prefer the lacey-er look - and there's a bit of a bumpy ridge on the right square that I don't like the feel of. Plus, the rows seem more apparent and the whole structure is more pleasing to me.

2. Blocking - do I really have to?

As soon as I saw the squares this morning I knew the answer to that one. The blocked squares look so much better - and will be so much easier to assemble.

I've got my blocking down - I've got a couple "Quilter's Cut & Press" boards that I picked up at JoAnn's with a 1/2 off coupon. They're just big enough to be useful - but not so big as to be awkward. They stash behind my desk & fit perfectly on the kitchen counter. They've got a grid printed on them so I can pin to perfect squares. As the end of each day I grab the board, pin up the squares, hit them with a little steam from the iron and set them aside. Next morning I wake up to perfect squares. As far as I'm concerned a squares not finished until the last end is woven in & the square is blocked. I crochet the ends in as I go - so all I've got at the end is the last bit I tied off.) If I waited until the end to weave in the ends & block the squares I can say with certainty the thing would never get assembled....

3. What size hook?

The pattern calls for "E". Plymouth Encore DK yarn I'm using says "F" or "G". I used a 5 needle when I knit a baby blanket with the yarn and that looked good. My crochet tends to be pretty loose - so I started with an "E". I realized the squares have to be relative in size. Two 2-round squares have to equal one 4-round etc. The first few squares (2 round) looked good - pretty lacey after blocking. The 4 round square required a fair bit of stretching to get to size, but I thought I could make it work. The 8 round square was impossible to block out to the full size it needed to be. Pulled out the "F" hook. The 2 round squares are a bit bigger than ideal - but the 4's on up are great. I'll go a bit tighter on the 2 round squares & try to be looser on the bigger squares.

4. What's going on where the colors join together?

This is how it looks when I "join with a sl st in top of beg ch-3". The color from the row below goes into the color of the new row. Fixed this by joining the new color, then slipping the stitch in the top of the beg ch-3. Probably something they teach in Crochet 101...

5. What's going on with the holes where the round ends?

For some reason I'm getting a hole where each round ends. I solved this by doing Ch 2 instead of Ch 3 at the beginning of the round. No idea why it works, but it does...

6. What's going on with the corners?

There's an extra little loop showing up in my corners. After looking at it I realize it's because my dc is going under the chain, but over the bar. That's the bar showing through. Solution: in the corner I do 2dc, ch2, 3dc.

Now my corner is clean!

So here's my version of the instructions combining all my changes:

Using "F" hook:

Round 1:
Work over tails as you go!
Ch 4.
(dc, [ch2, 3dc] 3x, ch2, dc) all in 4th ch from hook.
Join with sl st in 3rd ch (hook below the chain, but above the bar) of beg ch4. (For color change: attach new color, then sl st in 3rd ch (go below the chain but above the bar)of beg ch4) Do not turn. (Run the tail up one of the crochet stems to the chain level so you can crochet over it on the next round.)
Check work: each side should have 3 stems. Each corner should have 2 chains.

Round 2:
Ch2. dc in next dc (hook below the chain, but above the bar)
in corner space: 2dc, 2ch, 3dc.
1dc in each of next 2 dc spaces (hook below the chain, but above the bar).
Continue until the beginning. Finish as in round 1.
Check work: each side should have 7 stems. Each corner should have 2 chains.

Continue on in this pattern.

Hopefully this will jog my memory when I've been away from the project for awhile!

Now that you've perfected your squares, have you grown bored with the project before you've made enough for a blanket? When that happened to me I turned them into a scarf. Instructions and a graph for layout are here.

Babette Squares sewn up as a scarf

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