November 21, 2004

Knit Cafe Baby Binky

I've gotten a lot of finishing done this past week. Well, a lot for my new, slower-paced knitting life. I have finished the knitting portion of my Knit Cafe Baby Binky, and am now considering putting some sort of fabric backing on it. More on that below, but if any of the sewers out there have suggestions, I'll be happy to take them in the comments. (Ecstatic, in fact!) I also ripped out the collar on my Rowan Peace Cardigan for the third time and re-knit it to my satisfaction. It's now pretty and perky, rather than looking like a floppy mess. I achieved this superior look by 1) knitting the first row of picked-up stitches rather than doing it in seed stitch; 2) reducing the number of picked up stitches by six; 3) knitting really tightly; and 4) casting off in stockinette rather than seed stitch. I also considered using a sewn bind-off, but it didn't turn out to be necessary. Enough on that, though. Here's my finished Binky, with project notes:

BinkyBanner.jpg If only you could feel how soft it is... Click for a close-up or a super close-up

Knit Cafe, Free Pattern,
designed by The Collaborative Process of Many Fabulous Knitters

Knit with 4 skeins (88 yards/skein) of GGH Esprit (100% Nylon), one skein each in Pomegranate (02), Merlot (19), Grape (21) or Purple (23) (can't remember which - I'll correct this later!), and Navy(12) on Addi Turbo brass-plated circulars in size US 8 (5.0 mm), length 24", at a guage of roughly 3.75 sts per inch.
Finished dimensions: 19"x23.5"

Pattern Notes:
This pattern evolved through watching many an advanced beginner at the Knit Cafe progress from basic cotton yarns to something fun (and slightly more challenging) in the novelty section. Several of our Thursday night knitters made baby blankets from Esprit, because it is so soft and cuddly, and some of them even made blankets with stripes, which I thought was particularly lovely, since Esprit comes in so many beautiful compatible colors. Even store owner Suzan got caught up in the craze and knit up a beautiful, massive version for her new house. I only wish I had a picture to show you. At some point I ran out of store yarn to play around with (shocking, yes?) and decided to give in and buy some Esprit. My little cousin was expecting her first baby and I thought it would be a nice, quick gift project.

My version was different from the others that I had seen in that it involved a series of randomly striped panels that were sewn together after the fact. My goal was to create a binky that had the flavor of a quilt, only soft, squooshy, and knitted. I could have achieved the same effect by doing the binky all in one piece and using the intarsia method, but that would have involved a lot of tangling and untangling. (It also would have involved intarsia!) Additionally, I think it would have had the effect of making things less random, and more planned, which I wanted to avoid. I have a wonderful friend who is an amazing quilter, and if there is anything she has imparted to me (besides my rather meager sewing skills), it is that in this type of project, randomness is key.

With that in mind, here is the pattern: Cast on 15 stitches and knit random stripes until the piece reaches a length of 24". Repeat once. Cast on 20 stitches and do the same. Repeat once. Stitch the four pieces together with the two narrower pieces on the outside edge and the two larger pieces in the center. Choose one of the yarns and make a single crochet edge to finish.

Like Kay, I am a die-hard matress-stitcher. I considered doing an edge-to-edge seam so that the binky wouldn't have pronounced seams, but decided that with this incredibly fuzzy yarn, that was just too much of a hassle. (I'm not a whip-stitcher by nature, but it's possible I will have to adjust - please feel free to tell me if you think I need to!) As a result, I ended up with this on the reverse side. Not the worst situation I've ever seen, but not gorgeous, either. When I went to the fabric store, I found a lovely cotton flannel that went well with the blanket to back it with, but when I got to the sales person I learned that it would not stretch and would consequently make the blanket (which does stretch) look misshapen. I'm no expert in this area, but that makes sense to me, and when a veteran seamstress speaks, I listen. She suggested stretch velvet. I'm not against this in concept, but in practice I'm not sure if I'm ready to make the velvet leap. It may be a little too loungey for me. Opinions? Suggestions? Anyone think stretch velvet is wave of the future?

Simple and random as it is, backing or not, I really like the way this pattern turned out. Shockingly, Moxie does, too. (This is the man who said of Birch, "I don't understand the holes." Yes, that's right. And it was my wedding shawl. Miraculously, we are still married.) He wants me to consider making a really big version for our bed. (This is no small task - our bed is custom-sized and technically larger than a California King. Still, I'm considering it. I have some great ideas for further funkifying this pattern, and any interest in my knitting on his part is more than an impetus for action.)

Impressions of GGH Esprit:
Esprit would be on my Desert Island list if someone else would knit it up for me! The effect is great, I just don't like the hand. It's basically a thread, surrounded by lots of fluff, and when you knit you continually feel the thread. In my book, it's like working with fine mohair. The effect is amazing, but it's not my favorite process. This is the reason that it's taken me nearly eight months to finish the blanket. (Luckily, although I'm late for the baby's birth, I'm still early for Christmas!) I think many people out there will like this yarn, regardless of the hand, and honestly, if I've got a cool enough project to work on, it's well worth using.

Possible substitute yarns:
Berroco Plush and Trendsetter Blossom are possible substitutes for this yarn. The Plush comes in pastels and variegateds, and the Blossom has funky flecks that look like feathers scattered throughout it. The Esprit is my favorite because it's the most plush and has the best color palette (well, in my opinion), but I also have some Plush (which comes in a very pale almost white pink) in my stash for baby projects and the feather-thing that Blossom has going on can be fun. If you're dying to try the Esprit and can't find it at your LYS, give the Knit Cafe a holler. It's a staple yarn there, and they will soon (if not already) be moving into the mail order business.

Tips for Others Making the Knit Cafe Baby Binky:
Esprit is a fluffy yarn. If you're new to knitting it's easy to lose stitches, so graduate to it only when you're ready, and be prepared to exercise some patience!

Posted by Julia at November 21, 2004 01:59 PM


My suggestion for the backing of the binkie: Use the flannel, but 'tie' the knitting to the backing, as in tied quilts. Meaning you tack the binkie to the backing, at regular intervals, in some kind of pattern. This way, it doesn't stretch out of shape beyond the backing. Or that's the theory.

I have the same, um, reservations about the stretch velvet. I also think you shouldn't worry too much about how the back looks.

GREAT binkie. Really stunning. xoxox Kay

Posted by: Kay at November 29, 2004 12:44 PM

(Velvet. Babies. Uh, doesn't sound quite right, somehow.) A lightweight, stretchy cotton knit in one of the binkie colors might be better than a stretch velvet for a lining.

Posted by: Cookie at November 25, 2004 11:47 PM

WOW! The difference on the collar is AMAZING! Good job for sticking with it and re-doing it so much better! The baby blanket looks awesome! Have you thought about using a light fleece backing? Fleece is soooft and cuddly :)

Posted by: Lara at November 23, 2004 12:25 AM

Julia---I'm loving those colors!! I would recommend going with the flannel, despite what the sewing store maven says. I lined a blanket I made with some regular old cotton, bringing it up as a border around the front side, and it gave it some stability, making it more like a quilt than a shawl, which I wanted. Just my two cents! :-)

Posted by: aubree at November 22, 2004 04:05 PM

Well, the blanket is really great. I can't wait to see you modeling the cardigan as well. Such fine pieces. I think velvet would make a lovely backing but I wonder if it would decrease it's ability to be practical for a baby. Just a thought.

A little thought for any future random stripe projects. Someone made this great utility:
you specify the colors and the minimum and maximum number of rows for stripes and it generates random stripes for you. I find it really hard to be random so stuff like this really helps me.

Posted by: Marnie at November 22, 2004 01:37 PM

Beautiful work, as always! You never fail to disappoint. Thank you so much for sharing :-)

Posted by: Becky at November 22, 2004 11:51 AM

julia, i love how you included the details of your collar remedy. i may need that info for rowan flo. as always thanks for the clear and concise direction.

now the binky is gorgeous. those colors were just made to go together this way and your pic is a lovely way to display a blanket. looks fantastic. the random striping is gorgeous. wonderful job!

Posted by: froggy at November 22, 2004 11:12 AM

What a beautiful blankie! I love your idea of doing it out of the Esprit. It is such a fabulous yarn. And I love all the stripes. Awesome job!

Posted by: alison at November 22, 2004 12:29 AM

You might think of a stretch faux-suede -- a nice soft hand to complement the fuzzy blanket.

Posted by: cancoi at November 21, 2004 05:37 PM

oh, that's pretty! i adore the colors. :) the GGH esprit is kind of a pain to work with. i don't mind novelty yarns, but this makes me want to throw the piece I'm working on across the room. I can't wait until it's finished, just so I can be done with it. lol.

Posted by: Manda at November 21, 2004 03:26 PM

julia--this baby binkie is lovely and the colors are fantastic. i have a good friend that just found out she is expecting her first after a lot of trying and would love to make one of these for her. i think you said the pattern is free but i can't seem to find it after perusing the knitcafe site. any ideas? i'd appreciate it. and thanks for including your take on the pattern and yarn--that is always a nice treat when you see something you'd like to make.

Posted by: amanda at November 21, 2004 03:00 PM

This is so pretty, Julia. I especially love the rich, non-traditional baby colors- they play off of each other so well in the random stripes. If you put stretch velvet on it, you may actually have knit the coziest baby blanket every made!

Posted by: Mary-Heather at November 21, 2004 02:28 PM