Making a crochet blanket, particularly for adults, is not for the faint-hearted, and involves a big commitment in terms of yarn, time and money. Follow our top tips to make sure you enjoy the journey, and create something beautiful that will bring joy for years to come.
Not only do we all differ in our tension – the 'tightness' with which we form stitches as we crochet – but our own tension can vary within a project, particularly a large one like a blanket which can take weeks or even months to complete.
The good news is that individual variations in tension – or gauge as it’s often called - don’t matter hugely when making blankets. I crochet loosely, so even if I use the same yarn and hook as you, my blanket may come out a little larger. Unlike with garments, where that could make the difference between a good fit and a disaster, it doesn’t matter so much with a blanket or afghan.
But variations in our own tension within a project DO matter, and it can alter, particularly if you come back to a project after a break. It's not uncommon to discover as you complete a blanket that one end is significantly wider than the other. While working on my Campervan blanket - pictured below - I eventually noticed that it was gradually getting wider. I had to rip back half my work to correct it. Ugh! Similarly if you’re crocheting a giant granny square or circle, you can end up with buckling at the edges if your tension loosens as you work. Yep, been there too.
Tension, as the word suggests, can even vary with your mood. If you’re feeling cross or anxious, this can affect how tightly you hold your yarn and form your stitches, compared with when you’re feeling relaxed. Quite often we start a project with a slightly tighter tension, which then loosens up as we become more familiar with the stitches and don't have to concentrate so hard.
So what’s the solution? Simple. Regularly check your work as you go along. Either lay your blanket somewhere flat and check it by eye, or measure it to make sure you’re not going off course. If you find you do have a problem with changing gauge, you may have to rip back and consciously crochet a bit more loosely or tightly - as I did with the aberrant Campervan - or go up or down a needle size.
If you're the sort of person who has a lot of projects on the go at any one time, don't forget to make a note of what hook size you're using for your blanket. I've lost count of the number of times I’ve borrowed a hook from some languishing work in progress, only to find when I go back to it that I can’t remember what size I was using. I've several rather wonky blankets to prove that guessing isn't the best solution.
A blanket crocheted in thick cotton will have a very different weight and feel than one made from soft acrylic. If you’re working to a pattern, the safest option is always to buy the stated yarn to achieve a similar look and feel.
If you're choosing your own yarn, stick to those that will withstand a fair amount of wear and tear. Blankets often get a lot of love, especially from kids and pets, so it’s best to stay away from yarns that tend to pill or form bobbles. Soft natural yarns like merino will generally pill very quickly, whereas acrylic can go years without so much as a hint of fuzz. Believe me, you do not want to debobble a whole blanket; my attempt at that now lives in the dog basket.
If you’re not using a specific pattern and the recommended yarn, it’s always worth going a test swatch to see how your chosen yarn works up in that particular stitch. Generally, if you want to use a stitch that tends to form a thicker or stiffer fabric, such as plain double crochet (US: single crochet), or waffle or star stitch, you can always compensate by using a softer, more drapey yarn. Or simply pick a lighter weight such as 4-ply (fingering), rather than double knit or aran
Is this for a baby, or for a friend who isn’t familiar with caring for natural yarns? How do you feel about handwashing blankets? In all these cases, acrylic or cotton, or some multi-fibre blend might be a better choice than pure wool – even superwash treated wools are not guaranteed to withstand the rigours of a washing machine and tumble dryer.
It's also worth bearing in mind that acrylic tends to be softer and more snuggly than cotton and some more ‘toothy’ natural yarns, not to mention lighter too. I made this granny square blanket for my daughter in aran-weight cotton scraps - beautiful, but it weighs a ton!
How much do you want to spend? Acrylic is generally cheaper than cotton or wool and often comes in a larger range of colours. Remember blankets are very yarn hungry, especially if you use a lot of different shades. I once fell in love with this gorgeous Rowan Picnic Blanket by Marie Wallin, only to find that the suggested yarn would set me back nearly £250. No wonder the pattern refers to it as an ‘heirloom’ blanket!
You could write a book on this alone, and colour choices are very subjective. But in general, try to choose shades that complement each other – some colours, such as neons, tend not to play nicely with others and should be used with care.
If you don’t feel confident about colour, you’ll find a wealth of pre-selected combinations online that work well together. Lucy at Attic 24 is always an inspiration with her blanket colour choices, and you’ll also find lots of ideas on Pinterest.
If you have the yarn to hand, make up little swatches on clothes pegs or bits of card – you can then play around with them until you’re happy with the intended colour order. Bear in mind that unless you’re using scrap yarn, the more colours you include in your blanket, the more expensive it will be.
How much time do you want to spend on this project? If you want something fast, go for a blanket in a simple stitch and a limited range of colours, and you’ll avoid the time-consuming elements of working more intricate patterns or constantly changing your yarn. Though granny square blankets and other ‘scrappy’ projects are a timeless classic, and ideal for using up odds and ends, they do involve constant yarn changes, and an awful lot of ends to weave in.
A lovely border can make all the difference to your blanket. Unless you’re a super neat crocheter, they're great for hiding slightly wobbly edges, or the bumps you tend to get where you’ve joined different yarn colours at the end or beginning of a row. Take your pick from ornate, lacy borders to the very simple, such as three rounds of plain double crochet (US: single crochet) - my go-to border for a neat and simple finish.
Tassels are the unsung heroes of the crochet blanket world, and are a brilliant solution for projects like Spring Woodland that require constant changes of colour.
Simply leave a longish tail at the beginning and end of the row, then tie them all together when you’ve finished. You might want to add a few more tassels in between if they look a bit sparse, but even so it will save you a lot of time weaving in ends, plus they look great too.
Don’t forget the option of popping a tassel on each corner. They can give a blanket a lovely finishing touch.
Blankets – at least adult sized – can be a big commitment. While this can seem daunting, if you avoid complicated patterns with lots of different stitches, making one can also be wonderfully relaxing and mindful, and has even been proven to lower stress and anxiety.
Few things are more soothing than working a crochet blanket while you're watching TV or enduring a long car journey (only if you’re not actually driving – top tip #11 is do not drive and crochet at the same time!) Remember, the pleasure is in the process; just enjoy the rhythm of the stitches and the rows, and your blanket will be finished much sooner than you imagine.