Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Homemade baby gifts

Ruthie-4 was sick with a stomach virus all weekend, and I didn't feel all that great myself. So I took the liberty to lie around all day Sunday with a limp child in my lap, and something crafty in my hands. My niece-in-law just had her first baby, and I'm making her a blankie. Isn't that what great-aunts are for?

It all started when a friend gave each of our kids a flannel blanket with a crocheted edge as a baby gift when they were born. They quickly became the kids' favorites because they were lightweight (warm but not too warm for summer), didn't take up the entire diaper bag, and they were so soft! I liked them because they were made larger than receiving blankets - 42" X 42" rather than the standard 36" X 36" - especially as they got to be three or four years old and still enjoyed being able to cover up under their own "blankie."

I'm not that crafty, and I didn't know how to crochet, but I was determined to teach myself. "It can't be that hard," I reasoned. I got "How to Crochet" books, and even got a lesson or two from Grandma Betty.

Besides, those preschool years were financially thin (as opposed to now - self-employed - where things are just unpredictable!). I could make a blanket for under $8. A big bonus when all my friends were having babies, and I wanted to do something nice for their little ones. I lay for hours on bedrest with my last two pregnancies making these. I bet I've given dozens of these over the years, the last ones to my friend Sherri's boys. Now I guess it's time for a new generation of moms to get my blankies!

Besides being an heirloom gift, here are a few more reasons I really like making blankets:
  1. It is a craft that is mobile. I can take it with me to a doctor's office or on a car trip (or watching election coverage), and it is compact, not messy, without a bunch of little parts to keep track of.
  2. It can be finished in spurts. I never have hours at a time, but I can work on it for a few minutes and pick it up - as much as months later. I have to have interrupt-proof projects.
  3. It can be finished in just a few sittings. I could never crochet a WHOLE blanket, but an edge? I can do that!
Here are some simple instructions (and a link to buy one if you don't want to make it yourself. These people must be a lot faster than I am, because they're selling them for $20. At my rate, that would mean about 50 cents an hour!).

Sometimes you can find instruction cards for these in the yarn section of hobby and fabric stores (Leisure Arts leaflets #83017, 83066 (discontinued) and 2581 are the ones I use). Most instructions call for a yard of fabric, but I buy 1 and 1/3 yards so I have plenty to cut a 42" square (up to 44" if you really want a big one). I don't have a serger, so I zig-zag around the edges and use the thread holes (about 7 per inch) as guides to help me make my stitches even. Here's the first row around the blanket.I am also very picky about my thread. I pay a little more to get Coats Opera crochet cotton in size 5. It is a little thicker than the #10 used in most instructions you'll find on the internet, but very silky and shiny and easy to work with. This is important when you consider this is not just a blanket: it is a Superman cape, hula skirt, Mother Mary shroud, stuffed animal trampoline, and tug-of-war rope. The thicker thread just holds up better to preschooler abuse (and why those wimpy little receiving blankets get thrown out at the first garage sale). It is hard to find but worth it. When I use a size 5, I use a size 5 metal crochet hook.

Here's the second row around the blanket. I suppose I should have ironed it before I took the picture so it would lie flat.

I still have a little crochet thread left, so I might go around the edge one more time and make the stitch "extra fancy." Or I might make a couple of burp cloths (with those nice thick cloth diapers), crocheting a matching edge to complete the "ensemble." I've taught myself how to do several stitches now (all very simple), so every project is different, depending on my "mood," or the new mom's taste.

Do you make something special for baby gifts? What are some nice gifts you've received that would be "do-able" for moms to make?

*Edited to add*

My friend Mary (of salsa fame - I really AM going to post that recipe) just sent me this photo of the blankie I made over 8 years ago for her youngest. It was one of my first attempts, but according to her, it "still looks great after 8 ½ years and lots of love!!" She knows how to butter me up - I probably better make her some chocolate chip cookies now.


Kelli said...

I like your blankets! I used to crochet years ago as a kid and made several blankets. My grandmother taught me and I'll always be thankful to her for it. Perhaps I'll try to resurrect my skills on this project. In the past, I have made the first Christmas stocking for the new little one. When a name hasn't been selected in advance or the gender isn't known, I include a set of sticky felt letters or a sheet of white felt inside the stocking with a promise to complete it upon birth. As finances permit, I can stuff it with small goodies, too. Thanks for the link and the great idea!

Marcia (123 blog) said...

I came to tell you I agree with your previous post but it's not here (saw in my Google reader)

Anyway, great post :)

And yes, your blankets are very cute!

Andrea P. said...

I do love those blankets - my MIL makes those, too! My favorite gift to receive - Freezer Meals!!

Enid said...

YAY...you are crafty too, I will teach you knit..lol! Love the blankie!!!

Christy. said...

Those are SO cute! I buy flannel when it is on sale for $1 a yard and make birp cloths. They are cute and inexpensive!

Annie said...

Oh I may have to try this one out...there are a few babies coming into my little world!!

Ginger said...

Just catching up with you... LOVE these blankets, my dear 80 yr. old next door neighbor has made one for each of our 4 kids as well and they're the BEST - big enough to swaddle our chubby babies. I have wanted to learn how to do this forever - so thanks for the link!