Join 3,556 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


How to scope a grandma crochet blanket project?
January 12, 2013 10:16 PM   Subscribe

My wife's grandmother is an amazingly talented seamstress who also crochets. She recently put out an all points bulletin request for projects, what do I need to know before I request a crocheted throw made out a material that might be outside her comfort zone and/or budget?

So first off, I know next to nothing about crochet[ing]. If you asked me the difference between crochet and knitting I'd be at a complete loss. My wife knows more, she's done a scarf or two but the grandma is no slouch and has put out quite a few awesome throws, though mostly for other family members.

All that said, I figure a medium size throw, or heck a full/queen size blanket depending on how this pans out, would be amazing.

So, what's next? I want to go to her with as specific a request as possible while still staying off of her toes. Thoughts/requests are as follows:

1) I'm not necessarily all that picky with regards to the pattern. Don't get me wrong, it'd be awesome to have a thematic HALO4 or Alabama Crimson Tide throw for the man room, but I'm completely ok with, and possibly even preferential to, a natural/undyed look, that goes double if natural/unbleached/undyed stuff is stronger/better as some things I've read have said.
2) That said, neither I nor the wife really like throws that have large holes in the pattern. Drafts are not a good thing for the type of lounging/use case we have in mind for it.
3) Natural, awesome yarns are something I'd really like to look into; however, I have no idea what this will entail for grandma. I just know that I have a pair of amazing alpaca socks that I got from a ladies coop while visiting Ecuador that I don't think I would mind wrapping around my entire body. I don't know how familiar she may or may not be with this type/size of yarn. So, here we are I guess....
4) Following up on number 3, I'd like to provide her with the materials to offset the cost/PITA factor of procuring yarn that may not be her usual go-to synthetic stuff. Barring her having an inside or preferred supply house I think I could probably handle buying the skeins if I knew enough about what she needed (or what we wanted I suppose). I wouldn't want to have her out a whole bunch for our blanket because her income is quite fixed and she already does alot of these type of projects for the family.

So, all that said, what else can I provide her besides a reminder that we don't really get the whole swiss cheese blanket thing, a request for certain alpaca/wool yarns types, and a request for what she'll be needing me to buy? Or am I misunderstanding something altogether about crochet/yarns that makes everything I've said moot?

For example is it going to be a complete impossibility for her to use a new yarn without a long, difficult learning period because the z-axis of the fibers won't align with the constant divergent of the garment (sic), ya'know? Or will crocheting them make the alpaca fibers all unhappy such that I'd be better off with wool or bison hair yarn because the get a +4 to constitution and +1 to strength when crocheted by a grandmastergrandma.

I guess this seems a bit rambly and I'm sorry for that but I'm just guessing about so many aspects of this whole thing. Oh, please understand I'm not asking for etiquette tips with regards to how to interact with one's grandma or how to ask for gifts. We get along well and that's not the issue. It's more me asking how to talk intelligently to a crochet person offering their time and what factors I may be missing from the get go.
posted by RolandOfEld to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
That said, neither I nor the wife really like throws that have large holes in the pattern. Drafts are not a good thing for the type of lounging/use case we have in mind for it.

Three points, here. Firstly, usually crochet has "holes", whereas knitting doesn't necessarily (but can, depending on the pattern). If the grandmother crochets exclusively, you are going to get a "holey" finished object.

Secondly, crochet takes less time than knitting. A knitted blanket takes frakking FOREVER to make, whereas a crocheted blanket is a little more reasonable. If someone asked me to knit them a king-sized blanket, and wanted it to be a solid fabric rather than "holey" lace (which conceivably knits up a little bit quicker if you're good at lace), I would have two choices: tactfully refuse or flake. Or commit ritual suicide, I guess.

Thirdly, (deliberate) holes in a knitted or crocheted pattern don't mean the finished object will be less warm. It's counterintuitive, but actually the open parts of lace or crochet make the finished object warmer -- something about trapping more body heat in all the little nooks and crannies of wool, though my science might not be perfect on that. Just trust that a "holey" crocheted afghan will keep you plenty warm. Also, there's such a thing as too warm -- sometimes thickly knitted fabrics are too hot to be usable. I mean, presumably you'll use a blanket in your house, and not summiting Everest.

Natural, awesome yarns are something I'd really like to look into; however, I have no idea what this will entail for grandma. I just know that I have a pair of amazing alpaca socks

A couple of things about this. Firstly, fiber folks tend to have different types of fiber they prefer working with. It's a tactile hobby. As a knitter, I love simple, natural merino wool. It's soft to the touch, has a pleasing sproingy-ness (scientific term), feels good on the needles, and knits up into a nice fabric. Other people like acrylic because it's practical, or cotton because they live in warm climates, or bamboo because they're vegan, or whatever. Most likely, grandma will prefer to choose a fiber based on what she likes working with, especially if it's going to be a large project that will take many hours.

Secondly, different patterns work best with different fibers. You can't just decide "I want a cashmere dishcloth!" or "I want a silk gansey!" Different types of fibers knit up into different sorts of fabrics, and are useful for different functions. In a lot of ways, a fiber project is like an engineering project. You wouldn't build a bridge out of balsa wood, and you wouldn't knit mittens out of cotton. Certain fibers lend themselves to an afghan project, and while there may be some flexibility, you don't entirely have free reign.

Barring her having an inside or preferred supply house I think I could probably handle buying the skeins if I knew enough about what she needed

Your best bet is either going to be to find out her preferred yarn source and give her a gift card that would cover the materials cost, or to go with her to the shop and choose a yarn together. I agree that you should cover the materials, especially if you have specific ideas that aren't her usual preference -- especially if she usually crochets throw sized afghans in acrylic and you want a king sized knitted afghan in alpaca. I mean, you're scaling from a $20 project to a $200 project, in that example.

So, all that said, what else can I provide her besides...

Understanding and trust. It's a little bit rude in my opinion to announce that you don't like "the whole swiss cheese blanket thing" or make hard requirements about fiber type. Especially since you clearly don't know what you're talking about. It would be like me going to my grandmother's house and asking her to cook me a meal, but saying I wasn't into "the whole 50's june cleaver casserole bullshit" and required her to make a five course dinner in classical French cuisine, but with avocados and jicama as the main ingredients. Let her choose a pattern for you and allow for her to use a type of fiber she's comfortable with and which works with the pattern.

Also, if you sincerely dislike the types of afghans she usually makes, just don't have her make you an afghan at all.

(FWIW a closely knitted alpaca blanket might be perfectly fine -- it's more the trust and graciousness thing that's a big deal.)
posted by Sara C. at 11:14 PM on January 12, 2013 [23 favorites]


It does exist. Google "alpaca yarn' and you will see that there is a store that sells it. You might want to get an idea of prices, and how much would be needed for a large project. Naturally, you will underwrite the expense. IF the cost suits you, then ask grandma if she is willing to crochet alpaca yarn.
posted by Cranberry at 11:16 PM on January 12, 2013


Natural, awesome yarns are something I'd really like to look into; however, I have no idea what this will entail for grandma.

Don't forget the glory that is cascade 220, which many (most?) knitting shops will have. It's durable wool, good value, and feels nice against skin.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:31 PM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Grandma probably uses mostly (or nothing but) acrylic, because it is light, inexpensive, and is pretty indestructible. If you prefer wool (I do) keep in mind she might find it a good deal more heavy to work with if you're after a throw, but on the other hand, she might also enjoy it more, because many people find wool a lot nicer to work with, as it has more stretch (than most acrylic yarns). You might have to chat with her, to come to a middle ground that works for you both - for eg if she is allergic to wool, you might be stuck with acrylic (which isn't all bad, acrylic yarns can be really beautiful and soft! and they are way easier to care for, especially in a large item).

Those holey looking crocheted afghan patterns are CRAZY warm, much warmer than I think you imagine. They also are lighter when finished, which means they are more likely to not crush the poor crocheter making it, plus the throw or whatever will keep its shape a lot better. Solid fabric can distort like crazy (unless it is made in small squares or something - the seams help the piece maintain its structural integrity).

You might consider asking for a crocheted throw made out of some kind of hairy yarn, like a mohair, or mohair blend. It will be light, and the fluffy will help disguise the holes. It will be pricey, so it's nice you're already thinking of buying the yarn. Alpaca is gorgeous, but it typically is very heavy and drapy, and is possibly better in a blend for a project of this type (or avoided altogether).

(On second thoughts, maybe crocheting a hairy yarn is crazy making? I once tried to crochet some eyelash yarn and wanted to strangle myself with it within minutes.)
posted by thylacinthine at 11:35 PM on January 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have always paid for the materials when someone makes me something like that, I totally insist on it. Plus a small gift for their effort, ideally something handmade like food.

Which is probably why I have the worlds best hand knitted hat with cavorting whales on it.
posted by fshgrl at 11:38 PM on January 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I definitely recommend Cascade 220, assuming your wife's grandmother isn't allergic to wool or something.

Cascade also makes a bulky weight lambswool*, a superwash version of Cascade 220 (i.e. you can machine wash and dry it), and this brilliant stuff called Eco Wool which is an un-dyed slightly more rugged version of 220 which comes in huge very affordable skeins and is ideal for blanket type projects.

*Another thing to consider is that different projects call for different weights of yarn, which is different from what type of fiber it is. A blanket project is likely to call for a heavier weight yarn, though I don't know if that's as true for crochet as I don't crochet.
posted by Sara C. at 11:38 PM on January 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would suggest thinking about the use of the object and how you plan to launder it. People might use acrylic for crochet throws simply because it is easier to throw in the washing machine and dryer, something you could never do with anything made out of alpaca. If Grandma likes working with acrylic and you prefer natural fibers there are actually some blends out there that are quite nice. I am usually a natural fiber snob, but after some bad experiences with wool baby blankets that accidentally got tossed in the washing machine, I prefer to make throws out of a 75% acrylic 25% wool blend yarn like Plymouth Encore - it doesn't have the squeaky feel of acrylic but holds up better for that type of use than something like alpaca.
posted by gnat at 11:38 PM on January 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wow. Grandma is crazy generous. Did she provide any parameter in her request for projects?

Speaking as a knitter, since she has asked for projects, I don't think you're out of line to express preferences in terms of a general color scheme or fibers, as long as you keep in mind that every fiber is not ideal for every project (alpaca tends not to be elastic and can be oppressively warm); that natural fibers require additional steps to care for them; and natural fibers often need to be washed by hand and blocked, a process which a recipient may or may not have the time, materials, or expertise to do.

It is gracious to offer to purchase the materials, as it suggests you recognize that her gift to you is the time and skill it takes to produce the blanket, not the fiber itself. You should not, however, purchase the materials without her go-ahead, since not all fibers are equally suited to all purposes.

Unless she's specifically asked you for patterns, I'd be a little more careful here. Suggestions so I can make a gift recipient happy are welcome; demands make me feel like I'm taking an order for a commission and are more likely to result in links to how-to videos than a handmade item.
posted by cinderly at 11:40 PM on January 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


You say "Grandma I would love a blanket. Can I go with you to pick out and buy the yarn? How much will you need?" Then you treasure whatever she makes for you.

FYI, alpaca is lovely soft yarn, but is probably too drapey and loosely spun to make a durable afghan.
posted by apricot at 11:42 PM on January 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


The easiest way to handle this would be for you and grandma (plus wife?) to talk in person about this and then go to her preferred local store where you can all touch fibers and look at colors and patterns together. Grandma will know what she's talking about and have suggestions for you, and possibly pictures of finished patterns that she might be interested in making but hasn't had an excuse to do yet. As a crocheter I absolutely love when friends and family have a halfway specific request like yours, and I think it's a wonderful way to spend a few hours with that person, to figure out the project and get the materials with them. Conveniently for you this means you can just insist that you pay for the materials and grandma isn't out anything more than her time.

Alpaca yarn: Yes, it's lovely to work with, but it also tends to be incredibly expensive. Alpaca blends are very nice, and different companies make machine washable blends of things like alpaca and acrylic, or luxurious things like alpaca and silk. When it's enough yarn to make a full blanket, though, you're talking at least a few hundred dollars, probably more.

I also love merino wool blends, they're very soft and wonderful to work with. But for something like a lounging-around-the-house throw, I'd suggest that you consider an acrylic simply because it will be durable and easy to care for. Acrylic yarns (and blends like wool acrylic bamboo) that aren't the cheapest of the cheap craft store stuff can be surprisingly beautiful and comfy. Bonus: it's going to be the least expensive. If you are the person in the house who does the laundry, then you need to pick a fiber that can be washed the way you're willing to wash big things. If you're not that person, confer with whoever is. Anything I make out of merino isn't anything I'm tossing in the washer.

Crochet uses a lot more yarn than knitting. However, it goes much faster. So projects end up costing more up front, since there's more material involved, but if you're paying for time commitment it can sometimes even out. Crochet also lends itself to much nicer openwork (aka swiss cheese) which, see, makes a project use less yarn for more surface area, thus evening out the more yarn per project thing. All of this is to say, if you want a big comfy blanket of expensive natural fibers that isn't openwork, you're going to have to put down a lot more cash for this than you might expect, and part of that is due to the nature of crochet. Also I have to echo the people above: a crochet afghan full of holes is actually going to be incredibly warm, particularly if it's big enough to layer, and it'll also be lighter and faster to make. There are plenty of ways to crochet that don't involve large holes at all, though. You can make really scrumptious textures with crochet.

It can be hard to make a project for someone who isn't stating a concrete opinion on what they do and do not like. I think it would be helpful for you to pop over to http://www.ravelry.com/ and try searching the pattern browser for Crochet Afghans. Ignore color, but looking at the images collect a few different ones that you like the look of, and have them on-hand when talking with grandma about what you'd like. She might have a preference for the kinds of things she likes to make, or she might not, but it's really helpful to have some baseline ideas to start with. Be really clear that you're not asking for specifically this or that afghan, but that certain aspects of each one are things you like, and did she have any ideas, etc.

If she's like, halfway across the globe, and making this an in-person afternoon simply is not an option, I think you should go to a local yarn store yourself and touch a lot of different fibers and talk to the people there for information on care of the ones you like. Then you'll be much more informed about material and cost and all that. And yes, please be sure to pay for the materials. A blanket is a big job! If she has a local favorite yarn store, find out what it is and if they offer gift certificates or store credit (if you can afford it I might drop a bit extra in there since this she is essentially a skilled craftsperson working for free). Or if she's more straightforward, just ask that she please send you the receipt so you can reimburse her.
posted by Mizu at 11:54 PM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Most knitters and crocheters over about 45 years old, that I know, REALLY REALLY prefer not to use black/navy blue/dark colours because it's so hard to see at night in front of the television which is when most knitters and crocheters, that I know, do their thing.

The most considerate thing is to make it a medium to light colour, I believe.

This is a very exciting and incredibly precious gift. I'm so happy for you. You sound very sensitive about it, I'm sure it's going to be fab for you all. An heirloom rug!!
posted by taff at 12:24 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


As for payment... Generally you pay for the materials if it's not family. (Unless someone wants to do it for a baby....then it's a gift.)

Commissioned stuff between friends, you pay.

Family is more complicated. If she's VERY comfortable financially, you ask her how you should get the wool and offer to pay. But don't push it if she demurs.

If she's not outrageously well off, find out her preferred supplier and buy a voucher for several hundred dollars. She is to use the excess cash/voucher for her next projects, is the instruction.

I don't know what wool costs in your country, but 200-300 dollars isn't as much wool as you'd think. (Certainly not if it's alpaca.)
posted by taff at 12:30 AM on January 13, 2013


I'd always thought of crochet being that holey sort of stuff, but I did see this cool geometric design afghan on Etsy. If she's open to you picking a design, having a look on Etsy might yield some other 'non grandma style, non holey' designs.
posted by AnnaRat at 1:33 AM on January 13, 2013


Alpaca is lovely, soft, drapey stuff. It's also very, very warm -- I find 100% alpaca too warm for sweaters. A very nice (and relatively inexpensive) 50% alpaca, 50% wool blend is Berroco Ultra Alpaca, which has the added benefits of being available in a huge range of colours and in a few different weights.

Generally, the thicker the yarn used, the more (in grams or ounces) you'll need to make a blanket of the same dimensions. As mentioned upthread, crochet eats up much more yarn than knitting, but it's also quicker. Another speed consideration: thicker yarns are quicker to work with than thin yarns.

I wouldn't just offer to pay for this project: I would insist on actually buying the yarn after your grandmother has chosen it. Don't forget to get a few extra skeins, because you might not be able to get the exact same dye lot in subsequent trips to the yarn shop.

If you're looking for a pattern, one option is to join Ravelry.com and have a look at their incredible database of knitting and crochet patterns, then either show it to your grandmother to see if she can improvise something similar (many skilled crocheters and knitters can) or if you can obtain the pattern for her.
posted by third word on a random page at 2:21 AM on January 13, 2013


Forgot to add: if you find the pattern on Ravelry, it will also tell you how much yarn you'll need, and which fibers/weights are best for this pattern.

Another consideration: do you want something that's washable? Alpaca isn't generally machine washable, so unless you're able to hand-wash a blanket or okay with getting it dry-cleaned, a superwash (machine washable) wool might be a better bet.

I really miss working at a yarn shop.
posted by third word on a random page at 2:22 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am a very beginner crocheter. I've literally crocheted myself a shawl, using 16 balls of the cheapest acrylic yarn I could find. I didn't track how much time it took me, but since starting the same project again, I've realised that it takes me ~5 hours per ball of yarn. The shawl I've created took me about 80 full hours, start to finish, I'd estimate.

Obviously, I'm going to be going at a much slower rate than the individual who is making your item for you, but please bear in mind the time outlay involved in large projects. The shawl I created is about 5'6".

The shawl I created uses a stitch that has holes in it (proper crocheters will be able to use the correct terms), which is probably what you've seen when seeing crocheted items. It's not the warmest of shawls when only in a single layer, probably due to the openness of my weave, but in a double layer it's plenty warm.

I'd suggest talking to her about what materials she can work with, and then either paying for the materials when you're in the shop with her, or giving her the cash to get what she needs. There's a bewildering array of choices out there, and some of the terminology will probably be better understood by her. I get confused by a lot of it, which means spending time with a very patient relative who understands such things when I want to try something new.

One other thing: if she's using a new yarn that she's not used before, she might want to try a sample piece first to see how closely it comes together. Factor in the cost of an additional ball of the yarn so she can get a feel for it before spending fortunes on something that's going to come out smaller/larger than she expects.
posted by Solomon at 3:36 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am not a yarnstress, so I don't know how it works out in terms of time commitment and/or material per area of finished product, but I've seen a lot of crocheted baby blankets and other baby paraphernalia that are less "holey" than you might think of for your typical large crocheted afghan that you're used to seeing. The purpose there, I suppose, is to avoid holes large enough for baby fingers and hands to get caught in. I imagine they are made using fairly fine-gauge yarn and needles. But the end result, with a nice soft acrylic yard, is very soft and cuddly.

The experts can tell me what these stitches are, but I'm thinking something like this or this (shell pattern?), or this.

If you haven't already, try a google image search of "crocheted afghan" to get an idea of the range of pattern options. Then you can say to grandma, we'd like something more along the lines of this or this, and she can probably work from there to have a meeting of minds.
posted by drlith at 6:05 AM on January 13, 2013


I have a crocheted blanket my great-grandmother made for me when I was a child, more than 30 years ago. It's made from some cheap acrylic and isn't the softest thing on the block, but it's got the holes and it's really warm. And it's been machine washed and dried countless times and still looks fabulous. And I treasure it because she made it for me. I have a blanket I knitted, no holes, in a mostly-wool blend, that no one in my family will use because it's too warm (well, except the cats, they love it). Think about weight of the blanket and ease of care, as others have mentioned. Personally, I wouldn't want to have a blanket that needed hand washing. I have a pattern suggestion, Babette is a pattern I've made for several people, once in a soft cotton blend yarn, once in a superwash wool, once in acrylic. It's a fun pattern to make, just enough challenge to be interesting, but not difficult, and the blankets are really stunning. There's a flickr group and you can see all the amazing color combinations people have used. It's fun to plan out, picking colors and such. Ditto what Sara C. said about crochet/knitting being a tactile art and that some folks might have strong preferences about fibers.
posted by upatree at 7:19 AM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


If she is your wife's grandmother, then ask your wife to ask her how she feels about working in wool or a wool blend. Maybe yes, maybe no.

What upatree says above about a knit blanket, wool blend, is probably right. I have a crocheted acrylic blanket that is 100% holes and I have it wrapped around my person right now to keep out drafts.

Granted, I'm extrapolating from my grandmother(s), but she probably knows more about the fiber arts than anyone on the thread, me included, and can probably do anything you want as long as you (I say it with a smile) don't use words like "use case," "Ecuador," or "holes make it not warm."

In general, I would say this is the kind of thing where you pick the colors and pick your favorite pattern from her various work samples and existing pattern books. If she says I WANT TO TRY SOMETHING NEW, then you can pick another pattern.

My surviving grandparents (only surviving because they are step-grandparents) are in their mid-eighties. If it's not your favorite throw now, it will be in 25 years.
posted by skbw at 7:45 AM on January 13, 2013


Great replies, let me try to hit the high points here because maybe I didn't make things as clear as I could have. Please take all replies as me clarifying because I appreciate the help.

Let me get this out first: Grandma is 100% open to flexing her crochet muscles and she put out the all call for projects for a reason. The reason is that she wants to make things that we want. So, again, I'm not exactly asking an etiquette question except insofar as I may be asking the straight-up impossible.

It's counterintuitive, but actually the open parts of lace or crochet make the finished object warmer -- something about trapping more body heat in all the little nooks and crannies of wool, though my science might not be perfect on that. Just trust that a "holey" crocheted afghan will keep you plenty warm.

I concur. We have had afghans before, some we like, some that are in the hope chest waiting to be passed on to someone else. Most of the reason for the latter is if they have the extremely large holes because we just don't like them. We're not looking for the tightest blanky ever here, just not the large holes we've seen on occasion before.

Certain fibers lend themselves to an afghan project, and while there may be some flexibility, you don't entirely have free reign.

Right, so wool is one of these things right? This point is one of the things I figured askme would help with.

I agree that you should cover the materials, especially if you have specific ideas that aren't her usual preference -- especially if she usually crochets throw sized afghans in acrylic and you want a king sized knitted afghan in alpaca. I mean, you're scaling from a $20 project to a $200 project, in that example.

Absolutely. She has a basic understanding of internet searches as well so I'm not too scared of doing just that, or letting her fill an e-shopping cart and me doing the payment part.

It's a little bit rude in my opinion to announce that you don't like "the whole swiss cheese blanket thing" or make hard requirements about fiber type. Especially since you clearly don't know what you're talking about.

It's not though. Please understand that the relationship and the request is such that my wife and I being specific is in no way rude, insulting, or assuming. An example of a past interaction in this vein: the grandma came to my wife and her sister to request/create a quilt block pattern/fabric/layout/size for two quilts she would make for them. The quilt blocks were way outside her norm, not what she expected, and the project turned out...... GREAT. She reported that it was the most fun she had had in a while making a quilt, enjoyed the challenge, and was glad to have been kept busy. She did name one of the patterns, and many family laughs were had about this, "Grandma's Nightmare".

FWIW a closely knitted alpaca blanket might be perfectly fine -- it's more the trust and graciousness thing that's a big deal.

Yay! Good to hear that, and thanks for the input, because I'm in no way worried about the latter items, they are a non-issue for ultra-cool grandma and this round of project requests.

Grandma probably uses mostly (or nothing but) acrylic, because it is light, inexpensive, and is pretty indestructible.

I think this is the case, I will be asking her as much without prying into her budget situation.

If you prefer wool (I do) keep in mind she might find it a good deal more heavy to work with if you're after a throw, but on the other hand, she might also enjoy it more, because many people find wool a lot nicer to work with, as it has more stretch (than most acrylic yarns).

Yay!!! That's what I'm hoping because she's wanting new things to a certain degree. I mean she wouldn't want to take up basketweaving out of the blue if we asked for a basket but the thought that she may enjoy/prefer this new experience/yarn is great to hear.

Cascade also makes a bulky weight lambswool*, a superwash version of Cascade 220 (i.e. you can machine wash and dry it), and this brilliant stuff called Eco Wool which is an un-dyed slightly more rugged version of 220 which comes in huge very affordable skeins and is ideal for blanket type projects.

Spot on! The Eco Wool sounds great, we were leaning towards a chunkier request anyway.

I would suggest thinking about the use of the object and how you plan to launder it.

We don't need super, super easy cleaning. We have other blankets/throws that fit that role. While we may not be completely aware of what we're getting into, we are the type that doesn't mind taking the extra care certain clothing/items demand.

"Grandma I would love a blanket. Can I go with you to pick out and buy the yarn? How much will you need?"

She is remote, and another factor means that communication will be digital. Otherwise, yes.

That's all the replies I can do now, I'll be sure to revisit this later.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:01 AM on January 13, 2013


Right, so wool is one of these things right? This point is one of the things I figured askme would help with.

The suggestions above are fine, but just FYI: "wool" is a very general fiber and wool yarns will vary depending on the type and breed of animal and the spin of the yarn. Usually you'll hear "wool" in description of a wool that comes from sheep, but technically the fiber from goats, alpaca, camels and rabbits can also all be called wool, and all of the fibers understandably vary hugely.

Here's a list that's just varieties of wool from different breeds of sheep.
posted by girih knot at 9:29 AM on January 13, 2013


The quilt blocks were way outside her norm, not what she expected, and the project turned out...... GREAT.

Well, sure. But there's a lot of difference between saying, "here's a kind of unorthodox pattern we really like, but it's seemingly within the parameters of what quilting can do, and it's within your wheelhouse as a crafter" and saying "make me an afghan to fit a king sized bed, in a tight fabric with no holes, and it has to be made of alpaca."

If you're interested in the former sort of idea, bring her pictures of crocheted afghans you like, or sit down with her and do some pattern research. Allow her to choose the proper fiber for the project, with perhaps some input like "we have no problem hand-washing natural wool" or "we're more into an undyed creamy/oatmealish colorway than garish sports teams or crayon box colors".

Just because someone asks for requests doesn't mean you can just spit out random words at them and expect to get what you want. I mean, a DJ takes requests, but I probably can't ask for Mongolian throat singing. You know?
posted by Sara C. at 11:14 AM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


OK, I am pretty sure I get where you are coming from. I'm not a crochet person, but a weaver - I have plenty of experience with friends and family who want me to "make them something" and have *no idea* what the possibilities are. You want a woven hat or mittens? Yeah, no, unless you want to sew them yourself from a yardage I'll make you. How about a scarf or napkins or a blanket or a rug?

I think there are several parameters that you might or might not want to include in your requirements discussion. Unfortunately, they are not orthogonal to one another for project planning:

Texture: On the "holey" front, as people have mentioned upthread, crochet has a variety of possible textures. Here is a pinterest page with a bunch of images. I searched for "crochet textures" btw. Grandma might be interested in learning or practicing a new stitch, or not.
You have a (reasonable) preference against super large openings. Textures with long runs of un-looped yarn are probably unsuitable for a blanket with a heavy yarn (they'll snag if the yarns more than, say, 1/2 inch.) A finer grist yarn with the same stitch might be OK.
The "pattern" of the texture (the unit cell, if you prefer) is going to scale in size with the yarn size, in general, because the hook size also depends on the yarn size, and the hook diameter governs the minimum size of the yarn loops...

Fiber content: this is the animal (species, breed) and/or plant and/or chemical process that generated the fiber. I'm going with and/or because there's no reason you shouldn't be open to blends. More on that later.
The fiber content is going to be key for determining the insulating power and the maintenance of the blanket as well as the feel. It will also influence sheen and drape (it would in a woven, but crochet's twisted loops might behave different. Beyond my ken.) Unfortunately, many of these behaviors also depend very strongly on how tightly spun the yarn is, and how many strands are plied together.
It sounds like you want your blanket to be matte rather than have a sheen. Then stay away from silk and silk blends. Bamboo and most rayons tend to be shiny but there might be some exceptions.
Acrylic can be scratchy or soft- it gets a bad rap in some fiber circles because a) it can sometimes look cheap and b) it is so stable that it always stays distinct as "yarn". That disqualifies it from most weaving, but you'll never blur your crocheted lace texture because your acrylic yarn relaxed or felted.
It doesn't sound like hand-washing is a big deal to you, but are you willing to spread out the item and pin it into shape to dry it? That's what people mean by blocking, and you might only need to do it on the first wash, and then dry clean after that.
There are machine washable wools, and blends can be your friend here. Wool/acrylic is warm and much more felt-resistant that many wools. Wool/rayon similarly. If you want a light blanket for summer, don't discount cotton or cotton blends.

It's not going to be productive to generalize too much more here. I'd suggest you go to a couple of local yarn stores and pet the yarns with the underside of your wrists (or your neck). Sample the gamut - touch the acrylics at your local Joann or Michaels, and then go to a knitting store and touch some fancier fibers. Make a note of the fiber content and care instructions and also the manufacturer and grist (weight) of fibers you like and loathe. Alternately, you can request sample cards from yarn dealers online. Here are two.


Grist (and plies):
Ask Grandma about this before you visit your local yarn store. If she wants to put bounds on this, let her - this is a big influence on how big of a project your blanket it. Yarn put up for knitting and crocheting usually has weight designations "lace, sport, etc".
In your question you asked about natural yarns being "stronger" ... more plies and more twist are going to increase the fail strength of the fiber, but unless the fiber you like is visibly wispy along its main axis I think you can rely on the crochet stitches to distribute stress over a large area and protect your item from your poky toes or whatever. Again, grandma will be able to veto yarns that are obviously unsuitable.

Color: Self explanatory. I'd consider the laundering situation before going for a solid pale color if this blanket is going to be used in a Man Cave with beer and snacks. Be careful about failling in love with a variegated yarn - they look very different on the cone/ball than after they've been knitted up. If you develop a crush, buy a smallish put-up and have grandma make a swatch to see if you still dig it before you commit. Also, it's safe to assume that almost every yarn will look less shiny once it has been worked.
posted by janell at 12:16 PM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


> I think I could probably handle buying the skeins if I knew enough about what she needed (or what we wanted I suppose). I wouldn't want to have her out a whole bunch for our blanket because her income is quite fixed and she already does alot of these type of projects for the family.

Buying yarn is my favorite part of knitting. Not the paying for it, but going to the store and fondling everything and holding different colors next to each other. Can you send her a gift card to her yarn store of choice?
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:34 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you for the clarification! "I want to make you a blanket, please give me specifications" is a different request than "Would you like me to make a blanket for you?"

The advice upthread to join Ravelry is good, even if you and your wife are not crocheters and not interested in taking up the craft. The pattern database is robust and has a number of handy filters that may help you better identify both the characteristics of of patterns you like and how a variety of fiber combinations have worked to create those patterns.

A quick skim of the crochet -> blanket filter brings up a variety of traditional and more modern patterns, with varying levels of holey-ness. For example, the Sunny Spread has been made using acrylics, several wools (include Cascade 220), a wool/mohair blend, and a popular mohair/silk/wool blend that some fiber folks adore and others hate with a burning passion.

There's also the Granny Stripe Blanket (more architectural than it sounds), and yes, a Halo blanket square, designed as part of a gaming-themed pieced blanket.

Part of the reason so many of us are giving you "it depends" answers is that in crocheting, the end project largely determines the materials you choose. I can sew an oxford-style shirt out of silk chiffon rather than cotton broadcloth if I really want to. It would be an irritating project to make, but I could do it, and provided I took certain precautions with the seams, would be wearable at the end and will look a lot like my other button-down shirts.

If I decide I want to make myself a hat out of laceweight (fine gauge) linen yarn, but I want to use my standard worsted (heavier-weight) wool hat pattern, I'm going to have to make a lot of adjustments to account for the difference in the physical properties of the two materials, and I'll have to accept that the final project will be completely different from other projects I've made from the same pattern.

Figure out the kinds of patterns you're looking for, then talk about yarn choices.

Finally, I think you may have gotten some etiquette discussion because many skilled crafters have been given orders-disguised-as-requests in the past; such experiences are part of why I ended up teaching my then-76-year-old mother-in-law to knit. I don't think she's kept up with it, but she also understands a little better what she's asking for when she does make a request.
posted by cinderly at 12:35 PM on January 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ok, back for more responses.

First off, thanks for the yarn/pattern resources. Those will be super helpful.

The fact that the patterns on Ravelry will have yardage numbers is a big help.

Ok, back to specifics:

FYI, alpaca is lovely soft yarn, but is probably too drapey and loosely spun to make a durable afghan.

So I'm getting the impression that crochet + animal fibers isn't all that unheard off, so it's something that I'll continue to consider/discuss with her. If not alpaca then maybe one of the other ideas I've gleaned from this thread.

As a crocheter I absolutely love when friends and family have a halfway specific request like yours, and I think it's a wonderful way to spend a few hours with that person, to figure out the project and get the materials with them. Conveniently for you this means you can just insist that you pay for the materials and grandma isn't out anything more than her time.

This is how she is as well, sadly, for geographic and a few other reasons, we're stuck using email as our means of communicating.

If you are the person in the house who does the laundry,

Yea, I would be the one in charge of this task.

Crochet uses a lot more yarn than knitting. However, it goes much faster. So projects end up costing more up front, since there's more material involved,

So does this mean crochet patterns are inherently thicker/builkier? I guess I just never knew that. I'm ok with some substantial heft but I don't want to get into the metric tonnage range.

I would say this is the kind of thing where you pick the colors and pick your favorite pattern from her various work samples and existing pattern books.

I meant to look at her library of afghan literature while we were visiting for the holidays but got distracted repairing/refurbishing a old treadle sewing machine and belt that was her mother's. Thus bringing her count of functional sewing machines up to 6 or so, not counting industrial/serger machines.

Just because someone asks for requests doesn't mean you can just spit out random words at them and expect to get what you want. I mean, a DJ takes requests, but I probably can't ask for Mongolian throat singing. You know?

Again, she is asking for specific requests. She does not like it when people come back to her and say "I'd like a blanket, go nuts." or "How about a blue dress?". Regarding the spitting out of random words: of course... and that's what I'm sorting through here thanks to the wonderful

janell: There is so much awesomeness in your thread that I just want to say thanks, it's spot on what I was asking for.

Regarding sheen (which I hadn't even considered), I think we'd lean towards no sheen, low priority on that though. Regarding blocking, I did a search for that term with regards finishing an afghan and instantly recognized the blocking table because she has one in her shop. Regarding blends, I'm coming around on that front. We 100% don't want this as a summer-weight throw, we've got that covered already and, as she knows, we're the type that would rather turn the heat down/off and bundle/snuggle. MrsEld also tends to run cold. Regarding feel: soft, and we're totally ok if it has a dash of furry thrown in there. Is that what felting is? That dash of furry amalgamation that some yarns seem condusive too? I may be misunderstanding that word/usage.

Figure out the kinds of patterns you're looking for, then talk about yarn choices.

See, this is where I may have been misunderstanding as well, I figured the progression of ideas could be had in the opposite direction, whereby yarn would determine pattern. If that's the case then I need to get myself to a nunner-- I mean ravelry! Maybe that's where I'm disconnecting from some of the advice of others above who seem to be telling me to go to her and fix a pattern before picking a yarn. Except for the dislike of big, big holes we could really care less about the pattern/color. Warmth, snugglyness, and longevity (because.. ya'know it's grandma made and all) are much higher priority concerns than if it looks like cubes, a repeating 7 pointed star, pegboard, stripes, or a rainbow. We don't mind picking, doubly so if she wants us to be that specific, but we really have never been disappointed with the beauty of her creations, it's just that we have a few things we would rather avoid because we're not fans or we've already got something in that vein.

I think you may have gotten some etiquette discussion because many skilled crafters have been given orders-disguised-as-requests in the past

I can see that being quite frustrating and even offensive. Again though, this isn't the case here. This is a craftswoman grandma (who it seems may be sort of the exception, hence the etiquette confusion) who requests orders-disguised-as-requests as long as they are something she can do or can just about do. Yes, we are blessed to have her and that's why I want to be as clear, concise, and cogent as I can be with regards to these things, as well as footing the bill.
posted by RolandOfEld at 4:53 PM on January 13, 2013


Hello there, MrsCynical hijacking the Mr's account. (He's sleeping, hope he doesn't mind. ;)

First off, a crocheted blanket doesn't have to be Swiss cheese like, it's a common misconception that crocheted blankets are always hole filled. Probably due to the fact that the most common style of crocheted blanket is the granny square, which is quick and can be made in many different styles. Pretty much any stitch you like can be made into a blanket, luckily there are tons of free online resources. As you can see from this small sample, most of them are not holey. ;)

If you're looking for straight out blanket patterns, a few popular ones that are pretty hole free are considered good for 'scrapghans'. You can get where it's going from the name. These are wonderful projects for using up unwanted bits left over, but they also work great as stand alone blankets. The traditional log cabin blanket offers a lot of variation, also the waves afghan is pretty popular. This site lists a bunch of different designs. If you don't want to feel demanding, finding a few things that you like and then showing them to her and allowing her to pick the one she thinks will be fun to try might be a good idea.

If she's feeling adventurous and you want to be giving (if she hasn't tried it already), you could buy her a tunisian crochet hook and instruction book. This one is interchangeable, comes with a super long cord, great for big blankets, and is cheap. So if she doesn't like it, not a giant loss. Tunisian crochet has a 'knit or woven like' look and is very thick. It's also super easy, quick, and fun to do. However it is definitely a yarn eater.

Speaking of yarns! How you plan to care for your blanket is a big factor in choosing your yarn. Do you want something that you can toss in the washer and dryer, are you ok with taking it out to be dry cleaned, don't mind hand washing and blocking to dry... If you are set on an animal fiber, I'd suggest a blend of man made and natural, it's cheaper and leans toward the more washable side. Though you can get some super wash wools. The yarn label will almost always tell you how it should be treated. Make sure you get yarns that want to be treated the same.

You also want to get yarn of the same 'weight'. Once again, the label will usually tell you the suggested hook or needle size, you should try to make sure if you get different colours they are the same size/type yarn. Worsted or Aran are the most commonly used for this type of project and they usually are used with size G/6 (4.25mm), H/8 (5mm), and I/9 (5.5mm) hooks. Looking for yarns that fit those hooks are probably your best bet, but asking Gran what her favourite hook size to use might be nice. ;)

Also! It takes a lot of yarn to crochet a blanket, you're going to want to make sure you get the same colour lots. Smaller yarn companies have dye lots on their yarns so that you know the colour you're using will be exactly the same as it was, you don't want to end up with a red blanket that turns sort of red. Just check the label again and match the numbers. If the label says no dye lot, you don't need to worry.

Personally, giving her a variety of patterns to choose from and some pretty yarn to work with seems like a nice thing. Any avid crocheter I know would be thrilled to try out a new pattern, even more thrilled being provided with the yarn the person already likes.

Hope that helps!
posted by MrCynical at 5:40 PM on January 13, 2013


Yarn can totally determine pattern. But putting out a request for projects says to me that grandma is looking for ideas first and then will get fibers to fit that idea. It can be very overwhelming to just choose a yarn; there are literally thousands of options, and if she's fine with ordering online, even more than that.

Choosing a pattern, or perhaps a stitch (a stitch in crochet can be more like a small motif, where when you repeat it over and over it forms a texture; try googling "star stitch crochet" "crocodile stitch crochet" "waffle stitch crochet" "pineapple stitch crochet" to get an idea of what I mean) first can dramatically cut down on the options of yarn to choose from. Different patterns and stitches will lend themselves to different yarns. Since you don't want openwork, she might think a thicker yarn would be better - this will use less yarn and work up faster and be more textural, but then it will get extremely heavy and thick, so a thinner yarn would lend itself to better drape and snuggling, but it will take more length of yarn and time to make. By getting more specific than that - "I want stripes" will mean she gets to play with color matching, or "hexagons are the coolest" will mean assembling a blanket from smaller hexagonal motifs, just don't be like "can it depict a scene from the bayeux tapestry" - by getting more specific, you're helping narrow down the choices further. And since she seems like a super cool lady, she'll speak up and tell you what she does and does not want to do with regards to your requests.

Natural animal fibers are totally feasible for a big blanket, but they will be heavy and they will be hard to wash. A blend will help mitigate some of the downsides of each type of fiber. Since you seem really into this, I highly suggest finding your local yarn store and just touching! everything! and asking questions until you get a better idea of what you love. You can even buy small balls of your favorite yarns and send them to grandma, as guidance for her purchase. Just be clear that you're not expecting the same yarns, but that those are ones you really like and why. She can add your inspiration yarn to her stash, and chances are you'll get socks in due time.

So does this mean crochet patterns are inherently thicker/builkier? I guess I just never knew that. I'm ok with some substantial heft but I don't want to get into the metric tonnage range.

Yes and no. In my experience crochet patterns come in more variety than knitted patterns. Crochet is wildly more flexible as a craft, and it can also be both harder and easier to do. A simple single crochet stitch is super easy to do in a small piece, but it becomes a repetitive pain in the butt after not too long, and yes, a square of single crochet fabric is going to be thicker than a square of knitted fabric out of the same yarn. But after that most basic of stitches, crochet opens up hugely. The problem is, you don't want big holes (this is a totally okay preference! It is mine in blankets as well!) and that's going to end up being thicker no matter what, particularly if you want grandma to have fun and do something more interesting than single or double crochet the whole time. So a thinner yarn (lighter weight - yarn is usually measured in weight per yard or meter) is going to make a thinner fabric, but it will take more length of yarn to make the same surface area. Math! Who knew it was gonna be so useful.
posted by Mizu at 5:57 PM on January 13, 2013


Grandma, what a generous offer! Would you help us pick out a pattern that is more solid than, say, a granny square? We found some ideas, but we'd like to discuss it with you. We prefer more substantial patterns that are not very lacy. Do you like using wool? We'd love to choose colors and get some wool for the project. If you have a preference, we will definitely follow it.

Personally, I love granny squares. Acrylic yarns will have more vivid colors; wool will generally have slightly muted colors.
posted by theora55 at 6:15 PM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have an afghan in progress made out of this motif, in this yarn. The motif looks kind of holey, I'll grant you, but the yarn is 100% wool. The blanket is the warmest one I own, bar none, it's the one I reach for when it gets down to 40 degrees in my bedroom, it's the one I want when I'm chattering with fever. It is SO WARM. Don't think you need a perfectly solid fabric to have a super-warm blankie.
posted by KathrynT at 9:47 PM on January 13, 2013


« Older My iPhone 4 was stolen. The p...   |  Can you recommend a good campi... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.