Saturday, February 20, 2016

Yarn Crafts for Health and Easy Baby Blanket Crochet Projects

Happy Saturday!

Anyone else in Missouri today may wonder why I'm sitting inside blogging when the high today is 71ºF, in February. My answer to you, dear, hypothetical Missourian readers, is that it is still morning, and the thermometer has not yet broken 60ºF, also known as the temperature at which I will willingly spend my leisure time out of doors. For lo, I am a wimp. But I am enjoying the morning sunshine in my living room, watching Hobbit flopping around like a goofball in a nice warm patch on the carpet.

I wasn't fast enough to get a pic of him rolling around. He's embarrassed that he got caught being adorable.

Putting aside for the moment the existential dread stemming from the knowledge that such a gloriously warm day in February is likely the result of global warming, I'm really excited that I get to spend some time outside today. But first, I want to talk about crocheting.

Did you know that yarn crafts are good for your health? This blog post from the New York Times, The Health Benefits of Knitting, quotes doctors and researchers studying the mental and physical perks of crocheting and knitting. It's an interesting read.

I learned to crochet when I was little, but I took it back up more seriously in the last year or so as a way to keep myself from biting my nails. Here are the benefits, health-related and otherwise, that I've noticed:

1. It keeps my hands busy, so I'm not picking or biting my nails, and I'm also not mindlessly snacking. Snacking's great, but if I'm not paying attention while I eat, I'm not enjoying it anyway!
2. The repetitive motion helps reduce my anxiety and calms me down after a stressful day. Yarn is cheaper than a therapist!*
3. I'm big into giving gifts, and giving someone a gift I made by hand makes it more meaningful, and this strengthens my friendships.
4. I save money on winter accessories. Like, for real. This hat takes me less than two hours to make (I'm pretty slow), and it's less than $5 worth of yarn. Also, it's super cute.
5. If I'm going to watch six episodes of The West Wing in a row, at least I'll have something to show for it afterwards.

*Please don't actually use yarn as a substitute for professional counseling. I was kidding.

The list goes on, but you get the picture. It's a simple, inexpensive hobby that boasts big returns, and it keeps my millennial layabout tendencies in check.

So, I'd like to share with you some of the projects I worked on last year. The thing about being twenty-five is, my friends are starting to reproduce. So are my siblings. Fine by me, as 1) It keeps the baby-making pressure off me and my hubby, and 2) I'm at that stage of life where I really love babies, as long as I can hand them back to their parents after we've hung out for a bit. Joe and I are still a few years out in terms of offspring. Anyway, I've been making a lot of baby blankets lately.

As I said before, I've only gotten back into crocheting regularly in past year or two, so these blankets were all beginner level projects. I basically just single crocheted forever and ever amen for the body of each blanket, then I did a simple border and an embellishment on each. Pictures and details below!

Blanket One: Airplane Appliqué Blanket with Blanket Stitch Border

This one was for my nephew, who was born last spring. My brother's father-in-law is a private pilot, and he gave my brother lessons while my brother was getting his own pilot's license. The family is pretty into planes, is what I'm saying. So I made a blanket using worsted weight yarn in single stitch, and then I used This pattern, a $2 download on, to make an airplane. Definitely worth the $2. I then finished it up with a blanket stitch border in blue, which is super easy and very cute. Here's the finished product.

Sorry for the poor picture quality, by the way. I took all these photos before I knew I'd be sharing them!

Blanket Two: Flower Appliqué Blanket with Scallop Stitch Border

This one was for the daughter of some friends of mine from church. They decorated their nursery in navy and cream with coral accents, so I used the same colors in the blanket. The weekend I made the flowers, I was feeling equal parts lazy and over-confident, so I decided to try making them without a pattern. They came out a bit less defined than I liked, but I kept them. This was my first foray into the scallop stitch for a border, and I used the fantastic book Crocheting School: A Complete Course to learn it. 

Also featured: my hideous living room couch! Feast your eyes!

The border looks nearly black here, but it's really a nice, deep navy.

Blanket Three: Hot Air Balloon Embroidered Blanket with Basic Border

This one was my favorite to make, partly because it was the easiest, and partly because I really loved combining crocheting and cross stitch embroidery in one project! This blanket was for the son of another couple of friends from our church. They didn't have any color or design preferences, so I did my own thing. I free-handed this one, and the squareness of the single crochet stitch made it easy to cross stitch using a yarn needle. I started with cross stitching the white stripe of the balloon, made symmetrical red stripes on either side, and then I used a smaller yarn to cross stitch the basket, finishing off the ropes with a chain stitch. If you don't know how to embroider, I kid you not, you can learn in one afternoon with a trip to the craft store and a couple of YouTube videos.
I have got to find a better place to photograph my projects. A futon? Really Anna?

So, there are the baby blankets that I made in 2015! Three more of my friends are pregnant already. I'll share what I'm working on for one of them in my next post. I've finally strayed from the single stitch blanket body to a pretty moss stitch. If you'd like an actual pattern for any of these blankets, leave a comment and I'll learn how to write patterns.

And would you look at that. In the time it's taken me to type up and edit this post, the temperature has risen from 54ºF to 67ºF. I'm going for a bike ride! Catch ya later!

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