Crochet Baby Nest Blankie & Beanie

(you KNOW I have to call it a "NEST" blankie, right?! That's kinda my thing.)

Whew! This was a tough one! Let me preface this tutorial by saying that FIRST: red yarn is NOT the color you want to be photographing! Pain in the rear-end. SECOND: it's been SO dark here for the entire week and there isn't a thing Photoshop can do about the dark pictures without messing up the colors. Sorry in advance for some of the bad ones. {winky winky}

HOWEVER...this red yarn was the only color I had that wasn't all fluffy and we all know that if you're trying to SEE stitching, you can't have fluffy fuzz. So red is the color of the moment. It's just hard to photograph.

moving on...DON'T YOU JUST LOVE THESE BLANKIES?! I see them everywhere and I've had multiple requests for instructions, so I've finally been able to do that. The way I would use this blankie is just as an outer cover of a baby wrapped in a receiving blanket. Since this is a hand-wash item, keep in mind that you want those diaper leaks to stay contained....oy....

A little something about crochet or knit blankets - THEY'RE WARM! I have no idea why, given the amount of holes in them, but they are amazing at trapping heat, so I have always used a crochet blanket to put over the top of my babies because they're hard to kick off and they keep babies warm and toasty all through the night.

FIRST THING: If you have a monster computer screen like I do, decrease this window to fit each photograph in a straight line. You'll be able to follow along much easier.

MOVING ON...First of all, if you're a beginner, try my two beginner tutorials on making your slip knot and casting your yarn on your hand. You have to know how to hold the yarn in order for you to get the right tension in order to have even stitches. My method isn't the ONLY way, but it's how I do it, so feel free to explore other methods.

*2 skeins (packages) of soft yarn (a newborn size blanket will only require one skein)
*Appropriate sized hook - look on the yarn packaging for an idea of what size you'll need. I usually use a "J" or "K" for this weight of yarn
*Huge needle for tucking in your yarn. Look for one with an eye big enough for your yarn to fit through.
*Ribbon if you're using it. Not necessary.

THE GIST: You're making a circle and it's going to get bigger and bigger until it's as round as you want it. This method can also be used for a hat - just stop stitching when your hat is as big as you want it. I don't have any complicated guides or number of stitches - just look at what you're doing and figure out how wide you want your blanket! Every chain stitch you add in your circle, it's going to get bigger around. If you don't do it evenly, you're going to end up with a pointy hat/blanket.

So let's get started.

Chain 5; slip stitch in bottom stitch. (see photos)

Once you get your circle to be about 3 or 4 inches in diameter, only add one chain stitch for every 3 or 4 SC's. You'll be able to tell if you are adding too much at once if your circle gets all ruffly.

Just follow the photos and keep trying if you don't get it the first time. Crochet unpicks easily - just pull on your yarn!

You could probably stop increasing your width as soon as you feel like it can accommodate a baby. Genius, I know. Stop CH stitching and just SC all the way around and around until you get to another section that you want to DC.

Have fun with this! It's supposed to be easy, so the more you do this, the easier it will start to feel. Isn't that the way with everything?!

Oh, and my baby hat is a bit smaller circumference than the blanket - with a DC row towards the end for a ribbon - and then 2 rows of SC to end.

ALSO...you can add an easy ruffle border to your blankie like this one I did a while back. You just single or double crochet 4 or 5 times in one stitch...all the way around the top of your blanket. So you insert your hook like normal, single crochet 4 or 5 times in that one spot, and move on to the next stitch; repeat all the way around. Join your ruffle together by slip stitching them. (that's where you go through one spot and pull your yarn through all loops at the same time.) HERE is a picture tutorial.


Advent Calendar Squares

Okay, so I'm going to post my Advent Calendar tutorial even though I'm not done yet. Since time is running out, though you've still got plenty of time if you want to make one of these if you start NOW, I figured I could post what I can and finish up later. (Here is my inspiration post)

*Floss/thread - thick (see first photo)
*Embroidery needles that are sharp and are big enough to accommodate your thread.
*Fabric glue
*I purchased some good, small scissors for this job
*Fusible interfacing

About thread: there were two kinds of thread at JoAnn's to choose from and I chose the one on the left (in photo). It all came in a huge multi-pack and I liked the thickness and the way it's twisted together. DMC floss is good, too, but I just liked the look of the other thread. Choose what you'd like!

THEN: get a bunch of those sheets of felt. Mine were just the paper-sized sheets at JoAnn's and they had a huge variety, so I got some of each color.

THEN: With a rotary cutter, mat, and ruler, cut your pocket squares AND interfacing to whatever size you'd like - mine were 3 1/2" x 4" - but do them perfectly square if you want. I only cut mine that size to accommodate my tree width.

Don't be afraid of color, either. You don't have to use 'traditional' Christmas colors, get a little crazy and abstract. Some of my squares aren't exactly 'festive' but they're freakin' adorable and add to the overall look of the calendar.

THEN: Cut out shapes. Go crazy, have fun, but make sure to keep your shapes chunky enough to stitch on. Don't cut intricate details - keep it VERY basic. You'll thank yourself later.

ALSO, don't make every square fancy. You'll be stitching forever. Do some with stripes and polka dots just to save some time.

AND...don't get distracted or upset by how plain and boring your shapes might look as you're creating. Don't worry - it'll all come together with the stitching. Just go basic and build from there!

NOW: time to glue your large pieces. DO NOT use very much glue - just barely enough to hold down your felt in places you won't be stitching on - and you don't have to glue every little piece. The tiny pieces really don't need to be glued, but you can if you want. When the glue dries, it's hard to get your needle through it, so just use a teeny, tiny amount only to hold your pieces in place so you can stitch them on. Let your glue dry before you start stitching.

FINALLY: stitch your heart out using my little stitch guides. Get crazy and creative - and get cozy because it takes FOR-EVER. ***IMPORTANT YOU READ THIS::: Tie off every section you stitch - like every circle or every major shape. There WILL be times that you'll have to un-pick something and it STINKS when you have to unpick the whole thing instead of one section.

SAMPLES: Two of the sample photos in the middle are actually Kadie's (on the brown wood table) - she did those today and they are looking adorable! I've included a photo of ALL of my squares, though the last six are not finished yet, just to give you some idea of what you can do with your calendar.

You might actually think of shapes or embellishments that I didn't use - go for it! Make this your own personal creation and have fun with it! Just remember to keep it very basic because you can always add to it! Kadie plans to use real buttons on hers - that's wonderful!

MY END-RESULT VISION: Since I DON'T have a finished product photo, you have to visualize the end with me!!

Each of my squares is going to have a white fusible interfacing backing (iron-on stuff) to protect my stitching (thanks Sarah!), and I'll and sew the top edge together to make it super secure. I don't need to sew all the way around each square yet because I'm going to do that on the tree. After each pocket is stitched onto the tree, I'll fill the squares with little candies, quotes, or whatever treat I want.

My tree is going to be different than my Pottery Barn inspiration, and I'm excited about what I'd like to do. Since my JoAnn's store doesn't have big bolts of cool green felt, I want to use a piece of crazy-cool fabric - nothing too fancy or distracting - with batting and a felt back. Then I'll stitch the squares on top with my sewing machine and possibly a blanket stitch - depending on how ambitious I am feeling!!! I'll probably number my squares underneath with either fabric paint or hand-stitching - who knows at this point.

So now you can get started - go have some fun and share your square pictures with us!!!

Stitch 101 - The Basics

I've put together some basic techniques for stitching. I've made a "knot" technique tutorial, however I LOVE the one Heather Bailey put together on her blog. Here is the link in case you'd like to see hers.

For each tutorial below, click on the picture for a larger version.

I'm Working Like MAD!

Can you believe it?! I'm getting SO CLOSE!!!

Okay, so here's the down-low. I've been eyeing this tree for the past 2 years from the Pottery Barn (see first photo) - and I've wanted to do my own for so long. I want one made with my own hands for the kids to have year after year - so that's what I've set out to do - and I'm so happy that Kadie is doing this with me! She's making one for her family, too!

It is taking such a long time because I've got a busy family, but I had Kadie help me take pictures today for a 'stitch tutorial' so that some of you can get started even though I'm not completely done with mine yet.

SO...for the next hour or so, I'll be posting instructions on how to do the basics, you can get started on your own, and I can finish mine! Great?! Excellent!

{gasp!} I'm so excited I could pass out!

Cooking 101 - Butternut Squash & Corn Chowder

Good heavenly mercy this stuff is amazing. If you'd really like a taste of fall, try this soup. Kadie brought it over on Sunday with some of her incredible Artisan Bread (it's all on her blog) and I was honestly blown away! I was over in my corner of the table groaning with my bowl of soup, dipping my bread in it, soup running all down my face, and not a bit embarrassed.

The adorable Kristine also brought over pork chops with the most heavenly glaze - I'm going to have to get that recipe for you, too. Everything all went together so well.

(that's how you have a 'dinner gathering' - everybody else brings the food!!)

I made this soup last night and bought a loaf of ciabatta bread at the store - buttered it, sprinkled Thyme on top, and broiled it for a few minutes. A-MAZING. okay, okay, on with the recipe. Geeze - all this needless chatter.

Butternut Squash & Corn Chowder

2 T vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch chunks (about 5 cups)
1 medium onion, chopped
10 oz frozen corn, thawed
1 1/2 t curry powder
coarse salt and pepper
2 cans (14.5 oz each) vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a large heavy pot, heat oil over med-high heat. Add squash and onion. Cook until onion is soft, about 6 minutes. Add corn and curry powder and cook until curry is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add broth and simmer until squash is tender, about 25 minutes. In a blender, blend the soup until smooth, working in batches if you have to. Return to pot and stir in cream. Heat through but do NOT let it boil.

**Note: if you have one of those handy immersion blenders, that works better than dumping everything in a real blender. But use what you have and do what works.