Ever look around and feel like there’s a mini baby boom going on? Sometimes I look around and see my friends, coworkers and family scrambling to get ready for their new little bundle of joy. Many knitters and crocheters have one go to gift for new babies. Personally, I need more variety in my projects and also love to have several projects on my needles and hook at the same time. It makes life much more interesting.
Baby blankets are super popular, but even within the blanket realm, there are tons of options. One that I’ve recently fallen in love with the the Mini Lovey Blankie Menagerie by Lorraine Pistorio. These little security blankets feature a 12x12” blanket with a little animal head (and arms) on the top for baby to cuddle up with. Before choosing to purchase the Mini Lovey Blankie Menagerie, I did lots of research first to find a lovey that would fit my knitting needs. I prefer to read a pattern through before choosing to make it, but with paid patterns I pretty much feel like I need to commit before adding the pattern to my cart. So how did Lorriane Pistorio’s pattern make the cut?
I chose to knit a lovey for my coworker’s baby, Andrew, for several reasons. First, I wanted something a little more unique. In all seriousness, not sure how unique this whole idea is, but I loved that it wasn’t the same old conventional baby blanket that I’ve made for friends in the past. Seeing there was a mini baby boom happening in my small world, I knew I had several baby projects on a deadline and I couldn’t take something on that was going to consume all my time. Knitting is a love of mine, but also need to keep my other commitments in check. A lovey seemed like it would be small enough to be portable and I could make progress in between appointments or while on the road (and in between my other projects!).
Once the project idea was sorted out, next it was time to find the perfect pattern. Lovies come in lots of different varieties. I checked my favorite pattern sources before making a commitment. Craftsy, Ravelry and Etsy were my first go-to sites to check out pattern options. I was open to either crochet or knit patterns, as I’m fluent in both techniques. Most of the crocheted patterns I found didn’t seem to be a good fit. Seeing that I was hoping to use a worsted weight yarn (more so for sake of time), the crochet versions seemed too clunky and the stitch definition seemed to overwhelm the small animal part of the lovey because the stitches were rather large in comparison to the animal head. So knit it is!
I read lots of comments and reviewed projects that other people made with the patterns that made it to my short list. Ultimately I chose the Mini Lovey Blankie Menagerie because I was looking for a pattern that I could knit up on straight needles. I don’t enjoy working small projects in the round and this pattern is worked flat and seamed after each piece is bound off. Another added bonus? The Ravelry rating was high and the pattern was popular. The other big thing that tipped me over the edge was that this pattern comes in 6 different animal head patterns: bear, sheep, monkey, elephant, bunny and pig. The pattern also includes two blanket styles! No more boredom here! I could potentially make this project several times for different people without feeling bored. There seemed to be lots of versatility for the $6 price tag on the pattern.
Instant downloads are amazing by the way. I was off knitting that night. I chose to knit the bear lovey for Andrew and thought that I’d start at the fun part, the bear’s head. Andrew’s mom had a delicious nursery planned featuring Tiffany’s blue. I chose a baby yarn in a similar shade, Big Twist Yarns, Baby Solids as the main blanket and decided to go with Red Heart Super Saver for the bear for washability. Both yarns are acrylic and had the same washing instructions.
The bear head worked up in under and hour. The 27 rows went quickly and the instructions were super easy to follow. This gave me lots of confidence in the project despite how daunting it seemed when I started to read the 15 page pattern. Yes, really- 15 pages! I almost instantly regretted my purchase when I downloaded the the pattern and opened it up for the first time. The PDF is super long for such a small project and there is a ton of text jammed on each page. There are images, but at first glance it’s really confusing. So I took a deep breath and started to read at the beginning and make sense of everything.
The first page includes the materials you’ll need depending on which pattern you choose to knit. It’s organized by heading where then you can find information about the requirements for the blanket and each animal head. Thankfully these were broken out separately for simplicity. The skill level recommended for this particular pattern is intermediate. I thought this seemed a little over cautious during my knitting, but then I had to assemble the darn thing and decided that intermediate is just right. 🙂
The second page covers pattern notes and the blanket pattern options included in the pattern. The yardage for each piece of the pattern is broken out separately. This is incredibly helpful so if you’d like to make the collar and blanket different colors, you know how much yarn is needed. After starting to knit the blanket- I chose Blanket B in the Diagonal stitch, I was having a miserable time. At the rate I was knitting, Andrew was going to get his blanket on his 5th birthday. I found the stitch pattern boring to knit and not very fun at all. The suggested blanket patterns are rich with texture, but I just couldn’t keep going with it. I frogged that blanket, which was only as big as a large bookmark, and looked for another stitch pattern that would prove to keep my interest for the 12x12” blanket. I chose a one sided diamond pattern because it had an interesting 8 stitch, 8 row repeat that would keep my attention for the duration of the project. (Pattern provided below.) Being that the background of this pattern was stockinette stitch, I added a garter edge on the blanket to keep it from rolling. Usually I stay away from non-reversible stitch patterns on blankets, but this was an exception because the blanket would be folded into itself and there was a definite right and wrong side when the blanket is being used.
The pattern for the collar is on page three and then the animal heads begin! The instructions are clear and easy to follow. Photographs are included for additional clarity and include notes to eliminate confusion. Page 5 goes into more detail about how to finish the arms and collar. This is a little weird because if you didn’t make the lamb, you actually have to flip backwards in the pattern for your finishing steps. If you made the lamb, you only use the first five pages of the pattern.
Once all the knitting is complete, you are ready to add safety eyes (I used 9mm instead of the 7.5mm called for in the pattern) to the head. The instructions aren’t super clear about blocking. I actually added the safety eyes then stuffed and seamed the head before blocking. Don’t do this. Next time I would block the knitted pieces before stuffing and seaming. I chose a polyfil for the stuffing because it would dry somewhat quickly when mom goes to wash the item, and the stuffing did dry fairly fast after blocking, but I had a more difficult than necessary time shaping the head once it has been soaked in a tub of water.
This project actually sat in my WIP (work in progress) pile for several months after it had been knitted up and blocked. The idea of attaching all those pieces was not my idea of a good time. So what if I’m the type to knit a finish free garment from the top down…? I digress. Anyways, I finally brought all the pieces back out to start seaming the arms and assembling the whole thing. When you go to do this, make sure you can set aside some distraction free time. This is not the time to watch TV while trying to get all these pieces lined up just right.
My least favorite part was attaching the ears to the head. The ears are on the larger side, and trying to make them symmetrical was challenging. I used removable stitch markers to temporarily hold the ears in place on the head as well as a couple extra yarn needles which acted like straight pins. Somehow the head and arms got turned when securing them to the blanket. I decided to roll with it, and it still turned out great. Tip- use yarn the same color as the blanket for this part because the yarn will be visible on the underside of the blanket.
Overall the lovey turned out amazing and I was super happy with the result. There’s always a small amount of uncertainty when giving a handmade gift to someone, but in this case it was a home run. Baby Andrew loved his new toy and immediately started to chew on the ears (thank goodness I went over those seams twice!) and the bear’s arms. This was most certainly a successful project. The pattern was awesome and I’d highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself!
If you’re looking to use the diamond pattern as a background for the blanket, or even would like to use it for another project you’re working on, here are the instructions:
Cast on 57 stitches. This pattern requires you to cast on a multiple of 8 stitches plus 1. I knew I wanted a garter stitch edge. The garter stitch edge I did was 4 stitches on each side of the pattern repeat.
For the blanket shown:
Work 4 rows in garter stitch (knit each row.) For a clean finished edge, I slipped the last stitch on each row as if to knit.
Begin pattern repeat with garter edge:
Row 1 (RS): k8, *p1, k7; rep from * to last 9 sts, p1, k8.
Rows 2 and 8 (WS): p4, p3, *k1, p1, k1, p5; rep from * to last 10 sts, k1, p1, k1, p3, k4.
Rows 3 and 7: k6, *p1, k3; rep from * to last 7 sts, p1, k6.
Rows 4 and 6: k4, p1, *k1, p5, k1, p1; rep from * to last 4 sts, k4.
Row 5: k4, *p1, k7; rep from * to last 5 sts, p1, k4.
Row 8: k4, p3, *k1, p1, k1, p5; rep from * to last 10 sts, k1, p1, k1, p3, k4.
Rep rows 1–8 for diamond pattern
If you’d like to use the diamond pattern on other projects, use the core of the pattern repeat:
Row 1 (RS): K4, *p1, k7; rep from * to last 5 sts, p1, k4.
Rows 2 and 8 (WS): p3, *k1, p1, k1, p5; rep from * to last 6 sts, k1, p1, k1, p3.
Rows 3 and 7: k2, *p1, k3; rep from * to last 3 sts, p1, k2.
Rows 4 and 6: p1, *k1, p5, k1, p1; rep from * to end.
Row 5: *p1, k7; rep from * to last st, p1.
Row 8: p3, *k1, p1, k1, p5; rep from * to last 6 sts, k1, p1, k1, p3.
Rep rows 1–8 for diamond pattern
RS- Right Side
WS- Wrong Side
k1- Knit One
p1- Purl One