At some point, you will want to try knitting a stash afghan. Perhaps you want an heirloom wedding or baby shower gift; perhaps you want to use up scrap yarn or repurpose yarn bought for never-to be projects. You can, of course, have fun researching all the afghan patterns out there – or you can create your own pattern from what you have or what you want to buy. While this takes a different kind of research, it’s not that much more difficult than following someone else’s vision. If you happen to find the perfect pattern, enjoy crafting it – but, if you don’t, never fear and proceed on your new creative adventure.
Afghans can be made out of any yarn weight, but worsted is perhaps the most useful for a few reasons. First of all, most knitters have worsted weight yarn in their stash – and most people have fingering or sport weight as well, which can be doubled to create DK, light worsted, or worsted weight yarn. This of course takes some experimenting, but how about making squares out of doubled yarn which then can be sewn together to make a crazy quilt design? Because gauge is less important for an afghan (so what if the finished project is an inch or two smaller or larger than planned?), you’re swatching to find a fabric that you like, one that uses a fun stitch and creates a warm and cozy textile.
Swatching is also your time to play with stitch patterns. Garter is easy, looks the same on both sides, doesn’t curl, and provides a nice background for elaborate color combinations. The same is true for seed or box stitch. Ribbing is somewhat different per side, but looks good both ways. If you don’t mind the reverse side, you can use stockinette if you add a non-curling border.
The same kind of reasoning works for stash yarn that’s already the required weight. It takes around one thousand yards to make a 36x36 baby or child’s blanket, and 2,600 yards to create an afghan for adults. Go through your stash and find your materials. If you’re lucky enough to have enough yarn in one color, then you’re spared the step of selecting hues that work together. If not, research color theory to decide what to use together – or ask an artistic friend to help you. Adventurous knitters might try the ‘anything you can stand to see together’ principle. If in doubt, remember that repetition creates a pattern and make sure that any color you decide to use occurs more than three times in the finished piece.
Once you have your materials selected, decide the units that you want to work with – blocks? Strips? One large piece? While casting on over two hundred stitches at one time is not for the faint of heart, an afghan made as a whole will require much less finishing later on. Choose your poison!
Worsted weight usually knits as a gauge of four or four and a half stitches to the inch. When you know your personal gauge, multiply it by the size of your units. For example, if you want your finished piece to be made up of thirty-six blocks that are each ten inches square, you would cast on between forty and forty-five stitches and knit until you have as close to a perfect square as possible (to check this, fold the square diagonally to see how the resultant triangles match.) If you prefer stripes, you might cast on the same number of stitches as for a block but then continue, adding stripes, until the strip is as long as desired. If you want simple horizontal stripes, perhaps casting on all at once and knitting the entire blanket width is the way to go. It’s up to you!
When you finish the pieces and sew them together, take a critical look at the blanket and decide if it needs a border. You may choose to knit these one side at a time, perhaps finishing the sides before adding the top and bottom. Or you might pick up and knit the entire perimeter – you will need a very long needle! – and miter the corners. After that, weave in your ends and you’re done!