Throughout my pregnancy and H’s first year, we were gifted many baby blankets. Some were store bought, including extra-warm fleecy blankets and ethereally thin muslin blankets for swaddling. Many, though, were handmade with love and care, including several passed down through the generations. My favorite baby blanket (and H’s, too) is handwoven, which is probably no surprise. What’s unusual is that the blanket is basically a giant towel, and for that reason, I couldn’t possibly love it more.
The baby blanket, woven in blue and white, looks just like a tiny version of a traditional coverlet. It was also designed and woven by none other than Tom Knisely, who has published his theories on baby blankets in Handwoven, as well as in his own book. According to Tom, the best baby blankets are woven not from thick acrylics or superwash wools—he prefers to use 8/4 cotton carpet warp. The result is a blanket that more or less resembles a large tea towel—and that isn’t a bad thing.
Unless a house is unreasonably cold, most small children don’t need a heavy blanket. H wears footie pajamas to bed just about every night. These pajamas, all on their own, keep him pretty warm and cozy. Were we to use the beautiful handsewn flannel quilt or fluffy crocheted afghan in his crib, he would sweat the night away. Tom’s blanket, on the other hand, is just light enough to provide a little extra warmth and weight to keep H comfortable all night long.
Unlike some materials used to make baby blankets (fleece, I’m looking at you), 8/4 cotton gets so much softer and cozier with every trip through the washer. It blooms ever so slightly but never pills. And that’s a good thing because baby blankets have to be washed A LOT. When H was too young to have a blanket in his crib, we used Tom’s gift as a stroller blanket, and, hoo boy, did it get dirty—spit-up, mud, diaper blowouts, and snacks smashed into the blanket instead of eaten. But all came out easily in the wash. Although the blanket stays slightly cleaner in the crib than it did in the stroller, there’s still the occasional diaper malfunction that results in having to wash it on the sanitize cycle. After nearly 2 years of this, the blanket is still in perfect condition.
From a weaving standpoint, this sort of blanket appeals to me because I love to weave towels. Cotton is my favorite fiber to work with because it’s so forgiving and it comes in so many colors. Most excitingly, in the May/June 2019 issue of Handwoven, Tom shares his project for weaving a baby blanket and a coordinating waffle-weave towel—all on one warp! It’s such a clever project, one that will win you best gift at every baby shower you attend. What’s not to love?