featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Monday, December 2, 2013


Crocheted Rainbow Baby Blanket
After trying her hand at many things, environmental engineer Karen Hall has determined that her favorite media are words, photographs and yarn.  Author of two Hannah Morrison thrillers, Karen is currently finishing a novel about infertility and working on a third Hannah Morrison mystery.  Learn more about her and her books at her website.  

Today Karen stops by to chat about two of her favorite things and illustrates them with the third.

That Universal Baby Gift:  The Crocheted Blanket
It’s a fact of life.  People have babies. 

And though most parents these days can (and do) register for gifts in a myriad of places, they also really appreciate a handmade gift as well.  And all of you out there, you’re the crafty people who make the other baby shower attendees say, “Ooooooh.  That’s gorgeous!  How did you do that?”

But here’s the dilemma, at least for me:  despite modern technology, lots of parents decide NOT to know the gender of the baby until his/her birth.  So, how to finish the hand-made gift between birth and shower date?

My answer:  gifts that work for either girls or boys and that work year around—non-gender-specific baby blankets.

The advantage here, of course, is that you can start as soon as you hear that somebody’s pregnant. I’ll admit it; I’m slow. Because television usually takes less than half a brain, I use the rest of mine to construct lovely gifts for babies and grandchildren.  But since TV is such a wasteland these days, that means, for me, crocheting maybe an hour a day, sometimes starting months in advance, depending on the complexity of the blanket. 

Here are two of my favorite patterns. The first, a rainbow blanket that’s appreciated especially by people who love lots of color, is the easier of the two.  It’s constructed almost completely with the double crochet stitch, and there are only a couple of tricky rows.  It can be made with sport weight or worsted weight yarn, and can be a great way to use up leftover half skeins you have lying around.  It can also be made with pastels (as in the picture here) or with brighter colors, depending on what you have and/or what you can find locally.  You’ll see that I couldn’t find a nice pastel orange here in Rapid City, so I used a more modern multicolored yarn that’s predominantly orange.  It’ll work for this mother to be, though – Amy loves quirky little surprises.  Finally, the best thing about this pattern is that you can finish all but the last row. Then, when the baby is born, add a border of the appropriate color.  I just found out that Amy’s having a boy. 

The second blanket (above), the one with multicolored squares, is more futzy, but I really love the result.  If you know the gender, of course, you can make the squares all pink or all blue, or if you know how the baby’s room will be decorated, you can make the squares to match.  I once used this pattern to make a Cat in the Hat-colored blanket with bright red, turquoise and white.  I thought it would be odd, but it turned out to be pretty cool!  You can also, if you like, make each square all of one color.  It’s easier, for sure, but also less spectacular.

This blanket has its advantages, too.  It’s another way to use leftover yarns, and because you make it a square at a time, it’s very portable—easy to take in the car, to a basketball game, to a meeting.  I never go anywhere without a book and, when I’m working on one of these blankets, rarely go anywhere without a small bag of yarn and a crochet hook, too.

Finally, here’s my tip for using those little bits of yarn that you find you have at the end of a project.  For those of you who don’t use gift bags, use that yarn instead of ribbon when you wrap gifts.  The pompoms you create will be distinctive and, if you’re like me, you have tons of yarn ends left over. (And P.S., cats love to play with the pompoms.) I store my yarn ends all in plastic bags in my “yarn bench” (pictured above, under the rainbow blanket), and get out whatever colors I need to match the gift wrap I have.  Here’s how to make them:

Wrap the yarn around three fingers, somewhere between 70 and 100 times, depending on how much yarn you have.

Tie the center of the bundle with the ends you’ve left on the top of the package.
Clip the loops on either side of the middle tie.
Fluff out the ends and trim if they’re uneven.

Voila!  A unique way to give your gifts that crafty signature—and save a little cash to boot! 

If you’d like to receive either of the baby blanket patterns I’ve shown above (free, of course), please just drop me an email at karen@karenehall.com, and I’ll send them to you.  Just specify whether you’d like the rainbow blanket or the multi-square one or both. 

Unreasonable Risk
Hannah Morrison’s place of business might as well be a bomb. Nearly everything inside the fence is either flammable or explosive—and somebody is trying to blow it up. Hannah’s friend and mentor has already died, and though she knows it’s sabotage, she can’t prove it. With the help of photojournalist Noel Keller, Hannah uncovers suspect after suspect as the stakes mount for the refinery, its neighborhood and the entire city. Determined to avenge her friend’s death, Hannah works to identify the saboteur before he decides: who will be the next to die?

Buy Links


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I stopped by for crocheting inspiration. I thought the knitters had totally taken over. lol With a new baby coming into our family mid-way through next year, maybe I'll get this done. We just found out it's a girl, which helps.
Your protagonist sounds very interesting. Were you, by any chance, in an internet class called something like "finishing your mystery?" Best of luck with your new release!
Cathy Shouse

Karen said...

Hi, Cathy,
No, I wasn't a member of that class. I've never taken one via the internet but would love to. Maybe a class in memoir or biography -- I'm working on a bio for a friend of mine right now and need some pointers.


PS I know how you feel about knitters... I do both, but prefer crochet. Just let me know if you'd like either of the patterns!

Anonymous said...


I had emailed you a request for directions. Apparently, it's lost in cyberspace. I will send it again.