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Whatta Buncha I-Cord

Dear Ann,
The Log Cabin faithful have been writing in for the recipe for the Buncha Squares Blanket, which warms my heart. But today is another rainy Monday, and I could not live with myself if I posted the how-to without gorgeous technicolor fantasy photos (I do not rule out soft focus) demonstrating that This Blanket Will Change Your Life. So the recipe will await better weather. Today, I will speak of I-Cord.
You know how I like to fuss over the border of a blanket. I think this is my way of deferring the last goodbye to a project that has sat around my house in so very many piles for so very many months. Sometimes I do a skinny little border.
(Recipe: With right side facing, pick up along each edge, knit a row, purl a row, and bind off in purl on the wrong side. Join the corners by sewing a couple of little tacking stitches. It kind of curls backwards, so it looks like i-cord. It’s too curly on this example, but see how nice it looks on these afghans for Afghans?)
I also like to do Wide Boy borders. (Note to Belinda and everyone in the UK: I finally heard the term “wide boy” used on EastEnders last Saturday! SO excited!)
This is where I pick up on an edge, knit a really big chunk of garter stitch, repeat on the other 3 edges, leaving square gaps in the corners, which I fill in with picked-up miters. I LOVE THIS BORDER. But it is a whole separate Knitting Event. It takes forEVER. It is strictly for heirlooms and hopelessly obsessed knitters with no life.
Another option is what I call ‘picture frame’ borders. Similar to the Wide Boy, you pick up on an edge and knit a desired width of garter stitch, but on every right side row, you increase one stitch at the beginning and end of the row. When you have done this on all 4 edges, you will have created a border that looks like a picture frame with nicely mitered corners. All you need to do is sew the seams to join the miters.
[Pause to worry for a moment: Do I think too much about borders on blankets?]
I chewed on all of these choices for Buncha Squares. Buncha Squares is a knitted version (loosely interpreted) of Denyse Schmidt’s fabric quilt design called What A Bunch of Squares. (Go here to see what I’m talking about. You might be there a while.) When I am knitting a blanket based on a quilt, it is kind of a game to echo quilt details in knitting–which is impossible (OF COURSE I KNOW THAT), but fun to think about. The log cabin method of construction looks like pieced fabric log cabins, and to my mind it also works in a similar way. For example, as with fabric log cabins, you start in the center and work outward, and you can add on additional strips to “square up” a block that is too small.
I was trying to think of a border that would echo Denyse Schmidt’s choice of a narrow bias binding on Whatta Buncha Squares. I thought, what the heck, why do cheesy fake i-cord? Why not go all the way, just go ahead and i-cord around a 52-inch by 52-inch blanket (i.e., FOUR 52-inch edges)? It’s just knitting. I love knitting!
Then I had to think about the yarn. Denyse had used a beautiful lagoon blue fabric. I dug around and came up with a precious discontinued turquoisey teal skein of Rowan Handknit Cotton. Having just the one skein of this irreplaceable artifact, I hesitated. I remembered that I am quite taken with pieced bindings on fabric quilts. Pieced bindings tell you that one of two things has occurred. Either the quilter didn’t have enough matching fabric for a skinny binding, or she just couldn’t resist the urge to cut fabric and piece it together even if it made no sense to do so. I dug around some more and found a skein of Katia Jamaica, a lightweight cotton that self stripes, in perfect lakey colors. And so began the 5- or 6-hour process of knitting an applied 4-stitch i-cord all the way around the blanket.
I knit it at the beach.
Where inspiration for more blankets abounds.
(I love how people with mortgages and 9-to-5 jobs turn into nomads when they get to the beach. They just plop down and dig in for the day, with the bare necessities of shade and ground cover provided by rusty umbrellas and shredded sheets and towels, and nothing matches or looks Classy.)
And I kept knitting it way past all the good late-night TV. (Even “Frasier” was over, and I was still i-cording.)
It really does resemble bias binding, doesn’t it?
Look at that corner. Sa-mooth.
Because someone will ask, and I love to Instruct, here is how I did my i-cord, using straight, single point needles. You could also follow the Keyboard Biologist’s excellent tutorial on the double-point needle method. Both ways take about the same amount of time and involve the same amount of fiddling, so it’s a question of whether you prefer sliding your stitches or slipping them. I’m a slipper, but I’ve been known to slide. You may be a slider. We can live in peace and harmony.
Optional preparation: First I went all the way around the edge in off-white yarn, doing a cro-Kay edging. (Pick up 2 stitches, *bind off 1 stitch, pick up 1 stitch, repeat from * all the way around.) My thinking was that the i-cord would be more even and pretty if it was applied to this nice chain of bound-off stitches. I don’t think it was necessary, but it worked great, and kept me occupied for a good 45 minutes.
1. Cast on 4 stitches onto the right needle.
2. Choose a stitch on the edge. Stick left needle into this stitch to pick it up. (I didn’t pull a new loop through this stitch, but I treated it like a stitch. It has that right.)
3. Transfer the 4 stitches from the right needle to the left needle. (Now you have 5 stitches on the left needle.)
4. Knit 3, knit the last 2 stitches together. (Now you have 4 stitches on the right needle.) (And yes, to do this, you have to pull the working yarn all the way from the other end of the row. Just do it. It works.)
5. Pick up the next stitch with your left needle.
Repeat steps 3-5 until all available episodes of “Frasier” are over and you have worked back around to where you started. Bind off very neatly. Go to bed. (Seriously! Go to bed!)
Love, Kay




  1. Absolutely fantastic! I used applied i-cord on a bag that was felted but I love being able to see it like this. It’s a perfect finish! Congrats!

  2. Wow.. that is a commitment to a blanket, though it looks amazing. It has to be my favorite of the 3 you’ve shown, since it looks so professional. Thanks for the tutorial. Next time I make a blanket I’ll have to check it out.

  3. Kay – no comments yet? Just love the intersection of quilting and knitting in your projects. Such beautiful inspiration! I also love that I am not the only person knitting at the beach, although I have been known to do so using mohair… Can’t wait to see you on 15th in Southampton!

  4. Wow.. that is a commitment to a blanket, though it looks amazing. It has to be my favorite of the 3 you’ve shown, since it looks so professional. Thanks for the tutorial. Next time I make a blanket I’ll have to check it out.

  5. I like the edging very much. It fits with that particular blanket rather well. As for worrying too much about the border of the blankets you have worked so hard to knit, how can that be possible? A sloppy edge or no edge makes for an unfinished looking final project. Just as no one cast on is right for every project, not all blankets are properly set off by the same finishing technique.
    I know I am about to reclaim our bath mat to add a finishing frame to it, just because I don’t like the way it looks, and it is the bath mat in the bathroom behind the washer and dryer.

  6. Gosh your timing’s good. I’ve just recommended your mattress stitch tutorial to someone – not for the first time – and up pops an edging tutorial.

  7. The Jamaica looks great as an edging. What did you use for the rest of the blankie, is it our old friend Cotton Classic??

  8. It looks great. Is there anything i-cord can’t do?

  9. Wow – Buncha Squares looks fantastic! I’ve never knit a whole blanket, and have the utmost admiration for people who have knit whole blankets. Several whole blankets. πŸ™‚
    I also really, really love the picture of Frasier and Niles.

  10. KAY
    Please send the RAIN that you are having. Nashvegas needs rain desperately as it is 101 on my patio!!

  11. The blanket is beautiful. Thank you so much for the walk-through on the i-cord edging. Your timing is amazing; I was just about to look up this technique to finish off the side of a scarf. It might be too bulky, but I want to give it a try. Thanks again!

  12. A book in itself, your thorough blogtorial (blogtoot?). I know you have an aversion to crochet, but crab stitch is so, so pretty as an edging if you don’t absolutely have to have a smooth edge.

  13. I hope hope hope you are bringing that blanket so we can see it next Wed. — If I ask really nicely maybe — Pretty Please πŸ˜€
    I was asked to bring something snack wise – do you think something from Tate’s would be good – But I am the worlds worst baker – I can make one really good coffee cake recipe if it isn’t a million degrees in my kitchen that day.

  14. I love this edging, esp when the colors change!! Your blanket looks so beautiful wadded up in the beach tote! We received our “Cool Corder” in the mail today – I see miles of i-cord (the hand cranked kind) in our future. I’m itching for the wire one too!

  15. Oh, my, that is a lot of I-cord. Good thing we have stopped calling it idiot cord or, with all that late-night knitting, you might start to resemble that description. (Just kidding, you know, though my knitting does make a fool of me from time to time; it has to happen to others as well, doesn’t it? Please tell me it does.)
    The blanket looks great as always; your borders need no fences.

  16. your Serious Commitment to blankets is inspiring, Kay. i’m barreling through square 3 of 4 of my own gee’s-bend-inspired blanket, and the finishing will take just as long as knitting the body!

  17. The blanket is Lovely and Amazing! Please please please tell me how you watch EastEnders! I went through some pretty serious withdrawal when BBC America stopped showing it and would give many things to be able to watch again!

  18. Bewitching and beguiling, that’s what your Buncha Squares with Bias Knit I-Cord Binding is!
    What with knitting and crocheting and quilting and sewing running through my mind, I wonder: would it be good to attach a fabric bias binding to a knitted quilt-like blanket? Hmmmm.

  19. Absolutely fabulous. Yours looks so good I may just have to give it a whirl with my next blankie…even though the I-cord and me, we are not always the best of friends….

  20. There is a quilt exhbit of “Gee Bend” (think I got that right) at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, MD. Admission is free…thought you might want to know….

  21. Thanks for this excellent post! Now I know how I’ll finish the edges of the mitred square baby blankie I’m knitting. I believe I shall try the picture frame border. πŸ˜€

  22. We’re expecting grandbaby #2 and I knew as soon as I saw the photos that WBS was the afghan I would make for this hunk of KY love! I’m awaiting the recipe and am debating the border – since I am from a family of Wide Girls, I dont know if I want to tag a baby with the Wide Boy moniker, although that is my favorite border!
    Love the blog, reading a new post makes my day!

  23. Kay, your use of color kills me. I love it. You’ve got a great eye for it and I can’t wait to see this finished in the whole.

  24. Love your aesthetic. So random yet thoughtful. Love the M-D book and can’t wait for the next one to come out.
    Between Babette’s blanket and all your blankets, I no longer feel at a loss as what to do with all my random yarn.

  25. Killer, man. Totally killer. That blanket is killer just, you know, as IS, and then that border. 5-6 hours, eh? Either that thing is tiny, or my next step in blanket greatness will have to be knitting FASTER.
    Also, it is with this post that I realize that it may partly be YOU who is responsible for my newfound and deep interest in all things green. I’m thinking of your actually sewn quilt as well. Green has never been much on my list, but I’m getting a bit mad over green with green and some other greens.

  26. Whenever I see your blankets, I suddenly feel a blanket poverty exists in my house. I need more time to knit!

  27. I think that I will admire your blankets and your determination to have it justso. I think that I will not attempt to replicate them.
    I do love David Hyde Pierce though. His physical acting is classic and hilarious. Between Niles and Eddie, that show was actually funny.

  28. I love this finish. I think I’ll save this for the small garter blanket that should have been for my daughter’s April birthday. When I didn’t finish on time…I quit. Now I feel encouraged to pick it up and finish it for Christmas. I’ll definately give it this edge.

  29. Yurmy! I do love me a border tutorial. Clip n save!

  30. I too love applied I-cord. Maybe it’s time I knit a blanket so I’d have the opportunity to knit lots and lots of it.

  31. it’s just plain marvelous that you and ann have resurfaced since the book deux crazies!

  32. Another EastEnders fan – how wonderful! Before I watched that show, I had no idea that English people could be trashy. It’s always “dozy cow” this and “slapper” that. It is basically Springer with accents and it is great to knit to. Zoe, if you are desperate for EastEnders episodes, you can read recaps at:www.bbc.co.uk/eastenders/episodes/

  33. Thank you for these instructions! I finished a garter stitch hat in June with an i-cord binding, and it was challenging to find good, well-written instructions. When I post the pattern, I’ll refer people to this site for i-cord help. Thanks again.
    PS: Can’t wait for your Book 2, even if it’s not due until 2008.

  34. Beautiful! The blanket is gorgeous. And I love love love knitted on i-cord edging. It is the most beautiful edging, IMO. So simple and yet curvaceous.

  35. We’re expecting grandbaby #2 and I knew as soon as I saw the photos that WBS was the afghan I would make for this hunk of KY love! I’m awaiting the recipe and am debating the border – since I am from a family of Wide Girls, I dont know if I want to tag a baby with the Wide Boy moniker, although that is my favorite border!
    Love the blog, reading a new post makes my day!

  36. Thank you so much for the i-cord single needle instruction!
    I needed it!

  37. I’m doing this now, and it’s great. I think using dpns for the i-cord makes it a little quicker though. Just a heads up!

  38. I would love to have the pattern for your beautiful ballband dishcloth. There are so many color combinations that would make this dishcloth alot of fun to make. I don’t think I would ever tire of making it. : ) Coul you please email me the pattern. Thank you for your time.


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