Karen’s Alphabet Blocks

Contributed by Karen Schrade

This pattern makes stockinet cubes. Each side of the cube is worked in a different color with a print letter in the center of each side. Cubes are roughly 3x3x3 inches (7x7x7 cm) in size.

This is a basic recipe for the blocks. Lots of things can be changed to suit your own preference:

I used Peaches and Crème and Sugar and Cream Cotton Worsted. Originally, I tried these using Caron Simply Soft yarn. They were nice, but for a baby, I wanted something not so fuzzy.

To get the fabric right, I used size 1 knitting needles because I tend to knit loosely. That gave me a very dense fabric, which was what I wanted.

The stuffing is simply polyester fiberfill. I could use the blocks as covers for foam rubber cubes, but I wanted them to be totally washable. With the fiberfill, they can just go into the washing machine.

For my letters, I used Marjorie Arnott’s Charted Alphabet. Most of the letters are 8 stitches wide and 10 rows tall.

Size

My blocks are coming out almost 3 inches (7 cm) square on each side, so if you knit tighter than I do, you can probably go up a needle size or two.

Construction

To make 4 sides of the cube, I make a strip of 4 squares, then seam the cast on and bind off edges together. I do a turning row between each square to give the cube its shape. Then I make two individual squares to sew into the spaces at each end of the box.

You can do whatever you want with the colors. I am making each block as bright and varied as possible. I’ve been doing my individual squares in white with colored letters, and on each strip, I’ve been doing two colored squares without letters and two colored squares with letters.

Materials

Cotton Worsted yarn, 7 colors including white.

Size 1 (2.25 mm) straight knitting needles or size to make a block the way you want it.

Polyester fiberfill for stuffing the blocks.

Instructions

The Strip

With one of the bright colors, cast on 16 sts.

*work 18 rows in stst starting with a k row and ending with a p row.

Knit two rows for the turning. You get a ridge on the right side of the fabric.

Change colors.

**Work in st-st for 4 rows starting with a k row and ending with a p row.

Work your letter over the next 10 rows continuing in stst and changing colors for the letter itself. (I’ve been using white for the letters but you can use any color you want that will contrast with the background.)

Then work 5 rows in st-st, starting with a k row and ending with a k row.**

Do your turning row again, a knit row to create the ridge on the RS.

Work the next two squares of the strip by working from the * again.

Bind off loosely and join the cast-on and bind-off edges together.

For the individual squares

Make 2.

Cast on 16 sts.

Work from ** to ** as above.

Bind off loosely and sew into the side of the strip. The corners of the individual square will match the turning ridges.

Make sure to leave a small opening when joining the last individual square so you can stuff the block.

Notes

1. If you cut off about 2 yards of yarn in the “letter color” you can just let it hang behind the square till it’s needed again. That makes it easy to twist the yarns together to avoid long floats on the back of the square.

2. I’ve found that it’s better not to stuff the blocks too tightly. They tend to round out if they’re too firm.

3. Sewing the squares into the strip is the most time-consuming part of the whole thing. You can either overcast or mattress stitch the squares in place. If you overcast them, sew them firmly.

4. Any ends do not need to be woven in, but I’ve been tying the beginning and ending strands of yarn for the letters together. I don’t want them to figure a way to work themselves out!

5. Instead of choosing colors, I’ve been putting all of the yarn except the white into a bag. I randomly pull out a color for the square to be worked. When it’s finished, I put it into another bag and pick a second yarn randomly. Then when I finish the whole set of yarns, I start again. It’s making for some interesting combinations, like orange next to purple, but they’re children’s blocks and I want them to be as bright as possible. You can do the strip in a solid color, but remember to do the turning ridges. I’ve also done a couple with only two colors on the strips. Another option is to use a variegated yarn for the “non-letter” squares. That works well too, and you can do the other squares with a complementary color.

Tips for Braille Instead of Print Letters

If you want to put Braille on the blocks instead of print, you can work a popcorn for each dot: just knit into the front and back of a stitch repeatedly until you have five stitches instead of one; then pass the second, third, fourth, and fifth stitches over the one that is closest to the tip of the needle.

For contrast, you can make each side of the block in a solid color and later work the Braille dots with a different color.

Put a pin into the stitch you will make the popcorn in, and keep working. Then when you’re finished, pull a strand of whatever other color yarn you want to use from the wrong side of the fabric, pick up one of the stitches that has a pin, and work the popcorn. When it’s finished, pull the yarn back to the wrong side, and tie it to the beginning of the strand so it doesn’t come out. Repeat this process for any dots.

I’ve done this with bobble buttons and it works fine. It looks really nice to have a contrasting color button on a baby sweater.

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