lap afghans for older parents

I thought I'd try my first knitted Christmas presents - one lap afghan each for my Mom and Dad. Never having done anything this large before, there are questions. As a beginner, I also want to stay inside a comfort or "safety" zone.

For both, I was thinking of about 36"x48". Is that a reasonable size for adults who like to sit in front of the TV? Dad is over 6feet tall, so there's no way I'm making something that will cover him, top to toe.

Possibilities for Dad - alternating bands (4-8 inches) of brick red and charcoal gray. Pattern - combinations of knit and purl. I found one called "Broken Check". 8 stitches x 8 stitches. Start with 8k, then 7k 1p, 6k 2k, 6k 3p, and so on. I'm not sure if this will come out here:

This also appears with an option to reverse the direction of the next row. I found both patterns in Barbara Abbey's "The Complete Book of Knitting." (1971)
Also possible would be some kind of basketweave pattern.

With the check pattern, it could be enlarged to more than an 8x8 stitch version. Any thoughts on how to match proportions of pattern size to project size?

Mom's options. I'd like to go with a single soft color, and try one of the simple lace options that has a built-in wave. I've heard about "Feather and Fan" and the book I mentioned has some options. Are yarnovers hard?

Sorry, I know that beginners usually have the wrong words for the right questions. I hope you understand. I'll take pics when all is complete. :)

Thanks in advance for your advice. I'm enjoying coming to this site.

CLABBERS's picture

Hi Douglas. I see you are getting ready for another cold winter in Ontario. An afghan would be a great thing. I have made a few things using Feather and Fan, also called Old Shale, and it really comes out nicely. Yarn Overs (YO) are so simple to do. You simply wrap the yarn around the right-hand needle before you knit the next stitch. It makes a "fake" stitch that you purl on the next row. With feather and fan, there is only one fussy row in the four-row pattern. The others are just straight knit and purl. Liat at Knit Freedom has a terrific video showing the feather and fan and the yarn over.

Here is a good video by Liat from

I don't put the garter stitches between the feather and fan repeats as Liat suggests. I like the "waves" in the pattern to be uninterrupted. This is really a very simple pattern, great for beginner projects, but once completed, it looks very impressive. You won't need to tell them it was simple.

Here is another video by Johnny Vazquez that helped me. He shows one in a couple colors. He brings his YO from the front, while some others teach to bring it from the back.

Staci at shows it the way I like to do it. She tends to go a bit fast, but you can see pretty clearly.

There are many free patterns out there for feather and fan.

Here is a pattern that I found that has a nice border to it, but no additional stitches between the repeats.

Hope this helps.


Bill's picture

as an older gentleman, although not as tall as your dad...I think 36"x48" is too small. I'd suggest four by five feet. 48"x60".
36" will let too much cold air in at the edges.'s a bit more knitting...but you want your parent to use them and be warm.

Lumpynose's picture

I agree with the size comment and the feather and fan pattern. Feather and fan is really nice looking.

I couldn't tell from your description if you're making squares and then sewing them together? If you don't mind going that route (I'm cringing at all of the sewing together), here's what I've been wanting to do, but have never done; make one with mitered squares.

Any odd number will work.

Row 1: Cast on 15 stitches using the knit cast on, place marker, cast on 14 more.
Row 2: Slip 1 knitwise. Knit to marker, p1, knit to last stitch, p1.
Row 3: Slip 1 knitwise. Knit to 1 stitch before the marker, s2kp2 (description follows), knit to last stitch, p1.
Row 4: Same as row 2.
Row 5: Same as row 3.
Row 6: Same as row 2.
Work rows 3-6 until 3 stitches remain.
Penultimate row: Same as row 2.
Last row: s2kp2

s2kp2 description: This is a centered double decrease that reduces from 3 stitches to 1. Slip 2 stitches together knitwise. Knit the next stitch. Pass the 2 slipped stitches over the just knitted stitch.

In the above, the p1 in the middle of row 2 is purling the back of the s2kp2.

It's magical the first time you make a square with this; the cast on edge gets pulled into a V and becomes 2 sides of a square.

This decrease makes a nice big knit stitch ridge running diagonally across the square. Many other mitered squares patterns use a decrease that I find less attractive. When you sew the squares together you can arrange the diagonals in attractive ways.

You can also use 2 colors and make V stripes in the squares.

The above comes from Melissa Leapman's Color Knitting the Easy Way.

HuskerChub's picture

You can do a mitered square afghan without having to piece all the blocks together, but you have a large piece in your lap as you knit! I designed a child's afghan/floor mat for Knitter's magazine several years ago and it was reprinted in their Kids book Babies and Toddles, a Knitter's Dozen The way I picked up the edge sts made it more reversible than most picked up edge items. If anyone is interested it is called Children at gawd, I just looked and it was in Knitter's #72 Fall 2003, it seems like only 3-4 years ago, where does the time go? Pics are on Ravely.

Bill's picture

a lot of beginning knitters find the purl stitch more difficult. I don't really mind it, but the thought of having to purl a four foot row is a bit daunting. Why not just make your Dad's afghan in garter stitch stripes?
That way, you have an easy knit. The change in yarns for the stripes will give it enough interest. ...and don't worry about exact measurements. Knit eight inch stripes of Red and Grey, and when you get to the end of a stripe at roughly the five foot mark, just stop.

Yarn overs are easily achieved by just slipping the yarn between the two needles and knitting the next stitch, (or k2tog. if the pattern calls for it)- For me, it makes for a more consistent tensión.

yowek's picture

Sometimes we stumble upon the difficult, and do it easily, not realizing what we're doing. That happened to me with purling. One of my first hats was done on circular and double-pointed needles, inside-out, so almost all of it, except the ribbing, was purled. And I survived. And the hat looks like a hat.

I've done yarnovers by accident, too, and now that I know what they are and that they add an extra stitch, it's just to control that, rather than let it happen randomly and unintentionally.

The suggestion of a larger size than I proposed makes sense - Thanks very much for that.

Everyone seems to say that "Feather and Fan" isn't that hard, so I think I'll give that one a go. Always good to practice technique of all kinds, and it sounds like this pattern is worth learning.

There are many goals that I have with knitting. Two big ones are:
- learn to let every body part that isn't holding a needle stay relaxed. No clenched jaw, no squinting, no curled toes, no scrunched shoulders, no pursed lips.
- develop consistency, so that in a project like an afghan, every row will look just every other row, within reason.

I'm a "pattern" kind of guy. I like the interplay of knit and purl stitches, and how they can be combined to form repetitive patterns. Just something soothing in that.

yowek's picture

I found a nice pattern for an Irish Chain pattern - supposed to be 55"x55" if all goes well. Does that seem reasonable for a tall man's lap afghan? I could always switch over and use that pattern for my Mom instead.

SAPBrown's picture

I used a similar stitch pattern on my first afghan, it gave a nice, two-sided pleat effect
9x9 repeat
easily scalable (any repeat, stitches = to rows)
or reversible (pleats fall in the other direction)

yowek's picture

Thanks SAPBrown. I still like that idea. But somewhere, I read that this stitch pattern causes the material to fold on itself automatically, perhaps in pleats? Was that your experience? (I like the simplicity of the stitch pattern.)

SAPBrown's picture

Yes the "pleats" come from the line if K's (far left column) next to the line of P's (far right in example). It is a great stitch pattern. I am amazed at all the possible combinations using just K's and P's.

I will try and post a pic, so you can see the end result.

SAPBrown's picture

I posted my 3pound afghan on Ravelry:

Lighting was poor but you can see how the pleats line up.
Next time I will reverse the direction for the 2nd half (split vertically)

sorry for the delay