Free Crochet Pattern~ Baby Cocoon with Cables {AKA Sleep Sack}

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I've been amazed at how many were interested in the pattern for the Itty Bitty Bow Beanie!  I am still working on my skills at writing crochet patterns for others to follow, but I thought I would share this one I just came up with for a baby cocoon or as some may call it, a baby sleep sack.



The first thing I crocheted for my now 2 year old special blessing was a baby cocoon.  It was very simple with one stitch, a double crochet.  It was perfect for me as I was just regaining my skills in crochet.  And it was wonderful to be able to tuck her inside of to keep her tightly snuggled and warm.

I learned a few months ago that I am moving ahead, moving from mom to grandma here in a few more months.  Amazing!  So I'm working away on things for little babies again.  I decided to work on a crochet baby sleep sack that is relatively easy to crochet but has a nice pattern.  I'm always drawn to the cables I see in knit and try to do something similar with crochet.  I know it's possible, but still beyond my skills.  So here's what I came up with, inspired by a few of my favorite patterns I've used this year.  I wanted to make my own pattern to narrow the opening and have a gathered bottom.  I'm so pleased with the results.




The first inspiration piece is this ribbed hat which I have on my Etsy shop.  I love the chunky appearance that is achieved without using chunky yarn.  This inspired the pattern I use for the ribbed effect.  I just wanted a bit thicker one so it would look more like a cable.  The second pattern is one I've used for all the boys in my family but haven't made one to sell.  I liked how this pattern started with an opening that was then sewn closed.  The gathered closing was something a tad different than other sleep sacks I've seen.  I also found a helpful source in deciding how big to make the cocoon at Relief Share.  They have volunteers make baby cocoons to donate to their local hospital.  What a great idea!

The top edge has a stitch pattern that mimics slightly the ribbed effect and finishes the whole cocoon just the right way.  The pattern is for a cocoon that is about 18.5" long which should be great for an average newborn to use for a few months.  If you would like to make one a bit longer for a older baby, just add on another two inches before doing the top edge of the cocoon.

I'm so in love with this stitch and was just thrilled with how well it came out!  I'm working on a few different colors but really like it with earthy tones.  It seems kinds of Celtic to me.  I can't wait to tuck a little baby in one!



When my little one was born, I wrapped her in a flannel blanket then slid her into the cocoon.  Not necessary but it gave an added layer for warmth especially in cold months and climates.  Another bit of advice on using the cocoon.  If you fold or roll the top edge down about half way, slide it over the baby's feet, you can then just unfold up around the baby's arms. Leave the top folded down to where you want it to fit around the baby.

If you like this cocoon but do not think you have the time or skills, look at my Etsy shop, An Extra Blessing.  I use earnings from the shop to help pay for therapies for my sweet little Dianna who was born with Trisomy 21, Down syndrome.  If you do use the pattern for your own sales, please give a link back to me or my shop.  Blessings!

Crochet Pattern Baby Cocoon with Cables
H Hook
Lion Brand Heartland Yarn {or a soft acrylic WW4 yarn}

Stitches Used {US terms}
ch {chain}
sl st {slip stitch}
dc {double crochet}
fpdc {front post double crochet}
hdc {half double crochet}
hdc2tog {half double crochet 2 together}
sc {single crochet}

A note about the yarn.  I began working with a cotton and really did not like the stitch pattern.  The acrylic was much nicer.  Also, not all worsted weight 4 yarns are the same.  I really like the Heartland yarn as it seemed a bit weightier than say a Caron Simply Soft or baby yarns.  I have found that I do really like the feel and to work with Hobby Lobby's I Love This Cotton.  It is soft and easy to slide the crochet hook.

Body
Ch 41; without twisting chain, join to first st w sl st {40 st}
R1: Ch 2 {counts as 1st dc throughout pattern}, dc in same st and in ea st around; join w sl st to top of ch2 {40 st}
R2:  Ch 2, dc in same st; 2 dc in ea st around; join w sl st to top of ch2 {80 st}
R3:  Ch 2, dc in same st; fpdc in next 2 st; *dc in next 2 st; fpdc in next 2 st* around; join w sl st to top of ch2 {80 st, 40 dc, 40 fpdc}
R4:  Ch 2, dc in ea dc and fpdc in ea fpdc around;  join w sl st to top of ch2{80 st, 40 dc and 40 fpdc}
Repeat R4 until cocoon measures 17" from bottom to top.

Top Edge
R1: Ch 2, *hdc in ea dc; hdc2tog in fpdc* around {60 hdc}; join with sl st to top of ch 2
R2: Ch 1, sc in back loop only each hdc around; join with sl st to top of ch 1
R3: Ch 2, hdc in ea st around thru both loops; join with sl st to top of ch 2
R4: Ch1, sc in back loop only each hdc around; join with sl st to top of ch 1
Fasten off.

Finishing
At the bottom of cocoon {the beginning of the work}, use the beginning tail of yarn to whip stitch around opening.  Slowly pull tight to close cocoon.   Stitch thru the closed bottom a couple of times to secure.  Weave in all ends.

Pictorial Explanation of Gathering the Bottom with Whip Stitch~


Thread needle with finishing tail.

Working with right side out, skip a stitch and insert needle under the next chain stitch.

Continue skipping and inserting needle, making the whip stitch around the bottom of the sleep sack.

Once you've stitched around the bottom, begin to pull the yarn to gather the bottom together.

Pull tightly.  The yarn will hold strong, but there will be a small hole.  Thread the needle through the hole to the inside of the sack and turn inside out.

Pull yarn tight and cross over hole.  Stitch the hole closed.  Tie off and weave in loose yarn.


DIY Sandwich Platters~ How to Make them Attractive

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Sandwich platters are an easy option for entertaining but can be rather boring or canned even if you make them yourself.  Without paying a local sandwich shop or deli to make your party platters, you can make your own from your favorite sandwich recipes or some that I've included below.

In the past I've made sandwiches and cut them up, arranged them on a platter and was quite dissapointed that they either looked just like the platters I buy or they looked like my 7 year old threw them together.  Not that my boy isn't talented.  He could be quite creative but quite messy, too.  Here is an easy trick to make diy sandwich platters eye catching without compromising the ease of putting them together~ leave space on the platter and fill in gaps with garnishes.  Actually, I think this is a quick method and will make any sandwich platter more appealing.
 

First, make your sandwiches.  If you are making a day ahead of time, you want to pair the bread with the proper ingredients so the sandwiches do not end up soggy.  For example, if you are using a spread you'll want a drier bread such as a Ciabata or crusty French.  Also, don't use fresh lettuce and tomato; leave those on the side.

Choose a platter.  Many platters are round and big.  If you are making only one kind of sandwich or similar sandwiches that can be stored overnight together without effecting the flavor, a large platter is fine.  I would use smaller and separate platters for different types of sandwiches, placing only one type of sandwich on each platter.

Also, line the platter with something that won't compromise the sandwiches, such as wax or parchment paper.  I keep deli sandwich paper on hand for lunches and use them to line a sandwich platter with.

Arrange sandwiches.  This used to be the difficult part about arranging a sandwich platter for me.  Then I realized the key to it all~ leave space between the sandwiches.  Don't try to layer them or overlapping in an effort to hide the platter itself.  Place the sandwiches flat on the platter so they don't smoosh each other.  Don't worry about the spacing between and parts of the platter showing.

Fill in gaps with garnish.  Choose a fruit or vegetable or non wilting herb to fill in gaps on the platter.  Look at ingredients of the sandwiches for ideas.  The muffaleta recipe uses a tapenade which has olives and peppers.   For the muffaleta platter, after cutting the sandwiches in halves I spaced them around a ramekin of olives.  the space between was filled in with mini sweet peppers.  The olives and peppers both add needed color to the platter.


The curry chicken salad croissants were also cut in half {halves make a nicer portion size for party platters}.  They were arranged in alternating rows with space left between so the delicate croissants wouldn't be smooshed.  The space was filled with green and red grapes.  Although this recipe doesn't use grapes in the chicken salad, they still compliment it nicely.


Here are two recipes to get you started on your own sandwich platters for your next party or get together.  For best flavor and texture, follow the cooking directions for the chicken used in the chicken salad.  I use this method whenever I am making chicken breasts to be used in another recipe.

Curry Chicken Salad Sandwich on Croissants

Ingredients
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 c mayonnaise
1/2 c sour cream
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 green onions, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1/2 c dried cranberries
8 croissant rolls
red and green grape clusters for garnish

Preheat oven to 375F.  Rinse and pat-dry chicken; place in glass or ceramic baking dish. Combine thyme, salt, pepper and onion powder.  Sprinkle on chicken.  Roast in preheated oven for 1 hour.  Turn off oven and let chicken sit for 20 minutes before removing.  Once removed, place on cutting board and let cool for 10 minutes to ease handling.  Discard skin; remove chicken from bone.  Cut chicken into bite size pieces.  Set in bowl to the side.

Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, curry powder, pepper and salt.  Add to chicken and stir.  Add green onions, celery and cranberries.  Stir well.

Slice croissants from the back to the curled tips, leaving the tips intact {see pictures above}.  Fill the croissants well; lightly press down.  Slice in half.  Arrange on a platter and fill in gaps between halves with small grape clusters.  To make ahead, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and enjoy within 24 hours.


Italian Muffaleta with Tapenade

Ingredients
8 Ciabata rolls
1/2 lb mortadella
1/2 lb sandwich salami
1/2 lb sandwich pepperoni
8 slices mozzarella cheese
1/2 c tapenade
olives and mini sweet peppers for garnish

Slice Ciabata rolls in half horizontally {to open for sandwich making}.  Spread one tablespoon of tapenade on the middle of each bottom slice of the roll.  Add mozzarella, three slices of mortadella {I folded into fourths for a 'pie' shape then layered on}, three slices of salami and four slices of pepperoni.  Top with other half of roll.  Press lightly and slice in half.  Arrange on platter and garnish with olives and peppers.  To make ahead, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and enjoy within 24 hours.


Family Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Who isn't a fan of Toll House cookies fresh baked, just out of the oven?  I've tried lots of chocolate chip cookie recipes and have claimed one as my favorite.  But when I had these, first baked for my by one of my daughters, I knew I wouldn't not need to test another chocolate chip cookie recipe again.




Though I have did not strive to find a copycat recipe for Toll House cookies, this is the closest I've come, even closer than the recipe on the back of Toll House chocolate chips to achieving the taste and texture of the cookies from the big yellow tub.

I am certain the key is the browned butter. It gives the dough an extra bit of flavor and lots of moistness.   Another bonus is a slight crispy outer texture akin to the glossy topping of a chewy chocolate brownie.

I'm all about chewy cookies.  I like cookie dough, I like cookies hot out of the oven gooey, I like them to stay chewy.  My husband, and I am certain he's not the only one, is a fan of crunchy cookies.  The beauty of this recipe is you can get both from the same batch of cookies.  If you bake these for 8 minutes, you'll get a chewier cookies.  If you bake them for 10 {or as my husband prefers, 12} you get a crunchy cookie once they have cooled some.

To keep that chewy cookie texture, store any leftover {and you may not have any} in a cookie jar or other container with a lid.  There are a few other tips you may find helpful below.


Tips~

*The original recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups of flour.  I cut out some of the flour and I don't mix all of the dry ingredients into the batter.  Add a bit less than 2 cups of flour mix and see what the dough is like.  To keep cookies chewy, you want a batter that spreads just a bit but still keeps a good shape when balled.
*Use a tablespoon that is heaping with dough to measure out cookie dough.  This gives you a good size, not too big but not bite size, cookie.
*Line cookie sheets with foil and do not use any spray or grease.   Cookies will slide off easy when done.
*Let cookies cool on cookies sheets for 1~2 minutes before removing from pan.  If you forget, they still come off easily but don't remove before as they may get smooshed.
*Warm cookies in the microwave for 30 seconds to get that fresh out of the oven taste!  If you don't like to use the microwave or don't have one, steam them.  Place a layer of foil in steamer basket and add cookies; steam for 30 seconds.


Family Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

original recipe from babble.com
1 c unsalted butter {2 sticks}
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
2 lg eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 c all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 c semi~sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375F.  Line cookie sheets with foil.

In small saucepan over medium~low heat, melt butter.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently until butter bubbles and foams.  Stir constantly, continuing to cook until foam dissipates and butter begins to turn golden.  Turn off heat and let butter sit and cool to lukewarm.  Butter solids will brown and settle in pan.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl; set aside.  In large bowl combine brown and white sugars with whisk, breaking up any lumps.  Add lukewarm butter and vanilla; whisk to combine.  Add eggs and whisk to combine.  Add about 2/3 of flour mixture to the sugar/butter combination.  Stir til smooth.  If dough is thick enough, do not add any more flour.  If it spreads out a bit and doesn't hold its shape, add a bit more flour mixture to moist but firm consistency.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop dough onto foil lined cookie sheets by rounded tablespoonfuls, leaving a few inches in between cookies.  Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes.  Eight minutes yields a chewier cookie.