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"Dear Bunny, You're probably used to odd requests, though not along this line, I imagine.  A couple of years ago when I was up at Mrs. Hoover's, she was knitting a baby blanket on large needles.  It was double, but united at the edges, and she was knitting both sides at the same time, one in one color and one in another.  It was the nicest thing of its kind that I have seen, and I am very anxious to make one such for Christmas if I can get the "recipe"....  I hate to bother Mrs. Hoover about it, but sometime if you could ask her if she has the directions around somewhere, I would appreciate greatly if one of you could send them to me..."

So begins the story of our Hoover blanket.  This letter, from Therina Guerard Pearson of Berkeley, California, dated November 25, 1939, was sent to Bunny Miller, the personal secretary of former first lady, Lou Henry Hoover. Mrs. Hoover kindly responded to Therina and sent her a small doll-sized blanket as an example. 

"My dear Therina:...I am sending you a little pattern to go by. And when you have gotten a little accustomed to doing it, you can make all sorts of variations and take short cuts very easily..."

Recently, Christine Mouw of the Herbert Hoover Library came across a letter written Lou Henry Hoover detailing how she knit a blanket.  Mouw, a knitter herself, was particularly excited because she suspected that the blanket described was one that the Hoover library has in its collection. Mouw approached Knitty to help decipher the pattern and to share it with a new generation of knitters.

The blanket has a wide border on all sides with a center panel that is double knit -- that is, two right-side layers are knit simultaneously, so that the blanket doesn't have a wrong side. There are three basic options for the blanket: The first is all one color on both sides. The second, like the blue and cream one above that Mrs. Hoover knit, has single row stripes of alternating colors on each side. The third has two solid center panels, but of two different colors.

Lou Henry was no shrinking violet.  Born in 1874, she spent her youth in Iowa and California. As a girl she was active in a variety of outdoor sports including riding, ice-skating -- even fishing, trapping and shooting.  A natural leader, she often organized her friends in games and plays. Like most girls of her era, Lou also learned the classic domestic arts, including needlework of various kinds. 

In the 1890s, she decided to enroll in the Geology Department at Stanford -- the first woman to do so. In addition to studying Geology and Latin, it was there that she met her future husband, Herbert Hoover. Soon after their marriage, the Hoovers left for China.

China was just the beginning of their world travels. Even after their sons were born, the Hoovers continued exploring all corners of the globe while Herbert was employed by various mining and minerology concerns.  While overseas, Lou was active in various relief efforts both in China during the Boxer Rebellion and in London during the First World War. She also collected many interesting items during their time abroad -- including the Qing Dynasty vases pictured with the blanket [at top] and a variety of weapons from around the globe.

Lou Henry Hoover was a strong proponent of girls' involvement in athletics and outdoor activities. She was very active in the Girl Scouts movement and served as a national leader. She also was vice-president of the National Amateur Athletic Federation, charged with organizing a women's division. 

Of course, from 1929-1933, Lou Henry Hoover was First Lady. She was a great conversationalist and worked hard to make the White House comfortable for guests. During her tenure there, she still found time to escape for horseback riding through Rock Creek Park, driving her own car around the city...and knitting. When they had time to get away from the city, the Hoovers went to Camp Rapidan in the Shenandoah Moutains -- their own version of Camp David.

After leaving the White House, the Hoovers moved back to California for a time and then to the Waldorf Astoria in New York so that they might work on relief efforts during World War II. It was during that time, a few years before her death in 1944, that Lou Henry Hoover took the time to send her baby blanket pattern to Therina.

Found in the Hoover files: A birth announcement for David Bruce Pearson born April 20, 1940, with a note attached, "[T]his must be the baby of Therina Guerard to whom you sent detailed instructions for the making of the baby blanket." In Mrs. Hoover's handwriting beneath, "Send with little sweater -- ready shortly."

The techniques used in creating Mrs. Hoover's blanket are really not difficult. If you can work ribbing and slip a stitch, you've got all the skills you need to try double-knitting.  Why not follow in some very famous footsteps and give this blanket a try?  If you don't know anyone who's expecting a baby, consider knitting one for someone in need. 

photos: Courtesy Herbert Hoover Library/Christine Mouw


Width: 27 inches
Length:  33 inches



We don't know what yarn Mrs. Hoover used for her blanket, but it was likely pure wool in worsted/heavy worsted weight.  If you are working with two colors, choose colors that work together harmoniously as the darker color may show a bit on the lighter side. It's important that both yarns be the same in weight and thickness for good results, so choose two colors of the same yarn. Lou seemed to favor blue and white.

Variation 1
[MC]Plymouth Encore Colorspun [75% acrylic 25% wool]; 200 yds per 3.5 oz
skein]; color: 7064 -- Variegated Pastels; 4 skeins.

Variation 2 [Mrs. Hoover's original -- yarn thickness and yardage estimated]
[MC] worsted-weight wool; 500 yards [approx]
[CC] worsted-weight wool; 300 yards [approx]

Variation 3
[MC] Red Heart Super Saver [96% acrylic, 4% other fibers; 348 yds per 6 oz
skein]; color: Aran Fleck; 2 skeins.
[CC] Red Heart Super Saver [75% acrylic, 25%rayon; 348 yds per 6 oz skein];
color: Grey Heather; 1 skein.

1 24-inch circular needle in an appropriate size for your yarn
1 crochet hook [optional]


16 sts/22 rows = 4" over double-knit stockinette stitch [generally, stitches are slightly larger when double-knitting]



On a long circular needle, CO 110 sts.
Work in Garter stitch [knit all rows] in MC [main color] for 3 inches.

Preparation Row

K 15 sts for border. For the center panel, you will need to double the number of stitches so that both sides can be worked at the same time. To do this, knit and purl into each stitch across center 80 sts. 
K last 15 sts for the border.

Variation 1: [blanket all of one color - sample shown uses variegated yarn]

Double Knit Row

K15 for border, K1, BRING YARN TO FRONT [as if to purl], sl 1.  Continue in this fashion -- K1, sl 1 purlwise -- across center panel.  K15 for border.  You must slip the stitches as if to purl, with the yarn in front, for the double-knitting to work.

Work following rows the same.  You will always knit stitches that are knit and slip the purled stitches as if to purl. 

When blanket is 3 inches shorter than desired length, K15, *k2tog* to last 15 sts, k15.

Work in Garter st until border measures 3 inches. BO all.

A further caveat regarding the border: Since Garter and Stockinette have different row gauges, it may be wise to add extra border rows, particularly if you have a wide border.  This can be done by knitting back and forth twice on the border at regular intervals [every 6th or 8th row]. Be sure that you add to the borders equally at each side however, so your blanket does not become lopsided. Mrs. Hoover is rather vague on this point, but invites the knitter to decide. "The border eats up more yarn per number of stitches than the center does, so every now and again you will have to put in an extra row in the border, using your judgement and ingenuity as to when that should be."

Worked like this, you will have a double-knit blanket all of one color. Mrs. Hoover recommends starting with this to understand the technique. A smaller "swatch" might be made in this fashion, as Mrs. Hoover said, "Perhaps you know some one with a little doll!"

Variation 2:
[both sides single row stripes in two colors - recreation of the original]

When working with two colors, double-knit, you must always move both yarns together. That is, both yarns should either be in front or in back of the work, never one in front and one in back. Unlike other two-color knitting, DO NOT twist the yarns together between stitches. 

"The only thing you have to be careful about in all this is to keep your two threads together between the two rows of stitches. And not to let them get twisted around each other, -- for in that case your two sides of the double would be linked together! This is just a little awkward at first, but soon becomes automatic."

Work Border and Preparation Row as above with MC [white].

Please read the caveat about borders above under Variation 1.

K 15 sts with MC [white] for border, then attach CC yarn [blue].
*K1 CC, sl 1 purlwise* across row to border.
Turn and work back the same *K1 CC, sl 1 purlwise*.
K border with MC only.

Next row, switch back to MC and work as above. You must work back and forth twice across the border on the far side with MC to make up for the rows you skipped last time.
Work back to beginning of row.

Continue in this fashion, alternating two rows MC and two rows CC.

When blanket measures 3 inches short of desired length, cut CC yarn, leaving tail to weave in.
Work 3 inches in Garter st with MC then BO all sts.

A more elegant way to achieve this same look is to hold both yarns together and work all the center panel rows *K1 MC, p1 CC*.  The border will always be worked in MC.

When blanket measures 3 inches short of desired length, cut CC yarn, leaving tail to weave in. K15, *k2tog* to last 15 sts, k15 with MC.
Work 3 inches in Garter st with MC then BO all sts.

Variation 3: [two sides in two solid colors]

Work Border and Preparation Row as above with MC.

Please read the caveat about borders above under Variation 1.

K 15 sts with MC for border, then attach CC yarn.
With both yarns always held together,  work all RS rows of the center panel *K1 MC, p1 CC*.
All WS rows are the reverse, *K1 CC, p1 MC*.
At end of center panel, wrap the MC yarn around the CC yarn to keep edge between center and border neat.
K border in MC only.

When blanket measures 3 inches short of desired length, cut CC yarn, leaving tail to weave in. K15, *k2tog* to last 15 sts, k15 with MC.
Work 3 inches in Garter st with MC then BO all sts.


Mrs. Hoover recommends a single row of crochet around the outside edge of the blanket for a more finished look and longer-lasting blanket. "With the extra thread of chain stitching around the outside, it means that if that outside thread breaks it isn't going to run way back toward the middle before being spotted."

Mrs. Hoover also recommends wet blocking: "Another thing I find so useful, -- I wonder if you do, -- is to put the finished work on a wet bath towel on the bathroom floor, and put another wet towel over it.  After it has lain there for some hours I take the top towel off and see if the blaket or garment is lying perfectly symmetrical, -- that one corner or the margin isn't a little wider than another, or that one sleeve is not stretched out longer than another, or that there aren't two or three big stitches showing somewhere. If you straighten out all those little crookednesses, or draw in the big stitches, or stick any knots between the double folds and then let the blanket or garment dry between the two towels, it does a perfectly amazing job of finishing."

While your blanket likely won't be blocking on the bathroom floor of the White House, it will still be treasured as Lou Henry Hoover's has been.


Kristi Porter is a frequent contributor to Knitty.

With the help of many hands including those of Lou Henry Hoover, Christine Mouw, Judy Porter and AJ Henry, she was able to weave this story together.