Category Archives: Baby knits

A pair of watermelons

My niece in the second Watermelon sweater (size 12 months)

My niece in the second Watermelon sweater (size 12 months) – look at those teeth!

I was completely charmed when I first spotted this pattern. So much so that I briefly considered making four, for my youngest nieces.  Fortunately, I realized even the best pattern  gets tedious, and scaled back my plans to just two baby cardigans, one for each of my infant nieces.  I wish I had a picture of the cherubic little cousins together their cardigans, but the second wasn’t finished in time for a family get together this weekend.  That would have been the best way to do the sweaters justice.

The second cardigan has one small modification, but otherwise followed the pattern exactly.  I thought the pink section was a little small on my first sweater, so the top sweater has an extra 5 rows of pink (with the eyelet row occuring 5 rows early too). I think it changes the impression quite a bit; on the original (below) the pink seems like a collar detail or embellishment, but on the second it looks more like a wedge of watermelon across the yoke.

The first Watermelon sweater (size 9 months) in Cascade Ultra Pima

The first Watermelon sweater (size 9 months) in Cascade Ultra Pima

The end results, like any well-written infant patterns, are adorable, but I think these sweaters proved to be a little less than the sum of their parts.  The pattern is written for Manos Cotton Stria, which has been discontinued, so I had to find a different yarn.  I quickly settled on Cascade Ultra Pima, which worked perfectly for my cap sleeve lattice top.  It’s soft, washable cotton and comes in a wide variety of colours.  While both the yarn and the pattern are fabulous on their own, I’m not sure they’re a great pair – the pink is a little too saturated to convey watermelon, and the sweaters are just a little floppier than I’d like.  However, despite any small disatisfactions, I do think their owners make these sweaters pretty cute!

All The Old Showstoppers (Part 2)

Because one post couldn’t contain them all:

My youngest niece and her Project Linus blankie

My youngest niece and her Project Linus blankie

Favourite Shower Gift:  I know I’ve said this before, but nothing beats the Project Linus Security Blanket from Knitting for Peace as a baby shower gift.  I have literally dulled a pair of needles making this blanket six times.  All six are still in use, even though the oldest recipients are approaching school age. The simple, but pretty texture looks the same from both sides.  It’s durable and practical, warm and cozy. I made all six in Cotton Ease, so they’re machine washable; trust me, no new parent wants to hand wash anything. Nothing makes me a happy knitter, like seeing these get worn out as the newborn babies grow into toddlers and preschoolers.

My son's bulky jacket in Dream in Color Groovy

My son’s bulky jacket in Dream in Color Groovy

Favourite kid sweater: Diane Soucy’s Neck Down Jacket is another pattern that I’ve come back to again and again.  It comes in sizes from toddler to preteen.  It’s fast; it’s easy; it’s adorable; it’s knit in one easy piece (even the pockets!).  So it should come as no surprise that I knit this one six times in Dream in Colour Groovy and Berocco Chunky.  If like me, you have absolutely no skill with sewing, don’t let the zipper scare you off – most dry cleaners will sew in the zipper for a pretty reasonable fee (mine charges $6).  The shape is so timeless that I regularly see very expensive versions of this sweater in shop windows.  Just last week my sister-in-law emailed me to tell me that her daughter wears it every day to school as a jacket.  I could go on about this one all day …

Paintbox Log Cabin blanket in Noro Taiyo and Berocco Vintage

Paintbox Log Cabin blanket in Noro Taiyo and Berocco Vintage

Favourite blanket: … and finally the real show stopper:  The Paintbox Log Cabin Blanket.  This pattern is available for free and it gave me my favourite knitting project of all.  This project requires a really significant investment of time and money, and I probably won’t make it many more times.  At nearly $200 worth of yarn and 4 months of knitting, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime special gift.  That being said it was worth every penny and every minute.  Because the blanket is constructed in squares, it was an easy project to take with me and I loved being surprised by the way the colours materialized in the Noro.  It’s so beautiful and simple, I only wish I’d thought of it first. I cannot thank Katherine Keyes enough for this pattern. Spectacular.

I’d love to hear your favourites.  What patterns have you coming back for more?

All the Old Showstoppers (Part 1)

What keeps us coming back to the same patterns over and over again? Certainly, a familiar pattern is always faster and usually made with more technical proficiency, but there’s more to it than that.  A really great pattern demands to made over and over again.  Some patterns have that perfect mix of beauty, versatility, practicality and reliability that has you coming back to them again and again. These patterns are the ones that I love to make over and over again.

The worsted weight version in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino

The worsted weight version in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino

Favourite hat:  I’ve written a few of my own hat patterns and tried countless others over the years, but the one I come back to again and again is the Dean Street Hat, which is available as a free ravelry download.  The pattern comes in chunky and worsted weight and every size from toddler to large headed adult, like me.  The texture has a nice density that keeps you warm. The cables are simple enough to knit swiftly but attractive enough to be special, and I’ve gotten countless compliments on the three that I’ve made.  All in all a classic.

My first Rocketry cardigan in Dream in Color Classy

My first Rocketry cardigan in Dream in Color Classy

Favourite baby sweater:  While my recent experience with Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Sweater on Two Needles, had me second guessing this choice, Dream in Color’s Rocketry Baby Cardigan edged it out.  The advantage went to the Rocketry cardigan purely on the basis of it’s unisex appeal.  This adorable cardigan works well for boys and girls, and it’s a great stash buster.  The stripes keep the knitting interesting and make ensuring uniform sleeve length a breeze.  I’ve made it four times, twice in the suggested (but expensive) Dream in Color Classy, and twice in much more reasonable Lamb’s Pride wool.  It’s reliable and seamless, and works equally well as a six colour rainbow sweater and in simple three colour combinations (I’ve tried pink/white/black and red/navy/white).

Gusset heel toe up socks in unidentified stast yarn

Gusset heel toe up socks in unidentified stash yarn

Favourite socks: As a dedicated sock knitter this was a tough choice.  Lately, I’ve worn down the spine of Cookie A’s knit.sock.love and I was tempted to choose one of her innovative designs.  In the end, however, I went for simplicity: Wendy Johnson’s Gusset Heel Basic Socks, published in Socks from the Toe Up are fantastic.  The directions have an admirable clarity and they are perfect for showing off multicolour yarn or as a basis for your own experiments with texture.  The gusset heel is elegantly simple, providing lots of space for good fit across the top of the foot, without all of the slip stitch heel fuss.  I’ve had lots of knitters look at these and ask how I made such a clever heel, if only I could take the credit.

Knitting like it’s 1974

Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Sweater on Two Needles in Berocco Vintage

Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Sweater on Two Needles in Berocco Vintage

I just finished this shower gift for a friend who’s expecting in April, and I think this one’s about to become a staple.  I’ve previously expressed my love for and fascination with seventies knitting patterns, and our recent Freaks and Geeks  Netflix binge has just reignited my love of seventies knitwear.  This time, I used Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Sweater on Two Needles (Practically Seamless) from the February chapter of Knitter’s Almanac.

Much like Zimmerman’s other patterns this one bares a significant resemblance to stream of consciousness.  She does not lay out a needle size and her thoughts on gauge and measurement in general are pretty vague, since as she points out, babies come in all different sizes. I don’t know if this is indicative of Zimmerman’s individual style or if it simply reflects that the pattern is nearly forty years old. Either way, the instructions are a bit inscrutable and show a clear relationship to the oral tradition of sharing knitting patterns and skills.  When reading Zimmerman’s books, with their long asides and vague directions, you feel as though you are in conversation with the knitting guru herself. On one level, it’s appealing, but it’s nice to have some guidance before you set out:

1. Zimmerman doesn’t mention the button holes until after she describes the yoke.  You need to put button holes in while you are constructing the yoke, so read through the entire pattern carefully before you start. You can choose how many button holes to make.  I looked at the 7500 (!) projects on ravelry and decided to create a swing cardigan with three buttons.

2. There are few instructions about needle size and gauge.  I used size 5 needles and followed the directions regarding length exactly.  The end product is a little larger than a Baby Gap 3-6 months.

Waste yarn (brown) holds the sleeve as I finish the body

Waste yarn (brown) holds the sleeve as I finish the body

3. The sleeve directions are strange.  When I got to the sleeve row, I put the 28 sleeve stitches on waste yarn, cast on 14 across each gap, and then finished the body.  Afterwards, I returned to the sleeve, cast on 14 and knit in the round (no purling!) and then seamed the armpits.

The end result is really lovely. When I make gifts before a baby is born, I am a little anxious about when they will fit the baby.  You can never be sure if the recipient will give birth to a dainty 5 lbs baby or a 10 lbs baby that haunts the dreams of pregnant women everywhere.  A thick sweater that baby grows into and out of over the summer months is pretty useless.  The lace pattern in this sweater added to it’s appeal, since it has an all-season usefulness. I can imagine this baby wearing it on cool summer nights over a little dress or under a jacket in the spring or fall.

This pattern has confirmed my love affair with Zimmerman’s timeless designs.  I’m so pleasantly surprised that her books are still in print and so widely available. Has anyone discovered any other gems from the 70’s? I’d love to try them out….

Beanies for babies (finally, a use for grade six math)

We are still eagerly awaiting the arrival of my newest niece (although, I’m sure this waiting is hardest on my very pregnant sister-in-law.)  In the mean time, I’ve been preoccupied with making sure my newest niece’s little head is warm when she finally arrives.

(Left to right) a modified texture in grey Dream in Color Smooshy, the eyelet hat in madelinetosh leftover from my Monkey socks and the heart version in Dream in Color Starry

It is a happy coincidence that my recent sock knitting binge has coincided with the pregnancies of so many friends and family, because newborn hats are the perfect way to deal with the little balls of leftover sock yarn that I have collected over the years.  I know I have previously railed against knitting tiny impractical baby clothes, but I make an exception for these.  Newborn hats are quick, easy, adorable, practical (albeit very briefly) and the perfect use for leftover yarn.

One of my nieces in the heart version of this hat in Arauncania Ranco Multy

My favourite pattern for baby hats is a modified version of Carissa Knits’ Preemie Hats for Charity. These lovely little hats are simple, versatile and easy to modify.  Using sport or sock weight yarn makes these hats more practical, since they are the perfect thickness for indoor or warm weather wear.  The hats are not intended for full term babies, so some changes are needed if you intend to use them as a shower gift.  When in doubt, if you are making anything for a baby or small child, err on the side of big – they will always grow.

When I make these hats, I make them on size 6 needles and cast on 84 (rather than 72) stitches. Modifying a pattern in this way requires a bit of basic math.  If you look closely at this pattern, you will notice three instances where the pattern repeats:

My son, as a newborn, in the diamond version

1. The ribbing is p2, k2 – so you need to cast on a multiple of four for the ribbing to work out.

2. The hearts and diamonds repeat every 12 stitches – so you will need to cast on a multiple of twelve for the texture pattern to work out.

3. The eyelets and first row of crown decreases repeats every 6 stitches – so you will need to cast on a multiple of six.

Once you have carefully recorded all of the repeats, make sure that the number of stitches that you increase or decrease by matches the repeats in the original pattern. (in this instance, the original 72 sts and my 84 sts are multiples of 4, 6 and 12).

Since the pattern is so versatile and quick, it’s a great place to start experimenting with new ideas and techniques. Any texture or colourwork that repeats horizontally can

A modified fair isle version in Dream in Colour Starry and red sock yarn from my grandmother’s stash

be easily substituted for the hearts, eyelets and diamonds.  The grey hat at the top is a simple knit, purl combination that was inspired by a rug I liked.  Here, I tried a basic fair isle pattern.

Of course, this pattern is originally intended for donation to NICU wards. I was really moved by stories of parents recieving hand made clothes like these in the hospital.  However, my basic internet search has not yielded anywhere in Ontario that accepts donations like this.  If you know of anywhere, please share.  I’d love to make some of these in their original size and for their original purpose.

On Baby Booties

Simple Booties on our son in the hospital, on his birth day

Every time that a friend or relative announces that she’s pregnant, I eagerly break out the needles and pastel yarns. BK (before kid), I used to knit baby booties every time.  They’re quick, adorable and easy.  And aren’t those what you’re supposed to knit when you’re expecting?  I experimented with a number of patterns before settling on Bernat’s creatively named Baby’s Booties (available for free on their website) and Simple Bootees from Claire Montgomerie’s Easy Baby Knits.

Both make lovely booties, and both are wonderfully easy for novice knitters.  The Bernat pattern is knit flat in worsted, while the Simple Bootees are knit in the round with sport.  They were also great stash busters.  When our little guy arrived, we, of course, put his perfect little paws in both sets of booties.  Immediately something became very clear: the Simple Bootees I’d been presenting at showers for years did not stay on.  Furthermore, the sizes above newborn were ridiculous when compared to an actual baby foot.

Bernat’s Baby’s Booties, made in Dream in Color Classy

The Bernat pattern was much, much better that way.  The booties stayed put, and had an appealing warm thickness that made you feel like a good mom for putting them on your little one.  However, I’ve stopped making baby booties.  After going through the first year with our little guy, and after watching my sister and sisters-in-law clothe their little ones, I realized that booties are essentially useless to most parents.

The first three months are a wild period of adjustment, and I’ve yet to see the parent who has a lot of time to think about accessories when they’re being woken up every 3 hours, all night.  Furthermore, little babies often require full outfit changes every few hours, when leaky diapers and spit up strike.  Most newborns spend their days and nights in one piece jammies with feet that save their parents from endless rounds of dressing and redressing, from piles of teeny tiny laundry and from thinking about baby’s clothing in any coherent way.  Our baby booties were photographed lovingly and pulled on our little guy’s feet a few times during the 6 or 8 weeks they actually fit. Now they live in the home I expect is reserved for many lovingly crafted baby booties: the memento drawer.

These days, I try to make practical shower items that will get worn out instead of making tiny adorable mementos.  In our house, the unchallenged champion in the useful category is the Project Linus blanket from Betty Christiansen’s Knitting for Peace. The holes eased my anxious mind in the early days, and I’ve made this workhorse six times for various friends and relatives.  My sister-in-law recently asked for a second Project Linus for her second daughter.  To be honest, I’m a little sick of this pattern (my size 9 wood circular needles are literally dull), but it’s hard to resist knitting something you know will be used and cherished. I’m looking for a new pattern to take it’s place and would welcome any suggestions.  I usually make it in Cotton Ease.  The cotton blend is soft, washable and relatively inexpensive.  Our blankie is a little worse for the wear, but more than two years later, my son is cuddling up under it every night; which for me is the real test of any knitted gift.

Mia’s Project Linus Blanket (nearly 2 years old and still being snuggled)