Category Archives: Toddler knits

A finished sweater, just in time for spring?

We returned home this week to sleet, snow, and freezing rain, but at least I finished this hoodie (in Cascade Superwash Paints) to keep my son warm.  I’m so happy this improvised sweater turned out! I used this henley pattern from Knitting Pure and Simple, slightly changed the neckline to include a single button loop, replaced the ribbed cuffs with seed stitch and added a hood.

My son enjoying the first day of spring (?!?!?) in his new hoodie

My son enjoying the first day of spring (?!?!?) in his new hoodie

My son frolicked around in all that icky snow, but I’m definitely ready for the spring promised by the calender today.  I hope the first day of spring finds you enjoying crocuses rather than slush!

Happy Spring!



Sometimes a single pattern just won’t do.  In this case, I loved the casual ease of the hoodie that I made last year for my niece and nephew. It looks great in the vibrant Cascade Superwash Paints, and both sweaters have gotten a lot of wear.  I wanted to make one for my son in the gorgeous blue colourway I spotted on my last trip to the LYS.  Unfortunately, it was a class pattern from my LYS, without much in the way of sizing variation.

My first two (size 18-24 month) raglan hoodies in two different colourways

My first two (size 18-24 month) raglan hoodies in two different colourways

I could have sat down and done the math to size this pattern up, but to be honest, sizing and fit are my weaknesses.  I’m really picky about how sweaters fit, but I cannot often muster the patience to rewrite every line of a pattern to fit the exact proportions of the recipient. In fact, it’s the reason I rarely make sweaters for myself. To make matters worse the original pattern just recommended different needle sizes and gauges for different sweater sizes.

Fortunately, I already had this Knitting Pure & Simple henley pattern.   When I made the size 2 henley over a year ago, I was really impressed with the proportions, which were perfect for my slim little guy.  All of their kid’s patterns contain detailed instructions for sizes from toddler to preteen. I love this pattern but I find it a little fussy for everyday preschool wear (especially since my son’s favourite outfits consist of t-shirts and sweatpants).

My son in my first Knitting Pure and Simple top down henley

An old photo of my son in my first Knitting Pure and Simple top down henley

The solution was clear: fraken-pattern!  I used the sizing, gauge and stitch counts from the henley (this time in size 4), and the trims and details from the hoodie, with a few of my own touches added in there too.

Fraken-hoodie in progress, in Cascade Superwash Paints

Fraken-hoodie in progress, in Cascade Superwash Paints


  1. The cuffs. The henley pattern called for ribbed sleeve and waist cuffs, knit on smaller needles. Instead I didn’t change needles and replaced the cuffs with a seed stitch border that sits flat, giving the sweater a more casual silhouette.
  2. The neckline. I have never ever closed the neckline on a henley sweater or t-shirt, so I used the open neck with a 3 stitch wide seed stitch border from the hoodie pattern.  At the end, I’ll add a little i-chord and a single button, so that the neck can, on rare occasions, be pulled in tight against the wind.
  3. My fraken-hoodie in progress - you can see the faux seam (in garter stitch) in the centre

    You can see the faux seam (in garter stitch) in the centre, above the green stitch marker

    The faux seams.  In Ann Budd’s excellent Top-Down Sweaters, she suggests adding a faux seam in top-down sweaters from the underarm to the waist.  They can be accomplished by purling or slipping a stitch under the arm, every second row.  This is my favourite knitting tip ever, it’s so easy and all seamless sweaters hang so much better with this little modification.

  4. The hood.  The henley pattern calls for a ribbed collar; here I will just substitute in the hood instructions from the other pattern.

In a few days, we leave to visit my in-laws and soak up the sun in Florida, but I hope to finish this sweater first.  Maybe I’ll be able to snap a few photos of the finished product on my little guy. I think it’ll be perfect to keep him cozy on the plane…

Road tripping and road knitting on Route 66

My nephew in his raglan hoodie, the product of some recent road knitting

My nephew in his raglan hoodie, the product of some recent road knitting

Knitting in the car has transformed road trips for me.  The meditative nature of the repetitive motion and the feeling of productivity quiet my busy mind, and lets me appreciate the scenery, the radio and the lazy conversations.

Road knitting in New Mexico

Road knitting in New Mexico

Making this raglan hoodie for my nephew (in Cascade Superwash Paints), kept me occupied for the entirety of our most recent road trip, from Las Vegas to Santa Fe, loosely following the route of the mostly demolished Route 66.  It was the perfect road trip and the perfect road project: requiring just two skeins, two sets of needles (circular and DPNs) and knit in one smallish piece, that fit easily in my hands and my luggage.  I started and finished this sweater, while watching the surreal, constantly changing scenery of the American Southwest.  Driving in Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico really should be on everyone’s bucket list.

We started our Southwest road trip with a single night at the Tropicana in Las Vegas.  I was prepared to hate Vegas, but I found myself completely seduced by the tacky fun of it all.  The crazy buildings, the DSC_5502big hotel rooms and bigger portions, the novelty cocktails and of course, the Cirque de Soleil are all really fun in moderation.  It’s hard not to love Las Vegas, just a little. It wasn’t until we had water up to our knees the next morning in Las Vegas, that we discovered that August is monsoon season in the dry Southwest. Undeterred, we hit the REI and Whole Foods for camping supplies, and hit the road.

Our next stop was the Grand Canyon.  Along the way, we spotted the Hoover Dam and all of the kitsch that the Route 66 had to offer, with concrete wigwam hotels, and neon lights advertising cowboy steaks.  I wish we had allowed ourselves more time; our compressed 8 day itinerary didn’t leave a lot of room, and we didn’t give the Canyon or the gorgeous alpine towns nearby nearly enough time.  We did hike the rim of the canyon, and camp nearby.  I was astounded by how easy and cheap it is to find camping accommodation in the Southwest, anyone contemplating a road trip should have a tent stowed in their luggage. We had planned and spontaneous camping nights along the way, and they were fantastic – beautiful surroundings, quiet nights and clean, warm showers dotted our entire route.

After the Grand Canyon, we caught one of Route 66’s famed attractions: the Petrified Forest.  The Petrified Forest and Painted Desert are well worth a stop.  The million year old trees, and blood red desert landscapes really need to be seen to be believed.  We simply turned off the Interstate, wandered the paths (which are all reasonably short) and had a picnic lunch overlooking the Painted Desert.  When we crossed into New Mexico we lost an hour. (In the summer, Arizona doesn’t spring forward, so the time shift happens at the New Mexico border. If you are travelling in the winter, the time changes at the Arizona/Nevada border).  The lost hour and the way too ambitious itinerary meant finding spontaneous accommodation in Gallup, New Mexico.  Here, our Lonely Planet came through for us, and we camped in the shadow of the stunning cathedral rock, for $10! This campsite and the best tacos I have ever had (in Espanola, NM) were well worth the price of our Lonely Planet.DSC_5680

Petrified wood in Arizona

Petrified wood in Arizona

Our next stop was Chaco Culture National Park.  Surrounded by many kilometers of dirt road, it’s easy to see why many tourists miss this park, but it was the highlight of the trip for me.  Nearly a thousand years ago, the Chaco people built huge great houses in the canyon, the ruins of which are easily accessible by the ring road that runs through the park.  The reason(s) that huge houses were abandoned (well before Europeans arrived in New Mexico) remains a mystery.  While some travelers arrive in the park for the day, I strongly recommend camping.  I have never seen stars like the ones we saw from our tent that night, and travelling across the dirt roads does not leave a lot of time for hiking if you only come in during the day.  The scramble up the canyon walls to see the ruins from above is well worth the effort.

Chaco Canyon National Park

Chaco Canyon National Park


Nightlife in Chaco Canyon

Nightlife in Chaco Canyon

After Chaco, we travelled to Taos. The Pueblo there had been the major draw, but when we arrived, we discovered that it was closed to visitors for the duration of our stay.  I gather this is a relatively frequent, and poorly publicized occurrence, but Taos is worth a visit either way. The gorgeous San Francisco de Asis Mission Church there was photographed by Ansel Adams and painted by Georgia O Keefe.  The accommodations and restaurants are fantastic (especially the Love Apple, which served me the best meal I ate in 2012).  The shopping is a thrill, the Navajo are world renowned for their textiles and jewelry, and I picked up a rug and turquoise bracelet there that I count as among the most beautiful things in our home.

San Fransisco de Asis Church in Taos

San Fransisco de Asis Church in Taos

Earthships sustainable homes outside Taos

Earthships sustainable homes outside Taos

A visit to the Georgia O’Keefe museum and the delicious Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Santa Fe rounded out our trip.  My only regret is that we didn’t have the time to see more that the Southwest has to offer.  Fortunately, there will always be more opportunities for road trips, and road knitting.

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?

Top Down or Bottom Up?

My son in a bottom up (Ryuu-ki in Berroco Vintage) sweater and me in a top down (Lapis Yoke in Malabrigo) sweater

The first sweater I ever knit was a basic, seamless, top-down raglan cardigan. The pattern came from a beginner sweater class, and it has shaped my approach to knitting sweaters forever. I have no facility for sewing, and am admittedly a little short on patience, when it comes to finishing. There is nothing like seeing a sweater literally materialize in one piece on your needles.

Baby and toddler sweaters are among my favourite projects.  They’re quick and satisfying and small children can rock looks that would look silly on an adult. The sizing and gauge is also less of a concern; generally I make sweaters a size too big for small children, knowing they will always grow into it.  Fortunately, with a young son and 14 nieces and nephews, I have had lots of opportunities to knit itty bitty sweaters. I’ve experimented with a variety of patterns and approaches, and it’s all led me to one decided conclusion: top down all the way.

Bottom-up (or frustrating for the fingers)

I’ve knit some really lovely bottom-up sweaters. Notably Daniela Nii’s fair-isle dragon sweater (available for free) and Nikki Van De Caar’s maile baby cardigan (available on her blog What to Knit When You’re Expecting).  In both cases, I’m pretty happy with the results, but they haven’t become staples in my repertoire.  While the fair isle dragons and lacy leaves are lovely, the sweaters themselves were frustrating to knit.

The fair isle dragons on my son’s Ryuu-ko sweater (in Berroco Vintage)

For the uninitiated, bottom up sweaters are constructed from waist up; usually in three knit in the round pieces (abdomen and sleeves).  At that point, the three pieces have to be joined on a single circular needle and knit up in decreasing rows. Getting your fingers and needles around the armpits is torturous for me, and I’ve ruined more than a few hours of catching up on Homeland and Downton Abbey, complaining about this to my husband.

The other concern I’ve run into with bottom sweaters is the neckline.  My son (like many very young kids) has a big head, and top up sweaters have a cast-off edge at the neck, making them too tight to fit over his head. This can, of course, be fixed with a stretchy sock-style cast-off, but it gives the neckline a sloppy, slouchy look that makes me crazy.  In future, when I fall in love with a pattern or texture, I will be adapting patterns like these for top down construction.

Top-down (or the BEST way to make a sweater)

My son (at 10 months) in a Knitting Pure and Simple top down henley in Malabrigo yarn

I’m a complete devotee to top-down construction.  Early on, I used a lot of Diane Soucy’s fantastic Knitting Pure and Simple patterns.  The bulky neck down jacket, ballet cardigan and pullover henley were big favourites in my extended family.  I’ve made six of the jacket (!) for my son and all of his cousins under four.  It’s really fast, easy and practical.  The original three were made out of Dream in Colour and are beautiful, but even at Boxing Day Sale prices, they were expensive gifts.  The following three are Berroco.  They aren’t quite as pretty, but were a third of the cost and have washed quite a bit better.

My son’s bulky (raglan) jacket in Dream in Color yarn

Raglan construction seems to be the most common (the Pure and Simple patterns are mostly raglan).  It involves increasing along four raglan “seams” on either side of the shoulders.  It’s an extremely easy technique to learn, and easy to modify too. The hoodies below are the same pattern, and the decorative raglan was accomplished by putting a purl stitch in between the increase stitches.

Two raglan hoodies in Cascade Superwash Paints. The pink was modified with a purl stitch between raglan increases and a seed rather than garter stitch border

Yoke construction is often used to create colour work across the chest and shoulders.  Yokes are accomplished by increasing at intervals all around the chest, to create a poncho type top to the chest and shoulders.  I’ve only made one yoke sweater (Hannah Fettig’s Lapis Yoke), and it’s definitely flattering in a formfitting sweater like this one (although it’s a bit short everywhere, as you can see in the picture above).

I’ll be tackling set-in shoulders using Budd’s The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top Down Sweaters, after I finish my holiday knitting, and I’ll keep you posted.

Toddler Surprise Jacket

Toddler surprise jacket 2.0, in various scraps of Noro Taiyo

The print on my maxi wrap dress

Walking past all of the midtown stores, on our way home from Argo, last date night, I realized something: the 70’s are having a moment.  I couldn’t be happier; I love the long hair, the cords, the wrap dresses, the maxi wrap dresses, the intentionally ugly colours…

Inspired by the movie and the 70’s inspired fashions in Yorkville, I turned to one of the few 60’s and 70’s pattern designers whose books are still widely available: Elizabeth Zimmerman.  My first experiment with retro patterns was her 1968 Baby Surprise Jacket.  Named “surprise” because it is knit in one bizarre piece, then miraculously folds into a sweater for your baby or toddler.

The differences between contemporary patterns and Elizabeth Zimmerman’s go way beyond the groovy style.  The surprise jacket is not at all technically challenging, it is mostly just knit in garter stitch with a few simple increases and decreases.  It is however, mystifying from a reading comprehension perspective.  Zimmerman’s writing style approaches stream of consciousness.  She writes long paragraphs and asides and switches vocabulary midway through the pattern (switching from “rows” to “ridges” to “decreases”).  If like me, you usually rush headlong into patterns: STOP!  You need to read the whole pattern, and count out the rows before it is too late.  For example, when she writes “At 114 sts,” it’s good to know that means 12 more rows.  I found doing the math before hand, and annotating my pattern to be much less time consuming than counting stitches.

The Surprise Jacket, some assembly required

She is also quite vague about gauge and sizes.  She doesn’t suggest a size of needles or give any specific yardage.  The pattern simply offers that a gauge of 6 sts to the inch will yield a present for a newborn and that 5 sts to the inch will be right for a “1-year-old or older.”  There are, however, thousands of projects on ravelry that can offer some suggestions in that direction. As someone who is trying to find new challenges as a knitter, I really enjoyed her open ended style.  I felt like I was sitting down with someone’s fantastically talented grandma for a little chat about knitting, and that she figured I knew enough to put my own stamp on things.  However, I imagine that her style might be frustrating for a beginner.

Helpful in deciphering this pattern was this wonderful YouTube series:

Experienced knitters won’t need to watch every episode in its entirety, but it helped me make sense of some of the more inscrutable directions (her pattern literally includes the phrase “Hope you’re still with me”).

I originally made this sweater for my two year old niece on size 5.5 mm needles in Noro Taiyo.  I was sooooo pleased with the funky, psychedelic result that I made a second from my stash of

Toddler Surprise Jacket 1.0

Noro. Both sweaters remind me of girl’s sweaters I spotted at Benetton and the Baby Gap this fall. I think the purple colourways (I had lots of tiny scraps, and just used anything purple-ish) turned out even better; it’s not quite the bold statement the original was.

I’m definitely looking forward to my next adventure with retro patterns Zimmerman’s Baby Sweater on Two Needles from the Knitter’s Almanac for my sister-in-law (due in 3 weeks, we can’t wait to meet our new neice!).  I’ll keep you posted as the baby and the sweater arrive…

Choo-choo Toque

My son in his choo-choo toque

This pattern is now available on

For personal or charitable use only. LGN, 2012.

* I had some ravelry comments that mentioned that the long strands can be difficult to deal with if you’re a novice at stranded colourwork.  If you are doing more than 5 or 6 consecutive stitches in one colour, just tuck the other strand around every 4 to 5 stitches.