Knitting Baby Stuff: Classic Cardigan

A very, very dear friend of mine welcomed a new baby to her family a few weeks ago and while I was one of the first people to know that she was expecting, the gender was a surprise to everyone the day baby arrived.

Having had a bit of revelation recently that knitting things in newborn size is results in them being packed away very soon after they are received, due to babies’ phenomenal ability to grow before one’s eyes in those first few months, my criteria for baby knits have been refined and clarified. A size for older than 6 months. Useful and practical garment. Easy to put on a wriggling baby. Machine washable yarn. And in this case, gender neutral!

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Playdate Cardigan is classic and simple and seriously cute.

Pattern: Playdate Cardigan by Tin Can Knits

Source: Ravelry download (aren’t they all these days?)

Price: $7 USD

Yarn: Madelinetosh Feather in Favourite Pair

Needles: 3.25mm and 3.75mm circular & double pointed needles

When my Madelinetosh yarn arrived, I could not believe how deliciously soft it was. Shimmering and delightful. I’d chosen blue (I firmly believe it is gender neutral!) but the shimmer had me almost fearing that it might be too ‘pretty’ should it’s wearer be a boy.

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Some suitably masculine buttons.

I eagerly cast on. I was a little nervous to ‘waste’ yarn swatching as I only had 420 yards and my pattern called for 400, so thinking myself rather clever, I decided to use the pockets as my gauge swatches. Two birds with one stone. Look at me and my expert level knitting go!

Having nailed my gauge first try, I picked up my smaller needles and cast on the ribbing for the body. Deciding to be very clever, I calculated row numbers based on my gauge for the lengths given in the pattern so I could keep track with a row counter and not be reaching for my tape measure—which I always forget to take with my when knitting on the move. My measurements—which I checked occasionally—were almost correct. I added a row or two (or if I’m completely honest, three or four!) here and there without thinking much of it. It wasn’t until I reached the back, where the pattern reminds me to use my larger needles when rejoining that I realised I had knit the whole project on the smaller needles! So, despite my too-clever-by-half swatching, I’d knit a very long and skinny cardigan on the wrong needles!

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Trying to convince myself that all would be well—a phenomenon I call the gauge delusion—I pressed on and completed the back of the cardigan. Before joining in the right front, I took a long hard look at myself and my very skinny cardigan, and conceded that this was not going to be the useful and practical cardigan for a child over the age of 6 months that I dreamed of unless I pulled out and started fresh. So, I frogged.

Rip it. Rip it.

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I cast on again and quickly regained my rhythm. Though having already knit most of the cardigan, I started to get itchy fingers and took a not-so brief hiatus while I focussed on my Peachy shawl instead.

With my friend’s due date looming, I returned to this gorgeous project and finished it off without incident. Not to mention 30g of yarn to spare!

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Blocking in progress.

The pattern is beautifully written and quite easy to follow, though I did need to get my paper and pencil out to calculate how to work button holes ‘evenly spaced’ along the button band.

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Madelinetosh ball band lent itself quite nicely to being made into a care label.

I’m very pleased with the result. It’s light and seriously soft. It will be wearable throughout much of the year with a bit of layering. It’s machine washable. Useful. Practical. And with some lovely simple wooden buttons, not even remotely too ‘pretty’ for the beautiful boy who joined us recently.

 

 

Knitting Baby Stuff: Rainbows & RainDROPS

I’ve had my eye on this pattern for a while after spotting this gorgeous version by kcol on Ravelry. So when a close friend revealed the gender of her baby due this month, I reallocated my gorgeous balls of Knit Picks Chroma in Groovy and instead of making the socks I bought them for, I set about for to recreating kcol’s version of the DROPS b14-27 Jacket.

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The finished product.

I knew from the project notes on Ravelry that this would knit up larger than expected, so I cast on the 6-9 month size in the hope it will fit well for next winter when bub is nearly one year old.

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The gradient of the Knit Picks Chroma works brilliantly for these skinny stripes.

Pattern: b14-27 Jacket by DROPS design

Source: Garnstudio DROPS Design

Price: Free!

Yarn: Knit Picks Chroma Fingering in Groovy & Cascade Yarns Heritage in White

Needle: 3.25mm circulars

This is a very clever pattern which uses short rows to create a flared cardigan knit side-to-side with cast on and cast off to create sleeves. Essentially only two seams should be required. Except knit as written, one must change yarn every 2 rows! So the benefit having only two sleeve seams is overwhelmingly negated by the need to sew in eleventy-million ends. Having cast on and knit a few colour changes, I quickly recognised this issue and in addition to dreading the end weaving, I wondered whether I’d be able to make the finished product look neat and tidy. My end weaving skills are still a work in progress.

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It quickly became apparent that the clever two-seam construction was going to become completely irrelevant with eleventy-million ends to weave in.

Modification required!

By adding a white border along the bottom, I would be able to carry the yarn for the stripes and avoid the eleventy-million ends all together. Genius!

So, I frogged and cast on again adding a 6 stitch white border to the bottom edge. I quickly refreshed my memory of how to do an intarsia colour change by watching this video and got stuck in.

However, I soon realised that the neat intarsia method I was using was designed only for stocking stitch. I improvised for the wrong side knit row of this garter stitch pattern, but after a few stripes it was clear my improvisation was giving lacklustre results! Further Google searching brought me to this video and —after yet another frogging—I started again. It looked much better!

Once I was (finally) on my way, this knit up reasonably quickly and despite the rows and rows of garter stitch, the short row turns and the gradient colour changes of the Chroma yarn kept it interesting and fun.

The only other small modification I made was to slip the first stitch of every row purlwise to give a neat edge. A trick I learned from Kelly Brooker‘s newborn patterns.

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Who knew garter stitch could be so fun?

As the Ravelry project page suggested, this is a HUGE cardigan. I suspect that maybe the error is in the given gauge. It certainly seemed way off! The pattern recommends 2.5mm needles. I (rather amazingly) didn’t have any in my seemingly endless needle collection, so I swatched on 2.75mm using the Chroma. My swatch was under size by more than 20%! So I reswatched on 3.5mm. This gave me the right gauge, but the fabric looked looser than I’d like. I compromised and knit my cardigan on 3.25mm needles. Despite being well under given gauge, the resulting cardigan is enormous. It looks more suited to a 2 – 3 year old than a 6 – 9 month old!! Next time, I might knit up on 2.5mm needles just to see what happens.

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The wrong side can be just as beautiful as the right side when you have no ends to weave!

So whether it’s this winter—or more likely the next!—that this cardigan fits, I’m hoping it gets lots of wear. I’m wrapping up these Rainbows & RainDROPS to send to a little girl who made a safe and happy entrance to this crazy world just last week!

 

Knitting Baby Stuff: Greensleeves

Having nothing to do with the English folksong about a lover’s betrayal and far more to do with sleeves that are green, I am blocked and ready for the latest arrival, a delightful little Mr. who arrived just as the last drops of water evaporated from this sweet little knit.

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A frontless cardigan is far far harder to spit up on.

Pattern: Newborn Vertebrae

Source: Ravelry download

Price: Free!

Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Fingering in Canopy

Needle: 2.75mm & 3.25mm circular + DPNs

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The collar curls slightly despite my extra stitches, so should still be cosy against the nape of baby’s neck.

Another gorgeous knit from the very talented Kelly Brooker of Pekapeka, this cardi is designed with no front. Making it perfect for keeping a winter baby cosy during some skin-to-skin or even just looking cute without having to worry about dribble and chuck stains ruining every wear.

Goodness knows a new mother does not need more washing!

With that in mind, I cast on in a superwash sock wool from KnitPicks and the result is my first variegated project (subtle variegations of my rainbow mini skeins aside). I was a little hesitant with this at first. The yarn was originally purchased for socks which would have been almost stripy, but with the longer sections of knitting across the back of this cardi, the variegations did start to give that slightly smudgey weirdness that in a bad colourway can make one slightly queasy. I’m not entirely sure I’ve avoided that effect with this knit, but with the brightness of the greens I’m hoping the result is mellow happiness rather than seasickness.

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The shorter rows of the sleeves give a pleasing stripy (rather than squeamish smudging) effect.

The pattern is simple to follow and excellently written. The only thing I varied slightly was in picking up the body ribbed edging, the instructions call for 3 of every 4 stitches to be picked up around the edge. I picked up every stitch across the back of the neck as I found this neater. The result is still perfect and I wondering whether it may have pulled in awkwardly across the shoulders if I’d picked up less.

My blocking has successfully turned this into a long straight cardigan compared to the very shell shaped ones I saw on the Ravelry projects page. I’m hoping it still keeps little Mr. cosy and warm and snug as he cuddles his mummy this winter.

Knitting Baby Stuff: Playing Pick-up Sticks

In my current knitting frenzy, I found myself mid-way through a couple of projects and lacking the double-pointed needles (DPNs) required to finish them off. So these two little knits for boys sat idle for a little while as I waited for a delivery of DPNs from Loveknitting.com. But now, after much playing of pick-up sticks, they are blocked and ready to go to their new homes!

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Is it just me, or does knitting with DPNs always feel like a slightly strange game of pick-up sticks?

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The original version. Photo from (and instructions on how to play) here.

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‘Little Boy Blue’ – my version of Elizabeth Smith’s Little Coffee Bean. Delicious, thick and soft.

Pattern: Little Coffee Bean by Elizabeth Smith

Source: Ravelry download

Price: Free!!

Yarn: Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran (55% wool, 33% acrylic, 12% cashmere) in two shades of blue.

Needles: 5mm circular & DPNs; 4.5mm circular & DPNs

This knit is for a little boy whose mother is in my Facebook mothers’ group. We’re doing a birthday present swap and I’m hoping this will fit him perfectly for this winter as he turns one in a few weeks. I knit the 12 month size and it’s gorgeous! The yarn was bought to make a big romper suit for W, but I realised it would be a lot of work and he was probably unlikely to wear a thick knitted romper suit more than a few times making it hardly worth it. I’m hoping this little cardigan gets a bit more use!

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Perfectly aligned button band thanks to very clear instructions on how to pick up stitches along the edge.

The pattern for this is very well written and I didn’t have any trouble following the instructions. Elizabeth Smith even specified how many stitches to pick up per row for the button band! I love this!

I find instructions like “pick-up 124 stitches evenly along the edge” slightly overwhelming, so: “Pick up and k 3 sts for every 4 rws (pick up and k 3 st, skip 1 st, pick up and k 3 sts, skip 1 st, etc) along garment edge down to hem, making sure total number of st picked up is divisible by 4 + 2. Write this number down.” …is BRILLIANT! Very, very hard to go wrong. And having followed her instructions, my number of picked up stitches was 58. Perfect.

I used a stretchy cast-off to make sure that the sleeves were easy to pull over wriggly little arms. I found instructions here. Essentially, it is done by k2tog, slipping the resulting stitch back onto the left hand needle and then k2tog again, slipping resulting stitch back onto left hand needle, etc. It made the edge so loose that it looked like it was going to flick out a bit but a good blocking sorted that out.

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Henry’s Sweater. Not for a Henry.

Pattern: Henry’s Sweater by Sara Elizabeth Kellner

Source: Ravelry download

Price: Free.

Yarn: Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran in chocolate brown

Needle: 3.75mm circular & DPNs

This little coat just looked too cute to pass on when I saw it here, but I didn’t note the changes that had been made to the original pattern, so had to face issues of edge curl and the slightly less gorgeous cuffs. Ah well.

I’m not as thrilled with this as I’d like to be, and it seems rather huge for 3-6 months. I’m increasingly suspicious that I’m a loose knitter as a lot of my baby knits end up a good deal larger (and using more yarn) that expected. Maybe it’s time to (finally) start doing gauge swatches. Sigh.

This pattern was reasonably easy to follow—though I did find the instructions to insert sleeve decreases after given lengths (e.g. “insert a decrease row after 2, 4 & 5½ inches”) a little imprecise, so opted to calculate row counts based on the gauge of my knitting on the jacket (i.e. decrease at row 15, 30 & 43). This allowed me to ensure the decrease rows were inserted symmetrically on both sleeves. Virgo moment.

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Knitting 10ply on 3.75mm needles gives a very tight, almost felty, stiffness to this knit.

Given my time again, I’d opt for a silkier yarn. I’m not sure if it was the batch, but I found this yarn to be considerably less scrumptious than the one I used for the blue cardigan despite them being the same brand and blend. This was noticable even just as I knit, so the difference isn’t completely down to the much tighter gauge. I’d also add the ribbed sleeves as in the version I fell in love with. Not sure how to do an i-cord edge which can be used to prevent edge curl. A skill to be acquired, methinks!

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Ready to roll.

Now to parcel it up and send it off to a new little man who arrived just slightly before the DPNs did. I’m hoping he’ll love this little coat made for him. Even though he’s not named Henry.

Knitting Baby Stuff: A Sprinkling of Rainbow

With at least three expected babies still on my ‘To Knit For’ list, I returned to the Pekapeka Design Studio for some inspiration. I have made several of Kelly Brooker’s Peurperium and Composite cardigans over the recent months and love the seam-free, simple designs. They knit up quickly and are simply beautiful!

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Pattern: Thousands DK by Kelly Brooker of Pekapeka Design Studio

Source: Ravelry download

Price: $4.00 USD

Yarn: Scraps from my stash – 8ply cashmere merino blend in a pale grey (Sublime) and rainbow colours (Morris & Sons)

Needle: 3.5mm & 4mm – I knit on circulars and used double-pointed needles for sleeves

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Weaving in the ends on the wrong side.

The pattern is written for a variegated yarn as the contrast but instead I used scraps from my Rainbow Blanket changing colour after 2 rows. This lead to lots of ends needing weaving in. I tried to use this technique but found that the contrast colour was visible behind the grey when even a small amount of stretch was applied – as will occur when this cardi is wrapped around a little tummy – so instead I wove in my ends like this.

This technique for weaving in ends looks slightly awful from the wrong side but is secure and allows you to hide contrasting yarn in a way that duplicate stitch techniques will not. It also maintains the natural stretch of the fabric so your work won’t pull or pinch.

I use a tapestry needle to slide the end through middle of the wrong side purl loops splitting the yarn so that the contrast yarn stays completely on the wrong side of the work. I work vertically and loop back and forth for 3 or 4 legs to keep it secure.

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I wasn’t sure I’d have enough yarn for the long sleeves, so when I got to that point I used my husband’s trusty kitchen scales to divide my remaining yarn in two with the idea I’d just keep knitting until I ran out for each sleeve – but then, realising this would result in half-length sleeves that would look like a knit gone wrong, I opted for a cute short-sleeve version.

Tricky enough to need my pattern spread out in front of me. Not tricky enough to prohibit enjoyment of  watching Arrested Development while knitting.

Tricky enough to need my pattern spread out in front of me. Not tricky enough to prohibit watching Arrested Development while knitting.

The main issue with this pattern is that it took me a while to get my head around it. The instructions are in the form of charts which work well once you get the hang of them, but I found my sleep-deprived brain struggling a little so needed to have two pages visible to remind me of the direction of my increases while reading the colour work chart on another page. I had to annotate my pattern a fair bit too with reminders about which way to read the chart for right and wrong side rows (probably because I’m not used to using a chart) and I also found myself forgetting to add in buttonholes.


I have realised of late that my 15 years of knitting has been stuck fairly firmly in an 8 ply cashmere merino blend rut. Having discovered the gorgeous Sublime baby knit books among a pile of very dated and oft hideous patterns at my local knitting shop many moons ago, I had thought that Sublime knits were the only modern gorgeous knits out there. I almost exclusively knit Sublime yarn and Sublime patterns for the better part of a decade.

My newly arrived delicious rainbow mini skeins from Gradient.

My newly arrived delicious rainbow mini skeins from Gradient.

It is thanks to the wonders of Ravelry that I have been inspired to get out of this rut and try new things. So, so, so, so many beautiful, modern and vintage knits and so many knitters from across the world sharing their failures and successes. I have recently been inspired by variegated and gradient yarns and am itching to get my newly arrived skeins from Gradient onto my needles. I have also been inspired to get into lighter weight yarns and have bought up a stash of gorgeous sock yarn which I’m hoping to turn into some winter woolies for myself and W.

I’m even in the contemplation phase of my first major lace project. I knit a lace shawl in a fluffy yarn to wear to a friend’s winter wedding many years ago but at that stage had no idea about checking gauge or blocking. Needless to say, it was a mild to moderate disaster. I am looking forward to venturing into lace again with the years of experience and knowledge – and the expert advice of my fellows Ravelers – now in my toolkit.

Knitting Baby Stuff: Lace & Simplicity

In the madness of life with an 8-month-old baby and a often busy work life, time got away from me and I completely failed to have a knit ready for the arrival of a friend’s baby girl last week. With no time to order yarn online or get to the yarn shop, I rummaged through my stash and my pattern books and decided on making this gorgeous knit again.

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Simple cap sleeve top with button. I didn’t oversew the button band as advised in the pattern as I had a baby with a massive head and know that neck opening just ain’t big enough for some heads.

I’ve made it once before and been very pleased with it on both occasions. With a little dedication to the cause, I managed to get it finished within a few days and once it’s finished blocking, will get it off in the post on Monday.

IMG_5738Pattern: Composite by Kelly Brooker of Pekapeka Design Studio (she also wrote this pattern… another go to favourite for new arrivals.)

Source: Ravelry

Price: Free!!

Yarn: Stash scraps – Sublime Cashmere Merino Silk DK. I think. Lost the ball band.

Needles: 80cm 3.5mm circular and 30cm 4mm circular – from different sets so they’re easy to tell apart.

This pattern knits up surprisingly quickly and is very pretty with little lace cap sleeves. Given the size, the concentration for the lace is only required for 13 rows so it’s still a suitable in-front-of-the-telly knit, though you may want to watch something not too challenging during the lace rows. There’s a slightly tricky section where you use both the small and large needles simultaneously, which Kelly describes in the pattern as being “a bit like playing with an octopus”, but as she also points out, it only lasts a few rows so it’s manageable.

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Weighing up my chances of finishing the knit with yarn to spare.

I particularly liked that Kelly specified the weight of yarn required for the knit. This meant that by temporarily borrowing my husband’s baking scales I could work out whether I had enough yarn even though I was using pre-wound stash scraps which had been half used.

Pearls:

  • Weighing yarn is a great way to work out how much of a ball you have left and whether you’re likely to finish the project on your scraps
  • Lacework requires concentration, even when simple, so avoid watching anything too in-depth or challenging during those 13 rows!
  • The pattern calls for oversewing of the button band to join the two layers. I didn’t do this, as the button allows for the neck opening to fit over baby’s head and as the mother of a particularly large headed baby (greater than the 98th centile… no seriously, a lot greater!!) I know how frustrating a small neck opening can be.
  • This knits up quite small, but after blocking should be right to fit a baby for their first few months in this crazy world.
  • In writing this post, I’ve discovered the Pekapeka Design Studio page with a bunch of gorgeous free patterns to choose from! You can find them here!

Knitting Baby Stuff: Newborn Cardigans

Pattern: Puerperium Cardigan by Kelly Brooker

Source: Ravelry

Price of pattern: Free!

Yarn: Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino & Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK

This pattern is a firm favourite and I have just finished up my 5th incarnation! It’s a very simple knit (even simpler if done as a short-sleeved version to avoid the tedium of knitting in the round on double-pointed needles for the long-sleeves) and in the right yarn and button combination can suit boys or girls.

For W, I made a long-sleeved from a Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino – which is less than 8ply – which worked very well, though was a looser knit, and a short-sleeved in Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK.

I’m now finishing up a short-sleeved one in red for a friend who is expecting a little boy next month… but I’ve made a dud button choice (too girly) so will be heading back to the Button Bar for a rethink.

Pearls:

  • If you are put off by the call for double-pointed needles, make the short-sleeve version. It requires only 4 rows of garter stitch on your DPNs. The pain is over in no time.
  • This is knit from the neck down… knowing this helps to get your bearings!

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    Puerperium Cardigan in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino