Knitting Blog: Gifts for a Baby

One of my coworkers is also my friend. We came to work for the agency within a month of each other, 7 years ago. There is a generation of difference in our ages, but we have never lacked for common ground.

When I found out that my friend was going to have a baby, I decided immediately to knit a sweater for "Baby Who". My friend decided not to seek out the baby's sex before birth, so I had to plan a project that could be worn by either sex. No way would I go with yellow or green, though. I needed to find a pattern and yarn that were as refreshing as my friend and her husband.

The pattern I chose was first designed for a baby more than 70 years ago - the Tomten Modular Jacket. Elizabeth Zimmerman designed the pattern, and published it in her breakthrough book Knitting Without Tears. She republished the pattern in the Spring/Summer 1988 issue of Vogue Knitting. Both the book and the magazine are part of my knitting library. Zimmerman was a revolutionary designer, who told knitters "You are the master of your knitting." This means that a pattern is a guide, and a knitter should feel free to adapt and tweak. I did some of that with this sweater. Elizabeth would be proud.

I found the yarn on sale at my favorite LYS (local yarn store) - Fiber Options. It was perfect - a big hank of multi-colored painted merino wool by The Great Adirondack Yarn Company. My friend works with local food producers, so it was great getting yarn that had been dyed in New York. Here is the yarn on a swift, and a picture of me winding the yarn into a large center-pull ball. Knitting tech - I love my tools.

I started knitting the sweater in August, making great progress on the project during my vacation in Cape Cod. Things slowed down a bit when I got back to work, but I finished it early last week, and gave it to my friend on Thursday. About 6 weeks - not bad when I don't manage to knit every day.

Here is the sweater body. The gaping holes will be filled with sleeves.

I've pulled the fronts and backs together, and continued knitting to form a hood. The armholes are large triangular holes at this point. This is also a demonstration of how hard it is to take a picture of one's knitting while traveling in a car. I'm on my way to Cape Cod.

Although the original pattern has a hood. I realized, after having one sleeve done, that there wasn't enough yarn for the second sleeve. I decided to substitute a collar for the hood, and used the hood yarn to knit the second sleeve. There was just enough - I had maybe two feet of yarn total left over when the second sleeve was done. The original pattern has a zipper, but I don't like sewing zippers into sweaters. I decided to put a button band on instead, and use a contrasting yarn for collar and button bands. Here I am cannibalizing the hood, and transforming it to a sleeve as it unravels. I'm in the car again, on the way home from Cape Cod.

I chose to knit the sweater as a larger size than a newborn sweater. It may have some use as a warm robe this winter, with the sleeves rolled up. My friend's baby will be able to use it for at least a couple of years into the future.

The finished sweater, front and back:

I like the way the collar back comes to a point in the middle. The collar was improvised - I unvented it!

Bonus gift: The little blue socks. My daughter Ana knit them for the baby on our trip. They come from a fantastic book I recently bought, New Pathways for Sock Knitters by Cat Bordhi. The two gifts are perfect bookends, from patterns created by truly revolutionary knitting designers, one who has passed from the scene and one who is designing today. I will be waxing rhapsodic about Bordhi's work in future blogs - I'm working on one of her designs right now.

All of the extra material needed in the thick part of the foot, at the joint between foot and leg, is added and subtracted alongside the swirl on the top of the sock, instead of in gussets at the ankle as in traditional sock designs. Here is a detail for your viewing pleasure.

"Baby Who" has arrived, and is a little girl. She has her gifts now, too. They were received with delight. I'm sure that they will be well used.


  1. As Baby Who's mom, I'd like to add our sincere thanks for these gifts. The sweater and sox are truly beautiful and will be enjoyed by my daughter, and potentially her own son or daughter one day(!) for years to come -


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