Ideas and Suggestions!
Knitting is a pastime which dates back at least 2000 years and despite its’ lack of television coverage it is the second most popular hobby. Baby knitted garments are found in the trendiest of designer shops with prices to match. It is much more rewarding to knit it for yourself.
Traditionally, a new baby in the family leads to a knitting frenzy. Babies seem to bring out the maternal instinct in all of us. Baby garments are most often knitted in soft 3 and 4 ply acrylic yarns in pastel shades with the most popular colour being white! Babies are wrapped in soft lacy blankets and amused with knitted toys. Most of all babies show how much love we all have for our family and friends.
Hand or Machine?
Machine knitting is associated with speed of production and exciting techniques. Hand knitted babies garments on the other hand are knitted quickly and cheaply. So, why would you bother to knit for babies using your machine? Well, there are many reasons. Now that knitting is no longer a compulsory subject on the national curriculum, the younger generation are growing up not knowing how to knit by hand. Learning to knit by hand is a long and difficult process. However, if you get yourself a good basic knitting machine or a knitting loom, some good books and a video or two you can be knitting your first scarf or baby blanket within the hour! It is also true that most shop-bought baby knits have been knitted by machine in a factory and these garments can be reproduced at home on your machine at a fraction of the cost. However, many hand knitted baby garments become family heirlooms – so the choice is yours.
What to knit for baby?
The first thing you probably want to knit is a baby blanket. You can knit it in plain stockinette (stocking) stitch or find an interesting stitch pattern. Baby blankets come in all sizes, a small blanket to put over your lap to protect your clothes or to put on the floor to protect the carpet, a larger blanket for a pram and the biggest size for a cot.
Knit a Hat!
The next most useful thing to knit is a baby hat. Babies do not find it easy to regulate their temperature and they can lose a lot of heat from their heads. We have all seen the hospital programmes on the television showing the tiniest of babies with beautifully knitted hats. Many of the adult hat patterns can be sized down to suit baby.
What about tension?
All knitters know the importance of tension. As if to tell us what we know already, all good patterns will have notes about tension, and emphasis the need to work to the correct size. Before embarking on any project, you dutifully knit your tension swatch and measures stitches and rows. If you have too many stitches and rows your knitting is too tight and too few means your knitting is too loose. To add to this, every yarn will have its’ ideal knitted tension, so all 4 plys will not necessarily be knitted to the same tension.
At the hospital you will see that newborn babies come in all shapes and sizes. Even two babies with the same birth weight can look very different. One might be long and thin and the other short and plump. So, since babies come in all shapes and sizes, tension and sizing are usually not too important when knitting baby things. The usual adage is to knit a bigger size and baby will grow into it! Whatever size it comes out it will probably find an appreciative baby somewhere!
However, it is possible to visit the maternity ward with measuring tape in hand, measure the baby, run home, do your tension swatch, knit the garments and return the next day with a made to measure outfit! I remember getting my rather small baby son weighed by the midwife and she was impressed that his outfit fitted so well. He had a 12 inch chest at the time!
Techniques for baby knitting
When knitting baby garments makes sure that the finished garments will be easy to put on. One method is to knit eyelet holes and thread a knitted cord or ribbon through the holes. This method can be used at the neck, the cuff or the ankle. Another method is to have an opening with buttons. So, on a sweater you might have the button opening along the shoulder seam or down the centre back so that the sweater can go over the baby’s head.
Designing baby garments
Babies are very precious. So, before you start your knitting project you should think carefully about certain things. Your yarn should be smooth and soft for a new baby’s delicate skin and should offer protection from the summer sun and the winter chills. You can use soft acrylics, which come in lots of baby colours and wash well. However, if you want your baby garment to be extra special why not try some natural yarns such as merino wool, fine cottons, cashmere, and silk. Natural fibres are good at absorbing moisture and allow the body to breathe, so they will be like a second skin for a precious baby. Remember you need very little yarn to create baby garments and knitted in these expensive yarns the baby garments will be heirlooms for future generations.
Dressing a Baby!
The garments should also take into consideration how difficult it is to dress a tiny baby. Keep buttons and fastenings to the minimum. Necklines should be big enough so the baby’s head slips easily into the garment. You may even like to try using small pieces of Velcro! Take care when making your garments and applying trims. Nothing you do must put baby in danger in any way. Small babies have tiny fingers that must not get caught up on fastening, or trims. They also have a tendency to try to eat everything!
Baby garments are so small you may spend almost as much time (or even more time) finishing off the garment than knitting it. However, the finish on a baby garment is what changes it from ‘just another bit of knitting” to a treasured possession. Baby blankets usually need to be blocked and pressed in the usual way to avoid curled edges and to set the stitches. However, using a steam iron on a tiny garment may ruin it. Pin out the pieces on your block in the usual way, and stretch to the correct size. However, leave your iron in the cupboard for a bit! Fill a spray bottle with water and simply spray the knitting with water, making sure that the edges of each piece are damp. Cover with a cloth and leave the knitting overnight to dry. You might find that there is no need to steam as the small knitted pieces will probably be nicely “set”. If you do have to steam the knitting take great care.
Baby garments look best with embellishments such as ribbons, bows, buttons, braids, lace, and other trimmings. A beautiful baby garment can be spoilt by adding cheap buttons. You could start a “trims box” and fill it with ribbons, baby buttons, and other trimmings. You can add trimmings as you find them in the shops, at the sales, or you can remove interesting trimmings and buttons from discarded garments. A tiny piece of interesting trim can really set off a plain little cardigan or sweater. Trims should be sewn on with care and attention to detail.
Knitting in a busy life
We all have busy lives with much to do and seemingly little time to do it – so plan ahead with your knitting. Get yourself a project folder and put all of your favourite patterns in the folder for inspiration. Then find yourself a project bag which you can take on your travels. Baby garments are small enough to take with you and you can be knitting or finishing off whilst you wait for the kids to come out of school or whilst having coffee with a friend. Your project bag will keep the work clean, and in your bag you can keep your sewing up kit and your favourite knitting tools.
A gift for baby!
If you are knitting for a friend, remember presentation is important. Find a way to wrap the gift to reflect the care, attention, and time you gave to creating it. A good approach is to find a suitable sized box. The shops are full of cardboard storage boxes in all sizes and some come in the prettiest of colours. If you don’t want to buy a box find a packaging box (such as a shoe box) and cover it with interesting wrapping paper or wall paper. Line the box with tissue paper to compliment the colour of your knitted garments. Lay your precious knitted garments into your baby box and add a small toy or rattle. Tie up the box with baby ribbon. Your friend or relative not only has lovely knitted garments for their new baby but also a box to keep baby’s things in. Another idea is to knit a baby bag and fill it with baby knits. The bag can be any size from a small toy bag to a changing bag.
Most of all your friends and relatives will know you are a kind, loving and creative person!