In search of the perfect baby knit

Nothing is guaranteed to have me looking at patterns on Ravelry, rummaging in my stash and picking up needles faster or with more enthusiasm than the news that someone is having a baby.  I want to welcome them into the world with the gift of something handmade, with love and care in every single stitch.

At the moment, I know of five babies on the way.  Yes – five.  Count them.  All due at around the same time this autumn.  Three of them are people at work, another is a good friend, and the final one is a cousin.  It’s a baby knitting bonanza!

But knitting for babies can be a minefield.  Not every parent will want or appreciate the time and effort that goes into a handmade gift.  Personal taste is highly subjective too – one person will veer towards the simple, while another will want the more intricate.  So I think what I’ll do with so many babies arriving at the same time is make a range of gifts, including clothes and toys, and let the parents choose what they want from among them.

There are probably as many ‘rules’ for baby knitting as there are knitters.  But here’s my personal list of guidelines for knitting clothes for babies.

  • Yarn – the UK is a temperate climate.  I have sweaters it’s only ever cold enough to wear when I’m in Cumbria or the heating’s broken.  So I tend to err towards lighter yarns for babies like 4 ply or sportweight.  Few parents are going to have the time or patience to handwash delicate woollens, so the yarn should also be machine washable.  Rowan Wool Cotton 4 ply or Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino (which comes in a bewildering range of colours) are ideal.
  • Size – I always imagine that baby knits in newborn sizes are unlikely to get used.  So I tend to aim for a 0-3 months, or 3-6 months size.  I also try to bear in mind the time of year the baby is due.  If it’s a summer baby, I’ll aim for a 3-6 month size – it should fit at just the time a warm layer will be useful.
  • Garment type – Following my Mum’s advice, I always prefer to make cardigans to sweaters.  They’re easier to dress a baby in (apparently), and some babies can be distressed by having sweaters pulled over their heads.  Regardless of the sex of the baby, I’ll make a garment button ‘girls way’, as that should be easier for a (right-handed) parent to dress the child.

The holy grail for me is a gender-neutral baby cardigan in 4 ply or sportweight yarn.  You’d think that would be an easy pattern to track down, but it can be surprisingly difficult at times, so I’m always interested in people’s suggestions of good patterns. There’s probably a gap in the market there for a knitwear designer.

I currently have a Bellyphant Cardigan on the go.   It’s nearly finished, so expect pictures soon.  And Kate Davies has just brought out a pattern for the Wowligan, a child-sized cardigan version of her iconic O w l s pattern.  I can see myself making a couple of those. But I’m also interested if anyone has suggestions of good patterns that meet the criteria I’ve set out above.

Expect a lot of baby knit FOs over the next few months.

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