April 1962: For an Easter Baby

IMG_3225My April project was the cardigan jacket, a.k.a. “matinee coat” from Stitchcraft’s April 1962 layette set “for an Easter baby.” The set included a dress, the jacket, bootees, a bonnet and a blanket to use as a pram cover, plus a  sewn “pin-tidy” made out of a tiny baby doll with flannel and satin “skirts” to hold the safety pins for baby’s cloth nappies. The pin-tidy is a bit “uncanny valley” for my taste, but the knitted items are all lovely.

My knitting group has a gift exchange game every December and my prize this last year was 100 grams of Opal “Beautiful World” 4-ply sock yarn, 75% wool, 25% polyamide, multicoloured. I don’t like multicoloured yarns, but hey, a gift is a gift and I knew I would find a use for it! Sock yarn works well for baby things, being washable and non-felting, and 100 grams was the perfect amount for the jacket. IMG_3169The colour is unusually dark for a baby garment, but I don’t this the friend whose baby-to-be I knit it for will mind — they wear a lot of black themselves. (Side note: I did make an all-black baby cardigan for a black-clothed metal fan father-to-be friend once, and he was thrilled, because he knew he would never find one in a store. Take note, baby clothing designers — there is a market out there!)

The construction is a simple dolman, made in pieces from the bottom up with cast-on sleeves. The button band is made with a slip-stitch hem and the stitch pattern in the lower part is an easy broken welt:

  • Row 1: (RS) knit
  • Row 2: *k2, p 6* to last 2 sts, k2
  • Rows 3 and 4: knit

I even found seven buttons — one extra! — in my stash that fit the buttonholes and the style really well (my local stores are still closed).

My only worry is that the neck is too tight. It looks awfully small. Of course, they can just leave the top button open if they have to.

The baby will arrive in June and I will “see” my friend next week (i.e. non-contact delivery of present, perhaps we will literally see each other through a window or something). I hope everything works out for them as well as this project did for me!

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October 1961: Baby’s cardigan

IMG_2837There’s always somebody having a baby, and I do try to make something nice for all my friends’ and colleagues’ newborns. Sometimes I don’t manage to finish something until they are out of the newborn stage, which is why it’s nice to have patterns for larger babies! This dolman-sleeve cardigan, made in the smaller size, should fit a 22 inch chest, which should be fine for this particular eight- or nine-month old.

I wasn’t and am not convinced that dolman sleeves are good for babies or anyone else (so much fabric flappage) and originally I thought about converting the pattern to set-in sleeves, but in the end I was just too lazy, so dolman sleeves it was. I guess it does have the advantage of being wide enough no matter what, and easy to get the baby’s arms into the sleeves. Given that, I’m surprised it’s so short! If it were made longer, it would fit longer without the baby getting a cold belly.

IMG_2918The little leaf motifs up the front sides are quite easy and don’t require any cabling or special fuss. You just work into one stitch 5 times on one row, then work those 5 stitches in stockinette (on the reverse-stockinette background) for a few rows before closing off the leaf with decreases. The lace strips on the sides are plain yo, k2tog alternating with k2tog tbl, yo, worked on the right-side rows.

IMG_2834I used Jamieson’s wonderful Shetland Spindrift from a multicoloured stash that I had bought from a nice person on Ravelry. Some may say that Shetland wool is too tough for babies, but it does get softer with washing and since it won’t be worn against the skin, I think it will be fine. The colour — Buttermilk — is really beautiful, a pale yellow ever-so-slightly marled with shades of pink and winter white.

If I remember correctly, the buttons came from a Christmas fair somewhere some years ago and hadn’t found the right garment yet. I only had three and the pattern calls for five, but I preferred the buttons I had to any new ones I might find.

All in all, a quick and easy project that will hopefully keep the baby warm and make its parents happy.

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Fast Forward: January 1967

IMG_2554I do have a project from the May 1961 issue and will post about it soon, but it won’t be done by the end of May. In the meantime, I made a very cute coat for a friend’s child from the January 1976 issue of Stitchcraft, using the leftover yarn from the red and blue dress I finished last month.

The pattern — “Fashion for Tots” — encompasses a single-breasted coat with patch pockets and a collar in contrasting trim, and a pixie hat with the contrast colour in the ribbing. The coat has an A-line shape and raglan sleeves and is given in three sizes, to fit a 22-23, 24-25 or 26-27 inch chest measurement. I made the smallest size, for a two-year-old with a 21 1/2 inch chest, so hopefully it will fit for a while even if it doesn’t get used very much in the summer.

IMG_2556As usual, you’re supposed to make everything in separate pieces, and for once, I almost did! That is to say, I made the back, fronts and sleeves up to the raglan underarm join in pieces, then made the raglan yoke all in one piece working back and forth. Sewn raglans always look so messy (when I make them…), so it was worth it for that, and making the rest in pieces gave the sides some stabilising seams and didn’t take any longer than making the body in one piece working back and forth would have done.

The coat has a cute mitred hem at the bottom, which makes a neat join into the button bands. The collar and pockets are made separately and sewn on, and the collar has an interesting two-piece mitred construction to get the two different colours to make clean corners. The pockets are in twisted mock-cable rib.

IMG_2557I noticed that it wasn’t quite going to work out with the total amount of yarn in the proper colour scheme, so I played with the amounts of red and blue and ended up just perfectly using up the rest of the red with a few metres left over should the coat ever need repairing. Of course, that meant I couldn’t make the hat. The project was fast and fun, though, so who knows, maybe I’ll make another one when January 1967… wait, when will that be again… January 2025 ?!? comes around. If we’re all still here! Hang in there and stick around.

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February 1961: Tiny Cardigan

IMG_2371 3After January’s time- and labor-intensive pullover for me, I wanted to make something quick and easy in February. And there’s always a friend, colleague, or relative having a baby, so I made this simple ” Tiny Cardigan” from the cardigan and slipper set.

The wool was Lang Nova, a wonderfully fluffy and very light wool-camelhair-nylon mix. There are 180 metres in 25 grams! It is essentially made of air, but softer and warmer. I suspect it is not very hard-wearing and probably pills and breaks easily, but babies grow so fast that it will hopefully be outgrown by the time it falls apart. My swatch grew exponentially with blocking, so I converted the pattern to a larger gauge. Then the finished garment didn’t grow much at all with blocking, so it ended up more like newborn size. I hope the parents send out a birth announcement as soon as the baby arrives…

Version 2The cardigan has a basic bottom-up raglan construction with the twisted ribbing featured in January’s Snowflake Sweater. I made it in one piece from the bottom up to avoid seams, and was so busy trying to read the front, back, and sleeve directions simultaneously while working the yoke that I forgot to make the little twisted-rib sleeve insertions that would have made this otherwise very basic jacket a little bit more interesting. Whoops! But by the time I realised my mistake, it was already almost done, and I have a feeling this wool really does not like to be frogged. I pepped up the plain marble-grey colour of the jacket with some red flower buttons.

 

And there it is! I had to buy a second skein of wool to finish the cardigan and now have some left over, so I might as well make the slippers, seeing as the baby hasn’t arrived yet.

ETA: I went ahead and made the slippers, adding a flat spiral of red i-cord instead of a pom-pom.

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August 1960: Twin-set returns

IMG_1942I loved this twinset at first sight. I loved the short raglan sleeves on the pullover, the cable-and-mesh panel on the front and the very original mock-turtleneck-meets-peter-pan collar.  It’s one of the reasons I started this whole long-term Stitchcraft blog project, so I’m thrilled to have it come to life.

The yarn I used was ideal in terms of wearability: Lang Merino Bébé which is extremely soft and smooth and can be worn next to the skin with no problems at all. It is a little thicker than Patons Beehive Fingering, for which the pattern is written, so I had to work with a modified gauge (6 1/2 stitches per inch instead of 7) and ended up making a combination of the small (34-35 inch bust) and medium (36-37 inch bust) sizes to get a slightly larger size in the end. I guess in terms of actual measurements, I ended up with the second size, which fits fine.IMG_2033

Of course, the pattern is written to make in pieces and sew together, but I love making raglan-sleeve garments in one piece and working them together without seaming. It was a fun challenge to integrate the different decrease speeds of this compound raglan (the sleeves decrease every 4 rounds for quite a long time whilst the front and back decrease every other round), as the instructions are on different pages.

 

IMG_1994The cables have an interesting twist — literally. You put four stitches on the cable needle, knit the other four and then give the cable needle an extra 360 degree clockwise twist before knitting the stitches off of it. This gives them a cool extra definition. I forgot to do it once and it was almost unnoticeable — almost — but I didn’t want to rip back that far, so when everything was done I looped a little tiny thread around one of the cable stitches and just pulled it over more to the side and tacked it down by tying the thread ends in a knot on the wrong side. Look at the close-up picture above — can you tell which cable it was? I can’t on the finished garment. Good to know.

 

The collar is knitted separately in two pieces that are then knitted onto the picked-up stitches around the neckline, sort of like a three-needle bind off only without the binding off. Then you continue for an inch of mock turtleneck. The back of the pullover is open and you are supposed to put in a zipper, but I went for the keyhole effect and just added a button with a little crochet chain loop for a buttonhole. The final result is comfortable and pretty.

IMG_2081The cardigan is somewhat more plain, as it doesn’t have the cables, but it makes such a lovely set with the pullover — not to mention it’s an excellent “everyday” cardigan to go with lots of other outfits. The sleeves came out a bit long — I was obviously over-compensating for my long arms and the fact that I always have to lengthen the arms a bit — but it looks just as good with the cuffs turned back, and I can turn them down for extra warmth under a coat and gloves. I hadn’t expected the raglan sleeves to have so much armhole depth. I thought about adding facing ribbon to the button bands, but it turned out to not be necessary, as the cardigan fits fine whether buttoned or unbuttoned. In short, I am thrilled with my new twin-set and it will surely get a lot of use this winter.

 

 

 

 

 

May 1960: Dear little matinee coat

baby2My first project for May was a “matinee coat” for a 6-month old baby. The baby I knit it for hadn’t been born yet, but I always like to make a six-month size for a newborn. Of course it will be too big at first, but eventually the coat will fit.

Don’t you love the positioning of the baby in the photo? “I’m 6 months and almost sitting up!” means it was probably pretty difficult to get any sort of picture of the baby wearing the coat in a way that you could see it, not to mention without crying, flailing around, spitting up, etc. I have a real respect for anyone who can get a decent photograph of a small baby, especially one where you want to see what it is wearing. Sadly, there is no colour photo.

The coat is made in one piece from the top down with raglan armholes. This kind of construction was pretty rare in mid-century knitting patterns — most baby clothes, like almost all adult clothes, were meant to be made in pieces and seamed. This garment does have seams, though — after the division for the fronts/sleeves/back at the underarm, you are supposed to work each bit flat and then sew the side and sleeve seams.

IMG_1753 I actually did just that, because the written pattern was very difficult to follow on the first few rows after the underarm divide. The raglan increases at the top are done with eyelets and make-1 increases on a each side of a bit of moss stitch, and after the underarm divide, the same type of increase is done on the fronts and back to make a flared skirt. That all makes perfect sense, but the way the pattern was written made it difficult to find the placement of the increases if making the fronts and back all in one. So I just went ahead and followed the pattern exactly. Except for the sleeves, which are supposed to be long, but I ran out of yarn.

As with many early baby things, the tension/gauge was 8 stitches to the inch — on No. 11 (3 mm) needles — much smaller than I can ever manage to get no matter how small the needles or how thin the yarn. I used Lang Merino 200 Bébé, which is wonderful, but my gauge was too big even on 2 1/2 mm needles. No matter, the coat will be a little bit bigger and hopefully fit a little while longer.

matineeblockIf you are looking at the first picture and wondering what went wrong, let me assure you that it was NOT a tangled mess! As long as the sleeve stitches were on holders, there was no way to make the thing sit down flat for a photo. Kind of the same problem with the baby, if you think about it… Here’s a picture during blocking (at left) and here’s a picture of the finished garment. I am very happy with it!

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P.S. Yes, it is supposed to have long sleeves. I ran out of yarn.

March 1960: Spring Magic

Version 2First project for March: this charming jacket from the jacket-and-skirt set titled “Spring Magic in Judy’s trim Outfit”. What a great title! And what a great photo in the booklet. I’m glad today’s girls don’t generally get their hair tortured into curls like litte Judy’s in the picture, but she certainly looks happy enough holding hands with her gigantic teddy bear.

The pattern calls for Patons Double Knitting at a gauge of 18 stitches to 4 inches over the stitch pattern. The child I knit this for can’t wear wool, though, so I made it in wonderful, easy-care, electric red and blue acrylic Bravo Originals from Schachenmayr. It did turn out to be a bit bulkier than Patons DK, so I adapted the stitch counts to reflect a gauge of 15 stitches to 4 inches.IMG_1566 (1)

The stitch pattern looks complicated but is actually very easy — fundamentally just k1, p1 on the right side and k on the wrong side, but the k stitches on the right side are made through the purl bump of the row below, giving a sort of check pattern without stranding or slip stitches. It has stockinette-stitch hems on the cuffs and bottom edge and a row of double crochet (British terminology, i.e. single crochet for Americans) around the front and collar edges.

It knit up so fast, and the colours were so bright, and the yarn so space-age, that I bought a whole lot more of it in order to make a 1960s-style, short-sleeved, A-line minidress for myself. I can’t wait!

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