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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July 1960: Charming blouse

IMG_1894This “charming and unusual design for larger sizes” (37-38 or 39-41 inch bust) features narrow dolman sleeves, crochet insertions, and horizontal bust darts.

I was intrigued by its construction, having made tops with bust darts from modern patterns or while working without a pattern, but never having seen vintage patterns with them. Oddly, instead of making short rows, you are supposed to cast off stitches, cast them back on again, and then sew up a seam! I guess that makes it look more like sewn fabric? Or the “editress” thought short rows would be too difficult? I can’t imagine that, though, since patterns from this time regularly call for short-rows to shape the back side of baby rompers and leggings. In any case, I made the bust darts with short rows to avoid having to make a seam. I also made the back and fronts up to the armhole shapings in one piece, again, to avoid seaming more than necessary.

IMG_1936I was interested to see how it worked out with the dolman sleeves. When I think of “dolman sleeves”, I think of those 1950s, or worse, 1980s garments with a huge triangle of fabric under the arm, which must have been very uncomfortable and inconvenient to wear. But after my April 1960 blouse with the horizontal cap sleeves worked out so well, I was willing to give this one a try. And it turned out great! There is no more extra fabric under the arms than there would be with set-in sleeves, and the horizontal construction gives plenty of room in the upper chest/back area, where I am quite wide. I guess the secret lies with the number of stitches cast on for the sleeves per row — this one had 2×8 rows and then 10×16 rows, making the sleeves narrow and more horizontal, thus less triangle-like.

IMG_2075The knitting was slow-going at 7 stitches to the inch, but of course once the body was done, so were the sleeves. Seaming was a nightmare, as the yarn (Herriot Fine from Juniper Moon Farm) curls more severely than stockinette stitch in other yarns and I had to block it well to even find the edge to sew. I was willing to put up with that, though, because the yarn is absolutely fantastic. It is warm, soft, weighs practically nothing (300 grams made the blouse with about 20 grams to spare) and it is the only alpaca I have ever worked with that I can wear directly next to my skin. It is the perfect, ideal wool for this type of knitted blouse.

(On that note, why on earth did knitted blouses go out of style? They are wonderful! The perfect garment for autumn days in a damp, chilly climate. Note to self: make more.)

IMG_2086What took longer than expected was the whole crocheted edging-collar-button-band extravaganza. The crochet bands are extremely fiddly — they are crocheted onto each other as you go, it’s difficult to make them all exactly the same size, and each one needs its own, new piece of yarn. There are a total of 50 elements, so that’s 100 yarn ends to weave in right there. Then there’s the “inner” collar, the “outer” collar and the button bands, all of which are made separately and sewn on, and somehow need to end up symmetrical and fit properly on both sides. Of course, I sewed the collar on backwards the first time, forgot to switch the right and wrong sides at the collar fold, etc, etc. It all worked out in the end, though.

My only modification (besides the short-row darts) was to make the sleeve ribbing 3 inches long, like the waist ribbing, instead of 1 1/2. The sleeves are still not full-length, nor are they supposed to be. I don’t like the idea of 3/4 or 7/8 sleeves, but it worked out better in practice than in theory.

To sum it up: Pattern was wonderful, yarn was wonderful, knitted blouses are the coolest thing ever and I am 100% satisfied with this project.

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