Monday, August 28, 2006

They Just Keep Getting Bigger

Lest you think that all I've been good for this summer is neglecting socks, I want to present you with a super-secret object (outfit, even), that was completed about two weeks ago. Why did I keep said project from my most faithful blog readers? It was a surprise birthday present for my most precious niece, Maggie. (For evidence of said preciousness, go watch her feed her brother. Then come back. I'll wait.)

I've told the story many times about how I learned to knit and how the timing corresponded quite well with finding out that I was about to become an aunt. Talk about inspiration. Since then I've prided myself on providing my niece with a birthday sweater to mark each year of her life.

The first sweater I made for Maggie was a celebration of her birth day, and was sized for her at three months old. Her mom chose the Rosebud Cardigan from Simple Knits for Cherished Babies, a sweet raglan cardigan that was my very first sweater ever. I made it with a light gold-ish colored mercerized cotton... I don't even remember what the brand was. I'm pretty sure I got it from Patternworks. (Sorry about the lack of photo quality... this is a picture of a picture, and it's actually the best one I had.)

For Maggie's first birthday, I pieced together a design by looking at the patterns I had and combining my favorite elements. I might dare to call this my first actual original pattern. I used the now-discontinued Lily Sugar Babies (100% cotton) in a pale pink with white accents. You can barely see in this picture the big white M on the front of the sweater and the double white stripes on all the cuffs, around the arms, and around the hood.

Maggie's second birthday sweater has made its way around the world on and can also be seen in the sidebar of this blog. It's another original pattern and I used Paton's Grace mercerized cotton to make it. (Mercerized cotton and other cottons make great baby sweaters. Soft and super easy to clean, I'll likely be using them for a while.)

The third birthday sweater was the Accordion pattern from Knitty. I made it with KnitPicks Shine (more cotton) in green, pink and cream. This was my first attempt at putting a zipper in a knitted object, and it turned out okay, even though it was a little uneven at the bottom. The only original thing about this one was the color choice.

This year, however, I went back to the drawing board and came up with another original design. I'm hoping for some modeled pictures soon, since the hanger I took pictures on is awfully wide and made the shoulders seem awfully wide, too. I started with Flash from Cascade Elite Yarns in the Thistle shade and size 5 needles. I know this will shock you, but it's 100% mercerized cotton. I was more interested in stitch pattern than color pattern this year, and this is what I came up with:

(Click the picture for a bigger version, as always.) I worked the cardigan in one piece up to the armpits, then worked the front right, front left, and back seperately. The sleeves were last. By the time I had just a couple inches left to go on the second sleeve, I finally understood why everyone has an aunt who makes one sleeve longer than the other. More on this later.

This sweater has one little daisy embroidered on the left chest. When I was first thinking of the pattern, I thought about embroidering daisies in random diamonds all over the sweater, but by the time it was nearing completion, I realized that the lattice-work pattern made it busy enough that all those daisies would just overwhelm it. I think the one daisy turned out nicely though.

My daisy inspiration came from these silver clasps that I found on the internet. They look so classy and I like them a lot more than I would have liked buttons on this sweater. I bought five clasps, and my mom helped me figure out how many would actually work best. We tried two, three, four, and all five, and we just liked the four best. Who knows if they'll be clasped much anyway.

I found two little white t-shirts (one short sleeved and one long sleeved) to go under the sweater and little iron-on daisies to match. Hopefully all of these elements will go together in both fit and style, and not just on the hanger and in my brain.

The last, and maybe one of my favorite things about the whole ensemble, is the jeans. My friend Leslie took me shopping at the Gap Outlet in Northern Kentucky back in June and I found these really cute jeans. Most of the kids' jeans there were missing their buttons or snaps in front, and that was pretty discouraging. These jeans had a little pink ribbon bow in place of a button and fly, with just enough elastic in back to make them work. So I took the jeans home, and just before I sent them to Washington, I replaced the pink ribbon bow with a thistle ribbon bow, and I was pretty proud of myself. I thought it turned out really cute. My only fear is that the jeans are too long for Maggie.

As for the sleeves... everyone has either had an aunt or a grandma who makes them a sweater with one sleeve longer than the other. And if you didn't have that aunt or grandma, then you know someone who did, or you've heard the joke somewhere. I've discovered why. By the time you get to the end of the second sleeve, you just want the sweater to be finished. No wonder I haven't made adult-sized sweaters. The sleeves would kill me!

I thought I had these sleeves licked. I knitted them in the round (after plotting a careful graph for the stitch pattern and increases), knowing that the under-arm sleeve seam is the absolute worst to sew. But even though I knitted on exactly the same size needles and exactly the same number of rows/diamonds/stitches, one sleeve STILL ended up being a little longer than the other. Then after I washed the sweater, the length issue became even more prominent. I'm hoping no one in Washington will notice (don't read this part, Marysville-ites!), and after I threw the sweater in the dryer it didn't seem quite as bad. I think that next time I make sleeves I'll try the two-sleeves-at-a-time-on-two-circular-needles technique.

Fortunately, my next birthday sweater isn't due until the end of November, when Calvin gets his second first birthday sweater. (
He got his first one back in June because of size issues. I'm afraid he won't fit in it once it gets cold, and that's why he gets a second one. Sometimes the youngest needs to be spoiled, too, right?)


Leone said...

That is just the sweetiest prettiest little sweater ever! Those are going to be sweaters that can be cherished forever as keepsakes. Amazing job Brooke!

Karen said...

Brooke, I had to come out of lurkdom to say that Maggie is one lucky cutie. The sweaters are beautiful. I love the idea of a handknit sweater for the niece's and nephew's birthdays, but when you have 10 and several of them are large highschool age boys...they get hats instead.

Karen said...

Brooke, I'm coming out of lurkdom to say that Maggie is one lucky cutie. I love the idea of handknit sweaters for the niece's and nephew's birthdays, but when you have 10 of them and several are large highschool age boys...they get hats!

aija said...

That is a wonderful sweater set! What a wonderful present...

Brenda said...

The sweater turned out great! Good call on the daisies. I think one is enough. When I imagined the sweater I didn't think the diamonds would be so prominent. The whole ensemble is loverly! You are a genius!

Criosa said...

ooh, such a pretty sweater!

what did you think of the Sugar Babies yarn? I've discovered a store near me that carries it, but haven't sucumbed to buying it yet.