The best emails are the ones announcing a new arrival, seeking a recommendation for a pattern or yarn. My once-tiny baby is four now, but I knit so many things for her while waiting for her to arrive and when she was new. Baby things fly off the needles! But I remember fretting, fretting, fretting about what she’d need or wear. Knitting for a baby and want to be sure your efforts get worn?
Tips for knitting for babies
Stick with light gauge: I found worsted weight garments, in general, to be very bulky until my daughter was around 18 months - if you’re knitting for a small baby, consider DK or fingering weight yarn.
Consider a luxury fiber: Laundering a small sweater by hand isn’t a huge deal — simply soak, swish, and lay flat. Things are more challenging in the mud-pies-and-fingerpaint ages, but you may find handwashing during the first two years to be a breeze.
Tiny bodies are fragile and floppy: Pullovers were a tough sell until my daughter was six months or so. Cardigans and shrugs are perfect for infants. Tiny fingers may snag in sleeves with holes, such as lace or colorwork floats.
Think outerwear: We live in the Pacific Northwest, and for playing outside, my daughter picks a thick sweater over a coat every single time. Sweaters are less cumbersome, more breathable, and generally more her style. Planning a sweater that goes over other clothes also gives you more fiber choices since there will be something between the sweater and the baby. Outerwear also needs laundering less frequently. Use layering pieces and outerwear to showcase a spectacular 'wooly' yarn!
Try something new: Baby sweaters are a great way to experiment with techniques you’d otherwise be too intimidated to tackle. Cables, colorwork, and seaming are all great skills to try out first on a tiny project.
Little things get lost: Handknit hats and mittens are gorgeous and thoughtful - and easily lost. Hats did best in my house when they covered the ears and best of all when they buttoned under the chin. Many hat patterns also tie, be conscious of cord length and strangulation risks. For mittens, consider sewing a button onto children’s coats, right at the cuff, and putting a buttonhole strap on the mitten.
Choose the right size: Always choose your size based on chest and arm circumference (not age, not height, or arm length). Make adjustments for length once you choose a size. Kids grow longer much faster than they grow around, so choose a size that fits now, and plan for them to need extra length. Sizing up will result in a sweater that's too baggy now and likely to be too short by the time they grow into the width. (I talk more about kids and sleeve length here)
Buttons on the back: For new parents worried about choking or sweaters deformed by button plucking, consider putting the buttons on the back of the sweater.
Go with a runner-up: Here’s a tip I love from friend and prolific knitter Carly — let go of the matching theme! There’s so much pressure (and excitement!) to design a perfectly coordinated nursery, but babies rarely hang out in their nurseries in their sweaters, hats, or mittens. Take this opportunity to treat yourself to colors or themes you left behind when you finalized your nursery plan.
Hide stains: Cables and knit-purl textures create shadows and depth, which camouflage stains. Similarly, reversible sweaters have two fronts you can ruin with strained peas!
To get you started, here's a Ravelry bundle of my favorite twenty patterns. You’ll see many patterns from Lisa Chemery (Frogginette), a handful from myself and TinCan Knits, and my daughter’s favorite sweater ever, Sweet William, from Ann Kingstone.
Check out the Ravelry bundle here.
Many people have ‘machine washable ONLY’ as their primary criteria for yarn for babies, and that’s SUPER FAIR. I’m not picky about handwashing, and I handwash all my knits even if they’re technically machine washable, so I ignore that for my own knitting. That said, it’s nice to have some insurance in case something slips past my guard and into the hamper! So I’ve focused on washable fibers, but I’ve slipped in a few yarns for special occasions or hardwearing outerwear.
For an entirely synthetic and truly washable yarn, one of my rockstar testers Claire Sleeman recommends Berroco Comfort DK (50% super fine acrylic, 50% super fine nylon). It's super soft, and I love the gently speckled colorway she chose for her Scoop Shop Cardi test! You can see more of Claire's work on Instagram or Ravelry.
PS - Personally, I think 100% cotton is best left to blankets. I find it stiff in small garments and prone to staining.
Fingering - Cascade Heritage Sock
Fingering - Elizabeth Lavold Hempathy
Fingering - Birch Hollow Fibers Sylvia Sock
Fingering - Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock
Fingering - HiKoo CoBaSi
Sport - Malabrigo Arroyo
DK - Berrocco Comfort DK (entirely synthetic!)
DK - House of a La Mode House DK Light Worsted - Malabrigo Rios
Worsted - HiKoo Simpliworsted
Worsted - Knitted Wit Worsted
Handwash and Worth it
Sport - Malabrigo Caprino
DK - HiKoo LLamor
DK - Brooklyn Tweed Arbor
DK - Juniper Moon Farms Herriot
Are you knitting for a new arrival? I'd love to see your projects — tag me on Instagram, or send me a letter (I love getting emails!)