Saturday 17 May 2014

The Best Baby Sweater in the World by Elizabeth Zimmerman

I know. You didn't know I could knit, did you? You thought the only one who could knit was The Sewing Lawyer? Hah!  I did have a knitting passion in the 80's, when in my opinion, knitting really was high fashion and Vogue Knitting was one of the greatest magazines for crafts around. They actually sold it on every newstand in those days, even in Hong Kong! And I made some great sweaters that I still wear, by Donna Karan, Perry Ellis, Calvin Klein and other top designers.

But knitting for fashion no longer interests me, even though I live in a cold climate. A 'knitter's elbow' did me in after two Kaffe Fassett sweaters for the boys. Here I was with a growing family and I couldn't so much as lift a milk carton. One cortisone shot later, I'd sworn off major knitting projects.

On the other hand, when one of your friends is going to become a grandmother (a young one!) for the first time, it's a good occasion to pull out the old bag of needles. I'm zipping through my variation of the Vogue Knitting baby classic by Elizabeth Zimmerman, featured back in the 80's as the best sweater for newborns. It's also in the Knitters Almanac. This model expands for months, thanks to the extensible lace pattern which I modified by accident once and now stick to—just to be stubborn.

(Instead of doing stockinette stitch between the 'gull' rows, I use garter stitch. The result is less refined, totally chunky, and looks something like chain mail in yarn.)

As the child grows to six months, the lace stretches out and the pattern becomes more and more distinct. This is how it's supposed to look—

Mine (just below) isn't quite so polite, what with a very tweedy alpaca/wool yarn, but it will take on more refinement when we know whether it needs boy buttons or girl buttons later in the summer!

But I'm relieved to see somebody who was even more radical than me, and just ignored the lace pattern entirely, and went hog-wild with buttons instead! Lilac Baby, up top, skipped the bottoms below the yoke, too.
In principle, you could do any kind of stitch pattern underneath the yoke. It takes about two-three days to knit up, even for a rusty knitter like myself. I had a long car ride planned to attend an 80th birthday party in another party of the country, and got most of the first half done during those hours, even though I had to refresh a lot of basic skills and actually had to start three times over. Not a bad thing in principle, and perhaps a reason to check and see if I can still rollerblade, play Grieg on the piano and do a respectable backstroke. (Sort of a week-long retreat of time-travel to see what happened to the Me of twenty-five years ago.)


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