Thursday, January 17, 2008

Knitting Baby Clothes

Luke 2:12 "This will be a sign for you: 
you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Now around my house there are two kinds of babies. The first and most important baby is dear sweet Emily. She's my baby. Of course my daughter Heidi will tell you that she's her baby, but since I have her for over 40 hours a week, she's my baby when I have her. The second kind of baby is all of my dolls, and Emily considers them to be her babies. I can't say how many of them there are, but I suspect that the number is close to 75. That is practically an embarrassing number of dolls. But I shall try and make no excuses for myself.

When I was a baby rumor has it that I received 25 dolls for my first birthday. There is a very reasonable explanation for this. The year was 1947 and we lived in Beppu Japan. My father was an officer in the United States Army which was occupying Japan at that time. It was a complete mistake that I had been issued a visa since they did not allow American babies into Japan at that time. So I was the only American baby in Beppu, and therefore my first birthday was a big deal. But when we left Japan all the dolls were left behind. I did not receive another doll until Christmas of 1953, at which time I received two dolls. I still have those dolls. One is Toni and the other is Sweet Sue. That was definitely my best Christmas to date. My father had been killed in Korea in 1950, but by Christmas of 1953 my mother was engaged to be married. I received Toni (14" tall) from my mom and Sweet Sue from my soon to be dad. It is amazing that I still have these dolls, because my parents gave almost all my other stuff that I left at home when I went to college to St. Vincent de Paul's.

I guess that it was getting dolls for my four daughters that started me on collecting dolls. Well no, that's not the case. But anyway, in about 1987 they all got Pleasant Company dolls and later I received one for Christmas. Also, the girls had stopped playing with their Barbies and I rescued the Barbies. I now have 5 or 6 Pleasant Company dolls, some were presents from my husband and some were found at Goodwill. I have the girls Barbies and Mandy and Jenny and Cindy. The ones that are uniquely mine are my four Les Cheries dolls from France, and my 6 Betsy McCall dolls, and my four 15 inch fashion dolls, and my 11 inch Toni fashion doll and my 21 inch Ruth Anne doll. That's enough, don't you think. Oh, I forgot to mention my Hopscotch Hill doll, Haley. Well okay, I didn't name all the dolls.

Emily is obsessed with "babies", which is her name for any kind of doll or small person. Everyday when she wakes up from her nap she says "babies" and slips down off the couch in search of a baby. When we go to the store and she spots anything that qualifies as a "baby" she yells out "Babies!" At Goodwill she doesn't settle down until I have taken her to the toy aisle and let her examine all the interesting babies. She is somewhat picky about what is a worthwhile baby. She knows a crummy baby when she sees it. If she doesn't like a baby she semi-discretely lets the doll drop to the floor. She likes dolls that can stand up and sit down. This puts Betsy McCall at the top of her list of favorites. But she also likes very small dolls, and baby dolls, and any doll that I won't let her have. For Christmas I gave her a Bitty Baby with a nightgown and slippers.

But now for what I started to talk about, knitting clothes for babies. I've started, but not yet finished any number of items for Emily. One is always faced with the fact that they grow faster than you can knit. You have to decide how long will it really take you to knit the item, and how bit will the baby be when you get it finished. The item that Emily wears often that I actually made was not actually made for her. The child it was intended for is now 11 years old and lives in Germany. That would be Lisa Miller. I actually had the sweater made in a timely fashion, but I had misjudged the size. So as you can see it is an all together difficult task knitting clothes for babies.  This sweater, by the way, is in Rowan Magazine #24.

My first truly successful item knit exclusively for Emily was a pair of teeny tiny angora hand-warmers. She often had very cold little paws and I had just a tiny bit of angora. I think the little mitts took all the yarn I had. I had previously made a pair of wrist-warmers for Heidi, Emily's mom, so that's where the left-over yarn came from. But I think at this time there is only one little hand-warmer. I keep it around hoping that the other one will turn up. These are not mittens but long wrist-warmers. I left the ends open, which I think works very well for a little baby. And making them from angora, even though the stuff is expensive, was excellent because she never tried to take them off. Who would want to remove angora except someone who's allergic to it.?

Another approach to making baby knits is to finish one that you have started long ago and finally realized that you aren't going to get it finished in time. I finished off two such sweaters for Emily. The problem is that infant sweaters have such a very tiny window of time in which they can be worn. My advice is that you either make sure that the project is finished before the baby is born or just forget about it and make a sweater for a two year old. I will admit that it is fun to knit such tiny little sweaters. A word of warning - it can be hard to figure out what you were doing on an unfinished sweater. You might very well have to improvise and hope for the best.

Now baby hats is another type of items people like to think about knitting. Personally I wouldn't bother. For the most part babies don't like hats on their heads, especially knit hats. The one kind of hat that I have found to work perfectly is the knit hats from Hannah Anderson.
Emily has never fussed about wearing them, and as a matter of fact she now expects me to put it one her. When we are getting ready to go "bye-bye" she will go up to the coat and hat wrack in the front hall and say "baby hat!"

But now to change the subject again. Emily loves babies. Anything that looks like a small human being is a baby to Emily. And she loves hats on babies. At Christmas when I put nisser hats on many of the dolls in the living room she got soooo excited. She loves to take off the hats and then trying to put the hats back on again. She is also very fond of trying to get clothes onto dolls. So this got me knitting hats and sweaters for her dolls once more. One thing about making hats for dolls is that you can experiment and then if it doesn't look good you aren't out much. And if it does look good then your good idea worked.

So last week I made three hats and I'm working on a doll sweater to match Emily's nice pink sweater. And at the same time I am working on making a second sweater like the pink one. It's a bit of a struggle because the first sweater was at a tension of 5 1/2 sts per inch, and the new one is only 5 sts per inch.


Anonymous said...

Your baby is the prettiest of them all! Look at those eyes! So cute, awww :)

maybahay said...

Gorgeous little Emily is one lucky girl to have such a thoughtful and talented Grandma.Angora mittens? wow. and all those dollies :-)

Rose said...

Molly, I just discovered your blog. Would you mind telling me where you got the pattern for the dear little cable knit cardigan worn by the dear little baby in the car seat?! I have a friend due in the next few months and I would like to knit something special for her andI have been looking for just the right pattern. Also, what do you like in terms of yarns for baby sweaters?

Molly Loves Paris said...

Hi Rose,
I'm afraid I'm one of those knitters who starts something one year, doesn't get it finished in time, and then rediscovers it much later and finishes it for someone else. The pattern is probably a Patons that I bought in Hong Kong in the 80s. The yarn is probably Patons Beehive 4ply, which I love for children. I wouldn't advice making a baby sweater with a tenion less that 6 stitches to the inch, and preferable 7. Babies are usually rather warm people and sometimes they just need to be warmed up a little bit. But then I've never lived in a really cold place. I like any 4ply that is all or part wool and is washable. Maybe I'll find the pattern and post it on my knitting site.