New York, New York, New Babies, New Approach to Christmas (2 Baby Tomten Jackets by Elizabeth Zimmerman FO)

The Backstory...

So my Cousin and his wife had identical twin boys on Christmas Eve. These people, both successful New York Creative Professionals, also have strong aesthetic opinions. I hardly dared hope anything I might make for the babies would ever see wear. 

Nonetheless my Cousin, really more of a brother to me, has made many, many beautiful things for me over the years (for example like designing my wedding gown and coat and arranging to have them made) and I kind of relished the challenge of maybe, getting it right...

On our first NYC trip last month we stayed with them so I took three colourways of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino with me to see what colours would fit in their decor. If it looked good in the house they decorated and designed they'd probably like it on their babies too right?

The modern light blue-grey perfectly matched the nursery rug so I cast on with that while I was there for a baby-sized EZ Tomten jacket.  I made no pretense of hiding the wee start of the work and both mom and dad-to-be made passing favourable comments. Garter stitch and my first colour choice seemed to be good. I ruled out the darker blue I took along in favour of  a dark tan. It "worked" in situ and would suit the likely-to-be-blond babies.

Back home, the days of that next week were seasonally busy so the baby knits didn't exactly fly off the needles. By the time we left amid the blacked out ice covered city I still had a lot of work to do. Fortunately our digs in NYC were a suite of rooms  in midtown booked to facilitate comfortable hanging around for the whole crowd of us and they didn't disappoint. 16 stories above the street we were close to everything but also quiet and comfortable even with everyone "home" and doing their own things.

I could actually sit in the wide window ledge and knit while watching the yellow cabs and traffic way down below. Meanwhile Number One Son could spread out his drawing stuff all over the long dining table, Cousin could drop by from the hospital for a nap and a snack or a glass of wine (we stocked the little kitchenette on Christmas Eve) while his young son watched a movie. All this while Darling Daughter dashed back and forth from the shops nearby or checked in with her on line life  and my Aunt knit away on a lacy sock. (Like a good Grandmother, her baby knits were all done weeks earlier!) My Beloved - the self-appointed bar tender - keeping everyone's glasses full ! So even though the pressure was on and I was in a hurry it was a perfect situation for dragging those little knits across the finish line!

The FO's...

Pattern: "Tomten" by Elizabeth Zimmerman
Source: Knitting Without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmerman
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino
Colours: "Slate", "Mink" (3 Balls each sweater)
Needles: 3.25 Aeros
Start: December 10, Finish: December 26, 2013
Modifications: Outlined Below

The Tomten is a classic modular pattern lending itself to modifications for yarn, size etc. based on a multiple of any number. (I went with EZ's recommended #7)  I wanted a long snugly, hooded baby bag/coat kind of thing and I wanted it to look adorable even without a baby in it. The square cardigan shape of the basic pattern needed amending for this so I shortened the depth of the sleeves after using all of the suggested shaping tricks EZ proposes for the bottom of the garment...

  • CO 10 fewer stitches than called for, worked 1.5 inches then increased the 10 sts evenly across the back of the sweater invoking the idea of where a  wee bum might be cradled.
  • Used short rows across the back after every 7th row to make the back longer than the front, to fight riding up and further enhance the long cozy look.
I was making two sizes - one for a 3 and one for a 4 pound preemie (as the ultra sound images were predicting)

 For the sleeves, the smaller jacket had 14 ridges - the larger 21 instead of the called-for 28 - all multiples of 7- which, sure enough, instantly created, by the relative scale of sleeves to length, the coat-like baby bag appearance I wanted.

With the sleeves done I worked the shaping at the back of the base of the hoods outwards either side of the centre rather than in a straight line upwards and I loved the result! Its departure from the linear quality, along with the other shapings really evoke the notion of the naturally curled up infant posture.

For the closing, zippers seemed too hard for preemie-wear. Mom-to-be had stated she didn't want to dress them alike so I thought treating the buttons differently would be a great nod to that.

For the smaller one I worked a little rectangular band to match the look of the unique sleeves. On one side I fastened the band with the button as a "dummy". On the other side, a real button hole for the button.

On the bigger sweater, as I cast off an added trim around the fronts and hood I worked two, 3 stitch crochet chains a few stitches apart yielding vertical slots to catch the two buttons sewn just opposite.

In the craziness of trying to get out of town amid the ice storm I had neglected to pack small needles or thread for the buttons and it came time to affix them in the wee hours of the 26th. Fortunately that amazing man I married - that seasoned business traveller - had a little sewing kit in his shaving case - complete with multiple colours of thread! Phew!

I had packed ribbon and tags and we had bought tissue during our errands on Christmas Eve so by the time we headed out for a day of shopping on the 26th, both sweaters were done and ready to be wrapped (once Cousin saw them) so he could take them on to the hospital after Boxing Day dinner with us for the new mom to open.

So were they a success? Yup! So much so Cousin posted pics of the knits on his Instagram Feed (They got 400 likes from his thousands of followers within a couple of hours of going up.) He said they might be used for going home from the hospital in a week or two! After that they thought about framing them to put up in the Nursery. I nailed it! How fun is that?

It was a great way to cap off a fabulously novel Christmas for us.

They loved the knits, the teenaged boy, twenty-something female and Grandmother loved the trip and the New York bunch loved it that we were there for their very special Christmas this year. After making it all happen, My Beloved and I loved having our efforts appreciated. What more can you ask for?
(Okay it would have been nice if the taxi ride all the way down to Purl Soho after calling ahead and getting a busy signal hadn't been only to find a locked shop, closed for the week. Why wasn't that on the store Voice Mail?) But other than that, it was all just perfect!


Brendaknits said...

They are just darling. I am impressed with your focus while in 'the big apple'. I am sure my atention would have been diverted.

Acorn to Oak said...

The baby sweaters are adorable! I can't see how they couldn't have liked them. I'm so glad they did. Great job and so fast! 400 likes from thousands of followers?! Wow! Sounds like they're celebrities!

Lorraine said...

Marie- Those are perfection!

Yet another wise decision.

Sandra said...

Gorgeous! SO nice that you spent the time to ensure they are suited to the family - make sit all the more special.
And the fact that they are planning on framing them after? No better way to show thanks!

LynS said...

The tomten baby jackets are exquisite. Perfectly baby-shaped. I love your choice of the dark tan - why should babies wear predictable baby colours?

Needles said...

The Tomten are just perfect for tiny babes. Perfect.

Lara said...

Just perfection! I wished that we had a wee visit during your time in NYC, but I was realistic enough to know that I couldn't pull it off. We missed each other in the city by 24hrs. Happy New Year!