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!


2 Teeny, Tiny Preemie Hats by Cheryl Andrews FO

Pattern: Teeny, Tiny Preemie Hats by Cheryl Andrews
Source: Free Ravelry Pattern
Yarn: Remnant Koigu Premium Merino
Colour: 1010
Needles: 2.75 dpns
Start:November 23 Finish: December 3, 12013
Modifications: None 

This is a great pattern suitable for even the tiniest early arriver in a whole range of little sizes. (I cross referenced the pattern with on-line charts for typical head sizes according to gestational age.) I liked the idea expressed by the designer in the pattern that even if the gifts were too small that could well serve to give the new parents hope and optimism - that their wee little one was actually too big for something.

My Cousin and his wife were expecting identical twin boys when, early last month, Number One Son and I were in NYC staying with them. Being identical twins there was a chance the babies could be born any time so I decided to make a couple of these little caps to take along in case the babies made an appearance while we were there.

I made these up using remnant Koigu. It has a smooth, hairless finish and soft, superwash texture. I may well stash some in future for last minute baby knitting. In this instance it did not disappoint. I also loved the marled pale blue and white colourway for wee baby boys.

As it turned out, the babies stayed put and the hats stayed in my suitcase, returning with me 10 days later when we went back down for Christmas. The day after our arrival the twins were born on Christmas Eve and after time in two NICU wards with his boys, I showed my Cousin the hats and sure enough he was pleased they were too small. When we saw him again the next day on a break from the Hospital with his older son he said he had seen babies there for whom the fit would be good. So he took them and the next day dropped them off there to cover a couple of impossibly small heads.

Best of all, now, when non-knitters who learn I knit ask if I make things for hospitals, I can finally say Yes!

Up next....details on the sweaters I made for the twins. Thanks for dropping by today!


Well That Was Interesting

'Nigh on a full month since my last post! 'A month wherein so much knitting was done immediately on the heels of racing to finish Shearer over the 7 weeks prior to that, my right hand put on an anti-knitting protest last week...puffing up my middle finger, which I use to "throw" the yarn, into a bruised, throbbing, sausage-like, appendage.

In concert with that, tension knots the size of oranges sprang up either side of my spine across my upper back while my long time sciatica joined in the "chorus" to make even the act of sitting unpleasant. It was a full on mutiny. My body against the yarn.

Interestingly, as I hobbled about bemoaning my various aches and pains this clear correlation didn't even occur to me. The first to suggest a causal relationship was Darling Daughter. When she raised it I utterly dismissed the suggestion - with a bit of annoyance if I'm being honest - how dare she? I told My Beloved of her bold suggestion. His helpful reply was "...of course its the knitting!"

"Humph! What to they know?!" I thought.

(Number One Son's only response after listening to my troubles was to grunt "bummer" through a knowing grin - he and I share an inability to recognize when enough is enough.)

'Forced to set needles aside by the "sausage", over subsequent days and evenings, I felt adrift. The whole family kept remarking how strange it was to see me with empty hands.

Eventually I dedicated usual knitting time to stretching exercises that I know alleviate the back problems and my finger got better with each non-knitting day that passed. Perhaps the girl and her father had a point...

I would have loved to have posted the details of my terrible "plight". I know you would have commiserated where my family didn't.

The thing was though , our area, one of the hardest hit during the ice storm (no power between the 21st and 27th) saw our big maple lose three big limbs. When one of those fell it took out our phone, Internet and television service and that wasn't restored until the 1st.  When it was, my computer was plagued with a virus that had me further off line until yesterday.

I have to be honest, we were away for most of the power outage. Once the full extent of the damage had played itself out around our house and we'd seen to it our elderly neighbours had been picked up by family and taken to warmth, we drained the water from our system to guard against freezing, locked the door, crossed our fingers and drove, on schedule to NYC for a fantastic Christmas in Manhattan.

My "suffering" was therefore essentially confined to not being able to knit during my favourite knitting week of the year - that between Christmas and New Years - versus not having heat or light over Christmas. The time we did spend here after the power went out was largely mitigated by gas fireplace, gas stove, gas water heater and lots of practice doing "without" at the cottage. ( A houseful of wool knits to don against the chill doesn't hurt either!) It is not lost on me how really fortunate we were!

Now with all that behind us and piles and piles of branches strewn alongside the roads in our neighbourhood, I'm looking forward to sharing a few FO's with you. I'll also be working up a year end summary and plans for 2014. I've been swatching and of course dreaming of a project for the Olympics. I want to catch up with your blogs and update my Ravelry page.

I'm optimistic about the 2014 knitting year! I hope you are too. Thanks for dropping by!