Wednesday, February 03, 2010

tips for great knitted baby gifts

little red top

So you've got a friend with a new baby on the way, and you want to knit the little bundle something adorable, something beautiful, something practical enough to wear a lot, something to make the new parents squeal with delight? Right?

I've knitted a lot of baby gifts in my time, and now that I've got such a little bundle of my own, I look back with a twinge of regret at some of the well-meaning baby gifts I've knitted over the years. I know that a few were well-received and worn quite a lot (I just saw a friend's three-year-old dragging around a sweater I made for her when she was just over a year!), but I could name a dozen that may have been cute on the needles, but probably didn't make it out of the dresser drawer very often.

So without further ado, here are a few suggested guidelines for knitting fabulous baby gifts, courtesy of me. Please do leave your further suggestions in the comments!

- Washability: My baby spits up about once every ten minutes (on a good day). We do a LOT of baby laundry, and I don't think we're unusual. Choose fibers that can be machine washed. I don't think you need to choose something that can go through the dryer, because frankly, not much quality yarn can. Personally, I hate the dryer and air dry as much as I can, but you really want to make life easy on the new parents. Whatever fiber you choose, do include washing instructions with your gift. Your friends will feel truly terrible if they destroy your gift with a trip through the laundry.

- Another word on fiber: make sure it's soft enough for very delicate skin. One good way to check is to stick the skein inside your collar and walk around the yarn store for a few minutes with the yarn smooshed against your neck. Feel even the slightest twinge of an itch? That yarn is probably too itchy for a wee one. My favorite yarn, for softness on skin and on the planet, is Blue Sky Alpacas line of organic cottons. Heavenly soft!

- Nap-ability: No buttons or snaps up the back. Babies spend a lot of time sleeping on their backs, and a big ridge of bumpy buttons is not very comfortable. Keep your buttonage to the sides or front. If you need a back-neck closure, go for a tiny tie-up instead.

- Button safety: While we're on the subject of buttons, you should know that buttons are generally a choking hazard for babies. You can make a cardigan with buttons, but you need to sew those things on for dear life. Sew as you've never sewn before, and then sew some more for good measure. Better yet, use a zipper, velcro tab or tie-up instead.

- Practicality: The more wearable your gift is, the more it will be appreciated (and worn). I love baby booties, but I'm still searching for the pair that won't fall off. Besides which, a big pack of baby socks costs less than many fancy coffee drinks. The Little Pea will wear hats, but many babies yank them right off. The most practical baby knits I've tried are hoodies, cardis (especially those that zip), throw-sized blankets, bonnets (hats that stay on!), pullover sweaters with a nice roomy neck, and those wonderful, insane full-body hoodie things with the hand and foot covers (though ours is a fleece one from L.L. Bean).

- Neck room: Babies have big giant pumpkin heads. If you're knitting a pullover, make sure that you're knitting a nice big neck opening. Look for an envelope neckline or a collar that opens along the front or shoulder to accommodate the noggin.

- Bulk: I find shoulder and sleeve seams get very bulky on a tiny little baby sweater, especially if your yarn is any heavier than fingering weight. They are working so hard to learn how to use those little arms and hands, and being able to put a thumb or finger into the mouth is often the difference between a happy baby in the carseat and one who is making themselves and everyone else very, very cranky. You might be surprised at how little bulk it takes to keep that hand from making it to the mouth. To that end, I really love seamless baby sweaters, whether bottom-up or top-down.

- Colors: You know your friends' tastes better than I do, but I just want to caution that pink and light blue are totally played out. Babies look so good in neutral colors, and they can also wear bright colors that you only wish you could pull off. Pastel colors don't look good on many people, and babies are people, too.

- Fun: The most important thing in any knitting project is that you enjoy making it. If it's a bear to knit, that doesn't make it a better gift. Have a good time doing it!

11 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post! My friends are having babies left and right, and I love knitting for them. I'm guilty of bulky seams, a mistake I will avoid in the future. It also helps to know that booties and hats are not the most practical. I will concentrate on baby blankets, seamless sweaters, and--drum roll--what you just called "insane full-body hoodie" (I take the challenge!). Thank you thank you thank you! And many greeting to you and the little one.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree wholehartedly, having myself been first a knitter-for-babies and only later a mother. I've found this sweater: http://www.knittingonthenet.com/patterns/babyswezipback.htm to be absolutely priceless, especially for those babies who resist hats. It's light but warm, easy to put on, and customizable. I made a few with designs on the front and they were really really cute. Just be sure to use a lightweight zipper!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for the list! I don't have kids, and while the washability thing is a no-brainer, I would never have thought about no buttons down the back or armhole bulk. Maybe I'll stick to blankets. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. TOYS! Knitted toys are awesome baby gifts that are fun to make and greatly appreciated. Bonus: they aren't quickly out-grown and will be remembered better than clothing.

    Only thing to keep in mind is fiber on this one. Make sure it's something a baby can put in his/her mouth and that can be washed. Organic cotton and bamboo are great, maybe mixed with some acrylic to make them washable and dryable.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh my gosh, I can't believe I forgot about toys! Thanks Millymom!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great post! I also knit many baby gifts before I was a mom (and I never had a newborn baby) and am embarrassed about some of the gifts I've given!

    ReplyDelete
  7. My little Milly wears the same jeans your Little Pea is wearing! I love her sweater - did you knit that? If so, any details on yarn/pattern? Maybe I'm not recognizing it as something already posted... So cute. She reminds me a lot of my girl at that age. You can find me on Rav if you want to see pics - same user name.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Awesome advise! I have a friend with her first grandbaby on the way (and she's only 39! ...39!!) I wanted to make something for the grandson-to-be, and I will deff take your advise serioursly. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Millymom: I did knit the top, and it's just a little top-down number I made up with some Tofutsies sock yarn. It looks a lot like the Country Kiddie pattern from PixiePurls. BTW - can't find you on Ravelry!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks for the tips! I think I've probably knitted some doozies in the past...it's hard when you don't have a baby yourself! Finding nice washable wool is always a challenge.

    ReplyDelete
  11. hmmm...
    we'll see if
    my present measures up.
    is my robot
    kid friendly?
    the buttons are huge
    and sewed on like crazy...
    xo

    ReplyDelete