With The Most Adorable Granddaughter#5 at home and filling out, the time when I spent hours online searching for patterns for prem babies has become hazy. One thing I learnt from reading and my own experience is that prem patterns differ greatly. I guess that's because a premature baby can weigh anything from barely-tipping-the-scales to the same as a full-term baby. But because babies - and especially premature babies - cannot regulate their body temperature the way that we can, woolen articles of clothing are essential to keep baby warm.
Recently on a prayer board I frequent we were praying for a baby born nine weeks early. His weight was only slightly less than The Most Adorable Granddaughter#5's (and praise God I think he is also doing well) and it made me think about sharing some of the helpful links I found when knitting for our own precious wee one.
I loved the top-down cardigans by Carole Barenys. I had been looking for a pattern with an all-in-one yoke because I just love this style for babies when I found her patterns. This was my first journey into top-down knitting and I have to say that I love it! Ever since I've been crazily searching for more top-down knitting patterns to knit for The Other Most Adorable Granddaughters next year (strangely there are lots of top-down patterns for babies and adults but not a lot for children - I'll keep looking).
This is my example of the Eyelet Yoke Cardigan (with bootees using the same yarn and a hat that turned out to be just a smidgen too small):
Following the completion of this project I then decided I wanted to go smaller but still knit top-down (no seams!) and so I knitted the Raglan Version:
(Actually this is the pattern I used. Even though it looks the same and is by the same designer, it has reverse stocking stitch 'seams' to separate the sleeves from the front and back when knitting. The lace diamond pattern I added for interest).
I found that patterns for prem babies differed greatly. A pattern I bought had more stitches for the back than another pattern had for the back and front together. Hats varied greatly too (which is why my green hat didn't fit although had I gone up a size in needles it would have - still perhaps it will become part of a doll's wardrobe one day). However, it's probably better to err on the side of a garment being too big since (a) baby will grow into it and (b) prem babies often have so many layers on that it helps to have a top layer that will go over all those layers.
Other sites that I found helpful (even if I didn't use their patterns) were Bev's Country Cottage and Spring Stitches. Both authors have had experience with prem babies so are worth visiting.
The cardigan I knitted for The Most Adorable Granddaughter#5 the week before she was born (thinking we had another six weeks before she timed her arrival) was from a knitting pattern book that I suspect my mother may have used when she was knitting for me! I know that I had a similar cardigan for my eldest son and loved it (also a similar colour). Vintage knitting patterns can also be a source of patterns for prem babies as I found that a lot of the patterns the smallest size would fit a 2kg/5lb baby. Either babies were smaller back then or modern designers realised that knitters didn't want to spend a lot of time knitting the smallest size when baby would most likely only wear it for a few weeks and so made their sizes larger.
To update a vintage pattern might be as simple as using a modern yarn. I used a merino/silk blend for this cardigan (and also the eyelet yoke cardigan above) which was sooooooooo soft. I wouldn't mind using it to knit something for myself!
After knitting a few items for The Most Adorable Granddaughter#5 - and knowing that others had been knitting for her as well - I decided it was time to knit for The Most Adorable Granddaughter#4. By this time I was hooked on the top-down method and found this gorgeous pattern from Tanis Fiber Arts. Sadly my yarn wasn't as pretty as the ones they offer but I did choose the blue to match her gorgeous eyes and I think it still turned out okay:
I changed a few things from the pattern and there are a few things I'd do differently next time. One, I didn't use markers. I find the things annoying and once I realised what stitches constituted sleeves and what stitches constituted body, I had no need of markers. For anyone who has a similar dislike of stitch markers, I suggest doing a few rows with markers and once you realise how the pattern is set out, discard them.
Two, from another pattern I had found, I discovered how easy it is to knit the sleeves back and forth (rather than in the round) and to do it before working the body. To do this, when it came time to divide for the sleeves, rather than working across the entire row on the wrong side, I worked just the right front and right sleeve stitches, then turned and worked just the sleeve stitches back and forth. Once completed, I joined the yarn on the wrong side (at the right armpit) and worked the back and left sleeve stitches, turned, and worked only the sleeve stitches. Finally, I joined the yarn at the left armpit on the wrong side, worked the left front stitches to the end, turned, worked across all the remaining stitches which gave me the stitches for the body, then worked back and forth on the body. For me, doing the sleeves back and forth was quicker than in the round (and I sewed them up in minutes) and it also meant that when I cast off the body, I was done - no going back to knit sleeves.
Three, I decided to carry the cable/lace pattern down the 'side seam'. When worked from the top the cable/lace pattern splits in two with half the stitches becoming sleeve stitches and half becoming body stitches, so with a pattern either side of the sleeves, there are two sets of half pattern stitches to make a full pattern if desired. I don't know if it adds anything to the garment or not, but it kept my interest going when I was knitting all those body stitches for row after row.
Four, I only added three buttonholes. This was intentional and not because I forgot (although that scenario would be possible). I wanted a kind of sway-y spring jacket and I thought that by not being able to fasten the lower part of the garment I would achieve this. To this end, I also made the sleeves three-quarter length with no shaping.
Five, I did an alternate picot edge. One from here. (The observant will note that I also used this edging on the pink eyelet yoke cardigan above - that was my first attempt and I loved the look and ease of it so much that I decided to use it again. There's no turning the hem under and sewing it in place with this method however you do need to ensure you have a decent amount of yarn left because it does use quite a lot.)
Finally - and this is what I would change - when I did my increasing at the neck I was left with a little V where the bands joined. I quite liked this look but it wasn't that great with buttons. Next time I would place the top buttonhole a little lower and make this V a feature of the cardigan.
I doubt there could be a prettier model of this cardigan. Incidentally, I used a 8ply yarn which gave a slighter different tension/gauge (fewer stitches to the inch than the pattern called for). This should have resulted in a slightly larger garment but as you can see, this is a good fit for The Most Adorable Granddaughter#4. Consequently, if I were to use the yarn specified in the pattern, I would probably knit a size larger (and let's face it, children always grow so slightly big is better than slightly small unless there are lots of siblings to pass said garment on to).
Sadly, my knitting for the year is probably over (apart from some socks or bootees that I can knit in the car). My evenings now need to be devoted to quilting a queen-size-to-the-floor quilt before a certain son's wedding next year.