Sunday, November 18, 2007

baby jacket

Last night I helped my husband set up a blog for all his geeky Dungeons and Dragons friends, and as of right now he has 15 comments. On his first post. Clearly, there is no fairness in the blogging universe.
In retribution, I have decided to post about something nearly as dorky as D&D: knitting.

About a year ago, when I first learned to knit, I came across this really cute pattern in an old book from the '70s. I believe the book was Nursery Knits by Tessa Watts-Russell. (I'm not positive, but if anyone really wants to know, email me and I'll double-check at my library.) The pattern was for a baby jacket. Mind you at this point I had knit a total of two items; a scarf for my grandmother and an intarsia pillow for my mom. (Yeah, other than starting with a scarf, I didn't really follow the "new knitter" rules.) Clearly, I was ready to tackle all the complications of an entire jacket. So, armed with a copy of my pattern, I headed for Jo-Ann Fabrics (at the time, I didn't even know LYSs existed). First I noticed the pattern called for size 2 needles, so I bought a pair. Then I noticed how many balls of yarn it needed, and I bought that. (I decided on Paton's Merino, as wool is very warm and this was to be Magic Baby's Very Special Winter Jacket.) Notice if you will that I failed to mention the yarn actually called for by the pattern. This is because, in my naivety, I had no idea yarn even came in different weights, never mind that substituting yarn can lead to catastrophes. (As a more season knitter, I now realize "lightweight" yarn is not the same as "worsted" weight, but at that time that comparison would have sounded like "blah, blah, yarn, blah, blah".) I then proceeded to cast on the required 8,000,000 stitches of worsted-weight yarn onto size 2 needles and begin my project. Please note at this point that no mention is made of "gauge" or a "swatch." Here I cannot claim total innocence, for I knew these existed. I just failed to see how they applied to me.

Many of you are probably aghast at this point, certain this project was a complete disaster. How could it not be? I chose completely inappropriate yarn, I didn't swatch, I used teeny needles with worsted-weight yarn, and I didn't even alter the number of stitches to make up for any of this. The result, about a month (and much, much knitting) later surprised even me:

Please don't call DCYF, the bulb is not hot. Not that I would have let him touch it. That was all Hubby. Still, he didn't get hurt, and it's a pretty good picture. I think you really get a sense of the jacket as a whole, don't you. :)

Yes it's too big, but it's also still identifiable as a jacket. (And it's freakin' adorable, if I do say so myself.) Somehow, despite all of my mistakes, it came out pretty darned good, especially since this was, again, the third thing I had ever made. If I were to make it now, I would almost certainly have used a different yarn, or at least redone the pattern to accommodate the heavier weight, but I honestly don't think the finished project would have turned out any better. That's not to say my knitting hasn't improved, but I think some of the "mistakes" I made on the jacket actually caused it to be better than it would be with the alterations a more seasoned knitter would make. Mainly, the warmth. At first I was leery of sending my baby out in a New England winter wearing something I made as his first line of defense against the cold. Usually around here, kids are dressed like the little brother from A Christmas Story, and my son's only in a sweater? (I really hate when people call it that, btw. Just because it's knit does not mean it's automatically a sweater. Here's a clue: if it's snowing and he's wearing it with mittens and a scarf, it's a jacket, dammit.) I'll admit I was a little iffy on it, as was my (non-knitter) mom. Jen's mom made me feel much better when she said, "Worsted-weight wool on size 2s?! That's one warm coat!" I love her.

So, again this year, my Magic Baby can be seen around town in his Very Special Winter Jacket, still a little too big, and still often mistaken for a sweater. I know, though, that he is not only wrapped in very warm wool, but also that the wool, having been lovingly stitched by his mom, is something like a great big knitted hug, and if that's not the warmest thing in the world, I don't know what is.