I think I must be sensing fall, tiptoeing slowly closer, because I’m knitting my baby a new sweater. A new sweater with fair isle snowflakes. 

Since I worked through my creative block last week, I’ve really been enjoying this project. I might actually go as far as to say that it’s been one of the most enjoyable knitting project’s I’ve ever worked on. My husband is on summer vacation, and with our baby son, we’ve been spending afternoons in our living room, husband practicing the piano, baby attempting to crawl, and me sitting cross-legged on the sofa and knitting. Life could not get more perfect.

Beyond knitting it in the contented company of my family, I think my joy about this project also has to do with the way I’m approaching the sweater. I have no pattern. I didn’t even start with a very fully formed vision of what I wanted the sweater to look like. I just cast on. I’m letting my subconscious tell me what to do, trusting that any mistakes I make will not be as important to a beautiful final product as just being uninhibited creatively.

For this “no pattern, no plan” knitting to be successful, one has to have a basic recipe for the garment internalized. When I cook my favorite breakfast (chocolate banana oatmeal) I can get away with not measuring a single ingredient, because I’ve made the basic recipe 50 thousand times. This is my 5th baby sweater (though not my 50 thousandth) and a similar principal applies. Here are the most important aspects of my baby sweater recipe:

My Baby Sweater “Recipe”

Knit the sweater from the bottom up.
There are a lot of advantages to top-down knitting. Making beautiful raglan sleeves is the major one for me. My pick-up-the-armhole-stitches sleeves are not as pretty, it’s true. However, top down sweaters require a lot of up-front planning. Necklines are always one of the most complicated spots in a sweater, and knitting from the bottom up means that you have many rows and many hours for your subconscious to work out what the neckline should look like as you knit.

Know the baby’s basic gauge. 
On my favorite size 7 needles, I need to cast on 100 stitches, give-or-take, to fit around my baby’s middle.  Knowing this number offhand lets me get started without bothersome swatching and testing. I knew that fair isle will knit tighter, so before in the rows before the color work, I increased to 105 stitches. No careful mathematical calculations, just a good estimate. It isn’t perfect -the garment pinches in a bit at the fair isle section- but it’s nothing a bit of blocking can’t fix.

Follow the #1 rule of baby sweaters, and make sure the collar is WIDE because fighting a tight neck over a baby’s huge head is no fun for anyone.
I had no idea what kind of a collar this sweater was going to get, but by the time I got there, my subconscious had worked out a beautiful idea: I only seamed the shoulders together half-way and left the other half open. I am going to add a pretty blue and white button on each side to close the neck tighter (and warmer) once the sweater is on the baby.

Ribbing, with its magical stretch ability, is your friend.
I haven’t included enough ribbing in this sweater. Already I’m excited to cast on another very ribby sweater as soon as this one is off the needles. I am going to complete the bottom half of the sleeve in ribbing though. My future self will thank me when I’m working baby’s arm into the sleeve with much more ease.

Do you ever knit without pattern or plan? Do you enjoy it?