Finished Knit: Raglan Baby Cardigan
I’ve said it before, and I still feel this way: baby sweaters are nearly as fun and creative to knit as toys. They are so quick, and even if they aren’t perfect (and mine aren’t!), you put them on a cute baby, which makes them instantly amazing. I started experimenting in knit baby sweaters shortly before my first baby was born, two years ago, and just a month ago, I finished my latest (but it won’t be my last.)
While I love following a good baby sweater pattern what I really get excited about is grabbing some stash yarn and playing around with visions that come directly out of my head. In order to avoid knitting failures however, I’ve figured out some sweater “recipes”. The easiest, for me, is a bottom up sweater: you can measure it as you go, work the sleeves separately and then attach them, and the most difficult part -the collar- is the last thing you do. In particular, I love how this bottom up baby sweater turned out. But this time, I wanted to try out a raglan sweater construction.
If you don’t know, raglan sweaters are those where the sleeves come off the body directly from the collar with a diagonal “seam.” (I quickly googled “raglan sleeve” to check the definition before I typed this, and Google says a raglan sleeve gives “a garment a relatively undefined look.” I respectfully disagree, Google. I love the way a raglan diagonal seam shapes and defines the shoulders!) Anyway, the diagonal line on a raglan shoulder is actually not a seam but a series of increases as you knit the sweater from the collar downward. You can read more about raglans here. A raglan sweater requires a bit of math before starting.
I spent my first evening on this project scribbling notes and making calculations.
Some technical details if you are interested: I took my baby’s measurements: length from shoulder to waist, circumference of chest, arm length, arm circumference, and neck circumference. Some people also measure the length from shoulder to armpit, but I skipped factoring in this measurement, figuring I would get roughly the right length naturally, just by following all the other measurements. It was a risk, but it worked out.
Next, I knit a swatch and measured my gauge (how many stitches per inch). Then I multiplied the gauge by the measurements (about a bazillion times because apparently I’m sloppy at multiplication) until I figured out how many stitches I would need for the different parts of the sweater: collar, sleeves, and around the middle. The difference between the number of stitches around the collar and the number of stitches around the middle worked out to how many times I would make a raglan increase.
I had a delightfully large hank of black-red-blue yarn that I’d bought just before my baby was born. The instant I saw it at the craft store, I thought: I want to make a baby sweater out of that! It will be fun to watch the color changes and it’s totally not cliche baby colors. Although it took me a couple of months to finally getting around to knitting with it, I’m glad I followed my gut because I think the colors are perfect.
Clearly, baby M thinks it looks pretty good too!
The final sweater is not mistake-free. Despite my repeated calculations, the sweater ended up a tiny bit smaller than I wanted. That’s why I came up with the clever solution of ties rather than buttons in the front to give me a couple more centimeters of room. I think it looks pretty cute that way but I guess I’ll begrudgingly admit that big wooden buttons would have been a little bit cuter. Also imperfect: the bottom of the sweater is knit with ribbing, in order to give the sweater structure, but the change from stockinette to ribbing stitch makes the bottom curl. This is always true on knitting projects, but I find it’s really noticeable on a cardigan, more noticeable than I would like.
Here’s the main thing though: this sweater has brought me and my baby a lot of enjoyment since I knit it. I love putting my kids in handmade; I love filling my house with handmade. I’m glad I don’t ever let perfectionism ruin that. Sure, next time I’ll take what I’ve learned and make a sweater without these small mistakes. That’s good; learning from each project is good. But I won’t love my more perfect baby sweater any more than I do this one and the creative thinking and making that it represents.
How about you: are you a perfectionist when it comes to knitting, or do you enjoy imperfect results too?
Also, baby sweaters: do you enjoy knitting them?