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Friday, 21 February 2014

KNITTING for an April baby

Ok, I admit that I'll use almost any excuse to knit for babies. I hear that a friend of a friend is having a baby and feel an urgent need to get out my needles and scour the books for something suitable. Of course, I love it most when someone I know well is expecting - there is nothing nicer than sharing the progress and birth of a new baby, but in truth, even an acquaintance is likely to receive something small, cute and knitted as soon as the baby is here.

Knitting for babies is a rather self satisfactory type of knitting for me - it's quick and provides almost instant gratification. When I cast on something for a baby I can rest assured that I won't be drowning in endless rows of stocking stitch, seaming mammoth pieces together or looking longingly at my next project whilst wishing that this one was over. Baby garments satisfy a good portion of my knitting urges - speedy, easily achievable, ridiculously cute and appealing even on the needles and importantly, they are always well received. There is nothing like the pleasure of gifting something handmade to a new mum and knowing, a little selfishly, that you enjoyed the making of it as much as the giving.

So, you may have guessed that my latest project is for a new baby boy expected in April. Astonishingly, I am well ahead of schedule with one completed item and one drying on the blocking mats, which probably means that I'll end up making something else as well!

The first item is the most perfect little hat. We launched the Smilla Hat last week as the latest free pattern available for download directly from the website, and I instantly knew that I would be making one for the April baby. It is simple in it's construction, but has the added interest of swiss darning (or duplicate stitch) motifs on the brim - and there are a choice of these fun motifs, charted in the pattern.

Knowing that this April baby is a boy has been great - no careful choosing of gender neutral colourways or styles - I've gone all out boyish, choosing putty grey and cobalt. The knitting of the hat is achievable in one evening, and the smallest size takes just 1 ball of yarn with a small amount for the contrasting motif. There is a stocking stitch border or rim and then the main body of the hat is garter stitch with decreasing crown shaping - all knitted flat to make swiss darning the motifs on easier. I thought that it might be useful to share the swiss darning technique in a series of pictures (below) so that you can feel confident to give it a go. The Smilla hats all have small, easy motifs on each hat - perfect for your first attempt at swiss darning!

Count in from both edges and place locking stitch markers to mark the area of the chart.
Thread a darning needle with your contrast colour and using the chart, count to the first stitch. Come through the knitted fabric from back to front in the hole below the stitch you want to 'duplicate'. Leave a long tail so that you can sew it in later.
Now put the needle through both legs of the stitch above and pull through - remember not to pull your stitches too tight as this can result in the underneath colour showing through and a puckered finish. Next, put the needle back through the hole you originally came up through to complete the stitch - you have completed one stitch.
Continue working in columns - travelling up the fabric until the required amount of stitches has been completed.
Once the first column has the right number of stitches duplicated, move over to the next column and work down in the same way. I am right handed and tend to work right to left, but left to right is also fine.
You will have noticed that the chart is upside down - this is because the rim will be turned back once the hat is finished. I have turned the rim around in the picture above just so you can see the cute finished elephant!
This shows both elephants completed and the rim turned back. There will be a few ends to sew in, which I did before stitching the back seam.
My finished hat will be even cuter when it's on a sweet baby!
The Smilla Hat pattern will available in hard copy format from all of our stockists in the next few weeks but if you fancy having a go at this adorable hat, then download your copy right HERE. Which one will you choose?
(posted by Max)

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