Why do we put babies in pastel colours? We, as a society, have an obsession with baby blue and baby pink (gender dependent) with splashes of white and an occasional foray into mint and primrose. Who got to decide that these colours were what babies would wear forever? And when? In Good Wives (I think), Amy is described as putting a ribbon on the pillow of each twin ‘according to the French fashion’, blue for the boy, pink for the girl. That wasn’t really so long ago. Can we blame the French? Whereas the Dutch of Haarlem, in Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates hung pincushions on the front door to announce a safe arrival to the community, red for a boy, white for a girl. Perhaps this tradition lives on in the modern American fancy for new baby door wreaths.
It seems that, in this country especially, knitting is slow to move forward and often even behind times. If you’re going to receive a bonnet or matinée jacket then I’m pretty sure that they won’t have been bought but been gifted by some (likely, older but well-meaning) relative. If it is not one of those colours mentioned above (or perhaps your knitter had a reckless moment and went for peach, apricot or mauve) then I’d actually be quite surprised. And even more surprised if it’s not 100% acrylic. And it’s a real shame because it gives knitting and knitters bad press and it’s going to become more and more rare that those precious handknitted items are even worn much less become treasured heirlooms passed from one child or even generation to another.
Knitting and knitters need to move with the times. There is a place for pastels and bonnets and possibly even a place for the occasional matinée jacket. Well, they’re just cardigans by another name anyway. But I don’t think that all is old is bad, personally I don’t think mini branded trainers and stiff, tight denim jeans are really the most practical or comfortable outfit for a baby but that doesn’t mean I’m advocated swaddling. There has to be a balance.
I was a cloth nappy baby in a generation that had almost entirely turned ‘modern’, I still remember the smell of what parents of that generation cheerfully term as ‘rubbers’, the plastic over-pants to help with leak prevention. We had nappy pins (giant safety pins with protective covers so they didn’t undo into baby or couldn’t be undone by baby) turning up throughout my entire childhood. Some were pink, some were blue. Yes, I had a brother. Funny enough. Cloth nappies seem to be going through another spin of popularity, especially with parents who are questioning their own impact on the environment. And this means modern knitters, especially in America of course, have risen to the occasion.
My friends, I don’t think but we are an ocean or two apart, aren’t cloth nappy-ing but this designs were irresistible to an idiosyncratic knitter like me. They’re called ‘soakers’ which if you think about it too long is actually pretty disgusting so don’t! But it’s seems that, like any other specialist subject, cloth nappy-ing has its jargon: lanolising, soakers, shorties, longies, skirties, night, day … actually, those last two words I do understand.
This was a pattern that got plenty of chuckles, usually as a delayed reaction. What you knitting? (hand over pattern) Oh, cute, I-poo … hehehe. It’s also quite a good way of testing eyesight or whether someone is really paying attention to what you’ve just given them. Oh, cute. (walk away).
I like it better in the pastel colours actually. It takes longer for impact, subtle then deeply subversive. If you’re into toilet humour, that is. In the words of one of my lovely friends ‘it’s not like the baby things we used to knit in the Fifties and Sixties’. And that could be a good thing.
Isn’t that perfect for a baby gift?!
And at least it’s a change from bootees.
And yes, I did have a second pattern that I just had to knit up, it was in a similar theme.
I’m sure that all parents and other baby-looker-afterers will identify with that motif! Regardless of what fabric may clad the baby’s posterior, the result is pretty much the same.
I wasn’t as happy with the yellow yarn that I used, it’s a different brand and with the creaminess of the ‘white’ that I was using, it does get quite lost in too many lights but it was fun to knit them up.
It also has warning chevrons just in case you missed the point.
As you know, I’m a sucker for shaping and other little genius tricks that designers seem to find no problem in conjuring up and adding to their patterns so these really appealed on those grounds too. I had to learn to cast on stitches at the ends of rows for the first time (complex moment, with lots of research required)! And a magical system of decreases and increases forms a perfect v-shaped crotch which means, along with generous leg cuffs (you should see some of the ones that I’ve seen with little straight stick tubes for legs, it’s bad enough on women’s shirt sleeves but baby legs really don’t do wincy and straight, straight) means that these will always be a comfortable fit. Nappies take up a lot of space.
The legs and waists were knitted in the round. (Here’s some advice, if you’re knitting both of these patterns at once, then there is a difference in placement of the eyelets, I didn’t notice but apparently no one else will either!). I had to use one of my massive 60 or 80 cm circular needles on the legs which means shifting huge amounts of cable between stitch runs. It’s not easy. I really need DPNs! But they’re lovely and stretchy.
Learning to cast on stitches at the ends of rows was quite a challenge but there was a further significant challenge. That’s why it’s taken so long to post these as a finished object. The pattern says to make a crochet cord. Two words. Just two words. That totally inspire terror. Crochet! With a hook! It took me a while but I came up with a cunning plan. I know a crocheter. No, I didn’t cheat, thank you very much. I met up with her and she showed me how to knit a crochet chain. (Yes, idiosyncratic people do say knit a crochet chain, trust me). I was fine mirroring her but still had the feeling that was something not right. That was when we discovered that I crochet with my left hand. Honestly. That’s why I can’t hold a crochet hook comfortably when I automatically pick it up in my right hand or teach myself from right-handed instructions (or work out how anyone could ever pick up a dropped stitch with a crochet hook). I crochet left-handed. I think I may have to use the word ‘idiosyncratic’ again.
Anyway, like most of the things that I’m absolutely too scared to do at first but eventually cave and risk trying, crochet chains aren’t that bad. They knit up remarkably quickly and only need one person, unlike twisted cords which also ping when you really don’t want them to. I will bear them in mind for future projects now that I have conquered my phobia of the hook (for the moment at least).
But I’m not going to take up crochet anytime soon, believe me.
Knitting is enough of a mental and physical challenge for me and it’s got plenty more challenges for me, I’m sure. (And you know that I’ll be sharing them with you too!)
Whilst I was knitting up these pattern, I found a really cool blog post about wool and lanolising and stuff like that and in the future, if I was knitting for an actual cloth nappy wearing baby then I would just use a pure wool yarn rather than a blend. There is also an entire group of Ravelry dedicated to the art and craft of soakers and longies. It’s definitely been an interesting learning experience.
Well, I loved both of these patterns by Jane Burns and I’m looking forward to inflicting my very idiosyncratic humour and knitting on more new parents in the future.
And it seems that pastel colours have their uses after all.
I wonder if you remember seeing a sneak preview of the Toxic Soakers in a photograph in an earlier blog post?