For me, baby knits do not come easy. Literally, for every sweater or blanket I show here as a proud finished object, I’ve knit the equivalent of one other that had to be frogged. I think there are two reasons for this: first, I’m completely clueless about baby and baby-garment sizing. It’s kind of become a joke in our household: I cast on for the next baby sweater or hat, and after a day or two of aggressive knitting Walter points out that it would, in fact, fit my 8-year old cousin. Rip, size down, and repeat.

The second reason is my stubborn insistence that I will have enough yarn, regardless of how much (or little) yarn I actually have, and how wrong I am about the sizing (see above). Baby knits are supposed to be stash-busters, right? So… if I have one ball, even if it’s only 87 yards of worsted weight yarn, it will be enough for a 2-year old size!?! Even if I’m not stash-busting, I will buy only one or two skeins of yarn, thinking it should be enough. I can be such an idiot sometimes.

My latest habit is to acquire precious skeins of handspun (which are typically available only one skein at a time anyway), and try to morph them into winter sweaters for all those friends who are expecting in May and June. So, sized somewhere in the 12-months range. This is a FAIL every time. One skein of handspun, typically created from 4 ounces of fiber, will NOT be enough for a 12-months-sized baby sweater! (But newborn sized? Definitely!)

And yet, I persist.

It’s exactly what I first tried to do with this gorgeous handspun Polwarth yarn (approximately 220 yards, 5 stitches per inch on US 6 needles). The fiber was dyed by David at Southern Cross Fibre, and spun by my talented friend Stacie (see more handspun goodies in her Etsy shop). The colorway is called “Budgie.”

The yarn is incredible. It’s my first time using Polwarth (check-mark in the using something other than merino box), and it feels like cotton balls – fluffy and squishy, while at the same time having a nice density, too. Stacie spun it brilliantly, with slow transitions from one color to the next. If you read Stacie’s blog you’ll see that she puts a lot of thought into the way she spins her yarns, envisioning specific variegations and transitions before she even starts.

It was easy to become mesmerized and hypnotized while knitting this yarn. Honestly, I wouldn’t take back the four or five hours I worked with it for anything – they were a pure joy. But soon enough I realized that I wouldn’t have enough to finish the baby cardigan I had started. Close, but not quite.

My typical solution would have been to rip and knit a smaller size. But I have a specific recipient in mind, and her baby boy is due in May – a newborn-sized cardi won’t do her any good during the sweltering New England summer. I hemmed and hawed and decided to stripe the Polwarth with another yarn: Classic Elite Princess in Ladylike Leaf (3497). I’ve had this yarn in the stash for what seems like forever.

The 2-row narrow stripes were inspired by a stripey baby cardigan that Elinor recently finished. I was also encouraged by Brooklyntweed’s Alberta vest, in which he combined solid and handspun yarns with beautiful results. Honestly, if I had the option, I would have preferred to knit the whole sweater from handspun. I was (and still am) worried that the solid, bright lime green detracts from the more subdued and sophisticated Budgie, that the intervening lime stripes hide the gentle color transitions of the handspun yarn.

At the very least, there’s no chance I will run out of yarn ;). And I’m happy with that option, this time around.


I wanted to share with you the way in which I work 2-row stripes when knitting flat (back and forth). This is a technique I picked up from Vivian Hoxbro’s Shadow Knitting, eons ago. It results in a very neat chain stitch edge along both sides of the work, even the one where the color changes take place. The edges can be left as is, seamed easily, or finished with a button band, etc. The rules are as follows:

  1. Do not cut the working yarn after every stripe; instead, it will be carried up the side of the work. This goes without saying, but sometimes it must be said :).
  2. On every single row (right- and wrong-side) slip the first stitch knit-wise, and purl the last stitch. One exception: work the first row after cast-on without special treatment (knit all or purl all stitches).
  3. Make you color changes on right-side rows. To do so, pick up the new color from beneath the old. I think of this as bringing in the new color from the right relative to the old. (If this is not clear, knit a swatch: you’ll be able to tell right away if you’re doing this right.)
  4. At the beginning of your right-side rows (where the color changes take place), keep the stitches artificially loose. They edge will get quite tight if you don’t.
  5. Take the slipped stitches into account when you plan your pattern: you will be losing 2 stitches in width if you slip the edge stitches.

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29 thoughts on “Striping

  1. Mary K. in Rockport

    What beautiful, beautiful yarn. But, I’ve always really admired Jared’s vest. I also love the baby cardi; can you direct me to a pattern to download or buy? Baby shower coming up in just one week.

  2. quinn

    What a lovely sweater that is growing into! And your friend’s etsy shop is about to be deluged, betcha!

    I am embarrassed to admit that I have never gotten the “carry up the side, pick up the new working yarn from underneath” thing, for all it must be simple enough. Sometimes I just need to be next to someone, watching them do something while saying the words…this may be one of those things.

    Meanwhile, looking forward to seeing the finished sweater for that lucky baby!

  3. jen

    What a gorgeous sweater-to-be! Thanks for the tip about working with two colors of yarn. I didn’t know about step #2, so always had wonky edges on one side when I worked with multiple skeins.

  4. Allison

    I see how beautiful it would have been with all handspun but, really, the 2-row stripes seem to be working so well and look so great too; just different, that’s all.

  5. Anna

    I know it’s a disappointment not to have enough yarn to make the garment fully from the handspun, but I love the stripes. It looks very sharp, and the contrast of the variegated with the solid cream makes the handspun stand out even more. It’s really lovely. 🙂

    (As for sizing baby garments, I had that problem a lot too, until I got Maggie Righetti’s Sweater Design in Plain English. The book was totally worth it for the size charts in the back, which go all the way down to newborn. Obviously all babies are different, but it’s good for a ballpark estimate. I haven’t had a size problem with a baby garment since I got that book.)

  6. Julie

    The yarn is so gorgeous. I went to the linked site and I have a question, what does she mean the yarn will bloom a bit? Can you tell I’ve never gotten to work with such fancy yarn?

    Thanks and I really enjoy reading your site.

  7. Sarah

    Thank you so much for this; I’ve been working on a scarf that alternates colors every two rows and my edges look very messy–I’ll be trying this shortly! 🙂

  8. Kristy

    I’ve always admired that sweater of Jared’s too, and this looks like a great way to still use your pretty handspun. Thanks for the striping tip!

  9. Emily

    Thanks for sharing that handspun! I can’t envision something knit up from just looking at the skein, so now that I know how beautifully it comes out, I’m inspired!

  10. Heather

    I also seem to muff up every baby knit I begin. My new go-to pattern is a pint size Turn-a-Square hat–this I seem to be able to manage.

  11. njstacie

    Oh, Kathy, it looks fantastic with the striping! And I’m so glad you are loving on the Polwarth. It’s pretty dreamy stuff.

    I can’t for the life of me figure out baby-sizing either – giant heads & pudgy everythings make it tough!

  12. margieinmaryland

    I really like the sweater – the transitions in the handspun won’t be as prominent, but I think that the solid green is almost a neutral in this case.

    THanks for the striping tips!

  13. Amber Lee

    Yum, yum, yum! I love how she spun this. I have seven, yes seven bumps of this exact same fiber and this makes me want to forget everything else and go spin it right now! Beautiful job on the yarn by your friend and great solution by you on the sweater. If you ever do want a one skein handspun project try this:

    vests are great because they fit a baby for so long. If you make a 12 month size they can usually wear it again at age two when they little buddah belly starts to disapear.

  14. Seanna Lea

    I love that handspun. It is so vibrant without being gaudy. It looks great with the other yarn, which doesn’t come off in the photos as very lime-y at all. Beautiful choices.

  15. Stephanie

    I too know nothing of babies and struggle with what is practical and cute and colors and… I love the stripes and think they’re perfect!

  16. Elinor

    I love it!!! Aren’t those stripers addicting as hell? Just seeing yours makes me want to do another! Of course, if I make another one, IT HAD BETTER NOT GET FELTED. Just saying…

  17. Sanni

    It’s me, the colorfastness worrier! Whew I’m relieved it did not run. The last garment I made ran badly when I blocked it, even though it didn’t dye my fingers while I knit. So as a color-block fan, I’m curious how other knitters decide it’s safe.

    Love the green hand-dyed handspun yarn, and the stripe idea. That is turning out beautifully and it is an excellent idea for using luxury skeins, leftover skeins, and irresistible skeins that were only available in singles. Glad I came to read, again. Thank you for doing your blog.

  18. Maritza

    I love how beautifully this is coming along. I think the solid color helps to emphasize the gorgeous transitions of color in the handspun. That Stacie! She spins exquisitely.

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