Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Review: Simple Knits for Cherished Babies by Erika Knight

It seems like everyone I know is either having a baby or getting married, and I'm thrilled. It makes me so happy to have good reasons to make beautiful things for the people I love! Especially since house hunting is bringing me down, and I need a distraction. It's hard to be grumpy  when you're making adorably tiny things. So lately I'm filling most of my free time with super-soft, ultra-tiny handmade woolens. Gah, this stuff is so cute! And knitting for babies is the best, because these projects knit up so fast.

The baby bootie pattern is from Simple Knits for Cherished Babies by Erika Knight. I picked it up at McKay's a few weeks ago, and the book's photography is absolutely gorgeous. The pictures feature elegantly classic baby clothes and accessories knitted in ultra-luxurious fibers like silk, cashmere, and organic cotton. The patterns are all very simple, with just knit and purl stitches, but the simplicity gives the pieces a timeless elegance. Best of all, there was a pattern for a beautiful knitted pillow with a block letter monogram (see it here). The moment I saw that pillow, I wanted to make it for myself in white or taupe. I had to own this book.

I can't do anything by the book, though, and I ruined the fancy effect by knitting these in bright purple. *grin* My friend is having a baby girl whose middle name will be Violet, and I was given very specific instructions as to exactly what shade of violet they should be. My friend is well known for her passionate but very particular love of purple, and her particularity is one of the things I love about her. I was actually nervous when I bought the yarn, because I knew that if it wasn't the right shade of purple, she wouldn't like it. But she loved it. Phew!

Here's a clearer picture, so you can see the stitch pattern better. It has a rolled stockingette stitch cuff, a stockingette upper, and the side and sole of the bootie are in garter stitch. It's classic and simple, but just complicated enough that people gasp and admire it.
But let's talk about the book and its patterns. It kind of blows my mind that the baby booties are knitted all in one piece and then sewn together, with just one seam that goes down the center of the heel and sole. When I first looked at the pictures, I was like How does that possibly work?! Until now, I've only knitted scarves, tubular cowls, and baby blankets. I'd never done a project where I picked up stitches along the side of my knitting, and this book probably wasn't the best way to learn to pick up stitches. 

I carefully read and re-read the pattern, but I didn't understand how to do it until I actually did it. And that's because, honestly, it's hard to follow these instructions. "Rejoin yarn to the ten stitches" doesn't make as much sense when there are two sections of ten stitches. I love the beautiful photos of the finished products, but I wish there were a few more photos of the projects in progress.

But once I finished, I loved the booties because they were so cute. There was just one problem: The smallest size in the book, meant for babies from 0 - 3 months, knits up like something for a baby Sasquatch. They're huge! So when I knitted a second pair, I sized down by knitting just 5 rows of garter stitch (not seven) before I began shaping the foot. That helped a lot, and that's probably how I'll knit any future pairs I make.

I had more luck when I made a matching baby hat. The hat is all in stockingette stitch, with a rolled edge that perfectly matches the rolled edge of the bootie. It's made on straight needles and then sewn together with a seam up the back. I felt like I was cheating when I sew it up the back, but I'm still afraid of working with DPNs, so this pattern suits me just fine. Every part of that pattern made sense, and I was very pleased with the finished result.

I like that the book includes patterns for beginner knitters, like me, and more complicated patterns for advanced knitters. There are patterns for baby sweaters and cardigans, and even a pattern for a pair of footie leggings. I won't lie; I'm intimidated by some of these patterns, but that only makes me want to try them more. But first, I want to make those monogrammed pillows! I want to make a J and a K to put on our bed.

Overall, I recommend this book for knitters who have no trouble reading patterns and are comfortable modifying patterns as needed to get the correct size. Even though the stitches used here are simple, the patterns do require a bit of interpretation and modification. True beginners might want to steer clear. It's worth noting that my book is the 2001 edition, and it's possible that these issues were fixed in the 2009 edition. But I can't be sure, so I'm just telling you what I know.

What are you making right now?


  1. AND you knit! The more I hang around your blog, the more I feel like we're blogging kin. I'm "working" on a cable-knit scarf that it'll soon be too cold to wear. I use quotes because I've done one pattern repeat in the last two weeks. I get too easily distracted.

    1. Yes! Knitting is currently my favorite way to relax. Coincidentally, I taught myself to knit cables about two weeks ago, and then immediately abandoned that project. WEIRD!

      Isn't it awesome when you find a blog twin? :D


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