Knitting:Child’s Vest:Live and Learn

“This explains why my answer to a question once asked – “What is the most common mistake knitter’s make?” – was that they follow the pattern.  There are directions in every pattern that you should never follow blindly.”

Sally Melville, knitwear designer and teacher from “Mother-Daughter Knits” page 17

In order to become a better sewer one must eventually stop following pattern instructions to the tee.  As you learn what works and what doesn’t some mistakes are made at first, but in the end you are a better and more confident sewer.

Though the initial mess-ups are admittedly disappointing one must perservere.    

As in sewing, so also goes knitting.

I used The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns by Ann Budd to create a small school sweater for my daughter.  Unlike typical knitting patterns that tell you what type of yarn to purchase, Budd provides detailed charts for various gauges of yarn, along with various sizes from child to adult male.  The designs given are basic and you can add any special stitches or embellishments you desire.

My daughter is now 6 1/2 but barely fits a size six and is on the short side.  In the past I have made this same vest from the same instructions which I followed to the tee, and it came out badly.  Not right for my daughter’s proportions.  I discovered what Melville articulates, even the best instructions should not be followed blindly.

That was two years ago and now with all of the couch time I am logging with the pregnancy anemia I decided that I had both hours and calm to attempt a customization.

Ann Budd is an amazing knitter and I am so thankful she has taken the time to work out all of these different sizes and yarn gauges.  I feel that I can learn a lot from making these basic designs.  But as with my first forays outside of the instructions provided in the sewing pattern envelopes I have made some blunders.  Experience is the only true teacher for so much of crafting. 

I lengthened the torso and shortened the armhole per what my measuring tape and my daughter were instructing me.  What I did not take into account was that the original neckline began at the starting point of the original armhole.  When I shortened the armhole, I also shortened the neckline. 


That bane of home knitting, the handmade garment that you must wrestle over the child’s head!

The neckline was too small.  I had to rip out the original 3/4 inch ribbing, which looked best with the ribbing at the waist. Three tries in all before I got it so I could pull the sweater over her head, finally successful with a considerably smaller ribbing which isn’t as pretty with the garment.  If any of you are also knitters you know that three ripouts is enough to make a person testy. Hopefully the experience burnt some things into my brain.

Two things to remember about knitted necklines:

  1. Measure them!
  2. The ribbing or other edging shrinks the hole, so think about what size edging is desired and take that out of the garment’s neck area.

The other thing I learnedDo get off one’s duff and hunt down or buy the correct size knitting needles even if one must delay the project midway

An example of circular needles

I began knitting the body of the garment from the waist up with circulars, size 8.  When I had to divide the sweater and work on the back and front separately I used my straight needles,  also a size 8.  Size 8 with the straights was tighter than size 8 with the circulars.  Should have stopped, took a little trip to the craft store and bought a set of size 9 straights.  I didn’t think the change would be so noticeable.

Straight or Single Point Knitting Needles

Now I can see the line where I changed needles and it really bugs me.

As in sewing, my first customization has turned out so-so but I have learned a lot, more than I ever could just by reading about technique or looking at pattern illustrations. Thankfully my daughter is young and her clothes are small and quick to make as I am eager to take what I have learned and try again.  As she is only in first grade and I figure I have got several years to master this.  By the time she is in middle school I should be whipping these things out!


My Short Rows Have Holes at the Ends

As anemia has sapped my strength I spend hours sitting around.  For awhile I was watching TV, but the only thing on is the rehashing of the Casey Anthony trial and nothing new is being discussed.  Even reading has gotten old and I tend to nod off.  Now in order to wrest some productivity from my enforced leisure I have picked some knitting back up. 

I go through phases where I knit more than others. I knitted some dishcloths recently and then decided on a girl’s sweater as another quick project.  This one is from Debbie Bliss in her book Junior Knits.  It is a little bolero made of standard worsted yarn. 

I enjoyed knitting it.  My daughter likes the sweater and I see only three mistakes that I would like to correct in my next sweater. 

1.) The first is the seaming of the underarms shows on the outside.  I just need to get off my tuckus and hunt down one of my knitting reference books to correct that one. 

The remaining two are more troublesome and now it comes to mind that I have had similar errors in the pasts and wondered how to remedy them.

2.) My short rows have little holes at the ends.  See.

Short rows are where you have to turn before you reach the end of the row. I hope the pic isn't too dark but those big holes are where I had to turn to make each short row.

In order to do the curve of the neckline one must knit short rows at the back nape area.  The curvature was successful but it created little holes.  Does anyone utilize the short row technique in their knitting often enough to tell me how to get around this?

3.) The next mistake is another hole.  Whenever I pick up an inside corner I get a hole.

This is the inside corner of the neckline.  It isn’t an obvious spot and not too noticeable when worn, but whenever I pick up an inside corner, it elongates that area and pulls apart the knitting making a hole.  Again, does anyone know how to remedy this?


It is hard to see in the pic even after I blew it up, the little white spot between my fingers is the offending hole. Like a shawl collar in sewing this pattern had a squared off inside corner and when I picked up the stitches to make the ribbing this hole was created.

I always seem to encounter problems that aren’t discussed in the manuals. I know a lot of sewers are knitters also, and I would love to hear from you on these two tricky techniques. 🙂

The Next Pregnancy Challenge:Anemia

The worst of the nausea appears to have past and now in my 25th week I am on to my next pregnancy challenge: anemia.  The nausea has seriously curtailed the variety of foods I can eat. Over the past two months my cravings have dwindled down to; bean burritos, tomatillo salsa, hamburgers, potatoes and spinach salads.  The beans, burgers and spinach are high in iron, and the salsa and potatoes high in Vitamin C which you need to metabolize iron.  After a time I began to wonder why my appetite was so clustered around the nutrient iron.

Additionally, I have some serious heartburn.

Per the doctor’s safe list of OTC meds I have been using TUMS, eating them like mad at the rate of one every two hours over the course of a night.  As my fatigue is increasing I begin to wonder what has changed, other than that I’m knocked up, of course.

 TUMS are made of calcium carbonate.  What does excess calcium do to you?  A bit of Googling and Voila! – calcium decreases iron absorption. 

And there was more to come.  Water, either tap or bottled, tastes off to me, like soap or rust depending on the source.  But it is summer.  I am pregnant, hot and thirsty. So I found an alternative: iced tea.  Now I don’t drink just one glass a day.  I have been guzzling around one pitcher a day.  (By the way, at this stage of the game I have perfected my tea recipe- two regular black tea bags and one orange pekoe tea bag to 4 cups of boiling water, steep for 3 minutes, pour into  container and fill to the top with cold water and ice cubes. Aahh, very nice. 🙂  )

What could be so bad about iced tea?  I don’t add sugar and I like the cold, slightly bitter thin taste. 

Another googling expedition about anemia brought up another tidbit.  Excessive coffee or tea drinking can decrease iron absorption by around 87%.  Whoops!  Am I getting any iron from those iron-rich meals I crave?

Wondering if my theory had any medical basis I spoke with the nurse midwife who looked at me and said emphatically, “I want you off of that.”         

 Hmmm. . .          Do ya’ think?. 😉

I am now controlling the heartburn with Pepcid.  I am off the TUMS for the duration, plus I can only imbibe one regular glass of tea a day.  Without those two substances my body should be able to uptake the iron from my meals and within three weeks or so I should begin feeling better.  Right now I want to sit on the couch with the fan blowing on me and stare at the TV, definitely not me. But I am beginning to feel more hopeful as my fears of three more months of debilitating fatigue appear to be unfounded.

The continual exhaustion has left me feeling quite low and unproductive.  But the upside is that for awhile at least I can eat as many hamburgers as my distended pregnant belly can hold!