When I was younger, I never felt the ticking of a biological clock warning me that time was running out for reproduction. Somehow I managed to have children nevertheless. I had one child at age 27 (planned) and another at age 42 (unplanned) and each one provided a different and exciting foray into motherhood. However, neither provided an opportunity to knit cute little baby things. I was working full time when pregnant with each child; and as they grew I continued to work. I sewed lots of clothes, nightgowns, doll clothes and Beanie Baby outfits, but I never had the time to knit.
Now that I am a woman of "a certain age" and have time to knit, my grandmother biological clock is ticking loudly; it's screaming "I want grandchildren, NOW!!" Maybe it is that I want little ones for whom I can knit cute little Dale of Norway sweaters, dresses, hats, mittens-- you name it, I want to make it--preferably for little girls. I want to knit frills and flowers. Alas, neither my husband's older daughter nor mine want children. Therefore, I have "adopted" two little boys as my "surrogate grandchildren." (I couldn't find any little girls; besides, we like the parents and we weren't about to dictate the gender of their children!) Thomas and Sean are 4.5 and 2.3 years old, energetic, noisy and adventuresome. Not frilly. Not pink. After having girls, I am astounded at the energy packed into these two little male bodies! These guys need clothing that will stand up to tough wear and that can go directly into the washer and dryer after rolling in the mud.
What to do?? The Wonderful Wallaby to the rescue!!! (Despite the comments that follow, the Wonderful Wallaby is a fantastic pattern, quick to knit, ingenious, etc. Make one, or two!)
No fuss knitting, no fuss wear and no fuss care. These are knitted hooded sweatshirts, with kangaroo pouch pockets and no-drawstring hoods. Pattern by Carol Anderson, from 1984, but not out of print. Carol Anderson channels Elizabeth Zimmerman--both overlapped with their knitting in Wisconsin and I believe Carol attended the early knitting camps. Carol started "Cottage Creations" for her no fuss creative patterns, illustrated by her artist-daughter. She now lives in Iowa and has numerous grandchildren. Unfortunately, she doesn't have a website. But, you can find her patterns here. If you haven't tried one of her no-nonsense, clever, knit-all-in-one-piece patterns, try one.
The Wallaby has only two small seams--the underarm stitches. I'm not going to show you the arm pits of the blue sweater. That was my first Wallaby, and I must admit that my fudging in the pits will not stand the scrutiny of blogdom. But, by the time I got to the arm pits of the second, green sweater, I was ready for prime time--or so I thought.
Here's the sweater when it comes off the needles, needing only grafting of the underarm stitches to the matching number of body stitches. Easy, right? I've done lots of sock toes. I can do this, no sweat. Hmmmmmm, Knitting Rule #10: Beware the technique that seems easy!"
Here's the raw pit:
Here's the full sweater just off the needles. Minimal finishing required. Should take just 5 minutes tops!
See the gap between the last live stitch on the underarm, and the first stitch on the body?? Note: stitches are held on fuschia sock yarn. That is not blood and arteries showing.
Well, I thought, this is a minimal finishing sweater. The directions say only to graft the stitches, and you're done!! I told myself that gap will disappear in the grafting!!! Lies, all lies. I know these boys play hard, but I don't think they need ventilation holes in the underarms of their sweaters. Somehow I had to close the gaps.
I can't really explain what I did. I tugged and pulled at the adjacent stitches, hoping to reduce the size of the holes. Didn't work. So I did a version of duplicate stitch and creation of new stitches to work the gaps together. I think it turned out well. At least, I'm counting on the Thomas and Sean not to examine the arm pits closely. I'm pretty sure their first response on opening the presents will not be, "Oh, cool sweaters. Let's check out the finishing details!" Rather, I think they will say, "Sweaters??!! Where are the toys?? !!" I'm thinking of getting some little matchbox cars to put in the pockets. Little cute knitted bears won't cut it with these guys.
Lucy Neatby to the Rescue!
A few days after finishing these sweaters, I watched a Lucy Neatby DVD about socks. She demonstrates how to eliminate the little holes created when picking up stitches for the heel gusset. I can't quite imitate Lucy's succinct description of the technique--basically she sews a little circle around the hole, on the reverse side, then pulls the circle taught. She makes a duplicate stitch over the tightened hole on the right side and, ahoy matey, the hole is ship shape and all is well! I'll remember this on my next Wallaby!
I think my next wallaby will be fitted in the body and made out of a merino/angora yarn I've had in my stash for a while. And, it will be for me!!