Tag Archives: baby

A Pile Of Sticks

A couple weekends ago, my parents delivered a pile of old sticks to our house.  This is all that remains of the apple trees that shaded the house I lived in when I was a teenager: a pile of dirty, muddy, twisty sticks.

apple wood crib posts in the process of being stripped and cut to length

Since then, we’ve been slowly transforming this mass of dead trees into something rather beautiful and yet completely ordinary: a place for a tiny baby to call hits own.

We don’t really use a crib, not as a place where our babies sleep.  Our babies share the “big bed” with me and Robert for the first couple of years.  But we need a crib anyway.

Because sometimes, when you are the youngest member of a household, everything is too big, too loud, too rough, and too generally dangerous.  Sometimes your parents want to put you down so they can go take a shower or do something dangerous or dirty.  Sometimes you have inquisitive and entirely overwhelming older siblings.

Our crib is simply a dedicated space that belongs to the baby.  It’s a spot where we will be able to place that precious tiny human with a couple of interesting objects and a minimum of supervision for a while.

We had a crib that we used with Númenor and Ithilien.  But it never really felt like it was ours.  It was some cheap, commercially-produced thing that was only attractive before the fragile finish started to rub and scratch off, and was never stable.

father and small children stripping and measuring logs for crib

This crib will be our crib.  Hand-hewn.  Cut from my parents’ apple trees.  Rustic and unexpected, but also classic and clean.

me stripping bark off one of the logs that will become our crib

A former pile of sticks.


“Mommy, is you going to snuggle us’s new baby?”

Ithilien is always insistent about having real and prompt answers to his questions, so of course I say yes.  But he has more to say:

“Babies need thems mommies to snuggle them and give them milk or they die.”

Oversimplified, but true enough for mammals.  I tell Ithilien about the wonders of lactation– breast milk is full of antibodies, and even stem cells, and babies get everything they need from it.  We talk about how fragile babies are when they are still growing inside of somebody else, how the directions for building them that they carry inside their cells can be wrong or broken or missing steps, how teeny-tiny and tenuous that new life really is.

And every time Ithilien wants to talk about it, I have to face the hard realities that expectant parents try to ignore: that miscarriage is common, that stillbirth happens, that prematurity is surmountable but damaging, that sometimes there’s no good reason for a child to die or a pregnancy to end but it happens anyway.

I try to take a moment to really feel the powerlessness and the fear during these conversations, no matter how strongly I want to deny it and how harshly I want to reject the possibility that the child I carry now could come to harm.

Because I know that it’s possible.  I have walked that road before, and as distant as its horrors may seem when I’m ankle-deep in splashed-out bathwater and contemplating walls that have been fingerpainted with tomato sauce, I will never be able to forget.

So, as I knit and sew and write and organize in preparation for this new baby, I do so with the understanding that hit might never wear these tiny clothes or be wrapped in this beautiful blanket.  I watch the clean, pure wood emerging under Robert’s knife, and I envision the crib he’s building, and then I picture packing the crib away, still unused, and being too worn out by my grief to even summon tears.

Sometimes I have to put an overwhelming amount of effort into remembering that the most likely thing that will happen is that I will give birth to a living and healthy tiny human this winter.  I reassure myself daily that pregnancy loss after this point is extremely rare, that stillbirth and perinatal death and neonatal death are all unlikely, that infant death is not commonplace in my society.  I try to believe, to truly expect.

It’s not easy to have hope when you have known utter despair.

But I am trying.  Some days it feels like I’m tricking myself into thinking we’ll have a new baby, artlessly attempting to hide the inevitability of my bereavement.  Some days it feels like part of me does expect a new baby, and the rest of me holds that naive part in simultaneous awe and contempt.  And some days, some precious days, some few precious days, I really feel myself to be an expectant mother.

Those are the good days.  Days when the baby is kicking and rolling and generally making hits presence felt, and I’m just sick enough to believe that I’m pregnant without being miserable, and Númenor and Ithilien say sweet things about their plans for being big siblings and ask to put their heads on my belly to talk to the baby.

“Hi, baby.”  That’s how Númenor starts all of these conversations, which can, depending on his mood, be quite long and wide-ranging.

“I love dyu, baby.”  That’s all Ithilien ever seems moved to say.

And that’s perfect.

Because, thankfully, babies don’t expect you to have all your shit figured out and your baggage neatly unpacked through years of psychoanalysis and personal growth.  They aren’t born demanding quarterly statements for your investment account or even the car keys, although I understand that does come up eventually.  They don’t care about whether you finished all the projects on your nesting list or why you’re moved to tears to see their tiny squinting faces.

They don’t need anything but love.

And snuggling.

And milk.

And those are things I am totally comfortable holding in expectation.

Victorian Baby Booties (FREE pattern!)

drawing of baby bootie from weldon's

These are very comfortable boots and not at all difficult to make.

— Weldon’s Practical Knitter, 13th Series (1886)

I have a dear friend who is having her first baby and adores antique baby styles.  I’m kind of esoteric myself, and gladly mix together whatever works best (with the least fuss and the most clever solution) from whatever period, and therefore when she specifically said that she wanted traditional drawstring baby booties, I was at a loss.

I don’t particularly like baby booties.  I like socks.  The booties I do like are totally seamless, modern affairs.  I had NOTHING saved in my Ravelry library or my Pinterest that would suit the request.  So, I pulled up my irreverently digital copies of Weldon’s and began my quest for the Holy Grail: drawstring booties, not too fussy, with pattern directions that aren’t completely broken, and preferably an illustration so I can see what I’m getting myself into.

As a devoted follower of Franklin Habit, I was steeling myself for the worst possible offenses of vague pattern writing: would there be ANY mention of yarn weight or needle size?  How inscrutable would the instructions be?  Would I have to hold a séance to contact a long-dead knitting designer with my questions?

Finally I found something that looked promising (“Infant’s Boots.  Dotty Pattern.”), picked an appropriate yarn that wouldn’t completely self-destruct if I had to frog and re-knit a few times, and dove in.

I eliminated the selvages and knit in the round (because doing the prescribed 3-needle BO across the sole and seaming up the back wouldn’t yield a “very comfortable” foot covering to my mind) and was merrily on my way through the ribbing.  But the so-called dotty pattern!  Oh, no!  First I tried it as written, without regard for the conversion to working in the round, but that makes a strange combination of eyelets and slip-stitches.  Then I tried the conversion for working in the round, but that simply yielded a kind of corrugation or welting, not dots or bumps.  I enlarged the illustration in Weldon’s as far as I could and tried desperately to match the pattern to ANYTHING in my book of knitting stitches, and while that was unsuccessful, I did find a swatch of the same line directions, although it’s under a different name and the picture doesn’t look “dotty” but rather striped.  In fact, it looked very familiar– because it was the second thing I’d tried.

So please note that I consider “dotty” to be a misnomer in this pattern, except perhaps in that the original designer had to be dotty to think that coral knot stitch looks anything like dots.  The textured section looks more like a fancy welted pattern than a dot pattern, at least to me.  I think these booties would be awesome with the pattern section switched out for something that IS knobbly, like double moss stitch or trinity stitch, but that’s a trial for another day.

I’ve also updated the decreases from all k2tog to symmetrical k2tog and ssk pairs and made notation clearer throughout.  The end result is a pretty cute, fairly streamlined bootie that *could* pass for a more modern baby’s sock if you omit the drawstring.

To the pattern!


close-up of doll's feet in hand-knitted victorian baby booties


Weldon’s doesn’t get any more specific than “infant”.  The original pattern suggests “Andalusian wool”, which would be approximately modern sport weight, and No. 16 steel needles, which would be roughly modern US 1 or 1.5.  I tried a sport weight yarn on US 1.5 needles to start, since I tend to be a tight knitter, but the resulting booties were HUGE (based on the sole measurement, suitable for the average 2 year old!), so I made some alterations to the size and also yarn and needle recommendations.

My prototypes are knitted with Knit Picks Palette on US 1 carbon fiber DPNs.  These are VERY elastic, and therefore the size isn’t well-defined.   The cuff section has a circumference of about 3″ unstretched, and the leg stretches to about 7″ circumference.  The foot is about 4″ long.  I would estimate that these booties are probably a newborn size.  The doll modeling the booties in the photos wears a size 0-3 months usually, so these are a bit tight on it but still work fine.

You could easily make them a little bigger (toddler size) by using a sport weight yarn and US 1.5 needles, or a little smaller (preemie/doll size) by using lace weight yarn and US 0 needles.


about 75 yards of fingering weight yarn

US 1 (2.25mm)DPNs

About 24″ of 1/8″-wide ribbon or cord for ties (optional)

Stitch key:

pick up yarn and purl/knit one— pick up yarn from between stitches using the L needle and purl/knit into this new loop with the R needle

M1— make one, using the backward-loop method

doll wearing victorian baby booties knit from this free pattern


For the leg: 

Cast on 44 stitches and join in the round.

Rounds 1-12: *k2, p2* to end of round

Coral Knot Stitch:

R13: *k2tog* around (22sts)

R14: *pick up yarn and purl 1, P1,* to end of round (44 sts)

R15: knit

R16: knit

R17-44:  Repeat the above 4 pattern rows (R13-R16) a further 6 times.

R45: *k2tog* around (22 sts)

R46: *pick up yarn and purl 1, P1* to end of round (44 sts)

R47: K28, turn work (16 sts will remain unworked on the L needle)

R48: P12, turn work (these 12 center sts form the instep)

Rearrange stitches as necessary.  On DPNs, I had three needles holding 16sts, 12sts, and then 16sts again.

For the instep:

R1: M1, *k2tog* across (7 sts)

R2: *K1, pick up yarn and knit 1* to last 2 sts on instep needle, K2 (12sts)

R3: Knit

R4: Purl

R5-R23: Repeat the above 4 pattern rows (R1-R4) a further 3 times, and then work R1 through R3 again.

R24: Knit

R25: K2, ssk, K4, k2tog, K2 (10 sts)

R26-R28: knit three rows

R29: K2, ssk, K2, k2tog, K2 (8 sts)

Repeat rows 26-28, then break yarn.

For the foot and sole:

Pick up 10 stitches along R side of instep (7 sts along coral knot section and 3 sts along garter stitch section) and knit across instep sts.  With a new needle, pick up another 10 stitches along L side of instep, and knit the 16 sts from the L needle to return to the original beginning of round.  You will have 60 sts in total.

R1: Purl

R2: Knit

R3: Purl

R4:  K25, M1, K2, M1, K6, M1, K2, M1, K25 (64 sts)

R5-R8: Continue in garter stitch

R9: K28, ssk, K4, k2tog, K28 (62 sts)

R10: Purl

R11: K28, ssk, K2, k2tog, K28 (60 sts)

R12: Purl

R13: K28, ssk, k2tog, K28 (58 sts)

R14: Purl

R15: K2, k2tog, K21, ssk, ssk, k2tog, k2tog, K21, ssk, K2 (52 sts)

R16: Purl

R17: K2, k2tog, K18, ssk, ssk, k2tog, k2tog, K18, ssk, K2 (46 sts)

R18: Purl

Use a Kitchener graft to close up the sole of the bootie (23 sts on each of two needles).  Repeat all instructions to make the second bootie.


Weave in ends.

(Optional) Cut a short length of ribbon or make a short cord (about 12″ in length– mine are about 10.5″ and a bit fiddly for bow-making) for  the drawstring tie on each bootie.  Thread the tie through the eyelets in the last repeat of the coral knot stitch pattern on the leg of the bootie and fasten with a bow over the instep.

Slip some sweet baby feet into the finished booties and enjoy your 19th-century cuteness!

doll wearing handmade knit victorian baby booties

WIP Wednesday

knitting on baby blanket WIPstart date: 25 May 2015
time elapsed: 1 month, 6 days
completeness: 50%

Once upon a time, I received a big skein of yarn as a gift.  It was cotton and the colors reminded me of fruit stripe gum.  I wanted to use it, but wasn’t sure how.

Then I discovered the super-sized-doily-as-blanket phenomenon.  I quickly knitted up the offending yarn into a Hemlock Ring baby blanket, and I LOVED it.  A round baby blanket!  Could there be anything more perfect?

I was an instant convert.  With a round blanket, using it as a decorative throw after your baby outgrows it is effortless.  A round blanket makes a superior nursing shawl, the perfect ground cover, and a more convenient sunshade.  To wrap a tiny newbie, fold the blanket in half and swaddle as usual.  To cover an older baby, use in a single layer and NEVER worry about baby’s feet sticking out of the bottom or baby’s hands getting entangled.

So when i was looking for a gorgeous, timeless, lacy baby blanket pattern, I was drawn inexorably toward round shawls and oversized doilies.  I finally settled on Leaves of Grass by Jared Flood.

center of blanket I'm knitting showing flowery motif from the first lace chart

This is my first pi construction project.  In pi construction, rather than trying to knit a circle by making constant small increases at greater and greater distance from each other, you knit a long flat-topped tube: sections are worked totally straight with no increases or decreases, and between sections you work an increase row that doubles the number of stitches.  The magic happens when you block it– what was a long tube blooms into a perfectly flat circle thanks to the elasticity of the lace.  But I haven’t gotten to that part yet.

me still knitting along with Númenor's legs in the background

In fact, my progress has been achingly slow, due in part to the heat (when it’s 101 F outside, it’s NOT a great time to have a big pile of wool in your lap), but also to some minor difficulties in the pattern.  I’m about halfway through the third lace chart now (of five total), and completely in love with what’s taking shape on my needles, but happy to go slow and make a row or two of headway here and there.

showing the middle chart of the blanket with lacy zigzag or branching pattern

This project has been my companion on road trips and park benches since the weather turned summery.  I’ve knit on it in the car as we cruised down the coast, and while waiting for a movie to start at the drive-in, and on the back deck in the afternoon shade.

And when blanket-knitting weather comes again in the fall, I will be happy to sit in my favorite spot in our library and finish this up.  Not only will I be glad of a lap full of wool then, but I will also have the memories of sun on my skin and warm breezes and long summer evenings and days at the beach in every stitch.

And probably some sand and some dust, too.

Númenor holding the yarn cone I'm knitting from with my lap (and the WIP in it) in the background

The yarn is Jagger Spun 4/8 Waxed Lambswool in Umber— technically a weaving yarn,  but a very economical (not to mention beautiful, durable, and soft) choice for knitting and crochet.  Some people find that it works up at DK weight, but I am pretty satisfied with calling it worsted.

My fingernails were painted last week with Piggy Paint in Midnight Pansy (purple) and Ice Cream Dream (sparkly teal).  I highly recommend this brand; it is truly odorless, but it’s also long-lasting and bright.  Their marketing patter and some of their shade names make it pretty clear that they believe painted nails are gendered, so I can’t give them full points, but they make a great product.