What knittable baby gifts are most appreciated?
October 11, 2011 3:34 PM   Subscribe

My close friend is pregnant (yay!) and I'm a knitter, so I'd like to make her a whole mess 'o' baby stuff. But I also want it to be useful. I don't know anyone else with a baby, so tell me, Internet, what knittable items/garments do new parents really end up using for their infants?

A small sample of the items I've considered making: stuffed animals, bibs, baby blankets, hats, booties, onesies, sweaters, soakers, sleep sacks, leg warmers. Do any of these fall into the category of "sure, it's cute, but I never took the tags off"? Are there any knittable baby items that you think are super useful, or that new parents can't get enough of? Additionally, any tips on which items are useful in what sizes (e.g. don't bother with infant sized sweaters)?
posted by telegraph to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (44 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
we like blankets and hats.
posted by Gankmore at 3:35 PM on October 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Earlier this week, my 17-year-old daughter took one of her baby blankets to keep her lap warm in the car on the way to school. It's four feet square and yellow (because we didn't find out sex before she was born) and she's never stopped using it for something - first we used it to wrap her up, then she used it for baby dolls and dress up, and been draped over a chair or the end of her bed for as long as I can remember.

So: big yellow blanket!
posted by Sweetie Darling at 3:40 PM on October 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I got a lot of this when my daughter was born. And I was grateful for the sentiment. And all of it stayed in the boxes they came in for years. The problem with hand-knit stuff for infants is that they get their little fingers caught in the holes. And, frankly a lot of it is tacky and/scratchy.

If you're going to make something, first, choose a tight knit. Second, choose a very, very, soft, preferably organic, material - no acrylic, please! Third, choose a pleasing, quiet color - like sage green or soft gray. Lastly, choose a pattern with closed edges or with some concern for unraveling. Hats are good. Silly or whimsical hats are good, because babies are boring as hell for the first six months, so it's fun to entertain yourself, as a new parent, through their clothes.

And please, enjoy the experience of knitting the item, but don't get your feelings hurt if it doesn't become the baby's wooobie, or if it's not on them every time you see them.
posted by pomegranate at 3:47 PM on October 11, 2011 [15 favorites]

Best answer: Hats. OMG, hats. Particularly newborn-sized hats. Commercial baby hats are terrible and fall off at the slightest provocation; hand-knitted hats are adorable and warm and stay on. Baby will not wear it for long, but it will be treasured forever.

Booties are good IFF they are easy to get on and tie or button easily. I like the sockies pattern from "Socks Socks Socks," which has a garter stitch sole that is picked up around, then you knit several knit/purl welts (4 rounds of each?) and then do a short-row toe and finish with a ribbing tube and a grafted bindoff.

Alas, the single most useful handcrafted thing I've ever gotten or given for a baby isn't knitted, but sewn: go down to the fabric store and get two pieces of quilter's flannel, 1.25 yards each. Square these up against each other, trimming the selvedges. Place the right sides together, sew all along the outside edge (leaving a gap to turn), turn it right side out, press, and topstitch. Now you have a warm, soft, washable, absorbent, 40" square baby blanket that can be used as a changing pad or a picnic blanket or a nursing cover or . . . well, my 5 year old is sick, and she's cuddled in front of the TV under one right now. They are the best blankets, and there's nothing like them commercially available.
posted by KathrynT at 3:50 PM on October 11, 2011 [13 favorites]

Best answer: After using practical but non-pretty and non-fun cloth diapers for my first three kids, I knitted myself a bunch of colorful and pretty cotton burpcloths for my youngest. They may not have been quite as absorbent as the diapers, but they did work well enough for me and they were so bright and cheerful that it made me happy to throw one over my shoulder. I used them regularly.

I also made and enjoyed this hat (without the embroidered flowers on the sides) for her last winter.
posted by Dojie at 3:51 PM on October 11, 2011

Best answer: I made a sleep sack for my little one and used it once to take some adorable pictures in. I also made her a sweater (that she also rarely wore).

That said, these are my 2 new favorite goto baby items to make for friends:

Teeny Booties.
Owl hat.

I make them both out of malabrigo for squishy super soft softness. Plus, they are both SUPER fast so if your friend never uses them you aren't out much time or effort.
posted by lilnublet at 3:54 PM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Here are some generic thoughts:

Superwash/machine washable only. For everything. But that doesn't mean acrylic! Superwash wools and wool/cotton blends have come a long way. It should be very, very soft.

Tight gauges. Garter stitch is always a winner. No loosely- or airily-knit pieces with holes big enough to poke fingers through.

Likewise, try to minimize lace or even many eyelets, especially on pieces that the baby handles (blankets etc).

No fussy buttons or other potentially detachable pieces.

Give some thought to how this is going to be put on a wriggling tiny person. Openable at one shoulder, etc.

Blankets are always good, and useful. Likewise other useful things—washcloths, burp cloths, soakers if they're into cloth diapering, stuff like that. Make it clear they're meant to be used, and weave in your ends/sew your seams tight/etc to make sure they'll stay together.

Toys are also awesome, as long as they don't have little detachable parts.
posted by peachfuzz at 3:54 PM on October 11, 2011

We got a ton of hand knitted things for my kid. We used none of the blankets. We got an adorable bunting thing that he was never the right size for when it was cold (he was born in July). The two handknit things we used the most were: a handknit penguin (super duper cute, still gets played with) and at his birth a friend gave us identical hanknit noridc pattern sweaters in 6 month, 18 month, and 2T sizes. He wore one a year for each of his first three Christmases.

I would have used leg warmers had he not been a summer baby. By the time it was cold enough he was crawling.
posted by anastasiav at 3:58 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

If they're cloth diapering, nothing beats wool "soakers." otherwise, hats yes; booties not so much (depends on the season). Blankets should be big and thin, the better for swaddling. Bibs get really nasty and need to be machine washable, so not the best. Leg warmers are a great idea. Infants grow so quickly that anything sized (like sweaters) has a short shelf life. The one thing I really wanted to knit when mine were babies but I never had 2 free hands for was a set of stuffed balls. Mouthable "first toys" are surprisingly hard to find.
posted by libraryhead at 3:59 PM on October 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

My mom has knitted a stream of soft hats for my kid since he was born (8 years ago). They're awesome and sort of disposable -- so it doesn't matter if they get lost.

The real treasure we got was an absolutely beautiful blanket that's made from some gorgeous, high-quality, soft, I-don't-know-what. It does need to be dry cleaned, but it's LOVELY and my son still cuddles up with it even though he's so big.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:04 PM on October 11, 2011

Nthing burp cloths. In addition to being practical, they're meant to get blarfed on, so the new parents won't be as afraid to ruin your work. The cheapo Sugar 'n' Cream yarn you use to make them holds up really well in the laundry, too.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:10 PM on October 11, 2011

Whatever else you do, make sure the yarn is machine washable.

Hand washing baby clothes just isn't going to happen in the early months.

My street cred is that I am a knitter and a mother to currently young children.
posted by zizzle at 4:12 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hats for sure, especially some with (soft) ear flaps and long knitted strings to knot under a chubby chin!
posted by nkknkk at 4:28 PM on October 11, 2011

make sure it's soft

make sure it's washable - like, machine washable, no hand-wash

a series of hats would be cute - a wee one for the infant, slightly bigger for the bigger infant, all the way up to the 3-4-5 yr range... I know my kids would've used those, anyway, because we live in Michigan :)

my son got a couple of hand-made knit stuffed animals, which he LOVED and still plays with - so long as the eyes/nose/mouth are embroidered (no buttons), that'd be good

Oh, and yeah - a friend made me a couple of soft knit bibs that were kind of oversized and covered baby's tummy. They were wonderful. Bel wore one every day during the spit-up phase.
posted by hms71 at 4:31 PM on October 11, 2011

Best answer: I have been trying to get pregnant for five years (I am now!) and for all of those years I have been lusting after this hat. And a baby sized this hat.
posted by arcticwoman at 4:33 PM on October 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

I crocheted a hat for one of my kids that extended into a bit of a shawl so it could keep the neck warm too, but did not have to be pulled on like a balaclava. It kept his head and shoulders warm for a couple of winters. Blankets were also great.
posted by mareli at 4:43 PM on October 11, 2011

Best answer: *raises hand* Knitter here, aunt to two kids and share a birthday with my best friend's five-year-old.

* The blanket I made my friend's daughter was a hit. It started out as just decor -- my friend thought it was a little too "fancy" to be used when her baby was an infant and there was a high drool/burp/poo quotient -- but by the time her daughter was one, it became her blankie. (It was a simple pattern, too -- the Big Bad Baby Blanket from the first Stitch-n-bitch book.)

* My niece and nephew each got a simple cardigan in cotton yarn when they were just born. Nothing too cutesy or frilly -- I figured they'd get a squillion of those from other family and friends -- I focused on more funky and "everyday." I even used dishcloth cotton for my niece's cardigan. I also made a few hats.

* In general, a bunch of good basic things could be a good way to go -- because else is going to be getting them the single precious outfit or the single heirloom whatsit that the baby's only going to use for special occasions. From a practical perspective, the bibs and burp cloths will get a hell of a lot more use, and you can whip those up pretty easy in really easy-care dishcloth cotton. A couple of basic-but-cute different sweaters would also work too.

* The online store Knitpicks has a fantastic yarn to use for kids' stuff -- Crayon, which is all-cotton (so it's machine washable), comes in some very vibrant colors, and is WONDERFULLY soft and squidgy. My nephew's cardigan was in this stuff and I kept squeezing it and giggling because it was just so tactilely delightful.

* Consider making something for a slightly older size baby. Babies grow REALLY fast, so even if you make the six-month size, they may be able to wear it at four months. Also they'll be getting a lot of itsy-bitsy newborn size things because they're so eeny-weenie and adorable, but not so many people think about how that baby is going to be six months old before long, and thus bigger.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:49 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ridiculous baby hats: turkey hat. Viking Hat.

I'd make sweaters in sizes larger than newborn (nothing smaller than 6-12 months).
posted by mogget at 4:56 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have been given one beautiful crocheted (I'm sure there's a knitted equivalent) soft shawl per baby by the Domestic Goddess branch of the family, and I use them every day. I could use a dozen.

I have winter babies, so ymmv for a summertime infant, but of course the smart thing to do is to knit to the size baby will be when Winter rolls around!

Hooded cardigans. Saves finding a hat on your way out of the house, and you can't really buy anything as soft and warm in a store. A 'vintage' pattern gets a lot of smiles and remarks from older ladies. More please! With long sleeves for tucking baby's chilly fingers away in.

I couldn't get enough of these singlets (PDF) - they are so good for adding just one layer of warmth - but not too warm.

If you make a Fun Hat there's more chance that it becomes THE hat that baby wears always, over all the 'I had half a ball of this wool left' hats. But there's no predicting patterns of baby-hat use - it's just one of the Mysteries of life - so don't be too hurt if you never see yours in use.

I have NEVER managed to keep booties on babies for more than three seconds - but maybe a new mum would like some knitted slippers for her?
posted by Catch at 5:14 PM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I disagree with the tight knit advice re blankets above - my toddler daughter's favorite thing is a crocheted blanket from a great-aunt, made of soft thin yarn, which I let her have even as newborn because I knew that even if she wrapped it around her face (which she did, constantly) she couldn't suffocate.

Please just make sure it's super super soft. And no over-the-head sweaters; they do not get used on infants. Booties, depends on the climate. Hats, good.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:17 PM on October 11, 2011

Baby legwarmers are great! Especially for colder climates, no need to completely strip the baby when changing diapers and they give protection when crawling.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:35 PM on October 11, 2011

I liked anything machine washable, and if that means a blend with acrylic, then it's a blend with acrylic. I liked blankets, hats, and maybe one or two little sacque type sweaters (like a kimono with very wide sleeves that ties in the front.)
posted by Ideefixe at 5:55 PM on October 11, 2011

I actually really love hand-knitted things and have found the things I've received super-useful.

I have a ton of hand-knitted stuff from my grandmother, and out of everything I LOVE most the button-up cardigan sweaters, and the split-neck over-the-head sweaters. The thing I love most about her knitting is that it streeeeetches super-far, which makes the over-the-head sweaters very easy to get on and off. I swear my older girl has worn her buttoned cardigans 3 winters in a row, and she is super-tall. They just keep stretching to fit, as I let down the rolled sleeves; it's great.

My Nana knits in acrylic, and I like it because it can't be destroyed by the low-level moth problem in our house that I can't do anything too drastic about because, hey, toddlers. But I also love the organic cotton blanket that a family friend knitted for my son. (I mention the super-stretchiness of my grandmother's knitting because other things I've received haven't had that quality, and it's really been a huge part of their usefulness, for little ones, because they grow so quickly.)

So you'll find lots of opinions, I guess.
posted by palliser at 6:01 PM on October 11, 2011

Ridiculous hats (in soft, non-scratchy yarns) are good. If they cloth diaper, wool pants are the greatest.

Other than that, I would make toys. I made various felted toys for our kid that were given the seal of baby approval.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 6:02 PM on October 11, 2011

How about some knitted bottle cozys (if they choose to do the bottle thing)? That would be pretty cute seeing a baby keeping their bottle all nice and warm.
posted by Sweetmag at 6:45 PM on October 11, 2011

We have had a few very long wool or cotton dresses with shoulder straps that our daughter has been able to wear for a long time - initially as a full-length dress and then later as a shorter skirt paired with jeans or over another dress. Those are good layering items. The lack of sleeves is what has made them decent items to grow into.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:48 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wool pants whether cloth diapering or not. They're comfy, warm, breathable and absorbant so that diaper leaks aren't as bad. Make sure it's a soft wool though! Merino wool is good for babies.
posted by sunshinesky at 7:05 PM on October 11, 2011

Best answer: When is the baby due? My son was born in early March and sweaters we received were all the wrong sizes and comically too large for a newborn and then when they *did* fit, it was too warm for him to wear them. Newborn sweaters would have only fit for about six weeks, so handmade sweaters might not have been worth the knitter's time.

What was worth its weight in gold was a pair of hand knit booties from my aunt as they were the only booties that STAYED ON. Every other store bought bootie fell right off, which was a problem as babies have craptastic circulation and even on the warmer days his toes would become little toesicles without some kind of sock/bootie. I don't know what pattern she used as other people have given me booties that are mockable in that they fall off within minutes, but man it was useful.

Blankets are always good. You can never, ever have too many blankets.

Oh yeah, and hats. The hat we had coming home from the hospital was hand-knit (by who, I have no idea, but someone apparently knit hats for newborns and donated them to the hospital) and stayed on so much better than the commercial hats.
posted by sonika at 8:01 PM on October 11, 2011

Already heaps of good advice here but we have found the cardigans/jackets knitted for our baby to be super-useful in cool weather. Even the ones that are too small we can still use as little 'bolero' jackets to keep arms warm when she's in her sleeping bag. They can be worn over a long-sleeve shirt if the baby is sensitive to wool.

Definitely machine-washable, tight knit, easy-operate buttons and versatile colours -- it can be surprisingly hard to find clothes that aren't just pink for girls or blue/gray/brown for boys.

Personally though I didn't use wool blankets so much.
posted by 8k at 8:09 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I bought an extraordinarily ridiculous amount of cotton yarn in a varigated colorway at a ridiculously low price several years ago. Pretty much every person I know who has had a kid in the past three years has gotten a 6-9 month size pullover sweater out of this yarn. No buttons or anything fiddly, and it's machine washable. I think all but one recipient parent has at some point noted this became the emergency "OMG, it got cold suddenly, what am I gonna dress this kid in" kind of thing. They wear them and the younger siblings wear them too.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 9:14 PM on October 11, 2011

I love machine-washable baby cardigans. Mostly 6-months-and-up sizes, but time for winter weather.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:43 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I say nay to booties. We never used any of the ones we got; as everyone else has said, they just don't stay on. Baby socks are a better option. Maybe with a tight ribbing so they stretch but stay? Hats are nice, but if she knows other knitters, baby will end up with more hats than can be worn...

I'm a knitter and am working on some baby legwarmers right now. If it's going to be a summer baby, just use a light cotton. They double as knee protectors!

Also, there's nothing lovelier than a hand-knit teddy bear in a nice tweed.
posted by kitcat at 10:12 PM on October 11, 2011

Seconding sunshinesky! I love the few wool pieces that I have for our baby, but wool baby clothes are hard to find and are crazy expensive, so I don't have a lot for her. Whatever clothing you could make in wool would be, I think, appreciated.
posted by TEA at 10:22 PM on October 11, 2011

I used cloth diapers and what I loved best was diaper wraps/apnts that were made from wool. They wicked away moisture.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:13 PM on October 11, 2011

posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:14 PM on October 11, 2011

Best answer: Oh, yeah, seconding "silly hats" -- because your window for making the kid handknit things is small enough as it is, and the window for making them profoundly silly things and actually having them get worn is even smaller. Before long the kid is going to figure out how to pull a hat of his/her head and the parents are going to be more worried about just getting the thing to stay on than they are about "Bwaaaah! It's a hat that looks like an alien!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:48 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

A blanket that is a good size for using to blanket baby in a stroller.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:48 AM on October 12, 2011

Best answer: I knit a mobile for my sister (and unborn niece) using the beautiful Flock pattern in Knitty. My sister absolutely loved it, it was fun to knit, and it makes a really nice keepsake for the baby as it grows up. I've knit some clothing items for her as well, but you never know if they'll be the right size in the right season, etc., plus they grow out of them so fast!

Blankets are a pretty good idea, too, though some people will use them and some won't. I'm planning on knitting a nice soft blanket using some bamboo yarn for my soon-to-be-born nephew. Even if my sister doesn't use it with him when he's a newborn, he can have it as a cuddly thing as he gets a bit older.
posted by sabotagerabbit at 12:35 PM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've never actually seen a knit one of these, but how about a sleep sack? I bet it would be really easy to make, and they are pretty expensive to buy. (Little babies officially aren't supposed to have blankets because they can suffocate -- sleep sacks are basically a wearable blanket, with arm holes.)
posted by chickenmagazine at 1:12 PM on October 12, 2011

I'm currently knitting for two babies (and have had four of my own), and I am making blankets for both, and a selection of wee hats, and booties that claim to be unkickoffable, and ones that look like strawberries! I'm pestering the husband for another baby myself so I can make it strawberry booties (and the awesome leek version I thought of the other day...I don't know why leeks are so hilarious).

I like smaller blankets, it's hard sometimes to find a small blanket that will fit over a small baby crib, or in a pram, often cot sized blankets are just a bit unwieldy. Foot things that are constructed to really hang on are ok, but tying them on really makes a difference and I never really cared about them until I had my last baby here where it is cold in winter. So climate counts!

Washable wool for cold climate babies, cotton or cotton/wool blend for warmers ones, and little hats are always useful in whatever fibre suits, and I like unbaby colours, like red or navy blue, because sometimes you get sick of endless pastels.

Totally cute strawberry booties.
posted by thylacinthine at 3:17 PM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

My sister made me a baby blanket for each of my babies. Okay, technically she *crocheted* rather than knit, but whatever. These blankets were each about 20 inches by 24 inches, the perfect size to tuck over a baby in the carseat, the swing, the bouncy seat, and so forth, without being too big and bulky. I used them on nearly a daily basis. Loved them.
posted by ambrosia at 8:32 PM on October 12, 2011

Machine washable is key for anything except diaper covers (soakers, longies). If you knit these for cloth diapering friends (highly recommended!) make sure you use wool and make sure it's not superwash.
posted by katy song at 1:55 AM on October 13, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for all of these amazing answers! It looks like there is a lot of variation in what gets used or not, so I'll just make a variety of stuff and follow your tips about softness, machine washability, and tight knitting.

That Flock mobile is ADORABLE.
posted by telegraph at 4:22 PM on October 15, 2011

I'm not a knitter, but does "tight" mean that it won't be stretchy? I really like the stretchiness of my grandmother's knits -- she uses two strands of yarn together, and it's like an accordion -- you can't see any gaps, and I've never had a problem with baby fingers or toes getting caught in the knit, but then it stretches mightily.

I also had another thought: one thing I've always had a hard time finding is elastic-waist baby pants with feet -- something between tights (which I hate putting on babies because they make me uncomfortable) and pants. Like loose tights, I guess, without lycra. I would have loved a pair and used them all the time.
posted by palliser at 9:05 AM on October 16, 2011

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