Baby Bear Sweater
I've been eyeing the Lamb's Ear Cardigan kit by Appalachian Baby Design for at least two years, but the kit is a bit pricey and my friends have been having babies in groups (we welcomed six newborns in the first two weeks of March!), so how could I make one baby this adorable sweaters and not the others? Finally, a close family member is pregnant AND there are no other babies on the immediate horizon, so I knew right away that this would be perfect. I modified the sweater to knit the body bottom up in one piece so I didn't have to join it later. I also made a series of other modifications like rounding the ears, which are noted below along with notes about things I found a bit unclear in the pattern.
I made the smallest size sweater with a garter stitch border. Here are my modifications and notes:
Body of the Sweater -
Cast on 110 stitches, which is four less than in the original pattern to eliminate the seams. I chose the garter stitch edge for the sweater and started by knitting 4 rows of garter stitch.
Then I accounted for the position of the button holes along the button band before starting to knit the body of the sweater. There are five buttons in the package and you are instructed to make a button hole every 2 inches in addition to the edges. The first button is positioned after the bottom edge. I placed the top button right near where the neck shaping starts. On the smallest sweater, the button band is 8.5 inches long. This works out closely on the smallest size sweater, but I had to make an adjustment to slightly less than 2 inches between the buttons. I don't know how this will work out on bigger sized sweaters. Either way, you may want to map out where the buttons should go before you start knitting so that they end up evenly spaced along the length of the band with the right amount of room at the top and bottom.
Then knit in stockinette with the garter stitch border on both ends of each row to account for the button band until the piece is 6.75 inches. For me this was 46 rows (42 if you aren't counting the border). Make sure you incorporate the button holes as explained in the pattern.
When you reach 6.75 inches, separate the sweater to allow for the sleeves. I recommend knitting the front panel with the button holes on the band first so that you can keep track of the number of rows needed to make the buttons even along the band. I'm a huge fan of counting and knitting the rows so all corresponding parts of the sweater have the same number of rows and decreases are on the corresponding rows on both sides of the front panels. You can sort out any appearance of size differences when you block the sweater.
To separate for the arm holes, knit the first 29 stitches. Place the next 52 stitches on a stitch holder without knitting them. Put the final 29 stitches on a second stitch holder without knitting them.
Continue working on the original 29 stitches, including the garter stitch border, until the entire section reaches 8.5 inches for the pattern AND all button holes are completed. Next, start the decreases for the neck shaping and continue until the piece is 11 inches long. When this is completed and is the right length, bind off. Break the yarn.
Next, place the stitches from the middle section on your needles and knit in stockinet until there are the same number of rows as the completed front panel. Bind off. Then place the stitches from the remaining front panel on your needle and continue to knit, including the garter stitch border. Complete the neck shaping and bind off.
Hood - I knit the hood as described on the pattern without any modifications. I attached it to the body of the sweater using mattress stitch. A description of how I added the ears is below. I attached the ears BEFORE I sewed the hood on to the body.
Ears - I went down one needle size to knit the ears, opted for round bear style ears and skipped the part of the pattern that says to leave a 12 inch tail because, even if you use one to sew up the seam, the other will be on the wrong side to start sewing a seam. Here's the knitting pattern for the round bear-style ear:
Cast on 20 stitches with the long tail cast on method. Knit in stockinette for 8 rows.
Row 9: SSK, knit until there are 2 stitches remaining, knit 2 together.
Row 10: Purl.
Continue decreasing by repeating rows 9 and 10 until there are 14 stitches on the needles.
Next row: Knit two together all the way across.
Next row: Purl one, Purl 2 together, Purl 1, Purl 2 together, Purl 1.
Next row: SSK, K, K2tog.
Next Row: Bind off. Weave in ends.
To attach the ears to the hood: I put the ears inside at the top of the seam when you fold the front and back parts of the hood together and joined with a whip stitch to make a seam. The photo above shows the back side of the ears.
Sleeves - I knit the sleeves as directed in the pattern. My only notes are: 1) I started picking up stitches in the middle of the armpit. Place a stitch marker at the end of the row in the armpit. You can keep the stitch marker in place at the end of the row by adjusting the stitches on the double pointed needles so that the end of the row is in the middle of a needle (pictured below). 2) The pattern is knit in the round, so purl, knit, purl the last three rows to get the garter stitch edge instead of knitting every row as it says in the pattern.
I was nervous about machine washing and drying the sweater, but it actually looked much better after. The yarn is organic cotton, which shrunk slightly, but still looked great.
The kit included 4 balls of yarn, but this sweater only used 2. I really enjoyed knitting with the yarn and will use the extra balls to knit something else. If you want to buy less yarn, it is available on the Appalachian Baby website - yarn and buttons (Edit Oct. 2017: The buttons are no longer available on their website).
I am really happy with how the sweater turned out and I can't wait to see it on the baby!