When I was pregnant, I admit I may have gone a little overboard with the baby knits. Friends started to be concerned that I was headed towards knitting a full body baby cozy. I knitted hats, socks, sweaters, blankets, booties, and most of all, leg warmers. This last one raised a few eyebrows – “leg warmers? Why not knit something you’ll actually use?” Well I tell you, friends, the one item I knitted that gets the most use (aside, perhaps, from a little bear hat) is all those little pairs of leg warmers. They work fantastically with babywearing – no need to unwrap baby just to change the warmth factor of an outfit. They don’t need to come off for (erm, most) diaper changes. And best of all, they are a nearly mindless shape (rectangles! and tubes… which are just curled up rectangles!) and they are an excellent canvas for trying out new stitch patterns. Here is one of many variants I came up with, which stretch and scrunch wonderfully at any gauge.
I’ll tell you a secret: these are essentially just a rectangle of stockinette with a margin of garter stitch on either side, with the cast on edge and bind off edge joined to each other. For maximum scrunchability, you should use a provisional cast-on and finish with a graft, but if these techniques are intimidating to you, feel free to use a conventional cast on and bind off instead, and just whipstitch the finished edges together.
SIDEWAYS KNIT BABY LEGWARMERS
Size: 0-6[6-12] months
Finished Measurements: 6.5 inches circumference (or custom size, if desired), 7 inches long
Materials: less than 50g of yarn and whatever size needles produce a stockinette you like. As a default, try using the needle size recommended on the ball band of your yarn. Go up in size if you want an airier fabric, and down in size if you want a denser fabric. The pair pictured was knitted in Knit Picks Swish Worsted (in Dove Heather) on size 7 (4.5mm) needles.
Gauge: your choice, but you must knit a swatch and measure it, as described here: knitta.net/stockinette-swatch.
Numbers: calculate and write down each of these numbers, and label them with the letter indicated. When you come to a bold red letter in the pattern, substitute your recorded number for the letter.
A – Take your stitches per inch, and round up to the nearest whole number. For example: if your stitches per inch value is 5.25, round up to six 1.
B – Multiply your stitches per inch times 5, and then round up to the nearest whole number. For example: if your stitches per inch value is 5.25, and you are making leg warmers for a 6-12 month old, you would multiply by 6 to get 31.5, and then round up to 32.
C – Measure the thigh circumference of your target recipient (in inches), and multiply the result by 0.9. Alternatively, if your cold legged babe is not in close proximity (or born yet), use 6.5″[8″] for a 0-6[6-12] month old, and skip the multiplying. For example: if your baby’s thighs are 7 inches around, multiply 7 by 0.9 to get 6.3.
Graftable Cast-On: see instructions at knitta.net/graftable-cast-on
Garter graft: *Pass through first stitch on front needle as if to knit, and drop stitch from needle. Pass through next stitch on front needle as if to purl, and pull through. Repeat for back needle, bringing yarn down between needles. Repeat from *
Kitchener stitch: *Pass through first stitch on front needle as if to knit, and drop stitch from needle. Pass through next stitch on front needle as if to purl, and pull through. Pass through first stitch on back needle as if to purl, and drop stitch from needle. Pass through first stitch on back needle as if to knit, and pull through. Repeat from *
Using Graftable Cast-On or other provisional cast on (any provisional cast on will do 2 ), CO A sts, pm, CO B more sts, pm, and then CO A more sts again. Continuing the example from above, you would cast on 44 sts total (6 plus 32 plus 6.)
Row 1 [RS]: knit
Row 2 [WS]: k A sts, purl to last A sts, k to end
Repeat Rows 1&2 until work measures C inches from cast on edge, ending with a WS row. Cut your yarn, leaving a tail at least four times as long as the width of the piece, thread the tail through a yarn needle, load provisional stitches onto a spare needle, and prepare to graft.
To finish, choose your own adventure:
– For a totally Good-Enough finish, graft your live stitches to your provisional stitches using kitchener stitch, weave in your ends, slap those puppies on some baby legs, and call it a day
– For an Ain’t-Nobody-Got-Time-For-That finish that will make scrupulous folks think you are a magician, read on:
For maximum graft invisibility, you need to graft your edges together using garter graft for the ribbing sections and kitchener stitch for the middle, switching between the two at just the right moment. If you are unfamiliar with garter graft, you may want to review the tutorial here: knitta.net/garter-graft.
To set up: pass needle through first stitch on back needle purlwise, do not drop stitch, and pull through.
For the first garter section, repeat instructions for garter graft (A-1) times, i.e. until only one stitch remains before the first marker.
For the stockinette section, repeat instructions for kitchener stitch B times, i.e. until only one stitch remains before the next marker.
For the last garter section, repeat instructions for garter graft (A-1) times, i.e. until two stitches remain on each needle.
To finish, pass through first stitch on front needle as if to knit, and drop. Pass through next stitch on front needle as if to purl, and drop. Pull through. Repeat for back needle. Sew in ends and finish off.
1 Even though 5 is closer, I would use 6. The reason I instruct you to round up in this pattern is related to a basic principle of physics which states that leg warmers are better too long than too short.
2 If you decide to use Judy’s Magic Cast On (to which I am quite partial), start with the “purl” side of the cast on facing you, and start with a Row 2 instead of a Row 1.