So I checked around the web, Googling various terms that seemed likely. Most of the results I found were for sales sites that have what is commonly called baby yarns in their inventory. That's fine, but not what I wanted. On Yahoo Answers, someone asked "Is Baby Yarn Really Necessary?" and received some interesting answers, not all of which I particularly agree with. However, most of the answers were fairly common-sense issues that are in the main repeated below.
I did find an excellent discussion in one of Knitty's featured articles, Babes in the Wools: Practical Tips on Knitting for Babies by Melissa Walters. Winter issue 03. She describes for the knitting non-parent what to think about when choosing yarns and accessories for a baby project, which happen to coincide with what I've been doing. Her main points of consideration that I find important include:
- Washability - Babies can be messy (top and bottom) use yarns that are easy for parents to clean. These include many man-made fibers and blends, but also include some very nice washable wools.
- I would add that the knitter also be concerned that the item is not easily felted. At some point, someone other than Mom or Dad will throw your gift into the washer and dryer.
- Safety - Consider the pattern of the garment and little fingers and toes, will they snag? You may want to avoid the laciest of patterns so that little fingers and toes don't get caught in the pattern.
- Using buttons? make sure to attach them securely. MW gives excellent advice and instructions on attaching buttons for baby items in this article. Remember, after 4 months or so, the infant will be putting things in their mouth and yanking on loose bits like buttons.
- Sizing - Babies grow fast, plan ahead and try for easy on and off.
- If you are not sure if the garment you are considering will be easy for a new parent to negotiate with a wriggly little one, seriously consider making a blanket or hat. Alternatively, you could discuss your concerns with someone who is more recently (or just more) experienced in wriggly babies.
- It's easy to pick out some cute sweater or outfit and then get bogged down in life until after the baby has out-grown the size you started. There's no good way to avoid this unless you have some way of avoiding the everyday complications of life. Or start the moment you hear there's a baby on the way and hope you've given yourself enough time.
- The baby could show up early! I have been trying to get my baby gifts done in time to give them as shower presents, but even this is not always enough. I learned how to make a baby hat in about 4 hours, which means I should be able to whip one up quickly if I have to, and then go back to the planned-on baby item. Bibs work well for this last-minute need, too.
- Color Selection
- I know you both already know this, but I'm saying it anyhow. There are more than two colors for babies. Pink and/or Blue are only options. I like to try to find out what the nursery is going to look like and coordinate with that, but sometimes I just pick out cool yarn and hope the new parents like it.
- Alternatives to Sweaters
- Knitting for a Baby Who has Parents that Knit
I would add to MWs list:
- Might the baby have allergies?
- One of the respondents (crochetwithdee) to the question on Yahoo Answer brought up the very good point that babies have very sensitive skin and may have allergies to wool. Some organizations that accept donations of handmade baby articles only accept things made in acrylic or cotton.
- You will probably want to make sure that the parents aren't allergic or have sensitivity to whatever you are knitting with, too.
- Comfort and softness for baby and parents.
- Everyone likes to feel soft, cozy things around them, right?
- Weight of garment, babies feel hot, too.
- If you are knitting a sweater for a newborn who is expected in July or August, make sure it can be worn in the cooler months or is light weight.