I usually don't blog about knitting because I assume most of the ten or fewer people who may or may not read this would not be interested. Also, it is good to not let one part of your life take over all parts of your life. But I have finally found the perfect baby shower gift that is handmade, not too expensive, can be done in five days (if you can knit for 5-7 hours on each of the first three) and is not a hat. Erika Knight's Classic Cashmere Sweater from Simple Knits for Cherished Babies took me literally three days to knit. Today I will block it and tomorrow I will sew it up. If I had been smart and bought the ribbon for the ties in back when I bought the yarn, I would do that tomorrow too, but that will have to wait until I can make it to the fabric store.
It's a neat pattern that has you knit the sweater all as one piece. The only seams will be at the sides.
You start at the bottom front and knit up to where you cast on extra stitches from the sleeves. I used the single loop cast-on from the Knitter's Handbook, at least I think that's what the cast-on is called. It's the loosest or second loosest option, which seemed important. I don't think you want baby knits to be too restrictive, and very firm cast-ons and bind-offs lead to stiff seams.
Once you get to the neck opening, you knit each side individually. But you don't have to dump the stitches for the other side anywhere; they can just hang out on the end of one of the needles until it's their turn. To me, that makes this pattern psychologically easier and faster. You need no special equipment, just yarn and a single set of needles*. When both sides of the neck opening are complete, you knit across all stitches again, binding-off the arms when wide enough, and suddenly you're done. I found the pattern to be well written and easy to use. It has little hints at the beginning and in the text describing the pictures that have to be integrated as you see fit. For example, the hints suggest slipping a stitch at the beginning of each row of the sleeves so that when they're folded back there will be a nice little detail at the cuff, but the the pattern doesn't say, "Sl1, K to end; Sl1 P to end." It just says "continue in straight stitch until x inches long."
I used RYC Cashcotton DK for this, in colorway Fresh. It's a mix of cotton, microfiber, angora and cashmere, so it pretty much feels like the squishiest, nicest thing ever under your fingers. The pattern calls for three skeins and I bought four with the intention of making a little hat to go with it. So far I have used one and a half skeins, so I think I will make little booties too. Conventional wisdom with baby knits is that they should be machine-washable, and I typically agree with this. However, I think there's some wiggle room for newborns, as they won't be able to wear it for very long before it's too small, so a handful of hand-washings is probably not too onerous, if the knit is nice enough to warrant the trouble. And trust me: this yarn warrants any trouble you care to take. It's that amazing.
*Of course, I consider a crochet hook for weaving in ends, an embroidery needle for sewing up and scissors to be the essentially, taken-for-granted tools of every knitted item. That should go without saying.