Garden Party Flax Light

Fingering weight superwash merino wool with nylon is a reliable base across yarn dyers. It’s a workhorse that you can reach for with confidence regardless of whether or not you’ve heard of a brand before because fingering weight superwash merino with nylon is predictable. Each skein will have more or less the same amount of stretch and bloom when you block it. Each skein will handle textured stitches in more or less the same way and each skein will provide you with a thin but warm garment. What I’m really saying here, is that buying a skein of fingering weight merino yarn is one of the safest things you can do.

Honestly, I think my local yarn store only had the one color of Mitchell’s Creations when my husband and I went in to buy yarn a few weeks ago (actually I don’t think I need to correct how I said that, he enjoys choosing colors!). As I poured over the self striping sock yarn, the Garden Party skeins called to him. It was the first skein he picked up and proudly brought over, know that he was contributing to our hunt for gender neutral baby sweater yarn.

I got back and forth with how easy it is to find gender neutral colors as I think our industry is slightly slanted to those with more feminine tastes. So while I wasn’t reaching for pinks and blues (or whites… I’ve never understood why so many people knit white for babies), I was at least looking for vibrant greens and oranges. When he presented his skein of Garden Party, my initial reaction was “are those really baby colors?”. Me, the same woman who knit a hot pink and black baby sweater for her punk friend. Before he even replied with his “I mean I’d like to receive this so my child could wear it” I realized that my own color biases had set in. Adding the skein to the red one I was carrying, I realized that he was right for the same reason I made the right choice to knit a hot pink and black sweater: the baby doesn’t care.

It’s the same reason so many families probably hold first birthday parties for their little ones who won’t remember who was their or what their cake tasted like. It’s a moment for the parent where they get to see everyone surround the little one that they’ve managed to raise for a whole year. Or in the case of this little sweater, a moment where the parent realizes that you’ve paid attention to who they are as people and want them to know they deserve to be warm.

While I want to say that this is my last flax light for a little bit, it’s such a quick little sweater to crank out and has so many modification options that I can really only say it’s my last one for the immediate future. I have a lace shawl that needs to be finished and a cardigan that needs to be started. I’m calling this one Garden Party Flax Light after the yarn’s color way, the “only” pattern modifications is the addition of Justin’s Flannel texturing (I really need to knit myself one of those so that I don’t steal my husband’s all winter!). Despite the colors being more muted than what I typically reach for, I think this little sweater came out really cute!

A handknit multicolored baby sweater with a waffle texture.

Knitting outside the lines aka Flax Light Modifications

If you’ve read any of my previous posts you’re already aware that I have a tendency to modify whatever I’m working on. Sometimes the modification is small, like in my second Stonewall sweater, where I removed the waist shaping, or my Wish and Hope baby cardigan where I gave up on the lace panels. Other times I remake the original object and it still looks like the original object, like my Azalea top. And sometimes you look at something that I’ve made and think “I mean the basic shape is the same but I’m not really sure you captured the original pattern”, like my Warp Speed sweater. The point I’m trying to make here is that sometimes I set out with the intention to modify and other times it just happens as the project progresses. Which sort of leads to the question: am I creative or just coloring outside the lines?

Sometimes, I think I’m creative (re: Winter Moss Hat). Most of the time, I think I take pieces of things that I like and put them together. This would lean the answer to the above question heavily to the side of coloring outside the lines. While not trying to discredit myself, I genuinely don’t think that I have the vision that a lot of my favorite designers have. I feel a strong appreciation for what they do and they inspire me, but that ah-ha moment that I imagine happens when they sit down to knit doesn’t happen for me. When I design, I design something that I want but can’t find elsewhere.

Enter Flax Light and my current pandemic knitting habits of the baby sweater. There seriously could not be a better free pattern out there for knitting outside the lines. I’ve added three more Flax Lights to my project page and tried out some new yarn with each.

A teal baby sweater with a waffle texture throughout.
Jo Flannel Flax Light, Knit by iswimlikeafish

Justin’s Flannel Flax Light, knit with Boss Sock by Junkyarns in Jo is perfect. I love the way that the colors and texture look like the ocean. Alicia Plummer is currently working on a children’s version for her flannel series, so I do feel a little bad that I’ve done the modifications required to knit a baby sweater, but I also can’t help but loving the final result. Boss sock was nice to work with as well, soft and silky as it slipped through my fingers. Not a lot of blooming during blocking, but that doesn’t really surprise me because of the general springiness of the yarn.

Jo Flannel Flax Light, literally named for each component because this is my 8th flax light (according to Ravelry), knit up in five days and the only thing I changed about the pattern was adding the texture to it. This version, and all of the other versions I have knit, does not take advantage of the short row options that have been added. This version is one that I can see myself knitting again, partially because I’m obsessed with the textured stitching of Plummer’s Flannel series and partially because it was so much fun to knit.

A lime green knit baby sweater with purl rows every fourth row to create a textured stripe.
Kryptonite Flax Light, Knit by iswimlikeafish

The next flax light I started was knit using Birch Dyeworks 80/20 Sock in the color Kryptonite. When I chose the colorway for this sweater, my goal was for something fun and gender neutral. AKA something that wasn’t pastel or gray. If the color alone didn’t get me excited, the name of the colorway (Kryptonite) did. Is it wrong to love the idea that a baby is wearing a sweater in a colorway named after Superman’s one weakness? How can you not appreciate the idea that the bundle of joy being wrapped up in this sweater brings the strongest of the strong to their knees?

If I compare Birch Dyeworks 80/20 Sock to Junkyarn’s Boss Sock, and am honest, there isn’t a huge difference in the way that they knit up. This comparison is particularly interesting because I haven’t knit the same project with slightly different yarn back to back like this before. Even considering the amount of time I spend knitting socks in graduate school, I tended to bias my purchases towards a particular brand of sock yarn (*cough cough* Alegria). This observation either means I’m not enough of a yarn snob to notice the difference (entirely possible!) or that the fibers are similar enough that purchase comes down to color (slightly more likely). Both yarns should hold up well during machine washing and I anticipate just a little bit of shrinking.

A light blue, dark blue and grey stripped baby sweater with orange cuffs.
Sunfish Flax Light, Knit by iswimlikeafish

In terms of sweater modification, I purled a row every 4th row to give the sweater a textured stripe. Honestly, not as interesting a knit as my Jo Flannel Flax Light — I hit the first sleeve and started wondering why the project wasn’t done yet. The second sleeve involved a lot of “you’re almost done!”, which ultimately implies that I felt the sleeves should have knit up faster.

Flax light number three (or number 10 according to Ravelry) is the least gender neutral if you’re focusing strictly on the idea that blue is for boys. Knit in Woolens and Nosh Targhee Sock, the body of the sweater is blue and gray stripes with the ribbing boasting a bright orange color. When I think of a sock yarn, Targhee sock is what I think of. This yarn feels durable and soft, which probably means that the final result will be a stiffer (less drapey) sweater. Though still superwash, Targhee Sock feels more like a wool than the merino yarns above (I’m not sure why that’s a thing for me these days, Merino is wool too!). Please don’t make me pick a yarn that I enjoyed the most, I can see myself buying all three again!

The only modification I made in this sweater was to eliminate the sleeve garter stitch panels. The stripping felt like enough of a design element on this tiny sweater.

Three folded baby sweaters, the top left is a lime green knit baby sweater with purl rows every fourth row to create a textured stripe. The bottom left is a teal baby sweater with a waffle texture throughout. The final sweater is folded to the right and in the middle of the previous to, it is a light blue, dark blue and grey stripped baby sweater with orange cuffs.