In the spring of 2007 I received a rather odd card in the mail. It was an invitation to baby shower from my cousin. I found it odd for several reasons:
- My cousin was a lesbian, so how exactly was she impregnated? Was she adopting? WHAT’S GOING ON?!
- I did not know my cousin was in a relationship much less interested in having babies.
- The wording of the invitation seemed to imply that there were multiple babies involved, but I wasn’t sure.
- Why had I heard nothing about any of this until this cryptic card showed up?
I called my mother and found out that despite talking to her on the phone almost daily while I was attending college, she had utterly failed to keep me in the loop regarding family events (there were other things like weddings and deaths that she failed to mention too). Apparently my cousin had been in a very serious relationship for years and they had decided to start a family. Her girlfriend was artificially impregnated and viola! Triplets were due in October! One girl and two boys.
I was still a fairly new knitter, but knew the general protocol when babies were on the way was to knit something for them. Since I was a bit behind in finding out the news and three things would be required rather than the usual one, I decided to go for the quickest baby project possible – baby booties.
I will pause now while you consider the previous sentence, look at the WIP photo above, and laugh hysterically at me.
Done? Caught your breath? Good. I will continue.
Normally baby booties ARE very quick, but of course I couldn’t do something simple. That might imply I don’t care enough. For the girl I picked out a pattern for some felted Mary Jane’s from my only knitting book at the time, Donna Kooler’s Encyclopedia of Knitting. I had never felted anything before, and I figured this would be the perfect time to learn! For the boys I had some trouble finding a pattern I liked. I thought the Mary Jane’s would look a little odd on boys, but pretty much every other pattern I could find looked similarly feminine. I fretted quite a bit over the lack of “manly” bootie patterns because I was under the impression that new parents were very committed to heternormativity and enforcing gender stereotypes in babies. The fact that the parents were lesbians was apparently lost on me. Whatever, I fretted.
Unable to find anything suitable, I decided to make something up and just have all three pairs be felted. I had some garage sale yarn that looked felt-able so I worked up the patterns in those. I ran into a slight snag when I didn’t have quite enough red to finish the girl’s booties, so I improvised and added a white edge (which the red bled into when felted). I mirrored that improvisation in the boys’ made-up booties. The Mary Jane’s had an obvious method of closure – the strap and button – but for the boys I decided I could just add some large holes along the top edge and thread some ribbon through it to tie the booties on.
The knitting was finished very quickly and easily. Then came the felting. The only instructions I had for felting at the time involved throwing things in the washing machine and hoping for the best. I thought that was the only way to felt. The fact that felting pre-dated washing machines by approximately A LOT didn’t register in my brain. (Wow I sound really stupid in retrospect…heternormative lesbian babies, “quick” projects involving new techniques, civilization began with the washing machine…what was wrong with me?!)
The problem with this method was twofold:
- I was in college. The only washing machines I had access to were coin operated, and in the days when cash was going out of style and one had to make a trip to the bank to acquire a roll of coins just so you could wash your clothes, coins were more precious than diamonds.
- I am a control freak. Throwing something into a machine and hoping it turns out alright is really not my style.
I think I spent a total of $5 attempting to felt these by machine before I gave up. They just weren’t getting small enough! At least, I didn’t think they were small enough. As I confessed in a recent post, babies really aren’t my thing. I tend to avoid them as much as possible. I don’t exactly have a firm concept of how big or small babies are in my brain. I was trying to make them small enough to fit a premie because multiples are frequently early. Of course my cousin’s girlfriend ended up carrying them to term like a freaking champ, so that point ended up being moot.
Still, that’s approximately where I left them. The Mary Jane’s are pretty much done, assuming they are the right size. They just need a little re-shaping after spending years scrunched up in a bag and a button and loop attached to each bootie, then those suckers are DONE.
The boys’ booties though…the yellow ones still seem to big. The blue ones obviously require more felting – one hasn’t been felted at all. I think I did attempt to hand-felt the one blue bootie in a sink but I hated it so much I stopped half-way through. Even if I finish the felting, I question the structural integrity of those made-up booties…are they even baby-foot-shaped? Will they stay on with just a ribbon laced through the top? Is the felt too rough for baby skin? I just don’t know, and I really don’t want to spend enough time with a baby to find out.
That leads me to the next big question that I have been avoiding for the past 5 years…WHY SHOULD I CARE? The triplets have started Kindergarten now – somehow I don’t think the booties are going to fit. I have just kept these in my “to do” pile for all these years because I refused to surrender. I can’t actually frog these, they’re already felted. You can’t un-felt something. Maybe I could cut them up and make something decorative out of them? I do have another cousin expecting a baby now, so maybe the Mary Jane’s still have a future life as baby footwear. The others though…I think I may practice my hand-felting techniques a bit more on them and try to convince myself I don’t hate it. I really like how felted projects turn out, I just wish it wasn’t so labor-intensive. Then I’ll have to decide whether I should cut them up or just trash them…
I hate admitting defeat, but these booties just aren’t ever going to happen.