On Hope and the Hope Chest

I love knitting patterns for children. Why knit an adult-sized sweater that might take me months when I could whip out a miniature version in the better part of a week? When I want to work delicate lace or attempt color-work, I also tend to look to patterns for wee ones as it means I can practice a new technique on a smaller scale. Unfortunately, I (and really just about everyone else I know) am not in the child-bearing phase of life. It seemed silly to knit baby garments when there were clearly no babies to have them. Then I stumbled upon the antiquated, yet completely appropriate idea, of the “hope chest”. Generations ago, no decent woman dared leave her parents’ home for that of her husband’s without a proper trousseau and hope chest filled with clothing, linen, and other little luxuries necessary to make your way in the world as wife and mother.

Now that we’ve got Babies ‘R Us, Baby Gap, and baby showers to rival most weddings, the idea of the “hope chest” has fallen by the wayside. Why knit or sew for yourself what someone else could buy for you? Hand-knitting and machine sewing are also woefully under-utilized skills in this post-modern society where we clothe ourselves in garments of synthetic fabrics from factories across the ocean. Nothing warms my heart more than seeing a child clad in warm woolens created by the hands of a family member.

"Louise Cardigan" from Vintage Baby Knits by Kristen Rengren

Adding pieces to my own personal “hope chest” resonates with the mama deep inside of me that isn’t really ready to be a mama yet, but would like to be one someday. I’ve known other women who rush to complete all manner of fiber and fabric projects the minute they find out that they’re pregnant, but, in reality, there just simply isn’t enough time in 9 months to knit and sew let alone all the other things one needs to do on a daily basis to ready a home for a wee one. A feminist though I may be, I don’t view this process as gendered “women’s work”, but a way for me to more deeply connect with a product because I can control how it is made and what it is made with. I take pride in the skill I have so diligently developed over the years and the ways in which these skills connect me to the inspirational women and mothers who have come before me. The organization-obsessed, super-planner in me loves setting aside tiny projects for “someday”. A little silver cardigan here, several pairs of socks there, a crib blanket, a christening gown….all suffused with hope for the future.


Pattern: Louise Cardigan from Vintage Baby Knits (Ravelry link)

Size: 3-6 mos

Yarn: Madelinetosh Merino Light in “Silver Fox” from Loop Yarn in Philadelphia

Needles: US #3 circulars and straights


Just waiting for the finishing touches – seaming the sleeves and turning the picot neckline!


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