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Whit's Knits: Little Baby Sweater

My son Bear is a rowdy, mysterious, extremely silly two and a half years old. I love his toddlerhood, its questions and observations, its vicissitudes and surprises, but there's one thing I really do miss about his infancy. Those amazingly tiny little clothes! With their itty bitty sleeves and miniature proportions, they seem to me now like they were made for enchanted elves instead of babies! This irresistible cuteness makes baby gear almost everyone's favorite thing to knit, me included.

And so to satisfy this hankering, I designed this charming Little Baby Sweater. It's a simple knit, inspired by the no-nonsense engineering of knitting great, Elizabeth Zimmermann. Its inset sleeves pay homage to her genius Tomten Jacket, and its easy, low maintenance finishing would maybe please the guru herself! If you love Elizabeth Zimmermann's style but have always felt a little intimidated by her approach, this is a very friendly place to start!

I was happy to have a great excuse to try out our newest yarn from Anzula, Sebastian, because it includes sea cell, a fiber I had never heard of.  It turns out that sea cell is a seaweed and cellulose blend with the rigor and breathability of a plant fiber, the feather lightness of wool, and the soft shine of bamboo. It also turns out that sea cell plus superwash merino makes Sebastian the perfect choice for a baby!


The Materials

  • 2 skeins of Anzula's Sebastian, 70% Superwash Merino and 30% Sea Cell. These colors are Au Natural and Charcoal. (For a solid color sweater, you'll only need one skein!)
  • A US # 3, 20 or 24 inch circular needle.
  • 4 buttons, size 19. (I used the color "Grey".)

The Pattern


7 stitches = 1 inch in garter stitch

Finished Size

Newborn - 6 Months

Chest Circumference - 18 1/4 inches

Length from Bottom Hem to Top Shoulder - 9 1/2 inches

Length from bottom Hem to Underarm - 5 1/2 inches

Pattern Note

For a lot less work at the end, instead of cutting the yarn when you finish a stripe, carry it loosely up the side.

The Body

With Main Color (MC), cast on 124 stitches.

Knit 5 rows.

*With Contrast Color (CC), knit 2 rows.

With MC, knit 6 rows.

Repeat from * seven more times. (Piece measures 5 inches from bottom hem.)

With CC, knit 2 rows.

With MC, knit 5 rows.

Separate for Underarms

Still with MC (wrong side facing), k15, bind off 31, k31, bind off 31, k14 to end.

(15 stitches for Left Front, 32 stitches for Back, 15 stitches for Right Front)

Right Front

Now working just the 15 stitches of the Right Front and starting where you left off...

*With CC, knit 2 rows.

With MC, knit 6 rows.

Repeat from * two more times. Bind off.


Now working just the 32 stitches of the Back...

With right side facing, join CC.

*With CC, knit 2 rows.

With MC, knit 6 rows.

Repeat from * five more times. Bind off.

Left Front

Now working just the 15 stitches of the Left Front...

With right side facing, join CC.

*With CC, knit 2 rows.

With MC, knit 6 rows.

Repeat from * two more times. Bind off, but leave the last stitch on the needle. Cut the CC.

Left Button Band

Rotate the work and pick up 50 stitches along the button band edge. (51 stitches total)


Knit 2 rows.

Next Row: K11, *yo, k2tog, k10, repeat from * two more times, yo, k2tog, k2.

Knit 2 rows and bind off.


Knit 5 rows and bind off.

Right Button Band

With right side facing and with MC, start at bottom corner of Right Front and pick up 51 stitches along the button band edge to the top corner.


Knit 5 rows and bind off.


Knit 2 rows.

Next Row: K3, *yo, k2tog, k10, repeat from * three more times.

Knit 2 rows and bind off.

Right Sleeve

(When you begin picking up stitches for the Right Sleeve leave a 12 inch tail to use later for sewing.)

With right side facing and MC, start at the bottom right corner of the Back...

...and pick up 24 stitches.

Use a Cable Cast On to cast on 12 stitches.

Making sure the cast on stitches aren't twisted and with the right side facing you, pick up 12 stitches down the Right Front. (48 stitches total)

**Now working back and forth in rows, start by turning the work so the wrong side is facing you.

Knit 5 rows.

*With CC, knit 2 rows.

With MC, knit 6 rows.

Repeat from * three more times and bind off, leaving an 18 inch tail.

Left Sleeve

(Again, when you begin picking up stitches for the Left Sleeve leave a 12 inch tail to use later for sewing.)

With right side facing and MC, start at the bottom corner of the Left Front...

...and pick up 12 stitches.

Use a Cable Cast On to cast on 12 stitches.

Making sure the cast on stitches aren't twisted and with the right side facing you, pick up 24 stitches down the left Back. (48 stitches total)

Repeat from ** of Right Sleeve.

Sewing the Sleeves


*Thread the Sleeve's bind off tail onto a tapestry needle and, starting at the bound off edge, sew together four ridges of the Sleeve (one MC stripe and one CC stripe).

Fold the underarm in half and insert the needle just under the bound off edge at the half way point.**

Sewing across the back, connect the back of the Sleeve to the Body. Remove the needle from the yarn.

Now threading the needle onto the first tail you left, sew together the front of the Sleeve and the Body.


Repeat from * to ** of the Left Sleeve.

Then, sewing across the front, connect the front of the Sleeve to the Body. Remove the needle from the yarn.

Now threading the needle onto the first tail you left, sew together the back of the Sleeve and the Body.


Sew four buttons onto the button band across from the buttonholes.

Weave in all your ends (click here for our tutorial telling you how!).

Gently block your Little Sweater, and then make a baby nice and cozy!

Reader Comments (49)

Love this little baby sweater. Thanks for the tutorial
August 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercristina
While I've shied away from baby patterns, I'm beginning to rethink that whole idea. They're easy, quick and take little yarn - a great way to feel like you're accomplishing something when you're stuck on a larger project.
August 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMB@YarnUiPhoneAppv1.6
ist das ein niedlicher kleiner babypullover!
such a lovely little sweater, thank you for sharing!
greetings from bavaria,
August 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranne
How I wish this pattern had directions for toddler sizes as well (hint, hint!)
August 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjennifer
I have recently been introduced to the amazing world of tiny knits and have been knitting up a storm! Inspiration is everywhere and your knits are so lovely and your instructions are some of the most clearly written i have ever come across.
Love this and just bought the yarn from my fave LYS ..Of course,it's Purl. Can't wait to start on this one!!
Thanks so much,Whitney.
August 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBambi Marksohn
Hi Whitney, I love this sweater, it's super lovely, so thank you for the pattern and making it free.

I have a few questions though, as I can't find out the sex of the baby before it's born. Is the picture above a boy or girl version? How are they different? Thanks very much.

August 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLucy
Hi Lucy,

I made the boy version, but the only difference is that the buttons are on the the right for boys and on left for girls. If you don't know the sex, you could either just guess (50/50 chance of getting it right!) or you could do like Elizabeth Zimmermann does and make buttonholes on both sides, then sew up the holes on one side when you find out!

Thanks for your question and good luck!
August 9, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I have a sweet 2 week old granddaughter that I want to make this for. I just need to know the actual yardage needed for the one color version so I can see if it is possible to use something in my stash. I am itching to get started. Thanks Whitney.
August 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJane
Hi Jane,

I used about 300 yards of the Sebastian. I based this calculation on the weight of the sweater and the leftovers, but it can be a little tricky when you use a different fiber since cotton is heavier, wool lighter, etc. If you want to be on the really safe side give yourself a little leeway!

August 9, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I come here through pinterest! Beautiful sweater, excellent explanation! Thanks for sharing!
August 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLudmi
To everyone asking about other sizes:

Thank you so much for your interest in this pattern! Unfortunately at the moment we simply don't have time to size up this pattern for adults. We will consider it for sometime in the future, however we can't promise a time frame! Our suggestion is that you check out Elizabeth Zimmerman's Tomten Jacket which has a very similar look and method of construction, it can be found in her book The Opinionated Knitter if you'd like to give it a try. Here's a link:

Thanks again for your interest!

- The Purl Bee
August 10, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Any chance you could post a picture of this sweater on a model? I'm having a hard time imagining those short sleeves on a baby!!? Thanks
August 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkaren
Hi Karen-

Unfortunately we don't have a little baby around to photograph this on right now but it just fits like any short sleeved top, like a T-shirt. It can be worn on it's own or layered over a long sleeve top.

Hope this helps. Thanks for your question!

- Molly
August 11, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Can you tell me roughly how much yarn you used for the CC/ MC? I'm guessing the ratio must be in the region of 1:3 ... yes? All help welcome.
August 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary
Great sweater! I'd love to make one for my 3-month-old niece, but I worry that she'll outgrow it in a day. Do you think that the pattern will scale up just by using a bigger needle? would you suggest going with a slightly thicker yarn, then? I'd love to use my stash for it rather than buying something new. If anyone has attempted this sweater with different yarn or needle size, please share your results!
August 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjrr
Hi Mary,

I ended up using 68 grams of the main color (white) and 21 grams of the contrast color (gray). So, yes, it is in the region of 1:3, plus a little more of the MC for the button band!

Thanks for your question!
August 17, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I really love this sweater - thanks so much for the pattern! I am knitting it for a co-worker's baby, but she is not finding out the sex. In cases like this, do you prefer to place the button band/ buttons as for a boy or a girl?
August 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn
HI Carolyn-

If you don't know the sex, you could either just guess (50/50 chance of getting it right!) or you could do like Elizabeth Zimmermann does and make buttonholes on both sides, then sew up the holes on one side when you find out!

Thanks for your question and good luck!
August 22, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
love the sweater your tutorial was wonderful..and agree it's hard once they grow, I am always looking for a baby to sew for
August 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjuliann
Hi, I am just making the sweater now and wondering whether or not you carried the contrasting color yarn thread with the main color, or if you cut every time you switched colors making the stripes. I cut and have so many ends now, and it doesn't look like you did!
February 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenny
Hi Jenny,

I did carry both yarns up the sides. I'm sorry I didn't specify in the pattern - I should have! I'm going to add it to the pattern right now for future Little Baby Sweater knitters...

Thanks for pointing out the omission, and I'm sure your sweater will be beautiful, just a little more work!

February 20, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Thanks, Whitney! It's a labor of love as I've really enjoyed the pattern. And of course I can't wait to put it on my little girl this summer when she is born! Cheers!
February 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenny
love love love this, but would you consider possibly sizing it up for the little kid set? because i think this shape and style would be GRAND for my 4 year old. short sleeve sweaters are the bomb for keeping cores warm and sleeves clean!

fingers crossed....
February 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermolly
A friend's daughter has just had a little girl and I am seeing this pattern modified into a very cute summer onesy
February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlison
I second Jennifer's hint that toddler sizes for this sweater would be greatly appreciated!
February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTherese
I like this and so many of your other patterns. I have one general comment, though: couldn't you format them for printing so they took less paper? This one used 18 sheets.
February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhyllis
Hi Phyllis-

We recommend that when printing our patters you copy the text into a Text or Word document and print from that. We realize that this isn't ideal at all and it's something we're working on.

Thanks for writing in!

February 24, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I usually copy to a word document, either shrink or edit out the pictures and re-size and space the text. I have always managed to get everything down to six pages or less. Using this layout format, they are so easy to read and also have room for margin notes. An added bonus is that while doing this process, I really get to analyse the pattern and have it all figured out before I start to knit.
February 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlison
To get a 18 months size, I simply used sport weight yarn (debbie bliss baby cashmerino), 3.5mm needles, and i followed your pattern.
I hope it helps
February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMadameOscar
Really hope someone can offer me some advice!

I came into Purl last week while visiting NY and bought this yarn to make this jumper. My friends were being rather impatient so I didn't get the yarn wound - big mistake! It all fell apart in my bag and stupidly I started knitting on the plane thinking it would be fairly easy to fix but what I now have is 6 rows of knitting and 130 yards of tangled mess!

Any advice on how to sort it out? I've never bought yarn not in a ball before - in the UK you pretty much only get balls - so I didn't realise how much of a nightmare it would be! Can't wait to get on with it though - saw the original jumper in the shop and it's adorable!
July 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
Hi Rachel.
Oh so many of us have been where you are! The first thing I would do is cut the yarn from the project. You will have to rejoin later, but it will be a lot easier to untangle the skein if it isn't attached to your needles.

Then, I would wind the skein into a ball. There will be some untangling as you go and it'll take some patience, but it'll come undone. There are lots of methods of winding balls, here is a link to a center-pull ball video (

With the new, untangled skeins. After you take the tags off you can drape the skein over your knees or the back of a chair or a friend's hands while you make your ball. This will help keep the tangles at bay. Hope this helps. Sorry for the mess, so frustrating when all you want to do is knit!!! -Laura
July 6, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Thanks Laura - I bit the bullet yesterday and sat down to unravel it. It took me about 7 hours but it's now all in one piece and a very nice ball! I thought it would be much worse than it was, to be honest!

However, I now have another problem - beginning to think I might be jinxed. Despite counting and recounting when I cast on, I've just realised I've only cast on 122 stitches, not 124. I'm guessing the missing 2 stitches won't make a huge difference in terms of finished size, but without going further I can't figure out which bits of the pattern would need to be modified - I'm guessing I need to either take one stitch off each front, or two out of the back... Or should I start over?

So frustrated - I was just thinking how nice it was looking!
July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
Hi Rachel,

No problem at all! Just change the "Separate from Underarms" section to this:

Still with MC (wrong side facing), k14, bind off 31, k31, bind off 31, k13 to end.

(14 stitches for Left Front, 32 stitches for Back, 14 stitches for Right Front).

That's it! I'm so glad you're finally on your way!

July 11, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Thanks Whitney - I'm about halfway through the first section now as I was finishing the chevron baby blanket first!

Just wondering if anyone has any tips for picking up stitches - if you're not picking up every stitch, do you just pick them up evenly across the section? I'm guessing that's right, but wanted to check!

Also, just checked the yarn band and it says this is handwash only - has anyone tried machine washing at a low temp? I thought "superwash" meant machine washable but it's not something that's usually written on yarn in the UK!

Thanks everyone - I'm loving these projects, and already deciding what I'm going to do next - I'm having surgery in a few weeks so will need something to occupy my brain and hands!
July 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
I'm so baffled - again. In fairness, this is more complex than the stiff I usually knot (still quite new) but I feel like an idiot.

I'm at the point where I've separated into 3, but I must have gone wrong somewhere. It says the bind off row before this stage (where you're left with 3 sections) should be wrong side facing. But...

Assuming row 1 is the right Side, based on my calculations, the bind off row is row 77 so that would be the right side too. Just realised as I'm knitting the back that I've had to start on the wrong side when it says I should be restarting the back on the right side, and the front I've just done is the left instead of the right.

I'm so confused - what have I done wrong and why am I do confused?! I've had a long day of teaching today and my brain has stopped working normally! I'd like to know where I've gone wrong and whether I can fix it!
July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
HI Rachel,

It sounds like you went a little awry, but if you can manage to keep the striping on the right side and the distance between stripes consistent, then you're in very good shape! Otherwise, you may need to back up and start the back with the right side facing you. We all make these kinds of mistakes, especially at the end of the day!

July 23, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I was so excited when I saw this pattern, so cute. Then I discovered it was for a baby. How about this pattern for adults, I love it.
November 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFillus
This is too sweet! But what about an adult version of this? I'd love to knit one for myself!
November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMariana
I ditto Fillus and Mariana, I'd love to make this for myself...I wear a size 6-8 adult...thanks. :-)
November 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercheryl frankfurth
November 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
Thanks for the beautiful pattern! Have hit a bump in the road. I knitted 3 sets of (MC/CC) on the right and the left side of 15 st across... I am at the section where I need to pick up stitches for the right sleeve and all of a sudden I am told to pick up 24 st and the picture shows the right side being twice as tall as the left... (6 sets of cc/MC). Help!! Did I miss something? I read the pattern over about 20 times and can't find where I should have knitted more on the right front.
February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNicole Skibola
Hi Nicole,

Don't worry, you did it right! The picture I think you're talking about is showing the Back of the sweater, not the Right Front. The Back is twice as long as the Fronts (from the point where they separate), and the Back is where you begin to pick up for the Right Sleeve.

I hope this makes sense! Please let me know if it doesn't and we'll work it out!

Thanks so much for your question and good luck!

February 11, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hello, I seem to have a similar problem as Rachel, above. It does seem, from the pattern that by the time you separate for the underarms, you should have 77 rows. I am using one color, so I'm not concerned with striping, but at 43 rows, my piece is already measuring 5". :/
I am using the same yarn and the recommended needles and I don't think my knitting is abnormally loose, but I am quite a novice knitter, so it's likely I am not fully understanding the pattern. The fact that Rachel arrived at the same row count gives me some hope, but that she was also on the wrong path leaves me scratching my head. Should I keep going until I reach 77 rows or stop when I reach 5" + 7rows? (In my case, 50 total)
February 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterValerie
Hi Valerie,

Yes, there are a total of 77 rows (including the cast on) before you separate for the underarms, but the most important thing is the measurement. So, if your piece is measuring 5 inches at 43 rows,then I think you should knit 7 more rows and move on to the underarms. Just make sure when you're measuring that you're not stretching the knitting at all, that it's just in a relaxed position.

Having said all that, I am concerned about your gauge. If your row gauge is off, then your stitch gauge probably is too. Have you checked that you're getting 7 stitches to the inch? I'm worried you might end up witth a short, wide sweater.

Please let me know if you have any more questions and good luck!

February 18, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
Love this pattern!
Love the style - like a Little hipster :)

But why on Earth does it matter if it is a boy or girl that will wear it, regarding which side you put the button holes on? Jeez. Why make differnt directions, when whichever version is fine?

Sorry for jumping down your throats, it just irks me that we find the need to differentiate so early and so unnecessarily. Totally gonna make the sweater though, choosing a version that is fine for all Babies.
April 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermaria
Hi Maria,

Since this sweater was so inspired by Elizabeth Zimmermann, I made the button band distinction in homage to her. She always made a point to differentiate between the traditional boy side and girl side. Old fashioned, definitely, but meant in good spirit!

Thanks for your comment!
April 17, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I've made three of these for the babies in my life. I wanted a larger size--more like 6-12 months--and a slightly heavier knit, so I used the original directions with sport yarn. I reduced the number of stitches a bit so it would be a little leaner and adjusted the back, front and underarm sections proportionally. It's a great sweater in medium gray and bright yellow contrast. Regarding the boy-girl question, if it matters to you or the baby's parents, knit the sweater and leave the front bands for last, then knit them after you know the baby's gender. There is nothing you have to do differently, as the bands connect only to the front panels, not to anything else.
September 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterhjwh
I love this Little Baby Sweater and knit this for my granddaughter. She's now almost two and my DIL requested I remake this in a size 3T. I used a bamboo sock yarn and she loved the fabric it created. Can you suggest how I can make this larger without using a heavier yarn? I would consider using DK weight if that helps, just nothing heavier than that.
September 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeadness
Hi Beadness,

I'm sorry to say that we just don't have the resources here at the Purl Bee to resize anything but the most basic patterns. As you suggest, using bigger yarn would be the easiest way to get a bigger sweater. Other than that, I can simply recommend that you cast one the number of stitches that will give you the chest circumference you want in the gauge you're knitting at, and alter the pattern proportionately from there.

I'm so happy to hear that you (and your granddaughter) enjoyed the first version. Good luck with the second!

October 4, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee

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