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06 September 2016

Un Hommage à Jean Patou (Pour le Bébé à la Mode)*

*Translation: "A Homage to Jean Patou (For the Fashionable Baby)"

Forgive my dip into la langue française, dear friends, but the project I've been working on so diligently lately -- and which has pleased me so much in its outcome -- was inspired by the work of French fashion designer Jean Patou.  But before we begin discussing fashion and all things stringy, here's the news from the farm ...

We had a brief respite from the hot weather last week.  Although the forecast predicts daytime highs exceeding 90°F (32°C) each day this week, we're also expected to have lower humidity.  Our last bout of stormy weather gave way to some beautiful evening clouds.

The photo doesn't do justice to Mother Nature.
We're also still waging battle against the European hornets, which have been busy building condominiums in the ceiling of our front porch.  I hate to do it -- they're not aggressive -- but neither the man nor I can reconcile to the thought of a ceiling full of hornets.

Portrait of a condemned man ...
Along the lane, the late summer ironweed is blooming in its splendid purple glory, and the sumac berries are bright red.  For my mother, the ripening of sumac -- which she pronounced "shoemake" -- was the first definitive harbinger of fall.

At the edge of the woods, the grasses are bending low beneath the weight of their ripe seedheads.  The air has a different smell now; the scent of ripe grass and ripe hay.  It's a wonderful smell.

In the neighborhood, it's tobacco harvest time.  I'm not a user of tobacco -- never have been -- but I do love to see it growing so tall and green, the leaves yellowing just before cutting.  Tobacco is more than a source for the addictive nicotine; it has medicinal properties, many of which are just beginning to be understood by medical science.  There's a splendid beauty in the big, leathery leaves.

Now -- since I'm restraining myself with difficulty! -- let's talk about my latest project!

I make no secret of my passion for the 1920s.  (In fact, my favorite television indulgence right now is Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, an Australian series based on the novels by Kerry Greenwood.  The sets and costumes are such a treat for the eyes!)  As women began participating more and more in activities formerly dominated by men, they found the corsets and petticoats of the early 20th century to be too confining.  A new category of design -- sportswear -- emerged as the practical-yet-pretty wardrobe choice for the modern, active woman.

At the forefront of sportswear design in the 1920s was French designer Jean Patou.  Born in 1890, Patou began designing couture in 1912; but his promising career was interrupted by the advent of World War I and his service with a French regiment.  After the war, Patou returned to fashion, and is credited as the inventor of knitted sportswear and the tennis skirt.  He also gave the world "Joy", his signature perfume that was -- and still is -- billed as "the costliest perfume on earth".  (I checked -- it's expensive, all right -- $350 for one-half ounce!!)  

Patou with models.  Photo ©2013, Vogue France.
Patou's swimsuits for women.

Patou's "shocking" sleeveless (gasp!) and short-skirted (gasp!) tennis dress, modeled by tennis champion Suzanne Langley.
I love Patou's judicious use of stripes, just enough to add an accent to an otherwise plain garment.  I've done this often myself with sweaters or ponchos.  And when I saw Knitting Pure & Simple's Baby Dress (pattern #1403) by Diane Soucy, I knew I wanted to make it with Patou-inspired stripes.  As I looked over my stash of DK weight yarn, I remembered my mother's box of Chanel No. 5 dusting powder -- a white box with plain black lettering -- and I knew the dress would be black and white.  I wanted an element of color, however, so I crocheted a clever little anemone flower using some self-striping sock yarn.  Careful placement of the yarn color gave me an accent of yellow, salmon, and coral that is quite perfect for fall.

A Patou-inspired sportswear ensemble, however, is not complete without the perfect hat -- and I found it on Patternfish.  The Poppy hat by Justine Turner is one of the easiest, loveliest, and most versatile hat patterns I've ever come across.  Its shape and details, too, echo the cloches worn by stylish ladies of the 1920s.  With the hat and the embellishing flower in the same color palette as the dress, it all blends together to create a look for baby girls that is -- dare I say it -- très, très chic!

Now for the particulars:

The dress is made from Knitting Pure & Simple pattern #1403, Baby Dress, by Diane Soucy. It's knit with Knit Picks's Swish DK yarn, which is a superwash merino (machine washable!), in White and Black.  The plain black button was purchased at JoAnn Fabrics.  The anemone embellishment was crocheted using the Flower Accent pattern by Mimi Alelis (a free pattern!) in Knit Picks's "Rainbow" Felici Sock yarn (also washable!). The black center of the flower (not included in Mimi's pattern) was crocheted using Swish DK in Black, and it couldn't be simpler: using the "magic loop" (or "circle" or "ring") technique, crochet 6 sc in the ring.  Join to the first sc with a sl st, pull the loop taut, and fasten off.    (By the way, the dress looks wide at the shoulders because I had to use a child-sized hanger, which is bigger than an infant's hanger.)

The hat is knit using Justine Turner's "Poppy" pattern, in the same yarns as the dress.  I have quite a bit to say about this wonderful pattern, so bear with me for a moment.  First off, this pattern is very versatile, as it is sized for infant-adult, and includes directions for using worsted, sport, or DK yarn weights.  (Seriously, I could kiss this woman for giving us a pattern with so many options!).  

The pattern calls for a provisional cast on, as well as wrap-and-turn short-row knitting.  Justine provides directions for both techniques, as well as links to her video tutorials.  If you'd like more information, I recommend TECHknitter's excellent illustrated tutorials for provisional cast-on and short-row knitting.  The short-row shaping allows you to knit the body of the hat flat, with no seaming required.  When you're ready to add the ribbing, switch to double-point or circular needles.  If you decide to knit the ribbing in stripes, as I did, do have a peek at TECHknitter's illustrated tutorial on knitting striped ribbing.  You'll be so glad you did!

If you've ever made a project as a gift that you were tempted to keep for yourself, then you know just how I feel.  I love this little outfit, and regard it as one of the finest things I've ever made.  In fact, I think I'll make another in different colors!  

So there you have it.  Thanks for visiting, and I hope you like my bébé couture française as well as I do!  I'm headed over to Instagram and Ravelry to share some photos there, too.  Feel free to share this post with friends who might find it interesting -- the more the merrier!  And you can also follow me on Facebook.  There's another project already on the needles, so I'll see you next week. 


  1. Parfait, parfait, parfait!

    Le tricot pour la petite enfant est tres belle et chic!

    Votre fait accompli est magnifique, ma cher ami!

    La Doyenne de Clover Hill :-)

    1. Merci, ma ami! :D (And except for telling you to "eat your peas", you now have experienced the full extent of my French!)


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