Last year, you may recall, I was infatuated - obsessed, really - with tiny knitting projects. Here's one I finished up a few days after A was born, which was the last good chunk of knitting I got done until just recently. At that time, it seemed long and impossibly big, but I took it out recently and now - she's just turned one - it fits her just about perfectly.
Knitting is so labor-intensive, you want whatever you're making to be wearable for as long as possible. But children grow, and grow, and grow, don't they?! When I knitted this (and by the way, the free pattern is http://www.knittingpureandsimple.com/babycardi.html), I thought about the things I've learned over all the years of knitting for little people that I've done and made adjustments. These are some of the things I try to keep in mind when I'm doing a new project for little ones:
1) Dresses (if you're knitting for a girl), or long sweaters are great. They can turn into tunics or vests later on, so you can get two or three winters' worth of wear out of them. The sweater above is Knitting Pure and Simple's Easy Baby Cardigan, and I added at least an inch or two to the length when I knitted it. Conversely, a bolero-style (short) open cardigan would also work well for a girl and would definitely last for several years (M, almost 4, and A can both fit into the same sweater, especially if it's an unbuttoned bolero where length doesn't matter as much. There's not that much difference in width between a pudgy baby/toddler and a preschooler).
2) Change the sleeves if necessary. Sleeves look great as bracelet or 3/4 length sleeves if the edge is straight and clean and not gathered or ribbed - a simple moss stitch, like the one in this sweater, or a picot edge or garter stitch trim would work well. This way your child can wear the sweater as a long sleeve one year and a three quarter sleeve the next.
3) Stick to top-down, raglan-sleeved sweaters if you can. I've knitted many things for my boys that turned out to be too boxy and wide; it turns out that part of the problem was that the sweaters had dropped shoulders, which ended up looking sloppy when I sewed the sleeves on. They were wide enough but not long enough to wear again the following year. Knitting in the round eliminates having to do any sewing up, and most top-down sweaters have a long and lean look - which is perfect when you are trying to knit something that will last as long as possible.
4) If you're knitting something top down, it's easy enough to leave the sleeves off entirely, leaving just little cap sleeves. You'll end up with a vest-style sweater which will keep your child warm and, as long as it's long enough, work for more than just one year. (Bonus - it's quicker to knit - leaving you more time for other projects!).
5) Knitting really small things for very tiny babies is a lot of fun, but if you mostly aim for a 1-2 year old size (and then make adjustments such as the ones I've mentioned) you'll get a lot more wear out of the garments you make, because toddlers don't grow as quickly as babies do. Besides, I happen to think sweaters look better on an upright, walking child than on a baby who can't sit up yet. They're easier to put on, too!
Are you working on any knitting projects right now? What are your tips for knitting for little children?