Elma Family Handmade Handmade for Kitty Kitty Knitting Photography {the ordinary moments}

Handmade Hand-me-downs


I think there’s always a certain nostalgia when you dress your children in hand me downs from their bigger siblings.  You remember buying it, you remember how it felt to be so new to the mothering game, and how tiny and sweet your little baby looked, and how tiny and sweet their sibling looks, compared to the enormous child your eldest appears to have become. A little set of pirate vests, a pair of pink bunny bootees given to Kitty, a London Zoo t-shirt bought for Kitty by H and now adored and requested on a daily basis by Elma.

In our family we have a babygro that was handed down to us by H’s aunt.  It’s been worn by his cousin (who’s 18 months or so older than Kitty), then by Kitty, Elma, my small nephew, and now most recently Pip and it’s still going strong.  I love that all the children have that connection, and from a purely practical point of view it’s been very handy to operate a sort of lending library of baby clothes amongst ourselves.

It’s also given a few thing huge sentimental value – and probably guaranteed that I’ll be hoarding them forever.

But that’s just the things that H or I bought, or that we were given.  Then there are the things that I made.  There are teeny tiny baby jackets knitted for each baby and tucked away especially for them; a vast array of wooly hats and warm mittens from Kitty’s first winter; summer dresses, cardigans and jumpers. In my mind a little hand knit something isn’t just a useful item of clothing, it’s a gesture of love, a giving of time and skill.

Love given to Kitty and then packed away carefully and saved for her sister.

For the most part Elma’s assimilated them all into her wardrobe and as she’s generally worn them in a different season to Kitty, or with different top or bottoms there hasn’t been quite so much of a visual deja vu in these last few months.  But then came the cool, slightly crisp and very autumnal day this week when I went digging in the wardrobe for something a little warmer than the usual rotation of leggings and a t-shirt and I found this;

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Kitty’s rainbow dress.

And remembered this:

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

My lovely four year old at one and a smidgen in what would have been her birthday dress were it not for the fact that even at one she was rather tall and I had to order an extra ball of yarn to add a bit more length to it.

And suddenly it doesn’t seem a moment since this fitted my biggest girl.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I remember knitting it, watching the rainbow stripes go round and round, and dressing Kitty in it, and how plump and warm and snuggly she felt in it.

In the day to day it’s easy to miss the subtle changes in the girls as they grow older and taller and move from babyhood to toddler and toddler to little girl (Pip on the other hand is still growing before our very eyes), but this was a reminder, a very visual illustration of just how much has changed.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

The same dress, the same season and the same garden, it’s easy enough to see the similarities in the two girls, and I think they get more and more alike in looks each day.  But I can see the differences too, in the darker hair and the grey eyes, not to mention the fact that it’s taken Elma a whole extra eight months to fit into it, and even now it’s a little long, and also in their personalities.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And I know that just as Kitty sprinted through it in the course of a winter, come next spring it might not fit Elma either.  And just as much I know that I’ll wash it, fold it gently and pack it away until somewhere in the family there’s another little girl to wear handmade handmedown love.

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  • Caroline 28/09/2014 at 7:43 am

    How lovely. And what a beautiful dress!

    There is no mistaking that your girls are sisters. The picture of one year old Kitty looks an awful lot like Elma, and the current pictures of Elma seem to look more and more like Kitty! They both have that same beautiful mischievous glint in their faces too!

    • Carie 28/09/2014 at 8:06 pm

      It’s astonishing how alike they all look; I look nothing like my sister so I never really expected them to be so similar! And as for the mischief, oh they’ve got that down to a fine art!

  • Not A Frumpy Mum 28/09/2014 at 8:19 am

    This is lovely I love the pics of both girls wearing the same dress. We have an attic full of O’s outgrown clothes that we hope to be able to use again some day. xx

    • Carie 28/09/2014 at 8:17 pm

      It is really lovely to see your favourites come out of the cupboard again!

  • Seychellesmama 28/09/2014 at 8:21 am

    Aww bless that’s so lovely!!! They look SO alike in these pictures it’s amazing!! That dress is so cool, so impressive that you made it.

    • Carie 28/09/2014 at 11:18 pm

      Thank you 🙂 it was a fairly easy knit, the magic is all in the yarn!

  • Natalie @ Little Jam Pot Life Blog 28/09/2014 at 8:25 am

    This is wonderful! my eldest girl is obsessed with rainbows! and hand-me-downs are like no other, they carry a special meaning to them that I just love! and it makes you wonder where time has gone for it to be handed to anyone right? I have lots of my knitted stuff from when I was a baby that have been given to my three little ones. lovely post x

    • Carie 28/09/2014 at 11:32 pm

      Oh that must be amazing to have things that were knitted for you! My sister has a blanket that my Mum knitted for her and a patchwork blanket that was made for me and I love that they’re getting used again by the next generation!

  • Lina 28/09/2014 at 1:58 pm

    Aw they look so alike to me in these pictures! I love handing down clothes, getting to use them again and remembering the memories! I can get rid of toys but I have boxes of clothes in the loft ready to hand down!

    • Carie 28/09/2014 at 11:37 pm

      I think I’m the same; I’ve kept almost all of their clothes so far but the toys have had the occasional cull, I think there are far fewer toys with sentimental attachment at the ages of my children than there will be when they’re bigger.

  • sally 28/09/2014 at 2:06 pm

    What a gorgeous dress, and they really are so alike, I’ve never noticed it hugely before.

    • Carie 28/09/2014 at 11:43 pm

      I think they’re getting more alike as they get older – they were similar but not remarkably alike as babies but seeing those pictures I could suddenly see just how nearer they’ve got!

  • Emily 28/09/2014 at 3:19 pm

    What a gorgeous post. I love a hand-me-down! With boys I miss not being able to pass things from one boy to another – they wreck their clothes! Now that my oldest son is getting really big, his Dad is getting excited about wearing his branded clothing & shoes when he’s through with them 🙂

    • Carie 28/09/2014 at 11:44 pm

      I’m starting to find that Kitty is wearing her clothes hard enough and long enough that they won’t all be suitable to hand down to Elma so I don’t think it’s just boys, just that age!!

  • Donna 28/09/2014 at 3:50 pm

    Oh I love this post, I love hand me downs but I love this even more as it was handmade. The colours are gorgeous! x

    • Carie 28/09/2014 at 11:47 pm

      Thank you – it’s certainly one of my favourite handmades; mostly for the colours 🙂

  • Alexandra @dontcallmestepmummy 28/09/2014 at 8:13 pm

    They look so cute, how much more precious are the memories when you know you made them. My cousins and I operate a similar lending system, we call it ‘the circle of baby love’. Very handy in that season of life where everyone is having children around the same time. Great pics

    • Carie 29/09/2014 at 9:47 am

      The circle of baby love sounds like a great plan – it’s certainly working out ell for me with great bundles of baby boy hand me downs from my nephew and if my sister ever has a baby girl she’ll be smothered in dresses before she knows what’s hit her!

  • Vickie 28/09/2014 at 9:02 pm

    What a beautiful dress and what beautiful girls modelling it! I can’t get over how much Elma looks like Kitty did at her age.

    I’m hoping that I’ll be able to hand down the little bits and bobs I’ve made for Bubs but there seems to be a bit of a baby boy streak happening amongst my friends and family!

    • Carie 29/09/2014 at 6:21 am

      Thank you 🙂 hopefully there will be a baby girl at some point in your family, it’s so much fun to see everything being loved again!

  • Katie @mummydaddyme 28/09/2014 at 9:35 pm

    They look so alike in these photos Carie and I agree there is something so nostalgic about hand me downs, it makes me feel very emotional. They both look beautiful in that dress, you are a clever lady. x

    • Carie 29/09/2014 at 6:27 am

      It’s really lovely isn’t it – definitely a perk of having two girls!!

  • Louisa 28/09/2014 at 9:53 pm

    What a beautiful dress and so nice that they could both wear it. I have a few baby grows that have been worn by all my children, I am now hoarding them because I cannot bear to part with them. #ordinarymoments

    • Carie 29/09/2014 at 6:31 am

      I think I’m going to end up like that – I’ve got their first outfits saved but there are a few other babygros that I’m never going to let go of either!

  • Julie 29/09/2014 at 5:33 am

    What a beautiful dress! I have not made any clothing (knit or sewn) in a too long for my kiddos – I am inspired… So happy to have found your blog!

    • Carie 29/09/2014 at 8:42 am

      It always makes me happy to see the girls in something I made 🙂

  • Eline @ Pasta & Patchwork 29/09/2014 at 10:12 am

    What a gorgeous dress! I know exactly what you mean about the clothes you made for them being extra special. I don’t make anywhere near as many in reality as I do in my head, but yesterday I upcycled a gifted onesie that didn’t fit into a cardie that did. I was delighted with it, and then M delighted me even more by refusing to take it off even for bed. Even though it’s a very simple thing, I know it’ll always be very significant.

    • Carie 29/09/2014 at 10:40 am

      Oh the things I make in my head are wonderful and gorgeous and there are lots more of them than in reality too – one day, one day!

  • LauraCYMFT 29/09/2014 at 8:46 pm

    What a gorgeous dress. They both look so cute in it.

    • Carie 29/09/2014 at 9:08 pm

      Thank you, I just love the rainbow colours on them!

  • Merlinda Little 01/10/2014 at 9:01 am

    Lovely dress! I am an older sister and I remember everytime my sister wear my old clothes I also remember things about it. What did I do, learned. =) #ordinarymoments

    • Carie 01/10/2014 at 1:11 pm

      I remember my little sister wearing my handmedowns too – poor girl if we’d had matching dresses she got them twice over!