Baby Surprises

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Just recently I made 3 Baby Surprise Jackets in rapid succession.  I took a class to make my first, only because I am that knitter who, before commencing knitting a new pattern, reads through it to get a basic understanding of the construction.  I found out that this does not work for every pattern.  For those of you familiar with the BSJ, you'll know that true comprehension is impossible until after you have knit it.  It is knit in one piece, but knit like no other one-piece ever.  Reading the instructions for a clear understanding of the construction will, I think, not happen for anyone.   So don't be like me and assume you have to understand this before starting; read on and you'll see why.

Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket has been in print in several different publications for the last 50 years.  She writes the pattern more as a folksy letter to her knitting buddies.  You can read them if you like, and I know many people have been able to knit the BSJ from them, but not me.  For those of us just making our first BSJ, thank heavens there's an updated pattern available.  (Certainly, after you've knit one, go back and read her original directions for fun; her writing style is charming.) But, if you are serious about knitting one of these, head over to Schoolhouse Press and purchase the booklet that Elizabeth's daughter has re-written and where you'll be guided row by row.  They (and I) recommend knitting the baby size first; you'll know why after you've knit your first one.  Then, after you've knit your beautiful baby jacket, sit back and marvel at the sheer genius of Elizabeth Zimmerman and the magic of how her mind works. As our beloved knitting Einstein, she was the one who also gave us the knitted i-cord, the i-cord bind off, the pi shawl, the sewn cast off, and was an early advocate of knitting in the round on circular needles, top down knitting and steeking.  As a pioneer knitter/writer, she encouraged (and still encourages) young and old knitters alike, much like Julia Child encouraged young brides in the 60s and 70s to fearlessly master a souffle.

I took a class, and as competent as my teacher was, I still walked away scratching my head.  An hour later at home I plunged forward.  I was not going to let not understanding get in my way.  And here's what I found out: one-third the way though it will all begin to make sense.  You'll say, AHA!  Then, half-way though it will begin to not make sense again, (the flap part).  Do not get discouraged, just keep knitting and do exactly what the pattern says.  Don't ask questions, don't second guess, just do it.  Suddenly, when you are 9/10ths through, it will dawn on you that you have got it right.  You'll be shocked I imagine.  I was.  You'll soon bind off, sew up the shoulder seams and put on the buttons, and then here is where you'll marvel at the magical mind of EZ.  Enjoy, and then get ready to make your second!

For each of my BSJs, I cast on 160 stitches.
The size changes will happen with your gauge.
FYI, the pattern below has children's and adult sizes as well.

For baby clothes, always use machine washable and dryable yarn.

The first one is knit with Rowan's Pure Wool Worsted
in Umber, Moonstone and Hazel.  Worsted weight makes size 12 mos.
This has a purl bind off all around, and a picked up 2-stitch i-cord bind off at the neck.
Rav link here.

The second one is knit in Rowan's Pure Wool DK in Black
and one skein of Tanis Fiber Arts Yellow Label DK in Copper Penny.
DK weight yarn makes a 6-9 mos. size.
This one has a 3 stitch i-cord bind off all around.
Rav link here.

The last one uses one skein of self striping Zitron Unisono.
Fingering weight makes a newborn size.
This one also has a 3 stitch i-cord bind off all around.
Rav link here.

After reading the comments here and on my FB page, I want to add that the only
difficult BSJ will be your first one.  I promise.  It's hard to do something that makes no sense,
but go to a quiet corner and just stick it out.  You'll be glad you did.

The Schoolhouse Press web site needs a serious revamping/update, FYI.
Get the pattern that looks like the one below.
If you use this pattern, I doubt you'll need a class or the DVD
but if you do, dive into a class or get the DVD.
I've seen the DVD at my library, and going to go there today and see if I can check it out.
Get the pattern here and scroll down, it's there.
 The pattern also has the sizing for children and adults.


The last BSJ I  knit used just one skein of self striping yarn, and it, being my third BSJ, made a great travel knit.  Still, I needed a true, mindless travel knit and for the best project for that, head again to EZ and knit her pi shawl.  This is one I recently started with Handmaiden Casbah in fingering weight.  I won't work on this at home, but keep it strictly as a travel knit with no hurry and no deadline to finish.  I've heard some people say they love to knit pi shawls but don't know how to wear them.  It's a big circle which I fold in half, then wrap and wrap around my neck and shoulders.  It looks beautiful and it's warm.  It also makes a great afghan!

This was started while on a quick weekend getaway with my daughter at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa.  Wow, what a place!






We were there during the quick 3 week period when Ojai Pixie tangerines are in season.
We attended a cooking demonstration and had a wonderful dinner.




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17 comments

  1. All three are beautiful! I'm amazed at how fast you can knit! I haven't made the BSJ yet, but it's always intrigued me.

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    1. Thank you, and now maybe you'll be brave and give one a try!

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  2. Exactly the way I feel every time I knit one.....just follow the directions!!

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    1. So funny! This was not an easy post to write. How to explain to people that a pattern WILL NOT make sense, but go ahead and do it anyway. That was the hardest part for me!

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  3. I took a class several years ago to knit one of those. I was bewildered the entire time! I still have it, with no buttons on.
    I'd love to make another but haven't a clue ; )

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    1. Bewildered! That's the right word! It is finished except for the buttons? You are DONE! The buttons are the easy part!

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    2. One more thing, I went home from my class determined to make one. When I came back to class two weeks later the entire group was still struggling with only a few rows done and I had a show of tell of 2 FOs and a third on the needles. I prefaced it by saying, "I'm an overachiever, I have lots of time on my hands, blah blah", but they will still gob-smacked when I brought them out. But I hoped I helped them by saying that it will not make sense until you've finished your first. And then, it really doesn't truly sink in until the 2nd or 3rd one! What a crazy pattern, right? One day I'll be brave enough to make an adult size.

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  4. I bought the BSJ pattern several years ago and knit most of it and then got stuck and never finished it. It was not row by row instructions, which I need, because I don't understand enough about knitting to know when and where to make increases and decreases without taking a course on designing knitting, which I have not done. I hate to have to buy the updated pattern when I already have the pattern. I love Elizabeth Zimmerman's knitwear, but I have never knit her patterns because of her loose instructions as though I am supposed to understand what to do without being told exactly? I can figure out a quilt block pattern by looking at it, but knitting to me is somewhat of a mystery. I can follow the instructions, but often times I find instructions from some designers to be frustrating the way it is written because I don't always understand what they are saying. Recently I made a pullover vest/tank top and I followed each step, yet the neckline came out huge and too low and the underarms didn't look quite right either. The rest looks beautiful though. I looked at the photo of her pattern and mine is not the same, yet I did what the instructions told me to do. The front and back were knit the same and even though I had put the knitting down for a few months before finishing the other side, I still read the instructions the same and both front and back were identical. If I had somehow misinterpreted it I would have knit one side differently but I didn't. Sometimes it can be the instructions are bad and sometimes it can be me who is not totally understanding the way the instructions are written, but how do you know this? I wish there was a standard formula for knitting instructions so they were all written clearly. So many hours of knitting and sometimes the yarn you are using cannot be easily ripped out and so time and money is wasted. I have been knitting for decades too. I always thought I would get better a understanding the construction of garments by this time, but that obviously hasn't happened, lol!!!

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    1. I hear your frustration about patterns being inaccurate, I've often wasted time scratching my head over poorly written patterns. I do find that these days however, most knitwear designers take great pains in writing clear and concise directions. Ravelry (and the entire internet) has done us a great favor, as it gives knitters a forum to praise, but also complain! Yarn manufacturers and designers listen to us and have stepped up their game. That is why Meg Swanson re-wrote her mom's popular pattern. So many knitters just couldn't "get" it. I felt like you did, that it was a shame to shell out more money for another pattern, as I already had the pattern in several of the books that I already owned. However, it was well worth the money. If you have a knitting store near you, and if you've purchased your yarn there, they will most likely be able to support you with lots of encouragement and help. The first one is the only difficult BSJ you'll make, the rest are easy. Also, there is the knitting DVD you can find at Schoolhouse Press website too. Good luck!

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  5. Hi you have the recipe for bigger size? the recipe you posted not of to read.
    Thank you

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    1. Hi Magda! I only posted a picture of the pattern that you need to purchase. I cannot post the pattern for you on my blog because of copyright restrictions. The pattern can be purchased from this link: http://www.schoolhousepress.com/patterns.htm Scroll down for the BSJ pattern.

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  6. The Spa looks great, haven't been to Ojai in years. When I was young my Dad took us to Ojai all the time during Apple season to get their Apple Butter

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    1. I visited Ojai with my grandfather many times as a girl in the 50s. He was a tomato grower and lived in nearby Fillmore. He leased land from an old lady who lived in Ojai. She lived it a big old Queen Anne home and would serve me lemonade. I remember going into town to eat at a Mexican restaurant and he would also take me to a petting zoo. Do you remember a petting zoo in Ojai?

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  7. I love BSJs! Actually anything by EZ. I can often puzzle out her directions and figure out what's going on, but sometimes I just have to follow her instructions blindly, knowing that somehow it will all work out! Lovely little sweaters! And that resort - wow!!

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    1. Gail, I know you love to travel in CA. Ojai would be a great place for you to go. Lavender fields, horse ranches, grape vineyards, avocado and citrus orchards all amongst the rolling hills. Beautiful!

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