Another week has flown by, hasn’t it, dear readers? For those of you in the United States, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. For those of you in the rest of the world, I hope you tolerated all the “Happy Thanksgiving” wishes thrown at you from all the folks in the United States. I know I’m guilty of wishing a handful of my Canadian friends a happy Thanksgiving over the past week, only to realize that I’m a month late (or eleven months early) for them! It’s been a busy week over here, and we’ve rounded the holiday corner and are headed right towards Christmas, full steam ahead!
This week on the Knitting Daddy blog, I’m going to talk a little about the classic Elizabeth Zimmerman Baby Surprise Jacket. But first, let’s take a round-up of what’s I’ve been up to in my knitting life this past week.
This Week In Podcasts
My travel and work schedule this week imposed a bit of a hardship with being able to keep up with my podcast listening. I did listen to Alana’s newest episode of Never Not Knitting, where she talked about a knitting retreat in Alaska that she’ll be teaching at. I’ve always wanted to go back to Alaska (I was born there, but moved away when I was three), and a knitting retreat sure would be a fun way to plan a trip back. I don’t think it’s in the cards next year, but it will be something to think about in the future.
I also started listening to the CraftLit podcast. I went back and downloaded all the episodes for the current book — The Age Of Innocence — and am a couple of episodes into it. I love the podcast, but I’m not sure about this book. So far, I don’t think I’ve met a character in the book that I like. We’re only about four chapters in, so there’s time. And it may just turn out that it’s the kind of book to be enjoyed by not liking any of the characters. I definitely enjoy the added commentary that Heather offers — it helps me keep up with what’s going on. And the craft-related talk is also great. I listened to this in the car while driving this week, but I think it’s going to become what I listen to while I’m knitting at home, instead of mindlessly having the TV on.
I just glanced at my iTunes, and see that there are a few podcasts that downloaded while I was away, so I’ve got plenty to catch up on this week: Fiber Hooligan, Ewe University, and Knit 1 Geek 2 (I bet they talk about Doctor Who in this one!). Plus, I’m sure there will be more episodes that queue up this week. And there’s about 20 hours of CraftLit before I’m caught up.
This Week In Ravelry
Most of my social activity in Ravelry continues to focus around the IBK group. I can’t express how cool a knitting group these folks are. Especially since I rarely get to knit with a group in real life, it’s great to have a virtual group to knit with. I continue to be showered with kindness from people in the group, as well. A few packages hit my front porch this week, with “welcome” gifts and “random acts of kindness” from some of the folks in the group. That’s just the kind of group it is, and I’m glad to be part of it. Several of the people in the group participate in an annual Advent gift swap, and the opening of the presents is just starting up. Everyone takes pictures of their gifts and shares the pictures with the group. It’s really fun to watch it all. It’s a lot of work, and looks like a lot of fun. I’d love to participate next year, but I’ll have to really think about if I have the time to be a good swapper (I probably don’t).
I added a few projects to my queue:
- Cedar Leaf Shawlette by Alana Dakos — this was a suggestion for what I could do with the beautiful Madelinetosh wool I received as a gift this week.
- Jessica Knits a Cowlette by Jessica M. Anderson — another suggestion for the Madelinetosh wool
- Maize by tincanknits — these could be good mitts for Blueberry
Also Ravelry/IBK related, I’m finishing up the sweater ornament for Swap Partner in the current IBK ornament swap, but that talk really belongs in the “on my needles” section.
This Week On My Needles
The sweater ornament for my Swap Partner in the current IBK ornament swap is done, as far as the construction goes. I still need to add some decorative touches to the front, and I’m really excited about incorporating my special design idea using a technique my wife suggested. I’m pretty sure it’s going to work, and that it’s going to be awesome. That’s not quite done yet, but I should finish it in the next few days and get it in the mail soon.
I also got a few more rows knit in Blueberry’s Adaline sweater, which is pretty slow going. At least I’m done with the lace yoke and have already divided for the arms. I’m in inches of stockinette on US Size 1.5 needles. At the rate I’m going, I fear Blueberry will have already outgrown it before it’s off the needles.
It already looks like a busy week ahead, so we’ll see what sort of knitting progress happens next week.
The Baby Surprise Jacket
Have you heard about the Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman? It’s often just called the BSJ for short. I had not heard of it until I had been knitting for a few months and my long-distance knitting mentor, Jill, mentioned it. Jill talked about how she loved making it, how fun it was, and how cute it turned out. I searched for the pattern on Ravelry, and saw it was a for-pay pattern, and wasn’t available online, so I just kinda filed the project in the back of my mind as something to think about.
Then, as I was listening to the Knitting Pipeline podcast, Paula was on an Elizabeth Zimmerman kick, so I learned more about the knitting legend that Elizabeth Zimmerman is, and heard a few other notes of praise about the BSJ. A few weeks later, when I found the pattern in the binder at my local yarn shop, I went ahead and purchased it, along with some yarn to knit it up with. I think that’s also when I bought my first set of circular needles, which I needed since so many stitches were going to be on the needles at once, not because I’d be knitting in the round.
Then I dove in, reaching out to my mentor Jill for help/advice, looking at some online videos on how to execute the unique finishing and seaming technique, and reading more about Elizabeth Zimmerman and her design philosophy. I think my knitting philosophy is very much like Zimmerman’s — just dive in and do it. One of the greatest helps I found in working through the BSJ is finding the Baby Surprise Jacket group on Ravelry. They have a perpetual knit-along over there, which helped me more than once as I got stuck along the way and needed a little nudge. And it’s also a great place to show of your finished projects. The group loves to celebrate success.
Since I’ve become exposed to the BSJ, I’ve found that people who know about the BSJ generally fall into two camps about it. They pretty much either love it, or hate it. I fall into the “love it” category, but if you don’t, I won’t try too hard to convert you. One of the things that is unique about this pattern is the simplicity of how it is conveyed. There are no row-by-row descriptions. Instead, the pattern is conveyed as a series of guidelines. My mentor Jill describes it as “an exercise in trust,” and it truly is. Reading the words, it’s difficult to see how a jacket will appear, but it does.
I’m also glad that I knitted this early in my knitting career, because it helped me to really pay attention to what I was doing. The jacket is constructed entirely of garter stitch, and building the field of garter stitches helped me understand how stitches were constructed — how they worked together. It was also my first experience with buttons and button holes. That was pretty cool. Just reading the pattern made it sound like I was knitting with a friend, someone who was helping me through the process — teaching, and helping me learn — instead of me simply blindly following directions.
At its core, the BSJ is a knitted rectangle, with shaping. The shaping is where it gets fun. Once the BSJ comes off the needles, it looks like a mess. You can see that it kinda looks like a rectangle, but mostly it’s full of puckers and things that just don’t look right. But then, with some fairly simple origami-like maneuvering, it’s a jacket that requires just a little bit of seaming on the sleeves to complete the construction. A YouTube search for how to fold a Baby Surprise Jacket will give you a host of videos that demonstrate how it’s done. When I knitted my first BSJ, I looked at a lot of those videos!
So far, I’ve knitted 2 BSJs. The first one was with a DK weight yarn, and it came out very cute. I stumbled with the pattern a little at first (before I found a lot of the online helps I’ve described above), and ended up putting the project in hibernation for a while at one point. When I picked it back up, it practically flew off the needles. Blueberry barely fit in it, but she sported it out and about a few times before it found its way as a semi-permanent fixture on one of her stuffed bears.
For my 2nd BSJ, I used worsted weight yarn, and made no other modifications to the pattern (other than going from a size 6 to a size 8 on my needles). It knit up larger than my first jacket, and Blueberry can still wear it comfortably. After having gone through the exercise of the first jacket with a self-striping yarn, which made the pattern of the jacket fun, I was comfortable enough with the jacket’s construction to get 2 solid colors and work on incorporating my own striping pattern. That was a lot of fun, and I ended up quite unintentionally knitting a BSJ that reminded me of the local minor league baseball team. The colors were close, and the striping kinda was reminiscent of a jersey design. Once I realized what was happening there, I went on a quest for some baseball-themed buttons, which I found at JoAnne’s.
If you are looking for a fun garment to knit for a baby in your life, I definitely recommend the BSJ. Don’t let the pattern intimidate you — there is a wealth of help to be found all over the place. Check with your local knitting group and/or yarn shop — odds are that there’s someone local who can help you. And there is tons of help available online. I recommend the BSJ group on Ravelry and the BSJ Wiki as great places to start.
Have you knitted a BSJ? What was your favorite part about knitting it? Join the conversation and leave a comment with your BSJ stories below.
Until next week, keep on knitting for the ones you love!