Where I write about knitting, crocheting and lace, and, on occasion general comments on other topics

In honor of EZ’s Brithday: Baby Surprise Jacket KAL

Written by: Lindy

Elizabeth Zimmerman’s 100th birthday was August 9. One of our expert knitters in the Nebraska Knit & Crochet Guild (NKCG) started a knit-a-long (KAL) of the “Baby Surprise Jacket” in honor of EZ’s birthday. I had never done this baby sweater pattern, so I joined in the KAL.

It turned into on of those obsession driven projects. You know the ones — where you become so intrigued by how the pattern is unfolding that you simply.cannot.put.it.down. Yup, your fingers just itch to knit and your brain refuses to think about anything else — especially mundane things like laundry, cooking and other housework. That’s what this little project became.

You see, the BSJ is knit entirely of garter stitch and involves a series of increases, decreases and center double decreases to make your knitting go at right angles. It is knit in a single piece — and the fascinating thing is that it turns into a sweater without the normal sweater type shaping that you usually do. As I knit this project, I kept marveling at the ingenuity of the designer — how in the heck had she figured this out? It’s a combination of understanding geometry and the shaping required for a baby sweater — and EZ was someone who took theoretical concepts like right angles and turned them into pragmatic knitted garments. Perhaps a few pictures will help.

When you finish knitting the pattern — you end up with an oddly shaped piece of garter stitch fabric that looks like this:

Garter stitch fabric - Baby Surprise Jacket

As you can see, I knit this with two different yarns to create stripes. Now, when you fold the edges together, this striped fabric turns into this:

Baby Surprise Jacket, folded

A jacket. That’s the surprise — it actually turns into a little sweater jacket with nifty right angle striping on the front and horizontal striping on the back. And — there are only two seams to sew! Just two — the sleeves at the top. The button band is done as part of the bottom of the knitted piece, so you just add buttons and you are finished. (I’m still looking for buttons, so I don’t have a photo of the finished jacket.)

Now, the written pattern is somewhat confusing at first. There are several resources available to help sort out the sketchy instructions given in both the Knitter’s Almanac and Knitting Workshop. However, the biggest question I had was “if I knit this at a gauge of 6 stitches per inch, what size is my jacket?” EZ just tells you it will fit an infant if you knit at that gauge and if you knit it at a gauge of 5 stitches per inch, you will get a bigger jacket that will fit a larger child about 1 year old. This is this question that seems to cause knitters the most problems.

I knit this BSJ using Dale of Norway Baby Ull, which is a fingering weight wool yarn and my gauge was 6 spi. The jacket measures 15.25 inches across the chest, just at the point where the underarm is. Looking at a standard body measurements chart for baby sizes, This jacket is a 0-3 months size.

Now this sizing issue really bugged me — so I had to figure out the sizing for different gauges and correlate them to actual baby sizes. (Yes, I am a geek.) After studying the pattern, I discovered that the chest measurement is at the point in the pattern where you are knitting 90 stitches. (90 divided by 6 equals 15). So, using this point of reference, I have calculated roughly what the corresponding size will be if the BSJ is knitted at gauges of 5.5 spi, 5 spi, & 4.5 spi. I put this into a table to help others who might be bugged by this question:

Gauge Chest Measurement Size
6 spi 15-16 in. 0-3 mos
5.5 spi 16-17 in. 3-6 mos
5 spi 18 in. 12 mos.
4.5 spi 20 in 18 mos.

Pattern: Ez’s instructions for the Baby Surprise Jacket can be found in Knitter’s Almanac or Knitting Workshop and/or it can be purchased from Schoolhouse Press.

Row Counter: A handy tool for keeping track while knitting the BSJ can be found here: http://www.box.net/shared/eugvsfb3lt

Video: There is a six-part video series on the BSJ, here is the link to the First Episode.

Ravelry Knitters — there is also a Rav Group for the BSJ.

One Response to “In honor of EZ’s Brithday: Baby Surprise Jacket KAL”

  1. Amanda says:

    Wow. You’re done with yours. I’m still on Row 18. I’ll probably get to it this weekend when family is here. It’s a good chatty knitting project!