Thursday, January 22, 2009

Two Baby Surprises

Hi, I'm Suna (SunaSAK on Ravelry and of the Yes! Suna Knits blog), and I live in the area between Austin and Round Rock, Texas. I've been knitting since I was a little girl, and there is always something fun and new to try. I also really enjoy teaching knitting. As a professional technical writer and instructional designer in my other life, I love the challenge of teaching people with various learning styles and backgrounds.

When I first started with EZ's writings, I mainly knit top-down sweaters with lots of cables. This was in the 80s, when I lived in Illinois. Armed with EZ's instructions and Barbara J. Walker's collections of stitch patterns, I knit my way through graduate school.

One thing I never got around to making, though, was a Baby Surprise Jacket. I guess I couldn't tell how cute they really were until I got The Opinionated Knitter and saw the color pictures. Oh! Nice!

So when two of my young knitting friends said they'd soon be having little babies to knit things for, I decided it was high time I made a BSJ. I took the advice I saw all over the Internet and made my first BSJ (seen above, held by crazed teen boy and here on Ravelry) the standard way. I decided to not look at all the helpful links to shortcuts and handy hints, but to pretend I just got my newsletter in 1968, and wanted to try this odd little garment. I did use a modern yarn: O-Wool Balance, a 50/50 wool/cotton blend. The colors are named after crystals: amethyst, opal, and jade. I made up a stripe pattern that worked out incredibly well when I got to the bottom--total serendipity, too! This jacket, in a worsted weight yarn, came out at I am guessing 6-9 months in size (it is a bit large on the 3 month-size doll). The recipient loves it, and is happy that the jacket will work with her girl baby and with any boy she happens to have later. I did the shoulder seams in a 3-needle bind-off, picking up stitches on the garter stitch side and using the cast-on loops as stitches on the other side (I did a knit cast-on, which leaves nice loops for this purpose).

My second BSJ (Ravelry link) was started practically the minute the other one fell off the needles. Now that I had made the "standard" version, I wanted to tweak things a tiny bit. Mainly I wanted to make the increases and decreases look neater, which is hard to do in garter stitch. So for increases, I left a center stitch in stockinette and did a centered M1 on each side. This looked really decorative, so I left that center stitch to travel down the front, and did P2tog on either side of it for the decrease section. I liked those decorative elements.

I ended up using some Plymouth Encore Sock yarn (sport/DK weight) that I didn't like how it looked on either socks or a ribbed scarf I'd started. The tweedy colorway of red, white and black was accentuated in the longer rows on the jacket, with no really distinct striping. I liked that much better than the sickly stripes it made on socks.

When I finished, I asked the recipient what color trim she would like, and she said she thought white would look good, so I used some leftover white sock yarn to do i-cord edging all around, including along the front neck. When I got to the first shoulder, I picked up stitches on the garter stitch edge, then used the other end of my needle to pick up the same number of cast-on stitches. That left both needles parallel, with the yarn ready to do a 3-needle bind off. The bind-off took me back where I was, so I i-corded around the back of the neck and did the same deal on the other shoulder. When I was back I finished by doing i-cord around the other side of the neck front. I grafted the end of the i-cord to the beginning, so it looks continuous. I was impressed with myself. Other than a little awkwardness transitioning from shoulder back to i-cord, it was easy and fun. No doubt I "unvented" this and lots of you have done the same, but it was fun to try for myself. All I needed was ladybug buttons and the second jacket was a hit! It will be perfect for this fall, unless the baby due in May is HUGE.

I have a hankering to do an Adult Surprise Jacket soon, so you may hear from me again. But I will continue to comment occasionally. I really enjoy this blog and love all of your creative adaptations! Thanks to all who contribute, and thanks for adding me to the list!



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