Baby Surprise Jacket

The Baby Surprise Jacket is an iconic pattern designed by Elizabeth Zimmermann.  I regard this lady as the Julia Child of the knitting world.  She was actually on public television about the same time as “The French Chef” was in the 1960s.  How amazing is that?  A TV show featuring someone knitting!

The pattern

Elizabeth led a fascinating life and came up with many ground-breaking designs, including the Baby Surprise Jacket.  I’ve been wanting to knit this for a long time and I’m finally doing it!

What’s really interesting about this little sweater is that it is knit all in one piece.  It looks kind of funky until you fold into a sweater shape.  Then you just have to seam up the shoulders.  Ta da!

The genius is the simplicity–just simple garter stitch–that becomes a sweater.  Since its inception, it has been adapted not just for babies, but for all sizes.  You can buy Elizabeth’s book or get a leaflet from the business she started and her daughter, Meg Swanson carries on, Schoolhouse Press.  Also available is a digital size converter to develop a pattern for any size you’d like to knit.

There is also a Facebook fan page exclusively for Elizabeth Zimmerman’s knitting projects.

Elizabeth’s books are readily available online, too:

The Opinionated KnitterThe Opinionated KnitterKnitting Without Tears: Basic Techniques and Easy-to-Follow Directions for Garments to Fit All SizesKnitting Without Tears: Basic Techniques and Easy-to-Follow Directions for Garments to Fit All SizesElizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac (Dover Knitting, Crochet, Tatting, Lace)Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s Almanac (Dover Knitting, Crochet, Tatting, Lace)

Getting started

The Baby Surprise Jacket pattern lends itself well to many variations with colors, especially striping, but for my first attempt, I chose a basic off white yarn with a bit of speckling so as not to get too boring:

baby surprise jacket
I’m a little over halfway done with it, so I’ll be updating this post soon when I’m finished.  While it looks simple, it’s definitely not mindless knitting, at least on the first go round.  You have to pay attention to the row and stitch counts to get the increases and decreases in the correct places.  I ripped out more than one row!  I should know better than to watch TV or videos when I’m knitting, but I always do!

The pattern calls for 400-500 yards of yarn, so I bought two skeins, each containing 252 yards.  I ran out of yarn from the first skein at row 72.  There are a total of 97 rows.  The last 30 rows use a lot more yarn than the previous ones.  There should be a fair amount of yarn left over, which will go into my hat stash.

There is a series of Youtube videos detailing the construction of the Baby Surprise Jacket, and they are very helpful.  Here’s the first one:

Stay tuned for updates!


baby surprise jacket

I actually had to refer to the pattern so I could get it folded into the sweater shape. It’s tricky, but I guess that’s the surprise! This is one pattern where you just have to have faith and follow the directions. Here it is folded into a sweater. No buttons yet:

baby surprise jacket

Final touches

Here is the completed jacket with a collar.  I thought the neckline just needed a little  more to it and it was easy enough to pick up stitches and knit for a couple of inches.  I increased a few stitches at the shoulder line on each side so the collar would flare out just a bit.

baby surprise jacket

I found these adorable monkey buttons at Hobby Lobby. They aren’t the easiest to button, but they’re so cute!

baby surprise jacket

It’s perfect for Aria!

baby surprise jacket