If a picture paints a thousand words…

Yes, finally, the photos that I promised eons ago. First, here’s the opening attack on the much-loved Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman. As just about everyone who’s made this will tell you–the pros: all garter stitch; the cons: the terse, inscrutable yet absolutely correct pattern holds nobody’s hand, and there are few points where you can look at your work in progress and say “Yes, that’s what it’s supposed to look like.”

Baby Surprise Jacket - the beginning

Thankfully there are plenty of places where you can get coaching as you work your way through this pattern. Some people work together in knitalongs, some have developed charts and spreadsheets, some have formed yahoogroups and Ravelry forums, and some enterprising yarn stores are holding classes and workshops.

If you want to receive a tutorial from the horse’s mouth, as it were, EZ’s daughter Meg Swansen has recorded a lovely DVD (which I purchased, and which provided me with numerous epiphanies throughout), taking the viewer step-by-step through the BSJ process from cast-on to cast-off, plus a few added extras like collars and finishing techniques.

All of this makes the BSJ sound like Mount Everest and you’re looking at climbing it in just your swimsuit. The truth is, you don’t need any of these helpmates. The pattern really does speak for itself–literally.

For example, one helpful hint is to sit down and read the pattern out loud, pausing wherever necessary to envision what you are doing with complete clarity. Do not try to imagine the finished product (you’ll just drive yourself crazy). Just concentrate on each direction line by line.

Another helpful hint is to go through the pattern and do whatever math is necessary at the appropriate points. When EZ tells you to increase 10 stitches evenly across a row, divide the total number of stitches that you’ll have on the needles and note where the increases will need to be. If you like, break out the pattern line by line as some people have, indicating how many stitches you start with, where you increase, where you decrease, where you put stitches on holders, where you pick them up.

I would suggest that the worst thing you can do, which I imagine many people attempt, is to sit down with your yarn and your needles and start working from the pattern without any sort of preparation. This is where, I think, many knitters bog down and become intimidated and tell themselves that it’s far more difficult than it really is.

Here’s an actual example: “At 114 sts, inc.10 sts in one row evenly spaced across center section.” In this case, the center section is between two lines of increases (M1, knit, M1). Count the number of stitches excluding the two stitches around which you’ve been increasing. Let’s say the number is 80. Divide it by 10 and then figure out how you would place the increases evenly across. (Hint: do not start with an increase, and do not end with an increase.) The right answer would be: k4, m1, (k8, m1) 9 times, k4. You should have increased 10 times, and you should now have 90 stitches.

If reading that made your eyes cross, you might want the DVD. It’s worth the money.

Tim Tams

And here’s the other fabulous photo I wanted to share with you. The delicious chocolate treat that erases all others from memory–Tim Tams, fresh from Australia, courtesy of my beloved Asif. This photo is several weeks old, so these little yummies have long since vanished. (It was all I could do not to eat them in one night.) I don’t think I could live in Australia, but these seriously make me consider it.

I must tell you, I’ve been very moved by your comments and by the e-mails that you have sent me individually about the Kern video and Tucker’s letter. I am delighted that this is catching people’s attention across the continent. On a cheerier note, I’m always amazed at the remarkable cover versions of current pop songs that you can find on YouTube. I’m not a Jonas Brothers fan (I guess I’m not a preteen girl after all), but this, by Frankie J., is as lovely as anyone could possibly hope for. And the last few seconds are especially sweet.


9 thoughts on “If a picture paints a thousand words…

  1. I love TimTams too! I get them as an occasional special treat from an Australian penpal…. WHAT a luxury. My guy thinks we should start importing them to sell on the black market…

  2. Found you after googling baby poncho blog! Sorry!

    I have so much trouble with patterns. Your tips are all fantastic. I wish someone would write out the pattern for knitidiots like me and then send it to me with their notes all over it. I’d pay double for it. Then I could knit a pattern without fearing all those errors. Why doesn’t someone do this and make a fortune David????? hint hint

  3. Well, it is EZ’s pattern and probably her most popular one (despite all the griping!)–so I would never interfere with the copyright.

    My very best suggestion would be to buy Meg Swansen’s DVD on the Baby Surprise Jacket–she talks you through the pattern, the DVD comes with a printed version of the pattern for you to follow along, and she gives lots of other hints and tips besides.

    She also does her knitting outside in a peaceful wooded area not far from her home, so the overall tone of the DVD is tranquil and relaxing–a good state of mind to be in when tackling this project!

  4. If you buy the pattern from Schoolhouse Press, you get (at least I did) a cheat sheet with it that lists the rows out one by one and tells you exactly what to do.

    For example:

    Row 2: K 132 stitches
    Row 3: K 34, m1, k1, m1, K65, m1, k1, m1, K34
    Row 4: K 134 stitches

    I did ZERO math on that, and made up the numbers out of my head, but it’s how I was able to make sense of it.

  5. Yummmmmmmmmmmmm…. Tim Tam’s!!! I lived in Bali for a couple of years and was totally addicted to them. I’m still traveling back and forth from Indonesia and always bring home a stash!!!

  6. hehe. you know you’re a knitter when u can spot a BSJ before reading the post (and i guess knowing a BSJ isn’t some freaky bedroom thing, that is).

    I bought my pattern for the BSJ at mah LYS and they *kindly* included a cheat sheet :-)

  7. Hiya — arrived here via an article you wrote on knitty.com. I lived in Toronto 12 months a year or so ago (I’m from, and now in, Oz), and the only Tim Tams I saw in that period were ones I called my mother and begged for… BUT, I’ve been told since that Loblaws now sells them. Can’t vouch for all stores, but a friend of mine who lives near the one on Christie says you can get ‘em there. Too late for me, but just thought I’d let you know! :)

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