“Socks and baby surprise jackets,” was the response of one Facebook fan named RL in regard to items on our knitting bucket lists. “I have a terrible time following patterns, though.” I had heard of the Baby Surprise jacket – a celebrated knitting pattern written by perhaps the most famous knitting writer of all time, Elizabeth Zimmerman. But I didn’t really know anything about the jacket, so I decided to investigate. The pattern was originally published in a magazine in January 1968. It has since been published in several of Zimmerman’s own books, including The Opinionated Knitter and Knitting Workshop. Ravelry actually has a group specifically devoted to the original Baby Surprise jacket. You can find it here. You can also find a very thorough Baby Surprise jacket “wiki” that may be tremendously helpful when you decide to knit the pattern. It includes where you can find the pattern and tons of helpful tips and resources.
Alternatives to the Baby Surprise Jacket
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the tremendous ingenuity and generosity of knitters online, a number of free patterns based on or inspired by Zimmerman’s Baby Surprise jacket have been published. You can find them listed below. Ulina: Available in both English and German, this jacket is a great way to use up fingering weight yarn remnants. Baby Surprise Jacket Preemie Sized: This is not only a terrific way to practice the jacket pattern, but it also makes a wonderful charity project. DROPS Jacket and Pants: The DROPS Design studio has a ridiculous amount of free patterns for jackets, so it’s not surprising that they have this one available as well. As a nice bonus, this pattern also offers a matching pair of pants, so you can knit an adorable outfit all at once! Baby Surprise Snowsuit: Want to extend the jacket into a snowsuit? Check out this clever addition. (Note that you’ll need the original pattern in order to knit the extension into a snowsuit.) Baby Surprise Jacket, Stockinette Version: This is another pattern where you’ll need the original pattern to start, then you’ll take off from it into this variation. Since so many folks prefer the look of stockinette to garter stitch, this is a wonderful addition to Baby Surprise jacket lore. Seamless BSJ: This pattern takes the original Baby Surprise jacket pattern and makes it seamless! Since a few of these patterns add to the Zimmerman Baby Surprise jacket rather than replace it entirely, here is a link so that you can purchase your own pattern if you desire. Just scroll down the page until you reach “Garter Stitch Adult, Baby, Child’s Surprise Jacket ( A-B-C-SJ, SPP 5).” It contains 3 sizes plus many additional details, so it’s well worth the $12 cost (at this writing).
Bonus: How to Read a Pattern
RL mentioned that she struggled with following knitting patterns. I happened to stumble upon a thorough guide to pattern knitting published by Vogue Knitting a short while ago, and so I’m offering it here. How-To: Pattern Reading Here’s hoping that the information provided here will help RL, and anyone else so inspired, to knit that Baby Surprise jacket!