A BSJ for Minnow

Published on Wednesday July 28th, 2010

I’ve been a devotee of Elizabeth Zimmermann since the day I discovered her work. Given that I didn’t learn to knit until after her death, I’ve got nothing on the hordes of knitters who have revered her for half a century. In fact, it was just about exactly four years ago that I ran across a dog-eared copy of The Knitter’s Almanac at Powell’s and shortly thereafter launched Zimmermania and began Mr. G’s Fishtrap Aran, which is still one of my most prized accomplishments.  But the first of Elizabeth’s designs that I completed was the Baby Surprise Jacket. I made one for Misa & Morgan’s son that same autumn, and about two years later I made another for their daughter. Both these little jackets have been lovingly passed on to other friends with babies, which delights me and assures me that this design is a true classic destined to be appreciated for as long as we have  wool and sticks to knit it with and babies to bundle into it. So I could hardly let my own spawn weather its first year unSurprised.


Orange and blue are kind of a thing for us — Mr. G injected his own aesthetic sense into our wedding by selecting a bright orange tie and socks, and at the time I wasn’t so sure about his choice. Orange seemed weirdly autumnal for a June wedding and didn’t exactly provide any continuity with the blue bridesmaids’ dresses or the ocean backdrop. But I ended up using the tie to bustle my wedding dress so we could have a proper dance, and I’ve been fond of orange and blue together ever since. (And if my grandchild ever decides to make a quilt out of the hopelessly dated but sentimentally valuable clothes we’ve left behind, I hope that orange tie will be in it.)

This orange and this blue are Miss Babs’s Cumberland Sport, hand-dyed on an 80% wool and 20% cotton base from Green Mountain Spinnery. Miss Babs has discontinued the yarn and the remainder of her stock is on sale, which is where that link will take you!* This is good stuff, rustic and tweedy and sturdy and minimally processed, and Miss Babs’s dye process complements the yarn beautifully. I had Sky and French Marigold, one skein of each. I ran out of the Sky just a few garter ridges shy of where I’d hoped to stretch it, but oh well.


Every time I do a BSJ I try something a little different with the details. Here I opted for a centered decrease that I slipped on the wrong side to create that architectural miter, and I continued the effect by (wrong-side) slipping the stitch between the paired increases on the body portion, too. I wanted i-cord edging in the orange, and remembered having learned from Joyce Williams (at Schoolhouse’s Knitting Camp two years ago) a way of concealing the blips of blue base color that you get from doing an applied i-cord edge in the standard way. But I couldn’t remember just what that was, and I was down at the coast**  and hadn’t brought my notebook. So I used technology. I borrowed my husband’s iPhone to email a cry for help to Jen, which I figured was the best possible move. Not only does Jen epitomize the kind of thorough, curious, experimental-yet-steeped-in-tradition, and encyclopedia-brained knitter that you want to know when you’ve got burning questions about technique, but she was actually AT Knitting Camp in the PRESENCE of Joyce Williams at that very moment. (And yes, I was wild with envy.) Jen sent back these instructions:

From Joyce herself:
(co 2 & slide to right of garment sts)
*K2, sl1, yo, k1, psso [return 3 to left needle]*

It’s the yo that makes it blip less
Hope you’re having a good weekend! Joyce says to tell you hello!

Sent from my iPad

(I think I may need one of these iPads at some point.) After a couple of false starts for which I blame third trimester pregnancy brain, I got my i-cord going. But I was still seeing just a wee bit of blue through the orange. So I unvented this variation, which looks a bit like it’s been partially crocheted and therefore isn’t quite as natty as regular i-cord to this knitter’s eye, but totally hides the base color:

CO 2 and slide to the right of the live garment sts. *K2, yo, sl1, k1, pass over yo and slipped st, return 3 sts to left needle and rep from *.


Try it or stick with Joyce’s way — as Elizabeth would say, “Knitter’s choice!”

I also mucked about with a reinforcement of the traditional yo-k2tog buttonhole, as I’m always bothered by that untidy strand of yarn that occurs on the following row and can later confuse you about which hole you actually want to poke the button through. Here’s what I came up with:

On the return (WS) row, k tog the stitch preceding the buttonhole with the front leg of the yo, but don’t slip the yo off the needle. Bring the yarn forward and over the needle to trace the path of the yo yarn, then carry on knitting as usual. On the next (RS) row, k tog the two yo strands as one st. (Note that this is for garter stitch; if working in stockinet you’d purl rather than knitting on the WS row.)

It seems to create a firmer buttonhole, which can be good if your buttons aren’t large enough to be a nice tight squeeze through the regular kind of hole. Anyway, I like it when knitters share their dabblings, so I thought I’d put some of mine up here.

But enough knitterly minutia. I love this little jacket and I can’t wait to wrestle my baby’s pudgy little arms into its stripey sleeves.


*I’ve been there ahead of you and stocked up on Pewter and Light Turquoise. Because Minnow’s going to need a Tomten for the winter after this one.

**More on this little getaway next time. Mr. G took some fine pictures in Ecola State Park. You couldn’t have convinced me beforehand that even gentle hiking’s fairly grueling for the nearly-nine-months-pregnant body, but it was well worth being sore and tired and having extra contractions the next day.

13 Comments to “A BSJ for Minnow”

  1. Mia Comment Says:

    I can’t wait until your baby is born!!! How are you feeling? I think our baby is going through it’s most enormous growth spurt ever and feel like my belly is bigger by the minute. E and I went to Natural Childbirth classes the past two Saturdays and I get the sense reality is setting in finally! He and I both liked the class a whole lot, but after the class was over he said “I just don’t want to watch any more videos of babies
    being born–I’m excited for OUR baby but don’t want to see other ladies have their babies!”. Fair enough. He also really wishes you guys lived close. Xoxoxo

  2. Emilee Comment Says:

    That’s so cute!

  3. Susan Comment Says:

    Absolutely adorable!

  4. mick Comment Says:

    Fantastic! I love your color choices: not at all saccharine like many baby knits.

  5. Seanna Lea Comment Says:

    Beautiful. I cannot wait to see pudgy little arms squirming out the little stripy ends.

  6. Ivana Comment Says:

    It’s gorgeous! Great color combination!

  7. Emily Comment Says:

    What a lovely little jacket! And awesome notes on your dabblings – will have to try out one or both of those i-cord tricks, as I’m a total, total sucker for applied i-cord.

    Also second the beautiful non-saccharine, non-gender-specific baby clothes colors. Blue + orange is an awesome combo!

  8. Wendolene Comment Says:

    Great color combo! It will be fun to see Minnow wearing it. Thanks for the knitty tips!

  9. Jodi Comment Says:

    I love blue and orange together, and the little BSJ is just darling! You guys are going to have the best-dressed baby in town.

    I’d love to see photos from your hiking outing. Spending the whole darn summer in Chicago is making me yearn for time outdoors.

  10. whitney Comment Says:

    What a fantastic color combo for a BSJ! And the little special touches look perfect. I will definitely be revisiting this post later to try out some of your i-cord tricks.

    I can’t wait to see little Minnow wearing this!

  11. Val Comment Says:

    I just love those tweedy flecks!

  12. Rose Comment Says:

    I am a contributor on Zimmermania and never realized you launched the blog….awesome!

  13. emily Comment Says:

    Love it! 🙂