As I darned in the ends on my first baby surprise jacket of this year (and my 16th overall) there was a little bit of me that wondered whether or not I should be branching out with my baby knitting; whether it’s a sign of creative malaise that I hear baby and start reaching for Elizabeth Zimmerman and some nice soft squishy wool. The rest of me however, knew that this is not just any baby cardigan, this is an iconic knit.
So far there are 25,707 baby surprise jackets shared on Ravelry, and as Ravelry is a relatively new creation and the baby surprise jacket is not, this is probably only the tip of the iceberg. Centuries from now, archaeologists will unearth hundreds of baby boxes across the world and find the same little jacket in every colour and fibre under the rainbow, and wonder whether we considered it a good luck charm.
The mama of this baby is a very dear friend of mine, and while the baby is so completely adored that there isn’t enough knitwear in the world to represent the love that greeted his arrival, I was never not going to knit him a little something. The challenge for me is that his mama is also very stylish; we work together and she is always beautifully dressed and put together, in contrast to my slightly more ‘this is clothes, I’ll wear it’ attitude to fashion, and her creativity has full reign when it comes to interior design.
A baby surprise jacket was the only thing that could possibly keep up.
For the colours, I’ll admit I used cushions and crowdsourcing. Over the years we’ve discussed dream houses, scoured RightMove for the fixer uppers we’d buy when we won the lottery and had lengthy discussions about wallpaper and curtains and all the colours we would use in our houses, and grey and mustard was a popular combination. The crowdsourcing was the rest of the team who relayed back to me all insider information on colour, mostly, no all-out baby blue.
The yarn is a combination of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino (the pale blue and grey) and Rowan Wool Cotton for the mustard. They all knit together beautifully, and more importantly, they machine wash.
The stripe pattern is entirely random; it’s the joy of knitting something you don’t have to duplicate and I just changed colours to whatever felt right. And the joy of the baby surprise is that I don’t think there’s a way to make one of these look bad. I love the finished jacket, at least enough to entertain me through darning in all those ends, and I think it was a hit with its small owner.
And what’s more, I’m pretty sure that the 16th will not be the last. Before the tiny nephew arrived, my sister had asked for one for him, and while he has some growing to do, I’m sure we’ll get there in the end. It’s a testament to the lady who, in her words, ‘unvented’ it, that it’s both so practical that it gets requests, and so incredibly fun that you just can’t stop knitting them.