Getting to grips with the Elizabethan way

Some while ago I came across the ‘Baby Surprise Jacket’ – or BSJ – as it’s fondly referred to on Ravelry. It’s a masterpiece of design and construction comprised of simple garter stitch. Its designer, Elizabeth Zimmerman, was a revolutionary figure in modern knitting in the mid 20th century and her daughter (Meg Swansen) continues to distribute her patterns through Schoolhouse Press.

I knit the BSJ from some absolutely wonderful Noro Silk Garden Lite back in 2008 as a special ‘treat’ for our imminent 3rd babe. I don’t think he wore it much but I fell in love with it and it now hangs on a lovely vintage clothes hanger in our bedroom, a true example of something both useful & beautiful…

I even had the perfect vintage buttons in my (very small) button collection.

The construction of this little jacket intrigued me – it looks nothing like a jacket until the final act of sewing up two small shoulder seams and then suddenly the true beauty and magic of the design is revealed. The long vivid colour repeats of the Noro yarn lent themselves perfectly to the cleverness of the construction and I vowed to learn more about the brains behind the beauty.

Well, time flies when you’re knitting up a storm and I’ve only recently revisited the work of Elizabeth Zimmerman. I’m currently reading Knitting without Tears which is proving to be a charming and witty tome which has had me chuckling and nodding in agreement alternately. I can’t wait to work my way through the rest of her publications and hopefully get to grips with some of her renowned approaches to garment construction… Of course my desire is being fuelled by a particular cardigan spotted on Ravelry recently… the pattern simply described as ‘Elizabeth’s Percentage System Sweater’ hmmmm…. I have the fear but the appeal is too great to resist – wish me luck!

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