21 February 2010

Deciphering Elizabeth's BSJ

Before I get started I have to say...just for the record...that after working on the Baby Surprise Jacket (BSJ) I think Elizabeth Zimmermann was a knitting genius, or knitting superhero, if you prefer.  That being said, let me tell you about my BSJ experience.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when I driving to work and listening to episode #30 of the DoubleKnit podcast.  In that episode, Erin was talking about some baby mittens that she had knit for her daughter.  Since my niece L is having a baby next month (her first), I started thinking that it would be fun to knit some mittens for one of her baby showers.  It just seemed like something that Mrs O should do.

Before I left work that day I got on ravelry and downloaded a free copy of the pattern that Erin used.  The next couple of nights after work I searched the local stores for some superwash worsted wool (as was suggested in the pattern).  Sadly, I live in an area where LYSs are in short supply and I was unsuccessful in finding the yarn I needed for the mittens.

Soon after I got to work the next morning, my latest order from Knit Picks arrived.  The week before I couldn't resist the siren call of 40% off all books at Knit Picks...where shipping is free on orders over $50.  In that order were 5 of Elizabeth Zimmermann's books: The Opinionated Knitter, Knitting Without Tears, The Knitter's Almanac, Knitting Around, and Knitting Workshop.

Somewhere between work and home that night I decided that not only would I knit the mittens, but that I would knit a BSJ (from The Opinionated Knitter) for L's baby as well.  So I checked the yarn requirements for a newborn BSJ and sent off another order to Knit Picks hoping that I would get the yarn in time to get the jacket and the mittens completed before the showers.

As luck would have it, the Knit Picks order came the day after President's day giving me the remainder of the week before the first shower and an additional week before the second shower.  Surely, I could get them done in plenty of time, I thought.  So that night I went home read through the BSJ pattern and started swatching to get gauge.  After three attempts I finally got the right needle size and cast on.  All was going along well until I got to the part of the pattern that reads, "At 5 ridges inc, 9 sts (K3, M1) across end sections, believe it or not for fullness above CUFF.".  What?  Surely I had missed something in the instructions...how was I supposed to get from row 7 to there?  I started reading ahead in the pattern to get some perspective.  When I had read through the pattern earlier that night I had thought that the language used by Elizabeth was quaint and charming, but now that I was in the middle of trying to knit the garment it seemed more like a code in need of cracking.

After studying the pattern some more, I did what any accountant would do...I opened Excel and started a spreadsheet.  I made a spreadsheet row for each row of knitting and started keeping track of the number of stitches in each section of the garment.  Then I went to ravelry and found a wiki just for the BSJ.  There I found a few spreadsheets that other like-minded knitters had put together.  I checked what I had with a couple of those spreadsheets for reasonableness and before I went to bed I had a rough estimate of what I thought was required of the garment. 

The next night after work I started the DVD player (as part of my mid-week routine) and slipped in one of the middle discs from Season 3 of 24.  I then got out a printed copy of my spreadsheet, and started working on the garment while I watched Jack Bauer battle yet another set of terrorists.  After I worked each row I took careful notes on what I had done.  By the end of the night I only had about 15 rows completed and was a little panicked that I wouldn't get it completed by either of the showers. 

Well, I guess the knitting fairies felt my panic because the next morning I woke up sick.  It seems that the crud Mr O had the week before had finally caught up with me.  Despite my cold, I went into work and submitted payroll so that we would get paid on time...it's never good to mess with someone's paycheck.  By the time I finished payroll I was starting to feel feverish, so I took the rest of the day off and told my boss that I would most likely be out sick the following day as well.

I called Mr O as I was driving home from work and told him that I wasn't feeling well.  We decided that since I was sick and since the weather didn't look too great for the weekend (darn the snow) it made more sense for me to remain where I was for the weekend instead of my weekly commute to his neck-of-the-woods.  Great, another weekend of missing Mr O loomed before me.

Well, I guess those knitting fairies sort of knew what they were doing because it's now 3 days later, I'm finally starting to feel like normal, the majority of the BSJ is done (0nly the seaming is left), and I'm now ready to begin Season 5 of 24.  On the other hand, because I was sick I missed the first baby shower...not worth taking the chance of getting L sick.  Oh well, there is still one more shower to go...hopefully, I'll get those mittens that started it all done before then.

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