Before We Knit

Elizabeth DeHority has graciously offered to help us through the knitting of a classic Baby Surprise Jacket (there are 14,564 pictured here). This jacket is knit from an Elizabeth Zimmermann pattern, which can be found in the The Opinionated Knitter or in the video (also available at Amazon here). If you are a new knitter, I highly recommend that the pattern you purchase is the line-by-line  ABCSJ pattern available at The link will take you to the page. You have to scroll to find the pattern. I'm sorry, but there is no direct link to the product. The line-by-line pattern is much easier to understand than EZ's original rendering.

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Look for a post detailing prizes real soon. In the meantime, Elizabeth DeHority answers more of your questions below:

We've talked about what a knitter needs to know to start a BSJ... really and truly, if she can cast on and do a knit stitch, she can knit this whole sweater.  There are a few other stitches and things that we'll need, but none are hard and we'll have videos of all of them.
Here are two more frequent questions from email and my ravelry messages:
1.  Why do I need to do a swatch if I don't have to make my knitting match a certain number of stitches per inch?
Good question!  First of all, some people ARE trying to make a specific size sweater, and therefore need a certain number of stitches per inch,  I want my sweater to be about a size three, but shorter (for George, who has short upper arms like many people with Down Syndrome)  Therefore, I needed to be sure that my yarn and my needles worked together to give me 3.5 stitches per inch.  But even if you don't need a certain gauge, a swatch is valuable.  First of all, every knitter is different, and the size needles you need to make a nice fabric from a particular yarn might be very different than those recommended on the ball band.  And what if there IS no ball band?  Several knitters who have signed up are using handspun.  They really have to experiment to decide what needles give the best results.  Also, since your sweater will be babywear, it will get washed.  And washed.  And washed.  Even machine washable yarn changes quite a bit after that first wash.  Or what if you're trying a new yarn and you discover after washing your swatch just once that it gets all distorted or pilly?  You might not want to spend so much time and effort until you exchange your yarn for something more durable.
2.  I want to make stripes.  How do I do that?  How many rows until I should change colors?
There are some color-changing guidelines ("when" in the pattern conveys to "where" in the sweater) in the ABCSJ pattern.
You can change colors whenever you want.  I'm alternating 10 rows of my main color with 6 rows of contrasting colors, Elizabeth Foss is changing colors every two rows, Ginny and my mom are using self-striping yarn. 
If you're knitting only two rows with a new color, you are going to carry your yarn (both colors) up the side of your work. To keep things neat, every time you switch colors, just give the yarn a little twist with other color before knitting the first stitch.
If you're knitting more than two rows, it works best to cut your yarn, leaving a nice long tail to weave in later.
Pull about the same amount of tail from your new color.
Tie a loose knot close to the edge of your work, and just start knitting.  When we sew it all up and do the finishing, we will talk about weaving in ends.
There is one other thing to think about when you plan your colors.  If you change as you start a right side row, the rows with the odd numbers, your color change will be a solid line, like this:

If you start your new color when the wrong side is facing you, when you are about to start knitting an even numbered row, your color change will look like this:



Either way is fine.  I have made sweaters with all the changes on one side or the other, and I've made sweaters with changes on both sides.  often if I'm using a muticolored yarn, I want to make the changes on the wrong side, to mix the colors up more.  My sweater this time is all solids, and I want the stripes to be smooth, so I'm going to change only when I'm starting odd numbered, right side, rows.
Leave questions in the comments below and we'll answer there. That way, everyone can benefit from the answers. no doubt, there will be questions as we move along. My mom borrowed my The Opinionated Knitter book to knit her sweater, and she looked at the pattern there (which is not the all written out kind) and said, and I quote, "This should be fine, looks pretty straightforward to me"  I'd hope it would be easy for her; she's the one who taught me how to knit, and I think she's knit even more whole big fancy sweaters than I've knit plain little baby socks.  By the way, happy mother's day, mom :-)