Baby Surprise Jacket

What hasn’t already been written about Elizabeth Zimmerman’s 1968 ground breaking design, the Baby Surprise Jacket? So many people have made this. So many people have marvelled at the origami style wonder of knitting something that is flat, with a few waves and which turns miraculously into a jacket.

It’s clever. It really is. Knitters will forever be discovering the magic and utter cleverness of it. I am not the last. And this is not the last Baby Surprise Jacket I will ever knit. I see myself knitting this for babies forever. And I see myself saying to new parents, as I did today ‘this is a very special, very clever baby knit. Trust me, it’s awesome.’

Here is how it looked before I folded it. It’s the olbigatory ‘before’ shot.


Knitting this was the same leap of faith it is for every knitter who tries it for the first time. Just follow was the pattern says. Increase when you’re suppose to. Decrease when you’re supposed to. I changed colours when I felt like it, with no real sense of whether it would work or not. And so I ended up with this.


And at the back it looks like this


And on the baby it looks like this. Little Julian, who is recipient of my first BSJ, posed most handsomely for photos today.


And then we had a cuddle so he could show it off some more.


Julian is still very small, and his parents speculated that this jacket wouldn’t fit him for some time. Then, because he was in a cheerful mood, we thought we’d try it on him and to be honest, there’s not a lot of room in it for growth. It’ll stretch a bit, but not a lot. I thought that was quite illuminating. If he was a big baby, sure, but he’s not. He’s tiny. It made me stop and think about future Baby Surprise Jackets and how I’d ensure they would fit other babies. It’s a 5ply piece (Bendigo Woollen Mills Colonial); on 3.75mm needles. I’m a tight knitter. I think in future all 5ply versions should be on 4mm needles at a minimum. Something to think about, for sure.

If you’ve been reading my blog since 2008 you might recognise the wool. It’s made from two left over balls of the stuff I used to make my long-suffering Steeked Jacket. Those who were around then will remember it took more than a year of my life to knit this.

The Steeked Jacket
I’m really, really happy I found something to make out of the left overs. When I started knitting Julian’s jacket, Sean said ‘wow, it’s great to see those colours again.’ Time is a great healer. We’ve both forgotten the scars of trying to get that beast off the needles!

All I know is that this was such a fun knit and the possibilities that lay ahead are rich and varied. There’s a reason this has been a popular and inspiring knit for more than 40 years. Julian’s dad is an engineer. I tried to explain to him how this happened – this knitting miracle. He’s a guy who’s shown an interest in the past in wonder of a knitted sock heel, that sort of thing. Today he said ‘I could knit a BSJ for myself, couldn’t I?’ I said he could. It’s been done before, a man-sized version.

Father and son would look fabulous together.

Me, I can’t wait to knit another one.

Thank you Julian for inspiring me to knit my first Baby Surprise Jacket. This won’t be the last.



34 thoughts on “Baby Surprise Jacket

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  3. What a wonderful gift for Julian and his parents. I think knitting is fairly magic too!! I love the stripes and I do remember your Wondrous Steeked Jacket. I remember it as it was knitted and the joy of finishing!!!

  4. Looks fabulous.

    I still have my leftovers from my steeked jacket. Will have to make a replacement as my original jacket has been the victim of moth:(

  5. Took me awhile, but I finally got to this post, Bells. You are a magical woman, you know that? What a beautiful gift, one I know E & B will have treasured, and that the beautiful Julian looks even more delicious in. I’m also very jealous of the cuddles you’re all getting from @babbysmeaver & must hurry back to Oz to get some! xo

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  7. Lovely baby jacket. It might stretch quite a bit when you use a dollop of fabric softenener after it’s washed. I tried this out successfully on two of my sweaters which I’d knit too tight. They now both fit very well.

  8. There’s a great wiki in Ravelry on the BSJ. It includes information on sizing. Heavier yarn produces a larger item.

    Schoolhouse Press also has recently (well within the past year or so) released directions for what I think they call the ABC Surprise Jacket (adult-baby-child).

    Love the way that yours striped!

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  10. Your BSJ looks great & I like the stripes. I was inspired by you to knit one & I did after reading your post. It’s done & I just need to seam it & sew on the buttons. Thanks for the inspiration.

  11. Gorgeous!!! I am putting this on my list of “to dos” for new babies I come in contact with. I’m so behind on everything that may not be anytime soon, though. What a wonderful garter stitcher you are. Mine can sometimes look intensely awful, but that’s because I start knitting to fast and not paying attention to keeping a nice tension. Also, you mention you’re a tight knitter, while I’m so loosey goosey, I automatically drop a needle size on every pattern. Every. Single. One. Maybe that’s my trouble. Anyhow…marvelous job as always. Love seeing your FOs and learning the stories behind them.

  12. 1968 – gosh that’s the year I was born, it’s patterns been around for some time .D Your BSJ looks gorgeous, great colours together ! ..and bub looks very cute in it.
    Your steeked jacket makes me cringe at the thought of knitting it, your one brave knitter – so much work !!! I can see why it took some recovery, nevertheless it turned out great !

  13. The BSJ is so cute – I will have to try one someday… And I love your steeked jacket – it looks fantastic! Do you get much chance to wear it?

  14. Looks great Bells. I’m still a little bit curious to know how is actually folds up and becomes a cardigan… guess I’ll just have to (eventually) make it myself and find out.

  15. Just this morning, I biked to an LYS with friends. There was a BSJ on display and I was trying to describe why it was so special and amazing to a non-knitting friends. I think she thinks I’ve been brainwashed.

    Yours is just gorgeous! I’ve got to give this a try.

  16. Love it! I have the DVD of how to make the BSJ and just haven’t gotten to it. Moving it to the front of the queue. And I (still) love your steeked jacket. So cool that you had the leftovers for this other very different piece.

  17. OK, that’s it. I am DEFINITELY going to add one of these to my knitting queue. Yours is just gorgeous, Bells! I’m wondering whether it wouldn’t be fun to take a lot of leftover sock yarn and do a Coat of Many Colours…needle size would be an issue, though, as you wouldn’t want to make it too loose. Maybe upsize the number of stitches? What do you think?

  18. oh, little baby! sigh! and what a wonderful bsj! your stripes worked out so well. when i knitted this, i found it smaller than expected too. i think babies are bigger now days. and may i add that your steeked jacket is magnificent, worth the effort i’m sure.

  19. They are amazing, aren’t they?

    A friend knitted one for GS#1 – it was way too small to fit him – he was your average 8pounder! I knitted my first one in 5ply on larger needles and it was a reasonable size but I thought the fabic was a bit too drape-y!

  20. I didn’t recognize the yarn when you sent me the sneak peek–it looks totally different in stripes! Just as well it fits now, he’ll get some good use out of a cozy jacket this time of year, no? And he’s a lovely little bundle himself.

  21. Awww. So sweet – the sweater AND the babe. Well, you’ve inspired me to someday give it another shot. I just have such a hard time with these leap of faith things – I hate giving up control! As an aside, did you make the pretty white sweater you’re wearing while holding Julian?

  22. It is a great knit isn’t it! It wouldn’t really matter what size you made it, at the rate babies grow it will only fit for a month or three anyway! It looks fab on the little guy.

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