25 February 2015

Teddy Bear Baby Surprise Jacket

I recently finished teaching my "Refined Baby Surprise Jacket" class. This is one I would love to be able to teach at shows, but it requires three meetings. I usually space those meetings two weeks apart, but this time I spaced them every three weeks. That worked very well for everyone, and it accommodated my trip to South Carolina Knit Inn and a Valentine's Day weekend visit to my Cuddly Hubby in Maryland.

I've knit Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Surprise Jacket pattern multiple times. In fact, I'm to the point of playing around with it just to see what will happen. This time around, I decided to knit one to fit a teddy bear. Atlanta Knitting Guild supports The Georgia Center for Child Advocacy by dressing comfort bears. Children who have experienced or witnessed a trauma may need to be interviewed so that law enforcement can take action. Bears are typically given to the children afterwards.

Did you know teddy bears and babies do not have the same proportions? I started my experiment by putting some baby surprise jackets on the teddy bear. Here's what I saw:

When I put the colorwork baby surprise jacket on the bear, it was clearly too tight. The sleeves look pretty good both in circumference and length, but you can see the body is too narrow. It is very much too tight at the neck, as I've had to leave the top button open. The top of the button band has folded back as if it were a collar in spite of the neck shaping. Bad!

Here's a plain baby surprise jacket. At least the neck is better -- no longer strangling the bear! But now the sleeves are way too long. The body is better in the circumference, but too much length. Notice how the fabric flows down across the bear's legs. Since the sleeves and body are interrelated, I can't just make the sleeves shorter without making the body narrower. Hmmm.

I knew to get a better fit, I would have to alter the pattern. The baby surprise jacket is a notoriously tricky pattern to alter because the miters make the sleeves and body interrelated. You can't change one without changing the other. Here are the steps I took.

1. Cast on.
The cast on in the baby surprise jacket stretches across the span (arm length-shoulders-arm length) as well as around both cuffs (wrist circumference). Think of it as cuff circumference + sleeve & shoulder & sleeve + cuff circumference. I measured and cast on that length. Yes, you'll need to swatch first (find your stitches per inch) and do the math:
Stitches per one inch × number of stitches desired = number of stitch to cast on.
In my case, the answer was 32 + 74 + 32 = 138. Markers go in 32nd stitches from each end.

2. Cuff increases
These are optional, but are in the original pattern. They make the cuff more obvious as well as a little more fitted. No measuring on this; I just guessed. You want the sleeve, when folded correctly, to have enough circumference to accommodate the arm.
On row 9 (beginning of ridge #5), add 8 stitches evenly at each cuff. Row is (k3, m1)×8, k2, dd, k64, dd, k2, (m1, k3)×8. I worked the make 1s as yarn overs or reverse yarn overs, and then closed them on the wrong-side rows.

3. Sleeve length
How do you know when to stop decreasing for the sleeves and start increasing for the body? Partly you need to know how the fabric you are making will fold to create the jacket.
Remember, your cast-on goes across the shoulders. You are knitting the sweater from the top down. I worked decreases until the underarm measurement matched the bear. In my example, I had 19 ridges total. My 20th ridge was the plain ridge between the decreasing and the increasing.

4. Neck shaping
Now you work increase rows until the fabric covers the shoulders and you are ready to bind off for neck shaping. In the photograph above, you would work until the gap between the sleeves is the "neck" width instead the "shoulder" width. On mine I worked 5 increase ridges before the neck shaping, but I probably should have done more. You'll also need to decide how many stitches to bind off at each end for the neck depth. That measurement is from the top of the shoulders -- where the cast-on will lie across the back -- down to the depth of the neck in front. I folded the fabric around my bear (see picture at left) and made a guess -- 9 stitches.

5. Body
I worked a few more increase ridges -- 4. Because teddy bears have nice round tummies, they need extra width in the body. I possibly should have increased across the back sooner. In the original pattern from Elizabeth Zimmermann, there is an increase row across the back to add fullness for diapers. My example: Increase ridge with increases across the back for fullness around teddy bear. Row was k1-tbl, k19, yo, k1, rev yo, (k3, yo) 8×, k6, (rev yo, k3) 8×, yo, k1, rev yo, k19, s1-pw-wyif. On WS row, knit all yo and rev yo in the proper direction to twist them closed.

6. Button band
If you are working from the original pattern, you would have some increase ridges, and then a section that increases the length on the back only. Remember my second photograph? I checked the jacket on my bear, and I did not need any length. In fact, I was in danger of having too much length before the button bands would meet. So I just jumped right to the end. I worked 8 ridges and bound off.
You'll notice I used i-cord and Chinese ball knots to make frog closures, rather than purchasing buttons and making buttonholes. It would have been faster for me to drive up to Kennesaw, buy buttons, and drive back than to work all that i-cord. Plus, I ended up with six sets of ends to weave in. On the upside, the look works well with this jacket.
In sum, what I learned:
The cast on is pretty easy to measure.
Working until the underarm is easy to measure.
Working until the neck is a little trickier to measure. Maybe work more rows than you think, as your bear might have wide shoulders.
Binding off neck depth can be measured.
Tubby, cuddly bears do not need extra length, they need extra width right away!
I used two different yarns to stash bust. I could just barely make a teddy bear sweater from one skein of Knit One, Crochet Too Ty- Dy Cotton. If working a regular baby surprise jacket, I would need two.

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