Thursday, August 9, 2012

Surprise, Baby Surprise

To my eye this baby's bottom looks just like
the previous baby's bottom. What do I know?
Anita has just about finished the Baby Surprise Jacket pattern she is knitting for our youngest's youngest. I say just about because last evening she declared it finished and I thought her agony was over at last. Then she gave it the critical eye and declared herself not at all satisfied, despite having finally deciphered the pattern. Next was rip it, rip it -- this is apparently called frogging and even I get the insider's knitting pun -- and the bottom of the jacket ended up unknitting itself.

This is after several weeks of struggle, so I was amazed that she didn't just declare the boulder rolled up the hill and bask in the glow of a job done. I suppose it's like doing bright work. You lay down that final stroke and step back to admire the varnish only to see a holiday or a sag. It really doesn't matter that within a couple of weeks there will be gouges and scratches all over and that one imperfection won't matter. At the moment it shouts out. Ah well, nothing that a good sanding and another coat won't cure.

Here's what I've learned about knitting to a pattern, having watched this baby surprise its creator. This is from a sympathetic observer's point of view since I don't do needles. My only role is to listen and commiserate and occasionally take a hank of yarn and untangle the rascal. Well, that plus going online to be sure there's some interesting food opportunities along the way to various yarn shops.

Finished with yarn to spare plus another hank in the bank.
First, you always buy too much yarn. The Baby Surprise surprise was that it requires only one skein of yarn  rather than two. Why buy two when one is enough? Apparently the yarn shop owner thought this a good idea and no doubt it was, depending on your point of view. My suggestion to knit a second jacket -- before forgetting just how the pattern actually works -- was dismissed. Instead there's a tiny hat and tiny socks to be created from the excess, as soon as she finds the right needles. I'm surprised the shop owner didn't anticipate this opportunity and suggest alternate needles as well.

Like a transformer it changes shape.
Second, a pattern is only a suggestion. It's like a nautical chart, which may resemble the littoral topography but isn't the same thing as the actual shoreline and bottom. There is an extensive literature about how to turn a Baby Surprise pattern into a sweater. The Baby Surprise surprise is that the how-to differs, depending on who's describing the details. I would have though that to knit is to knit but not so. It's more like to knit is to not know exactly what to do. It's like life, I suppose.

Third, the pattern is a really cute little thing that suddenly turns from a flat dishcloth-shaped object into a jacket through the magic of origami. First it's not a jacket and will never be and then, surprise, it is. So there is a design and a magic built into those cryptic suggestions to knit 1, purl 2. It reminded me of building Tendril from Phil Bolger's design. First, it was a bunch of flat pieces of plywood and then it was a boat. Astounding.

Surprise, it's finished.
I've had the same sensation when following a deep channel and then surprise, I'm aground. So, in the end, knitting and cruising are much the same: full of twists and turns with an occasional knot to unravel and lots of back tracking to make life interesting.

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