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A circle of sources, a baby's surprise

Inspired to make a jacket for a newborn, an uninitiated knitter realizes it takes a village.

By Maggie Lewis / March 1, 2012

Dear Lily,

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I'm sending you this Baby Surprise Jacket that I knitted. I don't think it will fit you till you're 2. I hope by then you aren't old enough to wonder if something like this is cool enough, because it probably isn't.

Speaking of becoming older and cooler, when you're riding around in your stroller, do you ever hear people say, "It takes a village to raise a child"? I never agreed with that. For example, is the mayor going to help decide when you will have solid food? Will the school bus driver want to know when you first sat up? Would the mail carrier warm up a bottle? I don't think so. Aside from a lot of remarks from strangers about whether or not you should have a hat on, on any particular day, I think raising you is going to be up to your parents.

However, I can tell you right now, it took a village to make this Baby Surprise Jacket.

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It's called that because you knit a really odd, wobbly-edged rectangle, then you fold it up and, surprisingly, it's a little jacket.

This one comes to you from me, who did the knitting, but also from Irene and Laura, my knitting friends, who encouraged me to keep going. Because even though I knew it was supposed to fold up like a sweater, it looked like a big mistake right until the end.

Also, Margaret, whose gloves were made of that pink wool, would be delighted to know the leftovers went to you. Dorette gave me the blue fuzzy wool. She will be happy you are wearing a little stripe of it. Those raspberry stripes that match the eyes of the bunnies on the buttons are from my old mittens, with my best wishes. The scratchy purple stripes are left over from your second-cousin-twice-removed Owen's mittens, and he sends his love along with them.

The greenish blue color is yours alone, courtesy of the knitting store clerk who said this is just the color babies are wearing now.

Elizabeth Zimmermann, who revolutionized modern knitting, explained how to make this jacket in one of her instruction books. Sort of. Her instructions are not what you'd expect – sleeves, front, back, sew them up. She tells you what to do in the first seven rows. "See what you are doing?" No, I mentally reply. "Work will start to look very odd, indeed, but trust me, and PRESS ON," she commands.

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