Thursday, 26 July 2012

baby surprise : hand-made vs hand-crafted

baby surprise jacket, open
I have been knitting for almost 10 years now and have noticed that over time my tastes have changed.
At first I threw myself into projects head first - anything I thought of I would fearlessly set about designing and (attempting) to make. I learned any necessary skills on the way. I basically wanted own and wear exactly what I wanted.

My knitting skills developed a lot and I eventually became a competent knitter. I had occasional successes but mainly I produced little that was wearable/usable.

Everything looked 'hand-made' in the worst possible way.

Over time my desire for unique and self-made garments moved to a passion for knitting from vintage patterns. Tiny stitches in fine yarns appealed. Maybe this was a subconscious desire to distance myself from my hand-made first knits.

I had more successes, but many projects still lie unfinished. I learnt more and more advanced techniques and tricks to recreate garments from a time when hand-knitting was a common way to acquire a special item of clothing rather than the consumer driven fashion of today.

However, when I first became pregnant I no longer had the motivation, time nor energy for knitting complicated adult-sized garments. Nor did I have the time to care for delicate hand-knits. Also my ever-increasing baby-bump meant I may not fit into anything I did manage to complete.

Fortunately I now had an extremely important, very small, and as yet unborn person whom I wanted to shower with my knitting affection and so developed my appreciation for the knitting patterns of Elizabeth Zimmerman.

I now have two small boys and have made many of Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jackets and the accompanying booties and hats. I have not yet tired of them. Rows and rows of cleverly increasing and decreasing garter stitch - comforting, interesting, intriguing and with a genius twist at the end when sewing it all together. For me it is the perfect knitting project when heavily pregnant.
baby surprise jacket, closed but no buttons

Elizabeth Zimmerman's patterns were created not just with the end result in mind, but also with thought to the enjoyment of the process of knitting itself. This suits me well when I have few precious moments to knit and want to make the most of this time.

Zimmerman designed as a knitter, for a knitter. Her work embraces the process of the craft itself. The resulting finished garments looks exquisitely 'hand-crafted', as opposed to the rough-and-ready 'hand-made' of my first forays into knitting.

I never did quite finish this jacket for my son who took me by surprise when he arrived a week early. Despite the best of intentions I never got round to sewing on the buttons. Instead I am left with two rows of button holes due to Elizabeth Zimmerman's genius instructions to make holes on either side of the jacket and sew the buttons over the holes once baby is born (and its sex is known) neatly ensuring the holes and buttons are properly aligned with minimum effort.
baby surprise jacket, with baby

It is just this sort of detail which makes Zimmerman's patterns such a pleasure to create.


Ting said...


Lovely to see that you're blogging again! I've set myself the challenge of making myself a dress & thought I'd find some inspiration from you.

Ting x

Cassie Louise said...

Hello Ting.

Yep, I'm back blogging - albeit a bit sporadically whilst I get back into the swing of things. I think I've finally found a way to make time to sew and knit again! I hope all is good with you?