First, my apologies for stringing you all along bit by bit with this piece. In truth I knit the thing from start to finish in a very short period but like to take a little extra time with presentation. Plus I loved photographing this thing! Not to mention the obvious fun of milking a good steek for all it’s worth.
References: Knitting in the Old Way by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts and Knitting Workshop by EZ
Yarn: My handspun shetland, “Low Country” fiber from Hello Yarn; Recycled Irish tweed wool from this thrift store sweater.
Needles: US8/5.0mm KnitPicks Harmony Circulars
Start Date: 6 May 2008
Finish Date: 11 May 2008
This was one of those projects that came together eerily well, on it’s own, with very little planning. I had just finished spinning a batch of Shetland that I becom very fond of. I had a good amount of it – about 9 oz. of aran weight – and didn’t want to knit a small project, but knew there wasn’t enough for anything substantial. A few day’s earlier my sister-in-law had sent me this wool sweater she had picked up in Portland from a thrift store. When the vest urge hit me hard, the handspun and the sweater were sitting quietly next to each other in the corner when the big yellow light bulb appeared over my head.
I swatched a small square, striping the two wools together and really loved how it felt and how the colors looked together. After I had my gauge, I was off and running. The rest is all kind of a blur.
Vests are wonderful – it’s like taking all the thrilling parts of sweater knitting and condensing them down into an efficient summary. No sleeve monotony (the second one undoubtedly causes a temporary lapse of excitement in my process), very little shaping, and steeking, means essentially knitting a tube on autopilot with intermittent technique shifts to spice things up. Just when all that stockinette is starting to wear on you? Armholes. And when you’re ready for a little more? Neck Opening. Before you have a chance to get bored? Shoulder shaping. And bam, you have a steek-ready garment. Once you’re at this point, nothing can stop the steek-induced excitement and seeing the odd shaped conical tube bloom into its vest-shape is worth every stitch. It’s a great rhythm.
As for a pattern, I didn’t really use one. If you’re comfortable with seamless sweater construction, it’s an easy jump to wing one of these. I recommend using Knitting in the Old Way by Priscilla Gibson Roberts as a reference. This is by far one of the most well-loved books in the my library, and if you’re a sweater constructo-phile like me, this is essential reading. I also referenced EZ’s Knitting Workshop to compare her armhole and neck opening specifications (vague but useful). Vests need a slightly more exaggerated armhole depth (mine was about 10.5″ before knitting in the armhole ribbing) than their sweater counterparts, but other than that, measurement-wise things are essentially the same.
I worked a “slip 2 as if to knit, k1, pass 2 slipped stitches over” centered decrease every other round on the neck ribbing to create the central ridge at the bottom of the v-shapd opening. I used both tubular cast-on and bind off for all the ribbing to add that special finishing touch. Where ribbing is concerned, this is my favorite starting/finishing technique
Now, lets talk a little about steeking – many of you have e-mailed me questions about my method. I’m a die-hard believer in the traditional crocheted steek. I’m anti putting a sewing machine to my knitting and I love the finish and process of securing everything by hand and with wool. I steeked this project in the exact same manner as my Saddle Shoulder Aran Cardigan last year. [Check my April ’07 Archives for an exhaustive amount of photos on this steeking method]
This is what the facings look like on the inside.
If you feel an innate desire to steek – do it! It isn’t scary, if you play by the rules, and it’s really, REALLY fun. And in my opinion, it makes garment knitting much more intuitive and enjoyable. I’m not a big fan of purling, so it’s a technique that I like to employ whenever possible. The definitive online steeking compendium is Eunny Jang’s and can be found here. Everything you need to know is there, so no excuses for all of you who sent me guilty e-mails admitting to your masochistic urges to cut your knitting.
I’ve never been a vest wearer, in fact I can’t ever remember owning one, but now I’m a changed man. I’ve already found this thing very useful for keeping warm without overheating. It’s very rain-jacket friendly and looks good layering with a lot of different things. Most of all, though, I think I just like having handspun on my person at all times.
I’ll be out of town from tomorrow (Thursday) through Sunday – I’m taking a little vacation. When I come back – I have more finished knits to share. Until then, good knitting.