Knitting on instinct

Happy New Year! This year has sure gotten off to a rocky start. (This post, I imagine you will be happy to hear, is all about knitting, and not about the rocky start.)

I had a big work project due this past week, and with the stress of it hanging over my head, not to mention the very long hours of work involved, I had precious little time for knitting over the break. It’s so sad, too, because I usually get a lot of knitting done during the Christmas/New Year break, and often start some new projects at that time. However, I have managed to make some progress on Doug’s vest.

What you might not get from the above photo is the sheer amount of angst, and winging it, that went into the last 6 inches or so of this project. It is my first time knitting a steeked garment, so I really have no set concept in my head about how it all works once you reach the armhole stage, much less any muscle memory to call on. I am really knitting on instinct here.

I am using Kate Davies Ursula Cardigan as the basis for this project. However, the pattern is for a woman’s cardigan, and I am knitting a man’s waistcoat, so I am creating all of the shaping as I go. It is really rather nerve-wracking. Here you can see how I cast off at the armholes, and created a steek for the armscythes:

The questions I have been battling with are: how many stitches to cast off at the underarm? How many to bind off as I shape the armscythe? How much of a slope do I need? When do I start the decreases at the neck? How deep should the v-neck be? How many sets of decreases to make? At what interval? How wide do the shoulders need to be? Do I need more steeks at the shoulders/back? How do I put in some shoulder shaping? And all of this is in addition to the fact that I will have to CUT THE STEEKS eventually and not have a heart attack.

I am a scribbler: I write down everything. I have been scribbling little drawings of vests and calculations everywhere – no piece of paper is safe.

I find this example especially funny because this piece of paper also contains scribbles from a class I was teaching. I teach executive MBA students. In the bottom right hand corner of the lower page are some questions I scribbled down during a class. A student was speaking, and these are questions I wrote down to ask her. It says: “What is it that you still need to learn? What does skill look like?” Hmm…I was trying to get my students to reflect, but at the moment it also sounds like a good reflection for me, and very relevant to the subject of this post. I’m going to let these questions percolate around for a bit. Maybe I’ll come up with some interesting answers.

While I am still not sure how my calculations will work for the finished garment, I think it is starting to look okay. Below is a photo where I have folded up the partially knitted garment along the steek lines, so that you can see the right front with the armscythe on the left of the photo and the neckline decreases on the right.

I am reassured by the fact that it looks reasonably similar to the right front of a v-neck garment, rather than, for example, like a sleeve. And while I have fretted tons about how deep to make the armholes, they look reasonably like armholes:

Keep knitting everyone. (Or whatever else it is that keeps you sane and happy.) Coming soon: the steek!

17 thoughts on “Knitting on instinct

    • Woops! Just followed your link and it was not to the Ursula I was thinking about (which is also knit by a Liz – see below thread). This raglan version of Ursula is also lovely and totally cool. Looking in the Ursula projects page on Ravelry I just came across another vest from the pattern as well, so it is clearly not a unique idea. One of the things I love about Kate Davies patterns is how much Kate loves it when we tinker with them and create new things.

  1. It’s looking marvellous! I made Ursula as a vest a year or two ago and was really happy with it. At the time a bunch of us were knitting colourwork vests and I can remember some discussions on shaping, size of shoulders and so on – but, of course, can’t remember any of the details now. I’ll send you a message over on Rav. pointing you to the thread, in case it might be helpful – although it looks like you have things well under control now.

      • Hi Liz, I was active in that chat, although at the time I was thinking of knitting a vest for Doug and not actually knitting a vest. I remember your Ursula vest well. Much later when Doug told me he wanted a vest in these four colours, I thought of Ursula. I’m sure your gorgeous vest was part of what encouraged me to go for it. I must admit that I have not gone back and checked out that thread (although I think I will when it comes to the shoulders and steeking). However, I have a clear memory of your solution: I believe you said that you followed the shaping for the next largest size when you got to the armhole decreases, so as to make the armholes deeper (since it was meant to be a vest). I found that brilliant, and so it has been in the back of my mind. I can’t translate it exactly to my vest because I already have more stitches on the needle than any of the given sizes. What I have done is measure a vest that Doug wears and fits well; however, because it is a fabric vest and not knitted it doesn’t quite translate. I hope that mine turns out as nicely as yours did! I really am nervous about picking up all of those stitches after steeking.

      • Gosh, I’m blushing now – thank you for the Ursula vest love, though.
        Not wishing to increase your anxiety, but if I was doing it again I would pick up the stitches before cutting the steek. I felt that all the manipulation of picking up the stitches made the edge start to unravel. Mind you, if I was doing it again I’d very likely try needle-felting the steek instead of doing a crochet reinforcement, in which case the edge would probably be less fragile.

  2. Steeking is so fun! Really, you will love it. I was using a kind of weird yarn, so I hand sewed on either side before the cut. My finishing included a zipper, which I’ll be doing again. It’s a lot of work, but makes a great finished garment.
    Your vest looks great. I’m the type of person who thinks shaping on the fly is fun too. It’s a pretty safe way to live dangerously, right?

  3. Oh goodness you are brave, if I had a clear mind and no stresses I still don’t think I could work this all out and I have never had the guts to steek anything. I wish you lots of luck with the rest of your winging it, seems to be going well so far so I have faith we will be seeing a lovely modelled FO soon.

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