I am thrilled to be able to show you some photos of the waistcoat I knitted for Doug.
I am really pleased with how it turned out. It fits! (My measurements told me that it was going to fit; but we all know that, in knitting, measurements sometimes lie.) Most important, Doug likes it too!
Those of you who follow this space will know that the waistcoat/vest was a very long-term project, something which percolated in the back of my mind for some years before I finally set my yarn to needles. Most of that time was spent in trying to find a pattern that I liked and wanted to knit. I had some parameters – Doug wanted it to button down the front, I wanted to try my hand at knitting a stranded garment and steeking, we both wanted it to be colourful and interesting and fun, and furthermore, because this (a steeked, stranded garment) was all new to me, I wanted it to feel achievable – with a small, controlled number of colours and a pattern that was cool but uncomplicated. Try as I might, I could not find any vest patterns that I liked.
I kept coming back to Ursula [Ravelry link]; a very nice women’s cardigan pattern designed by Kate Davies. It had all of the features I wanted – a small, regular fair isle pattern that was easy to memorise, that was well-suited to colour exploration, and that looked intrinsically cool and pleasing. Most of all, the pattern was written by someone I trust to get the details right and to write them in a way which worked for me. Having knitted several of Kate’s patterns previously, I knew that she could walk me through a process, even one which pushed against my comfort zone.
Of course, I had to do a bit of pattern tinkering to take a women’s cardigan and produce a man’s waistcoat. I followed the pattern exactly for the size 48, until I got to the underarms. Then I had to do lots of calculations. I added some length to the garment, both above and below the armholes, and I made a V-neck. I calculated and measured ad nauseum, to try and ensure that the slope of the decreases at the arm would work and that the shoulders would fit properly and lie nicely. Although I would tweak a few things here and there if I were to do it again, I am happy with the results.
I used Shetland wool, which is amazingly easy to steek. It is “sticky” and has great stitch definition. This vest is knitted with Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift in the shades Shlomit (an undyed shade), Conifer, Raspberry, and Loganberry.
As I knitted this, I became more comfortable with stranded knitting. There are lots of different techniques for stranding; I tried lots of them to see which worked best for me. The one I ended up sticking to was holding the background yarn in my right hand and throwing it and holding the foreground yarn in my left-hand and picking it. It eventually settled into a rhythm for me and I think it ended up with very neat stitchwork, with no pulling in and very even stitches. There are no very long floats and so I let them be and did not bother to catch them. Here, Doug is wearing it inside out so that you can see the reverse side:
Why do I keep switching between the terms waistcoat and vest? I think as an American living in Britain, my mind keeps toggling between the two terms. The difference seems to be regional, as well as one of quality (with a waistcoat being more formal). I have blogged about this project a lot so I will try not to repeat myself too much in this post. In case you are interested in some of the techniques, thought processes, or decisions involved, I have provided links below to some of the posts I’ve written previously which you might like or find useful.
A baker’s dozen of men’s knitted vest patterns; this post from 2017 showcases 13 men’s vest patterns. I ended up not choosing any of them, but it is a good compilation of interesting patterns.
Brownie points; picking the colours, swatching, choosing the type of ribbing. You can see that I had no idea what I was doing – I ordered more than twice the amount of yarn I would need.
Inauguration side effects; a humorous post about how changes in your stress levels is reflected in your stitchwork.
Knitting on instinct; this post goes into some details on shaping the armholes and neckline.
Steeking without tears; this post goes into a lot of detail on the process of steeking. It detailed why and how I picked up the stitches for the ribbing before cutting the steeks, and how I plotted, with extreme precision, to ensure that the buttonholes and the ribbing and the pattern would all line up precisely (it is a bit OCD).
Buttons and lambs; about choosing buttons for this project.
“Holy Fair Isle Batsuit, Batman!”; another humorous post, about how the partially steeked vest looks like a toddler’s fair isle batsuit.
Some Kate Davies patterns which I have knitted and blogged about:
Capping off the year; the “peerie floors” hat