Vest [Best] Dress[ed]

For a project that pretty much flew off the needles, it is interesting that I have so much to say about it.   I have lots to say not due to any pattern issue or yarn dissatisfaction, but rather the changes I made in how I constructed it.  From long tail cast on to sewing on the seam binding along the back neck, I feel these changes led to its success and will lead to the garment’s longevity.

I will begin with the pattern.  Found in an unlikely source for me, the vogue knitting online store,   I’ve always thought these a collection of older issue VK patterns so figured I had already seen all of them.  I virtually stumbled across this and was surprised it was not familiar to me.   I also found a bunch more I really liked and have queued so I now know that these collections of [free] or otherwise select patterns on various knitting websites may offer new possibilities and are not necessarily from publications.  I love everything about this garment:  its deep hem rib that shapes the piece, the deep v neckline, its concept, the pockets, its versatility, oh, I could go on.  There is nothing I do not like except its construction.  I even used the yarn  of the pattern and chose a very similar color palate substituting only the antique for grape and keeping the candy apple red color.

On the yarn.  The yarn utilized in the pattern is a bulky Lion Brand fiber called Homespun of acrylic/polyester.  I love the boucle look of this yarn and knew if I was going to knit this, this would be the only yarn I would consider.  The fiber looks almost like rickrack and gives the surface of the knitted fabric a soft, curly look.   Fabulous, however I was soon to find out that it was difficult to work with.

Only knit with this yarn when it (or you) are cool.  When it or you perspire, the yarn does NOT slide on the needle.  Then, there is the issue of row count.  You know when you’ve turned the corner of your knitting skills when you take the grand leap from any device including paper and pencil for keeping track, to keeping track by reading your knitting.   No paper, no device, no row counter . . . Reading your row count and reading your number of stitches is what we all do as knitters and the fabric tells all.  This yarn, due to its curly nature, made it virtually impossible to ‘read’ or count rows.

You always need to know your count, both horizontal stitch count and vertical row count for fit.  That is indeed how you get gauge.  For this project and how I chose to construct it, I needed to be able count the rows for the back to align to the front and also to have the same number of rows in each stripe so that the stripes were the same width.  I had to find a way to read rows.  With much study, I learned that by pulling the fabric gently, I could see horizontal parallel lines between the rows, otherwise known as the stitches, (she says smiling) and with use of a darning needle to lift up those parallels,  I could count them.  They would be my row count, plus one, the row on the needle.   Blue skies ahead, I thought I could now succeed with this as well as use this approach for the future as I do have more funky fiber in my stash.

On Seams.  I turned this project from a seamless one, knitting in the round, into one that was constructed with a front and back, knitting back and forth, that would require seaming in the end.  Why, you ask?  Let me count thy ways.  Seams give a garment stability.   Period.  Think of a tube sock.  No shape and eventually they twist and turn making them uncomfortable, not to mention unsightly.  When I feel the seams at my sides I know the garment is not twisting.  You don’t realize this until you make or have a sweater without seams.  I have made a few seamless garments and have pledged to never do so, again.  I feel so strongly about this that I am almost angry at designers who are pushing their designs/patterns that are seamless.  I have yet to see any pattern that is stronger and more attractive without seams.   Seams gives a garment shape.  Seams allow the garment to hold its shape.  When I pull the garment on and off, I pull from the seams, never the fabric.   This careful behavior creates no wear and tear or unbecoming stretch to the fabric allowing the shape to remain giving the fabric longevity.  When I weave in ends, I weave the ends in the seams.   Somehow,  with seam work to do, there is validity that your count is accurate regarding rows of color work or stitch patterning as you see the pieces aligning perfectly.  I cannot say enough about seams and the importance of them in a garment and the satisfaction one gets when viewing a beautifully sewn seam.

How to Convert from Working in the Round to Working Back and Forth Knitting Pieces for Seaming:

Step 1:  (after knowing your gauge and size you are following) ~ divide the number of stitches in the pattern for working in the round in half.  Make sure the number of stitches is divisible by your rib pattern.  For example:  my rib pattern at the hemline was k2p2.  That is 4 stitches.  So the number of stitches for my front (and back) had to be divisible by 4.  Then, add 2 more stitches for the selvage edge.  So for this project after knowing size and gauge:  pattern called for 120 working in the round. Divide by half.  That is 60.  Rib pattern is repeat of 4.  I asked myself is 60 divisible by 4?  Answer:  yes.  Add 1 for selvage stitch for each side.  That meant I needed 62 stitches for the front and back working the pieces flat and separately.   Those selvage stitches are knitted in every row.   So, k1, rib pattern for 60 stitches, k1.  Turn.  k1, rib pattern for 60 stitches, k1.  Repeat.  When you get to the body of the vest dress, k1, k60, k1.  Turn.  k1, p60, k1.  Repeat.

Step 2:  You are not home free. . . yet.  The success for any project is you must always have the end in mind.   ok, You have now knitted your back.  I typically knit the back of a project first, then the front.  For your front, you need to make sure your rib pattern does not break.  So, when you sew the two pieces right sides together, the selvage stitch is in the seam, the rib pattern needs to continue.  So, if your back is k1, k2p2 rep, k1 your front or knitted side needs to be k1, p2k2 rep, k1.  If this is confusing, knit about an inch up after your ribbing, stop, and check by holding right sides together of both front and back making sure the rib pattern continues through the side seam.  It’s really noticeable when a rib pattern, well any pattern breaks.

These 2 steps are the only way your side seams will set near invisible in your finished project.   And, I will add that when I say ‘sew’ the seam, most times I crochet my seams together holding right sides together, with crochet hook, and with this project always checking that the color striping lines up perfectly on the front and back.  This technique is seaming on the wrong side which some people do not like as you are not working from the right side, but if you are diligent in checking your work and aligning your patterns, the seams are gorgeous inside and out.

Look for the side seams in these photos, they are barely detectable and as I’ve said, earlier are worth the weight in gold in the time and effort you give them.

Neckline Symmetry:  So that the wide stripe on one side of the deep v neckline matches the wide stripe on the other side, I made sure I not only picked up the same number of stitches on each side of the neckline, but also the same number of stitches in each color stripe on each side.  This ensures a lovely symmetry along the neckline.

Patch pockets:  The pattern has you knitting two pockets separately after knitting the garment.  So, I did.  Then, of course it says to sew the pockets on.  wow. really?  I would like to see the result of that.   When knitting pockets on their own and beginning with stocking stitch, they flair out at the bottom.  Then, one would need to measure or somehow use other cues to get them sewn on neatly.  I failed miserably to the point of wondering whether to add pockets at all.  But, it was the styling and uniqueness of the deep ribbing and pocket detailing that drew me in originally so I thought about it.  I counted the ribs from the side seams (OH, hey another advantage to seaming), picked up stitches on the right side, enough for the pockets and went from there.  Oh, perfect.  Counting the same no. of ribs on the other side, the pockets were symmetrically placed.

Leaving a yarn tail at this point and leaving another at cast off point, I was able to use those ends to sew down the sides of the pockets following the knit of the fabric for straightness.  Again, up close I could barely see the stitch rows, so this time I basted a line by pulling up those parallels, again.  Easy, straight sewing now with both pockets measuring the same.

Blocking.  None.  I block very little and rarely.  Sometimes, only sections.  Blocking, itself is an art form.

On seam binding.  Well, 3 needle bind off is lovely, flat, and easy.  Is it durable or stretch preventing?  I didn’t think so.  So, when I feel this might be an issue I simply sew on a knitter’s best friend, seam binding.  And, the seam binding gives my label a support, as well.

ssk.  Oh my gosh!  I learned a new way to decrease for ssk.  Did you know that you can knit 2 together in the back of the stitch and get the same look?  1 step instead of 3!  I am so excited about this!

Now, I am not saying you need to use any of these techniques, just sharing with you what I did and will do again in future projects.

I had fun fashioning this utilizing accessories I had around the house: leggings (which interestingly have a twisted side seam), back pack,  gauntlets and hubby and I had a good time trooping around the grounds of the beautiful Buffalo History Museum.

P.S.  John Brinegar, the designer of this will be at Vogue Knitting Live in NYC January 2017.  Think I have my outfit for one of those days!