Make Your Own Basics: The sweater vest

Make Your Own Basics: The sweater vest

I’m not sure why they’re so controversial, but in my view a sweater vest is an absolute closet staple. As a lifelong fan of androgyny and tomboy style, I love a vest over a shirt, but love it even more over a sleeveless top or dress. But best of all is its ability to go both under and over things at the same time — it’s a layer-lover’s best friend, in other words. Obviously when it comes to patterns, I feel pretty good about my own Anna Vest (top), which evolved from a vintage British military-man’s pattern. (See my latest favorite FO here. Love how she styled it.) I’m also a fan of my friend Kate Gagnon Osborn’s stockinette Cadillac Mountain (middle) with garter rib edgings. And for a pullover that has that classic borrowed-from-the-boys feeling, I’m into Blacker Designs’ free pattern called simply V-Neck Sleeveless Tunic. Can’t go wrong with any of ’em.

I would even go so far as to argue that a fair isle vest is a wardrobe basic! Even though I’ve never owned on, it’s one of those items that always looks fascinating and timeless, no matter where the trends might take us. I like Ysolda Teague’s Bruntsfield, Mary Jane Mucklestone’s Voe Vest and Yoko Hatta’s #05 Fair Isle Vest, to name just a few.

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PREVIOUSLY in Make Your Own Basics: The t-shirt

KTFO-2016.19 : Black linen-wool cardigan of my dreams

FO : The linen-wool cardigan of my dreams

This is a plain-as-can-be Improv top-down raglan, knitted with two strands of Purl Soho’s Linen Quill (50% fine highland wool, 35% alpaca, and 15% linen), and it is pretty much the simple black cardigan of my dreams. Purl had sent me five skeins of this yarn, unbidden, and I was determined to get the whole cardigan out of it. There is a LOT of yardage on those skeins! I was holding it double and made it nearly from the cast-on to the waistband before I needed to join a new pair of strands. I completed the sweater with 26 yards left of the second pair of skeins and only had to break into the fifth skein to knit the button band. So it turns out I could have made it a bit longer and still had plenty of yarn! But I was modeling this after a beloved blue cashmere J.Crew sweater, which hit just a couple of inches below my natural waist like this, and I wore that thing to bits. So I have no doubt about how much wear I’ll get out of this. And the fabric is utterly amazing — I wish you could pet this sweater through your screen.

It took me months to knit this one only because I kept setting it aside for other projects, although I did feel slightly apathetic about it along the way. I had a pervasive dread that I’d made the back neck too wide, which to me is the death blow of a sweater. It’s all about the back neck width, in my view. Once I blocked it and put it on, I was even more concerned. I did basically the same thing as I had with my black lopi pullover — starting with a higher percentage of sleeve stitches and shaping the raglans. But the result of all those sleeve stitches was that they draped over my shoulders and left the back neck sitting perilously low. All I could do at that point was hope it all worked out when I picked up stitches for the band.

This sweater is the first where I was constantly thinking of sewing tricks and wishing for knitting equivalents. The fabric is quite drapey by my standards (thanks to the alpaca content) and I also didn’t knit it as tightly as I normally knit stockinette. I actually felt scared to put it on before I did the finishing — like I could feel the neckline stretching, and wished I could stay-stitch it. I was SO GLAD I had done basting stitches in the raglans, and amazed at how different it felt putting it on before and after seaming those up. And then I did treat the neckband a little like a bias strip, “pulling gently” around the curve of the back neck (by which I mean picking up 2 out of 3 sts across the back instead of 1:1) to slightly cinch it up. And it worked like magic! The neck sits beautifully. For the band, I wound up doing picked-up garter stitch, mostly because I’d never done garter for a button band before, and I adore it. The only challenge was the bind-off: I wanted it to be firm enough to prevent the band from stretching any, but not so tight that it pulled the sweater up in the front. I think I got it a hair too tight, but will wear it awhile and see how it does. Redoing that bind-off wound be the easiest tweak in the world.

I’m including all of my numbers below for anyone who wants to do this top-down Improv-style themselves, but if you prefer a proper pattern for a super-basic cardigan like this, see Carrie Hoge’s Uniform. I don’t know how all of my measurements and shaping compare to her pattern, but they’re obviously very similar sweaters!

Pattern: Improv
Yarn: Linen Quill from Purl Soho
Cost: no pattern + $10 horn buttons from Fringe Supply Co. + comlimentary yarn = $10
(yarn would have been about $65 had I paid for it, for total cost of $75)

[favorite it on Ravelry]

FO : The linen-wool cardigan of my dreams

GAUGE

4.5 sts and 6 rows = 1 inch (measured over 4″ = 18/24) knitted on US8

TARGET MEASUREMENTS

42″ chest = 189 sts
14″ upper arm circumference = 64 sts (more like 12″ after seaming and blocking)
7″ cuff circumference
20″ total length
9″ yoke/armhole depth (54 rows)
11″ body length (2″ hem ribbing)
17″ sleeve length (3″ cuff ribbing)

DETAILS

— Co 83 sts divided thusly: 1 | 3 | 20 | 3 | 29 | 3 | 20 | 3 | 1 — worked center raglan st as basting stitch

— Planned for 14 sts cast on at each underarm, and divided the raglan stitches evenly between sections when separating sleeves from body

— Worked raglan increases as kfb on either side of the raglan stitches, varying increases roughly same as black lopi raglan

— Increased at front neck every 4th row until front sts added up to back sts minus about 1.5″ to account for width of button band — pretty sure it worked out that my last neck increase row was the same as my sleeve/body separation row

— Worked center stitch at each side as a basting stitch

— BO/CO sts for one inset pocket at 6.5″ from separation row (4.5″ before end of body)

— When body was complete, picked up along upper pocket edge on US5 needles and worked a few rows in garter stitch for pocket edging, seamed to adjacent sts from body along both sides; put live sts for pocket lining back on needle and worked in stockinette for 2.5″ (bottom of pocket lines up with first row of waist ribbing); whipstitched to reverse of sweater body after blocking

Worked sleeves flat, decreasing on 20th row then every 8th row 8 times for 47 sts; knit till 15.75″; switched to US6 and decreased evenly to 42 sts while working first row of cuff ribbing

— All ribbing is k3/p2

— Blocked finished sweater and picked up sts for button band on US6: 42 sts along fronts (2/3), 32 sts along slopes, 15 sts along sleeve tops (2/3), 20 sts along back neck (2/3); worked in garter stitch for 1/5″ with double-YO buttonholes on middle row; BO from WS on US8 needles

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PREVIOUSLY in 2016 FOs: 3 Lakesides + 2 Fens = 1 new wardrobe

Let’s talk about underarms

Let's talk about underarms

This is the last official week of the Top-Down Knitalong (aka #fringeandfriendsKAL2016) in terms of blog focus and bonus prizes — the last of which will be announced on Friday — but the show goes on! We, the panel, are obviously still knitting, and I’ll have FO posts about our sweaters as they’re completed. But meanwhile, let’s talk about underarms!

There are two points I want to make:

1) You need fabric at your underarms in order for your arms to be able to move. There are people who don’t like raglan-sleeve sweaters for a variety of reasons, one of which is they’ll tell you that raglans will always leave you with too much fabric (and “bunching”) around the underarms. I say it depends. On your sweater, the amount of ease/fabric you’ve built in, your body type, where you positioned your raglans, whether they’re straight 45° or compound raglans, what kind of drape the fabric has … a million variables. But regardless of sleeve type or those variables or anyone’s point of view, you need some fabric there if you want to be able to move your arms. There have been a few sweaters in the knitalong where something went a little awry with the underarms (see below) but I feel like there are also a few sweaters where people have been concerned about what they see as “bunching” that is actually just a perfectly normal and healthy amount of fabric at the underarms. The hard part for me has been trying to gauge the difference based on tiny photos on my phone, rather than being able to see the garments in person and in motion. It’s awesome that this process has led to people being so tuned in to every detail of their sweater in a way they perhaps haven’t been when following a pattern, but I think it can also lead to overanalyzing and even over-fitting your garment! So if you’re someone who’s concerned about your sweater, put on some other clothes from your closet (of every type and fit, and then also of similar fit to your sweater) and take a look at how the fabric behaves around the underarms. I’ve included a few random images above of clothes of mine you’ve seen before — knit, knitted and woven; raglan, set-in and dolman — to demonstrate the point. There is fabric around the underarms; it’s good.

2) It’s been extremely educational for me to watch so many people knitting from my tutorial, as a way to see potential pitfalls that I hadn’t thought to address or emphasize. As it happens, there are a couple of sweaters in the knitalong where something did go a little off — and interestingly, it’s all to do with the underarms, which I would not have anticipated. When I tweaked the tutorial in August, I put more emphasis on EZ’s 8% rule of thumb for calculating underarm stitches, and less emphasis on my own rule of thumb of measuring your armpit. In fact, I completely removed the original line where I said “here’s an idea — measure your armpit!” I have cast on anywhere from 2-3 inches of stitches in the past, thinking of it only as a measurement and not a percentage, and never had a problem. It turns out the 8% rule can backfire on you if you’re making a big, slouchy sweater or otherwise working with a large number of stitches. So a few people wound up casting on problematically large numbers of underarm stitches, and I regret that enormously. And there have also been a few people who just chose really shallow yoke depths. I say in the tutorial to measure to a spot at least an inch or two below your actual armpit and use that for your yoke depth calculation, but I need to put more emphasis on the importance of underarm ease. If you’re making a sweater with a good amount of positive ease and you cast on your underarm too soon, you’re going to have a large amount of fabric … jammed right up under your armpit. And that will cause unsightly bunching of said fabric. It needs some room to hang! (Conversely, if the armhole were deep and the sleeve more snug, that would also cause the sweater to fit a little oddly.) So I’ll be tweaking that part of the tutorial to talk more about the need for the underarm ease to be in proportion to the upper-sleeve ease.

I totally get how shallow yokes can happen. You’re knitting along on your yoke, the rows are getting longer and longer, you’ve got that shimmering point ahead of you on the horizon — the moment where you get to separate the body and sleeves and put your arms through armholes for the first time — and the temptation is SO STRONG. It’s one of the funnest moments in knitting. I don’t think I’ve ever made a top-down sweater where I didn’t have to consciously force myself to keep going that last inch or so, rather than separating too soon and winding up with shallow armholes. You just gotta hang in there till the moment is right!

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: WIP of the Week No.6

WIP of the Week No.6 (and more!)

WIP of the Week No.6 (and more!)

The penultimate WIP of the Week award is going to Paige Sato, who is @purlingpaige on IG and purlgurl on Ravelry (and runs the Christmas at Sea program) and has been one of the Top-Down Knitalong standouts from the very first moment. I honestly was a little worried about Paige’s sweater at first. She was doing a circular yoke and short rows and colorwork and all sorts of stuff I knew I would be no help with if it didn’t go exactly right on the first try. It didn’t, of course — because creating things from scratch almost always takes some trial and error — and Paige also decided to complicate her complications! After beginning the yoke, she decided she wanted to add a steek for a half-zip neck, which threw off her math. I got more and more nervous as she tweaked and tweaked but she was completely unfazed, and before long she had this amazing yoke going on and a huge smile on her face. This sweater is ambitious and is turning out SO AMAZING. Check her feed for the whole delightful creative process she’s been through with it. And did I mention she stopped in the middle to whip up a pink cowl-neck sweater for a friend’s birthday? Incredible, Paige. So you’ve won 8 skeins of Arranmore in the color of your choosing — please drop me an email with your selection(s) and mailing address! Thank you Kelbourne Woolens for this week’s amazing prize!

Next week is the last week I’ll be handing out bonus prizes, although we’re still knitting and there’s no deadline! No pressure. I actually have TWO prizes to hand out next week! The first is 7 skeins of Father from YOTH Yarns (the yarn Jess is using for her fafkal sweater, and which I’m a huge fan of) in the in-stock color of the winner’s choosing. And the second is 15 skeins of Range from A Verb For Keeping Warm in either Lighthouse or Quartz, which I’m insanely jealous of. Coincidentally, both are US-grown and milled yarns, and both Rambouillet! I’ll be picking the winners for next Friday, so keep those sweater pics and stories coming, using #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 and the comments here to share!

SHOP NEWS

Veg-tan leather wrist ruler — only at Fringe Supply Co.!

I saw my friend Andrea Rangel at the trade show last summer and she was wearing an awesome leather ruler bracelet and I wanted it! For me and for you, but I wanted it to be natural veg-tan leather with a brass button stud, and thankfully the makers agreed to do that just for us! Mine hasn’t left my wrist since they arrived, and you can get yours today exclusively at Fringe Supply Co. And we’ve also restocked a bunch of bestsellers this week, so hop on over and take a peek.

MICRO ELSEWHERE

And once again this week, I have just one link for you but a really good one — it’s Stacy London (of What Not to Wear fame) on the weirdness [I know first-hand] of being and dressing 47 in 2016, [Here’s the part where I edited out a bunch of stuff I said on a sticky subject with not enough time to word it carefully so] I look forward to your thoughts on Stacy’s article!

And if you’ve run across any other great links lately, please share them in the comments!

Happy weekend, everyone — thank you for reading!

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: I’m joining the start-over club!

New Favorites: For Bob (or himever!)

New Favorites: For Bob (or himever!)

My favorite thing about the Brooklyn Tweed Fall ’16 collection that came out last week are these three men’s sweaters, which I assess in terms of their Bob-ability:

TOP: Tamarack by Jared Flood is the sweater equivalent of my husband’s favorite shawl-collar sweatshirt, and very likely the next sweater I knit for him (with scaled-down pockets)

BOTTOM LEFT: Carver by Julie Hoover is spare enough in its overall cable-y texturedness that I might be able to coax him into it

BOTTOM RIGHT: Auster by Michele Wang is the sweater I hope to get him into once he’s comfortable in his Carver

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: The solace of hats

Knit the Look: Deepest, blackest turtleneck

Knit the Look: Deepest, blackest turtleneck

So I’ve been working on a sleeve of my Channel Cardigan and have developed a pretty serious obsession with the “half brioche” stitch that forms the pronounced rib portion of the overall stitch pattern. There’s something crazy satisfying about working those stitches, and I love the texture of it. After seeing Jen’s revised knitalong swatch using this stitch, I almost decided to copy her for my fafkal do-over! Then last night I was cruising Vanessa Jackman’s blog and ran into this photo of a girl in a black turtleneck with a pronounced rib stitch that looks a lot like brioche or half brioche! Luscious. So to emulate it, all you need is the Improv top-down tutorial, the half brioche stitch (below), and some gooshy, deeply black yarn. For this scale, I’m thinking maybe Quince and Co. Osprey (aran weight) in Crow. For the turtleneck, pick up stitches as for a crewneck and work in 2×2 rib for that slight contrast with the sweater body. (When knitting a turtleneck, I like to pick up stitches with a needle two sizes smaller than the main fabric and work half the height of the neck — i.e., to the fold — then go up one needle size for the rest. So the outer part is slightly larger than the inner part.)

HALF BRIOCHE WORKED FLAT:

RS: *p1, k1 below; repeat from *; p1
WS: knit

HALF BRIOCHE WORKED IN THE ROUND:

Row 1: *p1, k1 below; repeat from *; p1
Row 2: purl

See Vanessa’s original post for more pics of this sweater.

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PREVIOUSLY in Knit the Look: Nastya Zhidkikh’s sexy little pullover

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Street style photo © Vanessa Jackman; used with permission

I’m joining the start-over club!

I'm joining the start-over club!

It’s funny what a photo can show you. When I took the pic for last week’s blog post of my yoke laying flat, it was to accompany my paragraph about how I was chugging along exactly as planned. But what I noticed as I was posting it was (despite all my planning about how to get the stitch pattern to align correctly at the front neck) I had completely neglected to worry about how the stitch pattern aligned at the raglan seams. As a person who struggles with perfectionist tendencies, it’s funny that I didn’t notice or think to worry about it sooner, and it’s impossible to ignore now that I’ve seen it. So all last week I struggled with it. You’ve all made an incredible impression on me — all of the fearlessness and determination and good-natured ripping that’s been going on in the #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 — and so there’s no way I was going to leave it. I didn’t even mind the idea of ripping back and restarting, in principle, but what was bothering me all last week as I thought about it was that I didn’t want to start this sweater over.

For me to knit an ivory cable sweater that isn’t the Aran sweater I’ve been talking about for the last five years is just silly. (I’ve already knitted a cardigan instead of that longed-for pullover.) And I also don’t think it’s the very best use of the Pebble, which is too good to waste on the wrong stitch for it. But with Slow Fashion October upon us, I’m more mindful than ever about not knitting a sweater just to knit it, or because it might be a cute sweater, or because there’s a knitalong going on. I’m determined to only to make garments that both A) I desperately want to exist an B) will have a distinct impact on my overall wardrobe. This ivory cable sweater was meeting neither of those criteria. So I listened to my apathy and decided to scrap it — and it truly felt like a #rippingforjoy decision, as Felicia calls it. The question was: What to do instead?

I spent several days pondering it, going back to my original thought of a light-colored, lightweight, lightly textured pullover, looking through the blog and Pinterest and stitch dictionaries seeking inspiration for what to do with this ivory yarn, and coming up empty. I kept finding myself wanting to incorporate a second color — a pinstripe? Mosaic stitch pattern? Stranding of some kind? Saturday night I found myself pawing through my stash bin, and my hand kept going to the two skeins of black Pebble in there. Karen, focus! Ivory Pebble, not black. Frustrated, I literally laid down on the floor of my little workroom, stared at the blank ceiling, and asked myself what my closet was really missing. Again my mind went to that black yarn and the idea of stripes. STRIPES! Not just any stripes — black and ivory awning stripes, à la Debbie Harry. I hopped up and pulled up the Fall ’16 Mood board I’d recently made to look for that photo I’ve loved for ages, and found it and a Jenni Kayne striped tee sharing space on the inspiration board I’d been neglecting to consult. The answer was right there the whole time.

And I have to tell you, the instant I settled on it, I could not wind that yarn and cast on fast enough. (I even already had a swatch!) The yarn is so happy now — the fabric is amazing! — and this is a sweater I cannot wait to be wearing.

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Speaking of things photos show us, Jen also made a decision prompted by her photo for last week’s post. Fisherman’s rib in-the-round is sort of like garter stitch — it leaves a mark where you switch from knitting on one round to purling on the next. She hadn’t noticed it was causing two of the ribs to sit awkwardly close together until she took that pic of Jon wearing it. So after some discussion and deliberation and swatching, she’s settled on “half-brioche” which is a version of fisherman’s rib that includes a resting row, which should obviate the issue. I love her new swatch even more than what she had going — and the hope is it will also eat less yarn, be less onerous knitting, and lead to a less heavy garment. So we’re both starting over!

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: Panelist check-in