May 30, 2005



You might be thinking, Oh, she's starting something new, again. But to my mind, I'm really just getting around to finishing an old, old project.

One of the requirements for Level II of the Master Knitting program is a vest. The vest is supposed to demonstrate one's skill in picking up stitches around the neck and armhole edges, and one's skill in sizing. (Yes, the vest is actually supposed to fit someone.) One must work within certain parameters regarding yarn choice, too, which I won't belabor here.

I passed Level I way back in the last century. Some of the delay in my completing Level II can be chalked up to Life Getting in the Way, but some of it is due to my own waffling over that vest requirement.

Over the years, I've bought many a vest pattern. For awhile I was taken with the "Venture North" vest from Knitter's magazine, Winter 98. Then there was the era when I thought I'd knit the "Wall Street Cables" from Knitter's, Fall 96 (recently reprinted in the Best of Knitters Arans & Celtics book). When I first met Angela from Canada, she'd finished a cute little cables-and-lace number that fit me perfectly, so I made a trade with her for that Pinguoin vest pattern and some yarn to knit it with. Most recently, I've been eyeing the "British Schoolboy" vest from Folk Vests as something that seems straightforward to knit and that would meet the requirements.

Any of the above would be fine choices, really.

But in my heart I know I could gain the greatest satisfaction from this requirement by designing my own vest -- and that if I didn't design my own, I'd be shrinking away from the challenge. How better to demonstrate my understanding of gauge and sizing, garment proportions, yarn choice, than by designing my own?

So the above choices have been interspersed, over the years, with many swatched attempts at a self-designed vest. If this were a movie, the following swatches would flip by in ever-more-rapid succession:

VestSwatches 001.jpg

VestSwatches 002.jpg

VestSwatches 003.jpg

VestSwatches 004.jpg

For various reasons, none of the above swatches were quite right, either.

(Dragging all of these swatches out for their photo op, I had to laugh: No wonder I can't find knitting needles when I want them -- they are all tied up in swatches!)

Yesterday I devoted another afternoon to swatching. I have a clear picture in my mind of something Fair Isle, but not overwhelmingly stripey; a light-colored palette that still allows the stitch pattern enough contrast to "read:"

Vest 001.jpg

(The ribbing in the swatch above is for visualization purposes only, and is not proportionate to what the ribbing for the actual garment would be.) Yarn is Jamieson's Shetland DK. I think the color (called "Lilac") might qualify me for the Periwinkle Knit-along on that knitting list I belong to, too. By the way, all of the stitch patterns for the above swatches came from Sheila McGregor's book. The inspiration for the corrugated rib in the first swatch came from Ann Feitelson's book, which has, in my opinion, the best discussion of color for Fair Isle work of any book out there.

Last night Scott took the kids out to see the latest Star Wars episode and I had the house to myself. Over dinner (a slice of leftover pizza), I cut to the chase and read Chapter 21 of Maggie Righetti's book. That's the chapter that discusses designing a V-neck vest. And while I had some quiet time, I did some calculating of gauge and had a moment of truth with the tape measure. (Remember that Maggie Righetti emphasizes the importance of measuring the person, measuring, measuring.)

After that, it was just a matter of casting on and getting some momentum on this long-overdue project.

Posted by Karen at May 30, 2005 05:05 PM

I'm going to enjoy watching you create this vest! And I'm going to have to get the Righetti book--it's been a long time since I read it, and I remember that it's a great resource.

Posted by: Janine at May 31, 2005 02:29 PM

All of the swatches look great. I like the colors. Are you going to do the FI as a border or all over?


Posted by: Anne at May 31, 2005 03:41 PM

Janine -- thanks for the affirmation. I am deliberately keeping this vest project simple. (Simple, therefore do-able.) I aspire to creating FI work as wonderful and colorful as yours!

Anne -- the FI will be an allover pattern. I'm thinking that will look better on me, since I'm not all that tall. I know that I wouldn't be comfortable wearing a vest that was a bunch of horizontal bands, making me look shorter and wider than I already am. :0)

Posted by: Karen at May 31, 2005 05:37 PM

i really liked the soft gradation of the colors in the fair isle rib. but i like the rest of the swatches too. choices are good!

Posted by: marti at June 1, 2005 03:13 PM

It just had to percolate in your head a bit.
That color for the last swatch is my favorite as is the norwegian-ey looking star/rose pattern.
A bit late but I wanted to congratulate on the money you raised on the dog walk.

Posted by: Aarlene at June 2, 2005 04:33 PM

Marti -- that gradation of colors is something Ann Feitelson does well in her patterns, and discusses really well in her book. I quit halfway, on that swatch -- working from the dark pink to the yellow. Really, if I were enthused about wearing an Easter egg colored vest (me! a middle-aged woman, in an Easter egg colored vest!), I'd work back again from the yellow center to a darker and darker pink.

Aarlene -- thanks also for the vote of confidence. While knitting that last swatch, I kept having the funny feeling that I was knitting a Dale of Norway pattern -- even though I was using Jamieson's Shetland and a stitch pattern right out of the Traditional Fair Isle Knitting book! The traditions must have blended and borrowed from one another, as all the authors write about it being so -- I just had the experience of feeling it being true, in working the stitches on my needles.

The periwinkle color is definitely wearable.

Posted by: Karen at June 3, 2005 05:17 AM

I do believe you have merited the title "Queen of the Swatch". You sure are inspiring in your persistence and creativity (not the most common combination, I'd guess).

You really have inspired me and now I know what I can knit when I'm short of funds: swatches!

Cheers from the frying pan that is Southern California -- How I miss our Washington Clouds and greenness....


Posted by: Abby Cohen at June 15, 2005 08:19 AM