Saturday, March 26, 2016

Bust the Stash: Finished Object 12 - Circular Vest

I fucking love this one:

Sometimes stash-leads to kismet. Y'all have to make this garment. It takes about 2 weeks (if you're serious) and somewhere around 500 yards of aran-weight yarn. You could easily make one for your best friend for Xmas and totally blow her mind!

Let's Talk About The Pattern: It's not a difficult knit but it is a bit fussy and it does get tedious at the end. Mind you, it's pretty enjoyable, despite that, because the fabric that emerges from one (reasonably) straight-forward pattern 4-row repeat is pretty cool. With a simple flat-knit, short row technique, the waistcoat becomes a circle which is seamed up at the end and into which a back panel is inserted. The armholes are the unsewn space between the sides of the waistcoat circle and the back panel.

Here's the thing, next time, I'd do this differently. Yeah, I know, next time I do everything differently but hear me out. Instead of seaming up the bound-off edges of the circle at the end, which can be a bit messier than necessary, I'd provisionally cast on, at the start, and 3-needle bind off the 2 edges of live stitches at the end. This would take virtually no additional effort. I'd also consider picking up stitches at the bottom of the waistcoat circle, knitting the required number of rows and then seaming it at the top. Mind you, the back panel is inserted width-wise to match the direction of the garter stitch in the waistcoat, so that consistency would be sacrificed for a neater join...

I made the back panel wider than the pattern calls for because I think, as drafted, it looks skinny and strange. I also made it shorter so that the armholes wouldn't be too long for me. What I'd say is that the instructions, from a sizing perspective, are a guideline. I made a modified medium, after starting with a small and realizing that it likely wouldn't be long enough given that I worked with needles 2 sizes smaller than recommended. Strangely, I got gauge with those needles, but gauge is worked in garter and I don't think it translated well to the very nubby blackberry pattern at the edges of the waistcoat circle. Having said that, I like the fabric that the smaller needle size produced so I would definitely use the same needle size again.

Great thing is that every size of this garment starts exactly the same way, by casting on 44 stitches. This allows for easy modification as you go. See my Ravelry notes for more details on what I did to modify the size.

What about that crazy yarn?? As you know, my friend Michael brought me back the Lett-Lopi from Iceland last summer as a gift. He bought it in the grocery store and cheerfully advised that it cost $4.20 CDN per skein. This garment took slightly over 4 skeins so, technically, this garment cost under $20 bucks to make.

BTW, Karen Templer from Fringe Association (a blog you should follow whether you like knitting or not), is a nut for this yarn. She started singing its praises recently (long after it had made its way into my stash) and that gave me confidence to try it out. Part of my issue is that I didn't really have enough to make a sweater and it's not well suited to small accessories that touch the skin.

This yarn is hardcore. It's like wearing a sheep. It's hairy and scratchy (though not as scratchy as it looks - and less scratchy still after blocking, especially if you follow up the wash with a soak in hair conditioner. BTW, don't use a lot of conditioner and don't rinse it out at the end.)

The yarn is unparalleled in its warmth given that shorter and longer wool fibres are carded together to produce a yarn that's spun with a lot of air trapped between these fibres. I mean, this is the stuff the Icelandic fishermen wear. The relatively untreated state of the yarn lends to its waterproof properties (these are somewhat stripped by washing, hence the addition of conditioner at the end. Some prefer to wash with lanolin-enriched Eucalan, but I don't have any and I didn't see how conditioner could hurt.)

This yarn is not my jam but I became increasingly enamoured of it as I went. It unrefinement is quite spectacular, if unappealing, like a harsh landscape. You can feel its durability. Furthermore, it's beautifully dyed to provide a very deep, but clear navy blue. It blocks fantastically, better than any springy yarn. On the flip side, it is barely spun. I mean, whole yards come out like carded fiber, simply held together by the strength of the wool, having disparate texture and gauge. Some bits are aran-weight, other bits like fingering. It's odd.

Now, it doesn't have a lot of drape, unsurprisingly, which is why I thought it would either work perfectly, or horribly, with this pattern. Remember, I didn't have a lot of choice given my yardage and the need to keep this second-layer. I thought that the structure could be good for this garment, as long as it didn't produce a stiff end-result.

As of now, I think it has worked entirely adequately - and time/wearing will tell if I think better or worse of it, in the end. Next time I make this, though, I'll use a drapier yarn (not alpaca, but a smoother worsted-spun) because it's the only way to get length in the garment without bulking up the collar.

What do I mean by that? Well, the bodice (waistcoat) is a circle. Whatever part of it allows for its vertical extension also gathers at the neckline to form the lovely shawl collar. I love a shawl collar but this one doesn't have modifiable dimensions because it is not seamed on. I'm already short with a short torso so this means this version has, arguably, too much collar for my proportions. But, I'd like a bit more length in that circle (than I got this time around) without adding to the bulk at the neck. The only way to achieve that is by using a yarn with more drag (i.e. a softer hand). It won't be as durable or as warm, but it may provide a better drape to suit my needs.

I think it's particularly chic with my wooden shawl pin.

Another plus of this pattern is that it can be made to suit a lot of shapes (though some better than others). I mean, a long or wide person will have better luck given how it's drafted, but it's totally achievable for other shapes. I sense it would be least suitable for a wide, short person who carries most of her weight in the middle but careful yarn choice might mitigate that issue.

So what do you think? Do you like this? Would you make it? Let's talk!


  1. This reminds me of that really bad circlular shrug I made form Cake patterns - except this is what I hoped that pattern would be! I can picture it on you, and I picture it being fantastic. <3

    1. Ha! I remember that shrug. It was a disappointment! :-) Get your sister to make this for you. You'll love it and it's not hard for an experienced knitter to crank this out in a couple of weeks.

  2. I bet this looks great on you! And yeah, I would totally wear this. I love the idea of a vest that isn't too grampa looking (though, I do think there's a time and a place for that look too). I can't wait to see what it looks like in a drapier yarn (assuming, of course, that version 2 makes it onto your needles...)

    1. Thanks A! I would prefer a version with more vertical drape but, when I wore it yesterday I found it more than adequate to look at. In a worsted-spun yarn, it would be rather elegant and chic. In this yarn it's more boho. Not a bad thing for a woman that spends most of her time wearing the drapey yarns. You should make it. It's perfect for Ottawa.

  3. Nice! I mean, I'm having a hard time envisioning why anyone would want the yarn, but, the color and vest are gorgeous. :-)

  4. I wrote another post about the yarn yesterday - of course, that might put you off it still further :-)

  5. Your lovely FO has intrigued me. Normally not a vest person, but this looks like it has great potential.

  6. Jane - Give it a go. It's very practical and cute :-)