Once in awhile, in my creative endeavors, I have a vision for something, and IT ACTUALLY HAPPENS! Usually, things change as I go along, sometimes for the better, and sometimes just for the different, but once in awhile, I actually achieve what I am going for, and this is one of those projects! Today’s post is about the Huxley vest by Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed. It’s a “Norwegian Scoop-Neck Vest” involving stranded colorwork and a steeked neckhole and armholes.
If you’re not familiar with these things, here’s a short introduction. Stranded colorwork is when you use two or more colors in a knitted garment, knitting with the colors you want at the time and stranding the others behind your knitting. Steeking involves stabilizing sections of your knitting with machine sewing or crochet so that you can cut it open. It’s one of those risky, adrenaline-rush sports of the crafting world. Who needs big wave surfing, base jumping, or hang gliding when you can steek your knits?! 😉
I saw and admired this pattern years ago, but finally decided to make it last year. I got the idea that if I used a plain main color and a super colorful hand-dyed yarn for the little dots, it might just make my sweater look like it had sprinkles or confetti all over.
And I love sprinkles.
I ordered my main yarn for this project through Coveted Yarn in Gloucester, MA. It’s Berroco Ultra Wool, a 100% superwash wool, and is worsted weight. I used color 3301, cream.
My contrast color is Hedgehog Fibres Merino Aran, also 100% superwash wool in the color “Sweet Pea”. I got this on my first trip to Webs (a.k.a. yarn.com) in Northampton, MA with my friend Jo-Alice last fall.
I was determined that I would not spend as much on a vest as on a sweater, and the Berroco, which was on sale, was very economical. The Hedgehog Fibres yarn was not, and it really increased my costs, but it was so worth it.
I swatched initially with the recommended needle size, but I’m a pretty loose knitter, so when I didn’t get gauge, I went down two needle sizes and tried again. For my swatches, I used Ysolda Teague-Long’s method of swift swatching in the round, and I measured my swatch before washing, after handwashing, and then after throwing the swatch in the washer and dryer using the care directions on the Berroco wool. I also, after my first washing, hung the swatch up to see if there was any obvious stretching out, which can sometimes happen with superwash yarns. After all those tests, I’m happy to report that nothing stretched out, nothing bled, the swatch did great both handwashed and machine washed, and I learned a very important swatching lesson: DON’T JUDGE A SWATCH UNTIL IT HAS DRIED. It’s yet another lesson that is completely obvious once you learn it, but not always so obvious beforehand.
After all my testing, I still hadn’t quite gotten gauge, so I decided to recalculate. I liked the fabric I had gotten with the US 6 needles, which was two needle sizes smaller than recommended. My gauge was 17 stitches and 24 rounds = 4″ blocked, in pattern. It was supposed to be 19 stitches and 28 rounds = 4″ blocked, in pattern. For the non-knitters out there, you need to make sure your number of stitches per inch matches the pattern’s or your knitted item won’t come out the same size. If I had gotten the correct gauge, my body measurements would have put me in a size 4 or 5, but with my gauge, I figured a size 3 with the length of a size 4 would work out fine.
This pattern is knit bottom up, and I had to start over once when I made some mistakes in the ribbing that I decided I couldn’t live with. After that, though, I knit along just fine through the body. I skipped the waist shaping since I currently like a more straight and loose fit around the waist. The rounds with color were every fourth round, and those kept me wanting to knit more. Those were the most fun rows because I couldn’t wait to see what color each little contrast stitch would be.
It was strange to do the shaping around the teeny tiny presteeked neck and armholes. My vest looked like a weird blob, but I just kept following the directions until it was time to steek.
Once I got to the point of steeking, I used the article, “Machine-Sewn Steeks–Mary Ann’s Top Ten Tips” from maryannstephens.com. The pattern calls for crochet reinforcements, but I don’t crochet and I was using superwash yarn, and so needed a machine sewn steek to be extra sure everything would stay put.
Once I cut my steeks open, by strange blob of knitting popped open into a very vest-like shape! It was magic!
That’s when I felt like I was so close to being finished–just armhole and neck ribbing and I could block it! I had plans to knit little facings over my cut open steeks like in I did in my Arrowhead Cardigan or maybe sew them down, but so far, they are staying in place just fine and they don’t look bad at all, so I just trimmed the cut yarn to a nice, neat length.
When I was finished with that, it was all about weaving in the ends and getting ready to block. I had carried the colorwork pattern up the shoulders even when I was knitting back and forth, so I had a number of ends in that area.
I was nervous about blocking because I had measured my gauge off a swatch that had been machine washed and dried. That meant I needed to do the same with my vest, but I decided to let it finish air drying at the end, at least the first time. I was nervous, but I knew I had tested this twice, with both swatches, so I did it…and it was fine. 🙂 No crisis ensued. I might hand wash from here on out, but I got the size and fluffiness I was after. Not too bad for two and a half months of knitting (for my pace, at least).
I am so happy with the finished vest! It looks just how I wanted it to look! I love the colors, and it fits great. The crazy thing is, I actually don’t have a lot of plain button up shirts to wear with it, and I like that look much better than wearing it with a t-shirt. But this is a problem I can solve! I put a lilac colored vintage blouse on my spring sewing list. I hope to get a lot of wear out of this vest. I love it so much.