Vest to Vestment

June 4, 2014

I was born in the UK and my early years were full of vests and pants.  But here in Australia, I quickly worked out it was all undies and singlets. Vests are sleeveless outer garments.  And here is a recent one…a very humble looking garment in navy blue for Our Dear Boy’s winter school uniform.  Its humble looks bely the great pride I feel in the garment.  It is the kind of pride, I reckon all makers feel when they have made something to the absolute best of their ability.

IMG_2617I knitted this from a hank of cabled sports weight wool from the stash, destashed from someone else’s stash.  In that colour, it was always going to be a school uniform kind of thing.  It looked like just enough for a vest which was what I knew Our Dear Boy would be prepared to wear…hardly there but warm.

IMG_2696I constructed a schematic with chest circumference plus ease, shoulder width and depth of V neck and armhole. I estimated the gauge from a standard sport/5 ply weight on 3.75 mm needles, knowing I could check it as I worked on the body and worked out stitch numbers and decreasing rates.

IMG_2606The vest is knitted from the bottom up, in the round to the armholes where the work was divided and worked back and forth. The shoulders were cast off and sewn to provide stability.  Stitches for the armholes and neck were picked up and knitted in the round.

I was thrilled to know stuff like,

  • working the decreases one stitch in from the sleeve and neck edge, making for a really neat edge
  • rough shaping rates for the arm holes (every 2nd row, four times and every 4th row, three times) and V neck (every 4th row)
  • standard proportions for neck and shoulders to be able to calculate neck width from shoulder width
  • picking up stitches for ribbing at a rate of 3 sts for every 4 rows to make the bands sit flat
  • short row shaping for the shoulders to make a gentle, neat slope.
  • casting on at the chest circumference minus 10% for flat ribbing band, increasing back to chest circumference after the ribbing

IMG_2611Everything worked out. I didn’t have to unravel anything (most unusual) and it fits really well. Our Dear Boy said “Great Mum, thanks” and wears it every single day (be still, my heart).

It is super plain, not a decorative flourish anywhere, unlikely to be ‘favourited’ by anyone!  And yet the finished vest feels like a holy relic to me…a sampler of years of practice and of advice generously shared by capable, accomplished knitters in books, magazines and blogs. It is something useful that came out of materials at hand.  But more than this, it is insurance against the day when the internet suddenly fails, written patterns suddenly disintegrate and zombies or dragons roam the world.  I know I will still be able to knit.

IMG_2703This is what was left over…Vestment was meant to be.



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  1. What a beautiful vest for Dear Boy. Yes, we are fortunate to have had so many people write articles, books and patterns to help us on our knitting journey so that we too may be able to create our visions.

  2. I really enjoyed your expression of pride and heart felt joy concerning your son’s vest. Truly, it is a work of art and its function is very personal, indeed. It is perfect and your notes on construction are very helpful. Thank you for sharing. Joan

  3. It must be so lovely to see your loved ones wearing something you’ve knitted. and to know they’ll be snuggly warm on winters days. I liked seeing your sketchbook with notes and diagrams.

  4. Now that IS impressive! Me? I hate to re-invent the ‘wheel’ but could if pushed 🙂 Yes, ‘be still my heart’ is the perfect closure! AND he likes it. Miracle of miracles 🙂

  5. Lovely! Garment construction still intimidates me. I have purchased a few ‘how to design sweaters’ books that I will hopefully someday have the time to absorb and put into practice. You should be proud of your accomplishment, there are many things to calculate and keep track of for a well-fitting garment!

  6. Rebecca- I look forward to your posts as an oasis of calm reflection. They encourage me to stop still and enjoy finding out what you have been up to next! I relish your creativity and also your skill and ingenuity with left overs inherited from others. I always find myself smiling when reading your blogs! Love your photographic eye too. Thank you.

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