I’m making a vest

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Noro Vest
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Ok, so trying to follow a pattern is too hard*.  First, finding the right yarn to end up with the fabric that matches the pattern is difficult.  Texture, color, weight… there’s a ton of variety in yarn, and patterns are written based on one specific combination of texture and weight.  Second, taking a lovely pattern and then identifying all the ways I want to customize it so that it looks the way I want it to look… it’s a lot of preparation**.

What’s plan B?  Find a yarn I like, and then figure out how to make it into an object of clothing I would want to wear.  On a whim I bought three skeins of this Noro Aya yarn during a sale at my LYS.  I didn’t know what to make out of it, but maybe a vest or something.

Noro Aya yarn
Noro Aya yarn

Well, when I got tired of figuring out the Staghorn Sweater, I started knitting swatches of other yarns that I had, and I knitted a little square of this one. It suggests needle size 5-7, but I was too lazy for that, so I picked size 10 1/2.  The other thing I did was to start with Judy’s Magic Cast-on, and then knit in one direction until I got bored and bound off, then I knitted off the other side of the cast-on. It’s like a provisional cast-on without the un-doing step.

Can you tell where I started?  Hint: it’s actually not where green turns to purple, that’s just the natural pattern of the yarn.

Swatch of Noro Aya (washed & blocked)
Swatch of Noro Aya (washed & blocked)

Whew, that actually looks pretty good. Tighter weave than I expected, for using such a large needle, and it’ll look nice and decorative! Great, so let’s start figuring out what the vest should look like. That’s where I picked up Custom Knits: Unleash Your Inner Designer with Top-Down and Improvisational Techniques and Knitting From the Top. Custom Knits had all kinds of great patterns and gave me a much better understanding of how sweaters are constructed, with all of its great pictures… but none of them was a simple vest.

I wanted a vest that would go over my head like a sweater, with a fairly deep v-neck so I can wear it over a shirt, and more fitted than a square vest. I’m not square-shaped, and neither should my clothing be.

Knitting from the Top helped me figure out the arm and neck openings, as well as the shoulder-slope shaping, and Custom Knits helped me figure out how to plan waist shaping. I took all of my own measurements (with help), as described by Maggie Righetti in Sweater Design in Plain English. And then I started working out the math.

My working math, page 1
My working math, page 1***
Working math, page 2
Working math, page 2

Once I knew all of the dimensions of the finished item, I needed to write it into a pattern, so I won’t get lost later. Starting with, “Cast on 42 stitches”. You can see I had to draw a picture of what the shoulder shaping would look like, in stitches knitted per row, because I couldn’t visualize it in my head. (I used German short rows, as described in a recent Ravelry Ask a Knitter column.)

My written instructions
My written instructions

I started this about a week ago, when I was home sick for a few days, and here’s how far I’ve gotten:

Noro Vest Front
Noro Vest Front

The awesome thing that Knitting From the Top points out is that once you’ve cast on, if you have enough needles (or don’t mind moving it to scrap yarn) and enough balls of yarn, then you can knit whichever side you feel like knitting. So I knit the back for a while, until I got tired of long back-and-forths, then I switched to the fronts, and knitted until I got bored of the very short back-and-forths. I’m just a few rows away from starting to shape the bottom of the arm holes, and then I’ll be able to join the three pieces into one!


* Have I mentioned before how bad I am at following directions? I set out to follow directions. Sometimes I even decide I’m just going to follow the directions exactly as written. But then something isn’t quite right, or I don’t quite have the necessary materials, and I just need to tweak this little thing… and suddenly it’s become something else entirely. Like, I can’t find the yarn called for in this pattern, so I’ll find another one that’s similar. Well, this isn’t quite similar, but it’s so pretty I’ll use it anyway… but now I need to redo the math on the whole thing, to account for the fact that my gauge is different now. Ugh! Might as well just start my own from scratch.

** Speaking of which, I’ve done a lot more planning for the Staghorn Sweater than I’ve posted here.  I’ll try to write some posts to catch you up on it.

*** For a bigger version you can actually read, click the picture, then in the tool-bar above the picture, click the magnifying glass icon. Picasa Web is not remarkably intuitive.

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Avatar for Liza Olmsted

Liza Olmsted

Software QA Manager Emerita, Co-founder & Acquiring Editor at Thinking Ink Press, fiber artist, writer, hiker, cat mattress. ND. she/they, aspec.

2 thoughts on “I’m making a vest”

    1. I did! … and I never posted about it, because I got distracted. But it’s lovely, and it *fits*, and I’ll try to post pictures soon. :-D

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