Friday, December 15, 2006

Absence makes the vest grow fonder

What are you lookin' at?

I saw this little croppy thing during one of my random (yet not uncommon), obsessive online pattern searches and immediately *had* to knit it. Okay, I immediately wanted to knit it. First I had to find the perfect yarn sub. Then the perfect color. Then wait for the postman to bring me my new pron. Then recalculate the gauge. Then sniggle it into the winter knitting schedule (yes, I made one; yes, I'm a dork)....

Pattern thoughts
When this cropped bolero vest popped up on my screen, I immediately squealed at my desk, then coughed to cover it up (although they're probably getting used to that by now). It was designed by Veronik Avery, who seriously, is just brilliant is she not? There's a baby gansey sweater of hers in a 2002 issue of IK that I already have on deck as a gift for next year (misplaced my endless vortex of time, couldn't fit it in this year). * Term "vortex of time" shamelessly poached from adore_one during one of our many, many, many daily email convos.

The pattern itself is pretty simple, basically just stockinette and ribbing. That being said, I did encounter a few issues:

First, the shoulders as written calls for a stepped bindoff. A few red alarms went off in my head as I was knitting them, but I decided to see how they would turn out. That was a judgment in error. When it came time to seam the shoulders together, they were f.u.g.l.y. No, make that F.u.g.l.y. with a capital F. Tried coming at them several different ways thinking maybe I just suck at seaming. Nope! It's the bindoff. They're just not attractive. (If you do stepped bindoffs well, please don't burst my bubble. Let me live under the delusion that it's not me.) So I tinked them back and kitchenered live stitches straight across instead. As a result, the shoulders don't slope, but since this is a cap sleeve vest, I didn't feel it would really suffer for it.

Second, when it came time to pick up stitches for the front and side ribbing, I just could not make the numbers add up. Probably because you knit to a certain length rather than a specific number of rows. So I picked up a stitch at the end of every row. This made for a very dense ribbing. So dense, it didn't even look like ribbing, just stockinette. And it was a helluvalot of freaking stitches. So I frogged it back (which, after picking that many stitches up, did draw a little blood). I was admittedly a tad annoyed at this point so I neglected to take notes, but I *think* I picked up half as many, one on every other row. This stretched the ribbing out quite a bit and made it much more distinct. Maybe too much. But at this point, having suffered both the shoulder and pickup issues, I'd already undone what I felt was an excessive amount of crap for one tiny little vest and wasn't really in the mood to take another pass. As a result, even post (medieval) block the ribbing pulls up into this funky U shape at the bottom front instead of a nice straight line like the pattern pic.

Third, the shawl collar, like the shoulders, also calls for the bindoff method. After the fugly shoulder experience, I wasn't about to try this on the collar. So I did a little research and discovered right in one of my very own back issues of IK an article on how to use wrapped short rows to achieve certain design elements, including shawl collars. The author? Veronik Avery! Ah, irony. (The article also has instructions on how to use short rows for shoulders, but I'd already grafted them together.)

I tried to find other patterns that also used short row collars to configure the math, but with no luck. So I just winged it and hoped for the best. Now if you remember, my previous experience with wrapped short rows was during heel hell night. Needless to say, I approached these again with a pretty intense level of intrepidation. Like walking up to a hungry bear on crack with a sandwich in my hand. This time I was far more successful at working the wraps. Could've been the article, the heavier weight yarn, or that I've got more experience under my sticks, but whatever the reason, the collar thankfully came out fine, although it only folds over a teeny bit. I assumed I'd screw it up so I didn't take notes on exactly what I did, am just grateful to the knitting gods for taking pity on me that night!

Once the front and side ribbing was done and the knitting was complete, it seemed a tad short. Like it would land mid-boob short. Yeah, reeeeallly attractive. So I crossed my fingers, washed, then blocked the living hell out of it, stretching and pinning it like a medieval torture chamber. Figured if it didn't end up the right size, my friend's 3-year-old daughter would get a nice little gift from her Auntie weez for Christmas.

Oh, and I skipped the button closure on the front. No reason. Just lazy.

Yarn thoughts
This was my first experience with Bulky Merino from I believe this is the same company that sells under the Malabrigo brand to stores, but offers yarn direct from their website at more affordable prices. It's created by a cooperative of women in rural Uruguay and the colors are absolutely amazing. But unless you've been living under a rock, you probably already knew that. If only they made sock yarn... *daydream*

What was I saying? Oh, right. This yarn is pettably soft in the skein. It was a touch draggy while knitting, not quite as smooth flowing through the fingers as say, LL or Karabella. I wonder if it's because those two are superwash? At any rate, it knitted up very nicely and the vest is soft and yummy. Best of all, I've worn it twice, all day, with not an itch to be had. Whoo hoo, found another one!

It's been through two Euculan baths now and left behind some sunset-tinged water in both, but the vest itself doesn't appear faded in any way (unlike those Koigu socks). I was worried it would pill just looking at it funny, as I hear Malabrigo tends to do, but it's only developed that lovely, stitch-softening halo.

There's a higher degree of color variegation on the front than the back, as I used two different skeins and forgot to check them against each other before I started knitting. But, since you can't see the front and back of me at the same time (unless you're an alien from the planet Zod) and it's just a little croppy vest, who cares! It's odd - normally the freakishly anal side of me would be incapacitated by this, but it seems knitting is helping me learn to embrace the joy of imperfection. Slight imperfection. Let's not get carried away.

Final thoughts
Now I have to admit, looking down at the the vest, pinned to oblivion on the guest bedroom mattress, I really wasn't feeling it. It didn't look like it was supposed to. It didn't even look good. It was probably going to be too short. A wave of FOpression washed over me. I avoided the room for two days. I planned an alternate outfit in my vacation wardrobe spreadsheet (yes, I made one; yes, I'm a dork).

The day before we left, finally, it was dry. I released it from the medieval torture chamber, took a deep breath, and tried it on. And oh yes, my friends. I was feeling it. It wasn't exactly like the pattern. It wasn't exactly like I envisioned. It was actually a a little too wide and made me look a bit like a linebacker. But the blocking had worked its magic, it was just the right length, the color was fabulous, and the FOpression was lifted! Yay, it could come on holiday!

I wore it to work yesterday and it received several compliments. Then I swung by my lys on the way home (sale! er, more on that later), and the knitting shop owner gave it props as well. Now that's validation!

Could you be any further away? Oh, right. Trying to fit Tower bridge in the shot.

Cropped Bolero Vest
Veronik Avery Cropped Bolero Vest
Yarn: Merino Bulky in Sunset
Needle: Holz & Stein ebony 8, 16"
Size: Petite. With a linebacker chaser.
Mods: Subbed the yarn, ditched the buttons, recalc'd the ribbing, and sacked the bindoffs in favor of grafts and short rows
Lesson learned: Try before you cry!


Blogger Batty said...

I love the vest. Wish I could pull up such pretty, croppy goodness, but I'm the wrong shape. It came out great, and the fit is phenomenal.

3:40 PM  
Blogger Zonda said...

I love the vest too! I could never wear it though!

5:49 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home