Sunday, July 1, 2012

My mother's vest aka Oregon Chillwarmer

It's been a long time since I've added anything to this blog!  It's been a busy year.  I have some down time this summer, and thus got inspired to add another of my old patterns to this blog.

I used to live in the Pacific Northwest.  It gets cool there as soon as the sun goes down.  My mother, who lived in the southern US, used to get chilly in the evenings.  She asked me to knit her a vest to wear when she was visiting me.

So I did.

She wore it whenever she visited.  It looked great on her.  It kept her warm and cozy, wrapped in love.  She is gone now, but I still have the vest.  The color does not suit me, so I rarely wear it.

The pattern is my own.  It is very simple.  Here it is.

My Mother's Vest aka Oregon Chillwarmer

The yarn I used is Fingerlakes Unspun Pencil Roving, which runs about 2200 yards per pound.  It comes (came?) in wheels of about 4-7 oz each.  I used one wheel and a small part of a second wheel.  My guess is that's about 700 yards, give or take a bit.  I don't know if it is still being made.  When used as a knitting yarn, it is very soft and fluffy.  Most patterns call for using 2 strands at 4 st/in (stockinette).  I used one strand as if it were a DK/worsted weight yarn.

The stitch pattern I used is brioche rib.  I knit it very loosely to give a lacy, drapey fabric.  Well, not too lacy.

Brioche rib stitch pattern

preparatory row:  *yo, slip 1, k1*
All other rows:  *yo, slip 1, k2tog (the yo and sl 1 of the previous row)

My gauge in garter stitch was about 4 st/in.  My gauge in brioche rib was about 3 to 3.5 stitches per inch and about 10 rows per inch.  It is a very stretchy fabric, which is why I was not too careful about my gauge measurement

In the pattern, I will refer to row sets, each of which is 2 rows.  Just as in garter stitch, where one counts ridges, it is easier in brioche rib to count row sets.

I made the vest with about a 40-45" circumference so it would fit comfortably over other clothes.  The armholes are similarly wide, so it will be comfortable over clothing.  I didn't actually know what my mother's measurements were.  I took a wild guess, trying to err on the generous side.  It fit, so apparently it was a good enough estimate.

It is made in one piece, all flat knitting (back and forth) except for the armholes.  It is a cardigan-vest that buttons up the front.  I made it very simple so I didn't have to deal with any shaping in the brioche rib.  Therefore, it has square-set sleeves and a simple square for raising the back of the neck vs the front.
I forget exactly how I decided that 128 stitches was the right number to use as my base number.  It probably was a convenient number for divvying up the vest into front and back, and was probably close enough or stretchy enough for the circumference.

The actual knitting:

Cast on 128 stitches (loosely, of course).  Do 140 rows (70 row sets) of brioche rib, about 14" (or desired length to underarms).

Then, do one of the fronts on 28 stitches, leaving the rest of the vest body on some kind of holder.  Work 80 rows (40 row sets).  Put the first 10 stitches on a holder at the end of the last row.  (i.e., the 10 stitches at the front edge of the vest)  Do 10 more row sets (i.e. 20 rows).  Put the remaining stitches on a holder.

Work the other front at the other side of the vest, reversing the shaping.  Start from the inside edge to stay in pattern.

Do the center back on the middle 56 stitches.  There will be 8 stitches for each underarm.  Put those stitches on holders as you work the back.  Knit 50 row sets (100 rows) for the center back.  You can work a few more row sets if you want to raise the back of the neck a little bit more compared to the front.

Do a 3-needle bind-off at each shoulder, leaving the middle 20 stitches of the center back on a holder.  I almost certainly bound off in a way that made sense for the stitch pattern, though it is not recorded explicitly in my old notes.

So, that's the body.

Now for the borders and bands, all in garter stitch.  I started with the center fronts and neck.

On the right side of the fabric, pick up and knit about 109 stitches per side (one stitch per loop after the first loop) and 60 on the collar.

1 (wrong side):  Knit back, decreasing to 4 stitches for every 5 you picked up.  (*k3, k2tog* works well).  I ended up with about 89 stitches per side, and 48 on the top.

2, 4, and 8 (right side): knit

3, 5, 7, and 9: K, increasing 1 stitch at the top of each front band at the 2nd stitch (i.e. M1, k1 or k1, M1).  I am reading my notes here and not quite sure what I meant by the "2nd stitch".  Basically, you want the garter stitch band to go around the corner from the front to the collar area.

6:  Buttonhole row:  place buttonholes evenly along the front, however many buttonholes you want and whichever side you want (or both sides).  I did (yo, k2tog) for each buttonhole.

10:  Bind off in purl on the right side.

Then, do a garter stitch band for each armhole.

On the right side, pick up and knit about 110 stitches.

1.  Join, and in the round, purl.  Decrease to 4 stitches for every 5 you picked up (*p3, p2tog*).

2 and 4: knit

3 and 5: purl

6: Bind off in purl.

Hide any yarn ends, attach buttons, and wear.  It is reversible except for the shoulder seams and of course the buttons.  One could put buttons on both sides.  For the shoulder seam, consider it a design element, or put embroidery over it, or use some other kind of bind-off or grafting.  It's not ugly, just obvious.

Hopefully, if I ever make this again, this will be enough for me to re-create it.

I have a schematic of this vest.  It should allow for customization for just about any circumference and length and probably stitch pattern, too.

Here is the schematic, rather crudely transferred to the computer from my notes.

You can see a small representation of what the vest looks like on the bottom right of the schematic.  It's about 14" from the bottom to the armhole, and about 10" from the bottom of the armhole to the shoulders.  The armholes are indeed triangular and the neck square, but the elasticity of knitting (i.e., the garter stitch bands) totally softens it all into nice curves.

I suspect that the schematic and divisibility of all numbers were based somewhat on Elizabeth Zimmermann's Tomtem jacket.  But it could also be because I didn't want to deal with shaping in brioche rib, and thus kept it as simple as possible.  It's only slightly more complicated than a drop-shoulder pattern of plain rectangles.

Anyway, here it is, preserved for posterity.  Someday I'll make it again, or make something similar using the same basic shape.