Fresh(ish) off the Needles — Seaweed Vest and Heel Stitch Longies

Seaweed Vest

I have argreed to knit a sweater for Daniel since the Dark Ages ’90s (which was before I knew anything about sweater-knitting).  Last year, when I picked up knitting again, Daniel asked me about the said sweater.  By then, I was much wiser about sweater-knitting.  (Which was to say, “I know enough to know that I don’t know nary a thing about sweater construction.”)  I backed down and said I would knit a vest instead.

I actually finished the Seaweed Vest about two weeks ago.  I was going to take some good pictures before posting, but I keep forgetting to take the pictures, so here it is, descriptions only.

The vest I dubbed “Seaweed Vest” is a vest I knitted up with nary a pattern.  Instead, I followed the general instructions in Sweater Workshop by Jacqueline Fee — the body followed the vest instructions (which was adapted from the general sweater instructions), modified to a V-neck.  (The book, in turn, was a more descriptive instructions of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s EPS sweater system.)

I called this the “Seaweed Vest” because I used the “seaweed” pattern from A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara G. Walker.

The vest was knitted in Knit Picks’ Swish Worsted superwash merino yarn.  The main colour was Lava Heather, and the contrast colour was Gold.

The last “personalization” bit I did was borrowing the twisted rib from the Mangyle pattern from Knitty, even including knitting the ribs in a contrast colour, while interspersing 2 rounds of the bottom rib with the main colour.

Actually, I initally planned to knit the Mangyle.  However, I have since decided/discovered I really don’t like sewing the seams.  Knitting a vest flat in pieces result in a lot more seams to sew than I like.  Such strong resistance to seams eventually led me to the discovery of the aforementioned book, Sweater Workshop, and Elizabeth Zimmermann.

Yes, the resulting vest involved a lot of improvisation.  And if I eventually determine my gauge of the original yarn I bought for the original sweater, I may even restart it.

Heel Stitch Longies

The Heel Stitch Longies was another put-in-the-back-burner type of project.  Longies is essentially a pair of (wool) pants.  FBB wears specially-handled wool pants or soaker at night as diaper cover.  (A wool soaker is about the shape of a pair of undies.)

The pair of longies FBB wears most often was sewn by me, using recycled, felted wool.  (Recycled wool is a nice way of saying, “the wool sweater nobody wants — let’s try to make something out of it.”)  It do the job, but it doesn’t really fit him well now — I felted it very hard, thus it’s not very forgiving in sizing.

As a result, I wanted to knit FBB a pair of longies.

The first pair was a total disaster: my guestimated proportions/size customization was totally wrong, and I didn’t really like the way the pattern shapes the pants anyway.  It was destined to be frogged.

The second pair was another, mildly smaller disaster: I didn’t check my gauge, resulting in the body being WAY TOO BIG.  And I ran out of yarn.  It’s still sitting on the needles (well, technically, a cable), waiting for me to finish up the legs in a different colour.

The third one, I decided specifically NOT to knit it for FBB, but just to test the pattern.  As such, I knitted it–a soaker this time–in a much smaller size (“medium” in terms of baby size).  The body was shaped great, but I didn’t really like the way the leg holes were shaped.  (By then, I was much more knowledgeable about knitting to know what I like and don’t like.)  It turned out I was right: the leg holes turned out to be too tight to my liking, and wouldn’t have fitted FBB’s chubby thighs when he was that size.  (I must admit, my most intimate knowledge of baby sizes included extra chubby thighs, since FBB really meant “chubby thighs.”)  It’s now sitting around, bound off and grafted, but waiting for me to pick up the stitches and knit the ribbing on the leg holes.

By the fourth one, I have obtained the renowned A Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara G. Walker.  I flipped through the pages and decided to substitute the K2P2 ribbing with baby cable rib, and the stockinette stitch of the body with the thicker and stretchier heel stitch.  The pattern I chose was a free one called Li’l Aries Longies.

I chose some 100purewool I bought a year ago.  These are handspun, hand-dyed.  The ones I bought were the odds and ends, with only one or two skeins in each colour.  From previous experience, I picked a colour which I had two skeins of.  It was a lighter, greyish blue.

I didn’t gauge this time neither, although I guestimated it to work out fine (and I was finally right about gauge, for once).  The pattern calls for 4 short row sets for shaping in the butt, but my measurements tells me 4 stockinette rows is about 6 heel stitch rows (in my gauge, YMMV).  So I did 6 short row sets instead of 4.

I decided to use the two-at-a-time magic loop method to knit the legs, since I always seem to fail in counting the number of rows, nor do I want to count.  Having a 60″ cable for my interchangeable circular needles helped immensely in this department.  Heck, I can knit up ANYTHING with a 60″ circular needle!

Of course, I ran into some trouble with this pair too.  Namely, I ran out of yarn.

Unlike the previous disasters, at least I knew it was coming, thanks to a combination of my stitch choice and the sizing.  I just didn’t know how much I could knit in my original yarn.

In fact, the trouble started with me not dividing my yarn into two perfectly equal halves.  So one leg ran out of yarn before the other.  [Good thing I was knitting two-at-a-time, because it let me at least end the same colour on both legs at the same round.  Again, it was a calculated risk.]

I tried to rebalance the two balls, but in the end, I still needed to snip out the extra tail I had when I casted on at the waist to finish off the last round of shorter leg.

By then, the longies were somewhere between knee-high shorts and capri length.  That was not quite long enough for my taste.  I went back to my stash of 100purewool, picked out a few single-skein colours of roughly the same thickness, and eventually decided on a black-ish skein, which I thought was the best complimenting colour I have to the main colour.  I added about 3″ more, and just bind off using the Russian bind off, resulting in a rolled cuff with slight flare.

An i-cord drawstring, in the contrast colour of course, was added to the waist ribbing.

The best thing about knitting–and finishing–this pair of longies?  I let FBB watch me working on it, which obviously triggered the first question, “who’s this for?”  Of course, he was all excited when he knew it was for him.  By the time I was knitting the legs, he wanted to try it on–which, again, wouldn’t have been too feasible or at least not as aesthetically pleasing had I not choose to knit the legs two-at-a-time in a magic loop.  I let him try on a few times, giving me a very good idea on how much longer I still needed to work on.

FBB originally requested some sort of applique on this pair (since I did a very rudimentary lemon applique on the recycled one).  Hopefully he’ll accept it without one!

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