December 20, 2006

Deep V Argyle Vest: Project Gallery

Sarah's vest, in Knitpicks Merino Style Marika's vest, in 2-ply wools
Rebecca's vest, in hand-dyed (!) Rowan Yorkshire Tweed DK Erin's vest Kate's super-133t skully vest, in Knitpicks Merino Style

Updated 12/22/06, 1:30PM
Other Galleries: Anemoi Mittens | Bayerische Socks | Chuck's Cabled Socks | Deep V Argyle Vest | Endpaper Mitts| Print O The Wave Stole | Venezia Pullover

Would you like to share a photo of a finished Deep V vest, Print o' the Wave Stole, Bayerische Sock, Anemoi Mitten, or Chuck's Cabled Sock? Email me with a photo and a link to your blog (if you've got one), and I'll set you up in a reader gallery.

March 08, 2006

Deep V Argyle Vest: FAQ

I ordered, but I haven't gotten the pattern yet!

There are a couple things that might be the case: 1) did you pay via PayPal eCheck? The automatic download system will wait until the check clears before sending you a link. 2) Did you check the right email address? The download link will be sent to the address listed with your PayPal account, or the address you used to make a credit card payment through PayPal. 3) Did you check your junk folder?

If none of these things applies, please send an email, and I'll get you another link right away.

Where are the larger sizes? This pattern only goes up to 42"!

The pattern is presented as two complete versions, one for sizes 32-42 and one for sizes 44-54, simply because it's too unwieldy to list 12 different sets of numbers in one pattern. Scroll down for sizes 44-54.

Can you tell me a little more about the fit?

While the pattern has been carefully sized for proportion and fit, just as in every other pattern and piece of commercial clothing, all numbers are averages for each size. You may prefer a narrower fit in the shoulders, or a wider waist, or a shorter length overall - please check the schematic against a piece of clothing that fits you well. The nature of steeked knitting makes trying on as you go impossible, and fixing after cutting very difficult - check BLOCKED stitch and row gauge and schematic measurements before starting for a perfect fit. Every size of the garment is charted in full, making modifications easy to mark.

Something is confusing, and I need help.

No problem! Email with your question, and I'll be happy to help you any way I can.

Are there forums or a knitalong for this vest?



More will be added as it comes - please let me know if you have suggestions for this archive.

March 07, 2006

This and that (interested in larger vest sizes? Click here!)

Thanks for the comments on the shawl! I love it, and it's deliciously warm. The smaller needle size, which I chose because I think the yarn-weight-to-needle-size ratio of most lace patterns is ridiculous and makes the lace look sloppy and loose, created a fairly dense fabric that traps heat marvelously.

Deep V Argyle Vest larger sizes

Sizes 44, 46, 48, 50, 52, and 54 of the Deep V Argyle Vest are now available, and will be sent with any order placed from here on out. I'll be sending a download link to everyone who ordered the vest already - if you don't need the expanded pattern, please just ignore it.

Here's the rub, though - I promised this an awfully long time ago, and you guys have been waiting patiently. I can't thank you enough for understanding - I've been insanely busy the last month or so, as well as confused as to how to approach this - but the truth is, I've provided terrible customer service. If I ordered a pattern from a commercial outfit and had to wait 5 weeks for a promised change or update, I'd be pretty upset.

So, I am offering refunds to anyone who ordered the larger sizes and feels put out by the long wait. I'd just go ahead and refund everybody's money, but I don't know who ordered it for the expanded pattern and who didn't. Please email me if you'd like a refund, and it'll be given cheerfully and with my apologies and thanks for your patience.

Oh, and here's a link to a Vest-along! For some reason, the email I was kindly sent about this got sent to my junk folder, so I'm a bit late on promoting it.

A pattern page will be up tomorrow, with thoughts on fit, yarn choice, and steeking. I'll incorporate erratum into it as well - let me know if you've got anything!

Current knitting

Yeah, that argyle stocking? Ripped. The pattern had a LOT of problems, and I was frustrated just looking at it. I'm working on the (now 6th) iteration - maybe it'll be the one that works.

But I've been knitting, oh yes -

Head over to the Sampler Stole-Along to see everyone else's progress too. We're up to, I think, 25 members already.

New Technique Series

Majoring in Lace will start tomorrow - I'll cover all kinds of things in photos and diagrams and words, from castons to grafting to needles to the right decrease to use where to seeing the big picture and understanding how lace fabric is constructed. Got a topic you'd like to see covered? Leave a comment or email me!

February 02, 2006

Pattern: Deep V Argyle Vest

**this will be stickied for a couple days - scroll down past this entry for 2/2/06's entry**

**UPDATE 2/1/06 - Automatic downloads through Payloadz have been set up. Click, purchase, download, print. Easy as pie.**


Took long enough, didn't it? Hopefully, it's worth it - there a lot of information here, presented in a package I'm pretty proud of.

The Deep V Argyle Sweater Vest, perfect for mild-mannered supergirl alter-egos. Best accessorized with a healthy dash of irony, or a complete lack thereof.

Includes detailed, diagrammed instructions for crocheted steeks, full written instructions, and full-garment charts for each size. All the information needed to make this a successful first colorwork and/or steeking project is included here in exhaustive detail.

Bust sizes: 32" (34", 36", 38", 40", 42", 44", 46", 48", 50", 52", 54")

Finished bust measurements: 32" (34", 36", 38", 40", 42", 44", 46", 48", 50", 52", 54")

Finished length: 21.5" (22", 22.5", 23", 23.5", 24")

16 pages, 3.5MB. Adobe PDF compatible with Acrobat 5.0 and newer.


I'm working on setting up an automatic download system, but patterns will be emailed individually for now. I promise to get it to you as quickly as humanly possible (within a few minutes, during East Coast business hours). ***IMPORTANT NOTE: The pattern is quite a large file, at 3.5MBs. Please make sure your mail client is able to receive files of that size, and your internet connection able to handle it. If you are unable to have the pattern delivered through email, you may wish to wait until automatic downloads are set up (in the next two days).

2/1/06 - Automatic downloads through Payloadz enabled.

Now - to get caught up with everything else!

Sample images from this pattern:

February 01, 2006


Wow. I'm amazed by the response I've already gotten - thank you so much!

On to some clarifications and question answers -

I paid you - now where's my pattern, huh? HUH??

First, thanks for your order! If it's been an hour or so and you still don't have the pattern, one of several things might be going on:

1) Are you checking the right box? Unless you send a seperate email directing otherwise, the pattern is sent to the email address you gave PayPal.

2) Are you using a free mail service, like Hotmail or Yahoo? Receipt of such a large file seems to be pretty hit-and-miss with these providers. If you have another email address, please send me a new message with the alternate email and the address you used to purchase. I will resend another pattern right away. If you do not have another address, please send me a message to that effect, and I'll direct you to a download link for one-time use.

3) Did you pay using an eCheck? Delivery will be held until the payment clears (within 4 business days, says PayPal). Please be patient - thanks!

You're always welcome to send me an email asking where your pattern is. I believe (crossing my fingers here) that I'm caught up with everything purchased through 30 minutes or so ago - please let me know through email if you bought before then but haven't yet received the file. One way or another, I'll get the pattern to you with speed and my apologies for the delay. Thanks for your patience.

It says you're unverified. Can I trust you?

I like to think so. I set up this PayPal merchant account only yesterday, and haven't yet had the time to go through their verification process. Rest assured that PayPal is secure - besides, you know where I live (on the internet, anyway). Feel free to publicly blast me if you feel you've been ripped off.

All this seems pretty disorganized and shady. What's up?

I'm still trying to iron out the wrinkles in the system. In the very near future, I'll be setting up a quick, painless auto download system for immediate delivery, as well as a new storefront area of the site with FAQs, erratum as it comes, and tech help. Please bear with me - I absolutely respect that you want to get what you pay for.

This pattern sucks/is overpriced/is hard to read/won't print properly/is confusing!

Leave a comment or send me an email to that effect - I'm always looking to improve, clarify, tweak, re-release, do better.

January 27, 2006


The pattern's not ready yet, guys. I know I promised it by now, but I'm all caught up in drawing fiddly little diagrams and organizing my thoughts on steeking and blocking into something that at least resembles coherence. I'll definitely have it up during the weekend - thank you so much for the wonderful encouragement you've been throwing this way.

During spare moments, Shedir, she grows.


I read in a lot of the notes on finished Shedirs in blogland that this hat is really long. And how: I did only three repeats of the Saxon braid before decreasing (instead of five), and it looks to be just right. I am loving the way the twisted stitches look in the tweedy yarn; normally, I like my cables to appear in high relief on a solid color, but these are subtle and quiet and just right - stealth cables, if you will.

Oh, and Calmer? I guess I might have been a bit overzealous in expressing my opinion yesterday. I just don't think it's a particularly successful yarn - lots of people love how soft and stretchy it is, but it just feels wrong to me to knit with something so sproingy. Besides, if I want to knit with a cotton, it's because I want structure and a crisp feel. If, by some chance, I want the coolness of cotton but with a little more elasticity, I'll use a cotton-wool blend like Rowan Wool Cotton or Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece, both nice (if very different) yarns that successfully take advantage of the best qualities of both fibers. On top of it all, Calmer seems really overpriced for what it is. Just my opinion, of course.

Jenna's posted a great entry about the development of the Shedir pattern, along with some notes on why she chose a much smaller needle size than called for on the ball band. Very interesting insight into creating a cabled motif, along with some funny thoughts on the wily marketing tactics of yarn companies - worth reading, for sure. Me, I'm using the same 3.25mm needle, with the DK weight Felted Tweed, and find that it's working out just fine.

January 26, 2006


a·ston·ish (ə-stŏn'ĭsh)
tr.v., -ished, -ish·ing, -ish·es.

To fill with sudden wonder or amazement. Synonyms: amaze, astound, awe, startle, surprise.

[Alteration of Middle English astonen, from Old French estoner, from Vulgar Latin *extonāre : Latin ex-, ex- + Latin tonāre, to thunder.]

I can't believe the response the vest got - thank you so much for the lovely comments. I'm working on putting the pattern together, and will try to have it up by or over the will, unfortunately, cost a little bit - $5 or $6 - but I promise you'll get what you pay for: full-garment charts for every size, detailed steeking and blocking information, and diagrams galore.


By popular request, the inside of the vest:

The pattern reads a lot better on the inside, which says to me that I should have switched colors in my right and left hands.

And the finishing on the turned-down steeks - I just blanket-stitched them with another strand of the Tiur, all the better to help them eventually felt.

Developing the pattern

What I think of as traditional Argyle looks something like this:

alternating blocks of two sharply contrasting colors on a medium-toned background. The effect is of two contrasting, sheer ribbons woven together. I really like this look, but prefer something more graphic, with a bit more punch. The logical step, then, is a wholly two-color pattern, with the blocks arranged in a checkerboard, and the lines done in an opposing checkerboard:

I love sweaters patterned this way, but don't love the intarsia involved - instant-gratification monkey that I am, I wanted to knit the pattern using the (already quick) circular stranded Fair Isle method so I could steek (even quicker). I had a certain width to each block in mind, but wasn't comfortable with how long it would make my floats over the widest portion of each diamond shape - so I added another line of contrasting color in each block to pare the longest floats down to 5 stitches:

Why does it matter? I guess it doesn't, really, except that I like the the knitted qualities of a pattern with frequent color changes - it becomes a cushy, firm, still-drapey fabric. I know very long floats are not uncommon, but I just don't care for them - I think it makes for a messy garment, with stitches easily distorted during wear and none of the structure that properly belongs to a Fair Isle jumper.

Charting did take a while, since I was too knuckleheaded to figure out some fairly obvious math issues. Did you guys know that even and odd are different? I felt brilliant when I finally figured out 12 stitches would split in two identical groups, but that 13 wouldn', yeah.

**Please note that I'm in no way suggesting that I'm the first to come up with this variant on argyle - I'm sure it's been done many, many times before**

Anyway, the final product is more or less exactly what I pictured - a very fitted, snappy little sweater vest. It's also a little bit of a sartorial wink: Western Scotland's tartan knitted with Shetland's method; old-school patterns filling a modern outline; a traditionally laborious-to-produce look done at today's right-away speed. I like it a lot.

Right Now

As a little break before I start the knitting on my next big project (so excited about this one, though I think it'll take a while to get just right - it'll give me a chance to get out some of my knotwork cable ideas), I'm working on Knitty's Shedir hat:

I detest Calmer with the fiery heat of a thousand suns, so I'm using Rowan Felted Tweed, instead. The yarn doesn't have great stitch definition (it's rather loosely twisted, and it's, you know, felted and tweedy in places), so I'm doing all those pretty cables with a twisted stitch instead of a plain knit stitch. I normally don't care for interesting yarns and texture together, but I think the overall effect of this'll be subtle and sort-of sophisticated.

January 25, 2006

Deep V Argyle Vest

Pattern: My own
Yarn: Mysterious Korean merino wool, DK weight, in dark brown and cream
Yardage: ?? Two 100 gram balls, each color
Yarn Source: Gift
Needles: 3.5mm (US4) Addi Natura bamboo circular
Gauge: 5.5 st/inch; 34" around chest
Modifications: --

See all entries on this project

Finishing the Argyle

See what I mean about the whole funny-shape-before-cutting thing?

The mysterious crocheted steek - caught during its nocturnal prowlings!

I used an odd half ball of Dale Tiur for the crochet - it's a 60/40 mohair/wool blend in a DK or so weight. It felts if you look at it the wrong way (total nightmare to frog) - perfect for a secure, tight steek even with not-so-sticky Merino base knitting. Come to think of it, it would make a beautiful, unusual Fair Isle, the colors luminous through the ever-so-slight halo of mohair...

After cutting.

And after adding bands and blocking:

I really love the finished product. I don't think it's a complete slam dunk - there's some funny stuff going on in the bust, and I really should have either shaped the shoulders or made them a bit narrower, but I'm not going to get too grouchy over it. It fits tolerably well, is really cute, and is just the right kind of sexy librarian thing to cheer my up during these gloomy months. The false starts made the sketch-to-FO process about two weeks, but the knitting of this particular piece only took two or three days - huzzah for sleeveless knits!

Next up? I have another plan for a sweater, but right this minute I need something to keep my melon head warm. The smoke ring was totally bogarted by my mother the first time she saw me wearing it ("Oh, that's so my color! Did you make it for me?"), so I'm thinking Knitty's Shedir might be on the menu.

Off to the yarn store!

January 24, 2006

One mile to go

Almost there.

Please ignore the ripply, bubbly, generally fugly look of the thing right now; I'm confident that the pattern will look more, well, coherent when it smooths out during blocking.

The Fair Isle decrease principles at work:

Hopefully, cutting comes tonight! Stay tuned.

Wonderful comments yesterday. I absolutely did not mean to offend anyone - if anything, I was kind of laughing at myself for splitting semantic hairs. It's certainly not for me to decide who falls in and out of my arbitrary designations...I was more using this space as a sounding board to organize some of my own thoughts. The word "designer", I think, is already a pretty arbitrary label (yuk yuk yuk), more and more a marketing buzzword than something with a concrete denotative meaning.

I love what Kelly said: "If anything, it makes me feel more a part of the tradition of knitting. I'm taking a basic shape, structure, etc, and adding the colors, details, or embellishments that I like. "

This is exactly what I meant about creating something within basic guidelines being a great thing, only expressed better. Standing on the shoulders of giants, and all that. It is peculiar and wonderful, the freeing nature of having so many of the pieces in place already.

The ability to conceptualize, brought up by a number of commenters, was something I hadn't considered. I still think that anyone (seriously, I mean ANYONE) could take a pattern for, say, a ribbed sweater with a large central cable motif, swap it out for a different motif, and call it an "original design". I still think that that's precisely what a lot of "original designs" are. My hard-line stance starts to get a bit fuzzy, though, when I think about what it takes to build a coherent, beautiful garment as a whole. From that angle, I suppose it does take considerable thought over the details, along with a defined idea of "look" or aesthetic. Some textured sweaters I see, and some Fair Isle sweaters, really do express a mood or evoke a season - I think that process takes imagination, beyond technical excellence, to go from idea to paper to fabric.

So, this is something I need to give some more thought to; I hadn't even begun to think about the world of fiber artists, or of the nature of craftsmanship versus that of artistry (Yael's beautifully written comment really made me think, though I don't necessarily feel exactly the same way). To be honest, all this was spurred by some idle musings on copyright law, which turned into a thought about originality and the ways we choose to market ourselves. Awesome food for thought - I love blogging.

January 23, 2006


I must say, I'm totally overwhelmed by all the nice comments over the steek series - I hope you'll find it useful, either now or later.

The argyle vest is growing, but not as quickly as I'd like. Twice over now, it's been knit to the armholes and then thrown down in disgust:

The culprit?

a tricksy drawer o' needles. Obviously, while I'm sweetly dreaming abed, they collude and conspire to deceive me - twice, I selected what I thought, knew was a 3.5mm circular, and twice I've been hoodwinked. The first time, I knit merrily at a half millimeter smaller and got an absurdly tight tube that made me resemble nothing so closely as an andouille ready to turn; the second time I knit with a too-large needle and produced an argyle cape.

A pox on you, cozening, guileful needles! Oh, what a tangled web we weave when...what's that? I should just organize them better? I ought to put and keep them in order?

But that would be crazy.

Anyway, I finally bought myself a needle gauge, and started again. I've set my front neck steek, and am on my way.

I thought that I was going to lay off the pedantry for at least a little while, but I apparently don't know myself very well. I've been thinking a lot lately - what makes a "designer"?

For the most part, I really believe that there is very little that's innovative in the world of handknit design. It's a very old craft, and after all, it really boils down to sticks and string - there are only so many different things that can be done with them. A sweater is a sweater; a cable a cable - when it really comes down to it, there is no real difference, I think, between one cabled sweater and the next. The motifs might be different, the shape might be different - but nothing about either one sets the world on fire, and it is very easy to produce a hundred different cabled sweaters that have nothing really unique about them.

98% of the patterns we buy required nothing more than some math to cobble together. For my own part, I've realized that the things I've made without patterns - Jeff's Aran sweater, the print o the wave shawl, this vest - aren't "designs", they're arrangements. Likewise, I wouldn't ever call myself a designer; at best, maybe, a patternmaker. It seems unbelievably pretentious to do otherwise, since handknit patterns are generally Lego-built - swap a collar for this neckband; add this lace edging or that one; this motif or another.

All this is a good thing - I have tremendous respect for all forms of traditional knitting, and I love that within fairly rigid parameters there is room for a wide aesthetic spectrum. Being a plain old cabled cardigan doesn't mean that it can't be beautiful and fresh-looking; the same Fair Isle motif can be garish or appealing, depending on the colors used and the placement on the garment and the motifs surrounding it.

Still, I'm always so impressed whenever I see something that really makes me think about handknits and knitted fabric in a new way - a construction that would never occur to me, or an unexpected shape, or something that capitalizes on the properties of a stitch in a very functional and lovely way. Likewise, I think there are traditional knitters who transcend "patternmaking" by doing it spectacularly well, with a fascinating sense of color or texture. I'd put, say, Hanne Falkenberg and Veronik Avery in the first group; Meg Swanson and Alice Starmore in the second. They all make me want to be a more thoughtful knitter.

My point is, any knitter could plan a beautiful garment, given a gauge swatch and some long division (not trying to be flippant; it's no secret that I try and try and usually fall far short) - but it takes something more, something only a handful of people have, to make a designer (and I don't necessarily think that all the big names have it, nor that only hugely famous ones do. Anna comes to mind as someone who produces amazing pieces that grow out of a fascinating, organic thought process).

My $0.02, which no one asked for, of course, but it's never stopped me before - what do you think?

January 12, 2006

The Steeking Chronicles: The Unreinforced Steek

Introduction; Setting Up Steeks; Handling Color ChangesPlanning and Placing Steeks; Handling Decreases in Fair Isle Knitting • The Traditional, Unreinforced Steek • The Hand-Sewn SteekThe Crocheted SteekPutting It All Together; Working Sleeves; Blocking; FinishingA Word On Norwegian Steeks

Today, I'll show you the scariest steek - the one with nothing to stabilize it. No sewing, no crochet, nothing to keep the whole sweater from unraveling but some peculiar properties of Shetland wool. This method won't work for any superwash, manmade, plant fiber, or otherwise smooth yarn, or yarn much thicker than DK weight - hairy, prickly wool fibers and tight gauge are what promote the slight felting that holds the cut steek together.

For a no-sew steek, the bridge can be formed by any even number of stitches, depending on habit and comfort. I have read of production knitters in Shetland working with as little as two steek stitches, for speed and reduction of waste, but I like to use between six (shown below) and ten stitches, depending on the stress the stitches will receive after being cut - more along a high-stress area like a button band or armhole; fewer along a less-manipulated area.

The steek proper is flanked by two edge or border stitches (marked with pink arrows here), usually worked in the background color, which become the stitches for picking up and working sleeves, neckbands and button bands.

There are several ways of working the steek itself. For an unsewn steek, the arrangement of stitches isn't particularly important - the main requirement is frequent color changes (usually every stitch) to create a tightly woven fabric. A steek with long floats of color will not hold together well, while a steek made of yarns that alternate every stitch has a firmness that promotes cling. I follow Alice Starmore's advice and alternate colors every row, creating a checked or seeded effect, while others stack colors, creating vertical columns that can be easily followed for stitching and cutting.

The end-of-round is marked with a blue arrow in the picture above, clearly showing the jog where each row ends and the next begins. The end of round, whenever possible, should take place in the center of a steek, as the jog is hidden and color-change ends become a non-issue once cut. When casting on, the steek stitches should comprise the first and last few stitches of the round.

I simply knot new strands at each color change, though a felted join or no join at all works just as well. If the change takes place outside a steek, I'd later unknot the ends, pull up the tensions, and weave them in. I'll just leave these as is, and trim the knots away with any other hanging ends once the bridge has been cut.

Remember to bind off your steek, or put it on a holder if you prefer to graft or bind off the two sides together. Now, there's nothing left to do but cut.

Elizabeth Zimmerman gave some famous advice about retreating to a dark room with a stiff drink after making the cut. I don't know if it's necessary to go quite that far - though it certainly couldn't hurt. Just cut slowly, snipping a few threads at a time, with a pair of very sharp scissors. Since we have an even number of stitches, we're cutting between the third and fourth stitches of this six-stitch bridge.

Here's the edge formed. As you can see, hardly anything has unraveled at all.

It stands up fine to washing and blocking, too. Further handling will only strengthen the edge - those suckers aren't going anywhere.

Next: The Hand-Sewn Steek

All posts in this series:

After the whole debacle of the baby sweater, I needed something to cheer me up - I started last night on an argyle vest for me in the Korean Merino. If you can make out the "lazybones" scribbled at the top, it's because my construction for this takes the easy way out - no intarsia, knit entirely in the round in stranded Fair Isle (shoulder shaping, too! Walk, do not run, to read this), with the pattern plotted with double lines to ensure that there are no floats longer than 5 stitches.

I'm hoping the final product will be a good union of a very traditional pattern, modern (that is, easy-way-out) construction, and up-to-date shaping, all in an old-school garment (I mean, who wears a vest anymore?). It's going to be a long-line kind of thing, with wide ribbing and a rather deep (below the bust) v-neck. I picture wearing it with a pink oxford, white wide-leg pants, brown slingbacks, and my hands in my pockets - we'll see.