Friday, 5 January 2018

My First Knitting Project in Many Years!

I think it must have been in April at the Edinburgh Knitting and Stitching Show (not sure about that! It could have been Harrogate in November 2016.) that I purchased a knitting kit - a hand knitting pattern and the yarn to make it up plus button and poppet from The Wool Shop Leeds. The yarn is Mode/Serenity chunky. I have a lot left over.

It’s a long time since I did any knitting and I started slowly as my hands can get very sore.

When I first started knitting this time, I found I was a bit uneven. I hoped that would  improve with practice and I think it did.

I did the tension piece as advised - and discovered that I needed to be a bit tighter, so went down a needle size. That was perfect. My required tension was 14 stitches and 19 rows to 10 cm. It measured spot on. I didn't want it too tight and the size I chose gave 6 inches of ease at the bust - the size smaller was only 2 inches so I didn't think that was enough.

I knitted the pieces fairly quickly, really, without many problems. I did have to undo a portion as it was too long for the other side. I rapidly remembered how to measure knitting!!

I had some problems doing the sleeve bands and neckline - the former more so than the latter as they were done first. I had to pick up stitches from the edges (after back and front were sewn together at the shoulder) and knit several rows of moss stitch. I could NOT get the number of stitches picked up to the exact number required by the pattern. In the end, I did my best.

I was less worried about having the exact number of stitches for the collar. However, I do need to learn how to do this properly! There were a few bits where I felt that the hole in the knitting junction was too big so I filled in with a hand stitch - it obviously means that I wasn't doing the picking up correctly, I guess. Any advice on that? Can you point me to a resource?

After the collar was completed, I had to sew up the waistcoat sides. I found this more difficult than I remembered! I think my next attempt will be better. I remember that sewing up was never my greatest skill! I need to find a good resource to help me work out the best way to do this. Any recommendations?

Then I had to sew on the button and place a poppet behind it. These were supplied in the kit. The poppet is plastic and I'm finding it difficult to fasten it when the gilet is worn. Once fastened, it stays in place. I may replace with a large metal poppet.

Then I blocked the completed piece. How best to block a completed garment? The blocking was recommended after the completion of the garment, not for each piece. I laid the gilet out flat, covered with wet tea towel, patted in place and allowed to dry. This seemed to work well.


  • I need to practice, probably, to even up my knitting
  • My knitting is slow and I cannot watch TV at the same time. I need a better method. Is continental knitting a better option - I’m not sure what it is but I have seen people extol its virtues.
  • When you do stocking stitch, do you have a knit stitch at the end of EVERY row? I did that and feel it complicated the making up of the waistcoat as it ends up with a definite edge stitch
  • I'm not at all skilled with picking up stitches.
  • I need to learn a good way of sewing up. (I was tempted to use my sewing machine)
  • I need to learn the best way to block
  • I need to learn to read the pattern sizes before I start

Then came the time to try it on. I didn't like it at all as the shoulders were much too wide. I'm not narrow shouldered but the back was also too wide.

I realised I had never seen this garment worn. I saw a completed gilet on the show stall. The pattern as a picture printed on it with a dressmaker's model wearing the gilet and on closer examination, I see that the shoulders are probably meant to be oversized. That doesn't make me like it though!

Only now did I work out that the shoulder length given, even before the bands were attached was massive! I hadn't thought to do this in advance - and I wasn't sure how the garment shoulders were being created. I can now get an idea of how wide they are but I don't think I'd have been able to do so earlier, before starting the gilet. Maybe I'm just making excuses!

I then measured my knitting tension on the final garment and found it was now 13.5 stitches and 19 rows to 10 cms. This means my tension is slightly too loose and the garment has ended up wider than it should have. Measuring confirmed that. The length is exactly correct. I'm assuming that it is more important to get width correct as it's easier to correct for length? Though on some occasions, a particular number of rows is specified. If I went down another size of needle, my row measurement would not be correct. Any suggestions? I assume that the most difficult thing to do would be to get me to knit to the correct tension!

If this had been a toile in woven fabric, I would now have marked where I wanted the shoulders to come to and trimmed off the excess. I asked on Instagram whether it was possible to cut and sew, by which I meant a very similar process - cut off the excess fabric and either sew on a band knitted separately or pick the stitches up to knit the bands. I think the limiting factor could be that this is chunky knitting and while overlocking was suggested, Karen's overlocker wasn't able to cope with the thickness when she tried something similar.

The majority thought it was okay and didn't need changed. I was advised to put it away and reassess when I am more divorced from it. Others thought I need to rip it out and redo the top portion. That's a lot of ripping out! Off would come the collar, the sleeve bands and half of the knitting back and front. Hours of work. My husband falls into this category though he also suggested just dumping it, which I'm not prepared to do - the yarn was quite expensive in my view. He's opposed to the idea of cutting off the excess.

Trying to mark and cutting off the excess through the shoulders to front and back would avoid all that re-knitting and would avoid having to take the collar off. Obviously the stitches would need to be secured. That's where overlocking the ends comes in, Is there another method? I don't have the experience with hand knitting (I only ever followed a pattern) to know how I would then pick up and knit the stitches for the bands - or do I knit separately and sew on afterwards? Do I have anything to lose? I have 2 full balls of yarn left (I bought 1 extra in case I needed to lengthen and had 1 left over).

Whatever I do, if I end up ripping out and intending to re-knit, this would be changing the style of the gilet and I would have to work out how to reduce the number of stitches at the shoulder - I reckon I need a minimum of 4 stitches fewer on each shoulder - that's  2.85 cms (1.15 inches) or more given my tension issue ( less on each shoulder and even then it would still be oversized but not so much so.

Also, if a re-knit from armhole up - do I use a size smaller needle or just go down a couple of sizes?

I'm really at a loss here. I want to be able to wear it as it is but I really cannot! Not at the moment, anyway

I am planning (as I have been since before Helen’s wedding) to get out my knitting machine and start using it. I wasn’t too bad in the mid 80s when I was using it. My machine (Toyota plus ribber)  is long since obsolete and it isn't now possible to buy needles for it - I do have a few spare but not many. As I have committed to Goodbye Valentino’s 2018 RTW Fast, any jumpers I need must be knitted by me - they cannot be purchased. So that’s an impetus. Just before Helen’s wedding, I did get it out and David renovated it so I hope it is all ready to go. I just haven't had a chance in that time.

I bought another pattern plus yarn (not a kit) at the same show - also for chunky yarn - and I will start that in the near future but I'll take into account lessons learned from this one.


  1. That is wonderful, it looks lovely on you!

  2. I may be a little more exoerienced, but not by much. I have come to the conclusion that knitting a top is the same as sewing one, in that the pattern needs to be adjusted to suit the measurements of the wearer. And I agree that while it is a fabulous piece, it does look a little big on you. You might grade between sizes next time & knit the shoulders & upper chest in a smaller size. Or look at a vest pattern that doesn't have dropped sleeve caps and compare the neck to shoulder width & adjust your pattern accordingly. I also think 2"ease is about right for a vest, so you might even go down a size or two next time. Even zero ease would work with this because of the lovely way it swings open. The most important thing is that it fit you in the shoulders and upper chest. Is it knit top down? That would make it much easier to check the upper torso fit if it is.
    I also read somewhere that one should wash and block the swatch before checking the gauge, which makes sense, I guess. If you love the pattern and you love the yarn, you could bite the bullet and rip the entire thing out for a do-over...consider this one your toille. What a terrible thing to sugest, I know! Honestly, though, it doesn't matter what other people say about how nice it looks on you (and it does, in my opinion!) if you dont like it and aren't going to wear it as it is, frog it and do it again. You've had a fabulous test run & learned something. And btw...what is the pattern name? I like it for myself, though I would probably shorten the shoulder length for me.
    Now I'm going to follow comments and hope someone with more experience writes in...because I struggle with the same questions!

    1. Thank you for your thoughts. It's knitted from the bottom up. I agree that fitting issues are same as a top. I also agree that much less ease was required and I should've knitted at least one size smaller. I'm going to put it aside for a bit until I luck up courage for the next bit! I can't see a specific pattern name - it says at top 'Mode/Serenity Chunky Gilet with Collar'. Oh - I did wash and block the swatch before measuring.

  3. I have to admit that although I have knitted a few things in my life, I am not a dedicated and experienced knitter and suffer all the same problems as you have done. I knit now for relaxation and for warm garments...and when I am cold I don't worry so much about what a garment looks like! I hope someone can answer your questions.

  4. You did say it was a quick as a knitter if I don’t like how something looks I undo and then do again! I will usually ask at my local shop what needs to be done differently prior to taking it apart. I see this as my improving my knitting skills! I feel as a knitter I can have a second chance with yarn unlike in my sewing! Good luck!

    1. Thank you. I just read this comment today as it had been sent to spam for some reason. I retrieved it. I am not aware of a local shop (I bought this yarn and pattern at an exhibition) so can't ask advice. I did ask a couple of friends who knit but that wasn't quite as good. I may well re-knit. I would like to improve my knitting skills.


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