There’s a truly lovely Fair Isle vest by Yoko Hatta in the new Vogue Knitting Early Fall 2015 edition. It uses mostly Dale Alpakka (regulars here know that’s a personal favorite of mine), with some gorgeous Dale Erle accents, all in a very wearable, subtle blend of soft greys and pale, dusty pinks. If I didn’t already have about 5 different projects on my needles, I’d be casting on for it today!
Judging by the Alpakka and Erle yarn orders I’ve received, several of you already took the plunge and are probably making good progress. But, in the meantime, I’ve also received a few phone calls and emails from knitters who would love to knit Yoko’s vest, but are put off by the instructions given by Vogue Knitting – specifically…are you sitting down?…they have you knit this Fair Isle vest flat. (“Flat” really is the “F-word” for Fair Isle hand knitting, isn’t it?!)
Machine knitters might be thrilled to see the instructions in flat pieces; however, most of us are hand knitters and those of us hand knitters who knit Fair Isle projects generally prefer knitting them in the round, for several excellent reasons. Some might do the bottom half circularly, then split the front and back at the base of the armholes, and work back and forth to the top, to avoid steeking such soft yarns. I wouldn’t! I’d much rather go circularly, bottom to top, and have all of my stitches looking as consistent as possible. I’d have no qualms about steeking these yarns, as long as they’re reinforced with double rows of small, machine-sewn stitches, before being cut open.
There are a few other things I’d do differently, too. I’ll tell you what I’d change, but, of course, you’ll still need to get the pattern from VK to do either version.
In addition to consistent stitches, I like consistent motifs. And, while I know some of you couldn’t give a fig about how your motifs line up on the sidelines (after all, 99% of the ready-made clothing made these days shows no one paid any attention to that little nicety) to me, and I know more than a few of my fellow Fair Isle-style knitters, there’s beauty in a consistently laid-out design and there’s joy to be found in knitting the same motifs, unbroken, for an entire round. Yes, by stopping and restarting partial motifs at the sidelines, you can delineate the sizes precisely as you’d like them. But, interestingly, in this case, by using entire motifs throughout, while the breakpoints between sizes are a bit different, there are just as many options for sizes as are given in the pattern. Some might even be a better fit for you! (Or not…see my stitch counts and sizes, below.) Here’s an outline of what I’m thinking about:
Yoko’s large, argyle motif has a 16-stitch repeat. The little motif (on the darker grey bands) is a 6-stitch repeat. While I love the look of this vest, the math nerd in me bristles at the idea of two clashing multiples in one design. I’d really love to see the motifs line up vertically, too. Yep, maybe I’m a little too obsessed with lining things up “just so”, but that’s a big part of why I love knitting – I can make all of my things “just so”! Here are a few ideas I have for 8-stitch motifs (well, the middle one is a 16-st motif – still an 8-st multiple) that could substitute for the original 6-stitch motifs, so that things will line up, unbroken, both vertically and horizontally:
Not only is it nice to have things lined up vertically and horizontally, it’s also important to keep things symmetrical, with the same layout on the front that we have on the back. To get there, we’ll want an even number of repeats. Here’s how I’d size things, with even repeats:
When you steek armholes, after you make the large bind off that corresponds with the bottom of the armhole, it’s best to decrease only 1 stitch per side of the armhole thereafter. (That’s what works for the v-neck, too.) So, we’ll have to tweak our process a bit versus VK’s. But, again interestingly, the changes really won’t change the profile significantly. Here’s what I’d do:
Armholes: I’d combine the large # of sts decreased in the pattern’s first two armhole decrease rows so that I’d have the armhole base bound off in one shot. Then, on the next round, I’d cast on my steek stitches right over the armhole bind off, while decreasing one stitch on each side of the steek. If you want to do the type of steek that gets folded over and sewn down to cover the raw edge, you’ll probably want to cast on 8 to 10 steek stitches; or, if you’d like to try the covered steek technique I often use, 6 sts will do. (And, if you’d like to read my steek article from the beginning, it starts here.) Whenever two stitches are decreased over two rows in the flat-knit pattern, that translates beautifully to decreasing one stitch each round circularly. Above the multiple-stitch decrease section, I’d follow the pattern’s single stitch decreases for the armhole the rest of the way up to the back neck shaping. Don’t forget that the v-neck starts shortly after the armholes!
V-neck: I’d circularly knit the very same decreases; the only difference would be that I’d have a column of steek stitches (same # of sts as armhole steeks) and I’d cast on for them on the 2nd neck round, right over the center stitch.
Shoulders: Looking at the photos of the vest on the model, from the little I can see of the shoulders, I’m pretty sure that they’ve shaped those shoulders, to give them a nice, gentle downward slope. Unfortunately, the pattern provides no such instructions. The back neck shaping is done over just the last six rows/rounds. Coincidentally, it’s just six rounds that we’ll need for shoulder shaping. So, bind off your steek stitches before starting the back neck shaping. Then, for just those last six rounds, I’d recommend working f-l-a-t (excuse the profanity.) I’d decrease 1/3 of the shoulder width in each pass, starting from the outside and working in.