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I’ve always been fascinated by church and cathedral architecture, especially when colourful stained glass windows are involved. I love the big rose windows at Durham and York, so when I first got the Harry Potter inspired knitting book I was in awe of the Tracery Vest. One snag though – it’s colour work. And it was very intimidating for me to even attempt to have s go. However after making the Hearthstone Shawl with its Latvian braids and small colour work panel I felt brave enough to have a go at this vest.

I love the outcome. This is potentially the most technical knit I’ve done this year and I am so proud to have taken up the challenge it presented.

Materials

  • 2 balls West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4-ply (Black)
  • 2 balls West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4-ply (Autumn Leaves)
  • 4.5mm circular needles (80cm / 100cm cables)
  • 4.5mm double pointed needles
  • Crochet hook
  • Stitch holders, stitch markers, tapestry needle, scissors

The making of

To start with I knitted up the swatch with this super fine wool (finest I’ve worked with ever) and determined that yet again I’d be needing the next size up of needle. It’s clearly a thing. I started on my largest cable, but as I worked I found knitting in the round was proving difficult whilst trying to keep the tension even whilst working between the colours, so I switched to the next size down and was mindful to keep the work loose when working round the sections. This avoided the ‘magic loop‘ on circular needles method where you pull the cable through in sections and I could happily knit around the rounds as if I was just working on a flat piece.

The pattern called for a standard long-tail cast on, which I followed and cast on the required 252 stitches. The way this colourwork pattern works is that you have black as your main colour for your horizontal lines and the shadows of the tracery, filling in with the colour for the other bits. This means on a k2p2 rib the knit stitches were in black and the purl was in the colour, which helped me with my counting after the first round. I made the rib a little longer than the pattern stated as I got in the zone, but I reasoned that a longer body wouldn’t do me any harm and I didn’t want to undo the few rows for fear of dropping everything. Following the instructions I knit the set up row and added markers in for the two sides, before adding sectional markers for my own sanity. I’ve found that marking repeating chunks in a pattern helps me keep my place and navigate when putting down and picking up the work, so I put a marker at each end of the repeat and a different coloured one for the sides. This proved a useful foresight when having to unpick and reknit sections later and gave me something to guage my work by as I worked so I caught more mistakes sooner.

The chart is a little complicated to start as you don’t start at the right hand corner. The pattern is for many sizes, and because you are increasing as you work from the rib/waist up, you have to add stitches into the sides of the repeating motif. With this in mind I coloured in the sections of the colour chart that I would not be referring to (though I should have done the stepped increases if I’d been especially cunning) and annotated my copy of the chart to help keep my counting on track. I’ve gotten into the habit of copying my patterns when working so I can track progress / colour sections and generally make a lot of scribbles, so I had no issues with taking the highlighter pen to the chart (just don’t ask me to do that to my books). The increases were made “in pattern” through a lifted increase, where the needle takes up a stitch from a line below and knits that into the pattern, which minimises the holes often formed when making an increase. I know knitting has holes on it, but increases can make bigger holes which can be visually unappealing.

The nice thing about working on a repeating pattern is that you get into a rhythm and you get a feel for how the pattern should look after you’ve done a few repetitions, which helps catch mistakes. That being said you can get too settled into a pattern which can lead to mistakes, especially when the changes in pattern are subtle at first. When I discovered my first batch of errors I was devastated, as I wasn’t sure how I’d go about unpicking the errors without risking the whole thing coming apart. But because of how colourwork works, there is some slack in the different threads for each row, so it is possible to knit in the correct colour for the error.

I found that by ‘holding’ the stitches either side of the error on the circular needles and letting the rows unravel (carefully!) back to the row below the error and picking up the live stitches on a double pointed needle. Once secured I then lifted the other strands of the higher rows out of the way and knit the correct pattern with the strands for that row, as if I hadn’t had the error. This was slow going, and the further along I got the tighter the ‘correct’ colour became as I worked several stitches into the strand of wool that had been left loose originally. So it had to be done carefully! You can end up with big loops of the error wool after making the correction, but these can be pulled back through the work to spread the tension about (to a degree). However in correcting my errors left me with huge loops on the back of my knitting and I began pulling the wool up through my work towards the live stitches. This had to be done carefully and eventually (as expected) I snapped the strand. At this point I quickly tied it back in place, gathering the slack into the broken piece and cutting it away. The jump between the colours wasn’t too obvious, but it was a squeaky moment before I grabbed the disappearing broken strand. This project had a few of those …

Because of playing around with the tension, trying to keep some slack but correcting errors etc led me to have some concerns about whether I’d fit into the vest, so a few times during creation I put on the vest to check. Luckily the tight areas were pulled slack once worn, so we could keep going!

The front and back are worked separately at the armpit, with the front split again into the left and right shoulders after commencing the v- neck split. They are all worked the same, continuing in pattern whilst binding off the armhole or the v-neck. The shoulders are bound off using the three-needle bind-off, before picking up the neck and armhole (with the help of the crochet hook) and knitting 5 rounds of k2p2 rib like the bottom of the vest. When working the edging the pick-up and bind off is worked in black.

The loose ends are tidied away with a needle and trimmed and the whole garment is blocked to the measurements. After blocking I found I needn’t have worried about the fit as the blocking seemed to ‘relax’ the wool so the overall garment isn’t as fitted as some of my other makes. I don’t think I’d need a smaller size or a tighter knit as I think this is the style.

The finished product

I love this so much. I wasn’t sure when the wool arrived if the autumnal colours would work with the black and had a momentary wobble, but I’m happy I went with my gut feel as the end result is very ‘me’.