Category Archives: Khaki Vest


After some dithering back and forth, ripping back the front placket and reknitting it, I present my re-worked and adapted khaki vest, mid-block:


The color variation is due to some parts still being wetter than others. I’ve used US size 1 14-inch straights as blocking wires for the vest’s points. Thanks to the texture pattern I’ve used, plus the edging, they don’t really curl, but I did want them to start life as straight as possible.

As far as the interminable edging goes – it wasn’t that bad. I knit it on as described before, then seamed down the free facing edge on the back. I did end up making the extra wide, double thick buttonhole bands, and I did end up working the entire buttonhole band/neck edge in one pass – shaping it with decreases on both sides to match. And I did end up using the Neatby Magic Buttonhole in my double-thick placket.

Why did I go back to the heavy placket when I had whined about it before? Mostly because the vest didn’t fit as well without it. The heaviness seems to act a bit like a stomacher in a 1600s gown. It lends stability and structure to the center of the piece and prevents Dread Buttonhole Stretch, even when worn (that gap-itis that happens when buttoned knitting stretches into scallops around the buttons.) I did go back and readjust the ratio of picking up and knitting, which did help a bit. So did the final seaming, which squished the placket flat (I may still go back and steam this edge to make it even more flat).

On the buttonholes – I am not comfortable explaining in detail the Magic Buttonhole working method in detail. It’s unique and it’s Lucy’s, available in her leaflets and workshops, and in the Fall 2004 issue of InkKnitters. But I will say that her method is pretzel-clever, and much easier to work than it looks. There’s a very simple logic to it, and the stitches to be grafted and the direction for each stitch to be taken are all very clearly laid out. I did do one minor modification – instead of working this buttonhole on a placket that was picked up and knit out perpendicular to the direction of the body piece’s knitting, I worked it on a band that was knit in the same direction as the main piece. The perpendicular way is a bit easier to achieve because of the side-by-side alignment of the two buttonhole-to-be strips of scrap yarn, but with a bit of patience and fiddling doing it the other way is perfectly achievable.


Finally, for those of you who asked – the kids and I had fun at the Gore Place Sheepshearing Festival this year. But it does seem to be headed away from its sheep and yarn focus a bit. There are still both hand snip and electric clipper shearers, and there’s still a sheep dog demo; but the spinning and weaving demo tent formerly staffed by the Boston area spinners and dyers guild was missing – a big loss. Also, there was only one sparsely populated wool/yarn/spinning vendors’ tent – down from two in years past. It’s possible that the threat of really bad weather kept away some of the yarn people, but I see far less foot traffic through the yarn tent than in years past. It’s possible that low sales are the root cause of the lack of vendors.

Still, in spite of low yarn availability, we did enjoy the day and I did find some nice things to buy. First, I got a couple more skeins of Nicks Meadow Farm rustic Maine style heavy worsted/Aran, this time in barn red. He was also selling a softer Merino this year, but I got the older yarn to eke out some leftovers from previous purchases.

I also got a few skeins of a small producer’s yarn that’s new to me. Swift River Farm was showing Shetland and Shetland-silk blends. They offer both off-the-sheep undyed yarn colors, and dyed yarns. I got some of their Prescott, a fingering-weight 95% Shetland/5% silk in a natural unbleached white. Prescott is labeled with a gauge of 32-35 stitches over 4 inches on US #3 or #4. It’s a lofty two-ply in that pleasing Shetland texture, but a bit softer due to the silk. My guess is that it could be knit down to 8 to 9 spi, but that it would also look good at 6.5 to 7 spi. Of course gauge swatching is called for here since without it all I can do is guess. I’m leaning towards using it to make one or two lacy scarves as holiday gifts, along the lines of the Spring Lightning scarf I did a couple of years back. But playing with different lacy patterns for both the center and the edging.

I’m not sure what I will be knitting next alongside the Galaga hat (which also progresses). In the mean time, my “upstairs knitting” has been finishing off a couple of pairs of started but not yet completed socks – each pair begun as a briefcase project to do in the corners of time at lunch at work, or on plane flights. One can never have too many socks.

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Hmm. Not quite happy.

I’ve finished the trim around the armholes and bottom edges of the front of the khaki vest. O.K. so far there. I’ve gotten well into the trim along the buttonhole band/neck edge. Not so good.

I wanted to move the buttonholes from between the band and patterned area as shown on the original, to being centered in a true buttonhole band. So I cast on for a wider buttonhole band, and planned to work Neatby’s Magic Buttonholes (sideways). But the proportions of the wider band, plus the odd narrowing I had to do to accommodate the V-neck, along with what will be the sheer weight of this center section when buttoned (four thicknesses of Aran weight yarn) is making me reconsider. You can see for yourself:


The buttonhole band has been turned under so that you only see the temporary stitches marking the place of a single column of buttonholes. There’s a comparable set tucked inside on what will be the facing.

I think tonight I might rip back the beginnings of this front band and start it again.

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I’ve played around some with methods of producing and applying the edge finish to the khaki vest. First I tried the separately knit/sewn on band method, using a couple of different approaches to the seaming (fold band longitudinally, sew the band up, then apply it; sew on both sides in one pass; sew on the display side, then do a separate seam to affix the facing side). Of all of them, the last method worked best, but it was the most effort intensive of them all.

So I looked further. Plain I-Cord (knit on or applied) was too narrow to stabilize the edge, and two courses of it would have been too bulky. I didn’t like the way that picking up along the edge then knitting out looked – especially along the curve of the armhole.

Even more experiments ensued. Finally I landed on knitting-on a strip parallel to the edge, then going back and seaming down the free side on the inside of the piece. Doing that I could produce an edge of any desired width, go around curves and even plan on mitering the vest point corner. Here’s a swatch with a mitered corner. Note that I haven’t sewn down the facing on the inside yet, but natural stockinette curl is keeping it nice and neat. (For some, the inside seaming might be optional, but I plan on doing it on my finished piece).


To miter the corner of this 8-stitch strip, I used short rows. Here’s how I did it:

Applied 8-stitch Strip Facing with Mitered Corner

Start with the public side of the work facing you, holding it with the bulk of the piece on the left, so that you’re working up the right side of the thing (upside down from the picture above). Using straight needles, cast on 9 stitches, then pick up one stitch in the edge of the piece being finished. While the strip is 9 stitches wide, one is consumed during joining, so the part that protrudes is really only 8 stitches wide.

Row 1 (wrong side): P8, k1.
Row 2: S1, k6, ssk, pick up one stitch in edge of swatch
Row 3: S1, p7, k1

Repeat Rows 2 and 3 until you reach the corner, having just completed an odd number (wrong side row)

Row 4: S1, k6, wrap and turn.
Row 5: Slip the wrapped stitch, p6, wrap and turn
Row 6: Ignoring any previously wrapped stitches, S1, k5, wrap and turn
Row 7: Ignoring any previously wrapped stitches, Slip the wrapped stitch, p4, wrap and turn
Row 8: Ignoring any previously wrapped stitches, S1, k3, wrap and turn
Row 9: Ignoring any previously wrapped stitches, S1, p2, wrap and turn
Row 10: Ignoring any previously wrapped stitches, S1, k2, knit the next stitch along with the loop around its base, turn
Row 11: Ignoring any previously wrapped stitches, S the stitch you just knit, p2, purl the next stitch along with the loop around its base, turn
Row 12: Ignoring any previously wrapped stitches, S1, k3, knit the next stitch along with the loop around its base, turn
Row 13: Ignoring any previously wrapped stitches, Slip the stitch you just knit, p4, purl the next stitch along with the loop around its base, turn
Row 14: Ignoring any previously wrapped stitches, S1, k5, knit the next stitch along with the loop around its base, turn
Row 15: Ignoring any previously wrapped stitches, Slip the stitch you just knit, p6, purl the next stitch along with the loop around its base, turn

The corner is complete, return to repeating Rows 2 and 3. Optional finish – seam down the inside edge of this facing.

I’ve stated applying this same edging to the armholes of my vest (having previously seamed the shoulders).


I plan to do the bottom edge next, incorporating the mitered corner on the vest points. But I haven’t played with the buttonhole band treatments yet. Sadly, I have misplaced my copy of InkKNitters. It’s here. Somewhere… Weekend plans include tossing my knitting library to find it.

Oh. Unless a monsoon is upon us, weekend plans also include attending the annual Gore Place Sheepshearing Festival in Waltham, Massachusetts. Not a big festival as fiber fairs go, but very local and lots of fun. Look for me with both Elder and Smaller Daughter in tow.

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I have finished the major pieces of Older Daughter’s khaki waistcoat (adapted from the 1940 pattern hosted by the V&A Museum). Once I had the right gauge and measurements, they knit up quite quickly. Before I begin sewing them together add the edging, some serious industrial-grade blocking has to take place. Right now they’ve got that larval curled-up caterpillar look. Here is one of the two front panels:


I am quite pleased with the way the cable on the neck edge worked out.


The cable itself is one pictured in Stanfield’s New Knitting Stitch Library. I’ve got quite a few stitch treasuries on my shelves. I leaf through them all, but when time comes to actually employ a stitch – this is one of the few that gets knit from most often.

The next step (after blocking) will be to knit and apply the bands around the armholes and the front. The original pattern suggests that the knitter work 8-stitch bands with slip stitch selvages right and left – 20 inches long for each arm, and 60 inches for the front. The bands are supposed to be folded in half and steamed flat, then sewn on, leaving periodic gaps on the appropriate side to create the buttonholes. Very labor-intensive.

I think I’m going to experiment. I’ll knit a body-like sacrificial swatch and some pilot-project edging to test out various configurations for creation and assembly.

For example – why not knit the edge onto the body pieces on the front side, incorporating a column of purls to make a turning edge down the center, then fold along that line and baste the free selvage down on the inside?

Or why not experiment with an extra-wide i-cord style strip, knit directly on?

Or how about picking up along the edge and knitting out, using mitering to make the waistcoat corners?

And while I’m at it – why not figure out how to move the buttonhole so that it’s centered in the edging rather than floating between the body and the border element? Lucy Neatby has an ultra-nifty buttonhole and band trick I’ve been dying to try. She sells leaflets and videos and holds workshops explaining the technique, and wrote a summary of it for the Fall ’04 edition of InKnitters.

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First, a celebration of a past project – the 1941 vintage vest redaction I knit for The Resident Male. Pre-season golf is an iffy thing in Massachusetts, but he and some pals went out this weekend past. His new vest came in handy:


I had to take a sanity break last night from my thundering herd of deadlines. I managed to get a whole half-hour’s worth of knitting in before exhaustion triumphed. Just enough to figure out that my piece was too narrow (the point of knitting the back first), and rip back to begin the whole thing again from scratch.


I discovered that the fabric of my 1940 waistcoat-style vest draws in more than I thought it would, and that to ensure that there will be enough width in the final product for the buttons to close without gapping, I need to tinker a bit with the stitch count, adding a few to the original specifications.

Sometimes swatching just isn’t enough. It wasn’t until I had the entire width of the back on the needles and knit to about 6 inches deep that I was able to get a good feel for the behavior of this particular yarn and its larger gauge in the designated rib pattern. My swatch measured out o.k., but my 6 inch square turned out to be less representational of the final fabric than is the norm. Which isn’t to say swatching is a bad idea. Instead it’s good to remember that changing as many variables as I am doing multiplies risk of ripping back, and if you do such things, you should be prepared for unexpected results.

Since the bulk of the body (front and back) is done in a simple K2, P1 broken rib, I added two ribs (6 stitches) across the back, increasing my cast-on number from 73 to 79. I think I’ll also have to add length. Target daughter is on the tall side, like me. The original dimensions plotted out on her frame look like she’s wearing something intended for her 8-year old sister. I intend to keep a fit on the snug side, and not lengthen the piece more than her height calls for. So all in all, I’ll be preserving the proportions of the original, but scaling it up a bit in all dimensions. Given that the original looks like a size small (33 inch bust and a very short bodied 16 inches collar to waist), and I’m both changing gauges and rewriting the thing to fit a 5’7″ tall size 14, such adaptations should be highly expected.

Now if only I hadn’t ripped out the swatch (I am a frugal swatch yarn re-user) and the back before writing this post. I could have illustrated this with a comparison between the two. Trust me to think from frustration rather than forethought in the middle of this hectic week…

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Thank you to everyone for all the suggestions! Elder Daughter has looked them over.

She does want a vest, and not something with a shawl collar. The retro ’70s belted sweater is nice, and something her classmates would wear, but not spot on for Elder Daughter.

Also she has fallen in love with the Tahki Saba yarn. Being a 4 to the inch bulky weight, the mass of additional pockets was not something she wants in this piece. But she does like the idea of lots of pockets with military type buttons, and has filed that away for future Mom-torture.

The Audrey sweater had promise if turned into a vest, but she didn’t like the placement of the cables and the way they ended before the shoulder. She liked the shape of the silver screen cardigan (not a knit pattern), but thought it was a bit overly dramatic for daily wear. She also liked the Lavold pattern Cul de Sac, but it would be difficult to adapt it to the much larger gauge yarn. Besides – that one is on my list to knit someday for ME. However the idea of a waistcoat instead of a horizontal bottom did stick big time.

By seeing everyone’s suggestions, she got the idea that there were other patterns available for browsing on the Web. So she made a sketch of her idea:


and we went looking.

Lo and behold, we found something that is pretty darn close:


This pattern is from a 1940s vintage Jaeger troop knitting leaflet made available by the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of an on-line exhibit on knitting. In addition to the other items from this booklet, there are several more of similar vintage. There’s a link to a contemporary Rowan freebie there, too.

The original was written for worsted weight wool, and is presented in only one size, with a 33 inch measurement around the chest. But doing the math, working at 4 spi rather than 5 should yield a garment close to our target measurements.

Elder Daughter likes the broken rib texture of the original. It should work well with the texture of this particular yarn. BUT she’s still stuck on the idea of the cable running up the front on either side of the button band. I’ll oblige her, but I’ll play with it somewhat. Instead of forming the V by ending off at the neck edge, I think I’ll put the cable immediately next to body edge, moving the decrease point to inside it. The cable should then continue uninterrupted, and the wide ribs of the body should dead-end at the cable as it traverses them. Depending on how much the ribbing draws in, I might also add some kind of under-bust dart, narrowing away one rib at the narrowest point at the waist, then slowly reintroducing it above that point.

So there you have it. Another adaptation of a historical pattern. I’ve swatched and she’s busy casting on for the thing now (I promised her I’d let her work on as much as possible, given the restrictions of matching our gauges). I’ll do the back first and use it to confirm fit. If that goes well, I’ll noodle out the transformed front and go for it.

Oh. Should you wish to knit this one up yourself verbatim from the pattern instructions, you should know that the yarn, notation and needle sizes are true to the historical period. The yarn called for – 8 ounces of “Jaeger Spiral Spun” appears to be a standard worsted. I’d substitute Cascade 220 to get the pattern’s native gauge of 5 stitches and 7 rows per inch. The needles called for – #5 and #9 are old UK sizes. UK #5 is equivalent to 5.5mm, and #9 is equivalent to 3.75mm. Amusingly enough, 5.5mm is a US #9 and 3.75mm is a US #5. So you’ll still need a #5 and a #9, but you’ll need to flip the references to them where they appear.

Another feature of this pattern rarely seen today is that all of the edging bands – the buttonhole band and armhole edging included, are worked separately as strips on the smaller needle, and then seamed onto the finished piece. This is a rather fussy finishing detail that if done neatly makes a significantly more professional looking treatment than does picked up and knit out ribbing. We both like the look and I’ll try to do it properly.

More on this as we get deeper. Again thanks for all the hints!

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May all your finished objects be received with this kind of joy:


In terms of knitting experience, the Classic Elite Star worked up very quickly. It is a bit hard to knit because of its elastic component. I ended up stretching it as I went along. My stitch gauge was pretty close to target, but my row gauge was off, with more rows per inch than I thought I’d get. The crinkly finished look mostly obscures stitch texture. There’s no point using this for anything much more complex than stockinette or garter stitch. Intarsia type colorwork would work although it would look best with large, clean shapes rather than anything fussy. Stranded colorwork would probably be problematic, because of the uneven appearance of individual stitches, and the gauge complexity of using an elastic yarn evenly in stranding. Still, the yarn was enjoyable to work with. I’d use it again.

I have had very little knitting time over the past two weeks, but 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there, I did manage to finish the sleeves of Smaller Daughter’s Squeaky sweater. It’s urchin-baggy, just the way she wanted it, and I had **just** enough yarn to finish. I’ve got a half skein of a couple of the colors left over, but I used every scrap of dark blue, yellow, dark green and light green – which is why that last light green stripe on the shoulders is only half-height. Not only was I out of light green, but the color itself may have been discontinued. It was flat out unavailable from any of my usual sources, so I made do. The sleeves are just long enough. I may have to go back add length to them in future years as target child grows. Or not if this piece ends up being loved to death before it gets outgrown.

squeaky-finished2.jpg squeaky-1.jpg

I will not be posting this pattern here. After the last post about it I was directed to KnitNet, where this month a similar looking toddler dress is being featured. Since my sweater looks a little bit like it, I’ll avoid stepping their toes. Besides, no one reported being interested anyway.

Larger Daughter is now clamoring for something. Her tastes run more to camo, black, and khaki – far more aggressive than the happy-unicorn-rainbow suite favored by Smaller Daughter. She has combed through my stash, and come up with this:


The Saba is an old Tahki yarn, probably from the late 1990s. It’s a thick/thin single-ply in construction, 100% wool 89 yards per skein. Recommended gauge is 4 stitches per inch on size 9 US. It’s very soft, and if I had to guess (not being sheepy myself), I’d guess that it has a high Merino content, though the type of wool is not marked. I got this lot for free via the local town on-line discussion list. Someone posted that they were putting it out on the curb, available to the first taker. Being just down the street, I zipped over and rescued the bag of 12 skeins steps ahead of the trash truck. 12 skeins is about 1,068 yards total.

The buttons were part of this year’s holiday haul. I ordered two 95-cent lots of assorted shank style military buttons from American Science & Surplus. Between the two lots, I got enough of three different button types/sizes to furnish four sweaters. This particular group of four bears Air Cadets Canada markings and insignia. The others I received had Soviet stars. My guess is that they’ll eventually end up on other sweaters for this same daughter.

What to make with this yarn? A vest has been requested. Something a bit on the long side, with waist shaping, a deep V-neck and (obviously) four buttons. Maybe with a simple cable running up both sides of the button band, and a hem facing on the bottom rather than ribbing at the bottom edge. Final decision on those last details has not been made. Since this yarn is relatively soft and a single, I am expecting it to pill somewhat. I haven’t swatched it yet to determine optimal gauge, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that it looks better knit a bit tighter than the label directs. I’d hate to totally obscure the thick/thin texture though.

Open invitation: Style pointers for this project from those of tastes and ages similar to Older Daughter would be greatly appreciated, in part because anything I suggest has Mom-Taint attached. She’s far more likely to entertain suggestions from other sources than from me. The constraints are the limited quantity of this yarn, a rather shapely size 14 target currently in high school, four military buttons, and the basic concept of “buttoned vest with a deep V neck.”

Since my broken-field run through the deadline swarm at work is not lessening, I don’t anticipate quick progress on this project. But I’ll try to document some of the interesting bits and decision points as I go along.

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