When you embark on a knitting project, you expect many great things. I might even go as far as to say that no one is more optimistic than a knitter at the moment of casting on, except possibly the knitter in the middle of buying more yarn. But even I, at the start of knitting this humble vest, had no idea how much I was going to love the entire process as well as the finished project. It isn't that this vest is the pinnacle of all sweater vests or that absolutely nothing went awry during the process, but this is one of those rare occasions in my history of making clothes where everything came together in such an enjoyable and satisfying way.*
I'll start with the pattern. It is based on Carol Sunday's Adam's Ribs Cap-sleeve Wrap which I have admired for many years now. I bought the pattern some time ago but hadn't cast on or even bought the appropriate yarn for it. In hindsight, I think part of what held me back was that while it is a lovely design and seems quite suitable for many body types, I couldn't quite see myself wearing it because I just don't seem to know how to wear anything that requires artful draping, as this garment does. The moment I start to move, everything starts slipping out of place and I end up looking like I just clambered out of a ditch and possibly suffered a concussion in the process. Let's just say I'm better off in more utilitarian clothing.
Though the real reason I had to modify the pattern was that the yarn I decided to use was bought with an entirely different project in mind and I didn't have enough to make the pattern as written. This turned out to be a great thing because what I really loved most about the pattern was the stitch pattern. (It is of Carol's own devising and it is really quite genius! You can see the sweaters she designed with this stitch pattern here.) So I figured that if I eliminated the wide drape-y collar and shortened the body a bit, I would have enough yarn and it would be a shape that I felt had better odds of fitting into my current wardrobe. But simply not knitting the collar wasn't going to result in a garment that I could wear comfortably either, so what started off as a nonchalant decision to make a minor modification turned into something a fair bit more involved.
The original pattern is knit all in one piece from side to side with some very easy seams to sew up. Instead, I chose to knit a separate piece that combined a collar band with a left front and right front panel, i.e., knit from hem to hem, and to pick up stitches along the left front. Then I worked side-to-side until I rejoined the body to the opposing panel, after which, I sewed up the neck, shoulder, and sleeve seams. Sounds straightforward** and even though there were a lot of serendipitous numbers of repeats that allowed the stitch pattern to flow quite nicely from one section to the next, there was a lot of calculating and plotting of details. And frogging. But not as much as I feared! Still, I didn't think I was safe to call it done until after I had blocked it and worn it a few times. I was prepared to fish out the woven in ends, frog, and re-knit because of how much I loved the yarn.
Which brings me to this yarn from Twin Oaks Farm. It doesn't have its own entry in the Ravelry database because it is a small-batch, single source yarn. Betsy, the lovely ewe who supplied the wool will be providing future fleeces to the world as far as I know, but 2017 is the vintage I have and unless you can buy it from someone else's stash, you'll just have to wait for the 2018 fleece to be sheared and spun!
I love absolutely everything about this yarn. Sure, my interest in it began with its being an Ontario raised and milled yarn, but that's only two of its*** many virtues. I'm moving towards buying everything local if at all possible but it has to be a good product first and foremost and produced with sustainability in mind. This yarn checks all my boxes. It is a beautiful yarn. The fiber (Romney) is long, lustrous, and an indescribable natural greyish-brown heather, compliments of the aforementioned Betsy. It was processed by Wellington Fibres into a 3-ply worsted with very nice stitch definition. The hand-feel while knitting was so wonderful that I put off finishing the last few inches of knitting because then it would be over. Who does that? (I never have until now.)
But aside from all these important qualities, there was another element to this yarn that really connected me to this project from start to finish. This is the first time I have ever made something about which I can honestly say I know where everything came from.**** I can (hypothetically) go meet Betsy and I can visit the mill in Ontario that processed the wool. I know that the pattern's designer is an incredibly talented woman who literally works in her cottage studio (in the US, which makes us close neighbours, right?) and even the buttons on my vest were handmade from wood foraged in Ontario.***** Everything about this yarn and project had a connection to a person doing awesome things and to this place that I call home. Those thoughts were never far from my mind as I worked every stitch of this vest and even the (very minimal) veggie matter in the yarn (which I swear is the cleanest wool I have ever knit in my life) was conjuring pleasant memories of the landscape and seasons of Ontario. It had an incredibly calming effect on me! These are obviously feelings that I was transferring to inanimate things, but it was a way to approach my making as a deliberate act that involved more than just me and my little bubble. But I digress.
I waited nearly a year for this yarn because when I first met Laura of Twin Oaks Farm at the K-W Knitters' Fair in 2016, she wasn't going to have a worsted weight in a natural dark shade until after the next shearing. I was so excited by what she had brought to the Knitters' Fair and the little chat we had that I was quite happy to pre-order and bide my time. It was well worth the wait. The yarn was shipped promptly after processing and when it was finally in my hands, I loved it even more than I could have imagined. I've really cut back in recent years on my yarn shopping so when I buy something now, it's not intended for stash; it's meant to be used. It still took me a couple of months to get started but as soon as I had blocked my swatch, I knew the vest was going to be worth all the effort. Swatching is an important step so that you can determine gauge and all that, but in this case, seeing that blocked swatch, holy cats, my already high interest in knitting this vest sky-rocketed. Still, I was a little nervous because I have been that overly-optimistic knitter who imagines what could be, only to end up with a less than satisfactory garment. I kind of held my breath right up to the point I unpinned this from the blocking mats and wore it for a day.
I don't often get to claim this, but it turned out even better than I hoped! I didn't even know that this was missing from my wardrobe until I wore it. I know people say if you keep your core warm, you'll feel warmer all over but I don't think I realized how much of a difference that makes inside an old, drafty house. I've had plenty of opportunity to test this theory with all the chilly weather April has brought with it and I can confirm that it is at least true for me!
The reason this isn't the sweater vest to end all sweater vests is that I am so happy with this one, I think there may just be another in my not-so-distant future. I'm thinking I might need a second one so that I'll never be without one while the other is being washed and air-dried. Makes perfectly good sense, right?
*I say that and you think, gosh, why make clothes then? Because, it is the nature of hope to spring eternal
**Or it would sound straightforward if I explained it a little better and with diagrams, I'm sure
***I do actually know the difference between it's and its, in case you read this post before I fixed it (all three of you.) If you ever see that error in my writing, please attribute it to a momentary brain glitch that might have been brought on by a virus, which is currently the case, or the cool-looking but somewhat illegible text editor that Squarespace provides. My wayward pinky likes throwing in random apostrophes when I type and I don't always find them when I attempt to edit, partly because my eyes are watering looking at this screen.
****Not that there aren't real human beings behind things produced by large companies and not that there are not companies out there that wouldn't turn my stomach if I had a good look at their inner workings, it's just that true transparency rarely exists when you're dealing with companies or corporations so you're just hoping every worker in the chain is being paid a living wage and every factory is minimizing its environmental impact--even when you know the odds are high that one or neither of these things is happening
*****I hope someone on IG can point me to the actual (button) maker. I bought the buttons at the Woodstock Fleece Festival in 2016. I think the vendor's husband might have been the button maker. (It wasn't AB Originals which is also a husband and wife team making nifty buttons in Ontario)