Vintage waistcoat glamour shots (with bonus Modified Wiksten 1a)

Vintage waistcoat glamour shots (with bonus Modified Wiksten No. 1a)

Here’s why this vest makes my heart sing:

1) The marriage of yarn and pattern. Feeling very lucky to have scored a bag of Hole & Sons wool, I was determined not to squander it. I wanted to knit something pragmatic and hard-working. Old-school. Maybe a little bit British. Something a lot like the yarn, in other words. Being a life-long vest lover, and this being vest season (waistcoat season, as the Brits would have me say), I thought a vest was in order. And when I stumbled across this WWII-era, British, knit-for-the-troops waistcoat pattern, I thought it might be just the thing. And I was correct! As I was knitting it, it felt almost like the yarn was becoming the thing it was destined to be! It also taught me something, in that without that pattern I would never have thought to try this DK-weight yarn on US9 needles, but this particular DK is very happy at this gauge. I believe it will bloom and relax and soften beautifully over time — much better than at the tighter gauge I would have chosen to knit it at.

2) Fun and successful mods. After posting about how I didn’t quite love the swatch — the stitch pattern, in this yarn, felt a tiny bit frumpy to me — and that I was contemplating stockinette, Annri in the comments suggested trying 2×1 garter rib instead of 2×2. The minute she said that, I realized 3×1 was probably the thing that would please me, and it was! (Thank you, Annri!) Of course, that’s an asymmetrical pattern, 3×1, and a vest is a symmetrical object. So I had to do a little bit of finessing to get the pattern to match up correctly at the side seams. In order for the front edges to be symmetrical, while keeping those side seams perfectly matched, one front piece needed one more stitch than the other and I had to adjust one of the armholes by one stitch so that the armhole edges would match, as well. (They don’t quite on the back because I didn’t think about the armhole aspect until after I’d finished that piece and was casting on the first front.) I also tinkered with the armhole depth, and changed the pocket edgings and armhole edgings, not liking the way they were in the original pattern. Fortunately, I’m happy with the outcome on all of those questions.

3) New tricks. In addition to my first inset pockets — my new favorite knitting trick — I finally knitted a vertical button band, after preaching their merits for how long? It took me a full week to knit that 52″ band and seam it on (I elected to knit it on 5s), whereas a picked-up band would have taken an evening, but it was 100% worth it. Look at it! So this simple little vest included multiple new triumphs.

4) Wardrobe appropriateness. As we’ve been discussing here for awhile now, making one’s own clothes is hard. Countless people (me included) have lamented our collective tendency to make things we want to make, which isn’t necessarily the same as things we want to wear. It’s a hard (and costly!) lesson to learn, and the wardrobe appropriateness of this vest — the fact that it will work for me for as long as it lasts, which I expect to be a good long time — gives me hope for my ability to choose well more and more often.

In short: I nailed it on all of those counts. And if that sounds like I’m bragging, please understand I’m not! I’m just so happy to have gotten it right this time of all times. Because if I’d gotten to the end of this project and it hadn’t been right, I’d be heartbroken, given the specialness of the yarn.

There was a moment where I thought it was not quite right — and not quite right enough that it might not get worn. The back neck is narrow enough, and the shoulder shaping straight enough, that it was sitting a little awkwardly on my shoulders, almost like a halter. And I’d also seamed on a little too much button band fabric on the first stretch of it (learning as I went, of course). But as is so often the case, blocking saved the day. I was able to stretch the back neck and shape the shoulders a tiny bit, and blocked the body out a little longer so the button band seems fine. It means the sweater wound up being slightly longer and slightly broader in back than I had hoped, so I may wear it a little differently than I had initially envisioned. But it’s still immensely wearable. And I can’t wait to watch it age.

And now since I’ve gone on about this one quite enough, I’ve put all of my modification notes and details (and more photos) on Ravelry.

Pattern: Spiral-Spun Waistcoat by Jaeger (free vintage pattern)
Yarn: Hole & Sons first batch in Fog
Buttons: Blackened brass from Fringe Supply Co.

Vintage Waistcoat glamour shots (plus bonus Modified Wiksten No 1a)

Now can we talk about my top? When I showed you my striped Modified Wiksten No. 1, I mentioned I wanted to cut the same exact pattern in a drapier fabric. This is the magnificent Merchant & Mills linen, which I ordered from Verb having seen only a photo and a name in their newsletter. It’s called Knapsack and I expected it to be a perfect “army drab” green, but when I pulled it out of the envelope it was this dull, dark grey-brown. Oh well, good fabric for testing my redrafted pattern, so I cut.

I’m very happy with this top, don’t get me wrong. But the verdict on my redraft is that it’s still not quite there. When I pulled this on before it was hemmed or the neck and arm edges finished, it was my ideal shape and length. The little bit of loss at each of those edges makes it slightly less so. So I’ll be tweaking it again. But meanwhile, I’m in love with this fabric and color, and the top will get tons of wear.

Here’s the funny thing: I was debating doing exposed bias facing at the neck and armholes, thinking maybe it would add a little bit of interest. I decided against it, did the armholes correctly, then accidentally attached the neck facing on the wrong side. The universe overruled me again! I realized it after sewing the first seam, while I was pressing it open, and decided to go ahead and finish it and see how it looked, fearing it would look all wrong being just the neck and not the armholes. Plus I knew this meant I was going to have to do my top-stitching that much more perfectly, and that much closer to the edge, so it would look finished and not flappy. After letting out several of my favorite curse words, I took a deep breath, sewed that edge verrrry slowly, pulled it on, and it’s perfect. Thanks for stepping in, universe!

Question for you sewers: Why do my hems on these always flare so?

71 thoughts on “Vintage waistcoat glamour shots (with bonus Modified Wiksten 1a)

    • Having just finished my first sweater–a project that I adore so much, I wear it all over, anyway, even though it is really pretty unprofessional and slightly “ugly sweater”–I definitely see your point about needing to think long and hard about the long-term wearability of a project before I start. This vest is super inspiring–it looks tidy, yet relaxed, professional, yet comfortable. And it goes so beautifully with the rest of your outfit. I think I still have a few more impractical projects left in me before I am ready to be more mature and thoughtful about my knitting, but this vest of yours is definitely a nudge in that direction.

      As for your question about the flared hems–this is happening because of how you are ironing the hem, is my guess. It tends to happen any time there is a rounded, folded or rolled hemline. I think you can be more gentle and strategic with your pressing, but, really lots of sewers, including maquillador workers on an assembly line, just scrunch up the little bit of extra fabric around the side seams or else directly in the center, must outward part of the curved hemline. Check out store bought shirts with a similar hem and you’ll see what I mean.

  1. The most perfect vest. The yarn and knitting are lovely.
    I do not notice a flare on the top’s hem but if you are it is probably stretching as you sew. I use a walking foot if I feel I am going to have this problem. Hard to tell without being there. I am going to check out the linen, lovely.

    • Learning about the different feet — how and when to use what — is my primary sewing goal right now. I’ve never used anything but the foot my machine came with!

      • Craftsy have a free course on sewing machine feet A-Z, don’t know how good it is as I haven’t watched it yet. I’m trying to get brave enough to try sewing and reading blogs like yours and other knitters branching into sewing, or who have always sewn is inspiring. Love the vest and top, can’t see any flare.

      • I just got a walking foot to try out sewing knits – I’m super excited to give it a shot but I’ve never used a walking foot before so… probably learning curve!

      • Oooh, feet were a complete revelation to me! Especially the edge-stitching foot. Mine has a rudder in the middle, you run that along the edge of your fabric as you sew with the needle bumped over a bit and it makes top stitching almost mindless. It’s my most used foot other than the regular all-purpose foot it came with.

  2. You look terrific. Both items look so you! It makes me want to keep trying to get it right. You are correct about how hard it is to make the right wardrobe for your lifestyle. And I’m still learning how to adjust patterns to make them better for me. I usually don’t realize something should be changed till I am wearing the final product.

    • Forgot to ask. If you had knit the pieces together instead of seaming, would it have helped to not make adjustments?

      • Given the 3×1 stitch, I would still have had to think about it for a minute at the outset to make sure I had 3 knits (plus a selvage stitch) at each end, for the fronts to be symmetrical, and then from there figure out where my center side stitch would be.

        I would have done it in one piece (with a basting stitch at each side seam) except that I was letting the back piece be my second swatch. I suspected I would like the 3×1 but knew I wouldn’t know for sure without seeing it writ quite large. So I used the back as that swatch. Had I cast on the whole body and then not liked it, it would have been that much more knitting to rip out.

  3. Oh, what a great vest. That’s exactly why, in any pattern that says to knit a button band separately and then seam it on, I’ve changed it to a pick-up band — I’ve always thought the risk of the sewing going all wonky was too great. I’ll give it a try next time.

    • The challenge is exactly the same. Whether you’re seaming or picking up stitches, you have to get the ratio right in order to not have the band either flare or contract the main fabric. So the thought process is the same, it’s just more work! But so worth it.

      • You know, you’re right — I’ve certainly ripped back plenty of picked-up bands before and had a second go at them.

  4. The top is lovely, as is the vest. I am not sure how you out the bias trim omega, but if you sew it to the inside first then flip it out to the right side to top stitch it’s easier to get your stitching even. If and when you do the arm holes as well, slightly stretch the bias at the bottom. It will help prevent the ‘gapping’ that sometimes happens at the underarm seam. Just a tiny bit of stretch tho.

  5. a. Are you going to wear the vest to Stitches South? Very cute. Love it and the linen top.
    b. Ditto what the others suggested. Use a walking foot and stitch the ‘looser’ side on the bottom. Your pressure foot always stretches the top layer a bit more than the bottom.

  6. When I’m sewing hems, especially ones with a curve, I usually run a basting stitch about 1/4″ in from the edge, and then when folding/ironing for the hem, I pull in the stitch at the curves and scoop so the fabric folds in easier. This usually helps the flare a little bit.

    Love the vest, too! xoxox

  7. I’ve followed you on this piece and can only chime in, well done! I really love the look and the colors. Thank you for sharing so much of your process. Also for your words on “wardrobe appropriateness.” This has been particularly relevant to me. I was stuck in the trap of knitting whatever fascinated me, but my FOs did not suit me, or anyone else I knew, at all. I recently turned my focus to imminently more wearable things, which in my case means finer gauge pieces with less colorwork. My heart is in it now more than ever and I love the results.

  8. Fantastic! The vest is ahhhmazing! …great choice for the yarn!
    I was the lucky winner Woolful’s “1 skein of Hole&Sons…and Brittany double points in size 5″…which is currently waiting in my studio for the right project (my thoughts mirror’d yours: something british, classic, timeless and hard working…though the 1 skein will probably be just enough for a classic pair of mitts/gloves…which will suit me just fine!)
    Anyhow…Love the vest!! …and the tank, too!

  9. The walking foot is a miracle. I have been sewing for 45 years and just discovered it this year. You must give it a try!

  10. What a way to wake up on a Monday morning! Wow Oh Wow, do I ever love what you did with this vintage vest pattern! This is exactly what I want to make. I wear fleece vests all the time here in the Pacific NW and have been looking at patterns for “real” vests. And your top is beautiful – what a color! Ok. Totally inspired…

    • Going over the pattern and your notes again, as well as other people’s projects on Ravelry, I see that the reason this is a big Ah! for me when the original pattern didn’t quite do it, is your decision to go with the 3X1 pattern. Love it!

  11. As I began to scroll down through the blog post, reading and looking at your pictures, a huge smile came over my face. This is a lovely vest, in perfect union with the yarn.

  12. Great comment about the difference between making the things we want to make instead of the things we want to wear. I’ve slowly realized this these past few months, with a project planning overhaul in view. Both your projects are wonderfully you, in color and shape. The vest looks like a heirloom, something you could have inherited from a grandfather but miraculously preserved as new.

  13. I can only echo what everyone else has said – beautiful work! I also use a walking foot on my sewing machine. I originally bought it because I was doing some bulky sewing – making a bag that had several layers of fabric, interfacing, and lining – but have never taken the foot off! It’s a great sewing tool. When I’ve done curves in my sewing, I rely on pressing and basting the curved areas so I don’t have to use straight pins, which always seem to distort the curve. It’s worth the extra time.

    I loved your comments about blocking! I’ve been knitting for many years and only started blocking about 4 years ago! Before that, I would carefully, or not so carefully, steam my work with an iron, but was never concerned about dimensions. My mother says she never blocked any of her knitting. It’s a wonder we ever stayed with knitting, considering the many disappointments we had with our work.

    Thank you for another inspiring blog post!

  14. Lovely choices. The bottom of the tanks such as this flare slightly because the increased width of the garment incorporates a slight bias in the woven fabric.

    • I thought it was that the grain of the fabric changes as you move around a curved bottom – for me it only happens in some places of the hem, not all. If that’s the problem, I’m not sure a walking foot would fix it. Using a facing or binding would .. or a rolled hem .. or the gathering trick above might work. All fussy for a tank though.

      • Re: the flare of your tops’s hem (and it only happening in some places for Erika) – with a shaped hem some areas are cut on the bias of the fabric which has more stretch to it. It can easily be stretched out of shape while either sewing or ironing so extra care should be taken in these areas. Pressing rather than ironing these areas will help. If you have ever ironed bias tape to fit around a curve you have seen hoe easily it stretches to fit the curve.

  15. Beautiful pieces, Karen, and they look wonderful on you, especially with that Florida tan!

  16. Great vest and I too am fiddling with this tank pattern. I think that I would be happiest if the entire piece was cut on the bias but I have been too stingy with my fabric to try it as of yet.

  17. Fantastically done. Absolutely adore the vest. Being part English, I like that you kept to the yarn’s heritage. ;)

  18. Love your vest on you, particularly the 3 x 1 garter rib. I’m glad that you were feeling so delighted to share this with us. It is very inspiring. You were not bragging at all.

    Currently, I’m working on my chunky wrap vest. It is quick and simple to knit but I’m experimenting and making modifications so that it suits my body shape and my personal style. I believe it will make my heart sing just like yours.

    Happy knitting!

  19. YES to both endeavors. Patience and paying attention to details really pays off, congratulations!!!

  20. I love the vest! It looks great with the tank. I’m going to have to put on on my list to make. Where did you find those awesome oxfords?

  21. Your button band looks very nice. I finished a cardigan earlier this year, or was it even last year? I don’t know anymore. I’m not happy with the button band I have at the moment, and your’s looks very nice, you plan on a button band tutorial any time soon? As there is not much information to be found anywhere it seems like… very disappointing. so any tipps about your button band is highly appreciated :)

  22. In answer to you question “why do my hems flare out” could be several things. The hem may need to be a little deeper & not so narrow. Use a stitch length (if you hem using the machine) that is longer than maybe what you used on the side seam. I always hem by hand, better looking. And steam press! You will notice a difference.good luck!!

  23. What a gorgeous, simple, elegant and timeless vest! You will wear it forever! And I agree about making/wearing dilemma – always a struggle for me!

  24. Hi – your waistcoat is beautifully knitted – it’s a very elegant piece! You are right, it does suit the wool very well! Well done!
    I actually love your Wiksten too – I think the colour suits you and goes well with the waist coat. I’ve made the Wiksten vest myself, but sadly I wasn’t very happy with mine – I’ve got small proportions and the pattern just drowns my figure – I’d have to completely re-draw it to get the right fit, but conversely, the armholes are too tight ! I also found it nearly impossible to hem the bottom due to the curve at the side – it would surely have to be bound – is this what you did? It was a shame, as the vest is lovely. I will just have to take inspiration from it and draw up a pattern of my own in the same style!
    Kate x
    P.s. have you tried the Entemology pins from Merchant & Mills? They’re devine and so fine and sharp!

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  26. Fabulous! Your waistcoat really turned out beautifully.

    I’ve made a handful of Wiksten tanks myself but am always wishing it was a bit longer – will definitely have to try some of your modifications to make a few more before Summer. Thanks for all the project inspiration!

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  28. You have been one seriously busy bee this Spring! And without a doubt, a total success!!!! You have made me want to dive right in. The really love the Waistcoat Vest. What an outstanding marriage between that super fleece /yarn producing flock and your Designs. I remember my Grandfather use to wear one just like it almost everyday of his life. He the overseer for Coffee Plantations in Southern Mexico,Chapis, to be exact ! The weather could be warm but as he would ride up into the mountains the air would become cold and that vest was to perfect answer to what he really needed.
    Soooo, I am waiting (patiently and with some dignity, I hope) for those wonderful little lambs to take off their winter wardrobes for their new spring look and I can get my hands on some of that glorious yarn.
    I can’t thank you enough for bringing to life such a wonderful memory for me. To see it and think how my Grandfather use to take me up on his horse for going around the plantations is more than you can imagine. He always kept a sweet in his pocket for me, if I was good. I look forward to knitting my own,
    thanks to your design! I can’t wait to see what else you have going. Oh, and as for the hem question, I have the same problem and was told that after washing and a light press it should be fine. Seems the Linen tends to stretch is certain places when we are working with it. So far, the answer I received , has worked. Good luck! Kirsten

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  38. I like your mods! Thanks for the inspiration! I am trying to make this in one piece and hoping to copmlete it before winter comes.
    However, I have a problem with matching depth of the pocket lining and front piece.
    If you work fronts to 5” ending with WS plus 4 rows 1×1 rib for pocket opening, I suppose that equals to [making 2″ of 1×1 rib for waistband + 3″ of 3×1 garter rib + abt. 0.5″ of pocket edge = abt. 5.5″]. And then you said that you make pocket lining for 4.5″ to put the lower pocket edge at the top of the waistband ribbing, but I don’t understand why the 4.5″ pocket lining equals the depth of [3″ of 3×1 garter rib + abt. 0.5″ of pocket edge].
    Do I misunderstand the pattern?

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  43. Oh I’m just so excited now. I managed to score 6 balls of Hole and Sons in the last release from Wooly Thistle. And I too thought a vest would be perfect. But, the options on ravelry just weren’t cutting it. So thank you thank you! Can’t wait to get started. I’m going to follow your modifications exactly because yours is perfect.

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