Vaila Slipover

Here are my notes on this garment:

1. It is a pattern from the book “The Art of Fair Isle Knitting” by A. Feitelson. This is a true Fair Isle pattern. I like these old fashioned designs.

2. It is done in Shetland knitting wools from the Shetland Islands. There are 12 lovely colours in the pattern. I found all the colour changes time-consuming. In addition, traveling with 12 skeins of wool was a pain. I knitted-in the beginnings and endings of all ends of the colour changes. This saved darning-in the ends at the completion of the garment.

3. Gauge was a bitch. The gauge swatch came out perfectly with the recommended 3.25 mm needle size but after a bit of knitting, I was short 1” per 4”. I switched up a quarter millimeter size to 3.5 mm and was ½” short per 4”. Another quarter millimeter size (3.75 mm) increase produced a stitch size I didn’t like. So, I was content to be ½” short as the size I was knitting was larger than my usual size and I know that these knitting wools stretch nicely. After blocking, the vest fit me perfectly! I have read somewhere about Fair Isle knitting that in days past when Shetlanders knitted to put groceries on the table, they often knitted a size smaller to conserve on knitting wool and then stretch the garment to a larger size for sale!

4. As for tension, I thought that this was going to be my undoing. My two-handed knitting is pretty even on both sides but there were points when I thought that I was going to have some pretty uneven areas on the garment. And, when I knit continental, I knit quickly and consequently a bit more tightly than usual. Imagine my surprise and delight when I took the vest out of the water to find that everything had come right!

5. Instead of carrying floats, I wove every second stitch (al la “Philosopher’s Wool Technique”). I like this method and I don’t feel it makes for a stiff or thick garment. The main reason I do it is that I can’t seem to keep from smocking the fabric when I carry floats. I can knit rather quickly when I do the weaving. I’ve included a pic of the inside of the vest for those who might be interested to see what a woven inside looks like.

6. The ribbing is 2x2 corrugated ribbing. I found this difficult to knit but beautiful when finished. Since is has absolutely no elasticity, I knitted the body ribbing band rather like a smocked garment which gave me the tightness I wanted in place of the elasticity. The bottom section was knitted with both hands. For the neck and sleeve bands, I had to knit with only the right hand so as to keep the band even. Fortunately, there aren’t many rows on these bands.

7. The pattern design was knitted with both hands. I just can’t suss how to carry both strands of wool on just one hand.

8. This garment took me 5 weeks to knit and that’s without any sleeves! I think part of the slowness came from there being no plain rows; every row is patterned. The recipe for the next garment has rows of plain stockinette stitch.

9. I finally got the hang of working from a charted pattern and only had to refer to the printed chart for the first pattern repeat of each row. After that I would either just “know” it or I could refer back to the first knitted repeat. I discovered that if I marked with stitch markers every pattern repeat, I could work with very few errors. (Right now I can hear the lace knitters saying “Well, duh…”). But, I would highly recommend to anyone wanting to try his hand at stranded knitting to mark-off the repeats. That way, if you get confused, you can’t go very far without noticing it. The pattern repeat in this garment was comprised of 20 stitches. I would know very quickly if I’d mucked up and could fix the error straightaway. Luckily, I made only a couple of trips to the ol’ frog pond. I am now able to watch TV and converse while doing stranded knitting.

10. I knitted it in the round and did steeks. For the first time I actually sewed the steek selvedge edge down with a blanket stitch. I like the way this looks. I didn’t reinforce the steek edges at all; if you just look at the Shetland wools they will start to felt all on their own!

11. The pattern called for a nice touch to the collar: The back of the neckline is shaped with reductions and a steek so that the collar is more rounded and shaped. I’d never seen this before and I will definitely do it again even if the pattern doesn’t call for it.

12. The pattern said to bind off all the stitches in knit (rather than to bind-off as found). I did it both ways and I have to say that with the corrugated ribbing, the knit-only method is preferable. For the first time I bound-off with a crochet hook instead of with the knitting needles. I was delighted with how easy and quickly the hook did the work. It was far easier to get a nice even edge with this method. And this from someone who is all thumbs when using a crochet hook.

13. I have about a week until my next shipment of wool arrives from Scotland. I did this on purpose to give my wrists a much deserved rest. I found that the stranded knitting gives me RSI and that frequently I had to stop and rest my hands. I know that if the wools were here now, I would start straightaway and the RSI would be exacerbated.

14. I have to thank JPaul for inspiring me to do a Fair Isle pattern. I have admired the work he is knitting in the DVD “Real Men Knit” every time I watch it. Thanks, too, go to Rooboy2000, who kept me encouraged throughout the learning process.

15. As always, sorry for the poor photography. I had much difficulty taking and then reducing the photos; it's taken almost a week to get this posted. If Rooboy2000 had not helped me with the technical process, I would still be fighting with over-sized pics.

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Jessie you are one AWESOME knitter. The vest is fabulous, the colours terrific and the stitches just perfect. What are you planning on next after your enforced break?

Stunning!!! Good grief - how beautiful! Thank you so much for your post --- sigh...excellent inspiration, even if I am light years away from this standard of knitting!

MMario's picture

oh my god. I'm stunned. That is incredible.

MMario - Can anybody tell me what year it is?

MMario - I'm not divorced from reality - we're having a trial separation

rooboy2000's picture

Although i know the story behind this slipover i thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog, Thanks for sharing this with us. once again congratulations i hope you are as proud, as i am of you. And thanks for the praise we are always there to support each other in all things and especially knitting, your friend Azza.

Celowin's picture

Excellent work, as always. I don't know whether it is the quality of the photography or whether you're using slightly different colors than the one in the Feitelsen book, but your vest is much more striking. Yours seems much more crisp than the Feitelsen one, which comes across a little on the drab side. On a third look, I think it might be your blue... your blue makes your sweater positively glow, while not being overwhelming.

Bill's picture

It's magnificent!
...will have to study the book...because your neck tips interest me...
but I don't find the pic of the inside...


Wow ditto to all the above comments. Such a daunting project. You certainly have an eye for detail! Congrats and wear it proudly.

Darrel's picture

This is beautiful, quality work, Jesse. I really do appreciate your taste for challenge and attention to detail; it's quite inspirational. Knit on!

Aaronknits's picture

Jesse, that's just incredibly gorgeous. The amount of time and patience and attention to detail you put into this is beyond impressive.

Kerry's picture

Jesse, that looks great. You've spurred me on to start my own Fairisle which has been sitting in the stash maturing for a year.