Who is Alvin?

Alvin, originally uploaded by elemmaciltur.

Start: 05th August 2009
Finish: 17th September 2009
Needles: 4 mm / 80 cm Addi Turbos
Yarns: Filatura di Crosa "Zara"; 100% superwash merino; colours #1468 (grey) 4 balls, #1424 (navy blue) 3 balls and #1469 (anthracite) 1 ball
Pattern: "Alvin" by Jane Ellison in the Queensland Collection Book 9
Size: XS

Alvin, originally uploaded by elemmaciltur.

As the cooler season approaches, I thought that I should knit myself a light, yet warm garment for Autumn and since I have never knitted myself a vest, this was a good opportunity.

I originally bought the yarn and intended to knit "Kerouac" with it. For some reasons however, I made a HUGE mistake in the calculation of how much yarn I would actually need and ended up not having enough for Kerouac. So, instead of putting in more money to get enough yarn for Kerouac, I decided to go get an extra colour for "Alvin" instead.

I started knitting Alvin and thought to myself: "Wow! I will have a new vest within a couple of weeks!" Little did I know....

Alvin, originally uploaded by elemmaciltur.

The first obstacle I found with this pattern lies in the fact that it is a striped garment, knitted in pieces and knitted flat. This means that there were ends to be darned in. I carried the two main colours up the side, but the one row of anthracite every 7th row needed to be cut and the end of the yarn darned in, which was time-consuming and isn't something I would really want to repeat.

This leads to my critiques about the pattern.

I really wondered about how the pattern was written, because some of the stuff just doesn’t make sense to me, since there are easier ways to execute the piece. It seemed to me that the designer was trying to avoid every possibility of knitting in the round, which was in fact quite annoying. Knitting the vest in the round would have made life a whole LOAD easier. I was pretty horrified to find out that the ribbing done on the armholes were supposed to be knitted flat...back and forth. I just modified them to be knitted in the round.

Then the schematic for the piece measurement was too vague. Only the total width and height were given in the drawing. Sure, you can take the measurement for the height of the armholes from the written pattern and put it in. However, it would have been nice to see them all on the schematic drawing. I really would have appreciated the measurements for the depth of the armhole decreases; the height and widthfor the neck opening, etc. They were missing. Oh, and shoulder shaping would also have been a good addition.

Also, the fact that there wasn't any mentioning of blocking the pieces first before sewing them up together might lead some knitters into pure frustrations (this is where exact schematic measurements would have also been useful). As also the fact that the pieces aren't sewn up together before having the knitter picking up stitches to do the v-neck and the armhole ribbing was not a good move in my opinion.

I’m not saying that it’s a bad pattern, just that IMHO, the process hasn’t been thought out well enough. Perhaps the designer is very rooted in sewing and that’s why the concept of knitting a garment in the round just doesn’t fit into the picture for her.

Alvin, originally uploaded by elemmaciltur.

On the other hand, however, I could also see the point about why the designer did what she did. For one, I think that she was trying to keep it as simple as she could for knitters who aren't very experienced yet. That's why the garment was probably knitted flat. She should however have given a tip about how the knitters should deal with carrying the colours though, because if this book is really aimed at fairly new and inexperienced knitters, I'm sure that a lot of them would just be cutting the yarns at each colour change and would end up having even a whole load more ends to weave in; which in turn, would probably put a lot of knitters off knitting. Not only this, but I think that in general, when you're writing a pattern for a fairly new knitter, you need to give in a lot more inputs than you think might be needed. The trick here is to keep the instructions simple and clear for easy comprehension.

What I really like about the pattern though is the fact that it - and pretty much every single pattern in this book - is very appealing to most guys. Simple with a nice touch. Sleek, but with a wink. For Alvin specifically, the fact that you can play with stripe colours is a first. Then there is this one row transition stripe, which I chose to knit in anthracite. You can't really see it at first glance, but it adds insterest to the garment and make you look more closer the second time.

All in all, I'm quite happy - although not so extremely - with how this turned out. I would recommend it to a fairly new knitter, but not a complete beginner. For more advanced knitters, I would say that Alvin is easy to make, but a bit of a modification would make it even a better vest than how it is right now in the pattern. As for me, I might attempt this pattern again, but knitting it in the round instead the next time.


It's a beautiful sweater, and I like your choice of colours. If you found this frustrating be glad you didn't knit Kerouac as this is another one that should be knit in the round. Nobody sews on button bands!

mrossnyc's picture

It looks great and I like the color choices. I recently finished Carey from the same book and will never knit a garment in pieces again.

Bill's picture

Those are very sensible criticisms....I love the patterns in the book...but have avoided them because they're meant for slim young men....and I'm old and thicker, not fat.
...so I'm going to have to re-calculate anything I knit from the book...which I now realize also means converting to in the round.

New York Built's picture

I agree with you Victor...I have converted three of Ms. Ellison's patterns so far and they are all in good shape for the modifications. In the round, and top down.

If you have good designers who are also writing patterns for "simple but with a wink" garments in the round, please share with us. They need to be canonized.

"Think...then write...then rewrite...THEN publish."
- Mark's bathroom mirror sticky note to himself.

Every person I encounter teaches me more about myself. Without whom not.