Wednesday, March 3, 2021


Do you ever have this strange feeling while finishing a project that now is the time to start it all over again? I have it almost every time. When I finally figure out how to modify a pattern to make it look and fit better, it’s all over, and I move on to the next project. Yet, there is always this lingering thought at the back of my mind that if I make this exact pattern again, I’ll do it better.

Last month, after my success with the Hoodless Hoodie, I immediately started knitting another zippered jacket for my husband. To be honest, I hate putting zippers in my knits. I don’t have a sewing machine and have to do everything by hand. It takes lots of time and lots of ripping off. And I hate working with dark yarns – hard to see and hard to stitch parts together. Why then I made the second jacket from a very dark yarn and with a zipper? I think, because I wanted to prolong the feeling of total control that working on the hoodie gave me.

Also I was hoping that going again through the same ropes will help with muscle memory. You know, a bit like in cooking. When I love a dish, I’d make it again and again – not only to savor the flavors but also the process of cooking it. And it takes less and less time with repetition because there is no need to check a recipe and my hands remember all the moves. Yes, a different dish could be more intriguing but here I know already the final taste and I can tweak and play with the ingredients to get exactly what I want and like.

Again, I picked a pattern from an old Phildar magazine. The body is done in four parts, mostly in stockinette (easy) with some ribbing on the sides. Actually, I picked it for the ribbing – I thought it would look flattering and slimming (it does) because even if my husband doesn’t care about his looks, I do. After all, I am walking next to him!

There are only few finished projects for this pattern. Looking at the pictures I decided to forgo the pockets. The way pockets are designed in this pattern, they would have added bulk to the stomach area where you don’t need any additional bulk.

And again, I was using the Hebridean wool from Birlinn Yarn Company. And again, I didn’t have enough yarn and had to order several more balls (very fast shipping, highly recommend!). 

Making the parts was easy. The only problem was the need for the natural light to work with the dark yarn. Otherwise there were no problems. I used directions for two sizes (again) – for the back and sleeves XL and for the front parts XXL – because I wanted the front to be roomier, not too snug.

Sewing in zipper doesn’t get easier with practice but it gets less tedious and nerve raking. Either listen to a book or some music and be prepared to spend several hours (not necessarily consecutive) as well as to do a lot of ripping off. One more thing – all the work with a zipper is done before you stitch the parts together: it goes much smoother when you are dealing with just two fronts, not the whole jacket.

I didn’t make step by step pictures of zipper insertion, but here is the process in a nutshell:

1) Block the finished front parts. When they dry up, don’t take off the wires from the closure edges.

2) Insert a closed zipper between two front parts, pin it in place, and baste with some waste thread (preferably white). Get rid of the wires.

3) Sew the zipper into the front sides first in the middle of the fabric strip, and then – in its edge. Get rid of the basting thread.

As in my previous project - a Hoodless Hoodie – I knit two additional ribbed trims to hide all the seams from the inside.

The collar is identical as well. I used a magnifying glass with a light to work on the collar and it was still difficult to see everything on this dark yarn but the end result was definitely worth all the trouble.

We had a week of cold and windy weather here, so my husband had a chance to actually wear this jacket several times. It is warm, light, practical, and easy to wear. Mission accomplished?

Actually, in a way, it is. Not only I am not afraid of inserting a zipper anymore, I developed a set of steps to go through for this process. Next time it will go if not faster, but definitely smoother. 

After a success with zippers, I decided to concentrate on polo necks. Why? Because I’ve always liked polo neck sweaters, always wanted to make one, but there was always something missing – a good pattern, or yarn, or just knitting time. In November I made myself a polo neck t-shirt (Lace Polo) that turned out great and fits me exceptionally well. So obviously I started thinking about making more polo necks.

I never wrote about this polo shirt here because the pattern is in Russian only and if you want it you’ve got to write directly to its creator on Instagram. Olga @stepmother.queen is a dentist with years of knitting experience and an impeccable taste. She designs for herself (which is why her designs don’t have several sizes) and doesn’t advertise much. It was a delight to make her pattern – very clear directions, tons of pictures, lots of helpful finishing tricks.

I bought 4 patterns from Olga and am going to make all of them one day. But first I got intrigued by the polo neck construction that has so many pitfalls and decided to use it in a couple of projects (at least) to figure out the best way of making it.

Sweaters with polo necks were trendy in 70s and 80s (old history, nobody lived then, right?) so, looking for a pattern, I turned to my constantly growing collection of old magazines.

If you are like me, and collect them, I highly recommend Etsy and eBay for hard copies, and this website for the PDFs. I think they are absolutely priceless!

My secondary goals were: 1) use as much of my stash as possible (constant motto!); 2) use colors because I didn’t work with different colors for a while and was “craving” for some colors in knitting.

The first choice was this pattern for a man’s sweater for its easy and straightforward design and colorwork. The creamy yarn of main color is ColourMart  DK wool/mohair, the beige is leftover camelhair from this sweater, and the blue mohair is leftover of this scarf.

I followed directions for the smallest size changing only sleeves (shortened them). After finishing the front and back, washing them, and blocking, I decided to get over with the most difficult step – inserting the button bands and making a collar.

Why is it the most difficult step? Because both button bands are knit separately and sewn later by hand. If you ever tried to do it, you know how difficult it is to accomplish without distorting the front colorwork, and how hard to avoid puckering and scrunching around the seams.

Buttonholes also must be perfect because they are right in front, on display, you cannot afford even a minor mistake here.

Then it was the collar’s turn. Basically, I went through the same steps as for the Lace polo shirt (and both zippered jackets).

1) Made a crochet chain around the neck opening.

2) Picked up stitches in every loop of the chain from the outside of the neck opening using circular needles half a size smaller than needles that I used for the ribbing.

3) Picked up stitches in every loop of the chain from the inside of the neck opening using the same size needles that for the outside part. IMPORTANT: the amount of stitches on both sets of needles must be identical!

4) Knit two rows of stockinette stitch on the first pair of needles.

5) Same work on the second pair of needles.

6) Knit one row using stitches from both needles – knit together each stitch from the front needle with a corresponding stitch from the back needle.

7) Continue in 1x1 ribbing on one set of needles for 5 or 7 rows and switch to bigger needles – the ones previously used for ribbing on the body.

8) Finish with tubular cast off.

Did I like the end result? It wasn’t perfect (yet) but at least I learned where my weakest spots were (spoiler – I didn’t like the edges).

After all the work on the collar, finishing the sleeves and putting the whole garment together wasn’t too difficult. I called this sweater CafĂ© au lait and I like it a lot. It was a fun knit and it works well for me.

But almost simultaneously I started making another sweater inspired by a pattern from the same magazine (the stripy one on the cover) that I modified for a polo neck sweater. This time I want to try another method of making a collar (the buttonbands will be done the same way). At least this is the plan. I am still in doubts and can chicken out at the last moment and just repeat the steps (again) for the collar. As soon as it is finished, I’ll post the pictures.

By the way, I made one more blanket (pattern – Umaro by Jared Flood)! From the yarn unraveled in this post. The yarn was a sweater first, then – a cardigan, then – a dress. Finally it became a blanket and will stay a blanket for good.