Wednesday, June 7, 2023

A jacket and a jacket

I thought about knitting something from a sewing pattern for a long time. Sewing patterns, if done right, fit well and are generally flattering. This is my major goal in knitting - to create something flattering and well fitting. And to try something new while doing it. From the beginning I knew that it was going to be a jacket. I just didn't know what kind of jacket to look for… And where…
Last October I was leafing through a Burda Style magazine in a book store and decided to buy it since there were several jacket patterns in it. The one that I ended up using doesn't look at all like my finished jacket. Yet, after studying all the patterns closely I picked it because I had this idea in my head of a jacket with visible seams assembled from pieces like a puzzle. Something sporty but classy with a street style vibe. The jacket pattern had just that: several rather smallish pieces that together were supposed to make a boxy, short, very structured blazer.

I had some doubts about the final result though. No, scratch that, I had lots and lots of doubts that I would be able to recreate all the pieces in my size and then sew them together neatly enough. Doubts deter progress, which is why for a while there was no progress whatsoever. Just doubts.

Still at some point (about 3 months later) I made a paper copy of the pattern parts in my size. It was surprisingly easy and didn't take lots of time or effort. Yet, I wasn't sure that I was moving in the right direction and decided to make at least the body of the jacket from muslin and try it on. Again, when I finally managed to do it (a month later), it didn't take much time. Sewn together the muslin parts didn't look like much but it gave me an idea how the finished garment would fit me.
Next I needed to pick a yarn for my jacket and I was pretty sure that I knew which one I wanted. Unfortunately, when I made a gauge, the fabric was too soft and pliable, it didn't have enough crispness and sturdiness for a jacket that I wanted. It happens to me all the time. I have a pattern in mind, buy a yarn for it, and after making a swatch discover that my yarn would not work for my pattern.

But I was already totally invested in making this jacket. So I dived into my bottomless stash and unearthed two (!!!) long time discontinued yarns - Rowan Scottish tweed and Lorna's Laces - which combined gave me the right amount of sturdiness, tweediness, and silkiness.
With a gauge of 23 rows and 16 sts in 10 cm on 4.5 mm/US 7 needles it was supposed to be a breeze. Right? Wrong. Because I decided to make a big swatch.

Actually, my swatch was huge, sleeve-sized. Why did I spend time on it? Because after blocking it, I could just pin pattern parts on it and calculate the needed number of stitches and rows easily.

There are not many straight lines in a jacket pattern, as I was surprised to learn. At least, not in this one. I had to constantly increase or decrease some stitches, and at some point use short rows to make a bend in the upper part of the front. Even though my ginormous swatch helped immensely with calculations, I still had to adjust and recalculate while knitting.

As soon as the back and side parts were finished I washed and blocked them. It gave me a reference point to finish the front parts and sleeves.
Small lifehacks:

1) Since I wanted the wrong side of the stockinette to be the right side of the jacket, I started and finished each knit row with a purl stitch, and each purl row - with a knit stitch. This way it was much easier to sew the parts at the end and the seams look neat.

2) The back parts are 2 cm longer than the fronts and you can see the shoulder seam. It accommodates my slouchiness, makes the jacket fit better without pulling up at the back.

3) The upper parts of the sleeves are not symmetrical, there are more decreases on one side (front) and less on the other (back). It worked better this way, because the back and front armhole increases were not symmetrical either.
The jacket is short and boxy, Chanel style. Its finishing was going to make or break the final look. I opted for a simple 3 sts I-cord finishing all over. It was reflecting the jacket seams, and gave it even more structure. For the neckline I picked up stitches from both sides (right and wrong), knit 3 rows on two sets of identical needles (about a size smaller than the main needles), and then sewed them together with a kitchener stitch.
Voila! My jacket was ready.

I tried it on and discovered that the sleeves were a bit too long for me and the whole thing was a bit too roomy. Yes, after all my struggles, worries, and multiple calculations some things still didn't work:((( So I turned the sleeves up (have I told you that I made this jacket completely reversible?) and moved the buttons a little further left.
I am proud of what I achieved because I had to overcome lots of worries and doubts.

The moral of the story: even if in doubt, move forward, one step at a time, and eventually (in a year, or two) you'll get there. Just keep working!
Now, I had a finished jacket and some leftover yarns - Rowan Scottish tweed and Lorna's Laces - that look great in a jacket.

To be honest, at first I wanted to make another garment from a sewing pattern right away. My choice was a waistcoat, with visible seams as well. I thought that it would be complementary to the jacket. But then I discarded that idea. I wouldn't be able to wear them together anyway - too bulky, or I had to use a different yarn which totally defeated the purpose.

At some point, while looking for an appropriate pattern, I saw this one - a jacket, again Chanel style, in an old Phildar.
I couldn't make it in one color which was good because I didn't have enough yarn to make it this way. Now I needed three more yarns in complementary colors if I wanted to make this pattern.

First, I had two balls of Mohair (70% mohair, 30% shetland) from Annfield Farm, 230 meters each, that I bought last year during Perth Festival of yarn. It was my first time with this vendor. I liked how their yarns looked but couldn't predict how it would behave while knitted. Doubled, this yarn gave me approximately the same gauge as my combined Scottish tweed and Lorna's Laces. I decided that it was going to be my "star" yarn in this combo.

I also found some old wool in yellowish ivory and dark gray, unraveled from my previous knits. Used solo, they were too thin, so each color needed a companion - a lace wool in ivory for the first one and a lace cashmere in black for the second. I made a swatch with all the yarns doubled and it looked perfect.
Now I had 8 balls of different yarns to work with. It is not easy to work with multiple balls - hard to unravel and definitely not portable. To simplify things I balled them all together by two. I know, it wasn't the best solution - there is always a surplus of one of the threads, and you either carry it on till the end, or cut it and create a knot. This time I had to carry threads of surplus yarns to the balls' ends because I had enough knots already in the used old yarns.

Again, with the gauge of 24 rows and 15 sts in 10 cm on 4 mm/US 6 needles, the work went quickly. My only change to the pattern were sleeves. The original pattern has ¾ sleeves and flappy vents that I didn't like. I decided to recreate classic jacket vents with buttons - something that I'd never done before. Yey!!!
When all the parts were sewn together I needed to pick the finishing. A friend of mine - @sveta_lana_ch on IG, who is extremely knowledgeable about all kinds of knitting techniques - recommended a new way of finishing using a crochet hook.

Since the fabric created by this kind of finishing is doubled it must be done with smaller needles and thinner yarn. No problem in my case - I divided the Mohair yarn used doubled for the body, and had just enough to knit all the borders.

How to make this neat and classy finish?

First you need to make a chain of crochet stitches along the borders.
Then you pick up in each stitch of the chain on a needle 2 sizes smaller than the one used for the body.
With thinner yarn make 5-6 rows of stockinette and leave stitches on the needle. Using a crochet hook cast off live stitches from the wrong side.
It does sound complicated because it is complicated. I had to watch a video several times and still went through several unravelings and lost stitches. I found a video under #кеттлевка on IG. I couldn't find a good translation for this word in English and no video with an English speaker. Fortunately, you don't need words, just seeing is enough to understand this method.

And this is how I finished my second jacket in a row (again, don't forget, the back is 2 cm longer than the front).

Now I am not afraid of trying a sewing pattern for knitting and I've got several lined up for when I am back to Florida in October.

And I am going to make more Chanel style jackets/blazers (yes, I am not ashamed to use this name here) because I conquered the tricky finish which makes the whole thing look polished.

As for my knitting plans for Scotland, I am taking with me very little yarn and I am planning on making some simple basic clothes to wear in chilly weather. At least, that was my plan till I saw this FREE pattern on Ravelry. So tempting: you can make it well fitted and boy, I didn't try crocheting for years!

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