Vix Knits… and crochets and sews…

My adventures in the wonderful world of arts and crafts

Too little time, too little crochet

Wow, the last few weeks have been crazy!

The last time I posted, I was talking about my new job and the possibility of turning a jumper pattern into a cardigan pattern.

In the interests of chronology, we’ll deal with the job issues first.

I started two weeks ago and already I know it’s just not for me. The last fortnight has been a real rollercoaster but no matter how good a day I have, I still dread work in the morning.

I’ve been feeling really stifled and struggling to find time for anything so I don’t have much new news (still plenty of old news to catch up on though).

So, it’s back to job hunting and hopefully more time, energy and thought-space for crafting.

I’d still absolutely love to find a way to combine the two but I’m not sure how yet…

Now for the exciting news! I’m still trying to choose yarn but I think I’ve figured out how to turn a jumper into a cardigan.

According to Wendy Bernard (Custom Knits) it can be as simple as halving the stitch count for the front, knitting two front pieces and adding borders.

This is what I thought but it’s nice to have the theory backed up by an expert.

As for the yarn, the pattern calls for aran, not a problem apart from the fact that I’m trying to use stuff from my stash before I buy too much new so I’m trying to incorporate some of my existing colours.

It’s not making life easy but I’ve got other projects to do while I ponder it further.

So, wish me luck and crafting for tomorrow and I’ll be back soon


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Custom Knits book review

The first of a series of books by Wendy Bernard (also the author of the popular Knit and Tonic blog), Custom Knits contains over twenty amazing projects as well as comprehensive instructions for designing and altering patterns.

Each project has a ‘make it your own’ box which gives suggestions and instructions for altering the garment.

Bernard gives instructions for making a body form so you can more easily check measurements and try on and adapt garments.

She also looks at six classic alterations before moving on to the ‘starting from scratch’ section.

I’ve only made one piece from the book so far (Mina’s Tuxedo Vest) but there are plenty more I’d like to try out.

I’m also finding the design instructions really helpful while I’m starting out on my own design journey.

The pattern I followed did have some anomalies but, let’s face it, this is not a book for beginners so it was still easy to follow.

I found the book as a whole quite refreshing. Top down knitting isn’t that popular here in the UK (for some unfathomable reason) so these patterns and design ideas really take away a lot of the trial and error.

The ability to knit the sleeves onto the garment and the abundance of garments knitted in the round make this book even more valuable to me.

I’d looked at a lot of design books before deciding on this one and I think I’ve made a really good choice. One of the others I looked at focused on making paper patterns (often using existing garments for reference) and knitting up the pattern but Bernard uses a more improvisational technique and some simple calculations. I find this much more appealing!

Frankly, it’s a struggle to decide whether to knit (and alter, obviously) something else from the book or try my hand at some serious designing

Overall, I’d definitely recommend this book to most intermediate/advanced knitters. There are some great patterns, invaluable tips for altering and designing and some advanced techniques to be learnt.

Wendy Bernard has also written Custom Knits 2 and Custom Knits Accessories.

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Mina’s Tuxedo Vest – finished!


I have to say I’ve had a fair few problems with this project and I’m really, really glad to have finally finished.

So, a few weeks ago, I posted about the twist that I’d somehow managed to work into one side. I couldn’t figure out how to turn it into a design feature so I was forced to do the unthinkable… cut it out!

This is actually a lot less scary than it sounds and was made even easier by the small number of stitches I was working on and the loose tension of the piece.

Here’s a brief rundown of the process:

Step one: pick up two rows of stitches, a row apart

The twisted stocking stitch actually made this a little easier because the stitches are more defined than ordinary stocking stitch

Step two: cut the row in between the needles (try and cut it in the middle of the row so there is adequate yarn attached to each piece) and carefully unravel the row

Step three: untwist the side and line up the pieces

Step four: kitchener stitch. Use a blunt tapestry needle and a length of yarn about four times the length of the piece to be joined. Hold the two pieces with the wrong sides together, the needles parallel and with both ends pointing to the right.

To start, insert the tapestry needle into the first stitch on the front needle as if to purl and pull the yarn through, leaving the stitch on the needle. Insert the tapestry needle into the first stitch on the back needle as if to knit and pull the yarn through, leaving the stitch on the needle.

*Insert the tapestry needle into the first stitch on the front needle as if to knit, pull the yarn through and remove the stitch from the needle.

Insert the tapestry needle into the next stitch on the front needle as if to purl and pull the yarn through, leaving the stitch on the needle.

Insert the tapestry needle into the first stitch on the back needle as if to purl, pull the yarn through and remove the stitch from the needle.

Insert the tapestry needle into the next stitch on the back needle as if to knit and pull the yarn through, leaving the stitch on the needle.

Repeat from * until you have one stitch left on each needle. Pass the yarn through the last two stitches and bind off.

This method of joining actually creates an extra row of stitching so keep this in mind if you’re using it to lengthen or shorten a piece of knitting.

You can hardly see the join although the stitches are a little tighter than the rest of the knitting.

The odd looking row at the shoulder is where I struggled with the provisional cast-on. However, I think this is more to do with the twisted stocking stitch used for the vest because when I picked up the other stitches to work the collar, they looked fine.

And here it is!

I altered the collar using short row shaping around the back neck, progressing toward the front.

The pattern uses wrapped stitches but, to be honest, I’ve never really understood how they work so I didn’t use them at all. Apparently they prevent holes from forming during short row shaping but my collar looks fine so I’m not worried.

I also changed the buttonholes. The pattern uses crab stitch (reverse double crochet) but I don’t get on well with it so I just worked two rows of double crochet with three chain spaces for the buttonholes. Unfortunately my buttons were too big so we had to have an emergency button buying expedition.

I’m a little unhappy with the overall fit of the vest and the armholes seem huge but I think it looks pretty good on and it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.



Mina’s Tuxedo Vest – update

After my struggles with my tension swatch (see previous post Tension headache) I was excited to get started on my vest and learn the new techniques involved. Because I’m working on quite large needles, it’s growing really quickly and I soon finished stage one of the back.

I should probably explain, here, that I like to think of projects in stages. It helps me set targets for myself beyond the usual ‘x number of rows’

So, this design is knitted top down, in one piece.

Stage one: provisional cast on, knit back to required length, shape armholes

Stage two: undo provisional cast on and pick up stitches (end stitches required for fronts onto needle and middle stitches for back neck onto waste yarn)

Stage three: knit fronts to required length, shape armholes

Stage four: join fronts to back

Stage five: shape neck

Stage six: shape waist

Stage seven: ribbing and cast off

Stage eight: armhole ribbing

Stage nine: collar

Stage ten: finishing, blocking and buttons

Right now, I’m working on stage five, which meant I needed to make a decision on the cardigan vs. jumper issue. For a cardigan I need to continue working back and forth but for a jumper, I need to join and work in the round.

I still think a cardigan will be better. As much as I hate sewing on buttons, I think it will be easier to put on over other tops.

I still haven’t decided what to do with the collar but I have some ideas so I’ll keep you posted.

The biggest problem I had was undoing the provisional cast on. It was really easy to do: using a contrasting waste yarn, cast on using the long tail cast on technique; instead of having the end of your working yarn over your thumb, join the waste yarn with your working yarn using a slip knot and have the waste yarn over your thumb. The end result should be stitches in your working yarn with a chain of waste yarn along the cast on edge.

Wendy Bernard (author of the book Custom Knits and the blog Knit and Tonic) has written a brilliant tuorial for long tail provisional cast on.

I was so excited but when it came to taking it out, it was a lot more difficult than I thought and didn’t really go so well…

I think I must have picked the stitches up wrong because I ended up with one too few and when I continued knitting the picked up stitches didn’t (and don’t) look quite right.

I’ve had to go with it though because I couldn’t bear the thought of taking it out, doing it again and ending up with the same result.

My main concern is that the row of picked up stitches look a little flimsy but they seem sturdy enough so I’m thinking of it as a design feature rather than failure!

Unfortunately progress has slowed a little now as I’m working on over 200 stitches! Also, stocking stitch has never been my favourite and the twisted stocking stitch used for this design is just as repetitive to knit.

So, I’m learning some extra patience as well as new knitting techniques!

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Tension headache

Apologies for not posting yesterday as promised, I had a rather traumatic morning having tests at the hospital and wasn’t feeling my best (I’m still feeling a little fuzzy and very tired but trying to keep busy)

So, I’ve never been one for tension swatches, I’m simply too impatient to spend the time knitting a piece that’s essentially useless.

However, after several disastrous projects that can probably be traced back to tension, I’ve finally learnt my lesson. Hence, being so excited about finishing a swatch on Sunday

Unfortunately, I spent a large portion of this morning knitting more swatches!

The rules of swatching:

  • using the recommended needle size, cast on the recommended number of stitches plus 10
  • working in your stitch pattern, work the recommended number of rows plus 10
  • using a hard, flat surface and a rigid ruler, measure 10cm across the rows and stitches and count them up (some people mark out 10cm with pins and then count but I tend to just count along the ruler
  • measure in more than one place to double (and triple) check
  • if you have too few stitches, try again with smaller needles
  • if you have too many, use larger needles
  • a general rule of thumb is to go up or down by one size but this might not work so persevere until you’ve got it

So, my pattern states ’22sts and 28rows = 4″ (10cm) in Twisted Stockinette stitch (Twisted st st) using larger needles’ (3.75mm)

Initially, I didn’t knit a swatch. I meant to, but just started the vest out of habit.

It soon became clear that the piece was too small and, measuring my stitches, I appeared to have 26sts to 10cm.

Being the big, brave girl that I am, I took it all out and knitted a swatch using 4mm needles. I cast on 32sts and worked 38rows.

It didn’t take too long and I was strangely proud of myself. So I was really disappointed to discover that I still had 26sts to 10cm!

Again, I took it out (I can’t see the point of keeping them) and tried again with 4.5mm needles. I was feeling pretty frustrated so I measured the stitch count after eight rows and I still had too many!

I switched up to 5mm needles but carried on knitting the swatch, worked 10 rows and measured again. It finally seemed to be working!

So, again, I took it all out and started again with the 5mm needles. I knitted the whole swatch in a couple of hours and, although my row count is still a little off, I’m finally happy with my tension.

My concern now is knitting 4-ply yarn with 5mm needles as it creates a very loose, open weave.

So, I waited for a second opinion before casting on for my vest (Mum’s helpful like that) We think it’ll be okay and I figure it’s worth a try since I’ve bought the yarn.

The most irritating part is that I’ve also bought new needles that I don’t need now but I’m hoping to swap them for some more goodies.

I’m also hoping the vest won’t take long to knit up so I can start experimenting with the collar (see Mina’s Tuxedo Vest – help!)

I’ll post pictures of my progress

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Mina’s Tuxedo Vest – help!

I’ve recently started knitting Mina’s Tuxedo Vest from Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard (book review to follow shortly)

I really love the concept and have been looking to buy something similar for ages.

The problem I’m having is that I don’t much like the collar on either version in the book.

So, I have two decisions to make. First of all, do I finish the vest as a cardigan or a jumper? This is the more immediate but simpler choice and I’m leaning towards cardigan.

Second, how on earth do I finish the collar?! My options are fairly limitless, it’s just a question of figuring out what will look the best and how best to achieve it…

I’m rather struggling to visualise my options so I’d love some help and advice

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