Vix Knits… and crochets and sews…

My adventures in the wonderful world of arts and crafts

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.



Union Jack Slipover – finished!!

I didn’t manage to finish for Steven’s birthday but it was only a week late so I’m happy enough.

And here he is wearing it!

And the back

And, of course, he made me try it on too

I have to say, I’m really pleased with it but I do think the pattern is a little off. The Union Jack is by no means central so I think the front looks a little off.

It was super fun to knit though! It’s the first time in ages that I’ve learnt a new knitting technique and, once you get in the swing of things, it knits up really quickly. So, although it’s essentially stocking stitch, it wasn’t at all boring to knit up.

The main problem I had was sewing in all the loose ends

I hate sewing in ends and the front was even worse! Thankfully, it’s easy to do because of the twists caused by the colour changes.

The sewing up and finishing was really easy and quick (thanks to the lack of sleeves) and I think the end result looks really good

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve used half of the yarn I bought for the project so I’ve got loads left over (maybe enough for one of my own..?)

I’m planning a post on yarn stashes at a later date but I really hate having a substantial amount left over

Anyway, I’ve also finished another pair of Misty Morning Mitts (slightly shorter and in yellow Simply Recycled) and my Mina’s Tuxedo Vest (finished post to follow), started a new knitting project (a cricket style jumper for myself that should take a few weeks) and started work on one of the crochet unicorns for my cousin

I’m also pondering a book idea so there’ll be a lot of designing going on… wish me luck


Mina’s Tuxedo Vest – another update, another help request!

So, progress has been good on my little cardi. Which isn’t surprising since Steven was off work at the end of last week so work on the Union Jack Slipover had to stop!

It was nearing the waist-shaping stage so I thought it was about time to check the length. This is the beauty of top-down knitting and very handy since I’m taller than the average bear.

The length seemed good but there was something a little odd going on. Check it out…


I can’t figure out how or when this happened, I was so careful when I was attaching the fronts to the back and everything seemed fine before.

So now, once again, I have a problem to solve.

Option number one is to leave it, I think it makes a nice design feature! Unfortunately, this means figuring out a way of knitting the sleeve and collar and that’s going to be very tricky.

Option number two is to scrap the whole thing. Not a very attractive prospect and (fortunately or unfortunately) I’m far too stubborn to give up.

Option number three is to cut the work, fix the twist and re-attach. It may sound scary but it’s actually quite easy and by far the most attractive option.

I’d love to hear any other suggestions, if you have them

For now, I’ll continue with the vest until I absolutely have to make a decision but I think I’ll reacquaint myself with kitchener stitch just in case.

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Current and planned projects

I can’t believe how much I’ve achieved since I started this blog and since my Sew much to do… post. It’s been about three months since I started so I thought it was time for an update.

Of the four projects I mentioned, only one is finished! Another is growing slowly and the other two are still sitting in the same state as before.

In Sew much to do… I talked about designing a little bag using the new techniques I’d been learning. This, too, has been put aside in favour of a different design project (more on that later)

The clip frame purse I talked about is still unfinished and will probably remain so.

I’ve also given up on the idea of making things to sell (for now at least). It’s going to take a lot of time and effore and there’s just too much else to do.

However, in the midst of all this failure, there has been much success!

Among the list of completed projects is ‘Twinkle’ the unicorn, one full Sambuca jacket and two Sambuca shrugs, two bridesmaids boleros, three pairs of Misty Morning Mitts, a chakra neckerchief, a tea cosy, three mug cosies… I’m sure there must be more but I can’t remember them all.

Right now, I’m actively working on four projects, I know FOUR! But there is a very good reason…

So, project number one is my first ever design project. I won’t go into too much detail because I want to blog about it in detail later. I don’t work on it constantly for a few reasons: first, I want to get it right, which means thinking it through properly; secondly, I’m working with lightweight yarn so tension squares take a while; and third, my eye can’t quite stand the intricate work for too long (just another eye-related annoyance!)

Project number two is Mina’s Tuxedo Vest, it had to be put aside to work on the bridesmaid’s boleros and, to be perfectly honest, isn’t much fun to knit. It now acts as a facade so my boyfriend doesn’t know what I’m really knitting during the day.

Which brings us to project number three: the Union Jack Slipover. Unfortunately, it’s not growing as quickly as it needs to, especially with everything else going on. And his birthday is next week! Eeeek!

Project number four is a novelty doorstop. I like to be working on a knitting and crochet project at the same time so I’ve been carrying this around for weeks, crocheting in the car etc. Now it’s time for the finishing touches so look out for pictures later in the week (hopefully)

I’ve also got a long list of planned projects, including: two more crochet unicorns for young cousins; a knitted cricket jumper; maybe something for me to wear to the wedding next month; another pair of Misty Morning Mitts (I just can’t resist that Simply Recycled yarn); a twenties-inspired crochet top; and anything else that takes my fancy along the way!

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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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