The mercury has been hovering around 40 deg celcius (104 F) the last few days. Even nighttime temperatures have been in the 20s. So the idea of a sweater in any yarn or material, let alone wool or alpaca, is quite simply madness. But the combination of a new tiny person to knit for, a knitting addiction, stir-craziness and spare yarn lying around beats even this rotten heat. So when a longish train journey in an A/C compartment and a visit to a slightly cooler place loomed on the horizon, I whipped up this vest for my baby.
The first syllable of his name is maa (plus that’s who is knitting the sweater for him, get it? get it?), so I adapted it in a stylised motif from the scripts of two of the three Indian languages spoken in our family. The first (the front) is in Bangla, and the second (the back) is in Kannada:
Actually, it can be reversible too: the buttons and shoulder opening, and the V and round necks just change sides. I created a chart for the motifs in Excel, and worked it from there. (I couldn’t figure out how to get the gridlines of the graph to show in the saved file – does anyone know how?) I thought of calling it the Maa Vest, but that sounded too much like Baa Baa Black Sheep, or Paa, yet another of those Amitabh-Abhishek starrer films that I couldn’t bring myself to watch. So “Syllable Vest” it is – I liked charting the letters enough to contemplate charting other letters and syllables for future versions of the pattern. My mother has already asked me to chart M in Marathi and English for one she wants to knit.
I really like the sideways opening of the popular Pebble Vest, but wanted to make something that would stretch a bit and fit him until this winter at least. So I knit a band of ribbing at the sides, and at the shoulders, and made it a bit long. It’s 19 inches, unstretched, across the chest, but stretches a good two inches.
Syllable Vest Notes:
Pattern: My own, inspired by the Pebble Vest.
Needles: Size 6 straights.
Gauge: 5 spi.
Yarn: Harrisville Designs New England Highland (approx 1 skein), and some Indiecita Alpaca worsted, used doubled, approx 3/4 of a skein. In general, you need about 300 yards, 200 in the main colour, and about 100 in the contrast. Also, 5 black buttons, which are not ideal, but which will do.
Size: To fit baby 6-12 months.
Finished Dimensions: Chest – 19″, can stretch about 2″; Total length: 10.5″, Armhole depth: 3.5″.
Syllable Vest Notes:
1. Cast on 102 st in MC, knit 2×2 ribbing for 10 rows, with CC at rows 5&6.
2. Remember to start buttonhole at beginning of row 3, and every 12th row thereafter.
3. Setup row at row 11: k2,p2,k2,p2, k38, p2,k2p2,k2,p2, k38, p2,k2,p2,k2.
4. Knit 3 rows even in MC, then 2 rows of CC, then 2 more rows of CC.
5. Start motif. Knit 40 rows of motif: start bottom motif at stitch # 60, and top motif at stitch # 10.
6. Start armhole: BO 10 st, k38, BO 10, k48. Next row, BO 10, k38.
Now turn, and first work the back.
7. Next row, sl1, SSK, knit till 3 st left, k2tog, k1. Purl next row. Repeat these two rows twice.
8. Knit 2 rows even in MC, then 2 rows even in CC.
9. K16, turn work. BO 4 st, purl across. Next row, knit to last 3 st, k2tog, k1, turn work and purl across. Repeat these two rows once.
10. Next row: sl1, k1, p2, k2, p2, k2. Knit 13 more rows as established. Bind off all stitches.
11. Join new MC yarn at back neck RS, BO 4 st, knit across. Purl next row. Next row: sl1, SSK, knit across. Purl next row. Repeat these two rows once.
12. Next row: sl1, k1, p2, k2, p2, k2. Knit 13 more rows as established. Bind off all stitches.
13. Join fresh MC yarn at beginning of RS row. sl1, SSK, k13, k2tog, k1. Purl next row. Next row, knit to last 3 st, k2tog, k1, turn work and purl across. Repeat these two rows once.
14. Sl1, knit till 3 st left, k2tog, k1. Purl across. Repeat these two rows once in MC, once in CC.
9. Next row: sl1, k1, p2, k2, p2, k2. Knit 13 more rows as established. Bind off all stitches.
Using CC yarn, single crochet (SC) along the neck starting at left front opening. At the V and U neck joins, use a double crochet stitch. Repeat SC for right armhole, starting at back armhole opening. Repeat also for left front and back armhole openings. Sew on 5 buttons, and weave in all ends.
With motifs, I can never decide whether to do them via duplicate stitch or knit them into the main fabric. Duplicate is easier, but I cannot shake off the irrational idea that it is cheating with the knitting. I like colourwork in general, and enjoyed knitting the motifs into the main fabric, but the wild jungle of loose ends it generates at the back, especially with an asymmetrical pattern across multiple rows and stitches, is a royal pain. But I did patiently weave them all in in the end, and for good measure, added a few duplicate stitches here and there where I felt the Kannada motif could use some fine-tuning.
Overall, am pretty satisfied with the results. The recipient seems pleased too!