Tuesday, October 4, 2022

The Better Late Than Never Top


Several years ago, after being forced to discard a worn-out brown cotton thrift shop top that had been a very useful, reliable piece while I had it, I decided that I'd replace it with a hand knitted brown cotton top that I could wear with a number of my skirts, shorts, and trousers in summer. I searched Ravelry for a suitable pattern in a fingering weight yarn, couldn't find one, and promptly decided I would just have to design one myself. I envisioned a sleeveless top with a stockinette body and an Art Nouveau-style panel of stitchwork running up the front.

Then I needed yarn. I looked at similar projects on Ravelry to get an idea of how much yarn I needed, and concluded that this project would call for about 200 grams, and that I should get 250 grams to be on the safe side. But I had some difficulty in finding the dark brown cotton fingering yarn I wanted. I checked all my usual go-to yarn stores (Romni Wools, Ewe Knit, Michaels, Mary Maxim, Spinrite), and none of them had a cotton fingering in the shade of brown I wanted. Brown can be a difficult colour to work with, as it comes in so many shades. I often can't find the kind of rich dark brown that I use as a base neutral in my wardrobe, and even when I can, it often comes in an unfortunate tone -- purplish, pinkish, or greyish -- that does not look right with the other, autumnal-tone items from my wardrobe. But I was sure that the yarn I wanted must be out there somewhere, and I turned to Ravelry's invaluable yarn search function to find it. Eventually I tracked down a yarn that was just right: Knit Picks Comfy Fingering in Coffee. I always find ordering online to be a bit of a crap shoot, because I can't be sure the yarn I order will have the right colour tone and a nice feel to it, and so I placed my order with some trepidation, but upon arrival, this yarn proved to be exactly what I wanted. The colour was just right and it was a lovely yarn to work with and, true to its name, comfy to wear.   

Then I had the yarn, a vision of what the top would look like, and good intentions... and the yarn just sat there from the time I received it in June 2019 until June 2022. At that point I decided I wanted to wear the top to my parents' 60th anniversary party in August with one particular skirt of mine, and that it was time to get cracking on this project. Realistically, I wouldn't have time to fuss around and create my own stitchwork pattern for the front panel, but I had five different knitting stitch reference books, and surely I could find a suitable stitch pattern in one of those. Accordingly I went through all of those five books. I looked for something that had an Art Nouveau feel to it. Eventually I settled on pattern #1 from the Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible by Hitomi Shida

And here's the completed top. It took me much longer to knit than I hoped, though I suppose that's to be expected when there's no pattern and one is just figuring out the mechanics as one goes along. The back, which is plain stockinette, knitted up very quickly and without issue, but I had some difficulty figuring out some of the instructions for the lace panel for the front. There was one particular stitch arrangement I just couldn't seem to figure out from the instructions. After a week of being effectively stalled in one place, I got the hang of it and began to progress again. I finished the front, did the seaming, and then I knitted the neckband, only to find I had picked up too many stitches for it, so much so I didn't even bother to try it on. I ripped the neckband out and did it again, and this time discovered that while the neckband was fine in itself, I had made the neckline too low for my or anyone else's comfort. It wasn't indecent, but I am 49 now and it is time for me to start covering it up and putting it away. I took out the neckband and the shoulder seams and ripped the front back to where I began the neckline, and added another repeat of the lace pattern before shaping the neckline and reknitting each side to the shoulders. I re-seamed the shoulders and put the neckband in again, then moved onto the armhole bands, where again my first attempt involved too many stitches. I ripped out and redid it with 112 stitches instead of 128, and this time it worked, so from then on it was clear sailing to do the other armhole band and weave in the ends of yarn. I am pleased with the finished piece. The shaping is good, the lace panel is very pretty, and the yarn I used is perfect. 

The jersey print skirt that you see in the photo above used to be a dress, which I had originally made circa 2005. Thirteen years later the dress had become dated and too young for me and I no longer wanted to wear it, but as documented in this post about three skirts that I made out of former dresses, I loved the fabric so much I couldn't bear to throw it out, and in 2018 I cut it down into a skirt that I can wear until it's worn out. I am so happy to now have this knitted top to wear with it, as they work very well together. I had hoped to wear this outfit to my parents' diamond anniversary in August, but with all the difficulties I ran into, and given that I was also concurrently working on my grandnephew Bug's birthday sweater, which had to take precedence, it was not finished in time. Instead I paired the jersey skirt with a dark brown silk top I had sewed for myself in 2018. That combination made a nice outfit too, even if cotton would have been better than silk for such a warm day.

It makes me wince to think of how, in 2012, I bought a silk polyester fabric to make a dress for my parents' 50th anniversary, and didn't get it made that year. I made that dress in 2018 (as well as a coordinating velvet clutch, no less) with the idea that I'd wear it to my nephew's wedding in Alberta, but then when I couldn't afford to go to Alberta for the wedding, I comforted myself with the idea that at least the dress was ready for my parents' 60th anniversary in 2022. However, when my family planned the diamond anniversary celebration, it was not a formal dinner at a rented venue as their golden anniversary had been, but an informal, outdoor, "come and go" event at my oldest brother's farm, at which all the children and even some of the younger adults were running around barefoot. A number of the women there were wearing very simple, casual dresses, but that silk cocktail dress would have looked absurdly out of place. (That poor dress! Is it fated never to be worn?) So I planned this knitted top, which would go so nicely with my print jersey skirt... and didn't get it finished in time either... and now I have a pattern of not being able to finish projects in time for my parents' anniversary parties. Hopefully I'll be able to get my act together a little better for my parents' 70th/platinum anniversary in 2032. It'll be my last chance to do so, because after that occasion, they will be all out of precious metal/gemstone anniversaries and will be proceeding to their "rust and decay" anniversaries. Moreover by that time, even as their second-youngest child, whatever I make for me will need to coordinate with support hose.