Zigvest – Or how I nearly destroyed a piece of knitwear

I’ve just spent three wonderful days with my eight year old nephew, Willem. He came from interstate to stay for the school holidays. He left this morning and the house is oddly quiet and empty (although I’m feeling unwell so the peace and quiet will do me good, I’m sure).

I worked hard to finish what should have been his birthday present in time for his visit, and I got there, but how I got there is a tale of woe. I’m not sure how to write about it without sounding like I’m trashing a pattern and a great designer so I’ll be careful, because the designer is someone whose work I respect and admire.

Here is the finished item – the Zigvest – made from Rowan Felted Tweed I’ve had in my stash for a while. It looks great but I found it hard to work the cables in this yarn. Something smooth and in a solid colour might have been better.


The designer, Tikki, has been my favourite children’s knitwear designer for the last year or so. I’ve made lovely patterns of hers like Olearia, Jane and Acacia. They’ve all been clever, fun and quick and highly wearable. So I prepared to knit my first boy pattern from her collection with great anticipation. It didn’t really live up to expectations. Whether it was because I wasn’t concentrating (it’s been known to happen!) or it just didn’t gel, I’m unsure, but from the moment I began the zigzag cables I found they didn’t stick in my mind and I had to refer back to the lengthy pattern over and over again, flicking backwards and forwards and never quite getting it right.

vest detail

Then I started over. Twice. I almost gave up but I didn’t because I hate to be defeated and I really thought it was just me. No one else on Ravelry seemed to encounter problems.

Eventually I got the body done and decided on the collar style neck (it has two options, a v neck and a collar). How I wish I’d chosen the v neck. Without going into lengthy detail, the collar has odd instructions (which Tikki says in the pattern is fiddly – she wasn’t wrong) and it just never sat right but I was happy enough with it.

Then I tried it on him. Willem has that typical large dome shaped head some boys have. It wasn’t going to go over his head so I decided to cut a steek in the back of it. I’ve steeked before, and it was successful but it was four years ago and quite a different experience. Then I knitted something that had a panel worked into it meant for the steeking. This time I was doing it after the fact and well, it all went a bit wobbly. Here’s a photo to show how it looked when I first cut it.


Yes, I know the red yarn really stands out but I couldn’t see how to work a steek in the same yarn and not mess it up entirely. I wouldn’t have been able to see where to cut as easily and I thought the red might be a nice flash of contrast.

All was fine until minutes later when bits of it began to slip out of the crochet chain and it was all so distressing I threw it aside and decided I’d screwed it up and that was that.

A couple of reassuring conversations with my support crew (RoseRed and Tanya in Brisbane) and I pulled out the sewing machine, ran a zigzag stitch inexpertly along the edges and secured it. For extra support I crocheted in the brown yarn (Rowan Felted Tweed) around the opening to make it stick. It’s bulky and ugly but it holds and I hope never to have such a shockingly bad knitting experience again – but undoubtedly I will some day.

Here’s a back view where you can see at the neck, it’s unsightly but it holds. I’m too ashamed to post an up close photo of my dodgy surgery. It holds, it fits. That’s the main thing. And I can learn a lot from this hideous experience.

zigvest back

I’ve learned that I probably should have ditched it when I was having so much trouble and just knitted him a hat. We’d all be a lot happier.


But he’s my lovely, handsome boy and he’s grateful for handknits and he does look so great in brown felted tweed. He finds the neck a bit itchy though so I’ve learned that from now on, Willem gets only the smoothest, softest yarns near his throat. He deserves that.

Next time round, I hope to make him something that results in enjoyment for both of us.

Truly I don’t want to rubbish this pattern because plenty of people have loved it. I think it’s just a case of, as the cliché goes, ‘it’s not you, it’s me.’ At 28 pages, and written for two different yarn weights, it became cumbersome at times to read the pattern. I know that’s where I failed a few times. Lesson learned: read the pattern through entirely and be really, really careful to make sure you understand all the next steps. It’s near-fatal to not do this.

So this pattern and I just didn’t not mesh. But the result is pleasing enough that I can look at it and feel some pride that I stuck it out.


ps a note on problems with commenting – a few readers have told me they are finding they can’t comment on posts because WordPress won’t let them. I have looked into this and I’m yet to find a reason why it’s happening. I’m sorry for that. But thanks for letting me know and if anyone who uses WordPress knows how to fix it, please let me know.


18 thoughts on “Zigvest – Or how I nearly destroyed a piece of knitwear

  1. Pingback: Seamair Cardigan | Bellsknits

  2. knitting near-disasters are so trying, but you made the best of it! But it is a very handsome vest on a very handsome boy. i can see why the pattern was so tempting.

  3. Ah sorry it was not so fun – it looks super cute from the front so you did well having got that far to persist and get something he’ll use. Hope the next knit is more fun and that you’re feeling well by now.

  4. I can’t believe you stuck this one out! You deserve some sort of reward — perhaps of the chocolate kind. You have always been good about working through knitting problems. I just toss them in the basket next to our couch. The basket is getting awfully full, though!

  5. oh but he does look handsome in his vest! great colour for him, and although the tweed sounds like it was a bit difficult to knit this patter in, I think it looks very smart.

    and he looks like he likes it, despite all the grief it gave his auntie!!

    (and I’ve been having trouble commenting too 😦 )

  6. I’m about to start this (in black, as requested!) for my boy’s 5th birthday. Thanks for your comments on it! I might do the v-neck after all. And I know what you mean about 28pages! Needed to be much less!
    I’m thinking I’ll try using only plain left twists and right twists, and filling the gaps with knits or purls. I think, in black, that will do just fine.

  7. Oh how I love a vest on a small boy! They always look great, and this one looks very, very smart on your nephew. He does indeed look good in brown felted tweed! I think a collared shirt would probably cover most of the steek too.
    I had similar pattern woes recently, with a cardi for myself (Emilie). I love the finished item but it was hard work, which is frustrating when this is supposed to be something we do for fun!

  8. If someone is commenting on a wordpress blog and using an email associated witih a wordpress account, it wants you to log in now. If I forget to log in first, I lose my comment.

    I think this designer is trying to be very encompassing, which after some of the patterns I’ve knit lately that were lacking in some areas, I appreciate. But yes, that’s a lot of pages–I did a lot of flipping with the Girl’s Best Cardigan I knit from her. Sometimes I just go through and pull out the instructions that apply to my chosen size/variation and rewrite the pattern, only referring to the original now and then (eg, for special stitch instructions). Then it’s less flipping.

    Curious–if it’s a bottom-up pattern, why not rip back and re-do the neck? He does look very handsome in it, either way. He’s grown up so much!!

  9. It’s funny how the mind works – some patterns “work” in your head, and some just don’t. You can make the most complicated lace shawl, but then a simple thing can stump you. I made a fern frost cowl that simply never stuck, even after 60 inches! I was still lugging the chart around! Crazy. I just couldn’t seem to remember it. But then the Helene sweater? Piece of cake to get the lace, though the wording on other things threw me. And that’s after 30 years of knitting! So don’t beat yourself up – and the fact is, the vest looks really, really cute, so it was worth it!

  10. It looks gorgeous on Willem. I never think to blame a designer, I’m pretty sure any problems I have are mine. I’m impressed that you were willing to cut into your work and that it worked out. You have quite a bit of patience and skill.

    • I think in this instance it was a cumbersome pattern and a lack of focus on my part. I mean, 28 pages, which require you to flick back and forth a lot – not to mention fiddly cables in dark yarn. It was just a recipe that didn’t work. Not all me, not all her. That’s it in a nutshell, I reckon.

  11. I changed my email address and outwitted The WordPress, they don’t know who I am now!!
    I am sorry to read of your Vest Knitting Trauma, it does look lovely on Willem, and I would not have wanted to lose to a pattern either.

  12. As painful as the experience was, the vest looks very handsome on Willem.

    Twenty eight pages for a pattern (albeit with different variations) seems excessive to me. I would get lost trying to navigate my way through. That said, I completely understand your reluctance to give up when it wasn’t gelling. In fact, a project that been causing me all sorts of frustration is sitting in my lap as I type this comment!

  13. Re commenting first, I have found that if I open your blog from a new window, I can’t comment. But if I open it from GoogleReader, then it is fine. No idea why.

    Sometimes no matter how good a knitter you are, a pattern just does not gel. I am sure it is the case here! Even though it was a trial, it does look really good. It fits well, the colour suits, and if worn with a collared shirt, there should be no itch issues (I hope!)

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