Gary's Train Vest

This all started about 2001, when my friend Carla designed the morning glory sweater for my sister. I, of course, offered to knit them anything they'd like, assuming that Someday Something would occur to them that they wanted. Gary said at once that he'd like a conductor's vest; they are both train-mad. So we tossed ideas around for a few years and this one seemed to have the most possibilities.

I'd already ordered the yarn, knowing that it wouldn't be around when I was ready to start knitting, and it wasn't. Utopia sport weight acrylic in a nice redwood brown. Jeff digitized the "smoke" from a picture taken by Carla at a local steam train fest. He reduced it to three colors, I charted it and knitted it intarsia fashion into the back of the vest.

The vest was knitted to Gary's measurements at a gauge of about 6 sts/inch, with the top 4" done on #4 needles and the rest of it on #5s, in hopes of supplying a bit more stability to prevent it from sagging over time. I snagged some buttons from a friend's button jar that seemed to be right. There are two low pockets knitted into the front, with a watch pocket inside the right one, of cloth, not knitting. The ribbing is 1x1, grafted off. As usual, I started it at the shoulders, so I could get any questions about the basic fit of the vest answered before miles of knitting had been done.

The engine itself got charted and simplified a couple of times until we had the final shapes. The different motifs that make up the engine were done with only two plies of the three the yarn came in, on #1 needles, except for the light and the windows which used only one ply.

All of the stitch patterns came from Barbara Walker's Stitch Treasuries, I-III.

Motif Stitch Pattern
Stack woven transverse herringbone (1:96), done middle to top and middle to bottom.
Light surround stockinette (st st), done sideways.
Light itself a lace pattern called cogwheel (3:167)
Cab broken rib (1:12)
Boiler st st, done center out with accented purl sts
Running boards heel st, (1:94), reversed
Valve boxes st st, reversed
Cylinders seed st (1:11)
Catcher a single cable on the horizontal, catcher itself: bear track (2:225 ), variation

It took several tries to knit each motif to the charted size, but I got there in the end.

With the motifs pinned in place. Looks like the Wreck of the Old 97.

Sewing in progress.

I laid the motifs out on the vest back on the kitchen table, then stood the blocking mats and vest on a music stand (very top-heavy) to sew them on, as if I were making a tapestry. Good light behind me and several days and it was done, only nine years after the first inspiration. It fits Gary, it looks good, he likes it--and so does someone at a train show. I'm proud of this one!

Gary trying on the vest as we handed it over.