Monday, June 25, 2007

Aye-aye, sir

My daughter Matisse is a British naval buff. She loves to read about British naval history in the time of Admiral Nelson. She also loves naval fiction of the era, particularly Horatio Hornblower. She often wears a lieutenant's hat that her sister made for her. She also wears a bo'sun's whistle around her neck and pipes visiting dignitaries (and her own parents) aboard.

So, naturally, she wanted a lieutenant's jacket to complete her ensemble.

You can purchase reproduction Napoleonic-era British naval jackets for about 1400 pounds. This struck me as a tad pricy, so I suggested I knit her one instead.

Matisse's Captain Jacket

I prefer to knit top-down. I like the look and shoulder stability of a a cabled shoulder strap so I knit a nice naval cable long enough for both shoulder straps and the back neck. Next, I picked up one edge of the cable for the back of the sweater. I knit a couple of inches on that, then picked up along the fronts of the cable for the left and right fronts. I worked cables down the front edges and began v-neck shaping.

After an inch of the fronts, I picked up along the edges of the fronts and back for the sleeves, liberated the live shoulder strap stitches, and began knitting the whole yoke from the top down.

Everything went swimmingly for a while. I worked the yoke without incident, divided the arms from the body, and got through the bust dart short rows cleanly.

Then it came time for the bottom shaping. A naval lieutenant's coat cuts away in the front and extends in the back to two long tails.

I tried something like that. The yarn didn't cooperate, massing into these things that curled up instead of hanging, torqued instead of flowing.

I ripped back to the waist and started again with a different approach.

After three different attempts, I finally hit on something that looked good.

Back hem of the captain's jacket

The hem was curved in the back and corners with short rows, giving the cut-away feeling and the sense of tails. The cable across the bottom was knit sideways and into the live stitches of the sweater body, then grafted together at the center back.

Time to move onto the sleeves.

I had plenty of time to think while knitting the sleeves around and around and around. After three tries at tails, I knew that cable pattern pretty well. I conceived of the idea of splitting the cable above the wrist and having the split cable evolve into a whole cable to finish the wrist in the same way the front cable finishes the body of the sweater.

Captain's Jacket Sleeve

I get lots of compliments on this sleeve edge. I didn't totally plan the cables reforming after the split. I just went with the flow and things came out right.

When I started wanting a jacket for myself, I went with the same basic idea. Sort of. I wanted the sleeves knit in a different pattern than the body, so I chose baby cable rib for the sleeves. I chose a top-down set-in sleeve shape. Instead of shoulder straps, I knit a cable for the back neck. The live stitches became the front edges and the back neck was picked up along the cable. The rest of the back was cast on using a removable cast on, and the front edges grew from the same cast-on edge.

My Cable Jacket, modeled by Matisse

I had to do the shoulders twice to get a good fit.

This sweater had a couple of different bust dart experiments. First, I tried vertical darts, but I couldn't get them to work after a couple of tries and went back to my tried-and-true short row darts. Then I tried working the short rows across the fronts but not across the cabled bands. I'm fairly happy with how that worked out.

I was going to add something fancy for the bottom edge, but I tried a few different things and settled on a crisp, cropped jacket with a hem.

Back of the jacket

I often think that the back of a jacket is as handsome as the front.

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