Ta-da! at last, the Vest for a Fiancé, from Knitting With a Smile by Inger Fredholm of FredholmKnitting. I started this nearly a year ago, let it sit over the summer when it was just too hot, and then picked up again in a rush hoping it would be done by Christmas or so. I did get the knitting itself done in early December, but lost heart at the finishing, then gave myself a talking-to last week and dug it out again.
I want to love this book -- I want to love this pattern. I like it a lot, but I'm annoyed at some little things about it that kept me from loving it with quite the abandon I wanted to. Be warned straight off that this pattern at least assumes a considerable amount of experience -- which in all fairness she warns about ahead of time -- but there is little information about finishing and nothing at all about steeking.
The style is very colloquial, which I think may make it a little difficult for those knitters extending themselves with a pattern a little harder than they are used to. There are a few little typos in the Vest for a Fiancé at least -- a cast-on and 7 back-and-forth rows gets you to the RS, do the picot at the hem and armholes K2tog, yo but around the front edges P2tog, yo (well, I assumed that was a typo, and did it K2tog, yo).
I centered both the front and back patterns, as it bothered me that they weren't already. Luckily, the patterns themselves were so pleasing to my eye even at the time that this was only a minor cavil.
(The color in the top photos is more accurate than in the bottom ones. The sunlight was rather tenuous; perhaps that was it. My camera seems to get a little over-excited when it has to do reds, too.)
I also added a row of the white "fleur de lis" across the shoulder and back of the neck, as in the photo of the original vest, not the one knitted for the book -- I just thought it looked more finished that way.
I think that the front edge band is a bit too big. I thought so from the moment I cast it off, but sewed it up anyways because I was, well, I can't say heartily sick of the thing, but I just really wanted it to be finished. It didn't look too big after some energetic blocking,, but I think it probably could be worked smaller.
As I said, there are no instructions as to steeking and finishing, so of course I poked around on the internet beforehand, starting with Eunny's justly-famous Steeking Chronicles. She was (at least at the time) quite set against machine-sewed steeks, and argued so logically that I was reluctant to do them that way. I had, though, already bought the Smart wool, which is superwash, and Eunny noted (somewhere in there) that you can't do a crocheted steek on superwash as the fibers are too slippery. I also found comments there and elsewhere from Norwegians and friends-of-Norwegians who said they'd done machine-sewed steeks for years with never a problem with loose stitches or stiffness -- so I thought, right, well --! and just went for it, following for the most part some advice from KidsKnits on steeking.
So here are a few things that I learned:
Join all new colors/balls in the middle of the front opening steek. Do not be tempted to join anywhere else in order to save that arm's length of wool. If all of the ends are in the front, they will be trimmed away like magic when you cut the steek, and you will not have to weave in all of those fiddly ends. And I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't think of this much earlier!
The Vest for a Fiancé steeks are far too big, especially the one at the neck. They vary widely in width; I've no idea why. I wanted the cut edges to be hidden under the folded hem, so had to re-reinforce the wider ones with the sewing machine and trim them again. Yeah, I should have thought of that first, too, because I thought "this is huge" even as I was working it -- 25 sts for the neck steek compared to 7 for the front opening and 11 for the armholes. I did actually stitch two cutting lines, and cut the neck steek much closer to where I wanted it, but overestimated the first time around. (The wool I "saved" by not joining new balls in the front, I lost by having to cut away a 2x4"/5x10cm piece at the neck.) Seven sts would probably be fine for each of the steeks -- although I will say that I don't yet have that much experience with them, so am happy to hear other advice. It looked as though Elizabeth Zimmermann's "kangaroo pouch" trick would have worked perfectly here.
I tried not to have any floats longer than three stitches. This was a real bother, but I think it paid off --
I'm actually rather pleased with the facings. I had seen somewhere -- stupidly, either forgot to bookmark it or didn't put it in the right call number in my internet bookmarks (yes, my bookmarks are cataloged in Dewey Decimal order) -- that the traditional method of sewing down the facing is with an X-stitching on the inside, but upon sitting at the kitchen table with a blunt darning needle in very bright light, couldn't quite see how to do this without it showing on the right side. The bottom hem facing had gone on surprisingly easily (I think I've only ever knitted them in before this!), with a kind of whipped stitch. Since the cast-off edge of the front band had the "chain" running neatly along the edge, I took advantage of that and made sure that my hand-stitches went into the middle of each "link" and thus are completely invisible. A neat trick -- I'm sure I'm not the first one to have thought of this, either.
These photos, I must say, show the wonders of blocking. I was a bit dismayed with the gauche charm of the thing, still delighted with the colors and the patterns but just not quite sure that it was all going to come together, as it were -- and yet after it was all stitched up and the ends snipped off or sewn in or tucked away, everything just sort of settled down most amazingly.
The machine-sewn steeks, I must say, are quite flexible, not stiff in the least.