vasa; or, the structural importance of seams

A few months ago I took one of Josh Bennett‘s classes at Vogue Knitting Live! Seattle. Josh is an incredible designer who’s got his hands in a bunch of different places in the knitting world, with a handknit line for Michael Bastian, and a wide body of work for Rowan and Vogue Knitting, among others. He’s also wickedly funny, and I enjoyed the class (Tips & Tricks for Making Garments Look Professional) immensely.

Josh’s stuff for Michael Bastian goes to some pretty high end retail clients (think Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenute), which also means the clients are pretty discerning and have sky-high standards. Because of this, I was really curious to hear why Josh always prefers to knit a garment flat and seam it, instead of knitting in the round (the opposite of many knitters’ preference). When you knit, you’re basically creating a fabric, and so one of the biggest takeaways from the class for me was the fact that knitting in the round puts your fabric ever so slightly on a bias, because it’s a big upward spiral, effectively tilting your columns and rows of stitches. It’s a very slight shift, but it’s there. Knitting pieces flat and seaming them together eliminates this problem, because your columns of stitches stay vertical and your rows stay horizontal where they’re supposed to.

Seaming, too, turns out to be a really important thing. There was a lot of talk about different fibers and how they act, and when working with fibers that grow quite a lot, like cottons, alpacas, or even superwash wools, seams become a source of structural importance. The class had me thinking a lot about the properties of knitted fabric and the structural importance of seams.

Enter my newest design, Vasa. I have to admit, this yarn was originally slated for Amiina. I don’t usually buy semi-solids or variegated yarns, unless they’re heathered or tweedy or a bit more traditional-looking. But I fell in love with these two colors of Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light at my local yarn store, and I came home with enough skeins to make a two-color spring top (colorways are Celadon and Antler). After working up the first prototype of Amiina, I realized I needed to scrap my original plans for a raglan construction and go for really deliberate neck shaping with set-in sleeves to get the effect I wanted; I also realized that it wouldn’t hurt to work it up in a main color with more contrast, so that the stranded colorwork at the waist really popped. Long story short, I frogged the Amiina prototype and bought more yarn for Amiina, and so this lovely subtle mint green yarn sat there waiting for me while I worked on my blue and white blouse.

As I mentioned, Josh’s class had me thinking about knitted fabric and seams in a way I never had before. While working on Amiina, the amazing drape of the Tosh Merino Light became apparent pretty quickly, and I started to get an idea in my head for a striped knitted tee, sort of my own version of an oversized tee I bought at a local shop and wear all the time. In that way, you could say Vasa was a personal exercise in seaming. I still hate sewing seams, but I do really love how this top came out, and I definitely love how it shows of the drape of the fabric the yarn creates.

So, if you’re just here for pattern details: Vasa is a basic boatneck tee shirt, knit flat in two pieces and seamed together, intended to be worn with a good deal of positive ease. Tosh Merino Light is a superwash merino wool, which is fine for Seattle spring and summer, but if you live in warmer climes, I think it’d be lovely in a light cotton or linen. Because of the simple construction, I’ve priced it lower than my standard garment price, and Vasa is available for $4.00 on Ravelry and it’ll be up in the Paper Tiger store/on Etsy this week. More details, like needle size and how much yarn you’ll need, are available on the Ravelry page. Hope you like it as much as I do!

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