Monday, September 09, 2013

Knitting 3) Tom's waistcoat, from the Charming Ewes of the Monastery of the Transfiguration

As I said, my blue-green waistcoat was a prototype. I persuaded Tom that he wanted me to make him one for his birthday this month.  He had already said quite firmly that he didn't want me knitting him any socks, since he would feel too mortified if they went into holes (or that was the reason he gave anyway...), but he gave in to the waistcoat.  Then I found the site of a Greek Orthodox nunnery in the Dordogne, le Monastère de la Transfiguration, where six sisters and their priest labour to produce glowing icons, fig, walnut and cherry jam, and to raise happy Charmoise ewes whose wool they shear, card and send for dying and spinning, then sell directly from the monastery to a discerning public.  How could we resist?

It only comes in four very classic solid colours, taupe (above, which we chose), a maroon red, chocolate brown and natural cream.  It's rather like knitting brown bread, simple, wholesome and satisfying, but a little rough in texture and perhaps a bit dull as a sole diet. Washing with a drop of fabirc conditioner softened it a bit, but it's as well it won't be worn next to the skin.

On researching these kind of sheep, it turns out that, although their wool is one of the Monastery's prized products, they are in fact a meat breed.  Their fleece is good and serviceable, without egregious black hairs in it, but it's not their reason for being.  I don't know if there are any French breeds of sheep which are primarily raised for their wool, milk and/or meat seem to be the priorities here.  It seems to me that with the craze for varietal wools which has emerged in recent years (wool, I would posit, resembles wine in many ways, except you can't drink it), many of the sheep breeds are of British origin. Though the Merino, I gather, originated in Spain; they must have been bloody hot there under all that wool.  I must find out more, I do like learning about farm animals, and I like wool.  Anyway, I hope the six sisters and their priest also enjoy a nice feast of roast lamb at Easter too.

This time I paid attention to the gauge, and also to details like knitting the moss-stitch waistband on smaller needles and doing an extra row of edging to give it more shape, and starting the neck decreases a little earlier to keep the armholes a bit shorter, and the result is much more successful.  I have finished it but, though I checked some aspects of the fit while I was making it, the final product, and the rather nice buttons I got for it, Tom hasn't yet seen.  He's very good at putting things like that out of his mind so as not to spoil the surprise (for me), so I can't show you much of it just now, but here's a close up,

showing the quite interesting, and for me not unchallenging, pattern of moss stitch rib which comprises the main body of the garment, and which shows up much better with this wool that in the first one.

Again, plenty of wool left for stashing.


Zhoen said...

Very pleasing pattern. Soothing color, a tiny bit of bright detail might be nice.

Roderick Robinson said...

Chewy, eh? Would suckable have been more acceptable? I won't pursue this any further.

Had Tom turned down the waistcoat he might well have had a historical reason. Knitted waistcoats could be regarded as the modern-day equivalent of WS's lean and slippered pantaloon. The very badge of male retirement in the Home Counties - the cardy. Often sold as an accessory to a meerschaum.

In another context, but equally telling, remember Basil Fawlty addressing the moose's head: "Snagged her cardy, did you?"

Lucy said...


Z - I'll show the buttons later.

RR - no, cardigans have sleeves, a crucial difference. Tom does not own and would not be persuaded to wear such a one. Sleeveless waistcoats, as long as I don't call them weskits, are acceptable.

Ellena said...

You knit beautifully, Lucy. Each stitch the same.
Would calling it bolero be acceptable? Sounds so much more elegant than vest.

Unknown said...

Taupe is an interesting colour and an interesting name. Isn't it the French word for mole? I am sure that Tom will wear it with pride.

Lucy said...

Ellena - ah, that's a matter of good blocking, my knitting isn't really so even! I can't quite get used to the idea of Tom in a bolero...

Joe - yes, it is a mole and as such is feminine! It seems a rather uncertain colour, sort of grey-brown, but usually lighter than the 'black velvet' one associates with the living animal. I wondered if it was more perhaps the colour of cured mole skins, which, incidentally, were once much in demand for the making of gloves for lead workers, as they protected the hands to some extent from lead poisoning, so being a mole catcher was quite a lucrative occupation. Can't remember where I picked up that piece of obscure information!

Francesca said...

What a beautiful subtle colour. And I love the label, with the ornate type, and the very wise looking sheep.

Rouchswalwe said...

The Buick is applauding from the parking lot ... good choice not choosing the maroon red.