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This project will always be associated (by me, and probably by those unfortunate enough to sit next to me while I was working on it!) with this spring’s film festival at the Barbican in London. Not only did I do a lot of the work on it there, during idle moments in the festival programme, but the pattern even looks rather like vertical strips of film running past or hung up to dry. Well it does to me, anyway!

This sleeveless male tank-top had the usual mixed genesis. It was originally started off in order to use up the remaining vintage Sirdar ‘Pullman’ wool in the colours I didn’t want for my Daffodil jumper while utilising the unused male half of my Big Ben patterns, where I’d found that the wool I’d used on the lady’s version was really a bit too lightweight. Combining a quantity of left-over heavy wool with a pattern that actually required it sounded like a great idea in principle.

As the viewer will observe, the finished result bears almost no resemblance to the ‘Big Ben’ gentleman in the photograph… There are several reasons for this, but it really all boils down to the usual one: insufficiency of wool. I deliberately didn’t use the moss-stitch pattern illustrated because I knew I would need to combine the two left-over colours (bright yellow and blue) in order to have enough wool to complete the garment; so I went looking in my trusty wartime Practical Knitting Illustrated for bi-coloured stitch patterns, and settled on this ‘spot pattern’, which had the merit of using twice as much of the light colour as of the dark – more or less the proportions I happened to have them in. Even so, I took the precaution of starting the welt in still a third colour, the left-over ochre wool used to eke out the daffodil jumper.

However, the usual happened. Once I’d completed the back piece of the garment, it was obvious that, despite the estimated weights of wool given in the pattern, I wasn’t going to have nearly enough left to complete the jumper without some drastic revisions. The most obvious course was to leave the sleeves off. However, this would have looked really silly with the high neckline and folded-over collar as given: so I found myself landed with the task of draughting out a V-neck design for the jumper from scratch, which would have the advantage in addition of further reducing the amount of wool required.

“Practical Knitting Illustrated” really came into its own at this point, giving instructions on how to convert almost any type of neckline into almost any other type (“Ringing the Changes” as the authors cheerfully call it), hints as to the minimum width to leave on the shoulders and guidance on how low down to start the division relative to the armholes. I calculated the whole thing out carefully and mathematically, started knitting it up and found that my supposedly appropriate decreases didn’t work out. I then did what generations of foremothers had probably done before me, unravelled, and improvised by eye.

I had to guess at how many stitches to pick up along the neckband, and at how many to decrease in order to get the points to meet properly at the bottom of the V. I got the former about right and the latter definitely wrong, which is why the angle of the neck at this point looks slightly strained – however, with this thick wool I more or less got away with it. The shoulder seam falls nicely to the back of the neck, indicating that I worked out the extra length on the front correctly as advised by the book of the words.

Overall it came out surprisingly well given my inexperience in the field of knitwear re-design, and the quantities of wool worked out about right. The colour scheme is garish to say the least, but then I didn’t have any real choice on that front! Made in 100% real wool with the additional strands carried behind the pattern (visible in the neckline of the front view), it is actually very warm despite the absence of sleeves. It’s also pretty heavy….

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