Inspiration and Intimidation
I bought this Unofficial Downton Abbey knitting magazine years ago. Intimidated by the more complicated pieces in the magazine, until recently I’d only knitted the simple, and single colored below stairs button-up vest. The vest on the front cover is my favorite piece out of all the knitwear in this magazine. But I never thought I possessed the skill to actually make it. There are three colors, three different complicated (looking) patterns and some intense shaping in this vest. But then one day, for whatever reason, I was like “Screw it, I’m gonna try it.”
I ordered some sock weight yarn from JimmyBeans, since the yarn called for in this pattern is dang hard to get a hold of. I thought of trying more of a blue and silver color scheme (Ravenclaw represent!), but wanted a vest in warm colors for winter. One quick Amazon order to get the right circular needle for my gauge and I had all my materials.
I won’t lie, this is probably the most difficult pattern I’ve ever attempted. I had particular trouble with the red and tan swirly pieces. The back piece I had to unravel five plus times since I kept making mistakes. The tan pieces with the drop stitch pattern were much easier, and a welcome relief after working the other sections. The borders were easy as well since they are constructed using only garter stitch.
You might think, and I did when I first flipped through this magazine, that the patterns aren’t very historical. Based off the show, sure, but off actual fashion from the 1910s-1920s? But once I did some digging, I found the some actual historical inspiration for this vest.
Fashion advertisement from FW 1919-1920. See that vest overlay in the upper right hand corner? Now granted, that vest is much like this one Lady Mary wears in season 2 of Downton Abbey, i,e. constructed from beaded silk. But the design and cut is the same, an open-sided tunic reminiscent of the surcoat worn by woman during the 14th century.
The vest I made is obviously an interpretation of this style from the late 1910s, but one I am already enjoying and anticipating pairing with some late 1910s blouse and dresses I plan on making. The knitted version is also just more suitable for winter, since the wool is more insulating! So three cheers to saying “Screw it,” and just going for something even if it looks complicated! Success! Maybe one day I’ll take up beading and bead a silk vest, who knows?
Have you read my last post about how I block knitwear? You can here!