April 29, 2007

After Dark Nightie: Pattern Notes

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I'm knitting a warshrag. No, really.
As I walked out on the porch to do this little photo shoot for you, Moxie glanced at me and asked: "Are you taking pictures of yourself again? The neighbors are going to start wondering." And then, because I was clearly not uncomfortable enough, he added: "Your internet friends get more of a show than I do." It's true. You guys get the After Dark Nightie and Moxie gets sweats. He'll get to enjoy the nightie eventually, but while it's still just off the needles, you get the good stuff!

This was not an easy shoot. I had to strategically place that warshcloth (and my arms!) and be sure to sit down to keep things from getting tarty. I'm not even going to tell you how many full frontal shots I had to take to get one that qualified as "nice". My hat goes off to the model in the MDK book - she was able to pull off hot, classic and wholesome, all the while not revealing a single bit of what the French so delicately refer to as orange peel. Let's just say that it is no accident that most of these are arty "detail" shots rather than the whole shebang! This nightie is wonderful and I love it, but it leaves nothing to the imagination. (By the time it makes it to Mr. Moxie all will be forgiven for this very reason . . . )

After Dark Nightie
Mason Dixon Knitting
Designed by Alison Will Green
Knit with three skeins (270 yards/skein) of Louet Sales Euroflax Originals Sportweight (100% Linen) in Violet (2454), using size US 3 Boye Straights (garter edge, bust lace), US 4 Addi Turbo circulars (vine lace, short row stockinette), and the Silver Reed 150 carriage 4.5, tension 5 (plain stockinette).
Stockinette Gauge: 5 sts per inch. Gauge for the pattern is 20 sts and 32 rows per 4 inches, but my machine-knit stockinette was at a different row gauge, which I adjusted for.
Size: 32 bust, but I modified the length to be 27" (without straps) rather than 23.5". See below.

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Detail of the top and velvet ties.
The Pattern:
Watch for Alison Will Green. She designed this nightie and the coordinating robe for Mason Dixon Knitting, and she also has a design in the upcoming issue of IK. Alison's designs have a very clean, classic appeal, with nice lines, and run on the Kim Hargreaves-ish side of the spectrum of things that I like. The pattern was well-written and easy to follow. It's also a very quick knit. Using the machine for the stockinette portions, I finished it in a week of very light knitting. If you have more time, you can probably do the whole thing in a week or so by hand. The end product is, in a word, stunning! I've had a great year for knits so far, and this is no exception. It is an heirloom that I will hand down to my daughter (the one I don't yet have) when she is ready to be married and tarty (yet classic).

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Shot of the upper lace band.
The only possible errata that I spotted was in the lace band at the top of the nightie. There is no schematic, but the listed bust measurement for a size 32 is 32". (D'oh!) The lace sits on the top half of the breast, about a half inch above the nipple-line, so presumably it would need to be 32" in circumference, or 16" in width on each piece. There is no change in stitch count between the stockinette and the lace, so for the measurements to remain consistent, the lace would have to have the same gauge as the stockinette. This simply does not happen in nature to my knowledge. Lace will always have a larger gauge than stockinette, and you have to adjust accordingly. The lace repeat is only 4 sts, so it is very easy to adjust the lace. Simply swatch the lace to get your stitch gauge (it will be bigger than your stockinette gauge), multiply the stitches per inch by the width your piece should be to get the total number of stitches you'll want, subtract that number from the number of stitches on your needles, round to the next increment of 4, and evenly decrease that number of stitches across the purl row before the lace begins. It's easier than it sounds - I promise! I am not sure if the decrease row got omitted from the original pattern (errata), or if Alison's lace gauge was close enough to her stockinette gauge that the difference was negligible, and she simply did not need to decrease (not errata, just variations in personal knitting). Either way, the way to ensure your nightie works is to swatch the lace.

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Strapless from the other day.
Sometimes the "candid" shots work best.
Ina wrote me a comment about the side-shaping that goes on in this piece, and suggested that it would be better accomplished through darts. While I don't believe this is errata-worthy, I think she is right. The pieces of the nightie decrease in at the waist and then increase back out to accommodate the bust. All increases and decreases take place at the edges of the work. This is the standard method to use for this kind of shaping. I used it when I designed Honeymoon and Clementine. Kim Hargreaves used it for Bond, and many, many other pieces. It works well enough if you have proportions that are exactly standard, but if you are long-waisted, short-waisted, or like me, just a little off in one direction, this kind of shaping can stick out in a funny, less than attractive way. It is only through two decades of knitting that I have finally decided I am done with this sort of shaping. For me, it is going the way of the stepped shoulder - from here on out I'm doing darts to customize the fit of my garments.

For those making the nightie, I would suggest two things for the waist-shaping: First, move the decreases and increases closer to the center of the knitting. I think the best placement should be in line with where you intend to place the straps. For me, this was about 4 inches in, but this will vary widely, especially in those who have more womanly curvage going on than I do. Find a similar dress or top in your closet, measure where the straps are set, and go from there. Second, knit each piece to the point of the top lace, pin the pieces together and check the fit before finishing the top lace portions. This way you'll know if you need to make adjustments before the top lace panels are finished.

Neither of these adjustments require brain surgery smarts, so I would rate this pattern as intermediate and encourage everyone to give it a try if it appeals. The nightie is short and sheer, but we all have a little orange peel, and our husbands, significant others, lovers du jour, etc. are aware of that. The menfolk really just like to enjoy us as nearly nekkid as possible. Take the plunge and enjoy making the lace.

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Another of the velvet ties.
Just because.
Techniques:
Beginner lace. Beginner in this case does not translate to "easy." If you've never done lace, you will need to be patient, and even if you have you'll probably rip back a few times - I did! The vine lace is the harder of the two laces, as it is a little counter-intuitive. If you think that you are off, you probably are. Get a feel for what each stitch will look like after it is completed, watch the lace as you go and count, count, count! on the reverse side.

Modifications:
I knit this in the original yarn and the original color and I retained the side-shaping (this time!). The biggest modification that I made was in the top lace panel. The first time I knit it on US4's - the same size needle I used for the stockinette. I ended up with a gauge of 4 sts per inch as opposed to 5 sts per inch! (My open-lace gauge varies much more than most.) The piece I was working on was consequently 4 inches bigger than it was supposed to be, giving a total circumference of 40" rather than 32". Clearly a problem.

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The gorgeous vine lace at the hem. Yummy!
Last year I discovered that although one would think that one knitter's lace gauge would vary from their stockinette in the same proportion that another knitter's would, this is not the case. This is something that it appears not many designers realize, so it isn't unusual for gauge to be given in stockinette alone, when you actually need to know stockinette gauge and lace gauge. Hence, the sad demise of the Prairie Tunic. It seems that if the lace involves fewer yarnovers per knit stitch (such as the vine lace), my gauge will stay proportional. But if there are a lot of yarnovers proportionally (the top lace, the Prairie Tunic lace), my gauge will generally grow quite a bit proportionally, such that I need to swatch the lace to make sure all the measurements come out right. Some people will have the same gauge as the designer, so this won't be an issue, but the only way to be sure is to swatch.

There are two ways to fix this issue. One, mentioned above, is to decrease the number of stitches. Another is to go down in needle size. Here, I opted to do both. I could have simply decreased 16 sts to make gauge on US 4's, but I felt that my lace was too open on that size needle, so instead I decreased only 12 sts and went down to US 3's on the lace. Voila!

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Vine lace lounging with MDK.
Another modification that I made was to the straps. Initially, I intended to use a lucet to make straps out of the Euroflax. I had coveted Becky's lucet for a very, very, very long time (can't find the post, but I think its 2004), so when I found one at the Fiber Factory in Mesa while out in Phoenix last month, I jumped on it. Unfortunately, although making cord with a lucet appears easy enough, I am far from accomplished in the skill (more on that in another post). I decided to keep practicing and instead use some thin velvet ribbon that I bought for Christmas ornaments in DC a few years back. It gives a great tone on tone look - it's perfect!

My final mod was the length - I added 3.5 inches to the lower portion, which was perfect for me. If you have rockin' thighs, knit it at the original length - just don't go out on the front porch in it. Hubby will love it, but you won't be able to bend over to scoop up the Sunday paper!

Finishing:
Easy peasy. I dunked each piece in a nice warm Eucalan bath, spun out the excess water, blocked to dry and sewed two long seams. My tip for seams like this with lace at one or both ends is to seam the stockinette portion first, leaving a long tail to finish up seaming the lace afterward. Stockinette lines up really easily, so you'll stay on target for a long expanse and then pick your way carefully through the lace when you get to it. I did the same thing for the Daktari Skirt.

Impressions of Louet Sales Euroflax Originals Sportweight:
This was my first time using Euroflax or any other linen. (!!!) I am a convert. I completely understand why the girls at MDK love this stuff and use it almost as much as they use Tahki Cotton Classic (another old-time favorite of mine).

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And now we return to our previously scheduled warshrag . . .
Euroflax will not be for everyone. It has a rough hand while you are knitting, and no resilience, so if you are sensitive working with it will be hard on your wrists. I am more sensitive to changes in needle size than fiber, so it was just fine for me, but I also only handknit the lace panels and the short-row portion, so my exposure was not what most people's will be. I also had a lot of work to do the week I knit the nightie, so my knitting sessions were short and well-dispersed. If you are sensitive beware, and give yourself breaks.

The resulting fabric is wonderful. It's soft enough to wear next to the skin (though again, I am not very sensitive - try a swatch first), and the stitch definition is insane. Euroflax holds its shape beautifully and has an excellent crispness to it.

Price points on the linen are great, too. I initially bought some of this for Marnie and thought it was expensive at $15/skein. What I didn't realize was that Euroflax has incredible yardage - 270 yards per skein! So compared to your average-sized skein, that works out to about $6 per skein, which is pretty darn good. On sale at Black Sheep for 50% off, it was even better. It took about 2.5 skeins to make the nightie in the smallest size, and I'm pretty sure I could make a tunic version (to wear over jeans, Kay!) in just over 2 skeins.

Possible substitute yarns:
Although I am sure there are other linens out there, I am not aware of them. I would imagine that Hemp for Knitting might be a nice substitute, but not having worked with it, I can't be entirely certain. If anyone reads this far and has other suggestions, please leave them in the comments.

[Read all entries on the After Dark Nightie.]
Posted by Julia at April 29, 2007 09:20 PM
In after dark nightie | machine knitting | main | pattern notes | warshrag

Comments

You know, this might be the post that convinces me to get the book. (College student, limited book-buying budget.)

Posted by: Corvus at May 10, 2007 08:35 AM

hi Julia, thanks for all your detailed notes on my design! It looks really wonderful on you! (and I'm glad to see in later posts that you've found it works with jeans as well.) Thinking back to when I was working on the design, I know I swatched the lace patterns separately from the St st, and I think you're right that in this sort of pattern it would be useful to list the gauge of each stitch pattern - I'll keep that in mind in the future. Your comments about darts are also really helpful feedback. I think you're right that they probably are more flattering to most women than having the shaping close to the side seams.

So - you've helped this designer as well as any other knitters who will make the nightie! Thanks.

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Hey Alison! Thanks for stopping by! I think you did a wonderful job with the nightie - I love the design. As I've learned from dabbling in design a little myself, it is a lot easier to tweak what is already a great pattern than it is to write a great pattern in the first place. The darts vs. side increases thing is something that I have just come to, after years of doing it the traditional way. I do think it is more flattering on a greater variety of women, but I also tink that even with darts you need to know your own body and learn how to adapt a pattern to your own needs. The lace gauge issue is also a recent discovery for me. It took me forever to figure out what was going on in my Prairie Tunic, because I made stockinette gauge, so I figured I had to have made lace gauge, right? Ha! Lesson learned.

Anyhoo, the After Dark Nightie is gorgeous - you should be proud. Congrats on the Summer IK, too. Your design is one of the highlights of that issue.

xox, J

Posted by: Alison at May 7, 2007 12:07 PM

julia - you kill me. i'm actually the one in the nightie picture in the book and knowing that those photos are out there scares the crap out of me. i've wanted to knit the nightie ever since, but i've been hesitant ... yours is beautiful, though. it may be the motivation i need.

Posted by: heather at May 4, 2007 12:02 PM

OK, you've added to the clamor for Euroflax for me. What would you think of your Daktari skirt in Euroflax? Just pondering...

The nightie is lovely BTW.

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Kathleen - I think making the Daktari skirt in Euroflax is an excellent idea. In fact, it's such a great idea that I will add that to the pattern notes as soon as I get a chance. Go for it!

xox, J

Posted by: Kathleen Fivel at May 3, 2007 09:52 AM

julia ... the hoolia ... the mdk nightie is brilliantly analyzed and worn ... i am seriously reconsidering a second issue of it ... thank you for picking apart the details of the knitting and materials ... took the words right out of my mouth so to speak ... i am not nearly as eloquent and patient for all that ... though it does churn in my mind ... must remember to touch base with you when i have one of those boggling thoughts that don't leave me alone for wanting to solve it and tell everyone about it ... euroflax linen is awesome indeed ... i just finished a second version of the gym dress from knit 2 together ... needs a beating in the washing machine and dryer so to speak and should be ready for wear ... enough said ... night night ... mille baci to the zosh ... from the east coast ...

Posted by: ina and gumby at May 2, 2007 09:54 PM

Sigh....beautiful, just beautiful!

Posted by: margene at May 1, 2007 09:28 AM

I so enjoy your blog! Your after dark nightie is so beautiful and I'm sure you are so proud. I wish I had time to knit more, but two kids kind of take up most of my time. But I get some stuff done. I recently bought an ipod and followed after your example and downloaded a few podcasts to check them out while I knit and I was in bliss last night listening to a podcast while I was knitting. It ALMOST (but not quite) felt like I was in a knitting circle with a bunch of kindred spirits all knitting away. I couldn't help but think though that I wish you would do a podcast. I'm sure the mind of winter podcast would be one of the most popular! Anyway, just an idea for an already busy you.

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Cathy, you made my day - what a kind, generous comment. I am so glad that you are enjoying podcasts. If you go to my links page there is a list of the ones that I like, but off the top of my head I would recommend Cast-On, the Knitting Cook, Craftsanity, and Stash and Burn. I also really enjoy Weavecast, even though I don't weave. Go figure. There are a ton of podcasts, and I have barely scratched the surface. Let me know if you find any that I need to know about.

I would really love to do an occasional podcast, and have rolled the idea around in my head for a while. The problem is that I tend to over-commit myself. My job is pretty demanding; my knitting is akin to a second job, except that it's fun(!); my fitness goals are exhausting (especially given all the sitting I do for the job and the knitting!); and, of course, my husband and pup also require my time, love and attention. God forbid I get pregnant! I really want to focus on design in the upcoming months, so any thoughts of podcasting will have to take a back burner to that, but I do think eventually I will produce the occasional sound bite to accompany the blog here and there. I'm a bit of a voyeur, and I love hearing other bloggers voices and seeing their living spaces. That makes me more prone to share as well. (Despite what the neighbors think!)

Thanks again for your kind words, and keep in touch!

xox, J

Posted by: Cathy at May 1, 2007 07:38 AM

I love your finished knit! I love the Euroflax, too, and I think knowing how it softens and gets supple after washing helps me to get through the "rough" hand. I like the hemp, as well, so if someone wants to use that, they can, but it has the same hand. Also, there is something by Hemp for Knitting that is cotton and hemp and cashmere, although the name escapes me, still, it might be a good sub. I would also say that if you can find a decent cotton in the same gauge it would behave similarly, but not the same. Maybe the Karabella Zodiac?

I like darts, too, and I now use them in almost all my designs or I switch over to darts if I can. They aren't for everyone, but Julia, it's a great tip and thanks for sharing that. You look wonderful. I wish I had a machine to do some knitting for me. I'll have to check to see what type you use.

Posted by: Wendy at April 30, 2007 09:53 PM

aww, julia, that's a cute nightie! or, should i say, sexy?! i still love my linen dress and will wear it more this summer. i like the idea of using ribbon as ties. thanks for sharing!

Posted by: blossom at April 30, 2007 08:25 PM

The nightie is so pretty. It reminds me of Hush-hush from knitty, but more demure, without the lace over the entire top. The straps are the perfect touch too. I love the texture of the velvet with the linen.

Posted by: Leah at April 30, 2007 07:31 PM

Julia,
Thanks for sharing all the technical tips on the After Dark Nightie with us. They'll save everyone who reads them a lot of grief, I'm sure. Now on to your private modeling for Moxie!

Posted by: Leslie at April 30, 2007 02:11 PM

Silly ME--I just read your entire post and you gave the perfect (as always) analysis of Euroflax...I guess I should read the post before I comment. The cart before the horse-that's me..sorry

Posted by: Edna Hart at April 30, 2007 02:04 PM

I recently purchased Euroflax and I love it. It's a little stiff but have heard it will soften with washing. How pretty do you look? VERY PRETTY. I love the way you look with your eye glasses.

Posted by: Edna Hart at April 30, 2007 01:03 PM

That came out so beautifully! And you look great in it too. Thanks for the pattern notes. I always appreciate thoughtful consideration of a project. I especially liked the review of Euroflax; I've never worked with linen, but will probably at some point. All of the things you mentioned are very good to know before plunging into a project.

Posted by: Faith at April 30, 2007 12:23 PM

So, so pretty! Thanks for sharing with us (way to build the anticipation for Moxie), and thanks as always for your very thoughtful pattern notes. I haven't knit with linen yet, but am anxious to give it a try.

Posted by: Nonnahs at April 30, 2007 12:08 PM

I'm getting you a PhD robe to wear over your nightie--what a dissertation! It's all wonderful, thoughtful information. Really fascinating to hear all your thoughts about this pattern.

Wear it in good health! And regards to Mr. Moxie.

Posted by: ann at April 30, 2007 11:26 AM

Now, at last, we've hit the big time! Love these photos, so much. Really what we had in mind, all along. Something sex-ay to wear while cranking dishrags.........

Thanks for all the helpful tips and analysis. Maybe I should make one for my own self to wear over jeans (in the privacy of my own home, to the accompaniment of my daughter's rolling eyes).

xox Kay

Posted by: Kay Gardiner at April 30, 2007 11:19 AM

Well, it's a really beautiful piece. I've never knit with Euroflax but I have a lot so being able to see that piece in person is going to be so exciting. It may get my creative cogs in motion.

I'm with you on side shaping. I have gotten those same little shaping flaps. If there are no straps to align with, I think the recommended standard is to break things up into 1/3rds in back and do 25-50-25% in front or align approximately with the "peaks" of the chest.

Anyway, it looks great and I love the idea of a shorter version to wear with pants. I think that'd look so cute on you.

Posted by: Marnie at April 30, 2007 10:02 AM

Julia, this came out so lovely! Great job! I wish I had the patience for such a lovely bit of knitting!

Posted by: Skylar at April 30, 2007 09:59 AM

The nightie is just gorgeous on you. I adore it. Good to know about the Euroflax. I've heard good things, but it's nice to know that it really does soften up.

Posted by: Wanda at April 30, 2007 09:58 AM

Love the nightie! and hmm, I wonder, what do your neighbors think?

Posted by: kat at April 30, 2007 09:21 AM

Oh what an entry: useful, detailed notes on the pattern, the process, and the yarn; beautiful, inspiring photos; and a wee bit of raunchy humor thrown in to give us some giggles. Thanks, dear.

Posted by: kodachrome at April 30, 2007 09:11 AM

Now I know why Kay begged you to make this... she knew you'd inspire all the rest of us!

I am very tempted...

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Hi Laura, "Begged" isn't exactly the right word - it was more wistful mentioning and a teeny bit of flattery. It really did not take much to twist my arm on this one. I was in great need of some stealth knitting and I was really enchanted by the Euroflax after picking some up for Marnie. I'm always a sucker for a great knit.

Thanks for the nice, words, though - you should definitely knit the nightie!

xox, J

Posted by: Laura at April 30, 2007 08:31 AM

Lovely! And your comments about the 'ease' of the photo shoot gave me quite a giggle. Congrats on a lovely FO!

Posted by: disentangled at April 30, 2007 07:04 AM

Wow, Julia, a great (as usual) and meaty project entry. Re: lace, I have a pattern coming out in this summer's Knitter's that doesn't decrease before the lace too, but it's in Kidsilk Haze, which is such a forgiving yarn that the gauge is nearly the same between stockinette and lace. I'm designing another lace piece for another magazine in Alpaca soon and for that garment, I suspect I will have to decrease before the lace part to not make the transition wonky. Thanks again! :)

Posted by: connie at April 30, 2007 06:32 AM

Julia, you look so wonderful! I can't get over the fabulous fit of your nightie and think it would look wonderful with jeans. Thanks for the extensive patern notes; this pattern's been percolating in the back of my mind for a while (I'd turn it into a real "shirt" as opposed to a ...nightshirt :) )and your tips/tricks/magic skills have brought to the front of my mind. Congratulations on a breathtaking garment!

Posted by: Elspeth at April 30, 2007 06:25 AM

As usual, a great FO and an incredibly informative post. I too have recently jettisoned the stair-step shoulders, and realize that you are so right about how shaping at the sides of a garment can really bulge out in the all the wrong places, while darts can make you look shapely and hourglass-y.

Posted by: Liz K. at April 30, 2007 05:45 AM

It's quite beautiful! Congratulations! And thanks for the comments on the linen - I'm about to pick some up for a gift. I've never knit with it before either. (Although I will now do anything Kay or Ann says. Without thinking.)

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Cara, doll, you should do the shorty version - you have the perfect gams for this! And as for following Ann and Kay blindly - I am right there with you! How many miters can I make with about 10 skeins of Cotton Classic, anyway? I know you know!
xox, J

Posted by: Cara at April 30, 2007 05:26 AM

The nightie is really beautiful and it looks so gorgeous on you. After seeing yours, I'm going to make one and just pretend it looks as good on me.

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Thanks, lori! Go for it - I am sure you will NOT have to pretend.

xox, J

Posted by: lori at April 30, 2007 04:53 AM

it looks beautiful! your mods (and suggested mods) make sense.

i usually wash and dry linen, but since there's such pretty lace on the piece, do you flat block it? or dry it and steam the lace a bit? i haven't had much success with linen if i don't dry it -- it comes out like a pair of line-dried jeans...hard and flat like a board!

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Hi Jody, I actually flat-blocked the nightie and didn't have much stiffness. I washed it in very hot water (with little bleeding -impressive!), and agitated and squeezed the pieces a bit first. It all worked out fine for me, but if it doesn't for you, I would try tossing it in the dryer (which is what the label recommends), spritzing the lace portions with water and blocking those, and then just lightly steaming the stockinette so it stays softer. I really think that would add to the softness. Euroflax seems to like a little battery!

xox, J

Posted by: jody at April 30, 2007 02:59 AM

Oh, that is so beautiful.
I have been looking at this pattern and would love to have one of these. The linen yarn is something I would like to try out, but I have not found any substitute here in Norway. Maybe I will have to do buy it on a webshop. Lucky you getting it for 50% off!

Posted by: Knittacia at April 30, 2007 12:47 AM

It's gorgeous! Thank you for the beautiful photos too. :-)

Posted by: terhi at April 30, 2007 12:25 AM

Beautiful! Thanks for sharing yourself and your nightgown with us.

I really enjoy your blog and esp. your pattern notes. Though your pictures and brain are good runners up.

Now... How to get my hands on some Euroflax???

Posted by: Guro at April 30, 2007 12:06 AM