A smock and a walk

You may remember some talk about pockets here a few weeks ago. I can now show you the fruits of my labours. Our recent camping trips impressed on me that I was lacking a good outdoor sweater – something that is easy to wear, that one can throw on over layers in the evenings when it gets chilly, or use to protect oneself from the wind at the coast. (I strongly suspect that such a sweater only makes sense as a Summer necessity in Scotland, but there we go). I am fond of easy, smock-style garments for walking (I am wearing a linen one here), and find myself generally interested in the idea of a smock – a loose-fitting, utility garment worn by those working in the great outdoors. Associated with shepherds and fishermen, the smock has a venerable history, a pleasing combination of form and function, and pockets. With this sort of thing in mind, I decided I would knit one for myself.

I mentioned that I had made a pocket sampler – the untidy object that you see here. Upon this I tested four pocket variations. I wanted the pockets to be inset behind the edging, and to emerge directly out of the bottom hem. What I came up with involves casting on as usual, but, upon arrival at the pocket-place, creating a double cast-on (much as if you were starting a toe-up sock). While the front set of stitches are incorporated into the edging, the back set are knit separately in stockinette. When one arrives at the pocket-tops, the two sets of stitches are swapped over, and bingo!

The result is a neat inset pocket hidden behind a deep knit/purl edging.

The edging pattern – used at the cuffs and cowl as well as the pockets – is a simple 8 stitch zig-zag, which you may have seen used at a much finer gauge on many fishermen’s ganseys. I used the Shetland aran from Jamieson and Smith for this sweater – a lovely, woolly yarn to knit with, which is much less hairy than you might imagine. It is a good strong 2ply, spun for a smooth finish and great stitch definition. I know it will wear very well.

The sleeves and body of the sweater were knit in the round, and I joined the whole thing together with the every-three-rounds raglan decrease which EZ recommends, (whose angle I had admired on something Mel had made). To make the boat neck, I carried on knitting and decreasing for just over two thirds of the armhole depth, stopped, turned the sweater inside out, and knit a deep cowl in reverse stockinette, finishing things off with the edging pattern which was turned to the right side. Cosy!

I found it interesting to knit something for myself with positive ease. This is not something I generally do – when I started knitting again, I made several sweaters from commercial patterns which ended up a very poor fit for someone of small frame, meagre chest, and narrow shoulders. Scarred by these unwearable garments, I embraced negative ease with abandon, and since then have tended to knit sweaters with a close fit, and lots of shaping. This sweater has four inches of positive ease, and minimal shaping – the complete opposite of my usual design instincts. While I was knitting, it felt absolutely huge, and mild concerns about the size were not lightened by Tom’s references to “wazz’s gigantic gnome suit” which he could see emerging from the needles. But this sweater is meant to be roomy: it is a smock, with a smock-like fit. I am glad I stuck with it, as the shape is just right, and the end result eminently fit-for-purpose.

It is ideal for walking in this Spring weather – which is glorious, but very windy. Everyone we saw while we were out enjoying it yesterday was wearing a fleece – a garment whose name and synthetic composition I regard as an insult to sheep. You probably know by now that I have firm thoughts on wool and outdoor wear – I was exceedingly happy in my Shetland smock, but restrained myself from preaching the virtues of natural fibres from the cliff top at St Abbs. . .

. . . which is a fine place for wool in all respects.

Have you ever been to this part of the Scottish coast? I think it has to be one of my all-time favourite places for a walk at this time of year. The cliffs are alive with the cries of nesting kittiwakes; the thrift and sea campion are just coming into bloom.

I know that sea campion has unpleasant associations for some, but I find it incredibly beautiful.

Just as colourful as the flowers are the rocks on which they grow.

Here England and Scotland – once separate continental plates – collided about 450 million years ago, creating the natural ‘border’ of the Southern Uplands. The erosion of the softer sedimentary material, and the crazy purples and scarlets of the volcanic rocks that remain, make St Abbs a great place to see some truly spectacular geology.

I have long enjoyed the shades and textures of these rocks and their lichen, and in fact started a colourwork project inspired by them several months ago. It is a Winter project, though, and it will probably be Winter before I get round to it again.

But I am getting ahead of myself, and only meant to tell you about the Warriston smock: so-called, as it was on the paths around Warriston that I planned out the design in my head while on my daily walks with Bruce. If you are still with me after this rather long post, there are more photos and details on the project’s ravelry page. I shall write up the pattern.