Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Think Tank(top) - Part I

As summer comes to a close and the time for those beloved, warm wooly materials approaches (woo!), I realize that my days are numbered for lightweight yarns and bare arms. It so happens that this is also the time I begin to think about tank tops. 

Specifically, I am curious about the construction of a tank top - the garment architecture, if there were such a term. What is the foundation of a tank top? Is this the sensible starting point for a new garment maker (me)? Is sensibility important in knitting? 

How difficult would it be to knit a tank top? 


This tank-top-thinking was further inspired by a recent trip to Knit One in Pittsburgh, PA, where I observed Kylen - master knitter and manager of the shop - knitting a tank. At first, I couldn't quite identify what she was making. I knew the mystery piece was not a scarf, but I could also see that the project was not being knitted in the round. She told me that she was knitting a tank top. Specifically, she was working through the Beach Tank pattern by Jess Schreibstein

Kylen used two lightweight yarns instead of a single yarn, so her project was two-colored and textured. I was interested in the way that the colors looked together; the dual yarns added a dimension to the stockinette stitches that I really liked, both tactually and visually. 

(It is also interesting to note the way that observations of knitters by knitters during yarn shop visits often inspire future projects.)

Kylen showed me how to find the pattern on Ravelry and talked through color choices with me. We picked up many skeins of yarn and held different colors next to each other through the familiar pre-knit waltz around the yarn shop, which has become standard procedure for many of my knitting endeavors. Ultimately, I chose to use hemp, a natural fiber that is both lightweight and new to me.

The use of two colors in the Beach Tank pattern gives the knitted loops a textured, multi-chrome look.

Hemp hem

The pattern is knitted from bottom to top, so the cast-on stitches and first rows become the bottom of the garment. This bottom-to-top process of making was familiar to me, for hats are also knitted like this.

Note: I find that knitting, which is often a bottom-to-top endeavor, has changed the way I look at clothes, hats, scarves, and other handmade pieces. I now think through the form and construction of the piece, rather the the look alone, similarly to the way that an architect may look at and analyze a structure.

The first few rows of the garment gave me a feel for the hemp, which was a new material for me. The fibers do not expand in the same way that animal fibers do. I learned experientially that this fiber feature leads to more space between loops if the rows are not knitted tightly enough. Since I tend to be a loose knitter, I had to tink - or unknit - the hem after knitting a few rows and reknit with greater tension. It soon occurred to me that I needed to beware to knit much more tightly than usual if I wanted to end up with a garment that was not full of loose loops and therefore see-through.

In the beginning, I knitted loosely, which left too much space between knits and purls in the ribbed hemline.

Shipshape shaping

The Beach Tank pattern also introduced more complex shaping to my repertoire of skills. To clarify, shaping is the technical term for the use of increases and decreases to shape the a knitted fabric. Although previously-knitted hat patterns had included decreases, I had never thought through the steps involved in armhole and neckline shaping. The shaping in the Beach Tank involved a series of slipped stitches (SSK) and stitches knit together (K2tog). 

Decreases are used to shape the armholes of the Beach Tank. 

Instead of knitting in the round, the Beach Tank pattern calls for two separate pieces: a front and a back. As I worked through the shaping of the first main body piece, it was important to remember that I would be crafting a second piece that would need to be shaped in the same way. Therefore, it was crucial to check in occasionally and take note of the tension with which I was knitting. In retrospect, I should have been even more attentive to the similarities and differences in the creation of the two main body pieces. Look out for Part 2 in the Think Tank(top) series to see how things shaped up. 


  1. i would like to say you thanks for sharing Think Tank(top) part and i will wait for next part

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