how to make a viking vest

Henri has wanted to be a viking for a while now.  Not for Halloween, I mean he wants to be a viking in general.  (It’s either viking or pirate, depending on the day).

Jakob got a light-up viking helmet at the How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular, and unfortunately when we brought Henri the next day they were all sold out of helmets, so he got a Toothless plushie instead.  (Jakob, you’ll remember, got the one I knitted for his birthday…which I think I never blogged.  Oops).

The kids share the helmet, and last month when it was time to pick costumes for ComicCon (which I think I also forgot to blog…crap) Henri REALLY wanted to wear the helmet and be a viking, but a quick search through the closets revealed that we didn’t have any viking clothes.  All we had even close to a viking vest (like Hiccup wears in the movie) was a gray zippered sweatshirt-style vest.  The kids dressed as Avengers instead but Henri had it stuck in his mind that that was his viking vest and he has worn it non-stop ever since.  He’s worn it to school on back-to-back days, he’s worn it over his fall jacket, he wears it around the house, and on more times than I can count I check on him at night to find that he’s put it on over his pjs and worn it to sleep.

(Something about a 3 year old with tousled sleep hair in footie-pjs, amirite?)

He stops strangers to point out his “viking vest”, but commented a few weeks ago how “it’s not a REAL viking vest, Mommy, because it has a zipper and REAL viking vests have buttons”.  Oh.  Right.  ‘Cus vikings didn’t have zippers.

I promised I’d make him a viking vest, and yesterday I did just that.  I took photos throughout so if you want to make one, you can too.

I used some fur fabric my neighbor gave me, a sheet of newspaper, a sharpie & a pair of scissors, plus a sharp large-eyed needle, black acrylic yarn and white cotton yarn.  The only other thing you need is a vest that fits your child (or you!).

I started by laying the vest on the paper and traced half of it.  I used my finger to push down then traced to know where the neckline in the middle lined up.

I knew I wanted to add some length to the bottom and the armhole so it would fit him longer, as well as lowering the neckline to a v-neck, so I made those changes on my template.

I cut it out and checked against the vest.

I decided I wanted to make the neckline more sloped so marked off the changes on the pattern…

…then cut it out and checked again.

I was happy with the shape so I traced it onto my fabric.  It’s hard to see, but I traced out the half-vest pattern, flipped it and traced again for the other front, then traced it back-to-back, flipped, for a piece to fit the back.  The only thing I didn’t realize is that the fur fabric had a direction to it in which the fur laid flat.  I tried to be as economical with the fabric as possible so didn’t have a choice, but you would probably rather make sure you’re lying the pieces with the fur running from up to down, like natural fur.

I cut the pieces out on the porch which was a great idea because there were bits of fur flying EVERYWHERE.  I used my fingers to fluff up and pick at all the edges to make sure I’d gotten as many stray cut bits as possible before bringing it into the house.

I used a sharp needle and black chunky acrylic yarn from a big-box store to work a blanket stitch edging around each piece.  I eyeballed it, placing the stitches roughly 0.5″ apart, and 0.5″ down into the fabric.

The simple edging really gave the pieces a finished, yet still “handmade by Vikings” look.  (In this light you can see my fur runs in the opposite direction from how the vest will be worn, oops!)

This is the inside of the pieces, for those who like that kinda thing.  🙂

I used the same black yarn to seam the two sides and the shoulders together.  I did something similar to mattress stitch, butting up the two pieces to be joined and catching a loop from each edge all the way along.

Almost done!

Inside shot.

For a finishing touch I used white worsted-weight cotton yarn (dishcloth cotton) and made large stitches across the joined pieces.  This is purely decorative, but makes it look like Vikings really made it! according to my 3 and 5 year olds, and I trust them.

This is Henri’s final costume- a green long-sleeved tee, brown cords, his new vest and the light-up plastic helmet.  I may make a Viking axe if I have time/remember by Halloween.

Henri the Brave!

Back view.

He thought he was dancing for me.  I just wanted to see the decorative stitches.

That’s one happy Viking!


so far, no sweater

Last Friday (the date of my last post) I did work on my Flugel.

This is the beginning of grafting the underarms (lower sleeve edge from cuff to armpit).  Since the cast-on method was to use the backwards-loop co, I had an invisible row of loops waiting for me to use.  I slid half of each loop of the front’s underarm sts onto a needle, pretending it was one leg of a live stitch.  I did the same thing on the back’s underarm, then used matching yarn to graft the fake “live” sts together.

Just as I’d stopped the stripe pattern on the shoulders and changed to white once I was at the full length, so none of my stripes would wrap around the body and/or be involved in the grafting, here I’d made sure that even though my first row of knitting would be in the gold ribbon, I did the cast-on for the sleeves in the navy.  That continued the line from the body and left me with the ability to use the more “normal” yarn for the grafting.

This is the complete underarm after being grafted; cuff-edge to the right, and the join to the body stripes on the left.

It worked really well, and I was able to get both sides done.

On Saturday I picked up sts around the neckline and started knitting the neckband.

I’ll admit, I got distracted.

I put it aside Saturday afternoon because I had to pack up all our school stuff to bring up north with us.  As per our usual tradition, on the weekend before our final (or midterm) exam, Yannick and I leave the kids at home with my inlaws or parents, and we go up north to peace and quiet to study.

We spent the weekend up there and got a lot of work done.  I only brought a sock-in-progress with me for easy car knitting, and truly didn’t knit at all beyond the car rides.

Last night I finished the neckband (I’d added a few extra rows) and bound off.  Technically that means that Flugel is finished (but for weaving in ends) but I don’t like the unfinished cuff edges and will be adding some ribbing.

But not yet.  A) I have to concentrate on studying for Sunday morning’s exam, and B) I have a new knitting priority.


Jakob is turning 5 in May, and we’re having his party before his birthday so I can have my surgery and know everything is done (exam, school, party, etc).  He’s NUTS for How To Train Your Dragon and since last year has been telling me that he wants a Hiccup & Toothless cake.  (The main viking kid and dragon).  The only problem is that we’re having his party at a location that doesn’t allow ANY outside food being brought in, which means I can’t make his cake.  (And we’re not doing a separate family party to make baking one worthwhile).

They DO have themed cakes, and have a HTTYD one, so he’ll be getting Toothless & Hiccup on his cake after all, but I wanted to make him something.


This (above) is Toothless.  This (below) is the Toothless knitting pattern, plus pipe cleaners and craft eyes to make the “spruced up” version of the pattern.

So knitting a dragon and studying for a final exam, that’s how my week will look.  How about yours?