Still Life from Quimper

Still Life from Quimper
A shot of an almost-completed still life needlepoint

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So very happy you came to visit. Now, pull up a chair, pour a glass of your favorite beverage, and read on about adventures in needlework.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Contemplation with Projects

This year, my goal at The Mountain was not so much knitting as it was trying out some designs for some self-designed sweaters. I took a class in Percentage Sweaters at the 2006 Plying the Arts Festival (you can read more about it here at World in a Spin) and I feel much more confident about knitting some fairly simple sweaters for me and Webmaster Bill after this course. Plus, I have this well-thought-out notebook that is complete with notes, diagrams, and lots of informative information, and I really, really must use it sometime.

With that goal in mind, having selected yarns from shops without any definite pattern for them, I chose The Mountain as my place for swatching and trying out new patterns. You must understand, I hate swatching. I realize it is extremely necessary to the ultimate garment that I will eventually wear and will spend hours (months? years?) knitting, but it takes every ounce of discipline to actually sit down and meticulously knit a small thing, measure, re-knit on different needles, re-measure, etc., etc. I recently had the lovely experience of ripping out half of an entire back simply because I lied to myself about # of stitches per inch to bust size to fit . . . and I realized that the satisfaction of sitting down and knitting does not add up to an ill-fitting garment. I wonder if that's why I like knitting for the younger generation so much?? I can knit big (because I knit loosely) and justify it with "they'll grow into it" in a way that, well, I'd rather not grow into too big knitting!

First on the docket was a cable-front sweater made from Cascade Yarn's Eco-wool that is a nice, big, thick undyed (or minimally dyed) yarn. Mmmmm, yummy. And perfect for a man. It appears that they've added some colors to this line, but there you have it. The earthiness of the tones did turn off some knitters who preferred colors to earthtones, so I guess those knitters now have some additional options. Anyway, I went through my Barbara Walker stitch pattern books, narrowed the selection of cable patterns down to 5, and with the discipline that only The Mountain and its Knitting Water can bring (and about 2 dozen talented knitters who weren't going to let me get away with being a slacker), I began to swatch cable patterns. I learned whilst swatching that I will have to go from a size 10 needle (what the yarn calls for) to a size 9, or the cables won't be tight enough. Except for 1 cable, but I'll just put it out there anyway.

Thanks to my class notebook's sweater notes, I also noted which pattern I knitted and what page it was on, so that in a few months' time, when I have decided what cable I'm going to knit, not an easy task, I'll be able to reference the pattern. All of them are taken from A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara Walker, personalized and signed by herself *sigh*.

Alternating Cable, P. 166

Aran Braid, Pp. 166-7

Loose Five-Rib Braid, P. 169

Four-Rib Braid p. 177

Latticed Diamond, p. 194

One of the good things about finding the discipline of swatching is that you discover what you do not like. The above Latticed Diamond is a beautiful but oh-so-complicated pattern - there are cable instructions even for the back of the pattern! So, while it would be eye-catching and bring lots of complements, it will be waaaay too much work for me for this sweater at this time.

We're leaning towards the Aran Braid (choice #2) or the Loose Five-Rib Braid (choice #3). My only concern with #2 is that it is such a narrow pattern it might get lost as the centerpiece of a big, thick sweater. On the other hand, it is a dense enough pattern that I might be able to stay with size 10 needles! So, like I said, the goal was to try out patterns, see how they look, see how much I enjoy knitting them, and then putting it away for a while until the *BING* happens and I dive for the pattern book and knit my sweater, um, WB's sweater, in earnest.

The second set of swatches is for an office-use cardigan, made with Brown Sheep's Cotton Fleece. It is a combination of cotton (for lightness) and wool (for stretch-back-into-shape-ness) that I've always envisioned as that project. And I happened to buy some at Earth Guild a couple of summers ago, helping with The Tiny House (the blog is to the right where you can read about more adventures with this building project in Asheville, NC) and treating myself to some nice yarn all for me. Knowing that cotton looooves to stretch out of shape and stay there, and knowing that I did not want to make a giant sack that I would then feel uncomfortable wearing, I decided to knit some rib patterns. Ribbing helps the garment pull back into shape (those k stitches want to ignore the p stitches and just want to love on each other), so I tried some variations on a theme to see how they would look. Results are below:

A classic 4 x 2 rib - really pulls together; perhaps too much of a good thing??

Stockinette swatch. Yup, it's floppy.

5 x 1 swatch. It looks . . . something ain't quite right here.

4 x 1 swatch. It looks more balanced and, well, subtle.

So I'll probably go with this final swatch, the 4 x 1 swatch, with a contrasting color to be the border. I've also learned that on a cardigan the button band (i.e., the border) needs to be knit in a garter stitch (knit every row, like on the edges) and that's just too bland for me. The yarn is very simple; all the detail will be in the colors and the stitches. I want to use a seed stitch, and just have a single large, probably hand-made button at the top of the sweater, to button it near the neck. After all, who buttons cardigans all the way up? And since it will be a little floppier being open like that all the way down, the idea of a ribbed pattern appeals to me, especially a rib pattern where I can gather it along the waistline to pull in the garment and limit the floppiness. I have some great floppy pullovers that I happily wear at home and, yes, at the office on cold winter days, and I think something a little more tailored would suit me well.

Well, off to make some soup with some delicious purple barley I found at the local Farmer's Market, and maybe a salad to go with. Mmmmm . . . .