Two years ago, I was on the panel for the inaugural Fringe and Friends Knitalong. The project, the Amanda Cardigan, afforded me the opportunity to knit a sweater for myself with no strings attached - no publication deadlines, no pattern writing, no tech editing. It was, in a word, lovely! Last year, I jumped on the bandwagon again, but was pretty late to the game and I'm still plugging away on my Cowichan style vest. This year, re-obsessed with a tear out of a Wallace & Barnes / J.Crew sweater I found while organizing a stack of papers in my office, I became determined, once again, to knit myself something for the 2016 knitalong, this time an improvised cabled sweater the using The Fibre Co. Arranmore.
Some of the posts I love creating the most for are those in my swatching series. Due to the nature of the job - where so much of my knitting time is devoted to knitting swatches for sample knitters or knitting the entire garment for publication - the swatching process is frequently a "secret" one, and many times involves a yarn months away from being on the market. For this sweater, though, the process is a completely different one. And since it began with a swatch (or, in this case two swatches!), it was a perfect fit for the series.
The first swatch (top) was worked in order to determine the gauge for what will be the all-over pattern on the sleeves and body flanking the central cable panel. This repeat was pretty easy to sort out and I was happy with the fabric on US8, so working up the swatch itself was a breeze.
• Pattern: Improvised Cable and garter rib from Wallace & Barnes / J.Crew men's sweater
• Needles: US 8 (5 mm)
• Gauge: 16 sts (2 repeats) = 3.5", 22 rows = 4"
The next step of designing the sweater was determining the center cable motif (bottom). Using the Wallace & Barnes image, I charted a reasonable facsimile of the panel. Knowing the Arranmore was of a larger gauge than the Shetland wool used in the original garment, right out of the gate I made some modifications to the cables, converting from 3 stitches down to 2 wherever possible, and took a few liberties with the number of rows worked. Once the chart was complete, as I knit I made additional changes to the pattern, reducing some of the "waste" stitches flanking the panel and modifying the cable cross frequencies. The end result was a slightly wonky swatch in overall shape, but the size was plenty big to get the gauge information I needed.
• Pattern: Improvised Cable Panel from Wallace & Barnes / J.Crew men's sweater
• Needles: US 8 (5 mm)
• Gauge: Finalized cable panel (36 sts) = 7.25", 22 rows = 4"
I do not typically knit garments top-down, but as this is the main point of the knitalong, it is important I stick to this aspect of the construction. For the sweater itself, thanks to a link in Karen's FAQ and addenda post, I was introduced to Julie Weisenberger's English Tailoring booklet and the unique method of working a modified shoulder and set in sleeve construction from the top down. Using the technique seemed like a no-brainer: it follows the parameters of the knitalong, and also incorporates many of the aspects of bottom-up garment construction I prefer.
Instead of working the sweater in one piece (as the top-down garment Antonia/Antonio featured in the booklet is constructed) I'm working my sweater in pieces and began with the back. After increasing to shape shoulders, I worked down a few inches, increased at either end every other row, and then cast on a few stitches at either end to complete the set-in sleeve shaping, and am now about to start working the body. I plan on working a few inches down, and then wet blocking the back to confirm my initial swatch calculations were correct and the garment dimensions are coming out as I like.
It is definitely a challenge to think about working a garment in the opposite direction from what I am used to, but I'm also enjoying the process of sorting out the design as I go. We're headed to meet some friends at the Nordic Knitting Conference in Seattle the 2nd weekend of October, and despite some other looming deadlines, my goal is to have the sweater complete by then! - KGO