Sunday, January 10, 2010


Pattern: Lismore from Alice Starmore's Celtic Collection
Yarn: Hebridean 3-ply, purchased as a kit from Virtual Yarns
Needles: size 4 (3.5mm) circular needles for the body and size 3 (3.25mm) circular needles for the ribbing
Gauge: 5.5 spi and 6 rpi in stranded colorwork
Size: large (from the kit)
Started: January 1, 2009
Finished: January 5, 2010

Mods: Only two real mods on this project. First, I decided to switch out the high turtleneck from the pattern in favor of a more modest crew neck using the pattern colors as indicated. Second, I lengthened the sleeves and modified the rate of decreases because my row gauge was more compressed than what the pattern called for. You can read more about that little adventure here.

I pretty much knit this pattern as written and now that it is done, I have mixed feelings about doing so. When I bought the kit, the description stated that I would have enough yarn to make the sweater and a generous swatch. But I had no idea how much extra yarn that would be (a lot, it turns out). So I decided to work the pattern as written and trust in the genius that is Alice Starmore.

The design is absolutely beautiful, don't get me wrong, but the next time I knit a stranded colorwork piece for the DH I'm going to update the fit. Drop shoulders just aren't that flattering. Plus, there's a ton of extra fabric there and it would be really nice to cut the knitting time a little bit. I'll have to pull out the fantastic book Knitting in the Old Way by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts and take a look at some of her suggestions. I think the saddle shoulder from the other Christmas sweater looked very nice on the DH and a set in sleeve may work well, too. Really, I just want more structure in the shoulder and a touch more length in the torso. Perhaps it's time to knit Gudrun Johnston's pattern Audrey in Unst (Ravelry link) to learn her technique for set-in sleeves with short-rows.

The actual knitting part of this project was a bit of a challenge. Normally fair isle patterns involve geometric designs that are symmetric on at least one axis and have relatively short (and thus easily memorizable) repeats. Not so with Lismore. Each repeat is a 50 x 50 square chart, only part of which (the floral pattern in the center) is symmetric across both axes. This meant that I was staring at a chart for nearly every row of the sweater, making for some slow knitting. The patterns had a logical progression, so I could tell when something was out of place and go back to fix it, but I never managed to memorize them enough to free myself from the chart.

I have to say that the yarns for this project were an absolute joy to knit with. I have never seen such depth of color in another commercially available yarn. Each color is a glorious heather with an array of highlights and shadows. I think my favorite one is "sundew," which lies in the two rows just above and below the red rows in the pattern. These yarns are not cheap but, especially if you can catch the exchange rate at the right point, they are well worth the price. An added bonus: the fibers are very sticky so you won't need to reinforce your steeks before cutting.

Finishing this sweater took quite a while, in large part because I had neglected to take care of loose ends as I was knitting. Ends are never fun to deal with but they can be especially troublesome when knitting stranded colorwork. One option is to spit-splice different colors together at the end of the row. This has the advantage of greatly reducing the number of ends you'll need to weave in but can leave the pattern looking muddy at that one side. Even though the Hebridean 3-ply would have spit-spliced very well, I didn't like the idea of blurring the pattern. A better option would be to weave in your ends every couple of rows. I did this a little bit at the beginning and then got tired of dealing with the ends. (Note to self: next time, just deal with it.) So I was confronted with several hundred ends waiting for me once I had bound off my last stitch and was anxious to be done with the project. That took several days to take care of and then finishing off the steek edges took another day or so. Then blocking and drying for a couple of days after that. But now it's done and it looks pretty good both inside and out.


Rachel said...

Wow--I'm impressed. And so glad you shared so much detail of your progress and what you liked and disliked about the pattern. I actually hadn't noticed the drop shoulders until mentioned and I went back to look at the picture more closely, but can see what you mean. Regardless, I think you did an amazing job and the sweater is simply gorgeous! What's up next? :)

Anonymous said...

Exquisite, and I enjoyed your commentary on various aspects of the adventure.

Rue said...

Thanks, Deb! You're right - this was an adventure to knit and I learned a lot along the way. I'm looking forward to my next Starmore project, whenever that may be.