Sunday, January 3, 2010

One Down

My trusty Yarn Harlot page-a-day calendar offered some sage advice a couple of weeks ago: there are 12 days of Christmas. And so on the 9th day of Christmas, I finished the first of the two sweaters that I am gifting to my husband.

Pattern: EZ's Saddle Shouldered Aran Cardigan (Spun Out #49/ Wool Gathering #63)
Yarn: 7.25 skeins of Berroco Ultra Alpaca, colorway Mahogany Mix
Needles: size 7 (4.5mm) circular needles for the body and sleeves, size 5 (3.75mm) circular needles for the garter stitch edging
Buttons from The Button Drawer. This was the first time that I've used this particular button shop and I was very pleased with my experience. They have many options - by far the most metal, wood, shell, bone, etc. options that I've seen on any button website. I will definitely be ordering from this place again.

Mods: Oh my, this whole thing was a mod, so read on.

My original idea for this sweater involved this pattern from the Fall 2009 Twist Collective and handspun yarn. The DH and I drove out to The Fold in early fall in a search for a nice silvery brown BFL or cormo fiber. We found a color that we both liked, but the shop didn't have nearly enough to make a man's cabled sweater. (This was also the trip where I almost bought a second spinning wheel, but that's another story). So we turned around and swung by a yarn shop in the city on our way home, where we picked up this lovely russet colored yarn.

I've been a big fan of the Ultra Alpaca for a long time now. It has a lovely heathered look and the colors just shimmer. Here's a quick pic of my first project using this yarn: a vest that I knit for my mother some three or four years ago.

My headaches with my first pattern choice are chronicled here, so take a minute and look if you are interested.

The DH was helpfully out of town (very convenient when one is working on a secret project) and I was scrambling to find another pattern that would work with the Ultra Alpaca when I stumbled onto this project by Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed fame. I had a gauge swatch. Sort of. Ok, not really, but more on that later. Naturally, I jumped right in.

I looked at Jared's pics on ravelry and decided which cable motifs I wanted to use: fishbone and sheepfold, both of which I had in EZ's book The Opinionated Knitter. I then proceeded to sketch out a quick diagram of where I wanted the cables to go, using Jared's pics as a guide. What was my key number, that all-important figure for all of EZ's sweaters? Well, my gauge was 5spi in stockinette (I think - I hadn't actually washed the little swatch that I made for sweater attempt #1) and I wanted a 40" chest size. But I knew that cables take up more stitches than stockinette to create the same circumference and that my husband was a bit wider than the most recent chest measurement that I had, taken before we were married, so I blithely threw a few more stitches into the sketch.

In version one (or is that sweater 2.1?) I started with the garter edging on the bottom, but forgot to decrease the stitch count. I then added insult to injury by not using a continental purl stitch after each section of stockinette to prevent the last knit stitches from gaping. Of course I realized all of this - the peplum-like band at the bottom and the truly untidy stitches above - in the middle of my second of three classes one evening. Knitting when you know you are just going to have to rip everything is awful. Not knitting during those classes would have been even worse. So on I knit, and I promptly frogged the entire thing the next day. Frogging wasn't all bad. It let me fix the staghorn cable panel on the back, switching out a narrower staghorn and three columns of twisted stitches on either side for the panel you see above.

EZ's pattern, like most of her work, is a guide more than a pattern, leaving a great deal of flexibility to the knitter. I followed the pattern in terms of construction: steeked front (using Eunny Jang's great instructions for a crocheted steek), saddle shoulder, and garter neck and button bands. I also used garter stitch for the bottom and sleeve cuffs as an alternative to ribbing.

However, I did made two notable mods. First, I added a bit of waist shaping. Starting about 8 or so inches up the body, I periodically added stitches along the side moss stitch panels. Anne Hanson over at Knitspot has used this technique on sweaters for her husband to great effect and I got the idea from her. I certainly didn't measure the DH to figure out the best placements for the increases (tough to do when the project is a secret) but it seemed to work out pretty well.

The second mod involved a bit of short row shaping on the back of the neck to raise the neckline . If you scroll back up to the back shot, you'll see that the neckline looks straight. That's because the pattern actually dips a bit because the shoulder saddles are higher than the back, but the short rows raise the neckband up in back to compensate.

For most of my projects, I do a great deal of planning and swatching to make sure that everything will (should) work out in the end. I did not do that on this project - it was more a "fly by the seat of your pants" sort of job. I'm happy that it all worked out, that it fits my husband, and (most importantly) that he likes it. While I was knitting, I was constantly worried that the sweater would be too snug. With all of the ribbing (columns of twisted stitches), the piece looked pretty thin on the needles. And then when I wet blocked the sweater, it occurred to me that I had no idea how much it would lengthen once wet. Thankfully, the DH assures me that the sleeves are just the right length.

Next time I am definitely knitting a swatch.


Jonah said...

Very Handsome. And Warm. And Comfortable. I Love it!

Beth said...

Hi there! I saw your post on the Finishing group on Ravelry. This is an incredible sweater! Wow, you did such a wonderful job.

Rue said...

Thanks, Beth! It was a lot of fun to knit and I'm happy that the size worked out. Now I just need to finish the rest of my Christmas knits . . .