Monday, March 9, 2009

Finally, for me!

Celtic Cardigan
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
The title sounds like I never knit for myself. That patently is not true! In fact 80-90% of what I knit is for my own personal use. But when I took the leap from hats and socks to sweaters, my first two were earmarked as gifts for little people (my niece, and nephew). This had the advantage of letting me learn about sweater knitting, without committing to the price tag associated with enough yarn for an adult-sized sweater. I love both of these sweaters, but they left me feeling confident enough to jump into yarn I had earmarked for myself--10 skeins of Classic Elite's Inca Alpaca Print in a variegated blue colorway. This amount of yarn totaled 1090 yards, and I had originally planned on making a pullover sweater with it. Then I learned more about alpaca.

I originally purchased alpaca without knowing much about it. I knew it felt silky-soft in the store and I loved the heathery appearance. It made a beautiful shrug. What I didn't understand is some of the various properties of alpaca. Normally it has very little crimp to the fiber, which means unlike most sheeps' wool, it doesn't have a lot of memory of its shape, and the cloth knit with it likes to drape. Over time it likes to stretch out under its own weight. It is also hollow at its core and incredibly warm. The first two properties can be offset somewhat by blending it with wool (I stranded my project with a laceweight merino). The hollow core means a pullover would be great--if I lived in Alaska. In the Pacific Northwest, not so awesome. I elected for the cardigan instead and embarked on a long process of modifying and innovating. But I've mentioned all that before!

Celtic Cardgian - Back detail
All of the individual elements worked out in the end, and I'm really happy with the product, even if it didn't come out exactly as I had planned. As you can see here the back looks awesome! I'm extremely please with how this motif worked out. I was able to create a diamond around it where the knitting switches from stockinette to reverse stockinette. This is necessary to show off the cabling, and has the added bonus of looking really nice.

Celtic Cardigan - basted seams
The design wasn't perfect. I ended up with two yards of yarn to spare at the end. After basting the sides with waste-yarn, they arms were way too tight. I raveled my swatch and used it to create gussets at the armpit. You can hardly see them on the finished product, but they give the sweater just enough ease to be really comfortable. I couldn't help but snap off a picture of that amusing process. Just ignore the drips on the mirror. Finishing my sweater was much more important!

Celtic Cardigan - neck graft
I am also inordinately proud of a little-noticed detail, the graft at the back of the neck. I was able to graft the cables together seamlessly with the help of a wonderful tip I got off of Ravelry. To quote that user: When done the main knitting (don’t break your yarn) - knit about four or five extra rows with a light colour dishcloth cotton. Knit or purl the stitches as they present themselves. Cast off. Bring the two sides together with your kitchen cotton folded in like a seam. When grafting you can follow the light coloured dishcloth cotton in and out of your stitches. When you are done you just undo the bind off and rip back the kitchen cotton. You end up with perfect grafting in knit/purl and you don’t have to think about which direction you are going in and out of stitches. Don’t have to worry about stitches falling off your needles or juggling all the needles. It makes it as easy as straight seaming.

There are parts of this sweater that make me think, "I could have done this a little differently." But when I look at the whole, it is a lovely, fashionable sweater. It is dreamily warm and looks fabulous with blue-jeans or dressier pants. I am extremely proud wearing it and love showing it off. And I appreciate every last bit of advice and help I received in creating it. I couldn't have done it without all my friends.


Geek Knitter said...

Two things:

1) Thank goodness you didn't unravel the swatch.. that would be an affront to the language.

2) Knitting is far more important than housecleaning.

It's lovely!

Anonymous said...

VERY nice. This is an exemplary "postmodern" knitting project - you adapted things, invented things, incorporated tips and ideas smartly, and ended up with a wonderfully custom sweater. Great job!