Monday, June 16, 2008

A tale of some yarn and some sweaters

Just a week ago I was writing about my Seamless Hybrid Sweater from Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Without Tears. The sweater was finished more than two weeks ago, and I really love it. It fits beautifully and looks really good on. I think I've finally found the sweater that is the best compliment to a man's shape and build. Not that all my sweaters will be made that way from now on. I do feel the need for variety. So I've already started a new project and it's well under way. It's another EZ, and I'm as usual, having a little trepidation as it grows.

And here it is.


This sweater comes with a history - and I don't mean the design, I mean the yarn. It started last year when I first found the yarn on sale at Urban Yarns here in Vancouver. It was Rowan's DK Tweed, 100% Pure New Wool, in 50 g hanks, which is no longer on their list of available yarns. I gathered it all up to buy since the price was great and was ready to pay when I got the news that the yarn had already been spoken for, just not removed from the shelves quickly enough. I was a little distressed, but instead of crying and going home I asked if I could leave my name and number in case the original purchaser changed his (yes, his - what were the odds?) mind. And darned if I didn't receive a call the next day that the yarn was mine after all. I rushed over the next morning on my way out of town, (holding up my husband who really wanted to be on the highway at 8:00 am, not 10:30 am which was what happened.

And at the shop I got the news that there was more of the same yarn available and did I want it too? Well, I didn't want to end up with not quite enough of a discontinued yarn so of course I bought it - the price was right, did I mention that? And then I took it with me to fondle in the car on the way to Naramata on Lake Okanagan in BC wine country. But it took awhile for me to start knitting the yarn.

Yes, this yarn started its knitting life as another sweater entirely. I had decided that I would design my own sweater and that the tweedy yarn would look good with a cable. So I found a plaited cable chart in one of the standard knitting books and set out. I swatched, and I measured, and I cast on. And I knit. I knit the piece until it was about half way up the armholes when I decided that it was going to be too small. The cables pulled the sweater in and it was not going to look right. So I frogged the entire piece and spend an afternoon swatching again, to work out the correct size.

Now, you'll think I wasn't using all my brain cells when I decided that I could cast on fewer stitches and have a wider sweater, but that's what my swatching was telling, and I have been taught to believe in swatching. Of course you know this is not going to work out, but did I? Oh no, I knit one full piece for the back and then half of the front before I realized that this sweater was not going to fit me either. I'm blaming this on the frogging - the yarn must have stretched when it was knit up the first time, and looked much wider for a time. But then the yarn relaxed back into its original dimensions and became the narrowest sweater imaginable. That cable didn't help a bit either.

So I frogged both pieces this time, and left myself with two huge balls or yarn, because I had spit-spliced the whole thing and I wasn't going to take that apart. And then I set the yarn aside again to rest, and get back it's original size again, perhaps. I wasn't about to swatch the yarn too soon.

That all happened over last fall and this spring after my trip to India. (Read about that, with no knitting content, here). And then I started reading EZ's Knitting Without Tears and begat the Seamless Hybrid (described earlier in this blog). But I wanted to get this yarn back on my needles with a sweater I could love. I looked at several different books. all my books with men's patterns, books from the library, and then found a pattern I admired in the Green Mountain Spinnery (GMS)book - knit in the round, very plain, set-in sleeves. I could do that, and wouldn't have to worry about cables pulling my sweater in to make it looked stuffed if I was wearing it.

I did a swatch (it seems to be working), I cast on the requisite number of stitches on my circular needles, and I began to knit. And I really had intended to knit the sweater in GMS, but in the back of my head there was a nagging thought that I could do something else. And then I remembered the Kangaroo Pouch sweater in EZ. It's a set-in sleeve design knit in EZ style with circular needles, but another kind of innovation - a sleeve that knits from a steek, and is shaped by making a sock-heel like construction. And I thought, why not! Why not, indeed.

Here you see the odd construction which explains EZ's naming it the Kangaroo Pouch sweater.


You knit until you have the length you want in the body of the sweater and then you do something quite odd. You remove a number of stitches from the knitting path (the pouches - 30 stitches on each side in my case), hold them on some waste yarn, and rejoin the sweater with a few cast-on stitches over this space, so now you are knitting on 60 fewer stitches and there are odd gaping holes where the arm holes will be. And you just keep knitting around until you reach the armhole depth you desire, and shape for the back neck, before joining the shoulders. It's then that you get brave and prepare the steeks for cutting, cut away, then pick up stitches to begin knitting the sleeves, at the same time reincorporating those leftover stitches which have been waiting so patiently back on their yarn.

That's as far as I've gotten. I have about three inches of the planned nine inches of my sleeve depth done, and I will continue knitting around. I have checked out some steeking methods and have decided to use the wonderful tutorial offered by Eunny Jang on her blog. Eunny is the editor of Interweave Knits and a very talented knitter. I think I'll trust her.

There's lots of work left on this sweater. I'll be blogging more when I get to the cutting and adding the sleeves. So stay tuned. But one more part of the sweater saga I've left out. When I started looking at the yarn, before I began this sweater, I discovered something shocking. Something I had not noticed before - how could I have missed it? There are two dye lots in my stash and it's obvious that I had been blithely knitting along in the old sweater without noticing. I'm compensating for the problem in this sweater. You may have noticed the two balls of yarn in the first picture. I took the advice of a friend and decided to knit alternate rows with each ball of yarn to blend the colours as I go. And it's working. Just one little thing - when I reach the sleeves, because of the construction, I will have to use one ball at a time until I finish turning the shoulder cap, so I'm crossing my fingers that no one will notice, or if they do, they will kindly think that it's a design element. And that's what I'll tell them if they ask!

1 comment:

Marsha said...

What a great story about the history of that yarn!

I haven't tried steeks yet myself and, frankly, find the thought of them rather terrifying (What? Cut my knitting? ON PURPOSE?). I look forward to seeing how yours turn out! Maybe that will inspire me to try them, too...