Thursday, February 28, 2008

Diminishing Cables yoke, knit again!

I'm still working on the Diminishing Cables sweater by Annie Modesitt (Interweave Knits, Fall '03).

As I was trying the sweater on again this morning, K walked in and said "Wow, that's nice." Which was gratifying, especially since this sweater is tied together instead of being properly sewn and has a partial ball of yarn and numerous loose ends hanging off it. At this point, I think I can see it all coming out ok. Let me tell you what I've done with it so far. This photo was taken this morning, after I reknit the yoke.

I was able to get into the sweater, and was encouraged. As you can see, it sat an inch or two too high. The neckline was higher than I'd like, the division between the yoke and the body should rest about an inch or two lower, and the armholes were too high.

I ripped the yoke out to the cable crossing that lines up with the garter ridges, the one in the sleeve and side cables. I've had some thoughts about those ridges, explained here:

The cables that start above the garter ridges in this first version were cabled too soon, but that's the only way the crossings would line up. About those ridges--what you see here follows the pattern instructions. Of course, I'm not using two different colors, so my garter ridges are monotone. Also, I am continuing the side cables up the body and the sleeves, so the garter ridges are only used to divide the center three yoke cables from the body. Now that I've seen how they look knitted up, I've decided to eliminate the second two ridges. I'm starting the knits and purls for the cables earlier, so that they have the proper length before the cable crossing, thinking that this will eliminate those puckers in the garter ridge.

Once everything was ripped out, I measured the beginning of the yoke and found it to be 44" . My shoulders are 42", so I think that it might work. I just need to space out my decreases more. To do that, I'm knitting more of the chart before decreasing and more rows before cabling. Just in case that's not enough to give me the extra inch or two, I've switched to a size 8 needle (I was using size 7, and getting gauge, but the cables throw the gauge out of wack.)

This is how the yoke looked after being mostly done. I have just decreased to a 6-stitch cable following the 7-stitch cable crossing, with 3 purls between each cable.

Switching to a size 8 needle made a big difference, as did spacing out the cable crossings. The yoke is much larger now, even before blocking. I am just hoping that blocking doesn't make it too big.

The sweater sits better on me--the armholes are low enough that I don't feel them, but high enough that I worry how they will feel when the sweater is sewn together and I try to raise my arms. I am concerned that blocking will make the top too loose, so I've undone the bind-off and put it back on the needles in order to add one more cable crossing, about 6-8 more rows. This will tighten up the neck some and lengthen the yoke a little more. I hope it is not too much, but I can always rip it back out if I don't like it.

Here, the multiple garter ridges are gone. Notice how that's not a focal point now. That's a relief. I think the front cable transition looks smoother now.

The sleeves end at my elbow now. All that's left is to remove the 'provisional' cuffs and finish the sleeves. I have enough yarn to do this and will probably cut the cuffs off today after I finally finish the yoke.

I left the cuffs turned down for these photos, because I think it represents a decent sleeve length. With the sweater sitting lower, the cuff will end just above my elbow. Yes, I think that's where I'd like the sleeves, though I wouldn't object to longer ones if I had the yarn.

This project has taught me a lot about yoke sweaters. I think I like them on me, and now that I understand more about the construction, I plan to make another one soon.

One thing about this one--the yoke decreases are evenly spaced. That means I can't have a lower neckline without having one that is a little too wide for my shoulders. I have seen at least one yoke pattern that have more decreases similar to a raglan, but I wonder if there are any that have decreases that produce a scooped neckline. That would have been my preference here. Even decreases all around don't do it. After all, seen from the top, I'm not round, I'm a rectangle.

Enough of the green sweater for now, though. I'll take another week or so to sew it together and take final photos. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a little shoulder action.

Edited to add: This was an absolute obsession for me. I just finished the cuffs. If I sew it up tomorrow, it will be a 12-day sweater. That says something for project monogamy. Although I wasn't completely monogamous. I've started the Citrus Yoke Pullover from the Winter IK. When I say I want to knit another yoke sweater, I mean it!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Knitting Diminishing Cables continues

The knitting of the Annie Modesitt design, Diminishing Cables (Interweave Knits, Fall 2003) is moving quickly. Here's how last week's knitting went: Monday and Tuesday, knit the front; Wednesday and Thursday, knit the back; Friday, sleeve one; Saturday, sleeve two; Sunday, started the yoke. This is unprecedented speed for me. I'm astounded. I attribute it to either project monogamy or the ease of knitting Karabella Aurora 8 on Bryspun needles, size 7.

I've explained my modifications on the front in my last entry. I'm continuing the detailed documentation of my modifications here:
I didn't change the back, except for decreasing two stitches in the middle stockinette portion right after the ribbing. I placed these decreases at the beginning and end of the stockinette, right after and before the purls before the side cables. On hindsight, I should have only decreased one stitch, since that would have left the correct number of stitches (45) for three repeats of the cables that start in the yoke. I decided on 9 stitch cables with 3 purl stitches on each side for a 15 stitch repeat. This decision helped me decide what to do with the sleeves.
I used a k3,p3 ribbing for the sleeve. My big question was: how long? How long could I make the sleeve and still have enough of the green yarn left for the yoke? I thought the best thing to do would be a provisional cast on. Then I could take it out and knit down from it to make the sleeves longer if I had yarn left over.

Of course, I was still thinking I might use some of the Kathmandu yarn for the yoke, since I had no idea how much of the Aurora 8 I'd have left after I finished the sleeves and body. I thought, what if I knit a contrast cuff as my provisional cast on?

You see, I might keep it. It would tie the sleeve visually to the yoke if I knit the yoke in the Kathmandu. I was really hoping that I might just use the Kathmandu to put an applied i-cord around the yoke, wherever I ran out of green yarn. Something to keep the neck from stretching out too much--a little strip of golden brown tweed yarn, around the neckline, perhaps with a tie in the front or over one shoulder?

And then the cuff, ribbed 3x3 and split. You see, the rustic tweed yarn adds a casual touch to the sleek cabled sweater.
At least that's how I'd write it up if I were composing copy.

You can see in this photo how the ribbing flows up into the cable, a feat I accomplished by simply cabling the knits to the center over the purls, putting 9 knit stitches together with 6 purls on either side before the next 9 knits. This will flow into the 9 stitch cable I will start at the yoke. Below you can see the cable which runs up the side of the front, but then everything gets all distorted because the sweater is still on the needle, as well as on my arm...
On my arm a little lower than it should be here. The sleeves at this point are about mid-bicep length. Since I started there, I wanted it to be at least 10" around. I cast on 45 stitches in the Kathmandu, then increased it to 51 before changing to the green Aurora 8. I went through some terribly picky manupilations to get the split aligned opposite the seam, but a little towards the back. It had to be differently aligned for the left and the right, resulting in much ripping of the second sleeve. At least I didn't have to knit a third one!
Details: The sleeve begins with51 stitches, in 3 x 3 rib, ending and beginning with k3, to make the seaming easier. I increased every fourth row on either end, adding knit stitches to get to 65 stitches when I had 4 inches of sleeve. Then I began the bind off for the armhole, but first I moved the knits and purls around to get a p3, k9, p3 arrangement in preparation for the cables. After the bind-off I had the magic number of 45 stitches needed for the three cable repeats. I thought I would have one extra stitch on each side (totalling 47), but instead I had two. The extra stitches are needed for k2tog's at the joins of the sleeves and the body. I just did extra k2tog's to eliminate the extra stitches.
If I consider the cuff merely a provisional cast on, I'll be able to knit downwards and make the sleeve longer. I'll knit a few inches then start decreasing. I don't think I'd want the sleeve less than 40 stitches, though, even it I had enough yarn to make it full-length. So what's your thoughts? Should I


I'd like to, since I feel that will be the general recommendation. I know I went out on a limb combining these two yarns, but they were there, and I couldn't resist playing around with them. I have now, on Monday, finished knitting the yoke. I followed the pattern instructions, with only one major modification. I stopped after I had decreased the cables from 9 stitches to 4 stitches. I would prefer the neckline end lower, and I don't care for 3 and 4 stitch cables anyway. They are too dinky for me.

The good news is that I have nearly two balls of yarn left. I was hoping to use these to extend the sleeves. However, the yoke is sooooo small. No wonder I've used only a little over 700 yards of yarn thus far. I know the front grew a couple of inches in every direction when I blocked it, so I'm wondering how much the yoke will relax once it hits water.

You can see in this photo the difference between the back and the front. The front (on the bottom) was blocked; the back was not. See how the front is a couple of inches wider on each side? Translate that out, and the sweater can grow by 25% after blocking.

I decided not to make any more decisions until I know what blocking will do.

There she is, all stretched out. I will be most surprised if it comes anywhere near to fitting after it is dry. I really think the cables draw the yoke in too much. That's a lot of cables.
Here's what I plan: if a yarn miracle occurs and it fits, I will take the Kathmandu off and extend the sleeves as long as I can with the yarn I have left; if as I suspect, the yoke is too small, I will rip it out and reknit it.
Rather than adding stitches, though, I think I will just decrease the number of cables. I'd like to try leaving out half of them, replacing them with plain stockinette. I'd still decrease in the stockinette, and I'd keep the cables at the central points--the center of the front, back, each sleeve, and the four that continue down the body.
Then the question left will be--will I have enough yarn to extend the sleeves, or does the Kathmandu stay as the cuff?
I'll add one final thought, or argument here--the neckline looks rather unfinished as it is. It maybe just needs a little strip of golden brown to finish it off.

*grin* I know, the color combo is yuck. I've got lots to ponder while Diminishing Cables dries. I'll probably cast on something else. I hope a new project doesn't distract me from this one, though. I'd be awfully happy if I set a record for me and finished this sweater in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Aurora 8 & Kathmandu yarn?

I've got a couple of small batches of yarn lying about. One is Karabella Aurora 8, in a rather vibrant green. Lovely soft yarn, the very last from a sale at my lys (60% off!). I love the feel of this yarn; can hardly believe that it is wool. It knits up so easily, I can knit for hours without any pain. It does get overly twisted and I have to let it unwind after almost every row, but that's the only complaint I have so far, except that I've only got about 900 yards. At a gauge of 20 st/4", it looks pretty, cables nicely, but really isn't enough for a full length, long sleeved sweater.

I have looked at some short sleeved sweater patterns, such as Dahlia from Knitty (too young) or Delphine from Magknits (too complex) or Sunshine (long sleeved, but I could change it, since the sleeves are knit top down). They represent the practical approach. Am I interested in being practical? I suppose not, since if I were just seeking to clothe myself, I could buy a nice shirt or sweater for the money I spent on this yarn. Instead, as I've said before, I like a challenge.

I'm considering the challenge represented here by the Diminishing Cables pattern, Annie Modesitt's contribution to the Fall 2003 Interweave. While I don't like the overall look of this sweater, I am fascinated by the unconventional design. The theory behind it is to make the increases and decreases the central design element by placing them in cables rather than in the purls between the cables. I like this idea, and am hung up now on the challenge to alter the design to produce a sweater I do like.

At first glance, I thought it was the colors that I didn't like. I changed it to a black and white photo, but it made no difference. I think it might be the fit. For one thing, the sleeves are huge. See those gathers? Even the shapely model can't fill them out. I know my skinny arms won't.

I have questions about the fit in the yoke, but I'm beginning to see that the cables require a lot of stitches per inch. The pattern uses a few rows in a 'transition' pattern, combining the two colors, which I'm not crazy about either. There's nothing wrong with the concept, but I just don't like the colors together. I'll have to devise some other means of 'transition.'
Another thing is that I don't think the cables in the body add anything to the design. Instead, they fight for attention with the cables in the yoke. I swatched them for a few rows (you can see them at the bottom of the green swatch above), but switched to a simpler cable when I saw that they required a lot of effort, stitch-wise, for little effect.
I like the cables in the yoke. I've swatched them here in some Queensland Collection Kathmandu Aran tweed. This is a pleasant yarn, with a soft feel for its wool content. It is somewhat spongy, though, almost squeaking as I knit it. I was thinking it would make a nice aran sweater, but I have doubts now that I've knit a bit with it.

I have four balls of this, and tried, but can't get more of this color--it is an older color. However, it is the same gauge as the Aurora 8, and has little green flecks in it. Hmmmm?

You know what I'm thinking, don't you? Together, the Aurora and the Kathmandu might be enough to make this sweater. The big question is -- can I work out a simpler, more appealing design?

And, honestly, I wonder-- can I stand to wear these two yarns together? Also, I must admit that the fact that there are NO projects with this Diminishing Cables sweater on Ravelry, and NO mention of it in blogland is discouraging. Do I really want to knit a sweater that no one but me likes?
It wouldn't be the first time. :D

With these thoughts in mind, I've begun the sweater. The knitting goes very quickly in this yarn. (I am subbing worsted weight yarns for double-stranded, but I'm getting the same gauge.)

Here's what I've got after a couple of days of knitting:
My theory here is to link the two sections of the sweater together by using the same stitch pattern in each. I placed two cables on either side of the sweater, hoping I can join them with the two side cables in the yoke. Following the yoke pattern, I'm placing the shaping in the cables. However, since I was only able to decrease 12 stitches this way, I continued the bottom ribbing up each side to make the sweater more fitted. Mostly for my own record, here's how I did it:
Cast on 100 st. k4, p3, k4, p3, k4, p2, (k4, p3) 8 times, k4, p2, k4, p3, k4, p3, k4. Knit 10 rows in pattern, which is mostly k4, p3 rib. On row 11, change the p2 to k2, ending up with k10--this is the start of the cable. On row 12, cable 5 front on the K 10, and then change to stockinette between the p3 on either side of the cable (makes the middle straight stockinette). Continue in pattern, decreasing one stitch by p2tog on each row after you cable. The cable decreases by one each time, so that it is cable 5 over 4 front on the 10th row after the last cable, then 4 over 4 front, etc.

Continue the cables up the side, along with the ribbing, and decrease the cables to x total stitches every x row. Meaning, the next one will be a 8 stitch cable cabled every 8th row, then 7 stitches, then 6 and you cable it on the 6th row, decreasing down to 4 so that you have decreased 12 stitches total. Then you cable every 4th row three times, then start increasing until you are up to an 8 stitch cable, but you don't cable it, you bind off and decrease for the armholes, then on the last (ws) row you knit across the stockinette portion, making a purl ridge on the front. Put on holder. Make another.

Now I have a couple of options. The first one is to continue according to the pattern, using the Kathmandu yarn for the sleeve cuffs and the yoke. I'll have to decide what stitch pattern, if any, to use on the sleeves. I'm leaning toward plain stockinette at this point. If I start the sleeves and decide I don't like the mix of yarns, I think I might have enough of the green yarn to knit a short-sleeved version.

I've learned that the knitting is more interesting when there are design questions. I've spent almost as much time calculating, considering stitch patterns, and researching sweater sizing as I have knitting. Once I start knitting, though, I think about the next change I'll make and the knitting flies by!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Gaga Gatsby Girl Pullover

Stash? Busted! Those two skeins of Wool-ease sport that I couldn't give away (because I loved the color too much) and that hank of Toasty Toes that didn't want to be anything but socks? I beat 'em, beat them into submission and made them into a sweater.

It worked out pretty much as I had planned, yarn-wise. I'm startled that it took me soooo long, two months, to knit. Whew, but it was knit on size 2, 3 and 4 needles. Also, I fiddled with the Gatsby Girl pattern a lot, and that took time. I changed the stitch pattern in the body, replacing the 1x1 ribbing with a purl 6, knit 1 twisted rib. I knew I would go nutz trying to knit that much 1x1 ribbing English style, that my 1x1 ribbing is loose and sloppy looking, and that 1x1 ribbing would add bulk. The twisted ribbing was much easier to knit, neater looking, and--I'm not sure about the bulk. It is a tighter gauge and doesn't give as much as the 1x1. I don't think I can compare the two. I'm sure the 1x1, being more elastic, would have a more comfortable feel.

The cuffs were easy. When I first thought of adding cuffs, I decided I wouldn't be able to tolerate more than 5" of the variegated yarn as a cuff. I had two skeins of the Wool-ease, so I knit the back, set the remainder aside, and knit the front. Then I had two 'half' skeins left. I took one to the post office to weigh it. It was over half the weight of a full skein, so I knew I had enough to knit a sleeve to the pattern dimensions. I wasn't sure where such a sleeve would fall. As it turned out, it was a three-quarter sleeve on me, not the slightly-below-elbow length sleeve that I saw in the pattern photo. The sleeve ended about 5" above my wrists. I didn't think it was too flattering, and the hemmed edge made the bottom bulky.

I compensated for the bulk by picking up stiches just below the picot row, knitting down for the cuff, then turning up the hem inside the sleeve, covering the picked up stitches. This makes the sleeve overlap the cuff, and fills out under the sleeve hem. It also gives me the full-length sleeve I prefer. I had plenty of the Toasty-toes left for the cuffs. There were 525 yards in the hank, and I probably have enough left for a small neckwarmer.