Sunday, October 16, 2011

Trellis and Vine pullover, blocking effects

Here's a bunch of photos of my latest FO. Besides being braggadocious, these photos are educational, a study in both the effects of blocking and yarn substitution. I've long admired this pattern. The Trellis and Vine pullover calls for a dk weight alpaca. That alone was enough to make me consider knitting the pattern when it was published in the Fall 2009 issue of Interweave Knits, since I like alpaca so much.

However, alpaca is really warm. I already had yarn for an alpaca pullover. I doubted I would need two. For those reasons, I decided against knitting it in alpaca and put the issue aside--until I saw the designer's second version, in a merino, cashmere and microfiber blend. I never forgot it, and looked it up repeatedly on Ravelry during the past two years.

Each time I looked at the Ravelry projects for this sweater, I thought about possible modifications. I knew I wanted to use a yarn with more drape, but also worried that several of the projects reported problems with the lace at the bottom of the sweater. After reading through them, I still wanted to knit the pattern, even if I did have to work through some modifications. I thought about it, forgot it, looked it up, over and over again. Finally, I decided it might work for a batch of silk and linen yarn I had found on sale last year.

The 8 hanks of Tahki Sierra had silk for drape, linen for crisp cables, and just the right yardage.

This sweater is knit from the top down. After I worked through the yoke, dealing with the same bit of confusion reported by others in the lace section with careful reading and lots of stitch markers, I floundered. The first thing that bothered me was ending the cute cables at the raglan sleeves. I couldn't do it. I wanted to work them into a design for the body. I first concocted a cable of my own, recklessly throwing the lace pattern into the cable below the waist. I reasoned that it would blend with the lace at the hips. Altogether, it was too much--the hips were too big and used too much yarn.

Reassessing the problem, I realized that if it was big before blocking, it would be worse after. This wasn't an elastic wool. It was silk and linen. They both grow when blocked. I ripped all the way back to the yoke, shortening it by a full repeat. The unblocked sweater was all up in my armpits whenever I tried it on, but I continued to hope that blocking would bring it down.

Next, I found a real cable chart, modified it a bit, and used it at the sides.

I knit the sleeves first, working and reworking the shaping to narrow them. Thankfully, that left four full hanks for the body. After knitting a couple of repeats of the body, I found an error in the cable. Since I wasn't totally happy with my modified cable, I ripped back to the sleeve division again. I modified the cable pattern to mirror the two cables and continued them all the way down the sides, moving the shaping from the pattern's princess lines to the edges of the cable section. Since I could never work out a happy combination of the wider cable and the lace, I left off the lace edging, leaving a simpler design.

I knit the body to the recommended length, 16 inches from the bottom of the sleeve, a little over 23 inches total. I knit the sleeves until all of the one hank I had allotted for each was gone, but they were the recommended length of 18 inches, which usually works for me.

They hang down over my hands in this photo.

That's the effect of blocking silk and linen. The overall length is now 26 inches. Before blocking, the neck was higher and the yoke was shorter. The sleeves were the right length if they weren't rolled up. (The pattern requires a rolled edge.) The photo below shows the yoke of the sweater just off the needles on the top and the blocked yoke on the bottom.

Blocking, which in this case means soaking for a few minutes and drying flat without pinning, made the neck wider and the lace portion open up. The lace ended just at my shoulders before. Now it extends about a inch down my arms. Lace usually blocks out larger, but the yarn content increased this effect. The larger yoke slid the sweater down my body, making the armholes fit better and lengthening the sleeves and the body. Additionally, the entire sweater grew lengthwise.

The sleeves are down in this photo. In the first two photos, they are rolled up per the pattern specs.

I like the look. However, they are too long for practical wear. I'll see how the sweater changes after a few wears and washes before I decide if I want to rip the sleeves back a bit, roll them up and sew them down, hem them, or what.

Here's a final comparison, pre-blocking on the left. If blocking hadn't altered the fit, I wouldn't have wanted to wear this sweater. All that negative ease makes it too form-fitting for me. No comfort here--it didn't feel comfortable and I wasn't comfortable with the appearance.

After blocking, though, it has just the right slouch for me. The measurements were right at zero ease on the blocking board. Since there's a little ease now, I think it loosened up a little as it dried. It's much softer now, too, and that makes it very nice to wear. I just need to remember as I knit my next sweater that it will look much different after it is blocked.

I recently read another blogger's remarks about blocking sweaters as she knits them to test the fit. The link to her how-to post is below, along with the sweater links.

Inspirational Trellis and Vine on Ravelry
Even better, in Carol Feller's blog

How to block a sweater in progress

My Ravelry project page for T&V.

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