Fashion trends usually don't affect my knitting, for many reasons. Handknit garments are expensive, both in materials and the time it takes to produce one. A neglected project certainly faces the danger of outlasting any fashion trend. Long after fashion trended to the next fad, the project would be sitting unfinished. Fashion trends that look wonderful on the models frequently look odd on an ordinary person frequenting the usual places--shops, parks, cafes and small town streets. For knitting, classic is a sure bet. Fresh fashion trends are a risk.
All these sensible reasons ignore the facts that I love fashion and study fashion trends with passion. Fashion magazines and fashion-based tv shows have been a staple of my entertainment since I was old enough to turn a page or tune a remote. Now I follow fashion blogs and newsfeeds as well. For years, this fascination with fashion has fueled my passion for creating, first in sewing, then crocheting, and now that I finally have adequate time to devote to such an intricate pastime, knitting. Every now and then a trendy item will work its way into my knitting queue. Most times, though, the shops where I can try on trendy items are the recipients of my fashion splurges--as long as the item couldn't be hand knit.
I do try to stop myself from buying sweaters, at least worsted-weight knit sweaters, reminding myself that I have drawers full of sweaters. Instead, I use the lovely sweaters I see in the shops to motivate my knitting. Really, I find motivation everywhere, not just in the sweaters in the shops, or on the streets, or in magazines. I watch a lot of tv, even (shame) a daily soap.
To add fuel to my motivation, the soap I've watched for the past few years now has a fashion blog devoted to locating the source of the clothes worn by the cast members. That's where I found my latest sweater crush. This sweater was available at Piperlime for months, but it was really more than I'd pay for something I couldn't try on first. It gave me an idea, though, one that made me study the photos.
I had stashed silk ribbon I'd bought to knit the Printed Silk Cardigan from Interweave Spring, 2008. Though the yarn was easily acquired on sale, I postponed knitting the cardigan all this time because I didn't like the sleeves, or at least I didn't relish the prospect of knitting the sleeves in fine-gauge 1x1 ribbing. At first glance, I thought this stashed silk was the right yarn for a knock-off of a "tape-yarn" pullover. Once I studied the zoomed photos (sorry, they are no longer available and couldn't be saved), I saw that the original sweater is knit from a thick-and-thin cotton yarn. It has dropped stitches that give it drape and transparency. Once I realized it was so different from my silk yarn, both in weight and texture, I abandoned the project.
Then came deep summer, or as deep as it gets here in Colorado, and the afternoons were hot. Summer also brought me "Early Fall" Vogue Knitting, shocking me with a sweater that mimicked the vertical lines of the one I craved. #08 Lace Pullover by Julie Gaddy used a sport-weight alpaca/cotton yarn. It was just close enough in weight and drape to encourage me to try a swatch or two.
This first one was knit as plain stockinette with garter stitch rows to separate the different needle sizes, 3, 4, 5 and 6. After washing and drying it flat, I could see that size 5 needles produced the best looking stockinette. Then I dropped every 5th stitch to see if I liked a drop-stitch pattern. I didn't. In this lightweight yarn, the resulting fabric was too flimsy for a sweater. It would be fine for a scarf, but even then the stockinette stitches would probably slide around and disrupt the stitch pattern. I could see some distortion of the pattern in the Michael Stars pullover and expect it would be much worse in this yarn.
In this next swatch, I tried several stitch patterns, testing both gauge and appearance. The top one is the one used in the Vogue pattern. I found the holes really large in this yarn and kept trying to reduce them by using smaller needles. Lastly, I tried replacing the double yarn over with a single one. That was better, but still the holes are too big. I searched through my stitch dictionaries and found a faggoted cable. While I liked the appearance, I decided the fabric was too dense and the gauge too tight. It would work fine as a waistline or sleeve cuff accent, adding shaping, but it would give the simple sweater a busier look. In the end, I tried different methods of increasing into a single yarn over, coming out with a pleasing pattern with small holes and nearly the correct gauge. At last.
As a final test, I replicated my "in the round" gauge by knitting across each row, sliding the swatch across a circular needle and attaching new lengths of yarn. Although it still looked good, my gauge changed, predictably. It is a lot larger, almost a worsted weight gauge. However, on this small swatch, without the weight of the fabric to pull it in, I wasn't sure the gauge was accurate. Since I had settled on a stitch pattern, I decided to risk it, modifying the sizing instructions of the pattern on the fly if necessary.
Once I thought I had the stitch pattern refined, I began to study the construction. I liked it pretty well, liked the top-down construction, the wide neckline and the raglan sleeves, but the sleeves need to start a bit sooner and be a bit longer. Obviously, it needs to have a tighter fit and more drape to even be close in look to the Michael Stars pullover. However, the silk will add the drape, I can modify the pattern for a smaller size, and a little looseness will help disguise figure flaws. Since I am not built like Phyllis, or er, Michelle Stafford, a little disguise would be welcomed.
Will this work? Will I end up with a sweater I'll wear? I've gotten past the divide for the sleeves and body, tried it on a few times, and I like it. If you are a member of Ravelry, you can track my progress on my project page.
At least I haven't spent the entire summer scaling this wall of difficulties. The baby blanket is nearly done and has sparked a little offspring of its own. I'll be posting a dishtowel/cloth/blanket pattern soon, just to reward my loyal readers for sticking through to the end of this post! (There's a photo of the dishcloth in the blanket project.)