This fall, I chose to participate in Karen Templer's Fringe Association knit-a-long for a Cowichan-inspired vest. Karen selects a few people to participate in these projects, then interviews them regarding their experience. Since she's done two of these interviews so far, I'm using her basic questions for a "mock interview". Not that I'm so famous. I'm just happy to be inspired by Karen and the others in the knit-a-long.
Your choice of yarn was unusual. Tell us about the yarn and the resulting fabric weight and character.
Last year, the shop manager of our local wool mill brought five hanks of wool to the Taos Wool Festival for me. I had asked her to bring any remaining hanks matching some I had bought earlier, hoping what she had left would give me enough for a sweater. I didn't expect her to also bring me something new, but she insisted I'd like it, saying "It's CVM." as her explanation. It turned out to be a bulky yarn, so I had just let it sit, not having a project for it. This knit-a-long offered an opportunity to use the yarn, combining it with some other bulky yarn I had left over from other projects. It wasn't the best choice for this project, since it was a plied yarn and a single would have produced a smoother fabric in the stranded portions. That was the only drawback, though. The weight was good, thick enough to not have to double-strand and the CVM (California Variegated Mutant) wool is soft to the touch and a pleasure to knit and wear. Additionally, since the mill produces a semi-worsted yarn, it has a nice rustic feel that, along with the natural color, is suited to the project. In the end, the unexpected yarn was a lucky acquisition. I'm so happy with the CVM wool that I went back to the mill and purchased some in a lighter weight for a sweater.
You also chose a different pattern than the one suggested. What aspects of your pattern choice appealed to you? Are you happy with your choice?
The primary reason I chose the pattern I did, which is another pattern by the same company, was the gauge. I wanted a smaller gauge so that I wouldn't have to double strand the yarn. The semi-worsted bulky yarn is heavy, with less than 100 yards per 100 grams. I was afraid that double stranding it would yield a vest that was heavier than I'd want to wear. As it is, the finished vest weighs nearly 600 grams, as heavy as most of my hand-knit sweaters. A secondary reason was that the pattern had a couple of smaller motifs that I liked, leaves and snowflakes. Now that I've seen finished projects with the large motif, I am a bit envious. I love how graphic and stylish those vests are.
What is the source of your motif designs?
Two of the motifs are provided in the pattern. The only motif I changed was the largest one. I replaced the squirrel with two motifs I found in other patterns. One is a graphic that reminds me of snow-covered roofs. The other is one of mountains that I modified to include a sunset, as an homage to the reputation of these New Mexican mountains. Though we have squirrels in the mountains here, they are more famous for their sunsets.
How did you handle the floats?
Again, I was lucky. Several years ago, I took a class in stranded knitting. It turned out that it was based on the Philosopher's Wool techniques. I've been using their method ever since and am fairly well practiced in it. For this project, I used a combination of weaving and floats, not weaving every other stitch, but not having any floats longer than 3 stitches. I also kept the floats in mind as I charted the motifs and avoided long floats as much as I could without changing the character of the design.
Did you make any other mods to the pattern?
I added a few stitches to make it larger. The gauge ran smaller than I anticipated and the bulky fabric needs more ease than I anticipated. I wish I'd added a few more stitches or been more consistent about using a larger needle for the stranded portions. For more details on my modifications, see my Ravelry page for this project.
What would you have done differently, now that you are watching the other projects being completed?
As I mentioned, I'd rather have used a single spun yarn. I'm curious about the collar on the suggested pattern, although I do like how the ribbed collar came out. I'd like to try the garter stitch collar so I could compare them. Also, I'd like to try the knit-in garter stitch button band, even if it is harder to switch from stranding to a single color. I'm holding off deciding until I see all the projects finished and evaluated, but I could be up for knitting another vest sometime.
I've really enjoyed this project and watching the others progress. Thanks, Karen, you are an inspiration!