Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tutorial: Decreasing into Cables

My aran sweater is almost done. I'm at the point in the upper body where the raglan decreases are eating into the cables. In a lot of sweaters, even ones in knitting magazines, you will see that when the point was reached when a full cable couldn't be completed, the knitter simply left a portion of the cable in stocking stitch. This is not a good look.
The solution? When there are insufficient stitches to complete the full cable, work the remaining stitches in something resembling the original cable as much as possible.

Example #1: my sweater has columns of OXO cables worked over 8 stitches. When there were not enough stitches left to "place 2 stitches onto a cable needle, hold them at the back, k2, then k2 from the cable needle", I placed 1 stitch onto the cable needle, held it at the back, then knitted 2, then knitted the 1 stitch from the cable needle. OK, I didn't actually use a cable needle (see here for cabling without one), but you get the idea.

Example #2: when the same OXO cable lost more stitches from the other side due to some neck decreasing, leaving only 6 stitches for the entire cable, I brought only 1 stitch from each side to the centre to close the "O" while still moving the original 4 centre stitches to the back.

What does the result look like?

In the above pic you can just catch the beginning of the neck shaping in the upper left corner along with the raglan shaping that's in progress on the right hand side. As the OXO cable is squeezed from both sides, some alteration in the manipulation of the cable was needed to keep it going as long as possible.
The result is an OXO cable that doesn't quite look like the original, but comes close enough to fool the eye into seeing an undisturbed column of cables. Much better than a big patch of stocking stitch in a sea of cables.
BTW, manipulating cables while working raglan decreases is relatively simple when you are working in the round, as I am with this sweater. It's easy to keep all the cables doing the same things as you work them all in one round, as opposed to working in pieces and having to check your previous work to see that you've made everything match. Cable on!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Aran Sweaters I Have Loved

I've been knitting and collecting knitting books and patterns for a long time. I started knitting when I was 6, and now I'm 60. The first sweater I made was in fact an aran, from an old Bernat book (the same one that Karen Templer used recently). As I knit the yoke of my own aran design, I've been poring over my book collection and thinking about some of my favourite arans. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Elizabeth Zimmermann's Fishtrap aran sweater/cardigan. There don't seem to be any really good pics of this anywhere, other than in EZ's Knitter's Almanac (the original edition and the updated one). The best I could do is to take a grainy photo of a page from the latter. It doesn't do justice to the garment.

I think it's the dense twisted stitch texture and the funnel neck that I love.

2. The shawl-collared cardigan from Madeline Weston's Classic British Knits, re-published several decades later as Country Weekend Knits.

You can't see the shawl collar here (if you look at my own designs, you'll see I have a fondness for this style), but you can see the gorgeous cabling. I think I still prefer the earlier edition version, which shows a shorter cardigan hitting around hip length.

3. Alice Starmore's aran pullover from her Fishermen's Sweaters.

This is a very '90s sweater, quite voluminous, and one that would never, ever work on my petite figure, but I adore the intricate textures and the deep collar. Note the the aran I'm designing for myself incorporates a version of the OXO cables you see above.
As an aside, I was fortunate to be able to take an aran class with Alice, and I won't be lending out my copy of Fishermen's Sweaters autographed by its author. It's too precious.
I should also add that it's sad that one rarely sees hardcover knitting books so lavishly produced anymore. I guess technology has changed the publishing business. Newer knitting books don't seem to have the quality photography, glossy paper, and coffee table quality that Alice's original books had. In retrospect, I think the '90s was the heyday of these high-end publications. If you have any '90s original hardcovers, treasure them!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Looking for Lopi?

A reminder that my Audrey Coat will be on sale for only three more days (including today). There's been a sharp uptick in interest in this design over the last week, as cooler fall weather approaches.

I don't know about you, but here in eastern Ontario, it's getting increasingly difficult to get one's hands on sweater quantities of Istex's Alafoss Lopi. Our yarn shops aren't ordering in new batches and the existing supply is dwindling to quantities inadequate for Audrey.
This morning I went online and learned that that old dependable supplier, Camilla Valley Farm, seems to have a good stock in hand. So, if you're planning an Audrey Coat, give them a call--it's the best way to order from them in my experience. Now, get knitting. I see that the overnight low for this Thursday is only 7C!

Monday, August 28, 2017


I'm almost up to the underarms on my bottom-up aran jumper, so this morning I put all the stitches onto a length of waste yarn and gave everything a bath in some Eucalan. Then I laid it out on a towel on the dining table on our deck. Warning: birds and squirrels, you are not invited to this party!

Using a tape measure, I carefully moulded the wet wool to the correct width. Not length--because my experience with Lark is that this wool grows hugely in length when wet, but somehow sucks itself back in as it dries.
You can see how much the aran cables have opened up. Remember, as EZ pointed out, aran knitting is nothing more than fancy ribbing. Like lace, aran designs are transformed by wet blocking. This step allows me to check that I have the length I want before embarking on the upper body, and to see that the knitting is really working out to my desired size.
I've already knitted the first three inches of sleeve.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Well, That Was Embarrassing

Have a really close look at the cable crossings in my previous post. Notice anything? One of them was not crossed correctly. I've circled it (rather faintly in red) below. It should have gone under, not over.

Unfortunately, I didn't catch it until a couple of inches later. Then, I took a deep breath, and with two small wooden cable needles I unraveled the one bit of cable down and re-hooked it back up correctly.

All fixed!

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Excitement Begins

After days of cabled ribbing, finally I've got launched into the more complex (and fun) cable patterns.
Here's my chart with my place marked using Knitpicks magnetic board.

If you work from charts at all, you need one of these. There are other brands out there, but I like this one because it folds up like a little book.
So much fun to see the chart getting translated into three dimensions.

Strolled down the street to historic Bellevue House to check out the kitchen gardens and orchard.

It looks as though the pumpkins are coming along nicely.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Aran Bible

If you're interested in designing aran sweaters, there's really only one book you need to have on hand--Janet Szabo's Aran Sweater Design. She covers EVERYTHING! For instance, I'm aiming to design a bottom-up raglan aran. Naturally, one gravitates toward EZ's percentage system, but how do you make that work when the body totals are much higher than they would be in stocking stitch because of all the cabling, and the sleeve is likely to have rather less cabling and more filler stitches? The answer: apply the percentage system using inches instead of stitch totals. Brilliant.

I'm done the extra long cabled ribbing (above) and about to launch into the serious cabling work. This is Quince's Lark in "Frost", not blocked yet and feeling oh so squishy!