Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The New Project Dance

Two steps forward, one step back.

I have trouble following actual patterns. (Doilies excepted, for some unknown reason.) This means that I usually end up designing my own stuff. I choose the yarn, some likely needles, do some swatching, and so on. I have a few ideas about what I'm trying to do. I take the info from the swatches and draw up a bunch of different ideas.

Eventually, I narrow the possibilities down to what I think I really want to do. And then I cast on. After a few inches, I evaluate. Do I like it enough to continue? If so, then I commit to the project and keep going. If not, then I rip and go on to Plan B.

I did a lot of ripping and re-doing this week. I have several possible sweaters planned out on paper, using different batches of yarn. The swatches seem reasonable. However, when I started the actual project, I changed my mind after a few hours of knitting.

As I wrote recently, ganseys have been on my mind lately. I'm pretty sure this next sweater will have a gansey-style shaping. It will be knit in the round. At the armholes, I'll split the front and back and work them separately. I'll do something at the shoulders before knitting back and front together. Then, I'll pick up the sleeves and work them downwards.

Easy enough. But what embellishment shall I add to the sweater? What about borders?

The gray yarn I used for my last sweater does not show knit-purl patterns all that well. I liked the idea of doing a gansey with horizontal bands of reverse stockinette and basket stitch motifs, until I tried swatching it and realized that it wouldn't show up clearly enough. Vertical patterns do show up nicely. I came up with something I like -- columns of simple 2x2 rope cables, crossed every 4 rounds, separated by a couple of columns of ribbing. But then I started to dither. Perhaps I want to save the gray yarn for a round-yoke color-stranded sweater.

Now I remember why it's so hard to get started on sweaters for myself. Oh, well. I have two sweater concepts all sketched out and ready to go.

So, on to the next potential batch of yarn. This is about 1200 yards of bulky 2-ply Icelandic yarn. I love this yarn. It was spindle-spun from cloud batts that didn't draft very easily (which is why a friend gave the fiber to me). The yarn is thick and thin. It's wonderfully fluffy, since it was from a double-coated animal. It's mostly white, with a small percentage of reddish brown and black fibers. It has an interesting luster, a sheen almost like fresh cream.

I have another big batch of these cloud batts in black with a few white fibers. It's not as nice as the white batch. It's even harder to draft. The fiber isn't as soft. It's not all that fun to spin in comparison with the white. I've been slowly spinning it for years and still have a ways to go. It's ending up a lot more uneven than the white yarn.

I had initially thought I'd do a black and white color stranded sweater from the Icelandic. But instead, I think I'll knit a mostly-white sweater and use any remainders with the black yarn.

My first attempt had a crochet cast-on, a rolled hem followed by a couple of rounds of ribbing, and then stockinette with a wide staghorn cable panel in the middle of the front.

Bleh. I think I need to loosen up a bit on the gauge and I didn't like the bottom border.

I'm now on my second attempt. I've gone up in needle size, I did a plain old long-tail cast-on, and I'm doing a k1p1 rib for a couple of inches. I like it so far. Soon I'll need to make more decisions.

I still like the staghorn cable. It's a 20-stitch panel, with 16 stitches used for the cable and 2 purl stitches on each side to outline it.

Round 1, 3, and 5: p2, k16, p2
Round 2: p2, k4, 2x2 Z cable, 2x2 S cable, k4, p2
Round 4: p2, k2, Z cable, k4, S cable, k2, p2
Round 6: p2, Z cable, k8, S cable, p2

The Staghorn Cable is in Barbara Walker's First Treasury, in case I added some odd typos. She has it in V upward and V downward configurations, depending on which way you're knitting and which cable you prefer. I've used the V downward configuration before in a top-down Aran-style sweater.

The yarn is great fun to knit with. It's soft under my fingers. I like the slight hairiness of the outer coat of the fleece, which is where the color variations are. I like the fluffiness of the inner coat. I like the way the looser gauge allows both of these characteristics to be expressed. This is going to be a very cozy sweater once I figure out what kind of embellishment to add so I can get it done.

Option 1: Use the idea of a stockinette sweater with a staghorn cable pattern going up the middle of the front.

Option 2: Something else...

It's the Something Else that always gets to me.


fleegle said...

Funny, I just bought yarn for a gansey too for Roy. Same exact concept. Weird! am using a medium blue Australian Merino from Yarn Place--it's lovely stuff. Got the cables all worked out, just need to finish Lyra. Dropped a stitch today and will probably spend most of tomorrow fixing it. It's in a complicated area with a lot of ground. Bleech.

The Doily Underground said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Doily Underground said...

I wonder why ganseys have suddenly inflitrated the Group Mind? I hope we can read about your upcoming gansey project on your blog or on the mailing lists. Which cables will you be using?

Good luck with the dropped stitch in Lyra! How frustrating! I hope it turns out to be an easy fix.