Based on a True Sweater

Jan. 31, 2007

"Based on a True Sweater"

I've used that tagline for my blog since... since I started blogging, I think. (...which was in 2003 - my archives lie.) I don't think I've ever said anything about it.

It's basically a comment on how I knit, and how I use knitting patterns. I don't think I've ever knit a sweater exactly as it's written in the pattern. I do collect patterns, but I use them as starting points for projects, and sometimes you'd be hard pressed to figure out what pattern was the inspiration for something I knit.

Two recent knits are good examples of my knitting MO. They are both based on patterns I found exciting and inspiring, and you'll probably recognize both patterns if you are familiar with them.

One note: sorry for the crappy photos, they are the best I have been able to get. As you can plainly see, I fucked around with them in order to show as much textural detail as possible. Please do click for big.

The first sweater is based on the Dewdrops Pullover from A Gathering of Lace. The original sweater is... very much not to my taste, let's say. I hate the white angora yarn, the picot hems, the small neckline, the fussy body pattern, and the baggy shape. The yoke pattern, however, is gorgeous.

I worked the sweater in Jo Sharp Classic DK Wool, in Brocade. This yarn is probably #2 in my Top 3 Favourite Yarns list. I altered the chart slightly and worked 8 repeats insted of 7, to achieve a larger neckline. I messed around with the numbers in the pattern so much that the chart is about the only part of the pattern I used. The body of my sweater is cropped and fitted, incorporates underarm gussets, and is shaped with both yoke and bust short rows.

There are a few things I will do differently if I make a sweater from this chart again (which I will likely do). At first, after I finished this sweater, I was unhappy with some decisions I had made. I planned to rip parts (most) of it. However, after letting it sit on my shelf for a few weeks, I took it out, figured out the right way to wear it, and have found that I love it very much.

I you are so inclined, you can see another photo of this sweater here, taken before I blocked it.

I really love wearing seamless sweaters. They feel amorphous and cozy and wonderful to slip into, then they settle onto your body and embrace and comfort and warm you. They feel totally flexible and accommodating, and never binding or restrictive. I don't mind the sewing-up part of making a sweater, I used to really enjoy seeing the pieces come together. There's nothing like wearing a seamless sweater, though, and I love the elegance (and sometimes the challenge) of constructing one.

The second sweater is the Bubble Pullover from Norah Gaughan's thrilling, beautiful, inspiring book, Knitting Nature. When I saw this sweater in the book, I knew I needed to make it, and I needed to make it in Rowanspun DK (it has the perfect drape for this shape!), and it needed to be navy blue ("Drizzle"). (I almost never make anything blue. What is happening to me??)

(click me!)

Rowanspun DK, by the way, is #1 in my Favourite Yarns list. Well, the whole Rowanspun line, really, but the DK is just about perfect in my eyes. Also, the actual colour is much darker than shown here, I just lightened it so you could sort of see what the hell is going on.

Some of the changes I made:

1. Both my stitch gauge and my stitch:row gauge ratio with the RSDK were completely different from the gauge in the pattern, so I had to recalculate the pentagon shaping.

2. I used a provisional cast-on for the pentagons, so the sweater is totally flexible in every direction. The pentagons themselves are not outlined at all, only the radiating decrease lines are visible.

3. I used centered double decreases, instead of paired decreases, to shape the pentagons.

4. I incorporated shaped gussets into the side pentagons to give me the lower edge and armhole measurements I wanted.

5. I worked short-row neckline shaping with shoulder "seam" decreases, then hemmed the neckline.

6. I worked short-row sleeve caps, then ended them in cap sleeves. I was originally planning to work long sleeves, but after several false starts, Susie convinced me to stick with short sleeves. It was the right choice.

And, I shortened the lower ribbing and omitted the side buttons.

This sweater was so exciting to knit, I can't remember another I've enjoyed more. I am completely engaged by Norah Gaughan's explorations of polygons. I have planned at least one more sweater based on this pattern, and several more from that chapter of the book, and several from the Hexagon chapter, and of course I can't wait to adapt her pattern from the cover of the current Vogue Knitting. Then there are the rest of the Knitting Nature chapters...

In case you care, my #3 favourite yarn is Noro Kureyon.


At 5:53 a.m., Blogger Leigh said...

I love that you always make, and alter things to look fabulous on YOU. You're so in tune with what suits you.

At 6:24 a.m., Anonymous Rachael said...

Gorgeous -- both look SO great on you.

At 7:10 a.m., Blogger Brenda said...

mandy, that dewdrop is stunning! and i love how you wrote about how a seamless sweater fits. again, you take the everyday and make me see it in a much better light.

At 9:11 a.m., Anonymous Wendy said...

Hey happy belated birthday!

Yay for snuggly sweaters!

At 9:16 a.m., Blogger kat coyle said...

Good job. They look fantastic. I agree with you on the dew drop sweater. Its like I can finally appreciate the yoke. It is beautiful! One of these days, i want to make the starfish shawl (is that the name of it?) from Knitting Nature. I love love love that book.

At 2:07 p.m., Blogger Susannah said...

nice post, mandy! it's really fun to see into the mind of a masterful knitter like this. i have been trying -- and failing -- to invent my own sock pattern derived from something else and i am in awe of your ability to use patterns merely as loose inspirations.

At 3:22 p.m., Blogger Rachael said...

I've always loved your tagline.

Excellent entry. I'm interested to read about your 'creative knitting process".

At 3:23 p.m., Blogger Deb said...

Oh- you do good work. You truly do! I am a big fan of "the gusset"-asss in the sweater I designed for Big Girls- but I have been playing with gussets and making them into inverted pleats with bobbles on the top! I have a picture of one on my blog-very girlie for me- but I do like it. I am certainly itching to try your take on seamless sweaters. Thanks for the inspiration!

At 10:37 a.m., Anonymous Ande said...

Holy cow! Those are amazing! I'm always amazed at how you modify and change patterns. I'm still a little chicken but you're such an inspiration! I'm working on the pentagon sweater from VK and am enjoying the heck out of it! Reading this makes me think I should have done a provisional cast on though...oh well, I like it so much I'll knit it again!
ps-I'm off on Fridays for a few more weeks. How about a daytime get together?

At 9:50 a.m., Blogger knitphomaniac said...

I'm the same way too, with my knitting - ever since the beginning, even with my very first knitting project, I've found myself modifying from the original pattern. 90% of the time, it turns out great! :)

Mind you, I'm not a huge sweater knitter. I like anything where I can commit to 3 skeins or less. (I've a very short attention span!) But modifications nonetheless. I've the satisfaction of knowing that, by doing this, no two knits will ever be exactly the same!


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