Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reverse Engineering

The first three weeks of September in Minnesota were warm and balmy. Those weeks were the summer we didn't have in July and August, and it was heavenly. Then, like Minnesota weather is wont to do, the weather turned on us and in one day we switched from capris and sandals to wool socks and jackets.

I began plotting ways to keep warm. There weren't enough hours in a day to knit. I needed warm sweaters and I needed them now!

About the same time, I started re-watching my Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs as a way of immersing myself in long story arcs (I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year). I began to covet some of Buffy's bulky knit turtleneck sweaters that she sometimes wore while patrolling the graveyards, and figured that would be a nice quick knit that would get me covered in wool ASAP.

As luck would have it, an email from WEBS arrived announcing a sale on discontinued yarns. I could get Cascade 109E (a bulky weight wool) for something like $3.99 a hank. In the meantime, I began designing a simple, but not too boring, sweater in my head. I looked through patterns on Ravelry for inspiration, but didn't find anything that was quite what I was looking for.

Eventually, I decided that I would make the sweater in a 2x2 rib, with maybe a simple rope cable going up the center and then splitting to run up either side of a V neck or possibly two simple cables that would run up the front, spaced so that they would land at the shoulders on either side of the neck front on either side of the neck. Perhaps with a turtleneck. After another compulsive check of Ravelry, I happened upon this number (Ravelry link)

It was exactly what I had been looking for, only with a great addition, which was the diagonal ribs at the sides. I had a fairly good idea of how they were probably worked, but I wasn't sure I was up to figuring out the whole sweater on my own. I wasn't confident of calculating the set in sleeves, plus maintaining the diagonal rib design element, so I figured I'd just buy the pattern.

Well. The pattern is from Rebecca Magazine, which is a German publication, which was not good news. Then I discovered they also print an English edition of the magazine (starting with the issue I wanted). Terrific! But the issue I wanted was from 2005. Not so terrific. It turns out it's still available (yay!) but with the exchange rate and shipping, it was going to cost me $22 to get it (boo!) Even sellers who have it here in the States want to charge $8 to ship it, which would still make it close to $20. For one pattern.

In the end, I decided to reverse engineer it, which made last week a lot of fun. First, I figured out how the diagonal ribs were done, which was fairly straightforward (increases at the edge to compensate for decreases near the cables, and in this case those increases are YOs), but it took some experimentation to figure out the exact decrease sequence and placement, as some decreases are single decreases, and one is a specific type of double decrease. And then I had to make it work with the cable crossings, as each set of decreases ends before the cable crossing row.

The back was a piece of cake up till the armhole, and that's where I thought I might have to experiment and rip things back, but things seem to have worked out okay. I worked the shoulders, using short rows that were wrapped and turned in purl columns, so I didn't even bother to pick up the wraps later, as they can't be seen from the RS.

Here is the back, unblocked.

Looks so skinny, doesn't it? I pinned it out to make sure it would stretch to the dimensions I wanted and it did. It'll relax a bit on its own once it's had a bath.

I really like the Cascade 109E. It's too bad it was discontinued, although, really, you can just double Cascade 220, which comes in a gazillion colors, and end up with pretty much the same result.

Other things:
This past summer, Nina asked me to knit her some gloves for fall. I made her some glittens (convertible fingerless gloves with a mitten flap) a couple years ago using Regia Silk sock yarn. She liked them a lot and wore them all the time, but she has since decided that she would prefer gloves that don't convert and that are made of thicker yarn. She wanted a cable on the back of the hand. She did not like anything I showed her. She is particular, but not terribly helpful about describing what she wanted, only eliminating things she disliked, which was everything I showed her.

Eventually, I pulled out my copy of Elsebeth Lavold's Viking Knits and found a cable that was unusual, but very cool. The S-hitch cable.

I swatched.

She liked.

I knit the gloves, the weather grew colder, and she took them. The thumbs are a bit wonky, but otherwise they're fine. I increased too many times for the gusset on the first glove, so I increased less on the second one.

Socks for the Sockless
Neither of my kids wears socks, unless forced to, such as when we're hiking up a mountain in Arizona and they're wearing new tennis shoes, and even then it's under a great deal of protest. While we're here at home, the idea that they ought to wear socks just because they live in Minnesota, where it's winter six months out of the year is just more crazy talk from their crazy mother.

Nonetheless, much to my surprise, Sophia has asked for socks. She asked, so she shall receive, although it may take a while.

She wants knee socks. Fancy knee socks, which she apparently doesn't plan on wearing in public, but just around the house. There was no talking her out of the fancy heel pattern, even though she has already told me that if she *does* wear the socks out in public, they will be inside her UGG boots. Since she now has feet and calves that are the same size as mine, I have agreed to her request with the small hope that she won't care about them in a year and then I can take them for myself.

Sophia has good taste. She chose a Cookie A pattern, Lissajous.

I have turned the heel, finished the gusset and am onto the straightaway part of the foot. With just two cables per round now and the rest in stockinette, I feel like I'm zooming along at Warp Nine, phasers set at fun.

Like many others, I fell in love with Jared Flood's Quincy pattern and I knit one up in the recommended Classic Elite Ariosa. It's a single ply bulky weight kind of like CE's Twinkle, only thinner and even softer. Both girls loved the softness (90% extra fine merino, 10% cashmere), and Nina looks great in this color, although she would prefer me to reverse engineer an Urban Outfitters cabled hat using the same yarn. And now Sophia wants a cabled hat, too, only in a different color than her sister.

In the meantime, I figured out how to downsize Quincy for a toddler, but using a DK yarn (Rowan's, maybe it's Cashsoft Baby? Not sure.) Ended up with more rows and stitches for this hat than for the adult version, but that's gauge for you.

I call it Quincy-ita

Oh, there's more stuff, too, but I'll save that for another post, shall I?


dclulu said...

Everything is gorgeous. Can't wait to see the finished sweater.

Julie said...

Surely the sweater will count as your "thesis" for whichever of the Master Knitter segments you're currently working on!