I have my knitting schedule for the summer pretty much sorted, what with the Color Affection shawl I started last week and the summer Stripes Gone Crazy cardigan that is next on my list. I’ve almost reached the three colour section of the shawl, which is good because I’m already getting bored of the long garter stitch rows. The introduction of another colour should make it a little more interesting. I re-started on UK size 10 (3.25mm) needles in the end, it was far too loose on the recommended size 8 (4mm) ones.
Swatching for a winter cardigan
I’ve begun thinking about what I should knit after Stripes Gone Crazy. What I really need is another cardi, a thick one that will fit over lighter sweaters to provide extra warmth on cold winter days. I can see it in my mind’s eye – it is boxy in shape, quite short, interestingly textured and fastened with just a single button at the neck. The colour is fairly pale, the better to show off the fancy stitchwork. Raglan sleeves and no collar would probably be best to avoid bulkiness, as it will be a layering piece. I’ve been looking for a suitable pattern for a while, without success. This may be the stimulus I need to design my own garment from scratch.
The cardigan I can picture has a few cables stretching part way up from the hem, on a background of reverse stocking stitch. I’m not sure yet whether the back will have the same cables, but the sleeves certainly will. I fancy a few bobbles too but, if I put them on the back, it may make the cardigan a bit uncomfortable when leaning back in a chair. On the other hand, a plain back would be rather dull.
I’ve knitted a swatch or two to try and home in on how the cable panels should look. This is the one that comes closest to matching my expectations so far. It needs some tweaking yet; I’m going to place the twists in the central cable in the middle of the diamonds rather than towards the top of them, and reduce the size of the bobble. I also need to find a neater way of ending the cable panel at the top where it runs into the reverse stocking stitch.
Placing the bobble was a conundrum. The 2×2 cable running down the centre of the panel dictates an even number of stitches. So how to place a bobble centrally? I just created an extra stitch in the preceding wrong side row and then decreased it in the next wrong side row after the bobble. It seems to have worked, although I’m probably breaking some arcane rule by doing this and the Aran police will be after me. The fact that it’s impossible to decrease a single stitch centrally annoys my sense of symmetry, but the decrease is hidden under the bobble so no one will know that the top part of the panel is ever so slightly unbalanced. Not if you don’t tell them anyway.
I’m going to alternate these diamond and twist panels with a classic Aran pattern that I have seen referred to as Hollow Oak. I have knitted similar combinations of moss stitch-filled diamonds with bobbles in umpteen sweaters over the years without knowing what it was called. Somehow I doubt that the name Hollow Oak came from the Aran Isles, or anywhere else on this side of the Atlantic, it sounds too American, but I’m calling it Hollow Oak in the absence of any Irish alternative.
The cable panels will draw in the fabric a little and I’ll need to allow for that in the stitch count. I plan to make this cardigan in a chunky (bulky) yarn. I don’t want to spend a lot on yarn for a cardigan that may not turn out as well as I’d like, so I’ll look out for some thick yarn going cheap – now should be the right time of year for winter yarn bargains. A 50/50 wool and acrylic blend would do the job, the yardage will be better than for pure wool and it won’t be too heavy despite being quite a bulky, loose cardigan.
Once I have some yarn I can design the pattern to suit the tension (gauge) I achieve with it. As I have a loose, unfitted style in mind, there won’t be a lot of shaping to complicate matters. I intend to use the percentage method as first described, I believe, by the late, great Elizabeth Zimmermann, although I’ll check the measurements against an existing garment that is the size and shape I’m trying to recreate. There’s a Knitty article that explains how to use the percentage method for a raglan, bottom up design, and that will be my starting point. However, I may not knit it as an all-in-one garment because, depending on the softness of the yarn I end up with, raglan seaming might be advisable to provide some stability.