02 December 2011

A Rare Enthusiasm Has Struck

I'm wide awake, and my mind is completely occupied with being a verbose and angry queer, but really, there is this sweater, and I've been meaning to tell you about it all week, and since I'm up and typing, I figure I might as well bang this post out.

Well, there isn't a sweater, so much as there is some yarn and an idea.

And it isn't so much an idea, as much as it's a well-formulated plan that's been kicked about in my brain for, oh, two and half years now. The difference this time is, I'm actually excited about it.

It all starts with this completely other knitting project. I finished a lace shawl a few weeks ago (Vernal Equinox in Iskra). I needed a new project that wasn't the socks I'm inexplicably avoiding, and the mittens I made only kept me occupied for a week. I organized my stash, pored over the lace patterns I currently have access to, and settled on the Firmaments Lace Shawl in Lidiya. It was a little fiddly at the beginning (as it seems most circular shawls are), but since it starting filling out the center of the needle, it's been lovely.

The needles are my new favorites: my Addi Lace needles, size 4. I love, love, love my Addi Turbos, but the plastic cable in the lace ones means I don't have to worry about accidentally kinking the cable, like I do with the metal ones.

Of course, almost immediately after casting-on, I began thinking about this sweater.

Three years ago, during my last year at Oberlin, I bought this yarn. I had used another colorway to make my dad a scarf for Christmas, and had been drooling over the rest of the skeins since. When I graduated, my knitting circle companions presented me with a gift certificate to Smith's, Oberlin's yarn shop (and the site of our knitting circle). I took home the green and dark brown, made a swatch, having planned a simple colorwork pattern to be knit up on 5s and 6s. When I got home to Minnesota, I bought a couple of other colors (the tan and orange) to supplement my yardage.

The plan was to knit an Elizabeth Zimmerman seamless yoke sweater. I swatched and started knitting.

Thankfully, reason stepped in (or rather, tried on the first few inches of the body), and pointed out that this yarn was 100% alpaca, and that alpaca tends to lose it's shape easily (and also that ribbing was a terrible idea and that I had cast on too many stitches). I decided 5s and 6s weren't going to cut it. I agonized for a long time. I had had, in the past, clothing turn out to be far less satisfying than I expected, and this project had some pretty high expectations. Over time, I became afraid that this yarn was doomed to be a disappointment. I set the yarn aside, and it sat for at least a year and a half.

So when I was struck with this sudden optimistic enthusiasm to pick this project back up, I knew I needed to jump on it. The only problem: I had decided, for shape-holding purposes, to knit the project with more colorwork and on a smaller needle. I knew I couldn't take the needle size down too far, but I had settled on 3.5mm circulars.

Which is a US 4. Precisely the needles I had just used to cast on a 1700-yard shawl.

Clearly, as most knitters know, the answer was to buy a new needle. I went to the local yarn shop by work, and inquired about the Addis they had in stock. Sadly, they were low, but they told me they expecting a shipment soon. I came back the afternoon of the shipment (last Thursday), but was disappointed. At the weekend, I found another shop that carried some cheap circular needles, which will suffice. I brought them home, and knit (and blocked!) myself a swatch.

I'm still waffling a little on the size, since I'm aware that the parts with colorwork will have little give, and the parts without will have a lot, which means I haven't cast on yet. I've mostly been doing a lot of math and calculations and rewording the pattern.

I'm inverting EZ's technique for this one. Since the smaller needle size and increased colorwork has me worried about running out of yarn, it seems the logical answer is to start at the neck, instead of at the hems, and we'll see how long the arms get in the end, and how much detail we can insert on the body.

The plans as they look now: Here are the several-month-old Excel colorwork sketches. It's not exactly what I'll knit, since I haven't checked their compatibility with various stitch counts, but it probably won't be too far off from this:

PS. These are definitely adapted from an Alice Starmore pattern book.


Barb Nelson said...

Dude, you can totally do this! Go kick some sweater butt. (And that lace shawl is amazing - I bow down to your awesome lace knitting skills.)

MJ said...

This is really brilliant and very beautiful stuff. Amazing colours. MJx

MJ said...
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