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Finished: Saddle Shoulder Aran Cardigan

The Specs:

-Pattern: Saddle-Shoulder Aran Cardigan, from Wool Gathering #63, by Meg Swanson.
-Yarn: Briggs and Little Regal (referred to as "Canadian Regal" on the SHP website).
-Skeins: A bit over six skeins in Forest Brown.
-Needles: size 8 circs and dpns for most of it, some ribbing on 5s and 6s.
-Buttons: La Mode style 29446.
-Start to finish: August 8, 2006 – February 20, 2007.
-For: Thunk. A belated birthday gift.

Thunk, on location in academia.

Where to start? I’m feeling positively verbose.

The Pattern: for those of you not familiar with the Wool Gathering series (originally written by Elizabeth Zimmerman; later taken over by Meg Swanson) the pattern is more of a detailed guideline for you to make your own version of the sweater (you choose yarn, gauge, stitch patterns, and so on). All the information you need is included, but you need to bring your brain and a calculator to the table. Maybe some graph paper too. It took me roughly a week to do the preplanning and swatching so it’s not an insta-start sort of pattern.

The Yarn:I used Briggs and Little Regal which is the yarn Meg used for the original sweaters. It’s a nice affordable workhorse-type yarn but it’s definitely a bit rustic. While I don’t mind picking bits of v.m. out of my yarn (in fact, I rather like the idea that they don’t process the heck out of it) I did find the yarn to be a little crunchy. It softened up some when I blocked it, but it still falls outside the category of “soft.” That said, I didn’t use a fancy wool-wash…I just gave it a quick dunk with a little of Thunk’s conditioner in the water.

No problem though…Thunk’s fine with the way it feels (we are talking about the guy who wears a scarf that he knitted himself out of Reynolds Lopi). However, if I had known how much time I was going to spend on this sweater, I probably would have splurged and gotten something a bit more upscale.

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backtastickness; frontastickness. (click for big)

Knitting in the Round Weirdness: I consider myself to be a fairly experienced knitter. I’ve knitted a goodish number of projects in the round and aran patterns are nothing new to me. However, this sweater unveiled a rather unsettling quirk in my knitting when I combined the two. My “filler” purl stitches on the right side of a motif are much tighter than the ones on the left side, causing all of my cables to migrate a bit to the right. Look closely, it’s there. I noticed this pretty early on but no amount of manipulation on my part made much of a difference. Blocking didn’t do much either.

For whatever reason this doesn’t bother me too much. For one thing, Thunk doesn’t care. That and it’s not something you notice immediately. I know that if I ever wanted to knit a sweater with similar construction I could eliminate the problem by knitting back and forth instead of knitting it in the round. This would also mean I could leave out the steeks, which would suit me just fine.

Steeking: The pattern includes instructions for a crocheted steek so that’s the one I used. I did refer to Eunny’s steeking article (in one of the latest Interweaves…can’t recall which issue) for a little more clarification. I got through the crocheting and the cutting with no problem but freaked out a bit once I’d actually finished the operation. Because seriously people…how DOES it stay together? Not to mention Ugly Ragged Edges. Yuck.

I calmed down some once I got the collar and button bands knitted on. I did some reading around and discovered that you can just tack down the edges with a running stitch which hides the ugly sticky-outy ends quite nicely (much simpler than my first plan which involved a large quantity of brown grosgrain ribbon). Strangely enough, once I got those ends hidden I stopped worrying about how it all stays together. So I’m ok now.

The only real issue I have with the steeking thing was the smaller second steek you cast on for after setting aside stitches for the neck. It’s such a dinky little thing that I really wish that I’d just eliminated it by knitting back and forth through that section instead of casting on new steek stitches and continuing in the round. Because really unless you have a steek fetish…not necessary. It’s less than ten rounds. I also harbor malicious feelings towards the second steek because (who knows why) my tension got sloppy and when I picked up those stitches for the collar I ended up with some gaping holes. Nothing some creative crocheting couldn’t fix, but still…not fun.

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Neck Issues: If there’s one thing I know it’s that one should Always Bind Off Neck Stitches. It keeps things nice and firm and Non-Stretchy. However, the instructions tell you to hold them on waste yarn until you need them for the collar. So I blithely ignored the little voices in my head and didn’t bind them off resulting in (you guessed it) a Big Neck. And, as we all know, the menfolk have a harder time getting away with the big neck look.

Since I’d already knitted on the entire button-band/collar combo, I just grabbed another crochet hook and crocheted one very firm row around the inside of the collar where the cast off round would have been. It took two tries (first time wasn’t firm enough) but now? Normal-sized neck. Hooray!

All that said...I loved knitting this sweater. There’s hardly any finishing (I even skipped the grafting in favor of a three-needle bind-off for the underarms) and if you splice in each new skein there are hardly any ends to weave in. I really like some of the smaller details that Meg threw in like the mitered collar and the twisted rib on the underside of the arms. Did I mention that EZ’s one row buttonhole is brilliant? It is.

Final Verdict: Thunk loves it. I love it. Feel the love.

Bonus Shot: Adam and Eve dig the sweater too.


Well done! And the model seems pleased as well . . . which is always a bonus. I love how we can always find the "issues" with our hand-knits, but no one else can unless you look really closely as the knitter points them out (never would have even thought about the filler purls). I am having issues with unintended steeking right now, so reading anything about the crochet method makes me breathe a bit easier but will kind of like Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet.

Wonderful!! It looks great - thank you for sharing all the details.

Oh, it's gorgeous, Elli!

That is so weird about the purls, but even I wouldn't have noticed.

Do you feel awesome? Nothing like finishing a big project, is there?

I'd say that his face says it all. Sweater love.

It's beautiful - or should I say handsome.


oh wow, I LOVE this! really beautiful work.

what a handsome looking sweater! he's a natural model, too! great work.

You are a knitting superstar! And I love reading the details. Great work!

Elli, you are a rockstar. The sweater is truly awesome--good fit, great knitting. If you had not pointed out the filler purl issue, I wouldn't have noticed it at all. Good stuff!

I love this sweater. It looks SO good! You're amazing!

Wow, you can tell that so much careful work was put into this! Great job.

Really gorgeous! Congrats!

So, I'm admiring your knitting (fantastic sweater by the way), and I get all the way down to the last sweater and I'm like "that looks like the Well House" - and I look at the other photos and then at your "about" - omg! You're in Bloomington! Me too! I've been lurking on your blog for like 8 months now - and I had no idea you were in the same town as me!

Awesome, my dear! I need to find B a sweater pattern he likes and WILL WEAR.. I told him he's gotta design his own.. hee hee.

What an accomplishment! It's an amazing sweater... now i feel motivated to knit!

It's a fine-looking sweater! I just read about a "Norwegian purl" that may help with your loose purls.

Great job, Elli! Thunk looks well pleased (and lucky you to have such a patient model).

Looks awesome! Good work. I love how the bigger cables kind of look like DNA (or do I just see DNA everywhere??)

Great job! It looks perfect.

Oh, it looks fabulous Elli! I want to knit like you when I grow up. Have I said that before? Well, this just reinforces that desire ;)

To echo everyone else: "beautiful!" "gorgeous!" "well done!" You did such a good job of this sweater, and I'm glad to hear that "Thunk" likes it! Congrats-- :)

Love it!

Oh my goodness! It looks amazing! And I can't believe you steeked...so scary.

I love that it is the sweater is so intricate, but still manly. Nice job!

Hey - that is a great sweater. Very academic hip. Your cables on the fronts of the sleeves remind me of a dna helix (which makes the sweater extra smart looking :)

the sweater looks fabulous!

oh, and i have the same problem with my cables. is that normal? i never noticed it before until i knit a cabled hat in the round. i didn't realize that knitting a cabled piece flat makes a difference! i'll have to test out that theory now...

Wow, beautiful job! This is a sweater to treasure for years. And it sure looks like Thunk loves it!

Wow, the long awaited sweater. It looks great!!!!

This is just beautiful, Elli. Congratulations on such a great-looking, great-fitting sweater.

Oh wow..what an awesome sweater!!! great work elli.

Oooo!! Totally worth the wait! Thunk is such a hunk! (don't tell my bf I said that)

that is one beautiful cardi! the cables look so crisp and perfect in that yarn. love the pics, too!

It is just a remarkable knit!!! Absolutely astonishing in terms of time, work and TLS it took!!!

Fantastic! It looks great on Thunk too. Thanks for all of the wonderful details on the process.

Thunk is such a great model!!! You are lucky you have a guy who will wear sweaters. Mine won't even let me knit him socks. Sweater is awesome by the way!

It looks fantastic!

Wow, Elli, that's gorgeous. Your knitting is always so lovely in your photographs as well. I have The Opinionated Knitter and have been throwing around the idea of a cardigan for DH for awhile now....there's a couple in there that are similar in construction. Now to find the time to write it all up.

Incredible work! Even more incredible is that you've got a man who will wear cables! (I can't even get mine to wear color!)

Wonderful, wonderful.

That came out amazing!!!! Looks like it will be well worn and well loved!

Congrats on finishing an amazingly handsome sweater!! I'm sure Thunk loves it, his face says it all. ;o)

Awesome photos and great notes. I love the crochet tip at the neckline - very smart. I would love to make this one for myself. On yeah, and Thunkie looks great - go Thunk!

Wow! beautiful work! Thanks for such a wonderful post!

I love all the cable-ing goodness! Job well done!

That sweater is Fa-A-abulous! And I love all the notes and stuff about the sweater. You make this "steeking" sound positively easy!

Wow, the Saddle Shoulder fits him like a glove... a very fancy, very cabley, very BEAUTIFUL glove.

This sweater looks amazing! You did such a fantastic job!

It's a beautiful classic sweater that fits wonderful and will last for a long time thanks to the rustic yarn. I use Briggs and Little for Boot socks for my husband who's a construction worker. It will last forever!

It just occurred to me, that this one will never make it into something like "the Museum of Kitschy Stitches" which is a relief since you've probably knit an heirloom!

Congratulations on a job well done! My man should be so lucky. He's still waiting on his plain old hoody sweater.

Are you coming to see Harlot in April?

What a great sweater! EZ is wonderful, isn't she? :)

It was fun to watch your progress as you worked on the sweater.

-can't wait to see what you'll knit next!

What a beautiful sweater! I've been blog-lurking for several months and yours is one of my favorites. Although, living up here in Purdue country, I'm not allowed to comment on the lovely surroundings he's modeling in. Ever been to Sheep Street Fibers, down there in your area? Neat yarn shop.

Awesome. Utterly.

GORGEOUS sweater! What an acoomplishment. Great notes and photos, too. Thank you!

That really looks fantastic on him! Great job.

Found your site through Zimmermania and it is beautiful!

That is very handsome sweater. The style is so knitterly and timeless. I don't see many men in close-fitting cables, but man, I wish I did. It's looks great on!

Thunk sent me the link to this after I'd expressed some interest in the fact that you were making him a cardigan. Oh. My. Goodness. It looks SO great! I hadn't even noticed the cable issue you mentioned until it was pointed out in the blog, and then I had to leeeeaaaaaan in and stare for a while. ... Nope! Still can't see it. ;)

You let me know if you ever start doing commissions. :D Beautiful!

i savored this post with my morning coffee.

It turned out so great. As if I needed any more motivation. I'll be taking your advice about the in-the-round stuff. I've been contemplating doing back and forth anyway since the knit purl ratio is pretty equal, and since the RS/WS helps me keep track of where cable crosses are more intuitively. You've tipped the scales.

Great work. And Kudos to Thunk for the creative posing.

Lovely sweater! There is a relatively easy way to solve the purl problem that you were having next to the cables (where one side seems wider than the other). Priscilla Gibson-Roberts discusses this in her book "Knitting in the Old Way" and says that the loose stitches come from the fact that a purl stitch takes slightly more yarn to make than a knit stitch. You can get around this by wrapping the yarn under the needle (as opposed to over the needle) when you purl. However, on the next row you need to work into the back of the stitch on the next row. I tried this technique on a cabled vest a couple of months ago and it worked wonders. The cables looked crisper than ever.

Congrats on the sweater!

Seriously gorgeous sweater. I am in awe. Amazing job.

Wow! You did a great job! It looks beautiful and I'm glad Thunk likes it. Congratulations!

That sweater is awesome! Good review, too. I love the color, the fit, the types of cables, the way it looks really cool with a bright green shirt. ;) That's totally how my fiance (still getting used to saying that) would wear a sweater I knit him...with something random and funky. Which is great! I don't have any plans to knit him a sweater in the near future though, it's all about nice things for me. =)

Let me be the millionth person to say that it looks wonderful!

Do you think that someone who has never knit a cabled sweater before could tackle that pattern? My dad asked for a cabled sweater for Christmas and I'd love to give him one that has a personalized design.

What a wonderful belated birthday gift. I love it, and it looks great on him. I like the location shots too, very artistic. You must be proud of such a wonderful knit that you created with much love and effort. I always think that if you make something for someone you love, it turns out much better.

absolutely great! my compliments!

It looks just amazing. Just. Amazing.

Stylin' It looks great; good job.

It looks great and the fitting too, the center panel looks the same as the urban aran but the rest is way more complicated, you did a beautiful job ahh and I love your shots!

That is one handsome sweater!

Very nice! I felt similarly about the neck steek on a vest I recently did. Just seemed silly really. Also, thanks for the crochet pointer for fixing a big neck...I've got one of those to fix soon myself...


Wow! You really did a fabulous job on this sweater - I am really impressed. The model wears it well, too ;)

aside from the fact that this sweater is STUNNING - a work of EZ-inspired art, i just looked at your bonus shot - i had no idea you lived in bloomington!


My names David, I'm a final year design student from Leeds, trying to design an aid to help arthritic people to knit for my major project. I was hoping that you, or maybe anybody that reads this who is interested could please take the time to visit my blog and comment me with suggestions or help.


Thank you for your time.

Best Wishes,

Awesome! Really, everything about this sweater is fabulous.

wow, i love it, love the pattern, love the color! gefeliciteerd!

Holey moley that is one GORGEOUS sweater!

Truly amazing -- what an accomplishment!

the cardi is truly inspirational and i am going for it. very soon. but i am experiencing the same thing as you with the left and right of the fillers. and it happens no matter which wool i use as i have done several swatches before i finally caved in and ordered skye tweed from the us.