Finished: Saddle Shoulder Aran Cardigan
-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.
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.
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.
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.