Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Symptoms of Startitis

On Christmas day, with a serious case of startitis and not wanting to wait for the yarn for my Squam sweater, I started a bulky vest from Vogue Knitting I had been eyeing for a while. The original was done with Rowan Big Wool which I have used for a couple projects and is nice, but doesn't come in the colours I was thinking of and would have been a little pricey.

So instead, I decided it was time to ravel my ultimate find at Goodwill--a bulky cashmere sweater.
I originally bought it for the wool, but since it fit well enough I wore it for a couple winters. The wool is soft and cushy and warm, but the high collar was a little irritating to my neck. So I knew I couldn't make it into something worn against the skin.

I also was kind of waiting for the perfect something to come along. Because, really, the sweater it was already knit into was pretty good as it was. But at some point on December 22, I decided long enough was long enough and started raveling...
I got about 550 grams of bulky weight cashmere and I have to say this was one of the most uneventful ravels I've ever done. I don't think I lost one inch of the yarn, and that is very rare. I was able to separate the pieces, then undo the ends at the end of the cast off, undo the cast off, and then continue all the way down to the beginning of the cast on. It was incredible.

The next day I started a swatch to try and get the gauge specified in the pattern. The needle size recommended in the pattern didn't quite work. I went up two sizes, then down one and none of them were quite right. (The last option fit the gauge but the look and feel of it was too loose.)

Then I realized that since I was planning to knit the pattern in the round, most of it would be purled and I was swatching by knitting and purling. Although I haven't noticed a big difference in my own knitting, there is often is a difference in the knit tension and purl tension. (Some people exhibit such a wide difference that they use a different size needle for purl stitches than knit stitches. Of course this only works for stocking stitch, but that's a pretty big percentage of knitting.)

So I started a new section of the swatch and only purled. At the end of the row, I would slide the stitches to the other end, leave a long loop at the back and purl the next row.
So I got a stocking stitch pattern (or reverse stocking stitch pattern, depending on the side) by only purling, which is what I was going to have to do on the pattern. And guess what...with the needles suggested by the pattern, I got gauge and the fabric felt right.

While I was knitting the swatch, I debated about the colour. I've always been a bit conflicted about it. Nice pale blue, or horrible off colour? I don't know. Troy saw me knitting the swatch and, without any prompting on my part, said, "You need to dye that a new colour." That settled it--I had to at least consider what I could  do.

The only option I was really considering was dying with Koolaid (yes, that's a real option). People are loving it because Koolaid is readily available, food safe, and needs no additional colour affixer (or whatever it's called). I considered it for quite a while and asked about it on Ravelry, but eventually decided to just knit the vest. I was never going to risk this bulky cashmere, and I didn't want to wait until I had learned on other samples. I had serious doubts that I could dye the whole lot the same and I really didn't want the vest to be made out of a multi-colour or multi-toned yarn. There is the option of dying the entire garment once it's knit, but realistically, that has even less of a chance of success. So I will be wearing icky blue and hoping for the best.

I've noticed lately that my cast offs are a lot better than my cast ons--it's easier to get the tension right for one thing--so I decided to start with a provisional cast on, and to finish the bottom of the garment later.
I used the crochet cast on and knit up from there.
Using a contrasting yarn not only reserves more cashmere for the garment (it's going to be close according to  the yarn requirements listed by the pattern), but also makes it easier to pick the crocheted part out when you're ready to knit those stitches again. I'm kicking around a couple ideas for how to finish the bottom edge.  (I can simply do a cast off row, knit a couple rows of rib and cast off, or apply another type of edging.) A lot will depend on how much yarn I have available.

The pattern is done from the bottom up with the front and back in separate pieces. I decided to do it in the round (hence all the purling). This also helped with the sizing because the medium size was just a touch small. By doing it in the round, four stitches will not get caught up in seams and with a gauge of 10 stitches/4" that will add more than an inch. Just what I needed.

With such bulky yarn, it was quick work to make it up to the armholes. Here's the back:
Here's the front:
The designer incorporated a nice touch that I had just learned about recently. Most cable patterns have you cast on the number of stitches you will need for the pattern and then the cast on edge is all stretched out because the cable itself pulls in where the stitches cross. The designer overcame this by casting on fewer stitches under the cable and then having you increase on the third row. It worked great. I'm glad to see Vogue did not edit this part of the pattern out. Sometimes I think things like this get taken out because people will think the pattern is "too hard" but I was happy to see it. (I might have forgotten to add it in myself--certainly I would have the first time through.)

Yesterday I finished the back up to the shoulder shaping. When I laid it all out to admire my work and see how it was going, I found a mistake. Gah!! Can you find it?
When you're ready to give up, you can look at the next picture...

The red arrows indicate the problem. The yellow arrows indicate the same part of the pattern one repeat before. I didn't cross my cables when I should have. And yes, you can say it looks pretty enough, but you lose the illusion of two intertwined ropes. So tonight when I get done writing this, I will have to rip it out, figure out what row I'm on and knit it back up.

It shouldn't take too long...

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