The Fabulous Fantastic Yet Simple Nautical Sweater Story, Part 1
April 06, 2007
It’s odd how a sweater design is conceived, sometimes. I am currently working on a sweater design that I *hope* to have completed to hand out to passengers on the knitting cruise. Hopefully I will have it done for both the June and the September cruises... but we’ll see how it goes. I did not, however, wake up one morning and say, “Wow, I want to design a sweater today!” .... no. It came about in a far more basic way. You see, I had this yarn I needed to use up or get rid of.......
It came about as a result of the Knitting Weekends we just had. Victoria had wound many balls of Renaissance yarn for her class to use, and I told her to wind more than the required number in order to allow people to have a larger choice of color they would want to use. So she did. Unbeknownst to us, apparently no one wanted to knit cables in the most traditional aran cable color of all.... off white. We thought it might be the most popular color, because it is traditional, easy to see, goes with everything..... but no.
So when I finally came down out of the stratosphere of post-Knitting-Weekend excitement, I noticed the basket of off-white Renaissance sitting forlornly in the office. What to do with it? It looked so pretty. There were 6 skeins. Unwanted, unloved, pristine skeins. I could have put them in the sale bin. I could have pushed them in a corner for a couple years and forgotten about them. Yet my immediate thought was, I could design something for the boat and use up this yarn!
Six skeins was not a lot. Maybe enough for a baby sweater, but I am not reallly a baby-stuff knitter, let alone designer. Maybe if I liked babies more, I would be, but in my experience they produce a good amount of bodily fluid in various forms, and they make a lot of noise when people are trying to sleep. They are harmless enough, I suppose. Please don’t send me hate mail ... I do not hate babies. I just eschew them. Luckily we had 4 more bags of this off white Renaissance stored downstairs, and I started thinking about the cabled sweater I started designing with Renaissance a year or two ago, but abandoned because basically the stitches I wanted to use together didnt like each other much. I brought the bags of yarn up and tried to see if they looked like the same dyelot as what I had (the tags, of course, were missing.) Sigh. Even in dim light I could see it was a different dye lot.
I pondered. I thought. I considered putting them in the sale bin again. Then, a vision of a navy blue sweater with an all-over white pattern appeared in my head! An all-over pattern of nautical motifs! Yes! For the knitting cruise! I am a genius!!!
But did we have any navy blue Renaissance? My heart trembled... but yes, we did. Yay! So I greedily set aside the navy blue and began thinking of a motif to use. A clever girl, a girl who likes to actually *think* while she designs, would have pulled out drawing paper, sketched a few things, translated them to a graph.... and would be very, very creative, not to mention hard-working. Not me, though. Nope. I planned to skim through some pattern and chart books and simply pull motifs that someone else had already made, and plug them into a plain stockinette drop-sleeve sweater. I do not like to agonize over things. I pulled out several books... Babara Walker.... Harmony guides....Dale of Norway patterns.... lots of books... and finally settled on Sheila McGregor’s Traditional Scandinavian Knitting and Traditional Fair Isle Knitting. I realized I needed a gauge to start with before I could go further (DUH DUH DUH).
I grabbed my circular #8’s and cast on a bunch of stitches and started working a two-color pattern to see what my gauge would be. About 15 rows into it I knew the #8’s would not work. Darn it. I wanted them to, because they would go faster.... darn it. So I knit a garter ridge and continued with #7 circs. It was perfect, looked just the way I wanted it to. I knit for a number of inches, measured my gauge about 12 times to make sure, and set the swatch aside.
In Sheila McGregor’s Traditional Fair Isle Knitting, I found two motifs I wanted to use. One is an anchor motif that I recognized as the one I used in my Anchor Socks pattern. That was good, so I put that on graph paper. I found a compass rose motif that I liked better than the rest of them, but it was too fat and chunky-looking, so I sighed heavily and set about re-designing it. Finally I graphed it out the way I wanted to look in the knitted fabric. One thing I learned a long time ago is that you just cannot use standard graph paper to graph knitted motifs.... they end up looking all squashed when you knit them because the knitted stitch is wider than it is high. Luckily I have a great software tool called Knitting Wizard from Black Cat Systems, that lets you plug in the stitches and rows per inch to create graph paper that you then print out & play with. It also lets you weight the lines every so many stitches, so if you have say, a 21-stitch repeat, you can make the lines of the repeated section be heavier than the other lines. It also does a ton of other stuff to make your knitted graph paper experience pure heaven! I highly recommend it.
I charted the compass rose and the anchor a couple times, and discovered too much empty space between them... too much space to carry the yarn strand comfortably. I needed to add a few small doo-dads to fill in the space. I didn’t want it to look too busy, and I wanted it to retain a nautical flavor. I came up with two small motifs (yes, darn it, I had to design them myself, too) to represent a ship’s anchor light, and seaweed. I scanned my working chart for ya:
Now I have to chart the motif repeat and figure out what sizes the sweater will be in. Sizing will be determined largely by width of the pattern chart. I can tweak it to make the sizing the way I want it to be. I have to be careful to have the chart centered in order to avoid a Quasimodo effect on the wearer. The sweater will most likely be a simple drop shoulder crewneck pullover because a) it is unisex, and I think a man might wear this sweater, and b) it is easy as hell to design and knit.
Of course, all bets are off as soon as I pick up the needles. That’s when the swearing starts. :D
I’ll keep you posted as to the outcome...... and hopefully I can get a new digital camera one of these days so I can share with you more of what I am knitting!