04 April 2008

More Than One Way to Skin a Sweater: Gansey

This Valentine-themed gansey is my own design. My resources were Beth Brown-Reinsel's Knitting Ganseys from 1993 and the Barbara Walker Treasuries. Ms. Reinsel's book is very well-written with all the information that might be needed about how to construct a gansey. She also has some wonderfully classic sample patterns, including some children's patterns for those who would like to try a gansey but are not quite ready to go after an adult-sized challenged. I should add that I took Ms. Reinsel's Swedish Cast-Ons class in March of 2007 and can recommend her as an instructor. (Her blog is here.)

Like the yoke and Aran sweaters, it was knit in the round beginning at the bottom. At the underarms, the work was divided into front and back and continued flat (with neck shaping) on separate needles and with separate balls of yarn to the top.
In order to make the saddle shoulders, I provisionally cast-on stitches to bridge the shoulder/neck gap, put those two groups of stitches on a needle along with the live front and back neck stitches, and knit the collar upwards. At this point, I had a front and back that were joined only with a collar and without shoulders. The provisional cast-ons were removed and the shoulder saddles were knit downwards from the collar. Since the shoulders were perpendicular to the still-live front and back stitches, I was able to simply work the last stitch in each row together with a body stitch. This is similar to joining a lace edging to a shawl, but done on both selvedges of the knitting-in-progress instead of just one.

Once the saddle was completed, the rest of the sleeve was picked up and worked downward in the round towards the cuff. Hence, the shoulder cable traveled all the way down the arm. Also, I was able to try on the sweater and knit to the correct length. And I should add here that I was tempted not to work the sleeves at all. This sweater is knit to my measurements with no ease, and it was very flattering even without sleeves. But I get cold easily and couldn't imagine wearing a sleeveless sweater. (Note that the lack of ease is why it looks a little stretched in the photos on the mannequin. The mannequin form I'm using is about a size 36B. I'm a size 32A.)

For those who enjoy knitting tales, this particular sweater was my first experience in running out of yarn. I had purchased 12 balls of Debbie Bliss Cotton Silk Aran discontinued on sale from Herrschner's. This would have been enough if I hadn't worked all the cuffs double-length and folded to make a hem. I discovered my predicament when I was on the sleeves. Fortunately, I had incorporated a purl welt near the cuff into the design. When I found more of this yarn at a local shop (in a different dye lot and not on sale), I was able to join it in at the purl ridge. The change in texture disguises the change in dye lot.

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