16 April 2008

More Than One Way to Skin a Sweater: Labyrinth

The last sweater in this series is another inspiration from the brilliant mind of Debbie New. For the labyrinth sweater, I stayed fairly close to her pattern. Of course, I used different yarn (Cascade 220 and Schaefer Miss Priss in the Margaret Sanger colorway). That pretty orchid purple (color 8901) is the cast-on edge. The marigold yellow (color 7825) is the cast-off edge. The cast-on started in the straight area in the lower left of the back. It took about 4 hours to cast-on -- many, many stitches and many, many stitch markers in two colors. And much double- and triple-checking. And do not, do not, DO NOT, twist the cast-on before you join it. No need to ask me how I know this.

Once the cast-on is done, then the fun begins. I think I only knit about 9 or 10 rows total. Granted, all the rows were very, very long. Each colored marker represents either a double-increase or a double-decrease. So, you knit a few stitches, work the appropriate increase or decrease, work a few more stitches, work more increases or decrease, all the way around. I had all these stitches crammed onto a single 60-inch Addi Turbo, and I probably should have had a second 60-inch needle for a total of 10 feet. Know that if you try to knit an adult-sized jacket you'll need many, many inches of circular needle. (I can't help wondering if I could convince Knit Picks to sell me cables in 10-foot, 20-foot and 30-foot lengths?) I changed yarn twice -- from orchid to Margaret Sanger and then from Margaret Sanger to marigold. Debbie New actually makes her labyrinths in Fair Isle patterns, but I was looking for an excuse to play with the Miss Priss and it was a nice short-cut way to have color interest without Fair Isle.

After the last row, the magic begins. If you have put all your double-increases and double-decreases in the correct places, you'll have a nice long strip that turns in about itself to create a solid form. If not, you'll have a hole and the garment won't come together into the correct shape. Now you just have lots and lots of seams. I believe I used a cable cast-on, so I seamed the orchid cast-on edges by weaving matching yarn in a figure-eight or double-running stitch sort of way. The marigold stitches were still live. I was able to seam those with three-needle bind-offs. I worked all the seams so that they fell to the front of the work. This is one technique where I think the raised lines of the seams add interest to the pattern.

If you don't want to risk twisting the cast-on edge, you could knit this sweater back-and-forth. I'd pick a spot where two plain areas meet, and cast-on one extra stitch in both the beginning and ending block. This area could be seamed as invisibly as possible during finishing. Of course, if you are doing miles and miles of Fair Isle a la Debbie New, you'll probably want to be knitting in an unbroken circle. Knitting back-and-forth also might put you in the awkward position of having to work double-increases and double-decreases from the wrong side of the work.

The last bit of finishing is the cuffs and bands. The pattern is based on the slip-stitch edging on the "Dream Coat" in Patricia Werner Dazzling Knits (Woodinville WA: Martingale & Company 2004) pp. 52-61. Of course, mine are reversibly double-knit.


luv2knit2 said...

Jolie, I have been looking for the pretzel, mitered,puzzle,surprise, rainbow, striped sweater that turns back on itself. I came across this one and it has been calling my name. I've looked for the pattern, I've searched for Debbie New and get a different Debbie who has a magazine. Help, mine could never be as lovely, your is sooo gorgeous, but it could be used to get rid of some stash. I've searched your blog and you must e prolific or have a staff :-). Your art is truly beautiful. TIA Jody, Greenville, SC

Linda said...

My friend knit a Labyrinth sweater using very fine alpaca on small needles. I think she cast on almost 4000 stitches! I don't envy you or her, but the sweaters are works of art! Hers was done in natural shades and she knitted back and forth. Great work.

Christ In Me said...

Debbie New.s best known book is "Unexpected Knitting". Try a search for that. & on most book sites, you can click "more by this author" if it does not contain this pattern. I know it has this idea, but maybe not this exact iteration of it.