25 January 2012

Red Willow Swirl

First off, I must apologize for being away from the blog for so long. I actually wrote some drafts that I thought I might post during the holidays, but that so didn't happen. It was great to see family and delightful to travel to Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl (even if Stanford did lose on a failed field goal).

Already 2012 is off to an amazing start. I'll be posting more later about where and when I'll be teaching. There will definitely be more teaching at conventions and festivals this year. Hurray!

But ya'all are here to see the knitting, yes? Here it is:
This is the "Plum Perfect" pattern from knit, Swirl by Sandra McIver. I'll have a full review of the book later, as I have much to say about it. The yarn is one skein of Mountain Colors Weaver's Wool, which is a 1450 yard put-up and a one-pound skein. The colorway is Red Willow. It looks great against the red rocks outside Oak Creek, Arizona!

I'll be teaching this construction method as a workshop on Saturday 25 February from 10 AM to 4 PM at The Whole Nine Yarns. We won't make a swirl jacket that day, but we will swatch a lot and work out the technical issues that come into play. There are some things I've learned by knitting the dang thing.

Before you even start, swatch! It is tricky to get the right tension in the welt pattern. On the one hand, you don't want your fabric to be too tight or all you'll see are the reverse stockinette purls. On the other hand, if it is too loose, your swirl will grow without your permission. I knit a large swatch -- over 8 inches across. If you can measure your swatch and hang it up for awhile, you can tell if it drapes nicely or gravity makes it grow like kudzu!

Be aware that many people are finding swirl patterns to run large. Sandra doesn't use the usual bust size measurements for sizing. The choice has to do with the shape of the sweater, but it does mean that this sweater can be trickier to size. And I know she says that the sweater looks good on any body in any size, but I really do think that a large size would make me look as if I am being fed to a giant clam. In my case, the sizes in the book do not run small enough for me, so I knit a swirl pattern that had less ease to begin with at a tighter gauge than recommended. This worked surprisingly well, as I just followed the numbers in the book.

My habit is to check the knitting against my body as I work. That is not an easy thing to do with this sweater. I kept thinking about that strange yoke measurement used to figure size in this garment. Eventually, I deduced that the yoke is based on the size hole you have in the middle of your swirl before you start working back and forth for the sleeve and bodice. Although you will have done quite a bit of knitting at this point, when you have completed the swirl part of the jacket and are ready to start working back and forth up the back and sleeves, try on your knitting! The yoke measurement should be the interior measurement of the swirl minus the measurement across your back. When you put on the swirl, you can tell if it will be too big if it hangs way down your back past your behind. You can also tell if the collar and lapels will be embracing you or swallowing you.

Another thing to watch out is that Sandra must be a tall person. I write this because the sweaters in this book also tend to run long in the sleeves, to the point that Sandra has posted on her blog how to steek the sleeves down to size. I have an alternative suggestion. The way the sleeves are knit up, there is a point where you will have the full stitch count from side to side, from one cuff across the back of the next to the other cuff. By this point in the knitting, you also have a large portion of the sweater completed. Use this to take a nice large gauge measurement. Plug in the numbers based on that long stitch count. Find out how long that sleeve span is really going to be. Compare it to your own arm measurements. Since the sleeves are created by casting on a whole bunch of stitches all at once, it is a simple matter to cast on fewer stitches.

In spite of some peculiar bits, this is a remarkably delightful knit and very fun to wear. I cast on the first week of December and finished the sweater in Arizona less than a month later. There are large sections that are happy, nearl-mindless knit-night or television knitting. And in the end, the flattering finished sweater is a great excuse to break out your shawl pin collection!

2 comments:

Laura said...

The pictures in Arizona are lovely, but really don't do the jacket justice! It's a beautiful coat...can you buy the patterns individually? There's one or two in the book I would make, but I don't know that the whole book would be purchase worthy - or is it?

-- Jolie said...

I can see what you mean. And the whole book is pretty much like Pachelbel's Canon in D, lots of small variations on the same theme. Last I knew, the patterns weren't yet available individually.