Piecework, Part 3

In which Laurie presents the finale of her guest blogs (with my greatest possible thanks) and I continue to de-compensate over here in the worst way. Tonight I finish, and tomorrow I’m back. Can’t wait.

Having determined that I am indeed a knitter who enjoys section-by-section knitting, I embraced the muse. I got deeply involved in fantasizing about an Arches sweater – one that would use very much elongated hexagons or at least long sections with points /\ — something like that, maybe, at the top. All would fit together into a harmonious mosaic.

Yeah, sure.

Naturally I would use my own dyed and spun yarns, but I started experimented with “enriched” solid colors. Those Harlot readers who endured the Woolhouse Presents series a while back can probably imagine what I came up with – what if I took those roving sausages and dyed them in a single color using a crock pot? What if I balanced the inevitable shading variations by spinning thinner singles than usual and doing three-ply? The answers to these questions turned out to be a) I got lovely semi-variegated single-color roving (sometimes with a few of the color breaks I mentioned in the Woolhouse tutorial) and b) the resulting three-ply yarn was pretty evenly colored but richly heathered. Really delicious jewel tones because of the underlying gray wool.

I lived with several yummy three-ply skeins for months while I worried with the design.

I will spare you the early planning stages in which my efforts to knit such hexagons so that they would fit together. I did not have the Pat Ashworth/Steve Plummer book that plumbs these shapes and somehow Vivian Hoxbro’s book did diamonds more than hexagons, or so it seemed to me.

Of course, hexagons of my own devising were wretched. However, thanks to Patricia Werner’s Dazzling Knits, I found a relatively easy way to make the pieces with points. The sweater on the front of this book offers roughly the shape that I wanted, though I did not want a cardigan. I toyed with the idea of going back to shaded multi-color yarns to follow her design, but the many colored sections seemed busy to me. So I set about doing my own version.

First, I revised the instructions for the pointed panels in Werner’s book so that I could make interlocking arches. Basically, I eliminated the color changes and shifts in stitch. And reworked the assembly, but you will see what I mean. Stripped of the stitch and color ornamentation, her design involves first establishing the garter edge and then knitting inward, while reducing regularly one stitch at each triangle side and two stitches at the top (slip 1, knit 2together, pass slipped stitch over). Once the triangle at the top is mostly eliminated (14 rows in my case), you turn to the wrong side and do a three-needle bind-off. I had decided on four downward facing, 4” wide panels at the top of front and back with five interlocking and much longer panels pointing UP. I also contemplated two SUPER long panels that would work as a saddle shoulders. Maybe.

I chose the dark blue as my garter edge, fiddled with different colors for my first swatch, and then settled on solids and an educated guess to knit my first TOP panel. That panel helped me get determine my gauge and confirmed that the three-needle bind off would stabilize the shape. Then I just linked each section to next by picking up stitches long the edge and casting on when I reached a part that did not as yet exist. The garter edge really helped a lot (and I used a cable cast on).

Early piecing together at work:


Things seem to be going well, don’t they? All you really have to do is count consistently, and you are fine. For my version, the upper sections all had 30 stitches before the triangle piece, and the lower section had 60 stitches. The triangular, arch bit is about two and a half inches long and follows the stitch count offered in Werner’s book. I was pleased enough with the body to risk the saddle sleeves (and I needed the saddle for the sweater to be long enough!):


Personally I think that arms are a really serious design problem. The shapes I was working with were NOT going to work, and I did not know what to do about the colors either. Much fretting later I came to the conclusion that each arm needed to be three pieces, seamed together. And the “side panels” would have to be knit DOWN from the saddles, short-rowed to fit the armscye angles and to create the angle of the undersleeve. And end with a garter edge of dark blue for seaming.

Behold an arm:


The arms ended up a LITTLE long with their arch edges. I even contemplated crocheting a small ring at the tip of each sleeve so I could be stylish and loop them to my fingers. You can see the look here:


And here I am in a more normal pose (with a more normal expression!).


This little odyssey proves a few things beyond my obsession with variations on a theme. First, knitting in pieces can grow on a person. Second, when you are dyeing relatively small lots of yarn, there ARE ways to work your yarns together. And finally sleeves are the really hard part when you strike out on your own!

108 thoughts on “Piecework, Part 3

  1. I am impressed and am getting more and more inspired to try and knit something I designed. I’ll likely end up a blubbering mess on the floor when I screw up, which is likely.
    The sweater looks really good on you.

  2. Laurie – Lovely. Absolutely lovely. From the colours to the design, it all just works beautifully.
    Steph – hope all is going well. Looking forward to hearing all about it.

  3. whoa Nelly…that is some bee you ti ful knitting. I cannot even contemplate making something like that, but as they say..”You GO girl”.

  4. I agree with a commenter yesterday; when are you writing a book?!! Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

  5. WOW! I got overwhelmed just reading how you did it- I can’t even imagine doing it! But what inspiration and what beautiful sweaters.

  6. Wow! I really like that sweater. Please tell us you wrote all that down. My husband spins but I don’t and I have all these lovely yarns to use. Now I’d love to try them with your pattern!

  7. Stunning sweater. I for one am fond of longer sleves, I not fashion saavy by any means, it’s just something I fancy. Thank you for sharing and giving inspiration to experiment!

  8. Laurie, that’s amazing. It’s *all* amazing. You bring a real artistry to your knitting. I hope strangers accost you on the streets and demand that you sign autographs.

  9. Begging, Pleading, On My Knees Crying to you to sell the patterns for the three beauties we have had the pleasure of seeing this week. I have two kids, you can have whichever one you like the best. And I’ll throw in one of my three housecats for good measure.

  10. I am not worthy to even think about knitting in the presence of such greatness.
    Not that I would even think about passing up an opportunity to do so. I’ll be the quiet one in the corner with the garter stitch blanket in store bought yarn.

  11. Gorgeous sweaters! I have really enjoyed this series, as I am a spinner who ends up with many smallish skeins of yarn (before I get bored and move on) and am fascinated with modular knitting for that very reason. Now to do a bunch of smallish skeins that are all the same weight!!
    Thanks for the fun!

  12. You create beautifully!!! Yes, please provide, sell, do whatever you feel is right, to allow us to recreate these works of art…perhaps create a little tag that states it’s your design so that you get the credit that you deserve!! Thanks for the insightful few days.
    Thinking of you Stephanie as I count rows on mittens (made with hand dyed sock yarn) and eating chocolate…does life get much better?

  13. Wowie Zowie! You did it again! Thanks so much Laurie for stepping in and facinating us with your wonders!

  14. That’s a wonderful sweater and your sleeves are just great. It might look interesting if you fold the cuff back because you’d end up with the diamond on the sleeve.
    I’ve been toodling around with modular knitting too. Not on your scale, but I’m currently applying a strip of cabling around the outside of a jacket. It sort of frames the interior.

  15. I love your sweater. Seems like the perfect type of project to use up various colors of left over yarn. The colors work perfectly. How long did it take to make?

  16. Let’s see: dyes in gorgeous, rich colors – check. Spins evenly and beautifully – check. Plies in unusual ways – check. Designs fabulous pieces – check. Knits beautifully – check. Writes elegantly – check. Has great hair – check. That Laurie, I think I speak for the majority of yarnharlot readers: will you marry us?

  17. I am stunned, along with the rest of the readers, at your creativity, your persistence and your elegance. That is one dynamite sweater for one dynamite woman!

  18. Your sweater is really special, and it looks great on you. The sleeve ending in a point is really neat. And I loved Werner’s Dazzling Knits. Thanks for telling us about your techniques.

  19. I am thoroughly in awe of this wonderful sweater and its planning and execution. You’ve given us a trip through the thought processes of a gifted mind associated with talented hands. Hope you don’t mind being subdivided this way.
    I’m working on a blanket inspired by Shelley the Heathen Housewife’s mitered sockyarn creation-in-progress. I’m using superwash merino fingering yarn in hand-dyed and “solids”. Being a slow knitter, I know it will take me a while, but it’s such fun and I love people’s comments.
    Thank you soooo much for your posts. Yes, please do patterns and/or a book.

  20. Pardon my while I lick my eyeball. My lizard brain can’t even hope to comprehend how you made that sweater work but WOW it’s beautiful. Yes, please write a book. You rock!

  21. In “Pretending to be a reviewer” voice: This sweater combines a classic grace and elegance with a playfulness that is utterly charming.
    In my normal voice: Can I have it? Please? But I waaaaaaant it! Gimmie? PLEASE! I’ll be your BESTEST FRIEND!!!!!

  22. Laurie,
    Thanks for your posts. You inspire me to reconsider knitting in pieces! Your work is lovely.
    Stephanie – Hope all is well on the book and you are enjoying(?!?) your ‘break’ Looking forward to more updates on the lacy and the gansey.

  23. Laurie,
    Thanks for your posts. You inspire me to reconsider knitting in pieces! Your work is lovely.
    Stephanie – Hope all is well on the book and you are enjoying(?!?) your ‘break’ Looking forward to more updates on the lace and the gansey.

  24. That’s just gobsmackingly lovely. (Hell, I don’t even know if that’s a real word but it should be!) Thanks for sharing the design process.

  25. Wow!! Your work leaves me speechless! The colors are gorgeous, the shapes, the finished sweaters…they are all so creative, so lovely, so unique. You should be very proud. Thanks for sharing, Ruth in NJ

  26. You work is breath taking, and what I love more is that it is a design that is unlikely to be mass produced.
    Lovely design.

  27. Wow. Speechless. Amazing sweaters, particularly the last one. My avaricious little brain is toying with the idea of making something like this in blue shades like stained glass window panes — that is, if I can even begin to comprehend the way to design it. Oh please, please, write us a book!

  28. Throwing in my begging for patterns here — I love peicework patterns and yours are fabulous. Please, please, please…

  29. wow, that is SOME gorgeous sweater! It’s what I think of when I hear the word “sweater.”
    You and Ms. Harlot should do a book together.

  30. Laurie: Wow! That is gorgeous, awesome, and amazing. So when are you writing a book?
    Stephanie: Hang in there, tomorrow will come, and it will be better.

  31. Laurie – it’s like–someone who enjoys drawing little stick guys (me, knitting toques) admiring the Mona Lisa (your sweaters, &c) And I LOVE seeing them. It’s like a child being equipped with the alphabet and the knowledge of how to read. She’s not in a position to write novels, but she sure can enjoy looking at ’em.
    Steph – I’ll transfer my wad of cash (for the book when it comes out) to my other hand and raise a glass of Faux Wine to you, facing north-eastish. To you!

  32. I love this sweater!!! Do you have this pattern written out? I would gladly pay for a copy. I am in awe of your creativity.

  33. Holy wow cow! I can’t even begin to get that sweater but I love the end result. VERY pretty Laurie. Thanks so much for sharing these fab posts.
    Go Stephanie go!! Baby X and I are cheering you on!! First kicks today so that must be a good sign for the book!!

  34. Laurie, Normally if I look at a piece of knitting long enough I can figure it out. You’ve beaten me. I’m been looking at it for 10 minutes and have no idea about where to start. PLEASE publish. Thanks.

  35. I know you’re going through so much trying to get this book out in time, but, I’m really happy you’re writing another one. I love your books!!

  36. The beauty of your work is revealed in the beauty of your hands. Listening hands, creating hands, caring hands. Lovely.

  37. HI Laurie
    I love the jersey! 🙂 I too am into modular knitting so thanks to pointers to 2 books I don’t yet have. One quick question tho as a fellow spinner…crockpot dying??? Can you please point me in the direction of the method mentioned.

  38. The beauty of your work is revealed in the beauty of your hands. Listening hands, creating hands, caring hands. Lovely.

  39. I’ve seen that sweater in person, and it is even more lovely than it appears in the photos. Now that I know the backstory, it is even more gorgeous. A true work of art.

  40. beautifully done. Your sweaters look like museum pieces. Are you a professional artist? If you’re not, i think you definitely could be.

  41. Laurie – Grief, woman, how you do ever manage to survive going into groups of other knitters without them trampling you en masse to puzzle out how you Made That Sweater?! Thanks for explaining and showing the beautiful work. Thanks for giving the time to keep Stephanie’s brain from exploding. Thanks for everything. You are a *magnificent* guest blogger!
    Stephanie: go, go, go, go! (Think someone cheering at a horse race. Or whatever. [g]) Looking forward to seeing you back – we’ve missed you! – but thank you for enticing Laurie to fill in.

  42. I’m not a sweater person ( I try to wear cotton throughout our snowy winters) but I really like the colours, both patterns and the sleeves on this one. Maybe there’s a doll out there that needs a sweater!

  43. What a beautiful and inspirational sweater! Dyeing and spinning are my first loves. Now please don’t kick me off the Harlot site for saying that out loud. I know it’s sacrilege, but I have a reason! I love knitting but I have to really work at it because of a memory problem. Because of that I am a really slow knitter with a long learning curve. You wouldn’t believe how often you use your memory to knit! Fortunately, I’m addicted to color so it’s playing with my dyepots for me LOL! However, I do love knitting and I think that knitting small pieces attached to one another is just wonderful. Your sweater combines my 3 favorite things, spinning, dyeing, and knitting. I just love the colors you chose and how you put them together. Thanks for the beautiful pictures and the inspiration.

  44. “All you have to do is count consistently” . . . snort, snort . . . I can cast on 10 and end up with 14 within five rows without even knowing how it happened. Snort!
    I love your sweaters and ideas, especially doing it in pieces which makes it much more portable for those times when you just can schlep something big around.

  45. Laurie you need to write a book – I’m sorry, there is no way around it. I could never in a million years have dreamed up these 3 beautiful sweaters but I would wear them all in a heartbeat. Applause, applause.

  46. Laurie,
    What a work of art. I was so stunned I called my husband in who praised it. When I told him it was hand-dyed and spun all he could say was wow!
    Congratulations! and thanks for sharing.

  47. Please, please, please sell me your pattern. I love modular knitting also and this sweater is wonderful.

  48. Your sweaters are gorgeous!!!! I luv the rich colors in them. Please publish your patterns, so that I can aspire to complete one of them. Thanks for the lessons.

  49. If you do publish a pattern, make sure you refer to your blocks as pentagons rather than hexagons.

  50. Wow. With a very stupid-looking, dumbfounded blank stare on my face, all I can muster is wow.
    Everytime I start a new project, I try to use a new stitch, bind on/off, or other technique. Your color blocking will have to go on the list to be attempted at least 5 years from now. I still have to finish my first sweater (which I just started).
    But again, I say, wow.

  51. I thought I was the queen of “I’ll never do modular knitting” but after this week’s posts and especially today’s, I’m thinking, “OOH WOWWEE, that is some kind of whole new world to explore.”

  52. Laurie, the sweaters are beautiful. Can you recommend any resources for designing sleeves? I’m fairly sure I have the knitting experience to design my own sweaters, but I keep getting nervous about dealing with the sleeves to go ahead and try one.

  53. You are so darn close to the finish line. We’re all cheering you on and enjoying That Laurie in the mean time.
    Oh, I had a pint of Mirror Pond from Oregon last week. Soooo good!

  54. Love this and your other two posts! How inspirational, indeed! I especially like the cabled strip sweater as I spin and have LOTS of smallish skeins, or few skeins each, of different fleeces and different colors. It would be a great way to use them and try lots of cables and not get bored.
    Thank you for filling in for our favorite blogger while she melts down and finishes her book – can hardly wait for this next one.

  55. Laurie, thanks so much for your colorful contributions! Inspiring.
    Steph, know that others who write for a living (even if it *is* for for not-so-evil corporations) are cheering you on to the finish! Miss you!

  56. I have to admit to having harbored serious doubts about that sweater until I saw it on you, Laurie. Now, no doubt about it. It’s fabulous! 🙂

  57. I’ve really enjoyed this series. The best (only, heh) sweaters I’ve made are pieces that look like they started out as tension rectangles that got stitched together with their tails. This has given me way more ideas to explore! Thank you.

  58. I am a novice spinner/dyer and I am in awe. Your work is inspiring. I am passing this link on to fellow spinners and wanna-be spinners. Many thanks.

  59. Wow. I admit I was dubious halfway through, as I am not a fan of modular knitting in general, but that is a stunning sweater. The fit, especially, is impressive, and it is possibly the best-compsed and most wearable modulr sweater I have ever seen. Thnaks you for sharing your process. 🙂

  60. Omigod… If I wasn’t a total chicken when it comes to knitting, I would so try it. That and I have no yarn… really… I don’t…

  61. Wow, I want to grow up and be That Laurie! I love these series and esp. the stained glass sweater. Hope you got your work done Steph.

  62. Happy Day for knitters Ziploc has come out with the “big bag”http://www.ziploc.ca/ziploc_bigbags.asp
    Love the piece work sweaters, beautiful

  63. Stephanie, while you’re honeymooning (congrats!) instead of blogging, I’ve been reading from the beginning of the blog and saw several references to the fleece stealing squirrel. Maybe if you knit him something (click “Michal” for an example of someone else’s making) he’d leave your stuff alone? Or not….

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