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!