She’s gone to pieces

In which That Laurie is graciously welcomed to the blog host seat (If it is even possible for me to possess grace at this point. ) and begins to tell of her recent flirtation with modular knitting, what she did with it, and the sorts of sweaters that she got at the end. (There are some very, very good sweaters in this. The last one (Thursday) is my favourite.) That Laurie will be comment lurking, so ask questions if you got em…

The First Patchwork Sweater

Either you are the kind of knitter who LIKES to knit piece by piece, or you are the kind of knitter who finds all those little bits too fiddly. Although I embrace the whole circular-knitting-with-no-seams project, I do find some piece by piece knitting very satisfying. I have flirted with Domino Knitting and even with a pattern from Just One More Row. My favorite from the latter is the San Francisco Shirttail , although I MUCH prefer it with the alternate sleeve. You see the version which led me to prefer that other sleeve here. The second version I made worked much better and looked a lot less boxy! This pattern does VERY nice things with handpainted yarns, by the way.

However, what got me truly involved with knitting piece-by-piece was a sweater I saw a woman wearing in Barnes and Noble as I sat on the floor perusing the new knitting books. (Stephanie is not the only one who tends to follow around knitted garments to try to figure out how they are made!) This lady’s sweater included several strips, each displaying individual cables and a different colors of yarn. Clearly constructed from machine spun yarns, the sweater was still very cool and distinctive – and definitely my kind of thing! And wouldn’t it be even nicer in handspun?

Mine is a bit chunkier than hers, but it embraces the same principle–four-inch wide cable strips knit from different yarns, all spun from Romney cross sheep at worsted-to-bulky weight. The cable panels are 4 inches wide and allowed me to play with all kinds of different cabling:


Two sections on the body were eight-inch wide textured pattern to break up the strips, one at the bottom edge of two in the front and one at the top edge of two in the back. I started each “patch” with a provisional cast-on (knitting into a crochet chain) and slipped a stitch at the row ends on each side so that I could seam it easily. I blocked all the strips to size before crochet-seaming them together with the darkest yarn and knitting the cuffs and bottom in garter stitch. The seaming was not as tiresome as it looks since I just picked up stitches on each edge and did a three-needle bind off to link them together.

Basically all the strips were supposed to be the same width and length, but I decided along the way to use short rows at the upper edges for the neckline so that the neck need not be square:


I had one shorter panel for the underarm body section. The sleeves included a single 4 inch panel like the ones in the body and underarm panels that started slightly wider and then narrowed slightly toward the cuff. Several of these panels came from a three-color fleece by a sheep named Moxie–thanks to Swiftwater Farm! And here is the completed sweater:


The nice things about knitting this sweater were a) being able to try out different cables (I used Leslie Stanfield’s The New Knitting Stitch Library) being able to work on individual strips “on the road” because each individual strip was quite portable, and c) having fun in arranging the strips in various ways to see how they would look together before seaming them together.

I will admit that my husband thought the whole project looked quite awful in progress (however, even he liked the final version). Also it is a VERY bulky sweater but not too hot because it is so loose. As a heavy duty sweater for cold Maine days, it works quite well. And it COULD have a more shaped silhouette if I had used cables that “gathered” more at the waist of the sweater.

Next up – in which patchwork evolves and includes handdyed yarns.

89 thoughts on “She’s gone to pieces

  1. Billions of strips. “Pick up stitches and do 3 needle bind off.” OMG, you’re brilliant! Or I’m dull, but I prefer the former. Better for both of us. I may actually attempt something made in bunches. Thanks!

  2. I love this! I’ve been playing with vertical stripes in color but was afraid the full length strips would be too overwhelming. But with the natural colors and the cables, it’s wonderful. I love that you can learn new stitches and make use of your learning product or not feel bad about not using it because you haven’t knit the whole darn sweater with the pattern.

  3. It sort of reminds me of one of the options for a sampler afghan in a Barbara Walker book I have. I like the idea of using the different colors though, it turned out beautiful!!!

  4. Oh my gosh!!! BRILLIANT!!! I am soooooo excited!…yipppeee a new project to add to my hordes of happy projects…one thing about being a knitter..we are never bored! Thanks Laurie! Your an inspiration!

  5. That’s lovely! I’m jealous of the handspun–I’m still too new a spinner to spin a sweaters worth!
    Thanks for the tute’s Laurie, and Good Luck Stephanie on finishing your book.

  6. Laurie, you ARE an inspiration. Whoooah. That’s way beyond mhy aspirations, but seeing that inspired me to knit faster anywayj! (Let’s see….was that seven toques? Where’s my list?) I love seeing all that gansey and Fair Isle and fanciwork. Maybe in my next life……..

  7. Your sweater is lovely. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect before making it to the finished photo. Your spinning is so great. As someone new to spinning, this is spinspiration.

  8. Laurie, this is wonderful. I made the Sally Melville Faith Jacket last winter, and it occurred to me that it would be fun to do it again using different patterns and colors in the strips. Your sweater proves that it would work. Great knitting!

  9. I’m thinking that I’d like the shirttail sweater if it had a V-neck that echoed the v’s down the front. Do you suppose it would be too difficult to convert it to a V-neck?

  10. Thanks for the ideas! I had been contemplating something like that for working with some varigated handspun I got in order to break up the color pools more.

  11. It’s a beautiful sweater — I looove cables. I have to confess, though, that to the most seaming-impaired knitter on the planet (that’s me, in case you were in any doubt) your description of the process sounds like the Fifth Circle of Knitter’s Hell.
    Chacune a son gout.

  12. Very nice sweater! I’m not usually a fan of sampleresque-type patterns, but you’ve done a beautiful job here! Can’t wait for your next post! Can’t wait to see if I can type a statement without an exclamation point!

  13. I’m currently knitting a kit sweater from Shilasdar yarn using a similar technique. In addition, Anarchy for Knitters by Anna Zilloog describes strip knitting such as this.

  14. WOW! That is *some* job! I especially like the variegated cables. I’m just learning to spin on a wheel, so maybe soon I’ll be able to spin a whole sweater.

  15. I also like the way your photos mirror the progression of “building” the sweater. Intriguing cables, meaty yarn, hunky sweater – yay!

  16. I like having the individual cables as separate strips. This would be good for someone who is not comfortable doing a whole bunch of cables all at once. So when will the pattern be available?

  17. Thanks, Laurie, for an easy solution for what to make with skein leftovers. Now, where is my cable pattern book?

  18. Now that’s a cabled sweater even I would try. Knitting an entire sweater that’s covered in cables all once, gives me the willies. Knitting a whack of panels is a more realistic goal for me.

  19. Just thought I’d mention a funny for you. I used to work on road constrution. One winter, office bound and the only female, I was acting receptionist. The photocopier broke down so we had to call in a repair man. The problem? (oops!)A knitting pattern stuck to the drum.

  20. I love, love, love this sweater.
    When I saw it, I immediately thought of a slightly fitted tunic with flaring for around the hips, alternating strips like this (though probably different cables) and a ribbed turtle neck. I may have to give this some thought….thank you for stimulating the creative juices.
    A delightful way to use all these “short runs” of spinning I’ve been experimenting with.

  21. I have just discovered the concept of modular knitting a few months ago, but for some strange reason have never thought to match it with alternating patterns. How cool is that?
    Now I can make up swatches-er-pieces of my favorite patterns, and mix and match to my heart’s content. For someone who is in her heart of heart’s (but rarely in execution) a design freak perfectionist, this is past great, into awesome. I may never actually finish anything, (just another swatch, just another idea…) but given the process, I really don’t think I’d care!
    If nothing else, I can end up with a really interesting quilt.
    Have you thought of this with shadow knitting? I bet one could do some really cool stuff there, too.

  22. A vigil was begun, where I could not be left unsupervised by at least one senior supervisor thereby limiting my ” extracurricular activities”.

  23. That is so very clever! As a new-ish spinner, I like that I could use different fleeces/quantities. Very good for someone like me with a house too small for too many fleeces, and lots of wee skeins 🙂
    Math question: I understand that different cable types pull in differently. Did you figure (via gauge swatch?) what the size of each panel/cable pattern would be so you got the right size sweater? Or did you just wing it?

  24. Wow, beautiful! Do you have specific patterns for sweaters like this? Or do you calculate per strip (stitch used & placement of strip)to get your finished garment? I’m really inspired by this!

  25. Oh. My. God.
    And I love square necklines, so I can see it that way, too.
    Must figure this out. TERRIFIED of no pattern, but must. knit. cable-y. goodness.

  26. Very cool! I have been thinking a lot along these lines lately and was planning to try something similar, although I will be making the sweater for my youngest son (gives me a smaller canvas to experiment on).

  27. One lovely, early spring day, there were few of us in the office. A senior project manager approached my desk.
    “Don’t go.” I said.
    “I’ll knit!”

  28. He turned and walked a few paces away, then turned back.
    “You can’t go.”I said, and repeated my threat.
    “I’ll knit!”

  29. They are beautiful sweaters. I haven’t tackled a sweater yet, because I am afraid of the never ending with nothing to show for it knitting. You have shown me a wonderful option. Thank you.

  30. He walked away.
    I raised my voice: “Whatever you do, don’t go!
    Because III’LLL Knit!”
    “You and your #*&$@#’n knitting!”

  31. Oh, Laurie…this is *exquisite*. Definitely something I want to try. I love the Just One More Row patterns, but cables – I adore cables! Very, very cool concept. Thanks much!

  32. How did you shape for the sleeves? I’m having a hard time picturing it? Did you do panels for that purpose or do they stick out T-shaped, from two perfect rectangles? I can’t tell from the picture. I totally love the sweater.

  33. Wow, “That Laurie” sure makes one fantabulous sweater. Kudos, from one who is both a spinner and a highly enthusiastic cabler (enthusiastic beyond all reason).
    I will mark this page to refer to new knitters who have trouble keeping track of several different cables within a design.
    True encounter at eye doctor’s yesterday:
    I am sitting there knitting a cabled sleeve in cat-eye-green alpaca. The sleeve is on my lap. The woman sitting next to me glances at my knitting and smiles and says, “my mother used to knit.” Then she returns to her magazine.
    After a couple of rows it’s time to cable. I slip the gull-wing needle out from its perch over my ear, lift the knitting closer to eye level, and proceed.
    The same woman leans over and looks much closer. “That is insane,” she delcares. “Is that why you’re at the eye doctor’s?”
    Dez, who is conducting a knitted Halloween Costume Contest on her blog:

  34. Very cool. I’ve been in a wretched mood all day, what with the neighbor’s dog waking me up at 2am and keeping me awake for an hour, getting a migraine from the lack of sleep, the note in my mailbox telling me some of the mailboxes had been broken into and some mail stolen, the orange juice can that wouldn’t open, and spilling the pasta on the floor, but you’ve lifted my spirits. Thank you.
    I’m going to spin now.

  35. What a beautiful sweater! I realize I am a major echo to what has already been said, but I must add my voice.
    I love that you saw a sweater on a person and then figured out how to make something similar. Love that kind of inspiration. Would that be the kind of thing for a beginning knitter to learn? Or would it actually be more complicated? I have no idea. I am a beginning knitter who, of course, wants to knit a sweater right off the bat. I’m working on scarves galore to learn, too.

  36. As to the choice of cables and their tendency to “draw in,” I picked all cable patterns with the same number of stitches in the basic pattern (16, I think). I also tried to avoid those patterns that used multiple cables in the same row because I knew from experience that such cable patterns draw in a LOT more than others. Of course, I could have deliberately used such a cable to create a more tailored silhouette — in fact I did for my Olympic sweater!

  37. in my defense, I have come to realize any sweater (or socks, shawls, blankets, scarves, mittens, gloves, hats, etc.) that I see in progress is bound to be spectacular when it is done. So I’ve stopped making ridiculous comments on works in progress. Although I did once attempt to ruin a work in progress by driving around a Vancouver city block with said partially knitted item hanging out the passenger door, dragging on the ground, attached to the car by a thread. It was quite a sight by the time I parked and a passing stranger informed me it was there. Even that one turned out loverly….

  38. John, you’re a brave, brave man for admitting dragging a That Laurie work in progress out the car door.
    I have to say, knowing that one sheep produced three of the colours in that sweater almost makes me want to consider playing with fleece preparation. Almost. And really, I should learn to spin first.

  39. It is a lovely thing! And John, my hubby never comments on my “projects” except to, of course, move them when he doing the vacuuming. He also doesn’t wear anything knitted either so he has no vested interest.

  40. It is a lovely thing! And John, my hubby never comments on my “projects” except to, of course, move them when he is doing the vacuuming. He also doesn’t wear anything knitted either so he has no vested interest.

  41. “No vested interest.” Mary Lynn, that’s *funny*! John, you sound like the knitter’s dream of a husband (after my own, of course.) And That Laurie? Your sweater is absolutely, scrumptiously gorgeous.
    I once sent a three-color Jacob fleece to a mill, expecting to get three small balls of roving back, and got one big grayed one instead. I figured I’d process the next one myself, after that. …By the way, Stephanie once said she’d teach us how she washes fleeces on the stove, something I’d never heard of, and it hasn’t happened yet; do you suppose we could draft you to enlighten us?

  42. What a clever idea! Wouldn’t be surprised if you have started the “New Clapotis” IYKWIm. Waaaay too warm for the bottom left corner here, but in a lighter yarn, and in a cardigan – with none of that scary steeky cutting involved…….
    Gotta question, but didn’t want to ask La Harlot lest it be the “last straw” for a severely overstressed psyche.
    When you make socks for gifts for unknown or unavailable recipients, how do you size them? Is there a one size fits most?
    Thanks for posting that great sweater. Got my mind churning about my available fleece. Yummy!

  43. I think I used to own the sweater that inspired this project. It was an alpaca sweater from one of the Andes mountain co-ops, made with different stripes of cables in three natural alpaca colors.
    I had bought it at a thrift store for two dollars.
    Eventually I unravelled it and recycled it…one of the stripes had become stained with wine (how does that happen?!?). The construction appeared to be intarsia, with all the stripes knitted at the same time from the bottom up.
    Thanks for the lovely post. I know if I ever wanted to recreate the sweater I would do it modularly (so that when I stain it with something I can just make a new panel).

  44. That sweater’s really nice! By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask, how does it feel to see write-ups, both positive and negative, of yourself on blogs?

  45. Ooh..what a great idea! I love being able to play with the various cables. I like them, but seem to get bored with the repeats rather quickly. I’ll have to keep this in mind for a future project!
    P.S. to Stephanie. Write write write! We are all dying to read your new book.:)

  46. I’m sending you virtual chocolate from Oklahoma City, along with a six-pack of the good beer from the liquor store. Hang in there, girl–it’ll be all over soon.
    BTW–apparently there’s an issue on the November ballot to change the laws to allow liquor stores to be open and liquor sold on election days. See what you started? I think we should name it the “Yarn Harlot” question, but I’m thinking that the muggles just wouldn’t understand.

  47. I’ve made too many granny square afghans to be really thrilled by the idea of fiddly bits, but that sweater is SMASHING and well worth the effort!

  48. I’ve been making the San Francisco Shirttail with the alternative sleeve too, and my decision has been to steek the armholes (square), then I’ll resize and set in the sleeves. Another possible variation to a great pattern!

  49. Gorgeous – I’ve got a sampler of Beaverslide yarns I’m wanting to do this with. Horst Schulz covers this method pretty extensively in his books.
    Judy Pascale, in her Vertical Vests class, has you pick up along the side of the strip, then do a ridge or two of garter and adjust your stitch count there to match the gaugue of the next section, if it’s different from the one you just did.

  50. Wow!! That is so neat. Are you going to give us not-so-experienced knitters instruction on how to do the short-rowed neck? Hint, hint, please, please.

  51. knitting in long narrow lenghts is one of my favs.
    I love your handspun and all the many sheep shades.
    So I on the look for a new big project.
    Hmmm “A strip-a-long” , “knit-a-strip-a long” ??

  52. absolutely amazing! i’ve got a bunch of handspun i had no idea what to do with, because i had such small amounts of each, but now, i think i’m going to try that! i love it! thank you for hte inspiration!

  53. This is an amazing sweater! It’s really beautiful and unique. Is there any chance you could tell me where you found the white braided cable that kinda looks like hearts? I have been looking for a cable very similar to that for the longest time! Thanks.

  54. Here’s a great idea for multi-generational knitting families… I’ve convinced my mom to knit strips from her stash. Then, I’ll assemble them and do final fitting for my kids.
    Everybody wins! Grandma feels like she knit a sweater for the grandkids without worrying about fit. I have one less WIP *and* get my mom to use “her” yarn for the bulk of it. 🙂 The kids get new sweaters bound up with as much love as possible.

  55. Very inspiring set of posts. Do you slip the first stitch on all your sweaters for seaming ease? Is it any less bulky than a garter row?

  56. OMG! You have help me just have a lightbulb moment. I have been trying to concieve of a way that one would connect strips. Just didn’t mentally picture the 3 needle bind off the way you did. It now makes complete sense! Thank you!
    Currently on Needles: One square from Barbara Walkers Afghan Book! (Will be connected many squares);)

  57. Not much on my mind lately. My life’s been completely boring these days. I’ve just been hanging out not getting anything done. So it goes.

  58. Not much on my mind lately. My life’s been completely boring these days. I’ve just been hanging out not getting anything done. So it goes.

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