Today is for Sweaters

And as for my hiatus from sweater knitting, it’s funny how at the end of last winter, when I had made about 6 sweaters, and maybe the same number the year before that, I thought we had more than enough sweaters for a while. But after only one winter of cutting back (I completed only one sweater so far and have 2 in progress), I see I am going to need to replace a couple of David’s and one (at least) of mine. Wow, life sure does move on.

Pink sweater with holes

This is the first sweater I made for David (I think in 1998); it’s donegal tweed. I gave him the yarn for a Christmas gift and he thought I was going to make him learn to knit (I wish I had a snapshot of the look on his face!). And here’s one I made a LONG time before I met him, which WAS mine, but which he stole adopted.

Plum sweater with holes

It’s green mountain spinnery sport-weight singles. Their yarn is fiber dyed and then spun, so the colors are made a little like mixing paint, to create rich jewel-like tones. It’s hard to see here because the light is bright, and the sweater is very old. The yarn wears like iron; this sweater is at least 15 years old and has seen a tremendous amount of hard use. I have tried to replicate it with other yarn, but no go; I will make another attempt at some point with the original yarn (same yarn as my hollySox actually). Isn’t that weird how the one sleeve wore right out at the elbow, and the other sleeve is completely intact? He must lean on his elbow a LOT.

I have to explain that we really wear our sweaters; we each have 4 or 5 sweaters that get nearly constant use (the rest are just fluff. ok, kidding), whether we are working at a desk, chopping wood, or putting in drywall. Sweaters like these, as sturdy as they may begin life, will eventually show wear. It is NOT a sign of lack of care, or disrespect; it is good, honest use, and some sweaters just have harder lives than others. Lene writes beautifully on this topic and I heartily agree; knits are to be worn. They are one more way to love and be loved by another, with physical and emotional warmth.

David wears his sweaters til they are in shreds (remember the socks?). The elbows go first, and then the neck frays from where he clips his earphones to it every day (I love that!). And then, he continues to wear them. The old ratty ones get moved to the workclothes pile, for doing yard or construction work. And, then sometimes, he goes to home depot in them. Sigh. He also has some very nice sweaters (right Beth?); he wears those when he’s not working.

This year, my beloved merino cardigan is starting to go (OH, wail and keen!). So far it’s just a tiny bit of fraying at the sleeve, but once the fabric is compromised, I find it deteriorates pretty quickly. I have to start thinking about a design for its replacement.

Frayed sleeve

This sweater has been with me for about 10 years, and it’s the first one that is actually wearing out (only because I literally wore it to death). It’s made from 2-ply sport weight Morehouse Merino (mmm, if you haven’t tried it, you should), one of my all-time favorite yarns. It’s knit on size 3 or 4 needles. This sweater is my equivalent of a bathrobe; I wear it almost daily.

Sweater

Years of use have made it a little shapeless (don’t worry, I never wear it out of the house), but it’s comfy, warm, and dear to me. The neckline is a little deeper than I would make now, and the length is out of style, but for cold weather, this is the sweater I reach for. The merino yarn is cozy and cushy; the lighter-weight yarn was a smart choice because it never feels heavy on my shoulders. And, unlike most merino yarns, this one does NOT pill. It is totally pill-free after all that time. I will be replacing it by knitting a sweater with the DK baby spice corriedale I spun up this past winter.

DK baby spice yarn

Corriedale is a close cousin to merino, but a little harder-wearing. Hopefully, the new sweater will come close to being a satisfactory replacement for the old one; I’m going to try my best to replicate the things I like about it (the ease in getting it on, the comfortable sizing, the weight of the fabric and the garment, the combination of stitches, which make a flat, but interesting fabric). I remember that a LOT of planning went into making the original; this was before I had a computer, or software to help with the math. There were a lot of little details to consider: placement and scale of motifs and cables, the tiny rolled edges, the proportion.

Sweater knitting plan

Nowadays, I use sweater wizard to get my basic shape down with the stitch numbers and shaping I want. Then I juggle everything to make my stitch patterns and detailing work with the numbers. I continue to design a bit on the needles and take notes (well, I try to take notes), in case I want to produce a pattern.

Sometimes a pattern pulls together very quickly; I get an idea, I know exactly which yarn will be right, and I run up the pattern in no time.

But for a sweater like this, I think it might take a while. I have the yarn I want to use, but I haven’t thought about a combination of stitches yet. I definitely want something classic, more or less. Something like the existing sweater. But of course, I want it to be different. The style is what I think of as “New England”; it’s not exactly a traditional Gansey, but using a combination stitches in this way is reminiscent of the Gansey style. That is, a combination of knit-purl textures, some cabling, and/or some twist stitches. Plenty of patterning to keep it interesting, but not so difficult as to make such a large project daunting.

Complete sweater

I will almost certainly spend a lot of time with my stitch books, narrowing down my choices and swatching different combinations. This is a part of the process I enjoy, but sometimes I get way too involved in, to the point of confusing my original goal. Then I step back, take a day or so to relax, and try again. It sounds painful, but it makes me feel better that I am putting so much though into it. After all, this is the sweater for the next ten years; it’s a time to think about possibilities and unknowns! What will I be needing from my sweater for the next ten years?

Now it’s time to get ready for my knitting friends to visit. 3 or 4 of us will spin or knit, and catch up with each other over snacks and coffee.

It’s an absolutely gorgeous spring day, which reminds me that soon this garment will get washed and put away for the summer.

Cover Image Sweater: Sticks and Stones

Browse Sweater Patterns

Originally posted by Anne Hanson on April 9th, 2006

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