Monday, September 11, 2017

Aran Sweaters I Have Loved

I've been knitting and collecting knitting books and patterns for a long time. I started knitting when I was 6, and now I'm 60. The first sweater I made was in fact an aran, from an old Bernat book (the same one that Karen Templer used recently). As I knit the yoke of my own aran design, I've been poring over my book collection and thinking about some of my favourite arans. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Elizabeth Zimmermann's Fishtrap aran sweater/cardigan. There don't seem to be any really good pics of this anywhere, other than in EZ's Knitter's Almanac (the original edition and the updated one). The best I could do is to take a grainy photo of a page from the latter. It doesn't do justice to the garment.

I think it's the dense twisted stitch texture and the funnel neck that I love.

2. The shawl-collared cardigan from Madeline Weston's Classic British Knits, re-published several decades later as Country Weekend Knits.

You can't see the shawl collar here (if you look at my own designs, you'll see I have a fondness for this style), but you can see the gorgeous cabling. I think I still prefer the earlier edition version, which shows a shorter cardigan hitting around hip length.

3. Alice Starmore's aran pullover from her Fishermen's Sweaters.

This is a very '90s sweater, quite voluminous, and one that would never, ever work on my petite figure, but I adore the intricate textures and the deep collar. Note the the aran I'm designing for myself incorporates a version of the OXO cables you see above.
As an aside, I was fortunate to be able to take an aran class with Alice, and I won't be lending out my copy of Fishermen's Sweaters autographed by its author. It's too precious.
I should also add that it's sad that one rarely sees hardcover knitting books so lavishly produced anymore. I guess technology has changed the publishing business. Newer knitting books don't seem to have the quality photography, glossy paper, and coffee table quality that Alice's original books had. In retrospect, I think the '90s was the heyday of these high-end publications. If you have any '90s original hardcovers, treasure them!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Looking for Lopi?

A reminder that my Audrey Coat will be on sale for only three more days (including today). There's been a sharp uptick in interest in this design over the last week, as cooler fall weather approaches.

I don't know about you, but here in eastern Ontario, it's getting increasingly difficult to get one's hands on sweater quantities of Istex's Alafoss Lopi. Our yarn shops aren't ordering in new batches and the existing supply is dwindling to quantities inadequate for Audrey.
This morning I went online and learned that that old dependable supplier, Camilla Valley Farm, seems to have a good stock in hand. So, if you're planning an Audrey Coat, give them a call--it's the best way to order from them in my experience. Now, get knitting. I see that the overnight low for this Thursday is only 7C!

Monday, August 28, 2017


I'm almost up to the underarms on my bottom-up aran jumper, so this morning I put all the stitches onto a length of waste yarn and gave everything a bath in some Eucalan. Then I laid it out on a towel on the dining table on our deck. Warning: birds and squirrels, you are not invited to this party!

Using a tape measure, I carefully moulded the wet wool to the correct width. Not length--because my experience with Lark is that this wool grows hugely in length when wet, but somehow sucks itself back in as it dries.
You can see how much the aran cables have opened up. Remember, as EZ pointed out, aran knitting is nothing more than fancy ribbing. Like lace, aran designs are transformed by wet blocking. This step allows me to check that I have the length I want before embarking on the upper body, and to see that the knitting is really working out to my desired size.
I've already knitted the first three inches of sleeve.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Well, That Was Embarrassing

Have a really close look at the cable crossings in my previous post. Notice anything? One of them was not crossed correctly. I've circled it (rather faintly in red) below. It should have gone under, not over.

Unfortunately, I didn't catch it until a couple of inches later. Then, I took a deep breath, and with two small wooden cable needles I unraveled the one bit of cable down and re-hooked it back up correctly.

All fixed!

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Excitement Begins

After days of cabled ribbing, finally I've got launched into the more complex (and fun) cable patterns.
Here's my chart with my place marked using Knitpicks magnetic board.

If you work from charts at all, you need one of these. There are other brands out there, but I like this one because it folds up like a little book.
So much fun to see the chart getting translated into three dimensions.

Strolled down the street to historic Bellevue House to check out the kitchen gardens and orchard.

It looks as though the pumpkins are coming along nicely.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Aran Bible

If you're interested in designing aran sweaters, there's really only one book you need to have on hand--Janet Szabo's Aran Sweater Design. She covers EVERYTHING! For instance, I'm aiming to design a bottom-up raglan aran. Naturally, one gravitates toward EZ's percentage system, but how do you make that work when the body totals are much higher than they would be in stocking stitch because of all the cabling, and the sleeve is likely to have rather less cabling and more filler stitches? The answer: apply the percentage system using inches instead of stitch totals. Brilliant.

I'm done the extra long cabled ribbing (above) and about to launch into the serious cabling work. This is Quince's Lark in "Frost", not blocked yet and feeling oh so squishy!

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Plan

A few weeks ago, I took up Karen Templer's suggestion to read "The Curated Closet", by Anuschka Rees.

 Image result for the curated closet images

What a revelatory experience! In particular, I enjoyed her chapter on colour palettes. There's a tendency, of which I am guilty, to build a wardrobe consisting mostly of neutrals. In my case, I seem to gravitate toward grey and black. Not until I saw photos of myself wearing my Audrey Coat did I realize the effect of this on someone with greying hair. Boring, boring, boring. But how to incorporate colour without losing control over the essence of one's wardrobe? See Chapter 10 of Rees's book for guidance. She suggests choosing nine shades in total: three main colours, 2 neutrals, and four accents. Here's one of her examples:

Now, here's my own creation:

I've rendered the chart in words rather than nice little blocks of colour, but here is the palette translated into yarn and fabric so you can see the total effect. The light wasn't cooperating (nothing to do with today's partial eclipse--we're too far from the centre of action), so I'm including two pics--one in sunlight and one under an overcast sky.

Bottom Row left to right above:
-white (accent) linen from a top I already own,
- navy (neutral) linen/cotton Essex (Sonya Philip's Pants #1 in XS),
-teal (main colour) washed linen from Merchant and Mills (Sonya Philip's Dress #1 in S),
-pale grey (main colour) Quince & Co's Lark in Frost (in the process of becoming my new aran pullover),
-icy blue (main colour) Quince & Co's Chickadee in Glacier (shown here as Bibliogloves, but my Modern Gansey is in the same colour but in Osprey),
- plum (accent) in Cascade 220 in #8885.
Top row left to right:
-dark grey (neutral) in Sandnesgarn's Silk Mohair, and
-black (accent) in Knitpicks Wool of the Andes in Coal.

As you can see, I've built my palette around colours I already own and enjoy wearing. With the fall season approaching, for the first time I feel I have a concrete plan for wardrobe-related purchases. Liberating, not constraining!