Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Margaret - the introduction

When I first saw Mason Dixon new book Knitting Outside the Lines in a bookstore, I immediately loved this design and I bought the book just for it, but there are many more beautiful and interesting things there (like Belinda). The silhouette of this very feminine design and the possibility to add words to it was love at the first sight. I did realize quite quickly though that the skirt part of the cardigan was going to take – not forever but – for quite some time to knit, but then, I have never feared of spending long time knitting and I did not let it intimidate me.

I love thin yarn and small needles. I have often said that my favorite needle size is 3 mm and since Margaret will take long time with even bigger needles, I was determined to spend the longish time with my beloved gear. I have an ongoing love affair with Studio Maisa Tikkanen Finnwool and I happened (!) to have enough yarn in color 240 for this cardigan.

It is woollen spun yarn and reminds me of Shetland Spindrift but Finnwool might be a bit softer. Since the pattern is written for heavier yarn I will need to figure out the pattern for thinner yarn but I will try to keep the outlook the same as much as I can and am able.

“My favorite sweater is the (a) seamless one.”

These are words by Elizabeth Zimermann, but could be mine as well and I will try to get rid of all the seams.

The cardigan has saddle shoulder construction. At first I thought that I would knit it top down with Barbara Walker’s Knitting from the Top by my side, but raglans and seamless yokes are the only sweaters I have done top down, so I did not dare and turned to EZ and Knitting without Tears. I will follow her advice for saddle shoulders and knit it her way from the waist up.I have cast on with provisional crochet cast on for the upper part of the cardigan and have done one full repeat of the write-on lines pattern. I had to adjust the row count for my pattern but I am hoping this will be close to the one in the book. The waistline is above the natural waistline what means that it is short and quickly done (if anything knit with 3 mm’s can be done so) and I will need to get busy with the sleeves to be able to knit the upper part.

I have been considering different options with the skirt part. If I knit it top down, I will need to increase at certain intervals and I have been trying to find a way to do the increases so that they won’t be visible. None of my methods have worked out. I have swatched.I know I am too fussy and maybe you should pay no attention to the next blabber but let me try to explain. The skirt is done in ribbing and the increases are done alternatively in the purl or knit parts and the problem is in the knit parts. I don’t like the little steps or slightly distorted stitches or tiny holes I get when I make the increases in the knit rows. If these increases were just occasional I would not worry, but there are so many that these increases form almost patterns.

In the purl rows this is not a problem, because ribbing pulls in and hides the increases while the knit rows step forward. Even though the increases are sort of hard to see in a finished cardigan which is knit with small gauge I will need to stare at them while knitting and big part of the enjoyment lies in the knitting and seeing the cardigan take shape. I know I could talk me into ignoring this for a while, but I am a bit worried of doing that, because the skirt will take weeks to knit and I am afraid of getting wild ideas when I am knitting: I know no matter how much I love the cardigan, at some point I am going to feel frustrated and will be on the lookout for mistakes and for a good reason to abandon the cardigan I don’t want to give myself any kind of justification to rip the skirt having done more than half of it and blaming it on the wonky increases.

If I knit the dress from down towards waist, I will be decreasing instead of increasing and decreases are easier to hide. Also if I start from the bottom my rows will be getting shorter and then they will go quicker and this for sure would lead to less frustration and that is an advantage to consider.

I have not made up my mind yet because figuring out how many stitches is needed requires some calculating and judgment and then after that finding out how many hundred stitches should be cast on in the very beginning is a bit daunting. But then, again, knitting makes me happy and time spent creating stitches is well spent, so I really should stop this procrastination.

Margaret is a beautiful design and one that I hope to be able to wear when it is done. The main reason why I find this very appealing right now is the challenge of finding my own pathway in the making of it. I have never done saddle shoulders without seams and I can’t wait to be able to try it out. I am going to learn something new again. And I just love it.



  1. Lene, it sounds like you already know that you'll be happiest with it if you knit it bottom-up! It's going to be lovely, can't wait to see your progress!

  2. I love this post! What a thorough planning! I look forward to reading more about it.

  3. What would happen if you buried the increases on each edge of the knitted part of the rib? Perhaps increasing between the knit and purl stitch.

    However it does sound like you will be happiest working the skirt from bottom to bodice.

  4. I recently knit a Durrow-inspired sweater for my son. Having unsatisfactory results with the saddle shoulder construction as written (http://livnletlrn.blogspot.com/search?q=big+guy), I turned to EZ's saddle shoulder construction guidance and the whole thing turned out beautifully, I think (http://livnletlrn.blogspot.com/search?q=undurrow).

    I too am currently swatching and calculating for what I hope will be a gansey for my husband. Most recent yarn choice is biasing a lot, so it's back to the drawing board for me, but I'm enjoying the process right along with you!

  5. What a lovely colour you've picked! I agree that decreases would be easier to hide--I've noticed for myself that the knit of a knit-into-front-and-back is a little larger than the surrounding stitches, though more irritating to me is trying to make-1 purlwise, because even twisted, that leaves a gap (and I have had plenty of opportunity to observe this, since my current sock project is Firestarter by Yarnissima, with that marvelous purl gusset). I suppose you could make the increases a twisted yarnover--that would really make it a design element--but if it isn't the look you want......

    I look forward to seeing it, however you decide--it's a gorgeous sweater and I'm sure you'll knit it beautifully.

  6. Oh, yes--and that Blogger-link doesn't go anywhere, because I have a Google account, and not a Blogger profile, but on Ravelry I'm Cinnabars, and ditto on Plurk.

  7. Excited to see the results of your planning and scheming. What fun to consider all the options.

  8. Anonymous00:59

    The most appealing thing I find in your planning is to work from a large bottom edge and decrease away the stitches. The psychological boost proves invaluable as a project wears on. The color and style look so YOU in your land of blue, north of the Arctic Circle. Looks like good knitting up ahead for the winter!

  9. Happy loppiainen, Lene!
    I have relatives in Finland that I recently got in touch with... they're in Ikaalinen, which I think is fairly far to the south of you?

  10. lillybomm07:34

    This is going to be a seriously good looking garment. If you decide to do the skirt from the waist down, why not center the increases in the knit areas? Make them a design feature.

  11. this is going to be a very interesting experience !!! there are many things that I don't understand since I'm still a novice about knitting but I will follow your knitting very closely...I'm sure I'll learn...and enjoy ! (my favourite needle size is 3 also !)

  12. Lene, can you knit the skirt from the hem upwards, and then join it to the bodice by grafting or a three needle bindoff?

    Otherwise, could you use the Latvian braid pattern to disguise the join? I haven;t actually used this stitch so I'm a little uncertain about its potential.

  13. Lene,
    I made a saddle shoulder using EZ instructions and it worked out great. Also, you probably know, but when changing gauge, I use the formula M/P or My gauge divided by Pattern gauge. For both rows and stitches. It also works out great. Eg. If the pattern gauge is 10 sts over 4 inches and yours is 8,then you are working at 80% of pattern. So everywhere the patterns calls for a number of stitches, do 80% of that number. Hope this helps.

  14. india17:08

    Have you swatched using a lifted increase? I find this to be much less visible on the knit side than the other commonly used increases. I tend toward favoring the seamless, waist-down approach for the skirt, but the advantage of avoiding the seam might be outweighed by the disadvantage of the long bind-off at the end of the skirt!

  15. In an email newsletter from Schoolhouse Press, Meg recommended an increase thought up by one of the oldtime knitters (I think). It's a M1 but instead of knitting into the front and back, you knit into the front and then leave the unknit loop on the needle. Kind of like a lifted increase but without the pull from the lower row. I have used it when I remember and don't get the gap. I love your deliberations over this pattern.

  16. Very beautiful--I love reading about the planning stages of your projects.

  17. What I am most looking forward to is reading the words you choose to knit into this design. What will it say? Like a fortune cookie cardigan. Lovely choice of project.
    I will closely listen to any advice you may give us about saddle shoulders. I am designing my first sweater with this feature.
    Since you stash yarn in advance, could you recommend to me how one decides the amount to purchase ahead of time. I think having a hardy stash is the key to dreaming up lots of knitting adventures. One of my resolutions this year.

  18. What a beautiful project this will be. I look forward to watching it develop.

  19. michelle21:44

    i love your new banner! so. very. cute.

    i also love reading about your knitting process. beautiful yarn & pattern. can't wait to see more of it!

  20. Ann in Montreal23:52

    Lene,I think it is very generous of you to allow us all the experience of your creative process. It is fascinating to observe how other knitters approach a pattern. We shall all be waiting to find out the direction you choose to take.
    I love the textural words on Margaret, last year I knit some poetry mittens, words in colour work. I am looking forward to seeing how this project grows.

  21. Anonymous02:24

    I look forward to the beauty you will create from this pattern.

    I miss seeing the amazingly beautiful cat on your webpage. Please bring him back.

  22. There's an award waiting for you over at Cornflower, Lene!