Monday, September 3, 2007

Creating an Aran Sweater

I got a commission (paid job) to knit an Aran sweater. It was an anniversary gift to replace an existing (barely) sweater. I did what I usually do when I'm knitting a sweater - took measurements, checked out the person's (Glen's) likes and dislikes, and then we started on the yarn quest. Glen liked the denim blue color in Lopi yarn. So Glen and his wife Carol bought the yarn and I took it home. After I knit a swatch, I had to tell them that Lopi was definitely not (IMHO) an appropriate yarn for an Aran sweater - it was too fuzzy for the patterns to show up. They agreed. Over the next few weeks the two of them were on a quest to find THE yarn. They finally did - Tahki Donegal Tweed Homespun - in a light gray that has little speckles of color throughout which gives the yarn more visual interest.

I knit a swatch. I liked the yarn - I have a "thing" for yarn that still has the lanolin in it. I knit several sections: stockinette; moss stitch; and one of the cable patterns Greg liked on size 8 (US) needles. I got a gauge of 4 stitches to the inch for the stockinette and moss stitch, and 6 stitches to the inch for the cable section.

Next I started to plot out the actual cable patterns and placement. Eight hours later, I had the pattern. The cable patterns that Glen had liked wouldn't work with the way the sweater needed to be set up, because Glen wants a longer cardigan with a shawl collar. I had to find a central pattern for the back that I could divide for the front. The math for the number of stitches wouldn't adapt to the chosen cable patterns. So I finally worked out something else, still using elements that I knew Glen liked, charted them out (by the way, my recent foray into lace knitting has sharpened my chart-reading skills, so that I found working with charts for cables to be much easier!), and started knitting.

When I next met with Glen and Carol, they were a bit uncertain about the changes, since they were unfamiliar with reading knitting charts, but were good enough to accept my explanations. I told them that we'd meet in a week and if Glen really didn't like how the sweater was progressing, I could rip it out and try something else (be still my beating heart...).

I was trying to get a balanced design: while it is mostly cables, the center panel is more open, and since the center cables are a repeat, this pattern can be split to go up the front of the cardigan. I used tight 4-stitch cables to delineate the larger patterns, and used a more closely twining cable pattern as the secondary pattern. Then I used bobbles (trinity stitch) and then for the underarm area, the moss stitch. I think the diagonals on the bobbles and the diagonals of the moss stitch, subtle though they be, complement each other.
The cat, Dilly Llama, can't knit, is smart enough not to voice opinions, but likes to hang out around wool.


Archiknist said...


That sweater design is beautiful! How could they not like it?

(and great cat name!)

ccr in MA said...

Now that is impressive!

knittin gin said...

It looks great so far! I am also very impressed that you're designing it as well making it!

Sherra said...

are you willing to share your design? it's beautiful.