Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Sweater Analysis

My friend Mary is in her 80's and an accomplished knitter. I spotted her wearing this beautiful Aran cardi a while back, and I requested the pattern...but it turns out the sweater is as old as I am and the pattern is long gone.

So, instead, she lent me the sweater for some analysis. I invite you to share on my "sweater deconstruction" journey...

Here's the sweater. Lovely, no?

[vintage aran cardigan]

Just looking at it, you can see that:
1. it's been knit flat in pieces, and sewn together. 
2. the sleeves are "set-in", not drop-shoulder or raglan
3. the font band is vertical (not picked up later and knit on), and has been knit separately and sewn on. Ditto the collar.

I think this method of construction was par for the course in the 1960's - nowadays lots of people tend to knit sweaters in the round, and do drop-sleeves, and knit on the front band and collar. 

Let's have a look at the stitch patterns to see if I can figure this puppy out. I'll start with the easiest one; the one that the sleeves are knitted out of and that runs up the sides of the sweater fronts and back:

["background" pattern]

This is pretty clearly:
R1: knit on RS
R2: purl on WS
R3, 4: K1 P1 ribbing

Then repeat, but offset the ribbing.

Right? OK. Look really really closely at the ribbing. 

[zoomyzoom on the ribbing part of the background]

The two blue arrows point to a column of sts from the ribbing rows, and the orange arrows point to the stockinette rows. You can see that the ribbing rows are twisted stitches while the stockinette is not. The left leg of each twisted stitch overlaps the right leg, whereas in the not-twisted stitches, the two legs originate from the same point. So, the actual background pattern is:

2 rows stockinette (K one row, P back)
2 rows twisted ribbing (KTBL, PTBL)
and then repeated, offset.

And don't feel bad if you got this wrong. I did, and tried plain ole' ribbing. Here's what I got, and you can see it doesn't look as nice!

[my swatch]

I was trying to get that crisp, ripply look and figured at first it was my needle size, so I kept downsizing. But you can see it didn't help! My wool is different too, of course - it's woolier than Mary's, so that doesn't help with the stitch definition - but I'm glad I decided on a closer inspection. I will have to redo the swatch now!

Next up: the bobble cabley thing:

[bobble-cable, in context]

This one's a bit harder, but it's clearly 2 rope cables twisting in opposite directions, separated by a bobble. Duh.

Now, in detail - I had to look on the inside, and stretch the knitting out to count stitches - the cables are over 5 stitches, and every twist is made of up 3 stitches in the front crossing over 2 in the back, and this is done every 4 rows. They're asymmetric, which is kinda unusual. 

Now, also notice that the right-side cable looks narrower than the left-side cable; this is particularly noticeable in the photo above. Why??

Again, let's zoom:

[zoom of bobble cables]

The stitches are again twisted! Telltale ridges are appearing along the RH cable (see yellow line to guide the eye). And, because the "through the back loop" technique twist stitches in the clockwise direction, I can imagine that a clockwise cable will look tighter than a counterclockwise one. Which is what you see in the pic above, right?

So, I have embarked on a swatch to combat this problem. It involves knitting TBL on one side of the bobble, and reseating the sts prior to knitting them, on the other side. It matters not which side you do what on; the point is that the stitch-level twist and the cable-level twist on each side are symmetric (either opposing each other, or going the same way, on each side). Of course, you could also omit the whole twist thing and just knit and purl, but then your cables will not be as tightly defined.

To reseat a stitch, you slip it knitwise to the RH needle, then transfer it back to the left while keeping the twist in place. Remove your RH needle from the stitch completely, or you will have a strong desire to knit it through the back loop, which will undo what you've just done! Now the stitch is reseated and ready for regular through-the-front knitting or purling.

Now, as to that bobble, this took me several tries, as well as some dives into stitch dictionaries to find out how to do bobbles. In the end I settled on a 5-stitch bobble. You can see my swatch below. Both cables are the same width and the bobbles look the right size. And below that, you can see where I tried plain old untwisted sts on the cables. I don't like the result as much!

[my bobbley-cable swatch, with TBL and reseated sts]

[another swatch, this time with no twisted sts]

Isn't this fun? Oh, and here's the chart:

[chart for bobble cable]

OK, almost done. Let's look at the diamond things.

[diamond pattern]

Yikes. This looks complicated. These are 4-stitch wide travelling bands defining a diamond, which is filled with moss stitch. The 4-wide bands are themselves cabled. To get this, you need to cable on both the front and the back of the work. If I use the bobble-cable on either side as a guide, I'm guessing the diamond takes 24 rows or so to complete. It stretches over 21 sts (includes 2 reverse stockinette "gutters" on either side).

Here's my chart:

[diamond pattern chart]

You'll see that I've done the travelling on the wrong side of the work (even rows) and the cabling on the right side (odd rows). I've worked up a swatch, too...

[diamond cable swatch]

I'm not entirely happy with this yet though. I think especially the diamond cable swatch is too small; too tight. I will try all these again with larger needles, now that I have figured out that the background stitch reqiures twisted sts!

I must say I am pleased that I am able to recognize a high-quality knitted garment. And close examination of it shows lots of expert-level pattern details! Mary is indeed a fine knitter.

1 comment:

  1. That sweater is gorgeous! Don't know if I would have picked up on the twisted stitches - well done!