How I managed NOT to get myself into knitting trouble

Well, this is a minor miracle. I managed not to over-modify the Must Have Cardigan in making my adjustments. Once I dig into modifying a pattern I often almost completely revamp it: gauge, size, patterning, neckline, sleeves, closure. . . .

Because I haven’t done that this time, the design looks like it will
end up doing exactly what I want it to: being a good carry-around,
ongoing project, just challenging enough to be interesting but not
requiring too much attention. I wanted something that feels like doing
musical scales and chord progressions for the pleasure of hearing the
sounds, not practicing a symphony for a concert. 

My primary motivation was to put in a different primary cable because I definitely need to lengthen the body (I always have to lengthen the body) and I wanted a pattern that would intersect nicely with the decreases of the V neckline, no matter where in the repeat sequence that intersection occurred.

(The design is also a bit of a warm-up and test case for the book I’m editing, when the computers work as they should, which is Donna Druchunas’ Ethnic Knitting Exploration, which looks in part at cabled Irish-inspired sweaters and at cardigan structures . . . and is due out in October 2008, which will happen if the computers continue to cooperate. And I’m in trouble if they don’t, so they’d better. And that was more than enough "whiches" for one sentence back there.)

One of the most unusual aspects of my modification process this time is that I’m still
at the original gauge, so I can use the pattern’s numbers (except for
lengths). That almost never happens.

I found a few cables that I liked by browsing around in Janet Szabo‘s Cables, Volume 1 and put them together in a sequence I thought I might enjoy. The patterns are repeats of 4, 6, and 8 rows, so the overall repeat is
24 rows but within that sequence the variations are simple. The primary cable, which I found in Janet’s book, also appears as "Shadow Plaited Stitch" in Mary Thomas’s Book of Knitting Patterns (1943), and long ago I’d marked it in that book to try some day. Having it show up here was like finally scheduling time to have tea with someone I wanted to get to know better.

For my swatch, I used some of the yarn left over from the Norsk Strikkedesign sweater (which, by the way, I wear frequently and happily). The swatch is the green in the photo below. If you look at the Norsk Strikkedesign sweater, it’s obvious why there’s leftover green. I’ve made some of Jared Flood‘s Koolhaas hats with some of the extra yarn from that sweater, but I didn’t get around to using the two greens.


The green swatch, next to the blue starts of the real sleeves, provides a really good demo of the advantage of working cables (or other textured stitches) in light-colored yarns. They show up a lot better. The blue I’m using for the sweater itself is not so dark it completely wipes out the cables, but they’re definitely more subtle than they would be in a lighter shade.

However, there’s a plus in that walking-the-dark-side choice of mine for this garment. It comes in design-thought-process Note 7, below.

  • Note 1. I had planned to have the first cable-crossings on the second row, which tucks them in nicely next to the ribbing but puts them past the increases that need to occur between ribbing and main pattern area (because of cable draw-in, there are more increases than for an un-cabled sweater).
  • Note 2. I like my ribbings to flow into my cable patterns, knits to knits and purls to purls, as much as possible.
  • Note 3. In order to have the cable-crossings occur on the right-side rows, a row-2 cable crossing means that row 1 is a set-up row worked from the back side.
  • Note 4. For completely obscure reasons pertaining to how my brain works, I had the darnedest time getting my set-up row to work correctly.

The observation in Note 4 is one of the reasons I am grateful for swatches. They can make life lots simpler by bringing potential problems to my attention.

It’s not complicated to do a set-up row and I’ve done it more times than I would want to try to remember, but it wasn’t working. Nor were the following rows falling into a rhythm the first time I knitted the swatch. Or the second time. I was concerned that I’d need to revamp the patterning, because I didn’t want to feel like I was fighting the pattern the whole way. That would have defeated the purpose of this project.

So I decided to try working my first set of cable crossings on the FIRST row, instead of the second. No set-up row.

I ripped the swatch and started again. For whatever reason . . . nothing at all changed except the set-up, so the fact that this shift succeeded is almost totally illogical, but I don’t argue with results . . . this went fine and produced the green swatch you see.

  • Note 5. BUT, looking ahead, I could see some challenges in the sequence moving from the ribbing to the transitional increases (which I’d normally work on the set-up row) to the main pattern area. If I worked the increases on the last row of ribbing, I’d have to cross the cables directly above the increases. That would be a little awkward to maneuver, especially since one of the cables is a 2-over-3 cross that’s tighter and more fiddly than the predominant 2-over-2s.
  • Note 6. I thought: What if I worked the increases in the second and final rows of ribbing? I’ve never seen this done (it probably has been) but I didn’t see why it wouldn’t work. I tried it, using lifted increases between the two stitches in a pair of knit ribs and keeping them within that rib (which became a k3 instead of a k2) for the couple of rows until the ribbing was done. I worked most of the increases (10) on the right-side, second-to-last row and some (just 3) on the reverse-side last row (which, worked on that side’s knit ribs, produced p3 ribs when seen from the front). That way the stitch count for the main pattern area was well established before I hit the first pattern row with its cable crossings. (By the way, the reason for doing initial cable crossings on the first or second row is well explained in Janet‘s book.)
  • Note 7. Here’s the plus of working in a darker-than-average yarn: I blew off my own preference for knit-to-knit and purl-to-purl flow from ribbing to main patterns, in part because in the medium-dark yarn that transition wouldn’t be very obvious anyway.

My new primary cable is the 2-over-2 alternating pattern that shows up pretty well in the center of the green swatch. I was afraid that it might be a bit undefined at its edges, so on either side of the swatch I worked a narrow section of that pattern with a regular 2-over-2 rope cable running up its sides. As it turns out, I like the plain version so well that I thought about taking out the rope cables, but ended up going with the sequence exactly as it is on my swatch, using both variations.

  • Note 8. I made the decision to use the underarm and side-edge texture pattern specified on the original pattern to make increasing in pattern relatively easy. I’m keeping the outside stitch at each sleeve edge in stockinette, to simplify later seaming (I’m knitting the sleeves flat, and haven’t decided yet about the body).
  • Note 9. And I decided to work the sleeve-edge increases every 6 rows, to correspond with the 2-over-3 cable crossings, instead of every 8 rows, as specified in the pattern, just to make it easier to remember when to do them: Time for the fanciest cable? Increase at the edges, too! The sleeves get a little wider a little faster and reach their full width just below the elbow. That reflects one of my preferences for sweaters anyway: I move around a lot, and more ease at the elbow is beneficial.

Here’s the proof that my decisions were the right ones:


The sleeves are coming right along, and I’m enjoying knitting them. I’ve knitted during a lecture, while watching a bit of television with my daughter, and elsewhere. And I am knitting a row or two when I need a break from computer work, or just to think a bit about how to solve a problem. The project is doing exactly what it was meant to do.

  • Note 10. Interestingly, there’s a nice symmetry in the way the cables flow out of the ribbing. In spite of the fact that I let go of that part of my intention in its strictest form.

I do keep my chart handy, and it’s got sticky notes on it, but I can tell what happens in the next right-side row with a quick glance and then just do it. Even though there’s a bit of pattern fiddling on the return
(reverse-side) rows, what needs to happen on them is always obvious
from looking at the work, rather than the chart. Before I’m done with the sleeves, I’ll have the whole sequence memorized so I can work without the chart, although I’m not there yet (mostly because I’m not paying enough attention).

Since I took the second photo, the sleeves have gotten noticeably longer.

In fact, the only problem with this project is that I’m enjoying it so much, and making such good progress, that I’ll need another project to fill the same knitting role a bit sooner than I might ideally want.

Then again, I think I’ll like wearing this sweater, so that’s a reason to be okay with finishing it sooner than I intend.


4 thoughts on “How I managed NOT to get myself into knitting trouble”

  1. Just reading all your notes is making me cross eyed! That would be my “ultra serious concentrating knitting.” Right now, my TV knitting requires lots of stockinette. I hope one day to graduate back to colorwork or cables. It may be a while!

  2. Oh YES!!! Thanks for sharing this. I’ve done many charts and swatches for the ribbing-into-cable flow. Love the blue.

  3. It looks lovely.! I think you have “unvented” a new pattern..
    The wee stuffed mouse arrived yesterday and “Socks” is LOVING it! Thank you so much. I will try and get a picture for you to see her playing. thanks again

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