Knitting: Update on the sweater named Vivian

Now it's time for an update on my progress with the sweater called Vivian, designed by Ysolda Teague. I'm making it with Brown Sheep Lanaloft (the singles, worsted-weight, 100% wool yarn). Vivian was last seen on May 11, 6.5 weeks ago, so I'll recap the story a bit. Apologies in advance for the varied photo qualities. If I stop to adjust the images, this will never get posted.

I knitted along on the sweater until the body and sleeves were done to the armholes and it was time to join them and work the upper body (including saddle shoulders). That was May 9. I discovered a problem.


It became apparent that one of the sweater's predominant design features, the cables that run uninterrupted up the side of the body, was not going to work as planned on the size I'd chosen (38). I thought of a variety of ways to fudge to get things to work and didn't like any of them.

So I cast on for the body again at the bottom (it's knitted back-and-forth in one piece), changing the stitch count so that I'd have enough stitches to remove at the underarm without violating the flow of the cables (or creating what I envisioned as an uncomfortably tight underarm). Without ripping my first version, because I didn't want to trash my start in case I got a brilliant idea just after I started over, I began to knit the body over again to see how I felt about going back to the starting line.


Upper left is the first version of the body; center is the start of the second version, and that was May 11, the most recent day Vivian appeared here.

By the time I was 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm) into it, I realized I was, indeed, going to abandon #1 and continue with #2. The only potential disadvantage was that the body would be an extra inch (2.5 cm) bigger, but I didn't perceive that as a problem, especially in a cabled cardigan. So I ripped out the first version, reclaimed the yarn, and kept going. That was May 13.


By June 3, after just over two weeks, I was back to the joining point. It took longer than I expected because other critical tasks took precedence over knitting. I don't get much knitting in anyway these days (maybe an hour or a bit more in the evening, three or four nights a week, on only Sundays and Mondays with anything resembling moderate regularity), and I got even less than usual during that time.


All was well until I reached the saddle shoulders. Again, the patterning was not going to work with the shaping in a way that would remain true to the designer's plan, which Ysolda describes in her post on the sweater's
origins as "unbroken cables [that] run from the flared cuffs up the
sleeves over the
saddles and eventually join together at the centre of the hood" (admittedly, I haven't reached the hood yet, so I can't speak for that part). Shaping of the saddle was going to intersect with the cable sequence in very awkward ways.

I mumbled about this for a while, partially in front of some members of the Monday night knitting group (one of the times I do get to knit, when I'm in town). The solution for this wasn't going to be as easy as starting over by using a slightly different stitch count and just making wider seed-stitch panels along the sides. Which was both good and bad news.

Folks at the group began speculating about widening the saddle to incorporate more pattern in a way that would accommodate the saddle shaping better. Ultimately, I decided to narrow the saddle instead, which I thought was a better solution because of my particular body type. The shaping now occurs at a different spot in the cable sequence.

When you change the width of a saddle, you also need to change the amount of body you knit before beginning the saddle. The techniques for making saddle shoulders that work, and thus the key to escape from my dilemma, are described in Knitting in the Old Way. Fortunately, I have that bit of the book well memorized! When I narrowed the saddle, I had to lengthen the body slightly. To keep the sweater true to its shaping, that meant continuing to decrease along the body/sleeve join line. I have quite narrow shoulders, so this is okay. For someone with wider shoulders, it would have been the wrong choice.

So here's where I am—one saddle has been worked, and I'm ready to do the other. I'll need to be watchful as I prepare to do the hood, to make sure the cable transitions work there as well, after my modifications. I'll also have to monitor the neckline shaping, although the adjustments I'm making are minor enough, in the grand scope of things, that I should be within a couple of rows of where I need to be. The dappled light is because I didn't wait for the right time of day to shoot a photo without a nice tree-leaf pattern. I like the shadows cast by trees, although they don't do much for showing knitting clearly. So we're up to June 25.


I had planned to finish the sweater in time to wear it to the college reunion I attended last week. The project did go with me, in progress, and when I was at the book signing event two fellow knitters and Ravelry members came up and reminded me that it was World Wide Knit in Public Day, so I pulled Vivian out of her bag and put her on the table, but I didn't have time to knit (signing books) or occasion to think (required because what I'm doing now is off the plan). She was good company, though, at my table in the corner.

Almost as good company as my neighbor at the signing, Connie Berman, a history prof at the University of Iowa who has written some fascinating books on medieval topics, with special attention to women's roles and concerns. (She's also a knitter.)


On the other side of me (I really was in the corner) were Danny Proud, taking pre-orders for his CD of original songs (I can't locate a website), and Tamim Ansary, whose books I've mentioned here before. That was just the folks from my class!

We were especially well represented because it was a 40th reunion and there was a big push to get as many of us back to campus as possible. Even those who didn't graduate from the school, like me and Tamim, were included (I was in residence for almost three years, and learned a lot during that time). It's lovely to still be included, and I had a fantastic time. What an interesting group of people (and not just my cohort, because the reunion is for all alumni). One featured event sponsored by my class offered perspectives on the current situation in Afghanistan by three of "us" who had contrasting and complementary experiences: Tamim, who is Afghan-American; congressman Rush Holt; and Don Camp, who's been in the Peace Corps, foreign service, and Department of State.

I hadn't been to a college reunion before (I didn't actually ever go to a graduation anywhere, either, as it turns out, although I earned a couple of degrees). Two things were amazing: how interesting the people are, as reflected in the diverse paths they've taken; and how much they are the same as they were those many years ago—in personalities, body language, and speech. I went to one high school reunion (25th) and was not as struck by the consistency over the years; likely people are just that much more formed by the end of college. The exact paths people took could not have been predicted based on who we were then, of course (who would have predicted I'd be spending my days with rare wools?), but the qualities of mind were quite evident.

I'm glad to be back in touch.


And I do think I need to cast on for a simple pair of socks, for carry-around knitting. Especially since I have more work to do that involves travel, and the sweater (which I am supposed to be wearing by now) is too big to transport for the next trip, which involves airplanes.

Socks. Back to socks. Although I really want to finish this sweater!


4 thoughts on “Knitting: Update on the sweater named Vivian”

  1. “Vivian” looks like she is going to be beautiful, despite the need for more than one re-design on the fly! (You have more patience than I do for that, and of course your formidable skills and knowledge help too…) It’s great to hear the news from reunion, and to imagine you reconnecting with interesting people and rediscovering a lively community. May the next trip be productive and go as well as possible!

  2. Thanks, Susan. "Vivian" is at home, and I'm not; I have swatching materials for socks with me, and Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' fundamental Simple Socks techniques in my brain. I *just* came through the concourse A walkway. I figured out on the way to the terminal that the "terraphilia" display you and Richard did was on the *other* side (the return path), and I figured that out at a time when walking all the way around and back was not an option. So I'll see it from close-up when I walk the other direction. I'm impressed with the overall Colorado Art Ranch display, and I stopped and read your (lovely) summation of the "water" artposium in the first case. Wish I could have been part of that, but . . . I was buried in wool. . . .

  3. I just got Tamim’s book from the library. Looking forward to it.

    I admire your determination to finish the sweater. I’d have given up long ago! :}

  4. Laura, I hope and trust you will like the book! I listened to it in audio form from the library, and then bought a signed copy for my daughter.

    I'm taking a break from the sweater, although I did wish I had it to wear on the plane today.

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