The Genesis of a Sweater

You can knit along happily for years, cheerfully working up other people’s patterns, but then, suddenly, when you least expect it, inspiration will strike. There is nothing for it but to knit something completely from scratch.

First, I was in Looking Glass Yarns in Santa Fe when I noticed that, amazingly, Rowan has re-introduced its old, indigo-dyed cotton yarn, and I had to have some. Mind you, it’s a real PITA to work with. The indigo gets all over your hands (luckily it comes off easily with soap and water), and you have to knit with a towel or old pillowcase or something in your lap to keep the loose dye from getting all over your clothes, and you have to wash the finished piece before you can wear it. You have to make it longer, because it will shrink fairly dramatically in length—in my chosen stitch pattern, it shrinks from 5 rows per inch to 8 rows.  (Readers of a certain age may remember how important it used to be to buy jeans a couple of inches too long in the pre-stonewashed era.)

BUT, it fades like real denim, and acquires a depth of color that yarns dyed in the usual way to approximate a denim color cannot hope to equal. I still have a sweater that I knit out of this yarn when it was first available thirty years ago, and I still get compliments on it. People who have never seen this kind of yarn stop me on the street to ask where I got it.

OK, Mildred, you can try it on. There. Yes, it does feel great, doesn’t it? Like an old pair of jeans.

Sweater.jpg

So, what to do with my beautiful, new dark indigo yarn?

I have recently started to get a catalogue from a wonderful clothing line, based in the UK, called Poetry. It’s right up my alley—boatloads of linen, lots of rich neutrals and subtle tonal colors, wonderful fabrics. Think early Eileen Fisher, or even J. Jill before the recession. Hemp/cotton and linen t-shirts. Silk dresses. Simple, minimalist lines.

Best. Sewing. Inspiration. Ever. And the source of the second part of my sweater inspiration.

I couldn’t help but be taken with this long, slouchy vest.  Vests are incredibly useful in this climate. And pockets! Yay! It’s done in linen, but wouldn’t it be nice in indigo cotton? The copy erroneously describes it as being done in a “mesh stitch,” even though it’s only reverse stockinette knit at a fairly loose gauge. But a simple, allover mesh pattern would be nice, and would make for a drapier fabric, since this yarn would not drape particularly well if knit at a firm gauge. And the yarn ages even more beautifully when knit into a fabric with some texture.

So I sat down with my Barbara Walker stitch directories, fiddled with some patterns, and listened to the yarn. It does not wish to be made to look too frilly or foofy. But if the pattern is too subtle, it doesn’t show at all. Some stitch patterns that look great in the light-colored sample just look odd in this dark yarn. Finally I settled on the “Open Basketweave Mesh” on page 252 of Walker’s Charted Knitting Designs. It’s the topmost pattern in the featured swatch.

Swatch.jpg

The edgings on the Poetry sweater are simply stockinette stitch that has been allowed to curl, and I will probably do a variation on that if the yarn cooperates. The sleeves appear to be a simple drop shoulder, but they have aligned the sleeve seam with the shoulder seam, which I might not do. Easy-peasy.

So. Ready. Set. Do some basic arithmetic. Knit.

4 comments on “The Genesis of a Sweater

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