Deco

When I began designing this cardigan, I had buildings in mind.

I love the graceful set-backs that are a feature of New York’s Art Deco and Moderne skyscrapers, (such as the Paramount building, shown left) and thought that a similar architectural feature would look great, when turned upside-down, as the waist shaping on a sweater front. This metal grille from the lobby of Ely Kahn’s Squibb building suggests the sort of thing of which I was thinking. . .

. . . and the other thing that I couldn’t get out of my mind was this:

These are the architects of the early twentieth-century New York skyline, dressed as the buildings they designed, at the famously batty 1931 Beaux-Arts ball. I doubted my skyscraper-inspired sweater was going to come anywhere close to the insane, space-age confection that is William Van Alen’s Chrysler building costume, but I liked the general idea of being dressed as a building. (I have found a short video clip of the architects at the 1931 Beaux Arts ball and I suggest you go and have a look immediately. My favourite — just for the way he suggests mundanity and modernity — is Arthur J. Arwine dressed as a low-pressure heating boiler).

I reckoned I could achieve an architectural effect using a simple slip-stitch pattern, and that the skyscraper-inspired tapered waist-shaping should be flattering for women of all shapes and sizes (at least that’s the idea, anyway). For the shape of the cardigan, I went back to my 1940s pattern books and decided on a neat, tapered style with set-in sleeves. The slip-stitch pattern is very simple and fun to knit. You can see the upside-down skyscraper effect of the slip-stitches in this shot:

the same slip stitch pattern also features on the hem, cuffs, and back yoke . . .

. . . just as if one were working a heel, the slip stitches also provide a useful point of reference for shaping the sleeve caps, which are picked up and worked, using short rows, from the top-down. There is something very pleasing about the way that the sleeve cap emerges from the slipped stitch edge. I’m not sure quite why, but whatever it is, these sleeve caps are certainly the neatest I’ve ever made. . .


I heart short-row sleeve caps!

In this next shot, you can see the Nichols buttons and the clear snap fasteners on the opposite button band:

. . .and in this shot, how the cardigan looks when fastened . .


(get out from under me feet, Bruce!)

. . . while in this one, you get a slightly strained expression, and a hint of the taped interiors of the button bands:

The weather was bizarrely balmy yesterday, and we took Bruce for a walk at Crammond, where these photos were taken (much to the bemusement of Edinburgh’s lunchtime dog-walkers). Bruce is not a great photoshoot assistant, it has to be said. . .

. . . the weirdly studied pose I manage to assume here is, in fact, the effect of a wet and impatient labrador puppy worrying at me feet.

. . . reasonable shot of the cardigan, though, which is called Deco, after its architectural design influences.

For my 30″ bust size, I used just over 5 skeins / 800 yards of the wonderful Blacker designs Corriedale 4 ply, which I knitted quite densely on 3mm needles. It is ravelled here.

Well, I now have a backlog of pattern writing — to be honest, the stroke has rather got in the way over the past couple of months — but things are at last moving onward and upward with the Tortoise and Hare sweater and gloves, and I’m very much looking forward to writing the pattern for Deco, which I’m designing to fit any bust size from 30 to 50 inches.

That’s all, folks!

ETA the pattern is now available!

Buttons of Dreams

Several of you left comments or sent me messages regarding my button dilemma (for which many thanks). But the biggest thanks must go to Jayne, who told me about the amazing buttons of Lionel Nichols. (Warning! Prepare yourselves! The link takes you directly to button heaven!) Sixty years ago, Nichols fashioned beautiful glass buttons by hand for London couturiers. His daughter, Dixie, has inherited his collection, and now offers the remaining buttons for sale in seasonal collections. To quote Dixie’s website:

“For two decades, 1946 to 1966, L. Nichols produced what were probably the most interesting and original buttons in England. I have boxes and boxes of buttons, many of them unopened for decades, a treasure trove built up order by order as extras had to be made to ensure that a matched set could be found for each garment, in spite of the irregularities of the hand made process.”

All of Nichols buttons are unique, and many are quite staggeringly beautiful. Perusing Dixie’s collections, I was reminded of just how precious-seeming and utterly desirable buttons can be (more thoughts on which here). Indeed, in terms of their beauty, the care of their craftmanship and their sheer rarity, these buttons really are almost jewels. . . and their prices quite rightly reflect this. . . in any case, when I spotted the buttons you see above I knew I had to have them for my 1930s/40s inspired cardigan. This is the first time I have ever made anything in which the cost of the fastenings has outweighed the cost of the yarn, but these really are superlative buttons.

This cardigan does not have buttonholes: rather, I’ve used clear snap fasteners and a taped reinforcement on the inside of each of the button bands to secure the closures and help the cardigan fronts to keep their shape. Most people use grosgrain ribbon to do this, but I tried this linen tape I had knocking about, which seemed the right sort of colour.

Does it sound weird if I say that I really enjoyed stitching the tape to the inside of the button bands? And am I allowed to admit that I am quite proud of my almost invisible stitches?

I secured the snap fasteners and buttons using strong quilting thread. Then I un-plied a few lengths of the corriedale yarn I had used to knit the cardigan, and, with a sharp sashiko needle, covered all the stitches that were showing on the right side of the garment with the single-plyed yarn. I also went all-out binding and blanket-stitching the shanks of the buttons: they are quite heavy, and need lots of reinforcing to sit correctly.

(the Nichols buttons have been updated with new metal shanks that are well-made and well-glued)

Anyway, I’m pleased with my finishing – which has resulted in a cardigan that closes neatly without undue stretch to the front bands. . . adorned with some extra-special buttons.

I really am stupidly happy with the Nichols buttons and, since they were attached to the cardigan, have been revelling in foolish button joy.

(Pics and specs of the whole shebang tomorrow. Can you tell I am excited?)

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