Mel knits again

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In case you hadn’t already realised, Mel really is my right-hand woman where this designing lark is concerned. She is an incredible knitter and I am very fortunate that she has the time and inclination to test out my designs. Mel is in many ways a much more exacting craftswoman than I, and her experience of, and feedback on, my patterns helps me to produce what I know are more ‘knitterly’ instructions. She is also a valuable sounding board for my design ideas. In the case of Braid Hills, for example, I was uncertain whether or not to continue the cabling on the cuff. . .

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. . .and Mel persuaded me that this detail was absolutely essential. She was right.

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Working closely with Mel is also useful when I’m grading a pattern. I produce a sample for myself, and Mel produces one too. Although we are similarly petite, we have very different body shapes – as well as being far more curvy than I, Mel has a longer torso, and often has to adjust the length of knitted garments that would proportionately fit her otherwise.

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Braid Hills is knit all-in-one piece: the cable pattern has to end on a certain row in order for it to flow into the top-edge ribbing edging . . .

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. . . and for this to happen, you have to be quite careful where and how many rows you add, and how you space your buttonholes.

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Thanks to Mel, there is a note in the pattern about this.

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Mel used the same yarn as me for her sample — Blacker Swan DK — in a natural (ie, not overdyed) stone grey shade. I think the natural shades of this yarn have a hand that is (if possible) even more pleasing than the dyed colourways – Mel’s sample has retained a slight halo without losing any of the stitch definition.

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If you’d like to see Mel’s project notes, her Braid Hills cardigan is ravelled here.

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cheers, Mel!

boreal tropical

boreal tropical

Here, as promised, is Mel’s Boreal - which we photographed in the palm houses at the Botanical Gardens.

Mel used two shades of teal for her sweater (Artesano aran shades c740, and 8316) , and reversed the light-on-dark, dark-on-light order of the colourwork. The effect is more subtle than the high-contrast, highly-festive look I’m sporting in my sample.

Mel is wearing exactly the same sweater size as I am, but with slightly less ease. We are similarly petite, but have very different body shapes: while I am narrow of shoulder and meagre of chest, Mel is not. On her sample, the shaping of the sweater is shown to advantage, but there is less room for layers underneath. Mel is also quite proportionately long-waisted, and added a little length (the pattern gives instructions for where and how to do this). If, like her, you intend to lengthen your sweater, you should factor in yardage additional to the quantities specified in the pattern. (She used an additional 14 yards of the paler teal).

I’ve been receiving a lot of queries from knitters who describe themselves as colourwork novices, who are wondering how ‘easy’ they would find this sweater. I would say that, because of the nature of the colourwork, which involves long floats in aran-weight yarn, it is best to feel fairly confident with your preferred colourwork technique before you embark on this project — it is probably not a beginner’s sweater. If you are uncertain, to help you along, here are my top tips to achieve the best look on the colourwork of this sweater:

1) Swatching really is essential to achieve the best fit. I would be inclined to take the time to check your tension on both a decent-sized blocked swatch of plain stockinette and a representative blocked sample of the colourwork pattern. If the fabric is drawing in at all during the colourwork, you may wish to go up a needle size when working these sections of the sweater. Because it involves two layers of aran-weight yarn (cosy!), over the colourwork sections the fabric is quite dense, and the sweater’s inside-capacity is reduced. Be sure to follow the instructions about sizing in the pattern, and consult the schematic carefully for detailed measurements.

2) I generally don’t weave my floats at all – but this sweater is the exception to the rule. Because the pattern involves long stretches of a single colour, I would suggest that it is absolutely necessary to weave your floats. Do this every 6 stitches in a different place on each round to avoid the weaves stacking up and showing to the front of the work.

3) When you are carrying a long float, fan the stitches out a little on the right hand needle before working the next stitch in the contrasting colour. This slows down the pace and flow of the knitting, but is particularly useful if your tension tends to be tight.

4) Always work the ‘trees’ and ‘snowflakes’ as the foreground, or dominant colour (if you are working two-handed, the dominant yarn will usually be in your left hand, or if one handed, will come from underneath). This means that you will need to switch your yarns around at the charts’ mid-way point.

5) If your tension is a bit lumpy and uneven, try turning your work inside out — the knit side will still be facing you (allowing you to work as usual from the right side), but the floats will be stretched around the work, allowing the tension to ease up. This is a particularly useful technique for small- diameter knitting (like sleeves).

6) Block like crazy. In the pattern, I suggest steam-blocking, a technique which the Artesano Aran seems to particularly like (both Mel and I found that, during the blocking process, our stitches seemed to naturally soften and fill-out their allotted space in a very pleasing way).

7) happy knitting!

PS I’m really enjoying reading about your Wintery favourite things.

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