After weeks of researching, swatching and designing, I was finally ready to start knitting.
The sweater was begun by knitting a bit of the band that would go across the back, then a bit of the band that would go across the front, and then joining these pieces together to form the saddle. When this piece was half as long as the back width, all of those stitches were put on holders. The other saddle was constructed in the same way, except that, because the bands were started with provisional cast ons, those live stitches were used to knit the bands in the opposite direction. Confused yet? Normally each band would have been knit in one continuous piece, but the bobbled stitch pattern had a very obvious directionality to it, and I felt it would be more interesting to have the flower bouquets mirrored across the center line. Here’s how the entire yoke looked when completed:
At this point, body stitches were picked up along each lower edge of the yoke and worked to the length of the armhole. All of these stitches were placed on yet more holders.
A side note about stitch holders: this pattern uses a lot of them. At this point, there were 4, and they were holding a lot of stitches. I used long cables from my interchangeable needle set instead of waste yarn or the safety pin type holders. I prefer this method because, when the time comes to start working with those stitches again, I can just attach the appropriate sized tips and start knitting without the need to perform tedious transfers of stitches back to the working needle. I often use this trick when doing a provisional cast on (i.e., I cast on over a spare circular cable rather than over a piece of waste yarn) for the same reason. But I digress.
Getting back to the sweater, it was now time to address the sleeves. I had decided to knit them in the round, and to place the decreases on either side of the center panel that continued down from the saddle. Janet Szabo discussed this in Aran Sweater Design. Placing the decreases here, rather than along the “seamline” gives the sleeve a better fit. In the end, I was happy with this decision, but I think this turned out to be the most difficult part of the knitting because the filler stitch pattern has to be adjusted each time there is a decrease. Even though it is a simple stitch pattern chosen because it is small (a multiple of 2 + 1 stitches over 4 rows), I kept messing it up and having to rip it back! The problem was that when I got off pattern, the shift in the pattern did not become evident until after a few more rows were knit. Then it became blindingly obvious. Blindingly. So out would come the needle, then rip, rip, rip. Eventually I learned to spot the errors sooner, which reduced the ripping. Somehow I made it down to the cuff of the first sleeve and breathed a huge sigh of relief because it looked nice and had worked out to the length that I wanted, which meant that I had correctly calculated the decrease rate. Yay!
The second sleeve went much faster, thank goodness, because I was really tired of working on sleeves. Here’s how it looked at this point:
From there, I started working the front, back and armhole stitches in the round, down to the hem. Because I was already familiar with the stitch patterns from working on them prior to the sleeves, this part went relatively quickly and without incident, even though this was the biggest swath of fabric.
Since this was a seamless construction, the only finishing work was to weave in the ends, pick up stitches along the neck edge and hem with a contrasting color and then bind off with the I-cord bind off. I really liked the way that the I-cord neatened the edges without resorting to the traditional ribbing that would normally go there and provided a little pop of color to make things more interesting. I had briefly considered using this treatment on the sleeve cuffs, but decided that the ribbing really was a more practical choice.
It was not enough to simply design and knit the sweater. The program also required a written pattern, so the next thing was to finish putting that together. I had been trying to keep the writing more or less current with the knitting, but there was still a lot of cleanup work to get to the final pattern. I prefer to work from charts, but I know that other people prefer to work from written instructions, so I always include both (unless it’s colorwork, such as Fair Isle or intarsia, where written instructions don’t really work). I found that I had used 10 different stitch patterns, all of which had to be proofread and cross-checked between the written and charted instructions. Tedious work, but done at last. Hopefully the committee will agree that it was done correctly, and it will pass.
The final step was to name it. Normally, a name comes to mind while I’m in the early stages of designing, but this one was just “The Sweater” while I was making it. I finally decided to name it Noltland, after a castle that stands on the island of Westray in the Orkney Islands. It had been built by a notorious ancestor (on my mother’s side) during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. I remembered visiting the now roofless ruin during a trip to see the old country with my parents, brothers and aunt many years ago. Good times.