Having chosen my yarn and my construction method, the next step was to sketch out the design. The wide saddle construction dictates that the sweater will be seamless and knit from the top down. It begins with the bands that go across the upper chest and back, which are then joined to form the saddle. The sleeves are formed and then the body is knit down to the hem. I wanted to have a bit of shaping through the midsection, but I wanted to accomplish that with ribbing, rather then with changing stitch counts. Here is what I had envisioned:
This gave me the general road map; now I needed to fill in the details. Armed with a list of the various stitch patterns that I would need, I pulled out all of my stitch dictionaries and went hunting. Much swatching ensued. Weeks of it. Eventually I settled on these patterns for the body:
This turned out to be quite a large swatch. It consumed an entire ball of yarn and was knit in the round. I felt that it was important to see large areas of the stitch patterns and how they would work and flow together. I had ordered three colors of the same yarn, with the intention of picking the best two. I loved this green, but I knew immediately that it would be too dark for the committee, so I used it for my swatch. I also took the opportunity to try out the I-cord bind off in the contrasting yarn and was quite pleased with the effect.
On the back view, you can see me working out the filler stitch. The filler stitch is the one that goes on the body and sleeves outside of the cable sections. Its purpose is to simplify designing for multiple sizes because it is far easier to change stitch counts on these sections than on the cabled areas, where you can’t alter the stitch counts without messing up the pattern. This filler stitch is called the Offset Rice Stitch in one of my dictionaries. I selected it because it is very simple and small–a mutliple of 2+1 stitches over four rows, two of which are knit. When I was knitting the swatch, it was a little poufy for my taste, and I noticed that I liked the “wrong” side better. You can see at the lower edge I experimented with using that as the right side. I was certain that was what I wanted to do until I blocked the swatch. The poufiness melted away and left a very subtle texture that I now preferred to the obvious regularity of the other side. Which proves the point I made in an earlier post–always block your swatch!
You can also see that I was experimenting with using a phony seam of 2 stitches in reverse stockinette to break up the filler stitch. I had read that this technique was often used with ganseys, to keep the garment from developing a bias and twisting around the wearer. I also liked the look of it and decided that I would use this.
At the same time that I was working on this swatch, I was working on a separate one for the top bands. I had decided that this was where I wanted to place the bobble pattern. I will confess here that I am not a big fan of bobbles, and if it were up to me, I would have left them out. It isn’t so much that I don’t like making them. Because I had taught myself how to knit back backwards (which I had to do for the entrelac swatch) these are a lot easier to make than they used to be as I no longer have to turn the entire work several times in order to make each bobble. It is more that they are just too 3-D for my tastes. A few go a long way, but it is difficult to work them into a regular stitch pattern without ending up with way too many bobbles! Because the bands form a relatively small part of the sweater, it seemed a good place to corral those pesky things. Finally I settled on this combination:
While I had been working all of this out, I had a feeling that I had seen some aspects of this design somewhere before. It finally came to me, and I dug out my ancient copy of Alice Starmore’s The Celtic Collection, which I hadn’t looked at in years. There I found her Kilronan. I sighed as I thought, not for the first time, about how there is nothing new under the sun. I decided that there are enough significant differences between the two that it is fair to say that the original inspired my design, but I did not copy it. I included the reference in my list of resources that is included in the pattern and decided to press on.
Using the swatches, I calculated the amount of yarn I would need and ordered my yarn. It was now time to begin the daunting tasks of writing the pattern and knitting the sweater.