TKGA Report: Level 3 Sweater

Yoke detail

Well, here it is almost tax time, and I’m just getting around to my first post of 2015. Since the first of the year, I have been working pretty exclusively on my Level 3 sweater. Spoiler Alert: last week I finished it and sent it off to the committee for review. I have just received confirmation that my binder is on its way to the first committee member, so now I must figure out a way to forget about it until early June, when I can begin to haunt the mailbox.

Why does it take so long? The binder is sent to 3 committee members, who each carefully evaluate the entire package and write up their findings before it is sent to the co-chair, who gathers up all of the evaluations and writes a detailed summary that discusses which work has been done well and which needs to be redone before it can pass. The committee members are all volunteers with real lives and are scattered across the country, so it is amazing to me that they can do all of this in about 10-12 weeks. That doesn’t make it any easier to wait, but it does explain the need for it.

I have been working on the Masters program since March 26, 2013–just over 2 years. When I started Level 3 last May, I had set a private goal for myself to have the binder submitted by the March anniversary, but life intervened. In any case, I needed to have it finished within a year of starting because a revised set of instructions had been issued a few weeks after I had started. According to the rules, if I exceeded a year, I would have to follow the new instructions, which I didn’t want to do. So the pressure was on. I made it with exactly one month to spare. I must say, now that the dust is settling, I feel a bit at loose ends—-somewhat the same feeling one has after having completed final exams but not yet knowing the grades.

I do have a lot of catching up to do here, so I will begin with the details of the assignment.

Since I had designed my hat using the Fair Isle technique, I needed to design my sweater in the Aran tradition, which needed to include a cable stitch pattern, a bobble or popcorn stitch pattern, and at least two other stitch patterns of my choice. Furthermore, the sweater needed to be a sleeved cardigan, pullover or jacket sized to fit an adult, and the sleeves and back had to have a pattern–no stockinette stitch allowed. Finally, the color must be light enough to allow the stitch patterns to be seen easily. There was also an option to design in another knitting style, but special permission would be needed in order to proceed.

Armed with these instructions, I gathered my research materials and some yarn and started swatching. This process was just as laborious as the one I documented for the hat. I must have spent an entire month swatching. My brain thrashed this way and that, trying to come up with a design. I knew early on that I didn’t want to design a traditional Aran sweater in cream-colored heavy wool. As a lifelong resident of Los Angeles, I have never had one and couldn’t imagine ever wearing such a thing!

As part of the Level 3 program, I had researched and written a report on knitting traditions of the British Isles. I liked the look of traditional ganseys, especially those collected by Gladys Thompson in Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans. I considered designing a gansey and experimented with various combinations of traditional knit/purl patterns. I also consulted various stitch dictionaries and acquired two excellent books by Janet Szabo: Cables Volume 1: The Basics, and Aran Sweater Design. The latter was the most valuable book to me; it opened my eyes to the possibilities of Aran design and set my feet firmly on the path towards one. At the very end of the section on construction was a short chapter on wide-saddle designs, which consisted of a description of the technique and a little sketch of the yoke. The rest was left to the imagination. Even though there were no images of a finished sweater, I was intrigued by the concept and by the unique construction. But then I thought it looked too complicated, sighed, and moved on. As I continued to struggle with coming up with a design over the next few weeks, I found myself returning to those pages again and again. Finally I decided just to make a start and see where it led.

During this discovery phase, I had ordered several skeins of yarn in different weights and colors. By this time, I had settled on this lovely DK weight merino/silk blend and had chosen the colors I would use. And so, with a rising sense of excitement, I picked up my needles and began to swatch once more.

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