Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Adventures of Bob's Blue Gansey Part 3

This spring Cedar Falls sweater instructor Andrew Barden will be blogging about his sweater designing adventures as he creates a sweater for his father, Bob.  Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here

Part II was all about that “horrible” gauge swatch. Once it was steeked open and blocked, I was able to hold it in my hand. I evaluated the fabric and made several important decisions.

Feeling the fabric and looking at the stitches, I liked the fabric knit on US2 needles (the side with “3” on it) better than the slightly more densely knit side. Therefore, I used that half to measure stitch gauge (where no cable was involved), obtaining 7.5 stitches/inch.

Then I measured the width of the 16-stitch cable bands. They are about the width of 12 non-cabled stitches (1 5/8 inches). Therefore, for each cable band used in the sweater, I need to add 4 stitches to the circumference.

Because the sweater will be knit from bottom to top, and because I want the patterns to end exactly at the neckline, I also needed to know the row gauge. I measured and obtained a row gauge of 12 rows/inch.

I liked the German twisted long-tail cast on and K2,P2 ribbing better than the alternatives (which surprised me, demonstrating another good reason to knit a swatch). I liked how the cable started right at the cast on and was part of the ribbing. Of the knit/purl patterns, I liked the double moss (“Mary Ann’s Stitch”) and the garter stitch “rib” best. Lastly, I liked the tree of life and the tall diamond filled with “rice stitch.”

In order to convert my gauge counts into a garment, I needed to know three more things: (1) the construction, (2) the finished size and (3) the pattern plan:

First, with the exception of the neckline, which will be shaped, I decided to use classic, traditional construction. It will be drop shouldered, have ribbing at waist, neck and cuffs, have underarm gussets and shoulder straps.
Second, because of sweaters I previously knit for my dad, I know that a chest circumference of 39 inches gives him just a couple of inches of ease, perfect for a gansey. I also know that a body length (waist to underarm) of 16 inches works well for him. I asked my mother to secretly measure a “tailor’s sleeve length” (center neck to cuff) on several of his sweaters – they all measured 35 or 35 ½ inches.
Third, ganseys traditionally have a “plain area” on the lower body and sleeves. Above that there is a “definition ridge” separating the plain area from the yoke and upper sleeves, which have knit/purl patterns. I plan to follow tradition but also include small cable columns, four in front and four in back, which will cut through the definition ridge, plain area and ribbing. Cables will also run from neck to cuff along the top of each shoulder strap and sleeve, again cutting right through definition ridge, plain area and ribbing. I envision the front cables bending gently along the edge of the shaped neckline, something like this:

Although I didn’t do it perfectly on the swatch (see picture in Part 2), I can tell that, if I put the neckline decreases in the right place, I will be able to shape the neckline while keeping the cable bands intact and bending them along the neck edges.
Armed with those three pieces of information, I drew a cartoon. Starting with chest circumference (100%)[not forgetting to add 4 stiches for each cable band], using percentages, I calculated the circumference of waist (90%), cuff (20%), sleeve tops (40%), sleeve bottoms (20%+1 inch), and neck (40%). I charted the yoke on graph paper so I will know where to put the cables, where the knit/purl patterns fit, and how the diamond and tree of life will meet the neckline. The chart then allows me to decide when to start the definition ridge. Using the stitch and row gauges, I converted the measurements to stitches and rows. I added all those numbers to my cartoon. Here is a picture of it:

Finally, in order to place the cables properly into the ribbing, I charted the ribbing and planned the placement of the increases above the ribbing.

I know this all sounds complicated and tedious. I suppose it might be; yet I enjoyed doing it. Anyway, now that all this planning and arithmetic was complete, I cast on and started knitting! Yay! There will be pictures of the actual sweater next time, in Part 4.