Monday, October 1, 2018
Great Lake State
My yarn stash is frankly burgeoning with beautiful things. Inspiration is all over the place, and I make lists in my phone and on little loose pieces of paper that get lost of all the things I want to make and do. I feel like I’m planning the next ten knit sweaters and trying to make room in my life for another quilt or two because I just love them, and I love to make them. And you and I both know I have enough yarn and fabric for all these things and more. Well, ‘tis the season, isn’t it? That first gloomy day, when rain splatters the clean windows and leaves are just starting to burnish, I get to wanting another big, cozy cardigan. I have a few of these already, but it doesn’t take much to get those wheels turning again, every single September. This year, I had before me five skeins of Barrett Wool Co’s beautiful Wisconsin Woolen Spun worsted weight yarn in the colorway “Pebble” and it was sort of begging to be my Annual Big Cozy Cardigan. I did my usual Ravelry dive, and of course found a whole bunch of patterns I want to knit right now, but nothing that seemed just right for the Wisconsin Woolen Spun, which is very plump and round (I think that’s fairly unusual in a woolen-spun) and thick and lofty. I can’t think of another yarn offhand that is like it—maybe Brooklyn Tweed Quarry? That one might be similar. Well, it is light, but thick, and almost cottony soft.
I did what I always do when I can’t find the right pattern—I made up my own. I’ve talked about this before, many times, and I know it sounds like I’m downplaying it when I say it’s easy, but honestly. It really is easy. If you can knit a sweater from another designer’s pattern, then you can make your own pattern. If you know how to use a measuring tape and a calculator, you can make your own pattern. There is no magic trick, I promise.
I start with a sketch of what I’m imagining. There are no revolutionary ideas at work here, just a shawl collar and a couple panels of cables; I’m not trying to invent anything, I just want a sweater. Then I knit a square, and I block it. When it’s dry, I ask myself: Do I like the fabric? If the whole sweater from my sketch was like this, would I be happy? When I’m satisfied with the fabric I got, I get out a ruler and measure: how many stitches per inch am I getting with these needles and this yarn? Once I have that number, I decide how wide I want my neckline to be at the back and then I measure myself at the back neck. Like, as in, hold the measuring tape across the back of my neck, where I’d like the back neck of my sweater to be. Sometimes I point to either side of the back of my neck and Doc measures between my fingers. I do some (very simple!) arithmetic and then just start. In this case, I also made a swatch of the cable panel I planned to use, and then charted out the whole front yoke sections on graph paper, so I could keep track of the cables and the neck increases at the same time. None of this is difficult, and I firmly believe you can all do it too. What can go wrong? You might have to rip back now and then, and re-knit stuff, or start something over—I have to do that all the time. But this is fun, right? Knitting is what we do for fun.
I have been calling this sweater Great Lake State—yarn from Wisconsin, knit in New York by a girl from Michigan, in the exact color of these moody inland seas, turbulent and alive in the fall. Blue-gray-blue. Gray. Blue. The collar is tall and snuggly, and the sleeves are extra-long, because that’s the way I like them. A few cables for added Grandpa-ness. While it was blocking, I noticed I had misplaced one of the buttonholes, but when I checked myself for perfectionist tendencies and found none there, I knew it was fine with me to leave it alone. This is my sweater, for layering when the gale winds start to blow and the blizzards come early and stay late. This is my armor.