Sunday, December 27, 2015

Top secret Christmas knitting

I compulsively scan the newly published patterns on Ravelry. That site is so addictive! I am embarrassed to tell you how many patterns I have faved. So I won't.

There are SO many new ones every day. Most of them (between you and me) are supremely awful. Patterns for dishcloths and boot toppers, coffee cup cosies and ugly, chunky cowls. Sorry if you like making such things - I think life is too short. I'm always most interested in the sweaters. Most of them are also very forgettable, but every so often one comes along that almost takes my breath away.

And so it was with "Graphic Sweater" from the Fall 2015 edition of Vogue Knitting. See?

Breathtakingly, riotously patterned. I would never in a million years make such a thing by hand. But I have a knitting machine and I know how to make it knit me a crazy stranded pattern.

And so I made it. Out of 50-50 cashmere cotton yarn in ecru and darkest navy from my favourite yarn pusher supplier, ColourMart. I would have used wool but the recipient has sensitive skin. Well, this stuff is so soft, you have no idea.

Needle Selection Tool
What a fun project! Contemplating it led me to get my ancient KnitKing out of the closet and clean it up. It is really an amazing machine, though completely manual. It has a straightforward if somewhat time-consuming way of patterning that is infinitely variable. Unlike people with more complex, more sophisticated machines that use punchcards or other automatic patterning systems, you have to hand-select the needles for knitting with each colour. I have a wonderfully simple tool to make it easier with repeating patterns like the ones in my sweater.

At about the 2 minute mark in this enchantingly antique video, you can see the knitter using this tool; she's knitting a Norwegian style of patterned sweater on a machine that, so far as I can tell, is just like mine except branded "Knittax" (the brand name was different for Europe).

Contemplating this project also led me to get out my brand new version of Excel to plan out the charts because (a) Vogue Knitting editors are apparently incompetent at publishing charts without mistakes and (b) the designer and/or VK editors paid scant attention to the flow of the patterns into each other or their placement on the body. I shifted things around until I was satisfied that they flowed and were more or less centred. Not that you can probably tell, but I also completely redesigned the first chart so that it repeated on the same number of stitches as the second chart above it. This satisfied The Sewing Lawyer's persnickety perfectionism.

KnitCompanion Screen Shot
And finally, making this project confirmed me in my love for KnitCompanion, an iPad app that allowed me to easily follow the charts through 80 rows front and back (and 27 on each sleeve) while making only one patterning mistake. You will never get me to reveal where it is.

There is something so very charming about making a crazy patterned sweater using computer technology assists for a 50 year old 100% manual knitting machine.

And I'm so pleased to report that the recipient really, really, really likes her sweater :)


  1. So, I think I need something to help me make my punch cards. I tried blocking out on excel and it made me dotty. I wonder if Knit Companion would do it for me. And, I am SO GLAD you said this about knitting patterns. I was thinking maybe my issue was I'd self selected my favorite bloggers and pattern companies so I only saw things I liked. And, I just needed to do it with knitting. But, I've found a lot of knitting photos / patterns to be so blah :-/ But, that's fine because I'm way behind you and I still have to stick with the easy stuff :-)

    1. I can't help much with punch card technology but I heartily recommend Knit Companion anyway.

  2. Wonderful! I always try to find a way to use my knitting machines to make stuff designed for hand knits too. Hope the gift was fully appreciated xx

  3. Such a beautiful sweater/gift!

  4. I'm REALLY impressed! Great job!

  5. Wow-this is a gorgeous sweater! Terrific job!

  6. This is extremely impressive.