Pockets (or not)

I’ve been back and forth worrying how to construct the planned side-entry pockets without breaking the line of the front pattern or interrupting the fabric drape with the bulk of additional layers. I was planning to get matching fingering weight and leave the inner pockets hanging free, but they need to be above the line of the side vents or they might fold back and show in the vent opening if they were set too low. If the pocket opening was set too close the the vent, the fronts might be unstable and stretch oddly, given the relative thinness of the fabric.

I knit up ~3 inches above the side vent join, ready to start the pocket opening, and realized it would be set awkwardly high. Given the planned length of the sweater and the length of my arms, the side vents and side-entry pockets just don’t work together. The side entry pockets were perfect for my old favorite sweater given the coat length and and full side seam, but the proportions are different for the sweater I am knitting.

I’m happy with the vent detail and slightly dropped tail — the side entry pockets will, reluctantly, have to go. I still have the option of a standard top-entry afterthought pocket, which would definitely break up the line of the front cables, or I’m considering a hidden inner patch pocket. Or maybe no pockets — I think about it as I continue kbutting the fronts.

Problem, Solution

The textured panel along the center front compressed vertically relative to the rest of the pattern and stockinette — the difference in my blocked swatch is at least 1/4 -3/8 inch per 3.25″ pattern repeat, which translates to 2-3 inches down the front of the sweater (plus the collar).

I might be able to block out the difference, but that risks flattening out the broken garter rib texture, and maybe make the button bands ripple if I increase my pickup rate to compensate. A springier merino yarn might absorb the blocking we’ll, but the high BFL and longwool fiber content in this yarn doesn’t have that much give. I could loosen my gauge over the broken garter rib portion of the fabric, but that could encourage even more horizontal spread and leave the center fronts looking shapeless and messy.

The solution I came up with is to add a pair of short rows once per zig zag repeat, adding two rows at the narrowest point of the 24-row repeat, tucking the wrapped stitch behind the zigzag crossover.

I’ll have to watch my progress carefully for the broken garter rib, as it has an 8- row repeat, and the short rows alter my zig-zag pattern repeat to 26 rows from 24. With all four patterns taken into account, my overall pattern repeat is now 104 rows instead of 24.

Progress

The back is done!

Well, almost done — luckily this mid-crossed rope twist is near the top, and an easy fix.

Gauge, Fit and Nerves

My stockinette gauge is is on target, my swatches tell me this will all come out in the wash and block phase, but for now, looking at the lower half of the back of my sweater is giving me palpitations over fit. It doesn’t look anywhere near wide enough, and especially with saddle shoulder construction, I won’t know for sure how it will fit until it’s too late to do anything but start over.

I know some knitters block pieces before seaming, but the argument that this risks stretching edge areas (like armholes) out of alignment, and setting them that way, has always made more sense to me.

It’s cables, cables bunch, and my swatches relaxed and spread out after washing with no effort pin or block them, but still, I worry. Since the hem is vented, I think I’ll dip the portion below the seam in water tonight and make sure the fabric relaxes as expected.

Second Meeting

Today I had my swatch review with Kirsten, and we talked through the last few design detail quandaries that needed to be resolved before I cast on and start knitting my sweater back. The takeaways:

  • My tubular cast-on has the right number of preliminary rows, and the slight ridge at the base of my ribbing is normal.
  • The i-cord bind off on my button bands is a better solution than the sewn tubular bind off I had originally planned, given the continuous length of yarn I would need up the whole front and through the collar.
  • I need to Standardize my technique on the right-slanting side of the zig-zag cables — it looks consistent on my back swatch, but the quicker method I tried on my front swatch looks loose and a bit messy compared to the leftward slants.
  • As much as I love the look if that braided twist cable from my first back swatch, I shouldn’t try to add it to the tail edge or sleeve just to include it somewhere — I left it out for a reason. Repeating the three-stitch cable on the tails and sleeves will give the overall design a more cohesive look.
  • We talked saddle width for the shoulders — narrow works here likely two inches.
  • I’m ready to cast on an start knitting my sweater!

Swatching: Front

Front left swatch, center button band at left. Working from the center left, the front features a reversible broken garter rib pattern framed by a 12 stitch by 24 row twist-stitch double zig-zag cable, then a slip stitch cable, and knit purl flag pattern. This pattern will fit between the sleeve cap seams, contrasting with the rest of the body and most of the sleeves in plain stockinette. The broken garter rib pattern will be carried through the whole collar.

Button band at left is a double-needle pickup in 1×1 rib, picked up at a rate of 3 stitches per four rows. Three-stitch buttonholes will be centered at the midpoint of the zig-zag as shown here. The button band is bound off with a three-stitch i-cord. I’m thinking of using very simple one inch diameter two-hole buttons in natural shell.

Equipment note: Ribbing and i-cord on size 6 needles, the main body on size 7. I’ll be using wood laminate needles for their sharp points and good blend of glide vs. stickiness for the cable and slip stitches — my usual metal tips were too slippery, and bamboo were not sharp enough and a bit too sticky.

Swatching: Back

Final swatch, center back at left. Each zig-zag repeat is 12 stitches wide by 24 rows.  The cable and V patterns repeat every four rows and the flag pattern every six, so they are easy to keep in sync. Zig-zags will be mirrored to form a column of  diamonds down the back, filled with a broken garter rib pattern at eight by eight – this will be repeated for the sweater collar and center front to lapels. I started the knit/purl V pattern with one purl row to two knit rows, but it didn’t read well enough, so I switched to two purl rows and two knit after the first few rows, and the Vs are much more coherent.

The swatch above improves on my original back swatch (below) — the original 12-row zig-zag was too small to stand out, and the broken rib fill didn’t read at that size. The eight-stitch band of broken rib din’t work either, the pattern just gets lost.  and as much as I love the braid cable, it’s too heavy to balance the zig-zag, the whole doesn’t quite hold together.

Tubular cast-on started on size 8 needles, switching to 6 for the tubular rows and 1×1 ribbing. patterned sections will have tubular cast-on without the ribbing.

Swatching: Reversible Patterns

Long story short: a lot of patterns I loved in my knitting stitch books just didn’t “read” in this yarn at this gauge. This includes the fishtrap cable from Elizabeth Zimmerman’s January Sweater that I was sure was going to be just perfect, but in practice was hardly distinguishable from stockinette, and some of Gladys Thompson’s simple but very effective knit/purl Gansey patterns that wound up looking like garter stitch fails.

What worked best: the broken garter rib pattern (bottom, second from left), and the simple Scottish Fleet XIII flag pattern (top edge of this swatch).