Recently in Sigil Category

Sigil, The Pattern

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I have converted my notes on Sigil into an actual downloadable pattern, in PDF format, complete with schematics for any who might be interested.

You can find the link to Sigil (and other free patterns I have made) in my Patterns Index or just download the pattern itself by clicking here..


Sigil Complete (Maybe)

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This weekend I got a chance to work on Sigil's collar. I wanted a collar with points with some cable detail that worked with the chain design on the borders. Instead of knitting a separate band (which I couldn't figure out how to neatly connect to the sweater), I picked up stitches around the neckline and knit onto the sweater. Instead of the linked ring motif, I chose to place 5 individual links at even intervals around the collar on a background of reverse stockinette. And the bottom edge of both collar points is a two stitch border of regular stockinette.

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Sigil, The Artsy Magazine Shot

With a nice wool sweater on, it was actually warm enough to go and take some pictures outdoors on our balcony. The natural light meant that John was really able to capture the cable details well. Unfortunately, my hair kept getting in the way of making it clear how the collar really looked.

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Sigil At Ease with More Collar Visibility

Because Sigil is really a jacket rather than a true cardigan sweater, she doesn't have the same kind of give and drape. I like that the targhee wool really holds onto a nice structured look, even though it's knit at a final gauge of 3 stitches/inch. It was a good choice for this jacket that I wanted to hang relatively straight down from the shoulders.

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Sigil, A View from the Side

This picture is meant to show off the set-in sleeve as well as show a bit more about how the jacket falls. I'm glad that I fought through the set-in sleeve shaping calculations, because it really gives this bulky jacket just a little bit more sophisticated look and gives it the option of being work-wear as well as a relaxed weekend jacket.

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Sigil, Back with Collar Detail

No finished sweater photo shoot would be complete without a view of the back. One of the things that invariably makes me crazy about the knitting magazines and their photography is that I almost never get to see how the back looks. Sigil has no side shaping, so she looks pretty much the same in front and in back, from that perspective. I think the bottom panel with the cable detail gives the back some oomph without being over-the-top.

The only thing I am wrestling with now: is Sigil really finished?

My first finishing question: Did I find the right collar for the jacket? Are the points too big? Are the motifs the right motifs? Are they spread too far apart? At first I was pretty ambivalent about the collar, but now that I've seen it photographed, I find myself liking it more and more. If I keep it as it is, it will need to be lightly tacked down, to keep the points sitting where I want them to.

The other finishing question: Should Sigil get a zipper or be left without any formal closure? At first I wanted one, then I wanted to go with a clasp, but now as I look at it, I think that, if it gets a closure, a zipper would best preserve the structure I want to have and create the neckline I want to see with regards to the current collar.

So, even though Sigil is completely wearable, I'm still stewing about these things. I think the answers to my questions will likely only come with a few wearings. So wear her I will before I make any final decisions. My impulse to tweak is quite strong, but I know it's possible to tweak things over the top, and Sigil is emphatically not meant to be an over the top jacket.

So what did I learn?

  • Soak and block my swatches. If I hadn't I would have gotten a big and unpleasant surprise the first time this jacket got a bath. I let the swatches I did block by hanging so as to ensure that my pinning procedures weren't influencing the outcome.
  • Existing garments are handy reference points for creating new ones. Sigil's shaping and sizing are taken directly from a little jacket I bought from J. Jill. that I love and wear all the time.
  • Keep cable motifs simple with big yarn. The Targhee wasn't a problem at all to cable with, but big yarn makes for big cables and I didn't want a huge cable motif to swallow me up. I think too much cabling would have been too much for me and the yarn.
  • Pick a garment style that works with the structure/texture of the yarn and my figure. A boxy jacket that wants a slightly stiff fabric to help maintain its shape is a good match for the targhee and it works with my figure. A tailored jacket fitted to my curves in the targhee would likely have made me look a bit more -er- robust than I am, given the thickness of the knitted fabric. I think this design is good for me and the targhee.
  • Set in sleeves aren't as hard to design as I thought. However, they do take time to think through, and it helps to have few good books to refer to along the way.
  • Designing my own sweater was a lot of fun and it feels very rewarding now that I am finished. It also was no where near as difficult as I had worked it out in my head to be. I think that the next sweater I do for John will likely be one I make up on my own so that I can build a sweater that fits his form better than some of the previous sweaters I have made for him.

Want to see the current instructions for the collar? Just click the extended entry link.

Sigil and Set-In Sleeves

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Sigil Self-Portrait

I thought I would start this post with the punchline: Sigil is now sewn up and has sleeves. Unfortunately, the bathroom mirror picture option doesn't make it easy to see that it fits the way I planned it or that the set-in sleeves actually do look okay. Or that Sigil lacks a collar and has a significant number of ends remaining to be woven in. But just getting to this point was a bit of a victory for me -- I mean the sleeves are actually the right length! -- so I did the best I could while my photographer is out at a conference in California.

Since grey yarn is a nice yarn to demonstrate with from a photographic perspective, I decided that I would also put together a little explanation of how I deal with set in sleeves. Since it's a lot of pictures, if you're interested, you'll have to bring up the extended portion of the entry.

Front and Center

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Both Fronts Blocking
Notice that those cables twist in the opposite direction?

Both fronts are complete and I'm entering that manic phase where it's all about finishing the sweater. That place where I've definitely gone from process-knitter to product-knitter. It's a strange place for me, this time, because usually I have some idea of where I'm going to be when I finally get to the end. I have a finished model in the magazine to examine and dissect, I might have knowledge of other representatives of the designer's work. But for my own sweater design, there's no glossy picture to look at and there's no previous history to tell me that everything is going to turn out alright.

So I am feeling both adventurous and trepidatious. The true casting of a knit garment's personality always seems to show up as the garment gets finished. It can be beautiful pieces on my blocking board, but it's the structure of the garment that brings it to life. If the structure and the fabric don't combine well together, it the sweater never gets beyond beautiful pieces.

This is part of why I am so particular about blocking. When you block, stitches unfurl, things even out, you can ensure that lengths that are supposed to be the same actually are the same, make sure that armholes are deep enough and that necklines are smooth enough. You can troubleshoot. You can see if things lay the right way. If they don't lay well on my blocking board, they are unlikely to get better in a garment.

So the finishing process will start tonight. Maybe by tomorrow, we'll start to really see the true personality of my sweater shine through.

(The instructions for the Left Front are available for anyone who wants to look into the extended entry).

Out Front

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Sigil's Right Front Emerges

Having taken Claudia's suggeestion to heart that a tripod might do me a world of good, I set up a large pile of books and boxes and braced my camera so that I could get another "relief" shot of the next piece of Sigil. The vertical cable has 9 links and is followed by a very simple crew-neck sweater neckline shaping. Originally I thought the bottom corner looked a little empty, but now I am thinking of it as a feature that helps make the other cable links stand out more.

I've also created the instructions for knitting this part of the sweater, but because they are kind of long, you'll have to take a look at the extended entry if you want to see them for yourself.

Cold Light of Morning

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Morning sunlight gives me exactly what I need to show off the cable details in Sigil's sleeves. The flash, when combined with this grey yarn, simply washes all the detail out. Too much reflection from the white in the yarn, I'm guessing.

About the only time I can get a good picture is when I've got some daylight and I can hold my camera still enough to get an exposure that doesn't require the flash. Today is one of those brilliant Chicago winter mornings. Not a cloud to be seen and a deep blue sky. While I love the sun, anyone who's gone through a couple of Chicago winters knows that you can either have bright sun or warm temperatures. And today is no different. The lovely sunshine is accompanyied by 16F temperatures. Cold light of morning, indeed!

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Sigil Sleeves in Relief

This sweater is zipping past me much faster than I expected it would. I'm now finished with the back and both sleeves and I have a good start on the right-front. This weekend promises to be a busy one for me, but I'm hoping that I'll at least get to start the second front before it's over.

After all, it's Chicago. And there's no telling how long these cold bright days that make for the perfect sweater weather will last.

More Before and After

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By now I am sure that the before and after blocking shots are getting to be a little old. One of the things I was struggling with a little bit was how I was going to deal with the fronts of the sweater. How to make the corner and edging for the corner work out correctly.

It turns out that my new Knitted Rug book came to the rescue. One of the rugs in the book (unfortunately a quick Google search did not turn up a picture) uses the same cable pattern for it's edging. Donna Druchanas solved the problem by doing shortrows around the corner. It looked pretty good in her pictures, so it got me to thinking that maybe I could employ the same trick. The only question for me was whether or not the whole row/height gauge thing would work out correctly after blocking, and whether my previously observed blocking dynamics would be the same after the shortrows were employeed.

There was nothing for it but to do some test knitting and see. So I designed the fronts, figured out how many rows I needed for the band and did my experiment.

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Short Row Corner Before
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Short Row Corner After (Almost -- still a bit damp)

I had several false starts with the short rows and dealing with gapping, but tonight I finally got it straight after remembering about the whole wrapping thing. Makes a big difference in the final fabric that wrapping business does. From what I can tell, everything is blocking the way I expected it to and hte short row corner is going to work out just fine. After it's finished drying, I'm going to pick up the stitches along the top of the band edge and just continue knitting from there, starting a new cable motif on the next right side row.

The armhole shaping will be the same as for the back (no surprise there) the neckline shaping will be based on standard crew neck styling. The collar will have some kind of cabling that complements the sleeve and sweater bands, but I haven't quite decided how I want to do that yet.

Sigil's First Sleeve

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Sigil is still moving along. I got the cuff finished and blocked Monday night and I finished up the sleeve and sleeve cap tonight. Once again, blocking helped to induce a remarkable transformation in the shape and size of the sleeve.

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Sigil Sleeve Before Blocking
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Sigil Sleeve After Blocking

Before blocking (sorry, no measurements this time, it's late) the sleeve was of Butterfly-esque proportions. After, it's just perfect -- or at least it's what I planned for. To see how I did with the sleeve cap shaping, I did a little reality check and measured the length of the armhole edge (including the armhole cast off) and the edge of the sleeve cap from the first bind off to the center of the final bind off around the outside curve. About 10.5" for the armhole, about 11" for the sleeve cap, but I think that extra 1/2 inch will not be a problem given that the corners at the top of the sleeve cap will get tucked in a bit at the seam. I'm always pleased when my little reality checks actually work out. So now I've got clearance to move onto the second sleeve.

Here's the instructions that I am working from for the sleeve:

Bottom Band

CO 12 stitches
R1: P2, K8, P2
R2: K2, P8, K2
R3: P2, K8, P2

Maintaining 2 stitch stockinette edges on each side of main pattern, knit the 6 rows that compose the link base (see Elsebeth Lavold’s Viking Patterns for Knitting, p. 13), follow with 4 repeats of the central link pattern (see Viking Patterns for Knitting, p. 14) and complete the motif with the link cap (Viking Patterns for Knitting, p. 13).

Repeat the first 2 rows above that comprise the foundation rows. Bind off as set. There should be 50 rows, including the bind off row.

Wet block to deal with yarn changes before continuing.

Sleeve Body

Pick up 30 stitches evenly across the bottom band when rotated horizontally. To do this, pick up 2 stitches, skip 1, pick up 1 stitch and skip 1, then repeat 9 more times until 30 stitches are set. Be sure that there is one stitch picked up at the first and last stitch of the band.

Knit 5 rows in stockinette, ending with a wrong side row. Increase 1 stitch on each side of the sleeve on the next and every following 6th row until there are 48 stitches across. Knit 15 rows even, ending on a wrong side row.

Cap Shaping

BO 3 stitches at the beginning of the next two rows (42 stitches remain). Decrease 1 stitch at each side of the next and 2 following alternate rows (36 stitches remain). (Use paired decreases as described above for armhole shaping).

Decrease on each side, every three rows, 6 times (24 stitches remain). Purl 1 row. Decrease 1 stitch each side on the following right side row (22 stitches remain). Purl 1 row.

BO 3 stitches at the beginning of the next following 4 rows. BO remaining 10 stitches.

Wet block entire piece to measurements.

Back to the Back of Sigil

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Sigil is turning out to be almost like a felting project for me. Nothing is finished until the pieces are washed and blocked.

Gabrielle asked me the following in the comments to my last post about Sigil where I described that I had blocked the band before picking up stiches. I'm confused. Why block the band before picking up the stitches? When you go to block the finished back, won't the picked up (and previously unblocked) stitches shrink in the same fashion, leaving them smaller (or rather narrower) than the band, thus puckering said, admittedly gorgeous, band? That's what's happening in my head when I picture the procedure. Unconfuse me, pretty please?

I hope these pictures help to answer some of the questions. You can see by comparing the before and after pictures that I have more stitches/inch in the pre-blocked fabric and more rows/inch in the fabric after blocking. In other words, the fabric, after blocking got wider and shorter. I wanted the bottom band to be as close as possible to the width that the body of the piece was going to be. If it had been wider, then there would have been a lot more yarn in the picked up area, which I was worried would have an effect on how the fabric would block. I also didn't want the body of the fabric to prevent the consolidation of the bottom band after the stitches were picked up, since I knew the fabric would widen after blocking.

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Sigil Back Before Blocking
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Sigil Back After Blocking

In order to do the armhole shaping, I bound off 3 stitches at each edge. Then I decreased 1 stitch on each side, 3X on alternating rows (48 stiches remaining). After that, I knit straight for 39 rows and did the shoulder shaping by binding off 4 stitches on each of the next following 4 rows, and 3 stitches at each of the next following 4 rows after that. Finally I bound off the remaining 20 stitches.

While soaking this fabric, it gave off quite a bit of dust and debris. To get it to block correctly, I did have to mold it and shape it a bit into the shape I knew I finally wanted it to take. But the end result is soft and and beautiful and exactly the size and shape it needs to be. I guess my swatch didn't lie to me this time.

The next stage of the project will be a sleeve. That will start with creating another band, similar to the bottom band of the back of the sweater, only with 4 pattern link repeats.

Thank you to everyone for the nice birthday wishes. I'm looking forward to this year and I am hoping it will be a great one. And great for more than one reason. Be sure to check out Rob's comment to my last post. Apparently, while the Ab Fab is being discontinued in the UK, it will still be available here in the United States through the US distributor. So if you haven't gotten your Ab Fab fix yet, there's still plenty of time.

Sigil Starts

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Well, after my embarassing drunken fling with the fuzzy scarf (which I still adore, but we've agreed to see each other only when I'm in the car), I've come back to Sigil.

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The Back of Sigil Begins

Finally, I have a picture that shows off the cable work a little bit!

To get this far, I knitted the bottom band, and then, because of the shrinky-dink effect I get by soaking this yarn after knitting, I decided the best thing to do would be to block the band before proceeding. After it had time to block and dry, I then picked up 60 stitches along the long edge. I did this by picking up two stiches, skipping one, picking up one stitch, and skipping one until I had 60 stitches on the needles. Now I am zipping my way up the next 9" before the sleeve shaping. I really like how the column of stockinette on the edge of the length-ways piece creates a strong visual dividing line between the cabled area and the plain stockinette. Hopefully it means that I've found a good design element that will work well throughout the garment.

One thing I forgot to mention in my previous post is where I got the measurements for the sweater. I used this suggestion from Bonne Marie's technical section, although instead of measuring a sweater, I measured the black jacket that I photographed. It's 40" around and about 21" from bottom to shoulder. The sleeves are about 22" long. I worked tbe rest out from there. I've opted for rather shallow armhole shaping -- only 2" of deacreases on either side.

After I complete the back, I'll completely soak and wet-block the whole piece just to make sure that my swatch wasn't faking me out. Then I'll probably move onto one of the sleeves so that I can make sure that I've got the cap shaping worked out right. It seems like there's more than one way to skin a cap, so to speak and I'm curious to see how that goes.

Sigil

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Sigil: 1) seal; signet; 2)a sign, word, or device held to have occult power in astrology or magic.

Taken from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Yesterday, MissBedora left a comment asking about the origins of my name selection for this project (if you missed it, it's the category name below the post). Originally, I picked the name based on the first definition, a symbolr or a seal carved in stone. But I do like the second definition as well. After all, knitting is something like modern day alchemy. Through the magic of two needles and some loops, yarn is transformed from unwearable string to a useful garment. I'm hoping that the name will also bring a little magic to the project.

So what do I envision for this sweater? Well, first of all, I don't really have the entire vision in place yet. But I do have the basics. I want it to be a boxy sweater, not too long. It will have set-in sleeves because too much fabric under my arms makes me crazy, and I want it to have a few tailored looking details. It will definitely be a cardigan. It will most likely have a zipper. The Viking design will encircle the bottom of the sweater and run up the sides of the opening, and that edging will be trimmed out with an attached I-cord to make the finished edges seem a little more polished and to give the possible zipper some place solid to be sewn to. I haven't quite worked out the collar details yet. I think it will be crew neck height, and it is very likely that a band similar to the one at the base of the sweater will also appear at the neckline.

So far I have the schematics for the back and the sleeves:

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The Beginnings of a Sweater

To put these schematics together, I had help from three very excellent reference texts that I highly recommend to anyone who is looking for information on desiging a sweater.

Vogue Knitting was the first book I ever got that covered the subject of knitting and knitting techniques. And I still go back to it almost everytime I need advice. I have the edition before the current one. This book was very helpful as I was working through the cap shaping for the sleeves.

Maggie Righetti's Sweater Design in Plain English is both incredibly practical and incredibly helpful. She doesn't spoonfeed you schematics and formulas to memorize, she helps you think through the process of designing sweaters. And she includes tips from everything from dealing with color and patterns to shaping for different body types to knitting math. It's not a glossy full color book, but it's still one of those reference books that I think everyone should have. Plus, she has a great sense of humor and her writing style is a lot of fun.

Deborah Newton's Designing Knitwear is now out of print (I found it at a local used bookstore). It is another book that has great information about shaping and sleeve type selection for different garments. She also has lots of color, texture and pattern inspiration and encourages you to take your design ideas from interesting things that you encounter. There's a Aran biker-style jacket that I think is really fabulous.

Now back to my sweater...

The place I am going to start with is the back. I'm treating it a bit like a very large swatch, since a wise woman doesn't trust her swatches blindly (however, just to set the record straight, I did completely wash and dry my swatches before measuring -- to dry them, I hung them from a hanger so that gravity could take it's full toll) To answer Jasmine's question about how I am going to deal with the horizontal design, I've decided that I am going to knit the bottom panel separately, then pick up stitches along one of the edges when I start knitting the main part of the back. Probably not as elegant a solution as Elsebeth Lavold might have put together, but I think it will work out well.

So here's the first set of instructions for the band on the back:

With US 11 needles, cast on 12 stitches.

R1: K2, P8, K2
R2: P2, K8, P2

Repeat rows 1 and 2.

Knit the 6 rows that form the base of the motif*.
Knit 10 repeats of the central part of the motif.
Knit 6 rows that form the cap of the motif.

Repeat Rows 1 and 2, then repeat Row 1. BO all stitches "in pattern"

*You will need to have Elsebeth Lavold's book in order to have the exact pattern. I don't think it's either correct or legal to share that here on my blog. You can find more information about it here:

This book is actually more of a design book than a pattern book as she focuses on how the Viking designs are constructed so that they can be used in your own adventures. Defintely a book I will be refering to a lot in my knitting future.

After reading all the comments to yesterday's post, I'm worried I'm going to let y'all down with the selection I finally made. I hope you won't be surprised to find out that in this beauty pageant, the judges came in with a bias. And they weren't really looking for the most exotic. In fact, being simple was something of a positive quality.

Picking a yarn for my first real sweater design project was a challenge for me. Each one of those yarns in my stash has a great deal of appeal to me, but they all have different qualities that make them more or less suitable for a given design. For me, this meant I had to pick a yarn based on a design I had in mind, or I had to pick the yarn and then try to come up with a design that suited it's nature.

Like most things I do, the final reality was a combination of both things. For my first project, I wanted to do something with simple shaping, but something that was like something else in my wardrobe that I love to wear. Enter this garment:

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Shape Inspiration Courtesy of J. Jill

As it turns out, it is fortuitous that this garment is black. It forces you to look at the shape and avoid the detailing. Essentially, this jacket is a jean-styled jacket. It hangs almost straight down from the shoulders to the hips. It can be easily worn over a turtleneck (my favorite winter shirt style) and it comes down just over the top of my hips. The thing that makes it special is that the bottom band of the jacket is a nice velvet instead of the corduroy that the rest of the jacket is made out of.

With regards to the yarn. I pawed, poked, prodded and petted all of my contestants. But I have to tell you that the pageant was a little bit rigged. The Sweet Grass Wool Targhee came into the competition as an odds-on favorite. In fact, I've been having dreams about designing a sweater out of this wool. (Yes, even I find it strange to be dreaming about grey yarn). Unfortunately, the design is not revealed in the dream, but it did suggest to me that something in my subconscious really wants me to do something about with this yarn. I don't let my Id out very often, but I decided that with a design project, it might be a good time to give it some sway.

So why is this yarn so inspirational for me? Well, you really have to touch it to understand. It is incredibly soft and springy. It reminds me of the perfect sweatshirt in wooly format. When I bought it from ThreadBear just about a year ago I did so because I wanted to knit it up into the sweater equivalent of comfort food. I'm not sure it would have the same qualities or be as inspirational for anyone else. But I do know another well known knitting chick who also has a stash of this stuff for much the same reason as I do (shh! don't tell her I told you). This stuff isn't your average boring grey yarn.

So with a shape and a yarn selected, I had to figure out how to bring them together. The first thing I figured I would do was swatch. There's no real gauge recommendations for the yarn, so I looked at other yarns in the same range and decided that I would do two swatches: one on US 10.5 needles and one on US 11 needles and see what I liked better. I addition, I also wanted to see how well the yarn would do in a simple cable (it's definitely too bulky for anything too ornate, and I'm not ready to design anything to complex) because I had no idea how well the texture would show up in the marled grey.

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Two Targhee Swatches

The swatch on the left was done on US 10.5, the swatch on the right on US 11. Because I didn't want to get any strange surprises after knitting, assembling and washing the sweater, I not only knit the swatches, but I also washed and dressed them before taking the gauge measurements. As it turns out, this was a wise thing, because in both cases, I lost 1/2 stitch over two inches -- for instance, on the bigger swatch, before dressing there were 13 stitches/4", after dressing there were 12 stitches/4" (there was no real change in row gauge). This may not seem like much, but it means that if I used the undressed gauge to design from, after washing, the sweater would grow in width by 1.7" over a 20" initial width. Ouch! (A big thank you to Claudia whose post about discombobulating a rust colored Aran sweater inspired this test.)

After a great deal of consideration and touch-testing of the swatches, I settled on the one made with the US 11s. The why's of this are somewhat intangible, but it came down to the fact that the swatch just "felt" right to me at this gauge. It had the right amount of give and drape, wasn't too stiff, but still felt solid. Amazing the difference between 3 stitches/inch and 3.25 stitches/inch can make.

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The Winning Swatch

This is a pre-washing picture of the swatch I selected (chosen for light conditions rather than size accuracy). The cable pattern comes from Elsebeth Lavold's Viking Patterns for Knitting. I've been fascinated with her knot-work patterns for sometime now, and was very pleased with the fact that this yarn shows off cable texturing well. To me, the effect is evokative of glyphs carved into stone, which seems a perfect complement for the Viking designs.

So where is this all leading? Thanks to the magic of PhotoShop, I provide a glimmer of what's going on inside my brain and is being scribbled out on paper.

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The Beginnings of An Idea

Imagine that this is the right front of a cardigan-style sweater. One wide band of the cable goes up the vertical edge, and another wide band crosses the horizontal edge. That horizontal edging is carried around the back and provides the cuffs for the sleeves. Can you see where I am going? If not, there will be more to come as I work the idea out on paper.

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