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Noro Raglan Sweater Redux

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I've been blogging since the fall of 2002.  Six years gives you the time to make a lot of knitted projects.  It also gives you a fair amount of time to live with and test drive garments to determine which ones actually do stand the test of time for you and which ones made little contribution to your life other than to be interesting when you made them.  Since winter is here again, and winter gets me to root around in my drawers and under-bed containers for warmer garments, I thought it would be the perfect time to talk about and celebrate the sweaters that have really withstood the test of time for me.

The first sweater in this line up is probably my all time favorite hand-knit by me sweater ever.  It's first photo shoot was weak (and in the dark of winter) so I decided that, 5 years later, it would get another chance.  Which is only fitting since the photography chez Keyboard Biologist has gotten much better and this sweater hardly appears to have aged at all.

20081125_NoroSweater1.jpgI first "FO'd" this sweater in early February, 2003.  The pattern is by Debbie Bliss, it's called, very descriptively "Raglan Sweater with Cable Detail" and is from Noro 1 (which appears to be out of print).  It's a very simple pattern: raglan sleeves with a cable detail, roll neck collar sweater bottom and unembellished cuffs.  I knit the sweater using Noro Silk Garden, Colorway #7 (which has long since been discontinued... I think when I got the yarn, I got it on sale for that reason -- a shame because it's a fab colorway).

20081125_NoroSweater2.jpgThere is absolutely nothing complicated about this sweater.  If I remember correctly, the big learning experience for me with this sweater was learning how to mattress stitch seams instead of backstitching them (which was the only thing I knew up to that point).  It took a lot of inertia to overcome some of the intial problems I had figuring that out, but once I did, I've never looked back.  I don't think I've backstitched a single sweater seam since then.

20081125_NoroSweater3.jpgWhat makes this sweater such a staple item for me?
 
  • First and foremost, it's warm.  Silk Garden is a blend of wool, mohair and silk -- silk and mohair are both fibers that excel at providing a lot of insulation for relatively little weight.  With a nice turtleneck, this sweater can head outside on it's own in 40 degree weather. 
  • Second, and almost as important, this yarn wears like iron.  Once again, you can thank the mohair and the silk.  Neither of these fibers pill because they are generally very long staple fibers and both are very durable fibers.  This sweater loosened up a little when I washed it the first time, but other than that the yarn looks just as good now as it did when I first knit it.  I don't really need any more yarn right now, but I've been considering another Silk Garden sweater just based on the warmth and wear characteristics. 
  • Third, it's an easy to wear shape.  The raglan sleeves make it fit comfortably and it has side shaping so it doesn't look like a sack.  I can wear it to work, I can wear it at home and it's even been worn out to some mildly dressy events.  It's got enough ease so that it goes easily over other layering pieces and the loose rollneck doesn't bind or set my itching radar wild (I am incredibly intolerant of most wool or animal based fibers near my neck -- even some cashmeres send me into a frenzy of scratching).
  • Fourth: color, color, color.  Jewel tones with blue undertones have always been my friends.  I would love to say that when I got this yarn I purchased it knowing that, but in fact, I just thought the yarn was pretty. 
  • Fifth and finally, striping serendipity.  While I did try to start the sweater pieces in the same place in the color progression for all the pieces, it was harder to do than I thought it would be.  In the end, it was sheer luck that the stripes on the sleeves seem to match up  almost exactly with the stripes on the front of the sweater.  The back and the front don't really match up at all, and since I don't see the back when I am wearing it, it doesn't bother me much -- not to mention that it helps me remember which way round to wear the sweater!

20081125_NoroSweater4.jpg
I think that about sums it up: warm, hard wearing, well shaped, flattering colors and serendipitous striping.  It's hard to ask much more from a sweater.  Interestingly enough, this is probably the only sweater in my wardrobe that has also evoked questions about where I got it ("er, I made it") and whether I would knit one for someone else (a question that led to respectful silence when I told him the cost of the yarn).

Happy almost 5th Birthday, raglan sweater.  Thank you for keeping me warm and happy.  I look forward to many more winters with you 



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