Start: MHK3 Aran Sweater

Start: MHK3 Aran Sweater

Alanna Nelson New Orleans inspired cable knitting pattern

Grapes, leaves and winding tendrils inspired a cable pattern


After weeks of brainstorming, figuring,swatching and experimenting, I finally began KNITTING my aran sweater design for the Master Knitter Level 3 program.

Inspiration: wrought iron railings in New Orleans.

Ideally, I wanted to create this motif center panel with a V neck. Then, I’d make the body in one piece… a princess line sweater. It would be easy to customize when it came time to size the pattern.  Unfortunately, my brain insisted that the cable motif would wrap around the neck and shoulders, which would probably require considerable short rows. Time is of the essence, and I’m much more of a cardi kind of gal anyway.

So the princess line sweater became a high low cardigan. This time.

I’ve grappled with my stubborn non conformity to traditional aran style.  It would have been infinitely easier to drop a few stitch patterns into a basic sweater shape with ribbed edges. But I don’t like ribbed edges these days (exception for mittens!). My aran sweater has a stretchy provisional cast on with stockinette stitch hem. I’m using rick rib for the lower edges of the sweater, and I love the lofty light effect that contrasts with the other stitch patterns.

The Master Knitter program requirements are fairly straightforward: cables, bobbles and two other stitch patterns. I’m making this more difficult than need be.

Deadline’s a looming. I spent at least 3 weeks creating the 3 dimensional leaf shapes and the cable pattern with a bunch of grapes (bobbles) tucked inside. My swatch is nearly 2 feet long, complete with V neck shaping (that doesn’t include all of the work frogged!).

The yarn? Woolpak NZ DK weight purchased with my employee discount at Sit n Knit (Thanks, Janet!).

Once I drafted the pattern, work proceeds quite well… until the first leaves.  I developed leaf patterns in 7, 9, and 11 st.  I chose 7, and now wonder if the 9 wouldn’t fit the overall scale of the sweater better.

Alanna Nelson NOLA cable knit pattern

first repeat of cable pattern

Part of me says, forge ahead, deadline looming.

Any thoughts?

Know thyself: Measure

Know thyself: Measure

For many years, I bought yarn because it

  • called to me (who else has heard the yarn whisperer?)
  • was priced irresistibly
  • made me feel good.

From these purchases, I made things, adapting patterns, making it up along the way.  Despite trans atlantic moves and the inevitable destashing associated with such junctures, I built up a fine collection.  Eventually, I whittled my way down to only leftovers in early 2006. Lately, I’ve bought yarn with the express purpose of making a sweater, a skirt, a pullover and followed a pattern (novel approach, right?).  Patterns have their personalities and reflect not only the materials, but the designer and the habits of the maker.  A successfully recreated project acknowledges features of all. This means you need to know the measurements of the person for whom you’re making.  Ideally, you know what your project pitfalls might be.

Three cases in point from recent knitting projects:

Ciaobella's Annamaria Cardi by Connie Chinchio

Sorry for the selfie! It’s all I have live now.

1) Annamaria Cardigan by Connie Chang Chinchio: This fitted 3/4 sleeve V neck cardigan has nice shaping details and looks like a perfect choice for skirts or trousers.  I noticed the 13.5″ from lower edge to underarm was the same length for all sizes.

Having just finished the Plaits and Links cardi with a similar length, I thought, no problem.  But these armholes are much more fitted than Plaits and Links, which impacts overall sweater length.  I do wish it was longer (and may do something about it).  Measure!  My mods are in my Ravelry project description.

How long is your back neck to tail bone?  Where do your skirt waistbands and trouser waistbands usually lie? Do you wear loose base layers (cami, blouse or knit shirt) or fitted? Keep this in mind when choosing your patterns.

Btw, the yarn is Blackberry Ridge‘s sport weight wool and silk blend.  This purchase falls into the “calls to me” category. I have quite a bit of this scrumptious yarn left and can’t wait to knit with it again.

Alanna Nelson knitwear

Added cap sleeves, body length and a scoop neck

2. Slip Stich Shell from Green Mountain Spinnery. I picked up three skeins of their lovely Cotton Comfort yarn at the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool, suddenly determined to knit a garment before they came to the Common Cod Fiber Guild in July. The pattern is originally born in the crop top era, so I added several inches, then later when back and added more. I still wish it were longer. Sigh.

This is a good place to point out how ribbed edging is leaving most of my knitted garments. In this case, I did a provisional picot edge.

Modifying the pattern’s crew neck to a slightly scooped neck worked better for summer. I added the cap sleeves as well. The ribbed neckline also switched into the picot edge.  Picot is definitely becoming a favorite for me, but I should keep my eyes open for other options. I wore this a lot this summer, despite the high wool content.

knit linen skirts

I really thought I would wear it this summer

3. The Sasha skirt is a Louet pattern I first admired in 2008, cast on in 2012, ripped back in 2013 and thought for sure I would wear this summer. The skirt comes in three lengths.  I only had enough yarn for the shorter length and didn’t want the maxi skirt or long cocktail length, so I blithely assumed (without measuring) that the 23″ skirt length would be just right (looked good on the model!)

Ha! The first hibernation period began after I originally placed the blue ruffle at the lower edge.  Yuck… it would make the yellow ruffle look totally weird, I decided.  Use the yellow as the kick of color instead.  So I ripped back and at that time, lengthened the distance between the second and the third ruffle.  Finished, and it looked weird… more length needed between the first and second ruffles or the proportion is off.

With some green remaining, I picked apart what I thought was knitting between the first and second ruffles.  Nope.  Now the yellow ruffle and green skirt is separated.  I’ll need to kitchener this together before moving back to my original goal.  Time for project hibernation.  Sigh.

Measure, and know thyself, oh textilfiliac.

My first online yarn purchase: Miss Babbs

Living in the Boston area, wool lovers are spoiled with more than 20 local yarn stores (lys), multiple sheep and wool festivals and a bevy of fairs where you can find independent dyers tempting us with luscious fiber and colors. My yarn stash does just fine without purchasing yarn online.  Even Webs, that jumbo online yarn emporium with the amazing back room, is only 2 hours away.  Why buy online when there’s beauty all around you?

During the 2011 pilgrimage to the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY, I had a mission: find yarn to knit a cardigan for my daughter, who had texted a picture of something she saw in a a very posh shop.  “Mom, could you make this but in purple?”  Rhinebeck is a perfect blend of wool, food, and animals (the leaping llama contest is my favorite) mixed with crowds wearing wonderful hand made garments and Ravelry pins.Rhinebeck_yarn_shop

After much yarn handling, the alluring  Miss Babs  Yowsa super wash merino wool, color Clematis fit the bill.  I invested in 3 skeins, or 1680 yards of the lovely yarn.  Way  more than I needed, but 2 skeins would limit the design possibilities.  What a treat to touch Miss Babbs’ yarn after reading about their marvelous color ways online!

The following week, I traveled to Italy to work on future Tactile Travel tours and meet up with clients Giardini di Sole.  The long flight, train time would give me good knitting stretches.  Like many knitters, I don’t want to be caught without a project or twelve in the suitcase!  So I packed 2 of the skeins, my design notebook, a variety of needles and set off for Italy! The pattern and knitting proceeded quickly, but I only used one skein during the week.  Imagine my dismay when the other ball of Yowsa rolled under the bed at a friend’s house on my last night!  Theresa said she would send it via post.  Initially, I was reluctant to agree…. the Italian post office was not always reliable and perhaps I could finish the sweater in only 2 skeins.  Eventually I asked her to send it, and the wait began.

I wait, and waited and waited.  Two month later, I emailed Theresa, who said that the tracking said the package was  delivered three weeks after she sent it, sigh.

Checking Miss Babs online marketplace, I didn’t find the Clematis colorway.  Eventually I searched stashes of Ravelry users, hoping there was some leftover Clematis languishing.  Sympathetic negative responses yielded no results. Finally, Clematis appeared in her shop again.  I sent a sample of the yarn I used, hoping the dye lots would be a good match, and last September, I found a rumpled package on my doorstep.2012-10-09 21:44:48 +0000

“What on earth is this?” forgetting that the yarn might be on the way.  The return address label didn’t give many clues, so imagine my delight when I opened this tissue covered confection, complete with a stitch marker and sample of new yarn. Knit with Miss Babs Yowza This was my first online yarn experience, a fabulous customer experience and a sweater that my daughter now wears several times a week!
Alanna Nelson hand knit sweater
hand knit sweater by Alanna Nelson
Huzzah to Miss Babs!