Friday, February 7, 2014

Ravellenics Sweater: Final Preparations and Day 1

Today (Feb 7) is the beginning of the Ravellenics, formerly known as Knitting Olympics. The idea is that you choose a project that will be a challenge to you and knit it during the Olympics. The swatch featured in yesterday's post is for my Ravellenics sweater. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll walk you through my process of a) redesigning a sweater and b) participating in Ravellenics. 

Last night, my dining table looked like this:
Then, a little while later, it looked like this:
That's the "why are you sitting here instead of on the couch where I can snuggle with you" look.

For me, this is what designing--or redesigning--a sweater looks like. I knit a swatch (as I described yesterday), and then I get down to business.

In this case, I'm not really designing a sweater from scratch. I'm starting with the schematic from the Autumnal Cardigan by Hannah Fettig. This is a really lovely sweater, but I wanted to make a few changes. First, the pattern calls for sport weight yarn, but I'm using worsted weight. Specifically, I'm using Malabrigo Rios. The original pattern is also knit from the bottom up and seamed. Of course, I want to knit mine seamlessly from the top. I'm making enough very significant changes to the design that I could (if I really wanted to) call it my own. But, I'm a give-credit-where-credit-is-due kind of girl. So, this is my own personalized version of the Autumnal Cardigan.

So, once the swatch is knit and the gauge determined, what's next?

First, I gather up my resources. I have the Fall 2010 issue of Knitscene where the Autumnal Cardigan first appeared (as the Carrot Cardigan), so I got that out to consult the schematic. I also got out my copy of Knitting from the Top by Barbara Walker, several sheets of paper, a couple of pencils, my iPad and my laptop. (The iPad is for viewing the PDF of Knitscene; the laptop is for charting and typing up instructions.)

I start by redrawing the schematic with the measurements I want to use. I try to keep the proportions similar to what was in the original sweater, but I make changes based on my own measurements. For example, I know that I'm a smaller size in the bust than at the hips. And, since this is a long-ish sweater, I will want to account for that by increasing more after the waist shaping. Once I have my schematic drawn up with measurements, I start converting those measurements to stitch counts. These are still sort of rough estimates because I haven't plugged in any actual construction techniques yet. But, it gives me a good idea what I'm shooting for.

Now it's time to consult Ms. Walker about construction and start actually writing down what I'm going to do.  I know I want a top-down sweater with set-in sleeves, and I know I want to knit the sleeve caps along with the body (rather than picking up and knitting the sleeves later). So, I plug in the numbers and start doing the math.
Why don't I use a calculator? I don't know. I get some kind of odd pleasure out of doing it longhand, I guess. I mean, it's not like it's complicated. It's addition, subtraction,multiplication, and division. Plus, it's just faster. It takes longer to open the calculator app on my phone than it does to just do the math. And, yes, I realize that some of those things are so simple that I should be able to do them in my head. And I could. It just helps me to be able to see it.

Next step: make the math work with the schematic. This is where it can get tricky and require a little finagling. In most cases, I'm perfectly happy and willing to fudge an inch worth of stitches here or there to make it all work. I frequently use Excel to help me with this. I set the row height to 9.75 and the column width to 1.29 and use that to chart stuff. It is fabulous for creating color work and lace charts, but it works well for getting a general visual representation of things too. When I can't quite wrap my head around how something is going to go together, I use Excel to chart it. For example, here are the short rows for the shoulder shaping:
And here's one sleeve and the back of the sweater to help me get an idea of how the sleeve cap increases and the body will fit together.
That last one required quite a bit of finagling to get the final stitch counts where I wanted them. But, finagle I did, and now it works! I should end up with a nice, slightly oversized sweater that looks mostly like the Autumnal Cardigan.

My next step is to write rough instructions that make sense to me.
So, that was last night. Today is the big cast on day!! I wasn't able to cast on right at 11am with many of the Ravellenics knitters because I was at work. However, I did take a short break in the afternoon to cast on and knit a couple of rows.
I can't wait to see how much I can accomplish tonight during opening ceremonies!

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