The first time I saw this sweater on Brooklyntweed, I knew I had to make it.
After nearly two decades together, I still had never knit anything for J. About 15 years ago, I started a cabled vest, but I hated the yarn and the pattern, so it hibernated for years. This fall I pulled it out — at the urging of my sister — to finish it. I thought I'd do it on the sly so J wouldn't know, then give it to him as a surprise for Christmas. Of course, he ended up seeing it (read: I ended up showing him), and although he was pleased I was thinking of him, he decided he didn't quite like that vest anymore. WHEW!!! Freed me up to move on to bigger and better things... and the Urban Aran Cardigan seduced me with its siren song.
This sweater is a major hit! J wears it frequently, and we get lots of compliments and questions about it. The (male and female) staff at Village Yarn & Tea in Shoreline really liked it, too. I find myself coveting it, but I have to resist: the sleeves fit Joseph perfectly but are about 1-1/2 inches too long for me (at least, that’s my lame-o excuse for not wearing it just yet!). I may have to make another one of these for myself. Perhaps...
Pattern: Urban Aran by Patons (as modified by Brooklyntweed)
Started: November 27, 2007 (while watching Charlie Brown's Christmas and the Dancing with the Stars finale)
Completed: February 24, 2008
Materials: Cascade Ecological Wool in beige, 3 skeins; 26" dual-pull zipper
Needles: US 9 / 5.5 mm (collar), US 10 / 6.0 mm (ribbing), US 10½ / 6.5 mm (body & sleeves)
The Cascade Ecological Wool really suits this pattern. I had some trouble getting gauge, so I knit much much much more loosely than I ever would normally – but when I tried going a needle size up, my rows were off. I opted to make one size larger than I otherwise would have done (in order to get width for each piece) but knitting to length per the smaller size. It was nerve-wracking to figure it all out, but I’m glad I stuck with it. It’s definitely worth it for how great the sweater looks in this yarn – and it’s so nice and squishy, too!
I have a good bit of yarn left, but I definitely needed to purchase 3 skeins.
For the front split, the medium size indicated a 100-stitch cast on. Because I added a p2, slip 1 border to each edge, I cast on 53. Worked both sides of the front simultaneously.
I could have knit the fronts and back as one piece, but I decided not to. I had some concerns about what that might mean if I made any mistakes. Didn't want to be ripping back both sides' worth of knitting if I didn't have to. Good thing I didn't, because I made a major mistake with the front: I knit the entire thing like the back — all the way up to the shoulder seams. That's right... didn't do the neck shaping. Would have been such a bummer to have had to rip the back out along with the fronts!
The other tricky thing with this pattern was getting the ribbing established above the diagonal cables. Every few repeats, the pattern has you beginning the purls on the wrong side, where you would normally be knitting stitches even as they appear. You can correct this easily enough by laddering down on the next row if you missed one. Still, a bit of a pain with this pattern, as it required you to pay close attention — every now and then — in a pattern that is otherwise intuitive.
2/19/08: Blocked the front and back so I could knit the collar and finish the sleeves. See that skein of yarn attached to the right-front (as you'd wear it) panel? I needed it to finish the sleeves but didn't want to break yarn on the front panel before knitting the collar because of the slip/knit edge. So… blocked these bits with the sleeves half-knit.
2/20/08: Spent the afternoon planning my collar modifications so the collar would fit more snug and straight than the original pattern. I looked very carefully at two sites, Brooklyntweed and Streets and Yo's, culling every last bit of info out of them that I could. This was the biggest nail-biter of the entire sweater, so you can imagine my relief when I finished, tried it on J, and discovered I'd nailed it!
Here are the details on my collar modifications so the next person doesn’t have to re-invent:
First, remember that I hadn't broken the yarn when I finished the right-front side? This was an important move. I picked up stitches for the collar using that working yarn, starting from the right front and working my way around the back and down the left front. The pattern has you starting on the left-front shoulder seam, so it's not going to help you much here!
I picked up stitches as follows: the right-side held stitches, 17 from the right front to the right shoulder seam, 4 from the shoulder seam to the stitches on the back-neck holder, 28 from the holder, 4 from there to the left shoulder seam, and 17 down the left front. Yes, we're picking up fewer stitches than the pattern requires. I really didn't want the collar to stretch down to J's shoulder like happens on some versions I've seen.
One of my primary concerns was making sure the Panel A pattern was surrounded by purl stitches. Plotting this was the trickiest part because I was also trying to build in some other strategic decreases within the collar so it would stand up and snug in better. So... I'll give the stitch order starting from the right-front (just after Panel A) and ending at the middle of the back. This is how they look from the outside of the garment:
PPPKKPPPKKPPPKKPPP[shoulder seam is here]PKKPPPKKPPKKPPKKP.
That's just for picking up. Once you've got all those stitches on the needle, you're going to want to do your first set of decreases on the 1st round (which is the wrong side). To represent this, I'll type the pick-up'd stitch pattern again (you're going to have to do the wrong-side reversal mentally — I need to keep the pattern as for the right side for consistency's sake), this time putting parentheses around the stitches you knit together:
Now remember that you're working back-and-forth to do the collar, not in the round. When you finish this first round, with decreases, you'll knit back, following the stitches as they appear.
For row three, knit even again. For row four, do one additional decrease at the shoulder seam. Here's the entire structure one last time, showing all pick-up stitches, the row 1 decreases in parentheses, and the row 4 decreases in brackets:
The rows are as follows:
• pick-up row (RS)
• R1: decrease row (WS)
• R2: knit and purl according to stitches (RS)
• R3: knit and purl according to stitches (WS)
• R4: decrease row (RS)
As I said, this is just one half of the entire sequence. It includes the stitches from the back holder but does not include the stitches from the front holder since you're working those in whatever row of Panel A you left off on. I opted to continue Panel A long enough to have two strands of the cable pattern complete their movement. I did not repeat rows 5-8 again to make the third strand. Instead, I established the K2P2 rib to fit the pattern and match the rest of the collar.
The pattern calls for a 5" collar. I did that. This is pretty tall—you may want to try it on as you go to get the best length for you.
I recommend putting an anchor-line of crochet stitches in at the back neck (wrong side) so it doesn't start to stretch and puff out. If I do this pattern again, I will probably tweak the collar to allow for some decreases within the back-neck, too.
2/24/08: Spent the day sewing seams and installing the zipper. I went with a dual-pull zipper so the bottom doesn't get all stretched out. I've done lots of zippers on sewn garments, but never on knitted garments. I kept thinking I needed to make sure the front edges completely covered the zipper when it was closed. Just couldn't make it happen, though. In the end, I think it might be best that the zipper shows a little bit even when closed — gives it a slightly more masculine look.
I had really hoped to get the thing done early enough for J to wear it in the film he was shooting that evening. Unfortunately, I missed goal by about an hour. Would have been cool to land this sweater in the movie!