A few years ago, I joined my family on a trip to China. It was the first time that my parents had returned to China since arriving in Canada in the 60’s. For my sisters and me, it was the first time we had ever touched China soil.
I kept a little red book (my cheesy sense of humor) to keep journal entries and notes throughout the trip and peppered throughout my babblings are doodles of all the design elements that filled every nook and corner of traditional Chinese life. Everything from doorknobs to drains was decorated in some manner.
Since returning, I’ve been playing with different ideas to commemorate that trip. There were a number of false starts, many attempts that looked better on paper than they did in yarn (as usual), and other projects that occupied my needles.
Like many other projects, this one needed to grow organically in that little subconscious corner in the back of my brain, mull over, into and under itself before making itself apparent to my conscious self.
This sweater is grown around the idea of the traditional Chinese fish pond. There are two main design features, the koi/carp fish and the lotus flower. The traditional Chinese fish pond is often found in a courtyard with open walkways lined with wooden latticework. In the sweater, the koi fish and lotus flower are surrounded by a simple geometric border that echoes this elegant wooden latticework.
The colour choice was pretty much a no-brainer. I wanted to pay homage to the beautiful blue and white ceramic that China is known for. The blue is also representative of indigo, a much used dye used in traditional China. It is still a presence in modern China.
We spent time in my Dad’s home village, The village itself was still standing, much as he remembered it to be. In fact, it’s on the shortlist to be declared an historic site.
Outside the original village there were blocks and blocks of open store fronts that served as an open air factory line for Levis. The first block was filled with bolts of the denim. In the following storefronts, there were people cutting the material, the next storefronts, workers, mainly women were bent over sewing machines and the final storefronts were mountains of jeans.
I started with a cone of sock yarn (Valley Yarns Franklin sock yarn). I dyed up skeins of the yarn initially in Sapphire Blue and Royal Blue (Jacquard Dyes) in a low water dye method.
There isn’t a huge difference between the two shades of blue. One does have a touch of purple in it. I wanted to have the blue to shift a bit. Using only one blue would have been fine. I then did a very light over-dye of black to provide a bit more depth to the colour. This was also done in a low water method. This provided me with a semi-solid blue that had depth and character.
The body of the sweater is a mitred square. Stranding makes for a firmer fabric and stitches that are bit more square than stockinette. Normally, in a mitred squared in stockinette or garter has increases every other row at the corners. In a stranded mitred square, the increases occur every row.
10 stitches = 1 inch.
Complete square was 178 stitches per side, 712 in total around the whole square.
18 inches per side
The pattern itself is cobbled from outside sources and my noggin’. The koi fish pattern was taken from M’lou Barber’s Double Knitting book. The rest was just me doodling about on knitting chart paper. Obviously I only charted one quadrant of the square. It took a bit of experimentation but I enjoy the design process and challenges with designing a stranded mitred square.
Oct 25, 2011
In the end the squares were about 18” square. That’s my measurement that from my shoulder to shoulder. I joined the two squares, wrong sides facing each other, and sewed 4” from each end, leaving a 10” opening for the neck. The edges were sewn together with a Kitchener Stitch.
I opted for a boat neck opening. The edge was a bit floppy so it needs a bit of structure and some subtle decreasing so as to tighten up the edge. My solution was to do some decreasing throughout and end with a tight stitch pattern.
I picked up the stitches for the neck opening and knitted 1 row in stockinette. The following row, I decrease 10% of the stitches with K9, K2tog until I ran out of stitches. At this gauge, an extra stitch more or less is not going to be a huge deal.
I choose a stitch pattern from BW’s treasury. for the edge of the neck opening. This was a nice stitch pattern as it doesn’t roll and produces a nice tight textured fabric.
Oct 27, 2011
I haven’t decided what I’m going to do for the sleeves so I’ve moved onto the bottom edge of the sweater which would is going to be a whole lot of ribbing. I picked up the stitches of the bottom edge. I knitted 1 row. I found that knitting the last stitch of Square One and the first stitch of Square Two together (K2tog) and the same on the other end to be a nice way to ensure that here aren’t any huge gaps between the joining of the squares. I knitted a few more rows to get a bit more length. The row before the ribbing, I decreased the stitches by 10%. Again for this gauge (10 stitches per inch), this means K9, K2tog until I ran out of stitches. Then I began the 2x2 ribbing. I’m planning a good number of inches of ribbing so I’d better get going.
At least it’s good no-brainer knitting for listening to my Game of Thrones audio books. I’m refreshing my memory of the series since I hadn’t read them since they first came out before I embark on “A Dance with Dragons”. It goes without saying that it’s a great series to listen to while whittling away those inches of ribbing.
Nov. 4, 2011
I’m finishing up the ribbing. I added a little bit of cabling to keep me from puking with boredom. Nothing over the top, just a extra touch of flourish. Hoping to have time this weekend to get at least one sleeve mostly done.
Nov. 8, 2011
I have been experimenting with a couple of designs to run along the length of the sleeves. I think I’ve found a winner.
I had to redye a skein of yarn over the weekend to match the semi-solid deep blue of the body. It was more mottled than tonal. I was a little bit too vigorous trying to make sure that the yarn got evenly dyed and ended up with a semi-solid semi-rats nest. Spend most of last night painstakingly unwinding it.
Nov. 21, 2011
I’m halfway more than halfway done the sleeves. I have them both on the a circular needle like socks. In my little brain, it feels longer to do them seperately than to do them together though right now, it feels like it’s taking FOREVER.
Nov. 30, 2011
I’m done! Yippeeee!!!
The next time I decide to make a stranded sweater with fingering weight yarn please smack me upside the head.
The sleeves, as usual, took longer than I planned. I’ll post up photos of me wearing it as soon as I get it blocked.