I knitted up a swatch of the Cascade 220 in the Saxon Braid pattern, a featured cable on my sweater, and discovered two things.
First, that this yarn behaves well, although it is a bit inclined to split, and the color is light enough to show off the cables nicely.
Second, that I have a new decision to make. While the swatch came out the right size, I might have to go up to a bulkier yarn if I want this to be an outerwear sweater.
To explain this, I’ll have to describe my design process for this sweater.
I like working top-down. It makes it much more difficult to write patterns, but it fits with my design style better, and gives me the opportunity to make adjustments as I go. I find it frustrating to knit a sweater from the bottom up, then try it on and decide that it should be a few inches shorter or longer, or wider, or … whatever. In the case of my alpaca bed jacket, it will be a relatively simple matter of ripping up to the desired length, then binding off again. It would be much more difficult to fix if I’d started from the bottom.
But (WARNING: I am about to utter blasphemy) I have never liked Barbara Walker’s methods for starting sweaters. I’m not talking about the raglans here; her method for starting them is terrific. I am talking about her short-row invention.* It has never made sense to me (it’s great for creating the shoulder slopes, but it makes a bulge where there should be more of a “scoop” for the neck)** and has never worked out well on all the tops I’ve tried (including the alpaca bed jacket). So, in this sweater, I am going to try something different. This is the idea that came to me a little over a month ago, and wouldn’t give up until I’d tried it.
I’m starting at the shoulder “seam” with the Saxon Braid, and working down the Back, then casting on stitches to span the Back, and joining up with the Saxon Braid I’ve done for the other shoulder. After I’ve worked down to the underarms, I can pick up the stitches at the shoulder cast-ons, and work down the Front. Then I’ll join at the underarms, and proceed from there. As I’m working down the Front, I will add width at the appropriate times, incorporating new cables as I go.
So, all I need at the outset is the Saxon Braid. I have no particular gauge to aim for, except for whatever seems to give a nice fabric. I tend to knit a bit loose, so am using US5 needles to firm up the cabled fabric. My swatch seems to be a nice blend of firmness and flexibility.
The dilemma is this:
While the fabric seems firm enough, it is still rather thin, looking like it’ll make a light, indoor cardigan. I might be able to move up to a thicker yarn without making the sweater too bulky. But the Saxon Braid is just the right size right now. If I go up to a thicker yarn, the Braid will probably be too wide for my shoulder.
I can make a thinner cable for the shoulders, and move the Braid to the central part of the cardigan Fronts, but here again, the Braid is already the right size.
A song from Oliver! seems appropriate here:
“I’m Reviewing… the Situation…”
* Walker, Barbara G., Knitting from the Top, Schoolhouse Press, 1996, p. 75.
** I believe that there is a relatively simple way to fix this. Maybe I’ll elaborate some day when I’m looking for something to post.