Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bulky Cables, redux

I've been reading a lot about vintage knitting, here and there, over the last while, and one thing that has remained imprinted in my mind is that old-fashioned knitting was done much, much more tightly, to give a more structured knit that repels water and resists wear and tear more efficiently. Whereas today's lackadaisical urban knitters prefer to whip up a giant jumper in Rowan Biggy Print and 12mm needles in the course of a weekend, because at the end of the day, knitting is a fun hobby and not an economical necessity.

Now, I'm somewhat allergic to the concept of hobbyism, the idea that you lavish leisure time and energy on a pursuit that you believe to be useless and extraneous, and don't strive to attain excellence in it, to turn it into art or to make it useful to others. Also, I'm somewhat allergic to the idea of disposable clothing, and knitting knit too loose certainly has a built-in obsolescence. My beloved Ubernatural is feeling a bit bagged-out and loose these days, knit as it is on 10mm needles; then again, it's knitted from recycled yarn, so I guess that's OK.

Anyway! All of that was by way of a wordy preamble to the conclusion that, although Glampyre's pattern for the bulky cabled sweater was knit on 8mm needles, the ball band on my Tivoli bulky tweed yarn recommended 6 1/2 mm, and I decided to compromise and knit it on 7mms. This yielded a very stiff fabric, one that practically walked around my room barking, "Get it together, girl! Sure aren't the rations fierce tight this winter, and after the Glimmerman came calling there'll be no gas to heat the house tonight..." Wartime fabric. Unfortunately, wartime fabric also eats up yarn at a fierce rate. I had just got down to below the armpits, and forty percent of my yarn was gone; robust and noble the cardigan might be, but there was no use knitting it if it wasn't going to cover my waist in my very post-modernly low-slung jeans.

So I picked up the end and cast-on again on eight millimetre needles and sadly slayed the old cardigan to feed the new, as is my wont:

old jumper, new jumper

I know that technically speaking you are supposed to rip back the cardigan entirely, wash the yarn to get the kinks out, and then wait for it to dry, but honestly. I am not that traditional.

Slight modification: although I like the photos I've seen of other knitters' versions, I don't like the two fat cables going side by side down the middle of the back, so in the newer version (the one on the bottom) I've spaced them by 11 stitches, rather than by 3. Also, the cardigan is being knitted in reverse stocking stitch rather than in garter stitch, because really, a looser drape is one thing, a giant springy elastic fabric another. I do need some structure.

I'm not sure whether you can see the difference between the 7mm fabric and the 8mm, but here are the cables side by side:

old cable, new cable

The 8mm one is the one on the right, and the cable is mighty, I'm telling you. Plastic and commanding and giant. And although the fabric isn't as tight, it is softer and has a more elegant drape; which leaves me wondering, what on earth were Tivoli thinking when they asked me to knit a bulky, tight-spun, pure wool yarn on 6 1/2 mm needles?

I'm whizzing down to the waist as we speak, so I should have an FO in a few days. Maybe chunky needles are a good idea, after all.

See! I'm not updating once a day, but I'm not dead yet. Oh hell no.

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