Recently in Monami Cardigan Category

Monami pattern is up!


Thanks for all the lovely comments on the Blakeslee top, everyone! Test-knitting is in progress, which is very exciting.

To let you know, the pattern for the Monami Cardigan is now available here or on Ravelry. Details on the pattern, including sizing, yarn requirements, and more, are up on the pattern page.


Influence: Part 5 (Meet Monami!)

Large-amplitude, synchronous waving of terrestrial grasses has been termed 'honami,' (Japanese: HO = cereal; NAMI = wave) and has been shown to dramatically alter aerodynamical conditions within and above the grass canopy. We suggest that 'monami' (mo = aquatic plant) is important in coastal hydrodynamics and has major implications for larval settlement and recruitment.
R. Grizzle et al., Taylor University

A huge, heartfelt thanks to everyone who chipped in suggestions for the new cardigan design—there were so many awesome possibilities, and they were ALL better than the ideas I'd come up with myself. At the last moment I was blown away by Natalie's contribution: "Monami" adapts the idea of a current (like my inspiration, Kim Hargreaves's "Breeze") but transfers it into a different medium, water rather than air. As she points out, this plays nicely with things I've been thinking about throughout the Influence Series: it's not just about the current itself, but about that current's effects on objects around it (which may, according to the excerpt above, be to attract and further other growth). The water element goes nicely with the nautical feel of the cardigan's cables, and I also get a dorky little thrill out of the way "monami," though derived from the Japanese, is so similar to the French phrase "mon ami": my friend, my love. AWWWWW!


As for the cardigan itself, I'm quite pleased with the final result. The fit, while not exactly the same as my Breeze, is just the kind of relaxed, easy-to-throw-on yet flattering style that I know will get a ton of wear. (In fact, our June and July here in Portland have been so chilly up until yesterday, that I was quite glad for the sweater during our photo shoot down at the Eastside Esplanade wharf.) Photos by David, as always.


I think the textures here are my favorite thing about wearing the finished product. As much as the combination of garter stitch, chunky cables, and a ribbed, turnover collar gobbles up yarn at an indecent rate, it really is worth it when I get to wear the cushy, smooshy end product. I'm wondering how I never managed to fall in love with garter stitch before now. Maybe it was too obvious; I'm forever going in search of a complicated solution to a simple problem.


As usual, Jodi of Green Ray Productions was a great help in finding the perfect buttons. I can't explain the story behind these Viking-looking chips being navigated by what appear to be cherubs (?) holding a paddle with a giant goat's head (??), and if any of YOU can I will be very impressed. But I do love the way they extend the textural and nautical themes while contrasting enough with the rest of the sweater to hold their own visually.


I posted last time that I was disappointed at having to make my sleeves skinner than I would have liked. I was actually pretty bummed about it for a little while there, but with a little bit of wear they've relaxed substantially, and I like them better now—especially the way the transition from ribbing to cables becomes more pronounced when there's actually an arm inside the sleeve. This photo is a good shot of both the main cable and my simplified, smaller sleeve-friendly version; you can see some of the shared motifs pretty well.


Overall, a happy, practical end to an interesting thought experiment. I liked spending some time digging into how the process of influence works (at least for me), and what kinds of considerations come into play during that process. I never stressed about modifying elements of Hargreaves's pattern so that it would be "different enough," but the combination of a different yarn, different dyeing method, and different cable motif led of their own accord to some pretty significant differences. To recap, I started on the left...


...and ended up on the right. Pretty cool! I think the influence is visible, but not overtly apparent if you didn't know the story behind the sweater.

Multi-sized pattern almost ready for test-knitters; I'm hoping to release this sometime in September, for some satisfying autumn or winter knitting.

Oof! Between the Cold of Death and the lovely Hawaiian honeymoon, I'm so behind on the Influence series! I was going to do separate posts on my thought processes with the sleeves and fronts, but I think I'll combine them into one post. As it turns out, the two are united anyway, by the theme of "things in need of substantial tinkering."

As you'll recall, I'm designing an original sweater influenced by an all-time favorite cardi of mine, my russet version of Kim Hargreaves's Breeze.


As much as I adore this sweater, there are two things about it that have always bugged me. You can see one even on the dress form: the fronts, with their narrow button bands fastened by buttons only about every four inches or so, have always gapped, and the problem has gotten worse with time. I'm sure there are many of you out there who share my hatred of gapping: I definitely wanted to alter the front of my new cardigan to avoid a repeat. Plus, the more I thought about it, the more I felt that a ribbed button band up the front of the sweater would be dwarfed by, and at the same time distract from, the cables on either side—the cables I'm using, after all, are a lot bolder and chunkier than Hargreaves's. Also, my "background stitch" is more textured, and I was afraid that a button band would be one piece of visual stimulation too many.


I played around with the idea of a chunky/wide button band, but it just wasn't working for me. In the end I decided to go in the opposite direction: taking my cue from another Hargreaves pattern, the Darcy Jacket, I knit the relatively close-set buttonholes right into the seed-stitch fabric. No bands necessary!


(Buttons to come soon; you know they'll be cute because they were selected with the help of the awesome Jodi of Green Ray Productions!)

Sleeves are the other part of the original Breeze that always bugged me: they were about an inch shorter than I'd really like, and quite wide. I made that sweater before I understood what a simple mod sleeve-lengthening is, or I would have changed it in the beginning. In addition to longer sleeves, though, there was another issue.


As you can see, the original sweater uses the same cable motif on the sleeve as it does on the fronts and back. My cable motif, though, is just too huge to look good on your average sleeve. I decided to take the general cabling "moves" present in the main cable, and design a smaller version appropriate for sleeves. This is what I came up with:


I think it looks like it "belongs," while taking up significantly fewer stitches. I do love the transition from ribbing to cabling in Breeze, and adapted my sleeve ribbing accordingly:


It doesn't have that beautiful flowing elegance of line that Hargreaves's has, but I'm pleased with it. The one thing I regret about the sleeves on my new sweater is that I had to make them narrower than I would have liked: between the garter stitch background and the heavy cabling, my six skeins of Madelinetosh DK were consumed at an alarming rate, and the colorway is (of course) unmatchable these days. So I had to scrimp a little bit on the sleeve width. When I write up the pattern, though, it should be easy enough to add a few stitches on either side of my sample numbers.

And speaking of the pattern: any ideas on what it should be called? I've been trying to come up with some kind of riff on "Breeze" (Gale? Typhoon?), but I can't say I've had much of a brain-wave yet. I'd be happy to pay you in patterns for The Right Name!

Up next: the finished product!

Influence: Part 3


At last: the third part of the Influence series! In case you forgot what all this is about, I'm designing a new, original sweater inspired by an old favorite of mine. Last time I modified a found cable motif and paired it with garter stitch, for a look that's a little more rustic and "cushy" than Kim Hargreaves's Breeze design, but which takes the nautical feel of Hargreaves's cardigan in another direction.


Now, one of my absolute favorite things about Hargreaves designs is the organic flow of ribbing/finishing into body:


It's not like Kim Hargreaves invented this technique; she and Eunny Jang just happen to be the designers I learned it from, but there are plenty of others who make it a priority as well. Which actually brings up an interesting question: an artist (say, Beatrice) can be a strong influence on another artist (say, Chris), for reasons which don't originate with Beatrice at all. A casual observer, in fact, could assume that Chris's primary influence must have been Beatrice's mentor Abigail, when in fact Chris could be totally unaware of Abigail's existence except through her influence on Beatrice. There's also the possibility, of course, that Chris, Beatrice and Abigail all just worked toward similar conclusions independently; from the outside, there's often no way of telling. (We were just having a conversation about this over at my other blog; some friends and I read a short story by Borges that reminded me strongly of Nabokov's Pale Fire—but had Nabokov read Borges before writing his book? Does it matter?)

Anyway, in this case I'm claiming a strong Hargreaves influence: even though Kim didn't invent the whole ribbing-into-cables idea, she certainly put it to good and consistent use. When I was first learning about sweater-knitting, her patterns were always so pleasing for the smooth way all the elements come together: ribbing into cables, sleeves into armscyes, collars that tied everything together by repeating a motif from the cuffs. So I wanted to be sure that my homage sweater included this detail of Breeze. Since my chosen cable is built off a modified 4x2 ribbing, that seemed like a good finish for the lower edge, with the full-blown cable emerging organically from it:


Obviously, this is shaping up for a much different feeling than Breeze. Chunkier, less linear and more three-dimensional, with chewy textural qualities in place of Breeze's Deco sophistication. I kind of like the idea that Breeze, which set me on the path of tailored Deco-inspired garments, is now helping me to explore a different kind of cardigan. Despite all the differences, though, I think the influence is still visible when you look at the completed back:


Since my cables are so much chunkier than the ones in Breeze, I omitted the center-back repetition, but retained Hargreaves's basic idea of locating the left and right cables just at the place where the armhole decreases end. Despite the bulkiness of these cables, I think the final effect, with the narrow-ish column of garter stitch between the two cables, will end up giving the impression of slenderness.

The waist shaping is understated, but hopefully effective (in this photo it's pinned out into more or less a straight line along Gertrude's curves):


I based the pattern of decreases and increases on measurements I took from my Breeze sweater, which decreased about an inch relatively quickly, then increased slightly more than an inch much more gradually. For this new cardi I actually exaggerated the gradualness of the increase, spreading it out over almost the entire length of the body prior to the armhole decreases, but kept the slope of the initial decreases more or less the same. So far, I'm quite pleased.

Up next: the completed torso!

Previous posts in the series:

Influence: Part 2


Wow, thanks for all the thought-provoking comments on my introductory post to the influence series! Glad to know this is an interesting topic for people. Before I go on, a couple of housekeeping items:

  • David is working on a blog update to make everything around here smoother and prettier, allow diacritical marks and non-English commenting, take the RSS feed out of hiding, and generally make the world a better place. So, sometime in the next week or so, the blog will go off-line for a day or so while he gets that up and running. Believe me, it'll be so worth it when it's done! I'm psyched.
  • I've decided to comment back on the blog, rather than emailing people. I know that's kind of unusual in the knit-blogging world, but it's what all the book-bloggers do, and it's always felt more natural to me. So, unless you leave me a comment requiring a very personal response, expect a comment back on the blog rather than an email.

And now, where were we? Oh, yes.


Obviously, since I'm looking to replace my existing sweater in a number of my work ensembles, COLOR is part of the whole influence/inspiration matrix here, even though (if I recall correctly) I didn't make my cardigan in the same yarn or color as the original Kim Hargreaves model. Luckily, most of my outfits involve more color-coordination than color-matching, so I don't have to duplicate the exact shade. After looking around for a good long time, I decided on this gorgeous yarn, ordered from the always-delightful Erin at Eat.Sleep.Knit:


It's Madelinetosh DK, in the "Golden Hickory" colorway, and I'm so excited to finally work with this yarn. My choice here was itself an example of influence: so many of my knitting peers, notably Kate at Hello Knitty, were extremely enthusiastic, that I knew I had to give it a shot. A couple of things to note: my original sweater was knitted in Karabella Aurora 8, which is both a less variegated and a thicker yarn (worsted versus DK), although similarly smooth and round, making both great for cables. The DK weight means I have some room to play with some more complex pattern details, but the variegation means I'll need to keep those patterns bold in order for them to show up well. Luckily, "bold" is exactly what I had in mind.

Now, you probably noticed that Breeze involves lovely twisted-stitch patterning.


In fact, this is the design that introduced me to the idea of knitting through the back loop! THANK YOU, KIM HARGREAVES. I totally fell in love with the crisp, squared-off look I could achieve by twisting my stitches; I started doing it, and I never looked back. Lots of my own designs, including Julia, Wednesday, Caulfield, and Anney, involve twisted-stitch cables. Which is all well and good, but I might be getting just a TAD bit tired of twisted stitches. For a while now I've been wanting to explore the cushier, bulkier side of cabling, poring over stitch dictionaries and drooling over the big, bold, rope-style fisherman cables I found there. In particular, I was really digging this gorgeous thing, collected for posterity by the ubiquitous Barbara Walker:


(To quote you chapter and verse, this is the "Nautical Twisted-Rope Cable" featured on page 181 of Walker's Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns, colloquially referred to as "the red one.")

At this point, I was pretty pleased with how things were coming. The bold, bulky qualities of the cable were holding their own against the variegation in the yarn, the stitch definition at my chosen gauge was excellent, and the fabric I was getting was deliciously cozy. And at this relatively light weight, even such a bulky cable is capable of co-existing with a fitted garment. I especially like that this cable, although it has a completely different feel from the Breeze cable, preserves a nautical aura from the original. Whereas Breeze feels to me like something that would be worn by a young girl being taken out on a sail boat in the early summer, this cable seems more likely to be worn by the person actually sailing the thing. They are thematically linked, but each have their different flavors.

However, one of the things I really like about the Breeze pattern is the way the cables present a curved, almost scalloped edge against a textured, yet flatter, background. I decided to take out the 4X4 cables to the left and right of the center panel, and experimented with different possible "background" fabrics. Reverse stockinette, as featured in the original Breeze, does complement variegation well, but stockinette fabric was feeling anemic next to my multi-layered cable. Seed and moss stitch were other possibilities, but in the end I decided in favor of simplicity: some good old-fashioned garter stitch.


For some reason I've always shied away from garter stitch, but in this context I'm absolutely loving it! It provides my fabric with just the right amount of "cush" to complement the squishy cable, and it looks beautiful in this semi-sold/variegated yarn. I also like the way in which the horizontal lines it produces contrast with the vertical cable and help the cable pop out of the background. This cable/fabric combo is definitely something I would love to wear.

Up next: moving from micro to macro, and the finished sweater back!

Previous posts in the series:

Influence: Part 1


A few days ago a fellow Portlander and acquaintance of mine, Diane Gilleland, wrote a thought-provoking post about originality and creative cross-pollination. I'd encourage you all to go read her thoughts; I agree wholeheartedly with her championing of creative openness paired with credit freely given.

It's true that sometimes people out-and-out copy another's ideas, and that's worthy of condemnation. I'm not saying it's okay to redistribute someone's pattern without their consent, or make a few token changes and pass something off as one's own. But I think, in our eagerness to honor the originality of the artists and designers in our midst, we sometimes go too far in the other direction, minimizing the validity and importance of creative influences.

In the knitting world, I've noticed that sometimes, when a design is influenced by another knitted garment, people can be a bit dismissive of it—it's pretty, it's okay, but not as impressive as a design might be whose inspiration arrived in the designer's head from a mysterious and unrecognizable source. But why should this be? Why should a sweater inspired by, say, ironwork scrolls, or the veins of a trillium leaf, or pure geometry, be any more valid or impressive than one inspired by another sweater? It seems to me that we have become so afraid of copying that we are ending up with an unrealistic idea of how the creative process works. Knitwear inspired by other knitwear needn't look derivative, after all, or even that similar. And knitwear that DOES look similar to another piece wasn't necessarily inspired by it in any direct way: as Diane points out, artists are often developing similar ideas simultaneously, without consulting or discussing them at all.

As an exploration of these ideas, I'd like to do a little experiment in making my influences explicit.


Meet my Autumn Sweater. The pattern is Kim Hargreaves's "Breeze," from Rowan's A Yorkshire Fable (both of those are Ravelry links). While not the first sweater I ever made, Breeze happened early in my knitting career—I completed it about four years ago. Since then, it's become THE go-to sweater in my wardrobe: the one I pull unthinkingly from the closet whenever I need a quick cover-up to take the dog for a walk or head out the door for dinner with friends. It's also an integral part of a number of my favorite work outfits. I just love the way it fits: it's so versatile, yet flattering, and the color goes with almost everything I own. Needless to say, after four years of heavy (read: almost daily) wear, it's starting to show its age.


The snags are getting too numerous to be constantly pulling to the other side with a crochet hook. A few spots are getting fuzzy from the place my bag rubs when I walk to work. It's still perfectly serviceable for wearing around the house or out for a potluck at a friend's house, but I'm starting to feel odd about wearing it to work, even to my casual office. The time has come to replace this sweater with another that can take its place in those work outfits that usually involve this one.


Of course, I could just make the same pattern again. I do own A Yorkshire Fable, after all. But instead, I'm going to try something a little more interesting: I'm going to design a sweater overtly inspired by this current favorite.

Now let's be clear: I am not going to use Ms. Hargreaves's numbers, nor her cable motif. My sweater will not be a "copy" of the Breeze pattern in any sense. In fact, just to make clear the divide between "influence" and "rip-off," I pledge not even to open A Yorkshire Fable at any point during this project (nor have I looked at the book, except for a couple casual glances through it, for the past three years). I will be taking the measurements of my sweater in its current form, which means it will have stretched significantly away from Hargreaves's original schematic measurements, if indeed it ever matched those. I'm just going to use my current, beloved sweater as a jumping-off point, a baseline that will include some of the things I adore about this garment. The finished product may look completely different, but hopefully it will share the basic shape, certain construction details, and a general retro maritime feel with the original.

Ready? I have a good start on this project already, so I'll be updating again soon.