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Vivian

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Normally, for a sweater-sized project, we make a point of going out into the wide world and doing a photo shoot at a (hopefully) well-chosen location. But Vivian? That's not really the way she rolls.

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Vivian is a much more casual garment than the ones I usually make, and she is all about cozying around at home. Everything about her - the zip closure, the hood, the extra-long sleeves, the bulky yarn - evokes a day spent lolling about, reading a novel, sipping a cup of tea. Instant cozy!

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This yarn is something I would never have thought of buying had it not been for a series of events involving a 40%-off coupon with a looming expiration date, a limited color palette, a desire for a sweater's worth of yarn, and a panicky refusal to admit defeat. It's bright purple, for one thing, which is not my favorite color. It's also bulky, a weight I generally find uninspiring. Even its lovely sheen and soft texture were not enough to make up for these two faults, so it sat in my cabinet for a year and a half. I know some of you are laughing, but that's a long time for yarn to sit around unused at my house; until I started designing, I had pretty much no stash at all. So I was feeling a little guilty about this sweater-quantity of unused yarn, and every once in a while I would take it out and try to design something with it...but it was purple. And bulky. And I would put it away.

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But eventually I was glad to have it, because without it I wouldn't have made this pattern, and the pattern turned out to be super-fun. It's so well-designed and cleverly constructed, and the entire time I was knitting it I was thanking my lucky stars that I didn't have to worry about figuring out the sizing on it. Such an integrated, flowing design, where the cables and seed stitch panels form internal shaping in line with a six-row cable pattern in which all the pattern rows align across the entire sweater, was undoubtedly a giant pain in the ass to work out - and gloriously, it was Someone Else's Problem. Thanks, Ysolda!

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The only part where I had to use my brain was the the saddle shoulders. They're designed in a very clever way: the shoulder decreases are worked into the far left and right stitches of the cable that runs up the saddle. This is such a pleasingly elegant solution that I was disappointed when it didn't work with my knitting style: the edges of the cables looked all wonky when I knitted them according to the instructions, and I wanted a clean line. So I ripped back and hid the decreases in the purl stitches next to the cables, instead. This worked beautifully, but threw off the math for the hood. After a couple of attempts to follow the directions while modifying them in my head, I just chucked the whole attempt, looked at Ysolda's hood photos, and did what I needed to in order to make mine look like the pictures. No muss, no fuss!

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I remembered while knitting this sweater that I learned everything I know about knitting from following other peoples' patterns and observing how they construct garments and solve design dilemmas. And I still have so much to learn. This pattern involved a couple of things I've never done before (shaping a hood, for example, and making seamless saddle shoulders), which are sure to prove useful at some point. This project was a surprisingly productive, inspiring thing to knit, and I realized afresh that I should make other peoples' sweater patterns now and again, to keep my bag of tricks expanding and my range of knitting experience diversifying. An excellent realization!

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Mr. Bingley thinks so, too.

Treat

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Yup, y'all guessed it. My Christmas treat is to knit up Ysolda's Vivian pattern for myself. What a nice change of pace it is not to have to worry about all the ins and outs of sizing!

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So far, my plan about Vivian is working out surprisingly well. Yesterday I had a very productive session working on the sizing for Ethel, and I think a few more sessions like it will get the pattern to a point where it's ready to send to test knitters. Before I left for Australia a certain issue had come up with the larger sizes, and has been hanging over my head ever since; yesterday I got it all sorted, which is a great feeling. I still have a way to go, but I'm feeling much more eager and optimistic to work on it now that the Big Confusing Problem is no longer standing in my way.

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I absolutely love the way this sweater is designed. I often compare garment construction to the plot of a novel: I want to keep reading and finish the part I'm on, so I can find out what happens next. If sweater-making is like novel reading, then, the "plot" of the Vivian pattern is best compared to a twisty, turny read, with lots of clever reveals and unexpected connections, but still with a warm-hearted, comforting core of familiar, likable characters. The torso portion in particular is always harboring some new and clever development, and it makes the thing a blast to knit. Both the style (zip-up, hoodie), and the yarn (bulky) are outside of my normal range, but I'm so glad I picked Vivian as my relaxation knit. It doesn't disappoint.

Needless to say, given that I'm hooked and want to find out whodunit, my progress continues at a healthy clip. The torso and a single sleeve are completed, and the sleeve is seamed. (I have a strong aversion to using double-pointed needles larger than a size 3, and I didn't have any circulars appropriate for a Magic Loop sleeve, so I just worked it flat and seamed it. Doing it that way also meant I didn't have to worry about differences in circular versus flat gauge.) I'm really excited to see all the pieces come together in the yoke (the equivalent of Poirot announcing "You're probably wondering why I've gathered you all together..."), so I'll probably be powering through Sleeve Number Two in the next few days.

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Snow days

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Let's recap, shall we? A week ago, I was looking at this:

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Now, I am looking at this:

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That is totally a person in a parka, snow-shoeing down my street. Because it's freaking cold and snowy here! Portlanders just aren't used to this kind of thing. Mr. Bingley doesn't know what to think.

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So. Okay. I'll try not to just post astounded blog entries about the real live snow drifts on our front door, but holy mackerel. Snow. What can I tell you?

In more pertinent news, although you might think that a few days of forced quiet time inside would lead to productivity, in my case you would be wrong. I've been taking stock of the projects ahead, and frankly, there are an overwhelming number of them. So I decided to narrow them down to three for the time being: the sizing for the Ethel sweater, a piece of secret-for-now design work, and a big ol' piece of mindless knitting to work on while I'm puzzling out the first two. Sounds like a good, balanced plan, right? Except, faced with the cozy vibe, the board games, wine/hot chocolate, and silly movies from the '30s, it's hard not to just default to the mindless knitting and forget all about the challenging parts of the equation.

And that's just what I did.

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This project is a huge luxury, and my Christmas present to myself: a whole sweater designed for me by someone else! And, it uses up a big bag of yarn over which I've been fretting for over a year, which failed to inspire any original designs. Those two circumstances together make me feel like I'm easing back into a warm bubble bath every time I work on it. So really, it's no wonder I'm having trouble tearing myself away.

More on the pattern later, although I bet a few of you will be able to figure it out. In the meantime, happy celebrations to those participating, and happy regular-day-except-everything's-closed to everyone else! I'll be spending the holiday in snowy Portland, making purple cables and relaxing in front of my parents' fire.

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