Many years ago, pre-child and teaching, I had this amazing thing called “time.” I used to spend “time” doing things that required intense concentration and focus. When I first learned to knit, I was quickly drawn to the type of projects that would require prolonged attention to detail and pattern.
This sweater, which is from Alice Starmore’s book Tudor Roses, was my magnum opus of sorts.
Alice Starmore is not known for her beginner’s patterns, put it that way. It was very, very difficult, particularly the cuffs and cardigan edging.
The sweater was knit in Shetland Wool from Alice’s own line, so it wasn’t cheap. The colors are glorious, certainly.
This knitting is not actually as complex as it looks. Each row is only composed of two colors, one held in the left hand and one in the right. Though learning to maintain the tension evenly between both hands is challenging, I learned to knit “continental” style, which means that I hold the yarn in my left hand, so I just had to learn to also hold it in my right like everyone else in this country. Therefore, there were plenty of helpful folks at the knit shop on that one! And obviously, I didn’t start out two-color knitting with this project.
Following the complex (though repetitive) pattern was the hardest part. The sweater is knit “in the round,” meaning that it is knit as a big tube. Waste stitches, called “steeks,” are knit into the pattern to be cut later for the cardigan and also on the side for the arm holes. Though this sounds terrifying, you reinforce the steeks with a sewing machine before cutting them, and Shetland wool is more than sufficiently fuzzy to keep it from unraveling.
Though I think this sweater is astonishingly beautiful hanging on a hanger, I rarely wear it, for several reasons. First and foremost… it’s totally unflattering. The cut is awful, with way too much bulk under the arms.
Sorry for the bathroom photos! Great light in there… but anyway, you can see the bat-wing armpits in this photo.
That bulk, and the strange stiffness of the yarn, means the sweater has zero “drape” and sticks out in weird lumps along the side, making me look like I have side-goiters (I do not, for the record). The purl-stitched border sticks out further than the rest of the knitting, like a tiny peplum. This isn’t good either. The arms are also obscenely long, so I have to roll up the sleeves, though I was nearly exact on my gauge to the pattern.
Additionally, for all its cost and authenticity, the Shetland wool Starmore used for this is the scratchiest wool I’ve ever encountered. It’s like wearing steel wool. The one washing I’ve given it in the ten years since I finished the project also felted the stuff like crazy.
This project, and my next one (which was an unfinished fair isle sweater) really put me off knitting sweaters. I can’t seem to match the strange gauge other folks get. If I get it spot on in terms of stitches-to-the-inch, I can’t match the rows-to-the-inch, or vice versa. I really don’t want to spend that much time and money knitting something that doesn’t fit. So in the end, I stopped knitting sweaters long before I lost the mental energy to do a project like this.
Someday, I might frame this sweater (really) and hang it as art. It’s absolutely stunning, when I’m not wearing it!