Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Holy fisherman's sweaters, Batman..."

Brace yourselves, people. Not only am I channeling the silliest superhero sidekick of all time (as evidenced by the headline on this post). I actually feel like leaping for joy and doing a happy dance. For Stornoway (i.e. His part of The Great His & Hers Guernsey adventure, which began on July 11, 2009) is now 100% complete. I finished the second sleeve on October 3rd after about 3 1/2 weeks of pleasant and uneventful knitting, and immediately set the sweater to soak while I put together the brand new and quite literally shiny woolly board that I bought from Camilla Valley Farm with some of my birthday money (thanks, Mom!!).

This lovely piece of fiber-functional woodwork came completely disassembled, and although I found the assembly instructions very clear and easy to follow, it still took a while to figure out what went where and get all the hardware properly situated. When the moment arrived to place the sweater onto the frame, however, I was not even remotely prepared for how easy it would be to stretch it out. My experience with blocking lace — and having to apply torque on edging points with pins & blocking wires — had led me to expect something similar here, especially given the density and tight gauge of the fabric. In fact, the sweater basically stretched itself. I'm not kidding... All I had to do was drape it neatly along the upper crossbar, and gravity took care of the rest, ably assisted by the weight of the water that the wool had soaked up during its washing. Of course much of that liquid ran right to the bottom and started dripping all over the place, so I laid a towel across the base of the frame to catch the run-off. But the fabric required no additional persuasion and instead opened up naturally and effortlessly to its intended measurements. Truly remarkable.

Here are some photos of the sweater during blocking, including a couple of closeups taken after a day or two, as the fabric began to dry and the details of the textured patterning became more visible. As always, click on any of these images to get a closer look.

My husband has longish arms. I had already added about 1/4" to the ribbing at the cuffs of the sweater in an attempt to allow for this, although when he tried it on before blocking, the whole thing obviously needed so much stretching in all directions that it was hard to tell whether it really fit him or not. But after it had dried and I removed it from the frame, he tried it on again, and we verified that the sleeves were still a tad short, not a huge amount, but enough to warrant some attention. This was where the traditional guernsey design, with its sleeves knit downwards from the shoulders, showed its true genius, because there was nothing simpler than ripping out the bind-off, placing the 64 ribbing stitches back onto dpn's, and adding several extra inches to each cuff. I basically doubled the length of the ribbing (from 26 rows = 2 3/4=” to 50 rows = 5 1/4”), so that now he can fold them over and adjust their length however he likes. I certainly had plenty of yarn to make this modification to the pattern. In fact, the entire 3rd cone of the Frangipani 5-ply in the Cedar colorway remains untouched in my stash, along with the tail end of the 2nd one.

One effect of using a woolly board is that the ribbing gets stretched out, especially at the cuffs. One can easily re-soak the sweater's "extremities" after removal from the frame and allow them to dry unencumbered so that they will bounce back to their normal elasticity. I had been planning to do just that. But with the cuff extensions it was not necessary. I simply left the new portions unblocked, and when folded over, they hold everything nicely in place from the outside. I also made sure to bind off with a needle one size larger than I had used to knit the ribbing, so that the bottom edge would sit right.

Here are a couple of pictures of the end result, which do a good job of capturing the elusive gray-green too. As it turns out, DH & I both happen to think that the sweater looks better (i.e. more stylish and finished somehow) with folded cuffs than it did with plain ones. As I wrote on my Ravelry project page, mischief managed. :-)

I could not be more pleased with the way this project has turned out, or with the fact that completing it has officially lowered my WIP-count from 8 to *7*. WOOHOO!! Now to finish Frejya and Elm Row (perhaps by Hallowe'en??). That would allow me to reach my elusive goal of getting that number down to *5*. Muhahaha....


  1. Woot! Woot!

    By Hallowe'en? Doable?

  2. Possibly, probably, though of course we'll have to see how the time goes... By mid-November almost certainly. Fingers crossed, courage duly screwed to the sticking place, etc. ;-)

  3. Really lovely! This sweater is an inspiration.