PROJECT – MANOS COAT

I was doing some more pre-move packing, and I came upon my Manos del Uruguay coat:

I made it in ’96, as a reward for landing a goodjob after moving from Maryland to Boston. But the project started ten years earlier when I bought some rosewood buttons at a crafts fair in Virginia. It took a long time before I found the right yarn/project to sit behind them.

I started with a pattern in the Manos Book #10, but made quite a few changes along the way:

Aside from the trivial change of color (brick/topaz/black/cherryto canyon/topaz/olive/black), I did some redrafting. As you can see from this thumbnail, the original was a cropped jacket, reaching to the bottom of the beltline. Being tall andcurved rather than linear, I wanted something longer.

To add length though posed two problems. The first was that the body of the piece isn’t done in plain old stockinette. It’s worked in a very large non-repeating design of freeform swirls and elongated paisley spots, done in knit/purl texture. The second was that the proportions of the sleeves and edgings would look out of place on a larger piece.

My solution was to draw up an extension of the pattern’s swirly texture. I did that on graph paper, replicating the last ten or so rows of the chart in the leaflet, then going on to add another 75 or so rows. I also redrafted the sleeves and armholes, adding a bit more depth. Finally I extended the slip-stitch motif bands at the button band, lower hem and cuff by adding a few more plain rows of garter stitch between the Greek key design panels, also to help keep the piece in proportion.

I learned a few lessons along the way, the least of which is that wool in quantity is heavy. The original cropped jacket isn’t anywhere near as massive as my coat. In spite of my broad shoulders, I needed to add shoulder pads to make my coat hang properly. The second was about sleeve shape, and it didn’t become evident until a few years had passed. The deep sleeves were more current at the time the piece was knit, and as time goes on are making the fit of the thing look more and more dated. Had I done narrower sleeves I might have avoided this.

I also learned about hand-dyed yarns and skein-to-skein variation. Manos is beautiful stuff. Each skein is one of a kind. This is especially true of the multicolors, like the canyon color I used for the bulk of this piece. The canyon available at that point ranged from paprika through cocoa, with side trips to ecru and run-in-the-rain raccoon. Some skeins were heavy on the lighter colors, some on the darker ones. Before I began knitting, I laid out all my skeins and placed them where I thought the colors would balance. That means I paid the most attention to the right and left cardigan fronts, choosing skeins for eachthat had roughly equivalent amounts of each color. Then I picked complementing sleeve skeins. The remainder became the back.

Knitting purists will note that the swirly pattern I mentioned above isn’t visible in the photo because the yarn I chose for those areas is so variegated. I argue that while it isn’t immediately discernable, it is visible, as the patterning of the purl and knit stitches presents an interesting way to maximize the variations in the yarn. Yes, it’s not immediately evident that what I have there are swirls, but up close and personal, you can see that the piece is textured and the texture accentuates the colors.

While I’m pleased in general with this piece, I’m not 100% satisfied with it.Manos was not the best choice for a long coat. In addition to the weight/warmth issue, it does pill.I planned this cardigan as something to wear indoors at work, but I neglected to think about the abrasion a heavy jacket takes from the rough upholstery of most office chairs. The back of my coat is a mass of pills. (You can even see pills on the front and sleeves on the photo). Very disappointing, but entirely my fault.

I’ve still got someManos left over from my jacket. I’m thinking of using to to make a fulled bag. But that project will have to wait until we’re settled in the new house and I’ve reclaimed my stash.

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