PROJECT: MAGENTA’S COMING OVER!

No, the kids’ Blues Clues videos haven’t gotten to me. One of my all-time favorites is a sweater done in screaming magenta wool. I did it ages ago, back when I was a regular customer at Washington, D.C.’s late, lamented Woolgatherer in Dupont Circle.

There was a guy helping there who was fantastic. Back then I had the itch to knit, but a ramen noodle?budget. ?I’d walk in, pull my crumpled dollars and left-over laundry quarters out of my pocket and say "I want to make the most magnificent thing I can afford."? And he’d find it. Sometimes we’d find a luxe pattern and a budget yarn, pairing them against all likelihood of success. Sometimes there’d be an odd lot or strange color at an off price, and he’d spend the time to hunt down a project that could be made from that amount. On top of it all, he had fantastic color/style judgement. Not only were his recommendations fun to knit and in my price range, they were also great wardrobe additions in colors that always suited me. He’s gone now – yet another AIDS victim, but I think of him fondly whenever I wear the things he helped me with, or show someone else one of the pointers he shared. Alas, I am truly ashamed to admit that for all the times I visited and all the help I received, I never learned his name.

This item is proof of his expertise. Magenta?? Who can wear something that loud?? It turns out that I can. The yarn is Brown Sheep Lambs Pride. I knit this around ’86 or so from an Aarlan pattern appearing in one of their large-format magazines – possibly from that year’s fall or winter issue (I haven’t found the box with it yet, otherwise I’d be sure).This is?a case where cross-materials substitutions worked well. The original pattern was done in a linen/silk combo. The?yarn?was a very expensive yarn that would have cost me easily five times what the Lambs Pride did. I would never have thought of so drastic a departure back then.The gauges however matched, the wool showcased the texture stitches brilliantly, and the piece just clicked together with no problems whatsoever.

There are several details on it that I’d like to point out. First, note the ribbing. Remember how I said I always liked twisted stitches?? This is the piece that started it. The ribbing is done in P2, K1tbl. That’s what makes the nice, crisp, widely spaced verticals. The color on the detail shot below is closer to real life, although it’s a bit lighter than the original.

The body is entirely knit in a variant of Wide Waffle (Walker II, p. 152). That’s a stitch formed from a zillion twisted stitches (1×1 cables) plus YO eyelets. Although the pattern was fussy, it was quick to memorize and being on large needles (#9s) was fun and quick to knit. I especially like the contrast of the heavily diagonal, textured?body and the wide bits of crisp ribbing.

The neckline was also done in an unusual manner that was very common on Aarlan pattens of the time. The back of the piece is bound off straight across, with no shaping or edging whatsoever. The front is worked leaving a very wide Vee. Two strips of ribbing are worked as separate pieces (with slip stitch selvedges for neatness, since they show), and are then sewn on to the edges of the Vee, overlapping at the bottom point. It’s an unconventional treatment, and one I was afraid would pose problems of durability, but as you can see – this sweater is still going strong almost 20 years later.

Again, the moral of the story:? if you want your pieces to last, use the best quality materials you can afford; and you can’t go wrong with real wool. That and AIDS has claimed so many of our best and brightest. We miss them all.

One response

  1. Oh that’s just gorgeous. It looks very open and airy. My Mom taught me how to crochet many years ago, and in turn, in 2001, I picked up Knitting (literally overnight) and taught it to her. We’re always making cute projects, and the hat I knitted has lasted me to this day, longer than any other hat I’ve ever owned. I still wear it every winter! Far superior to the craptacular things you get in stores these days. I never did finish the matching scarf though… *goes to finish it* Have you come across any cute cover ups or tank dresses with open stitches? I’m looking for something like that.

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