Well it has indeed been an eventful month on my needles. I must say that this has positively been the most exclusive I think I've ever been with my knitting. In retrospect I think that is probably the result of a rare combination of things: just the right balance of freedom and interest from the pattern, an available amount of time for some serious knitting (a luxury!) and a heavy love for the wool involved. Either way, here she is, already for you...
Pattern: Saddle Shoulder Aran Cardigan by Elizabeth Zimmermann/Meg Swansen
Source: Wool Gathering #63 (School House Press)
Materials: Classic Elite Skye Tweed in Spruce Green/1215.
Amount: Twelve and a half 50gm balls. Approximately 550 gms/1300 yards worsted weight
Needles: US8 Circular 32" Addi Turbos. US 7 for sleeve cuffs and garter band at base of sweater
Start Date: 10 March 2007
Finish Date: 9 April 2007
Modifications: When it comes to knitting with Elizabeth Zimmermann, I guess everything is a modification in some sense. Although I guess the word 'modification' implies the presences of a fixed starting point, which we don't have here in Wool Gathering. What we do have, though i a few pages of solid good sense and enough structural advice to get your creative juices flowing.
At the base of this pattern is, of course, EZ's seamless recipe for a saddle shoulder pullover. I've worked many a Zimmermann seamless, but this is the first time I've conquered an official Saddle-Shoulder in its pure form. The fit alone has made me a believer - its a perfect match for those square-shouldered lanky types... ahem.
Of course, it's more than your simple seamless saddle, with a spattering of many a beautiful cable panel and the excitement of that steek - all things that intrigued me to the very end.
I primarily stuck with the cable advice suggested in the pattern - the Sheepsfold Cables (the ribbon-like traveling stitch panel) and the Fishbone Cables are such classic EZ features that I couldn't resist. Not to mention all the garter. Garter glutton here, and proud to admit it. As for the back panel, it's a slight modification that I ripped off from the magnificent Na Craga pattern by Alice Starmore (the combination of these two knitting gurus was enough to make me all aflutter in the designing stages, it's true). It's a basic horseshoe cable ascending up the center with smaller horseshoe cables mirrored on either side and facing the opposite vertical direction. I really love how it turned out (see below). The underarm panels are a combination of the fishbone and the smaller horseshoe. All these panels together with a bunch of twisted stitch (ktbl) dividers strewn about came together in a great way.
A word on the construction sequence: I did your standard formula of body first, two sleeves, unite at underarms and shape yoke until bind off at collar. The Saddle Shoulder formula leaves a rather square-ish neck, I played this down a bit by shaping the back neck with shortrows. This was totally a freeform operation but did serve well to raise the back neck an inch or so, which was exactly what I needed. After I had the major part of knitting out of the way, I wet blocked the whole thing then cut it into its cardigan form (and rambled non-stop about it. Just check my March archives). After all this I went back and picked up stitches along the base of the sweater with a smaller needle (US7) and worked a 2 inch garter stitch band. Rather than start with this way back at the beginning of the sweater, I liked the idea of picking up stitches after blocking (also I was slightly worried about running out of yarn. The garter stitch base was an option I kept open for that reason). Finally, I worked the button band and collar altogether in garter stitch, mitering the corners at the neck. I wet blocked again just for posterity before sewing the buttons on. To answer some of your questions about the facings - I do plan on sewing them down, solely for the sake of a thorough finish, although I haven't done so yet. The photos you see here feature unsewn facings (not pictured, as they're on the inside of the piece).
I really dig doing the buttonband this way. I like changing things up a little with a vertical garter stitch band, and its integration with the collar I think also is a unique quality. Working the buttonband vertically also makes it possible to place the buttonholes exactly where they should go, evenly spaced and all, since you know exactly how many total stitches there are from the very first row. Speaking of buttonholes, have you ever tried EZ's one-row buttonhole (explained in KA and KwoT, and I'm sure others)? This is my first time using this method and I'm completely sold. It's brilliant! (Are you surprised, though? really?)
In closing, I felt I should mention that the completion of this sweater has been met with such a mixed bag of feelings for me. Accomplishment and satisfaction surely are first and foremost... but to be honest I sort of feel like someone died. This is the unfortunate curse that plagues the process knitters of the world I guess - but I am acutely aware of the absence of this sweater in my day-to-day routine now. At this point, on such an involved project I would usually be shouting to the hills in excitement for the freedom to move on. There's some sort of postpartum wool withdrawal happening. I guess when you're really in the zone with Elizabeth and Meg, this is par for the course.
I guess all I can do is go back to the source... give me some more of the good stuff, Liz!