Saturday, 9 January 2016

Bespoken cardigan in burgundy-esque red

This is my 'best knitting project of 2015' - a cosy cabled cardigan for my partner in his favourite colour. 

He has rather a lot of woollies, many of them 1970s knits  he acquired when he worked in a vintage shop several years ago. You can imagine the colour scheme: all those shades of brown, beige, camel and tobacco! F's favourite colour is burgundy: he has burgundy T-shirts, jeans, shorts, cords, shoes, shirts...everything, in fact, apart from a cardigan. I managed to find several balls of Rowan Pure Wool Worsted in the January sales last year in the perfect shade, 123: Crimson. The colour is slightly darker and more wine-link than it appears in these photos, but in any case F is not afraid of wearing the slightly pinker end of this colour spectrum .

We chose the pattern together: Bespoken by Cassandra Dominick (Ravelry link). This pattern has pretty much everything I consider good in a men's cardigan: clean lines, a shawl collar, emphasis on the shoulders, and just enough visual interest. It would have been nice if there was some cabling or something to break up the back. I considered adding it myself, but in the end couldn't be bothered. There's a lot to be said for a simple stocking stitch project, especially when (like me) you only knit in front of films. 

I made several false starts on this project, which resulted in it being stuffed in a bag and pushed under the sofa for half a year! First, the tension was too loose, then too tight. Then, I got carried away knitting the whole back (all that stocking stitch!) before deciding that I should lengthen the body of the cardigan. 

To get a nice knit fabric, my tension was still on the tighter side, so I knit between two sizes of the pattern. However, after wet blocking the cardigan, the fabric has become much drapier and I can see that it's unfortunately stretched out a little too much. I could have blocked my swatch more carefully (as detailed by Ysolda Teague in 'Little Red in the City') but I'm just not the kind of person who does that, no matter how much it's advocated. Ah well - all the better for layering underneath!

There are two areas in which this pattern could have been improved. Firstly, I should note that I could have done it myself, but I was being too lazy. I used to knit prolifically; but this is the first (adult) sweater I've made in 3 years or so. Therefore I wasn't really thinking analytically about the pattern in the same way as I've done in the past: I just wanted to relax and follow the directions.

The first way to improve the pattern would have been to add shaping in the body. The cardigan sleeves are shaped, but not the torso, which is just a long tube of knitting. Contrary to the belief of many knitwear pattern designers, men are not shaped like tubes! They have waists and hips and curves in the back, just like women. I've thought this strange for a long time; the wonderful Kate Davies all the way back in 2008 mentioned this (and other!) plights in hand-knit menswear design (scroll towards the bottom of her post). As I've mentioned already, I was being really lazy and thought that I'd make a cardigan which allowed for some layering, to justify neglecting the fit.

The other amendment, which would have been easier for me to do, was the shawl collar and lapel; you can see on the front that it's a little bit mean. I've just compared this to the model on the pattern, whose lapel looks more generous. I believe that this may be because his shoulders are proportionally less broad than F's; the cardigan just doesn't seem to pull across the chest on him in the same way as on the pattern. In my opinion, the 'weighting' of the short rows at the collar should have been spaced out a bit more so that it doesn't grow in height so much more quickly than in width. Yes, I should really have re-knit this at the end after trying it on F; but by then I'd already missed his birthday by a week, I had Christmas gifts to finish, and I just wanted it to be done! I have a small amount of yarn left so if it really bothers me in the future I've got the option to re-knit; but to be honest, F. doesn't care (in fact he's thrilled with the garment) so I think I'll just let it go.

Bespoken cardigan
Pattern: Bespoken by Cassandra Dominick (Ravelry pattern link)
Notes: Lengthened the body to approx. 18". Knit a mash-up between sizes 38 and 44 as my tension was tight. Should have added shaping in the body.
Yarn: 7 balls of Rowan Pure Wool Worsted, shade 123. Vintage buttons.

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