Ideal Sweater

I've mentioned a few times that I've been doing more knitting recently. Nothing for the most part to get excited about. But, now that I have a bit more free time its became apparent that I can't write all the time and it's good to have something to do with my hands when other things require a bit of extra attention.

An explanation of my current knitting requires a bit of a back story. There always is and I think that is part of the joy.

The last sweater I started during college is probably the best one I've ever made. This isn't to say that it's the most impressive, or that it took me the longest, or was the most complicated, or was the most striking, or the had simplest pattern. No. If I had a dozen of this sweater, I'd wear them constantly all winter. It's warm without being unbearably warm except during the coldest week of the year. The sleeves are big enough to support layering without weird bunching. The sweater fits me without being too tight or too baggy. It looks great over long sleeve t-shirts and oxfords. And it was a lot of fun to knit, both because of the yarn (Harrisvile Shetland,) and the pattern (a modified snowflake design of Swedish inspiration.)

A lot of the sweaters I knit after that were too complicated: I was trying to show off my knitting prowess, or I was experimenting with different yarns. In any case, I've come to the following conclusion:

  • Two color stranded patterns are the best kind of pattern. The pattern affects the shape of the knitting stitches (in a good way!) and the drape of the eventual fabric, in a way that provides a bit more structure. If you make the right design decisions for the pattern itself, the act of knitting becomes so much more captivating and rhythmic.
  • The best neck lines are basically crew necks, but are open to mid-chest like polo or henley shirts. I don't tend to put button holes or clasps and just leave them open. The effect on the sweaters is that they are wearable over any kind of shirt (unlike v-neck sweaters) and are well ventilated (unlike unmodified crew neck sweaters.) I tend to leave the front corners of the collar squared and unmodified, but they can be rounded.
  • I've gone back and forth on this a bit, but now, I'm firmly of the opinion that turned hems are better on stranded garments than corrugated ribbing. Knit a hem facing, purl two rounds, and then start the pattern, and join the hem at the appropriate moment. Done. Corrugated ribbing is really appealing, but it's not really ribbing, and it's very loud, on finished garments.
  • After much experimentation with different shapes, I've decided that plain old drop-shouldered fisherman-style shaped sweaters are the only way to go. I've gotten pretty good at making saddle shoulders, set in sleeves, modified drop shoulders, and pretty much anything else. But at the end of the day I have a chest of funny looking shoulders that I don't really wear.
  • Patterns need to draw the eyes up along vertical lines, which is incredibly flattering on most people's bodies and is more fun to knit because panels of pattern can interact in cool ways up and down and across the sweater.I've been in a Swedish/Scandinavian kick for a while now, and have been working on variations on a ~26 row snowflake pattern.
  • Shetland yarn is really the best yarn in the world. It's robust without being too itchy, and it doesn't pill. I like Harrisvile's selection because you can buy the yarn on cones, it's consistent, and I think they have enough colors.

So I'm making more sweaters like this.

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