It is about time I show you this cardigan I knit at the start of this year. I cast on in late 2018 and finished her early next spring. I knit most of it in the middle of that year’s emergency cat surgery drama, said cat’s long recovery, and moving house. Not the best circumstances for choosing a cabled cardigan as my main knitting project! I think I subconsciously felt the need to knit myself a warm hug during that period. A very *long* hug apparently. (Pippi Longstockings would have said it was knitted with a giraffe in mind!). Spoiler alert: a super long cabled cardigan, particularly knitted in those circumstances, is not a mega quick project despite using bulky yarn. This Aran cardigan with chunky cables in bulky wool was just what I needed at the time. I think it was also the project that my cat needed at the time too, because in a lot of the photos of her time recovering from surgery, she is napping on this project.
Kim Hargreaves was the first “big name designer” I came in contact with when I just started knitting. I knew she had recently gone independent from some big company -I didn’t even know it was Rowan at the time- and had a huge following and reputation. I think she was the first to make the move to go independent and focus on self-publishing her pattern books. This was at a time when Ravelry was going through what most people now see as the golden window of time to sell .pdf patterns. Looking back I still think she was a trailblazer in certain areas; going independent after being the face of a big design house, publishing her own books, organizing her own photo shoots, owning her own publishing company and reinventing herself with a consistent style. These are career steps which in the past few years have become almost mandatory if you want to make your living as a designer of patterns.
Someone in the knit group I went to at the time was a huge fan of hers, and had all of the independently published books at that time. This definitely fuelled my fan development. For a while I was a diligent follower of her work. Thinking back to that time, I can see what elements of her work spoke to me. I was still very much searching for and figuring out my style in terms of knitting, making and the way I wanted to dress and present myself. I needed some time so sift through things, develop myself as a maker and see what spoke to me and what didn’t. There are elements to Hargreaves’ style of work that I know don’t speak as much to me now as it did then. I admire her classic lines and minimalist influences, but these days I know that specific style is not for me. However, her more involved projects, her updated takes on traditional knitwear such as fishermen and Aran sweaters are designs that definitely do have a place in my wardrobe. If a design of hers involves lots of cabling and texture, then I’m almost sure I’ll like it.
These days I no longer collect her work. I think she now focusses on capsule collections and the minimalist clean style that often goes hand in hand with those is not what I’m looking for in my knitting. In fact, in a funny turn of events, I would now even say I’m more interested in her earlier work that she did with Rowan and perhaps the earlier independent books, than her current work. Her name will always be a big name in knitting for me though, maybe not on par with Alice Starmore, but definitely close.
When I decided I wanted to make a cabled cardigan with traditional elements I first looked at patterns at Ravelry, but I couldn’t really find anything that I liked well enough. Brooklyn tweed has a lot of gorgeous cabled designs, such as the well loved Rowe, but I was looking for something with a more pronounced nod to traditional Aran sweaters. Surprisingly I found them a bit thin on the ground. I briefly considered using a vintage pattern to make my cabled cardigan dreams come true, and I might still do that at some other time. I decided to look over my collection of Hargreaves’ books to see if there was something in there, and when I saw this Heart pattern from her book North I knew it was a good candidate. It had a lot of elements that I was looking for and when I realised I could match it with yarn I already had the deal was done.
Designer: Kim Hargreaves
Source: North (2014)
I used absolutely ancient stash yarn for this project. Again, it’s from a time where I didn’t know what I liked to knit or wear. Soon after I bought this, I began to figure that out more and more, which is also the reason why it had been in my stash for so long. The pattern calls for Rowan Brushed fleece, which is a light bulky, fuzzy, kind of felted yarn in a mix of fibres. The yarn I substituted it with is in many ways nothing like it, save that it’s also a light bulky yarn. This yarn is plied, worsted spun and smooth, showing of cables and texture better, it is a 100% wool in a natural sheep colour.
I did have a wild moment in this project when I had an instance of dye bath drama. The label clearly said each ball should be the same dye bath as the rest of the skeins, but the knitted up fabric clearly said “Haha! No.”. Did I mention I only realised said dye bath drama when I was close to finishing up the back on the cardigan, I peered down at my work and spotted that stripy wreckage close to the ribbing? Can you tell I knitted this project in peak dark season in an apartment that did not have great lighting? I was so flabbergasted when I noticed it, both about the fact itself and about it going unnoticed so long. I couldn’t believe it, so much so that I mad a quick dash to the paper bin to double check that my dye baths where in fact the same and I hadn’t just made up that bit (this is why we hold on to those labels, kids!). The weirdest bit is that it was only a relatively small stripe of discolouring while the skeins I used are huge. Now, one of the skeins was pre balled in 3 smaller balls, which I had stored together in a small closed plastic bag with the label tossed in. The only reasonable explanation to me is that one of the balls got significantly discoloured because of sunlight/storage unaffected. It’s still an unsatisfactory explanation because I stored them along with the rest of the skeins and only one of the smaller balls was effected, and it was actually darker than the rest of the yarn!? The only other reason I can think of is that the yarn gnomes just tossed in a random ball of yarn to have a good laugh and confuse me.
Since I found out about the dye bath drama when I had almost finished the back of the cardigan I wasn’t feeling much for just ripping out all that so I decided to see whether there was a way to salvage the project. I briefly debated about maybe over dying the whole thing when it was done. However I decided against that as the dye bath difference was quite pronounced and dyeing the whole thing would be no good if the colour difference would still be there, just in a different colour.
I then decided to look into in-pattern grafting. This seemed like an option worth trying because in that way I would be able to keep most of the work I did on the body and only get rid of the discoloured stripe. It turns out it is totally doable, I used this tutorial about grafting in-pattern so you can go there if your curios about the actual grafting part. What I did to fix the dyebath mistake was go to the end of the piece of knitting I did in the darker colour, untied the knot there and frogged that entire piece. I could keep most of the ribbing, but frogged the discoloured part, and reknitted it to the right length again. I then knit half of the cable pattern after the ribbing, in order to have the cables start at the same point as the two front pieces and then grafted it back together in pattern with the rest of the body that I left on holder. It is not entirely an invisible perfect join, it might have been if I had practised more and made more of a fuss about it. But not entirely perfect is good enough for me, especially in this spot where it is a bit out the way anyway. In this way I lost considerably less of my work than I would otherwise and while it was a bit fussy it didn’t take me more than a day to get it done.
So as you might have gathered by now, this cardigan is constructed in pieces and. While I knit most of my sweaters in the round I’m not actually averse to knitting in pieces and seaming. The thing is just that for colourwork allovers and yoke sweaters it makes no sense to me to knit in pieces when you could also do it in the round, so I never do it there. A cabled sweater is another beast altogether where knitting it in the round doesn’t have the advantages it has when knitting colourwork. To be honest, knitting a long cabled cardigan in the round doesn’t sound appealing to me at all. So I didn’t.
Other than the dyebath tinkering I had to do I made one obvious mod to this cardigan. I made the V-neck less deep, and less gradual. More of a normal V-neck than the deep-V neckline the original has. I prefer normal V-necks anyway but then I saw that a couple of other people on Ravelry did the same which made the decision to do it easy cause I could compare both necklines at a glance (this is one of the reasons I love Ravelry so much, please keep uploading your projects there). Seeing the pictures I feel this was a good decision.
One heads up: the button band instructions are not terribly helpful. It just says knit it and make 6 buttonholes in it. This of course allows you more freedom, and I personally would have to tinker with the buttonholes anyway because of my neckline mods but might be something to keep in mind if you were to make this cardigan. I went for more buttons because of my higher neckline and didn’t want to make the spaces between buttonholes super large.
I’m really pleased with this cardigan. While I was knitting it I had some doubts about the colour. I naturally gravitate towards colour in my making, and while I love natural sheep colours it is more in my nature to combine them with other colours then just use them on their own. Even though a natural coloured Aran cardigan was kind of the whole point of making this thing in the first place, as it grew and grew I started to wonder if all those oatmeal cables might overwhelm me a bit. Once it all was finished up, seamed and all, I knew I need not to have doubted. The cardigan feels very me (and because I am me I will probably always prefer wearing it with warm or autumnal colours but given my wardrobe that shouldn’t be a problem). I’m wearing it here with my Myosotis dress I made a couple of months ago and it might be my favourite thing to combine this cardigan with. On top of that it is super cosy and warm (it might not look like it given the sunshine, but it was super cold when we were taking these photos), IT HAS POCKETS, and given the memories attached to this project in times of need, it feels like the big hug I promised to knit for myself.