Sunday, October 1, 2017

Taking on a Complex Project: Inspiration and Interpretation

I found this photo of the Nepalese Haley Jacket on Ravelry. If you've never heard of it, Ravelry tells us it "is a place for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, weavers and dyers to keep track of their yarn, tools, project and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration."  

I am fascinated by this garment and have spent a lot of time staring at the photo. The colors! The designs! The techniques! 

The person who created it, whose Ravelry username is "Rishi," didn't include a pattern but did mention elsewhere that she loves a jacket called Kestrels Alight Kimono, designed by Sarah Swett, and published in the book Knitting in America by Melanie Falick.

Our library didn't have the book, but I was lucky enough to find a used copy online for only five dollars. It's a beautiful book, originally sold for $35, but now somewhat out of date. Of course, "out of date" is very subjective, and most of the things in the book appeal to me. Most importantly, I now have some directions for shaping the garment. 

The technique for knitting this jacket is one I've always wanted to try. This is Fair Isle knitting that has two or more colors per row with strands carried across the back, and it is most efficiently done in the round, rather than as flat shaped pieces that are sewn together . That much I've done before, but here is the technique that is new to me: The sweater is made as a tube and then the front is cut open, as are the armholes. These cuts are called steeks. For my knitting friends, there is an excellent online tutorial by Kay Davies on steeking. See the first part here:

Phew! Scary stuff, to take a pair of scissors to knitting you have worked on for such a long time! They tell me it works, and I'm going to find out. 

And from what I can tell by enlarging the photo, I think that the front band was knit separately as another tube, short and wide, then cut apart and connected to the jacket body. Another fun steek! Later note: I've found that this band is knitted by picking up stitches from the front, then knit as a tube, etc., instead of being knit separately then attached.

I've enjoyed looking through my knitting books for Fair Isle designs to use. The next section of my sweater will have a flower design that I found online. My printer is disappointing me these days, so I will be spending some time transferring and color coding the blurry online photo to graph paper this afternoon.

This is where interpretation of the original inspiration garment comes in. Nothing about my project will look like Rishi's beautiful jacket: My stitches will be much bigger, my colors and designs different, and the finished product will probably be a light sleeveless cardigan vest instead of a warm jacket with sleeves.

I've got about six inches knit so far. To get to this point, I needed to knit several swatches so I could determine my gauge and find out how many stitches to put on what size needles. Rishi knitted a dense fabric with tiny No. 2 knitting needles for her jacket; I wanted an airier, thinner fabric (winter in the desert is cold, but not that cold), so I am using much larger No. 8 needles. 

After figuring out the gauge I began the actual garment, found an error, tore it out. Began again, tore it out again. And again. I'm on my fourth try now and all is going well. Even though it has taken a couple of weeks, I've learned a lot along the way!

The jacket at the top of the page took Rishi "about a year to complete." This project is going to be all about the journey, not the destination. 

Doesn't look much like the inspiration jacket, does it? Funny how that happens.


Mrs Shoes said...

I'm impressed with your artistry - who cares that it doesn't look like the example? It will be even better, because it is uniquely your own. So pretty.

Linda Wildenstein said...

This is an absolutely gorgeous sweater. I love that you have taken on the challenge with such zeal. I'm always envious of folks such as yourself that knit. I tried many years ago was only a try.
I also want to say that I love your photo at the top of your blog. Such a lovely feeling just looking at it. Peaceful, homey, calm. Just lovely, xoxo Oma Linda

Margie's Musings said...

You are so brave! I am without talent myself.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

I can't do anything but admire other people's talent! And I admire yours. I can definitely relate to 'being all about the journey not the destination' -- that's our motto!