Wednesday, May 02, 2018

The Beginnings of a Cardigan

Gauge swatches aren't usually something I do. It's not because I think of them as a waste of time, but more of a waste a yarn. Which, I grant you, is silly thinking - a gauge swatch doesn't use much yarn, especially when you compare it to the amount of yarn a garment uses.
I've done some swatches for my next garment project, however. The cold weather has hit and I'm missing having a larger project on my needles. I want something warm and snuggly to knit, and also wear. If this is Autumn I'm certainly going to fully feel winter!
So after much pattern searching on Ravelry, I came across the Carbeth Cardigan. It was just what I was after - a cardigan with buttons that can be fully closed, has full-length sleeves and is short enough to be worn with skirts and dresses. I find it exceptionally difficult to get cardigans with full-length sleeves that are suitable for wearing with dresses in the shop, so I'm quite happy to knit one myself.

A pattern I considered knitting first was Yama by Renee Callaghan, but it's got quite an open neck and lacks buttons to close it with. In this climate, if the air is chilly enough for me to wear wool, then an open-necked cardigan isn't really going to be suitable.
Another box that the Carbeth ticked was the one of speed (touchwood - I haven't actually cast it on yet!). Not only is it knit in DK weight (8ply) yarn, it's knit using two strands at once. If I don't encounter any problems, I should have this cardigan finished and ready to wear in time for Knitfest Maleny!

Anyway, so began the swatching. As the pattern uses two strands of yarn at once, I realised that I could have fun picking two different colours. I didn't have to just use the one colour of yarn - I could blend some together and have fun with different effects!

I decided that I definitely wanted one colour to be alpaca in Clouds and that I wanted the other yarn to be organic merino. (I'll explain more about that in a moment).

I did up three swatches - one with black, one with cream, and one with purple.

Almost immediately I didn't like the black and grey blend. The black is just too dominant, and reminds me of Zebras.
I like the purple mixed with the grey, but I think in a larger piece of fabric it would be a bit full on. Especially with the fabric being thick, and the cardigan having a large ribbed collar, the result would be a bit of a statement cardigan that wouldn't mix very well with my wardrobe.

So I have decided to do the cream with the grey, which I love. It's neutral so it will go with everything, and I love how the grey adds a little interest to the cream. As both colours are soft you don't notice the colour pooling like you do with the other two swatches, and it has a nice flecked appearance. I'm really excited to knit it up.

Now, there are a couple of reasons I decided to mix the merino with the alpaca. Both yarns are soft enough to be worn next to the skin, with the alpaca having this delicious butteriness to it.
I'd really like to knit a garment out of just the alpaca on its own, but I think it would just be a bit too warm for this climate for me to get a lot of wear out of.
Also, on its own, the alpaca has more drape than the merino. It's an oilier yarn (for want of a better word) and is a little more rustic with lower stitch definition. Whilst I love this for my beanie, I want something a little different for this particular project.
By contrast, the organic merino is a smoother yarn that's very consistent with it's spinning. Wool isn't prone to stretching as much as alpaca can be. Also, it's commercially dyed, so the colours in this range are solid. The alpaca, on the other hand, is undyed, which means there are slight colour variations throughout the yarn. I think this natural colouring gives neutral colours more depth and interest.

Combined, the wool makes the fabric sturdier. The alpaca adds a buttery feeling that is simply heaven to touch, and a very slight "halo" (that soft haze that mohair and alpaca yarns often have, which is actually minimal in this particular brand of alpaca). Alpaca is technically four times warmer than wool, so this cardigan will be pretty toasty knitted in double thickness, but not so warm that I'll only get to wear it once a year.

Overall, I think these yarns are a gorgeous combination. Combining yarns and knitting with multiple strands is something I'm very comfortable with as I've done it countless times, and quite early on when I was first knitting.

I used my colour swatch also as a gauge swatch, as I'd happened to cast on the right amount of stitches. I used a tension ruler (the ones I'm always saying are super handy), and it only took me a moment to count my stitches and rows.
The only downside of this project is that it requires circular needles, and I'm still building my collection, so I've had to order the correct sizes and lengths and now must wait for them to arrive. Good thing I have a Tea Mouse to knit in the meantime.

I'm really excited to start knitting this cardigan and also document the process here. Hopefully, it'll be smooth sailing and I'll have a cardigan ready to wear for the last bit of autumn and all of winter!

Until next time,

Project Details:
Yarn: Adagio Mills Alpaca 8ply in Clouds & WOOLganic Merino 8ply in Grapefruit Moon
Pattern: Carbeth Cardigan by Kate Davies
Needles to obtain correct gauge: 6mm

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  1. What a lovely swatch Sarah - terrific colours too - Kate Davies has so many beautiful patterns and her ig account is full of lovely photos. This will be such a useful garment for you - I think you might be surprised how cool it gets/feels in your new home ❄️ Happy knitting, Amanda R

    1. Thank you Amanda! I've just started following Kate Davies on IG, so many pretty photos x

  2. That cream and grey is gorgeous, really subtle!

  3. Very nice pattern. I love your cream and grey swatch you have knit, your cardigan is going to be so cuddly and warm!

    1. Thanks so much Theresa! It's so snuggly :-)

  4. This is amazing! I only came across this pattern today through another blog. I will be so interested to see the final product. Happy knitting!

    1. Thank you Karen! It's it funny when that happens? x

  5. That's a really nice cardi Sarah, it's going to look great in those soft neutrals.

    1. Thank you Nanette! I'm looking forward to wearing it already :-)

  6. Beautiful color choice! Your cardigan is going to be lovely!

  7. Ooh your colour/yarn combination is delicious! Thank you for introducing me to Kate Davies' work, she's got some great designs xo

  8. Thank you so much for all that information. I love the look of the two blended yarns and so looking forward to seeing this progress.

    1. You're most welcome Meredithe! I don't often write such lengthy posts :-)

  9. Hi Sarah, as a newbie knitter I found this article really helpful. I have done swatches for tension before (after the first beanie I knitted turned out waaaay smaller than I was expecting!) but hadn't considered the colour aspect when knitting two strands together, something I'm yet to explore. I love that I have so much to learn! and appreciate your explanation of your decision process. I'll watch with interest as the project progresses. Cheers, Sally at One Family, One Planet blog

    1. Hi Sally,
      I'm so glad you found this helpful, that's really great to hear! :-)
      Knitting with two strands at once is heaps of fun, and makes it speedier, too.
      There is so much to learn with knitting, I'm always discovering new things about it!
      Sarah x


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