And A is Additionally for Alpaca

I was going to promise that this was the last “A” post for ABC-along 2008. But you know what? I don’t want to promise, because who knows what else will strike me?

But this Alpaca is on my mind.


This is Lana d’Oro, a Cascade yarn which is 50% alpaca, 50% wool and sinfully soft. I have a Vision for this yarn, knit together with the blue hand-painted yarn which you can see peeking out at the top of the photo above (click the link to see it in its full glory). I envision a tracery of the richly variegated blues in colorwork, with the cream as the main color of the sweater, in a rather Delft effect. Because the alpaca blend plus color-stranding will be very warm, I envision this as a cardigan rather than a pullover, for adjustable warmth and more wearability and versatility. I have found several patterns in various knitting books that are inspiring me to adapt them for the colorwork, in particular one that looks like ironwork tracery from an old avant-garde Norwegian knitting book I have.  (Old avant-garde — I suppose that’s an oxymoron.  But it is, or was.)  But I also am browsing through a couple books of Celtic and Arts and Crafts Movement motifs.

Here’s my puzzlement, or what-have-you. I signed up for a low-key Elizabeth Zimmermann EPS sweater KAL, through Ravelry, as seen on Margene’s blog among others. I was planning this to be an EPS sweater anyway. The colorwork absolutely should be knit in the round, in any case. For a cardigan, that means steeking, in good old Fair Isle fashion.

I have never felt the need to make a Fair Isle cardigan, so I have not steeked. I am usually a pretty fearless knitter, to be sure. But this is not Fair Isle yarn, which means additional reinforcement is needed to prevent unraveling, like machine stitching or crocheting. I’m getting a bit insecure, because I am basically planning on designing my own sweater with motifs that I’ve adapted, using a technique I’ve never done or even seen done, with yarn that is not replaceable (the hand-dyed yarn). I’ve read up on steeking, and on Norwegian sweaters, which would be more similar to mine than Fair Isle is (not that I’d be doing Norwegian sleeves, this will be a yoke sweater, I believe).  My friend Lee has steeked sleeves, I think, and could hold my hand through that part.  But I’m quailing a little bit. There is just so much that could go wrong. And I’m not sure how best to do the button bands, etc. If I had a pattern that was a Norwegian-style cardigan, and that had button bands I liked, then I could adapt it easily. But I don’t (the avant-garde Norwegian designer book is very avant-garde; I’ve looked at some Dale and some Elsebeth Lavold books, but the ones I saw didn’t have a basic cardigan).

I’m contemplating wimping out and instead knitting a basic EPS sweater with some sort of fun yoke and sleeve pattern that I could design from scratch, I think, using a rather nice Louet chunky merino (in which I have a lot of black and then a variety of smaller mill ends in a bunch of colors). Then taking my time to find a suitable cardigan pattern that I can base this off, even though there will be a zillion modifications, and then knitting my Delft cardigan somewhere later down the road.  There’s no deadline for the KAL other than 2008; and it’s not as though I don’t have other things to knit, either.

Any thoughts?  Or anyone know of a good basic cardigan pattern that’s steeked, with a good-looking button band?  Or should I just overcome my fear and plunge in?    I’m not at all used to being anxious about knitting; it’s usually full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes.  (Somehow, the torpedoes sometimes find me, though. . . .)

A is for Anxiety. . . .

9 responses to “And A is Additionally for Alpaca

  1. EZ herself has one, doesn’t she? In much the same color scheme, and just about exactly what you have in mind. In fact – didn’t we discuss this when you bought the yarn? I disremember off the top of my head which book it is, but there’s a really pretty picture of the young Meg modeling the cardigan – made me immediately want to run out and make myself something similar.

  2. I just made a steeked waist coat for my Dad and found the steeking wasn’t so bad. I’ve been putting it off for ages as I had been wanting to try steeks, oh at least two years ago if not more. It is a little scary cutting your knitting but I made sure to leave enough stitches and I sewed every stitch down afterwards.

    I followed Alice Starmore’s pattern as far as the steeks went. I think it was in either the Vogue Holiday.

    If you have a design in mind – Go for it!

  3. Here we go again, Cathy. My blog post today details my hesitation about beginning the Kauni cardigan, which includes steeks and colorwork. We can’t even accuse each other of copying, because we arrive at our ideas independently and then write about them almost simultaneously. Spooky! Good luck with your endeavor in whatever manner you decide to proceed.

  4. Steeking is not bad, even for the cardigan. It is actually pretty slick. You just have to ‘cut boldly’ (and double check a few times before). I have done about 6 norwegian cardigans, the first in college. I think I may have instructions translated from norwegian from that first college cardigan (which I gave later to my mother-in-law). The instructions were from vanburea (spelling?) a norwegian specialty shop in Decorah that carried(and still carries) yarn, patterns, BUTTONS, clasps, ribbon decorations, etc…so it is kind of fun to think about dragging this out. I will look. Otherwise I am sure I have Dale instructions. The button band turns out really nicely.

  5. Besides, lace is MUCH more complicated.

  6. That whole third paragraph… make it about computers and outside servers and lots of data that other people in other agencies use and programs you know little to nothing about but have to operate and make products from… well that’s my job these days! I’d say, let the yarn speak to you. If it wants to be what you’re thinking about, forge ahead… if it is in doubt… try thinking of a new project for it. I’d be nervous to steak alpaca (but I haven’t steaked so I’m not a good reference on this!).

  7. Meg Swansen has a nice basic cardigan she calls the Lupine Cardigan. You can find it in her book _Meg_Swansen’s_Knitting_ (the big one, published by someone *besides* Schoolhouse Press) or in her step-by-step video “Cardigan Details”. I have started one, but not finished it. . . .

    I’ve done some steeking, but only with 100% wool, never with an alpaca-blend. It’s surface scales are smoother, I believe — that’s why sweaters made in alpaca can stretch and drape — so I, too, would be a bit anxious about steeking with it. Why not call Meg and her gals at Schoolhouse Press on their “knitting questions/technical advice” line and ask? They sell a 50-50 alpaca blend now and may have steeked with it and have tales to tell. (Where is that number. . . ah!) 715-884-2799

  8. Pingback: Last Day for “A” « Hither and Yarn

  9. Pingback: Decorah Blue Saturday Sky « Hither and Yarn

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s