Tree of Gondor/Tengwar sweater
Three years ago, I knitted a sweater for my father. He was really enthusiastic about it. Unfortunately, I made the neckline *far* too big, and I also used KnitPicks Shine, a cotton/modal blend, that is starting to look kind of battered and pilly. Also, it sags. So I decided that knitting him a new one in wool was probably worth the effort. It was meant to be a Christmas present, but I was a little late finishing it.
Yarn: Louet Gems Merino, worsted weight, French blue. I originally bought 12 100-gram skeins; I think I've got almost three skeins left.
More than half of the skeins had knots in them. (Fortunately, none of them had two knots.) This is not enough knots to really bother me, but it's something other users of this yarn might like to know.
I bought a pair of the Harmony wood tips midway through the project and used them for a few rounds. I can confirm that these needles are not that grabby. In fact, I quite liked them; knitting with wood in a Chicago winter is nice because it's warmer than steel. Unfortunately, my gauge was a little bit looser with the wooden tips; I therefore finished the sweater up with the steel tips.
I quite like the tips on the KnitPicks needles: they're pointy, but not too pointy, and the tapered bit is very long, which is lovely for cabling without a cable needle, which is what I prefer to do.
On the other hand, I like the connectors on the Denise needles a lot better. One, it takes a nontrivial amount of time to screw the Options tips onto and off of the cables. And two, the Denise join hardly ever comes apart, and it's all done by hand; you don't need a special tool to tighten it. The KnitPicks needle cables come with a little wire "key" (it's the funny bit of wire in the picture). If you attach the cables and the needle tips without using the key, then they come loose fairly quickly---not enough to actually fall apart, but they separate enough that your stitches start catching instead of sliding smoothly. And if you use the key, the tips and cables stay together longer---but not permanently, so you have to carry the key in your knitting bag. I'd be more comfortable with this if I could tie a nice thick un-losable piece of yarn through that loop at the top---but that loop doesn't actually close, so my piece of yarn would just slide off.
Pattern: The basic sweater pattern is from Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns (set-in sleeve, crew neck, pullover version). The cabling is (of course) my own.
Modifications: My gauge was not quite 6 sts/inch, so I used a mix of the instructions for the 46'' size and the 48'' size to get a 46'' sweater at my gauge.
I did the sweater body in one piece, knitting in the round, rather than making a front and a back, and I modified the sleeves so I didn't have to sew those long straight boring underarm seams. I also did a three-needle bind-off on the shoulders. (I did actually sew the sleeves to the body.)
Ann Budd does a curved or slanted edge (top of shoulders, top of sleeve, neckline) by binding off small chunks of stitches at a time. This leads to an edge which goes up in stair-steps, which are annoying to sew together. By the time I got to the shoulder seams, I'd remembered that there's another way to do this: short rows. (I think I came across this in Jenna's patterns---or maybe articles.) Basically, rather than binding off the first 10 stitches 3 times, you work short rows of 20 and 10 stitches, then knit one or two rows across to pick up and hide all the wraps, then bind off. This produces a smoother edge which is easier to sew and/or pick up stitches along. It's also more symmetrical: If you do the short rows on the right first, you will do (effectively) an extra plain row afterwards, so you don't have one side of the sleeve being one row longer than the other. I think next time I will do this for underarms and sleeve cap shapings as well as the neck.
Cables: The front is the same tree from Faramir's breastplate combined with roots from Arwen's coronation banner that I used last time. I had to rescale it; this sweater was knit at a looser gauge than the other.
Last time, I used Tolkien's Cirth to write a message because the Cirth look like Anglo-Saxon or Norse runes, which are designed to be possible to carve into stone or wood. I don't know about stone, but from what I hear, if you carve into wood, it's fine to carve perpendicular or diagonal to the grain of the wood, but carving across it makes the block more prone to splitting and is also harder to see. So runes have lots of vertical and diagonal lines but no horizontal ones. But these are precisely the directions in which it is easy to run lines in cabled/textured knitting, so it's easy to translate runes to knits. (I didn't come up with this idea; Elsebeth Lavold did. Although she did Viking runes (futhark) and the Cirth include more characters than that, so I did have to design a few of them.)
Between then and now, I discovered horizontal cables. So suddenly I could do tengwar. (Technically, I could do heavily italicized tengwar without horizontal cables...sort of...but I had to knit it sideways, and trees really want to be knit vertically, so I didn't want to use tengwar and trees on the same sweater.) The thing is, runes aren't actually that much more common in Middle-Earth than they are in our world. Tengwar are really the "letters" of Tolkien's world. So in some sense they're better.
Last time, I used a Sindarin near-quote ("Im Ariel hain echant"); this time I decided to eschew the Tolkien language and references and go with something with more personal meaning to me and my dad. (I wouldn't tell him what it said; I told him he had to figure it out for himself. Aren't I mean?)