Sweater knitting and not sticking to the pattern (doing free-hand embellishments)

I've seen several books on men's sweaters and all of them are well-made and classic, but most of them bore me. I want more variation than classic styles and different techniques and patterns. The last sweater I made I used Cascade 128 Peruvian highland wool. Guess what? BIG MISTAKE. After all of my hard work and all the "ohs!" and "ahs!" from everyone who saw it -- the ungrateful thing PILLED in no more than a few months after I finished it and started wearing it. I purposely made it a couple of sizes larger so I could wear a couple of flannel shirts and a t-shirt underneath it. I had put in all kinds of Celtic and Danish cable designs, and designed my own collar with Celtic pewter clasps at the throat. I topped it with a Medieval hood done in Dragon Scale with a 3-kneedle selvedge that allowed the top of the hood to lay flat. It was a dark charcoal with almost a bluish undertone and totally blocked the wind when I wore it outdoors. The overall effect was a sort of Merlin/Falconer look that was both rustic and practical. And it started looking awful in no time.

The one before I had made with dark brown Lopi Icelandic wool and it behaved beautifully. That one went to my younger brother, who asked me to make him something that would keep him warm while he was out on his sloop. I gave that one a shawl collar with a closure made from part of a deerhorn and again it had the rustic, male Celtic look. He could wear the shawl collar flat or make it stand up with the use of the deerhorn clasp. The collar opened in a sort of swirl off to one side that gave it a casual, almost careless "swashbuckler" sort of look. His friends all wondered where he got it and I almost started taking orders for them until they saw how much they'd be paying for yarn plus labor.

Any responses are welcome.


albert's picture

Regarding the pilling: those little fuzz buster gadgets do a good job of cleaning up the pills. As for sweater design I lean toward basic drop shoulder, crew neck. I like simple architecture to frame the motif and colorwork.

KilgoreTrout's picture

Did you make a swatch for that first yarn that didn't work out? If you're working with a new yarn, its really good to swatch and then WASH the swatch as you would wash the sweater. Maybe even wash it a few times. That would tell you if it pills before you've even cast on. I know its a time consuming process, but it would have been worth it for your ruined garment!

But as far as embellishing patterns go, I personally cannot knit pattern exactly how it stands. I always embellish or simplify to suit my tastes. Picking up a good knitting anthology like Vogue Knitting will show you lots of tips and tricks. as well as construction methods, so you can be a more informed "embellisher". Have fun!

If wishes and buts were clusters and nutes we'd all have a bowl of granola.

Applew's picture

Regarding Pilling:
Here is an old wives tale that has stood me in good stead over the years.
Before I buy the yarn (Wool) I select one single fiber from the end and check the length. If it is long I buy it, if it is short I reject it, and I have never had wool pill on my work since.


TomH's picture

Great idea. Thanks.

I work with a basic sweater pattern as Albert mentioned and just take off from there, using the basic pattern as my "mile markers" to constructing the sweater. As you guys mentioned making a swatch, I did do that but didn't wash the swatch; it never occurred to me to do that since I had worked with wool yarns for so many years and had never, ever had the problems I had until I used this particular yarn. I shear sheep and Angora goats, clean, wash, card and spin it and have never seen what was supposed to have been "100% wool" yarn do this. I'm wondering if this is a regional issue (Peru) with the breed of animal they produced this yarn from because as I worked with it I noticed it didn't quite "feel" right to me. I thought it was my imagination, but I'm wondering if it wasn't blended with a more inferior fiber to save the producer cost. I'm going back online to order Lopi; I'm not buying from a local yarn merchant again. I had this ordered as a special order and was talked out of what I wanted, which was the Lopi yarn. When I make another sweater I'm using my own fiber or product from a producer I can trust. This has taught me to work more cautiously with yarn I've never used before and to start with a very small project with it to see how it "behaves" and if it will play nicely with others, like me!!8