Thursday, December 8, 2011

Introducing Alys

Designs have a funny way of taking a bunch of different sources and inspirations, stirring them all together, and then coming up with something in a completely different direction. This is nowhere more true for me than the design process of the Alys cardigan (pronounced "Alice"), which started way back in 2005, took a new turn last November, had some tweaking in May, and finally came to fruition this past Tuesday. Never before had I imagined that the Iron Age torcs of the British Museum, an awful movie, and a new idea for a short row neckline would come together in this package. . .

(all well-taken photos of the sweater are by Carrie Bostick Hoge. The bad and blurry ones are all mine.)

Part I: I had finished my sophomore year of college, and my family and I took a vacation to London. As a lifelong Anglophile, this was my idea of heaven. Though we only spent one day in the British Museum, and the photos are lost in a Photobucket account I can't get to or on a computer I no longer have access to, I was obsessed with the torcs. Large, impressive, wrought metal bracelets and necklaces worn in Britain's Iron Age by the women in some stories and the warriors in others--these huge, ornate pieces of jewelry were breathtaking and beautiful. At that point, I was a knitter, but I hadn't started thinking of designing. I resolved to keep these torcs in mind for some purpose in the future.

(This is my favorite picture of the photoshoot. The colors are so wonderful!)

Part II: Last winter, I went down to Boston on the bus for the weekend to visit a friend from college. I make it a habit of watching the movie on the bus, but not listening to the audio; they're typically of such horrid quality that making up my own plots is far more fun. On this occasion, the movie on the way back home was The Back-Up Plan, a maudlin, unfunny, and all around pretty crap film. The plot that I made up for it was much better than the original. But the main character's sister/best friend (never did figure that out) had on a sweater that I loved. From what I could tell from the grainy bus TV screen, it had a stockinette body that pleated at the neckline into a cabled or garter stitch band at the top. Instantly, my mind went back to the torcs in the British Museum--could I bring the two pieces together?

Alys sketch

(the original sketch for the sweater. Notice that I change my mind a lot.)

The original plan was for a bottom up, round-yoke cardigan, pleated at the hem, collar, and cuffs, and edged on all parts by a laurel leaf cable. The cable would be knit sideways, and the neckline would use some seriously cool short rows to shape the curve. See?


But when I went to figure out the math for this in May, it soon became clear that wow, would it be easier and less stressful if I worked from the top down, all in one piece. I talked to Pam at Quince, and they were on board. That meant I got to use my favorite color in one of my favorite yarns, Tern.

(edge detailing)
The last piece of the puzzle fell into place when I was teaching at Medomak in July; this was the knitting project I brought with me to camp, and in the midst of many classes and lots and lots of porch knitting, I made the final decision to leave out the pleated hem and go for an a-line shape.

(that amorphous blob of chartreuse in my lap is the sweater in progress. Don't mind my clothes--I was mixing dye in them. They don't need to be pretty for that.)

The final sweater, worked from the top down with round yoke increases, has a soft swing shape and bracelet-length sleeves, and is edged with the laurel leaf cable. Through its many iterations, this has been one of my favorite projects, and I couldn't be more happy with how it's turned out. The pattern is sized for busts 31"-61", takes between 1,300 and 2,600 yards of fingering weight yarn, and is available for sale over at Quince and Co. Check it out on Ravelry, too!


  1. That looks beautiful, Bristol! Fantastic color choice. Or should I say...colour?

    No. That sounds affected. But I love Britain, too.

  2. i just love your designs! this cardigan is so graceful, so elegant in its simplicity! again: a big bravo!
    i love britain, too!

  3. Thea and Susannalie, thank you again for your kind words! It's decided, then: we'll all hop on a plane to Britain ASAP. :)