Sunday, March 8, 2015

Scaling Down (or Is That Up?)

Authentic 5-ply gansey (or Guernsey) yarn like this, and this, is a tightly spun sportweight that's knitted firmly at a fingering gauge. The fabric it creates emphasizes textural stitches and at the same time is quite windproof and water repellant. Over time, it softens and fades and, needless to say, it is very hard wearing. Problem is, I don't particularly enjoy knitting at such a firm, small gauge, and I generally prefer to wear garments with a bit more elasticity and... umm... softness. I say this, even though I'm not a softness freak and don't at all like to work with superwash wools. All this preamble is simply to make the point that I've decided to sample a bunch of gansey stitches with wool that is mostly knitted at a larger gauge and thicker than the original stitches were designed for.
Now, you can't just take the original gansey stitch pattern charts and work them on bigger needles with thicker yarn. The stitch patterns need to be re-scaled and re-proportioned so that your eyes can keep the pattern in proper perspective.
For example, in Buttonbox, the repeat of the original pattern stitch, "Grampian Steps", was 8 stitches across by 12 rows high. To make the boxes work in worsted weight wool at a gauge of 5 sts/inch, I scaled the pattern down to 6 stitches across by 8 rows high.


If I hadn't, the boxes would have been much too big, and our eyes and brains wouldn't register the pattern properly.
I've been doing something similar with a few other gansey stitch patterns over the last week. The next one below is knitted in super-thick "Puffin" from Quince & Co on 10.5mm needles. The original stitch  (the eye-catching "Slate" stitch worn by Stephen Hawker, Vicar of Morwenstow) was 10 stitches by 28 rows. Without any tweaking, there would be so few repeats across the coat this is intended to become that the result would look ludicrous. So, here I dialed it back to 8 stitches by 20 rows. BTW, I adore the way the very rectangular-looking chart develops these gentle waves after knitting and blocking.

The next sample shows several experiments with scale and proportion in Cascade 220 knitted at 5 sts/inch. This is the "Eddystone" pattern, named after the lighthouse of the same name off the coast of Cornwall. You can see how I gradually changed the spacing of the little triangles, both vertically and horizontally to find the right balance. Not sure which spacing I like best. The middle version?

And what is this intended for? I'm planning a new vest,

one with a double-knitted pocket on the right front and a tab in back, or possibly a ribbon tie--I need to play with that idea for a while.