Thursday, February 18, 2021

Design Your Own Aran Project, Part One: Getting Started

Have you thought about designing your very own unique aran cardigan, but didn't know where or how to start? Now's your chance! Over the next weeks (maybe months?) I'm going to walk you through the process as I design and knit an aran cardigan. Why a cardigan? Well, I already have Hedgewood, a pullover, and I want something that's easy to take off, put on, or button up or not, depending on how much warmth I feel I need. 

Need some aran cardigan inspiration? Here are a few of my favourites.

1. Vale by Norah Gaughan from Knitty, Issue 38

Love the punchy colour (check out how it's echoed in the porch ceiling), the short length and of course the Norah Gaughan cables.

2. Must Have Cardigan by Patons

Again, I love the hip-grazing length and the way this cardigan feels as though it's something you could just throw on and head out the door for your Saturday shopping (assuming we casually enter a shop ever again).

3. Hallet's Ledge by Elinor Brown

From the same issue of Twist Collective, Fall 2010, as my own Sandridge (see sidebar for link). The simplicity and femininity of this design captured my attention from the moment I saw it.

I recommend starting off your design process with a basic sketch of the general shape you want to wear. You don't have to be an artist to do this. I'm not one, but even I can come up with a useful sketch for design purposes.

Notice the boxy shape, the modified drop shoulder, the crew neckline, and the 2x2 ribbing. An advantage of this shoulder type is that it allows you to carry the aran panels all the way up to the shoulder (although apparently I erased that area a little too enthusiastically on one side of my sketch). Another benefit is that it allows you to knit the sleeves from the top down, enabling a perfect fit. You can see how a knitted-in modified drop shoulder works in my Wakefield, below.

It's easy to do and absolves you of the need to deal with lots of shaping in cable patterns.

Now let's think about wool choices. I'm going with Topsy Farm's worsted. As I have mentioned in a previous post, it's neither "worsted spun" nor classic "worsted weight". What it is is a beautiful woolen spun, ethically grown aran weight pure wool. I'll need about 6 skeins to make a cardigan for my size and still have enough to play around with some swatches. I really hope you'll opt for Topsy. FYI, the yarn which Topsy sells as "aran" is what I would call "chunky". Also, remember that dark colours won't show off your cable stitches, not to mention that it's more difficult to see what you're doing. My advice is to go bright or light. Whichever wool you decide to use, make sure you have more than you think you'll need. When designing your own garment, you want to have enough to play around with swatching. Trust me, you'll find uses for any leftovers (hats, mitts?). Go ahead now and, if necessary, order enough for your own aran adventure.

In my next post I'll talk about choosing stitch patterns, how to arrange them, and especially how to swatch them.

P.S. It seems that Topsy has sold out of a lot of worsted weight colours. However, you can still find stock in quite a few yarn shops, including Unraveled in Perth, ON. 

Part 2 is here.