Friday, April 04, 2008

Seamless sweaters and mystery sheep.

Several of you out there have indicated a desire to join in on the zen knitting goodness and do some kind of simple stockinette sweater. Hats off to you, and I hope you join in the fun. But I was laying in bed last night, thinking about the term 'seamless' and thought I might give a word of warning: Some sweaters called seamless, contain steeks. In my mind, they exist in a sort of no-sew gray zone between truly seamless, and sewn together sweaters. Because although I think steeks are kind of fun, I will agree they're certainly more trouble than what a seamless sweater should be.

So, what sweaters are seamless? The ones EZ originally pioneered are the biggies - raglan, round yoke, and saddle shoulder. They're the ones that are knit in the round, up to the arm pits, then the body and sleeves are joined, and some form of decreasing reduces things, on up to the neck. (And the arm pits are then grafted together.) The only real difference between those sweaters, is the decreasing method used between arm pits and neck line. I'm doing either a round yoke, or a raglan, depending on what the yarn situation looks like when I hit the arm pits. And that's another great thing - you don't have to make a decision until you get to the arm pits.

If you were to knit one of those three types of sweaters, with a steek up the front, cut it, and call it a cardigan, it would still be considered seamless. (The Steeked Jacket is a seamless sweater, technically speaking.) And while it might not have a seam, it's still not the monument to zen knitting that the pullovers are.

My favorite book for the percentage system actually isn't by EZ. (I know, it's a sin, I hit myself for it regularly.) It's "Knitting in the Old Way" by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts and Deborah Robson:

There are several editions of this book. Try to get the Nomad Press Expanded Edition. The earlier edition is helpful too, but the expanded edition contains piles more information. There are fifteen "Plans" in the book for various types of traditional sweaters, all based on the percentage system. Technically all of them are seamless, but of the fifteen, eleven use either steeking or some other horrendously complex technique to join the sleeves to the body. Most have steeked armholes; sleeve stitches are then picked up around the cut-open arm hole, and knit downward toward the wrist. Again, while technically seamless, turning the whole damn sweater as you knit that last sleeve is a real pain in the keester. (The Russian Prime is built this way, and it's one of the major reasons I keep stalling on it - the closer I get to done, the more of the sweater there is to haul and turn on every damned round.)

So, there you go. If you're looking for a true zen experience, go with one of the first three I mentioned - round yoke, raglan, or saddle shoulder. Don't just cast on for something called 'seamless' and think it'll be no-fuss.

-... -

The wool I spun the peacock yarn from, was from Ashland Bay. I remember reading - somewhere - that it was Corriedale, and the fiber was GLORIOUS - soft and smooth with a long staple that spun easily, and once washed turned into a beautifully soft yarn that can be worn next to the skin, with no scratchiness at all.

With that in mind, I found a variety-pack of colored wools from Ashford, dyed Corriedale, and figured, oh goodie, more of the same, with colors to experiment with. So I got it.

IT SUCKS. Short fibers, needs an unholy amount of spin to hold together at all, and if you lose an end and have to pull the single off the bobbin to start spinning again, woe unto you, because you'll wind up pulling off little short bits of spinning and lose at least a foot of the crap before you get a useful thread back to re-start spinning with. Grrrrr.

With that in mind, I hit the web and started researching to see what the Ashland Bay fiber really WAS, because I wanted more of it.

Turns out it's South American mystery sheep. Wonderful. That's soooo helpful.

But I'm never buying Corriedale again. Ever. Anyone else ever tried this stuff??


Laura said...

So would you consider the Tangled Yoke a seamless option?

Paige Darling said...

You might try blue-faced leicester (sp?) I'm booknutty on ravelry and if you go to my stash you can see my handspun with it. I like it very much...but then again it's because it's from my backyard.

AnneMarie in PA said...

I have some Corriedale in my spinning stash that is the equivalent of rug wool, purchased in my early spinning days when I wanted to spin without guilt over whether or not I was doing it "justice' (it was real cheap). And I also have some Grafton Fiber batts, which I was told when I purchased them was also primarily Corriedale, that is actually quite nice-- longer stapled and soft, with a nice sheen, and of course, glorious colors. So which is the "real" Corrie? Got me, but I figured that some other breeds besides Merino must have grades of fineness and such, and that might be what we're dealing with, here. I think the trick is to get a supplier who has a product you like, and stick with it. Make forays to other suppliers in small quantities until you know the quality of what they have. And best of all, go to a sheep and wool festival, and touch your heart out (that's always my favorite!).

Amy Lane said...

So... South American Mystery Sheep--is that a pure breed or a mixed? (And maybe you got Vicuna...they have to go pick that stuff off of where the little buggers shed!!!)

Anonymous said...

Ugh. I'm sorry your fiber's being grumpy.... I've seen the plain corriedale at my LFS, and it seems nicely long-stapled, but I generally stick to merino or BFL, when I can get it.

If it's significantly not as described, I'd try to get my money back. There's nothing like hours of frustration to make me wish I never learned to spin.