Oct 13, 2014

Meet the Engle Cardigan From Graphic Knits

The Engle Cardigan was the seventh pattern I wrote for my book, Graphic Knits.

When I began my plans for this sweater I was nearing a personal meltdown. Between my insane book project schedule, working full-time at my job, and my side gig at CharitySub.org, I was running at maximum capacity. On top of all that, somehow I got roped into hosting my first Thanksgiving. Between work and family obligations, the pressure was immense, and I really didn't want to let anyone down.

This was the point at which I discovered my absolute limit. I was emotionally and physically tapped. I had maximized every spare moment, forgotten my social calendar, and let the house go to utter ruin. There was just more work than minutes in the day. Though I found it very difficult to relinquish control, it was clear I needed to get some help if I wanted to keep my sanity.

Fortunately, my darling sweet wonderful mother is also a very talented knitter. Sympathetic to my deteriorating state, she generously offered to knit a sample for my book. I had never really used a sample knitter before, and definitely had some reservations about the idea. But it would be crazy not to take her up on the offer.

As you can imagine, this was a huge relief. I knew she wouldn't be able to finish before my "half deadline" that was fast approaching, but the sample would surely get done before my final deadline. And it was slow going indeed, but she did a truly wonderful job. When I say I couldn't have done it without her in the Acknowledgments section of my book, that is no exaggeration! My mom really saved my butt.

The way we worked together through this project is really a window into my design process. First, we looked through my book proposal to see which sweater she wanted the most. Here's the sketch from my proposal that she picked:

I handed over the yarn and she made a number of swatches for me. I picked the most attractive gauge and got to work writing the pattern. I started by making a rough schematic with measurements for all the sizes. Using the gauge swatch as my guide, I began working on the pattern one section at a time.

After Mom knitted each new section, we'd confer over a good old-fashioned home-cooked Sunday dinner (thanks Dad!). Then I would hurry home to write the next section for her. On and on, we went back and fourth like this for many months, until finally it was almost time to turn in my manuscript.

This process was fun for me because I like hanging out with my mom, but I did kind of miss the experience of knitting the garment. The design has a lot of different parts to it, which is something I think makes a pattern entertaining. It's like reading an exciting novel, with interesting twists and turns. Also, the garment is almost completely seamless, which definitely adds to the fun for me.

After my mother finished knitting the pattern, I took over for the Finishing section. Blocking this thing was a little interesting, and probably worth showing a picture:

I wrote this pattern specifically to showcase the beauty of an ombré yarn. I searched high and low for just the right yarn for this design. After weeks of research, I was a little stumped. I thought it was time to consult an expert, so I went to my favorite LYS, La Casita Yarn Shop & Café. Jen, the owner, knew exactly what I needed and suggested the wonderful Austermann Murano Lace Yarn.

This yarn is listed as a worsted weight, but feels more like a fingering or sport weight as you knit it. The fuzziness of this yarn causes it to fill out the fabric when it's knitted at a loose gauge. The result is a remarkably light airy garment with beautiful drape and flow. The fabric is so light that it's almost see-through.

The pattern includes a section about the challenges of working with ombré yarn, and gives some tips to help you along your way.

For more information about the design, check out the pattern page here.


  • Jean Tucker
    over 9 years ago

    Full disclosure: I am the mother who Alexis trusted as her test knitter for this sweater. Knowing full well that I am a member of the “slow knitting” movement, it was a leap of faith for Alexis to trust me to be her test knitter. But knowing about the pressing deadlines somehow propelled me forward and the sweater was finished on time. It was helpful that it was such an entertaining pattern. I’ve been fascinated with variegated yarn since my earliest knitting /crocheting days as a child. The way the colors unfold can make even a simple fabric of stockinette interesting. The Engle Cardigan has a lovely drape that plays well with the ombré yarn. I’m now making my second sweater from Graphic Knits, the Trilogy Sweater which is on the cover. This one is so much fun I’m galloping along because I can’t wait to see how all the parts go together!

  • Dayana Knits
    over 9 years ago

    Jean -- I'm glad you stepped in for your girl, it sounds like you made a great team!

  • Karen
    over 8 years ago

    I was distressed to find I bought dk yarn and this pattern calls for a heavier weight. I was surprised that the gauge calls for 3.75 stiches per inch. Is that right? It is described as a lace weight yarn.

  • Alexis Winslow
    over 8 years ago

    Karen- This yarn is a little tricky to substitute. The Austermann Murano Lace yarn has some similar properties to angora yarn because it has a thin core and a fuzzy halo that fills out the fabric beautifully when worked at a looser gauge. The yarn label actually lists it as a worsted even though it says "Lace" in the name. If you held a ball of this in your hand, you might even guess that it's a sport weight or lighter. I had reservations about calling this yarn worsted in the pattern, because a classic worsted yarn would give an entirely different look to this light airy garment. I would think that sport weight would work best, and DK would look good too if your yarn isn't as light and fuzzy as the yarn I used for the sample. If you can get gauge with your DK yarn, I think it will work just fine. Just be sure that you like the look of your gauge swatch. Some yarns look kind of ugly knitted at a looser gauge than intended, but some look just fine.

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