Sep 23, 2014

Meet the Rook Pullover From Graphic Knits

Rook was the third pattern I wrote for my book, Graphic Knits. I chose the lovely Blue Sky Alpacas "Alpaca Silk" yarn for this design because it comes in such a fantastic palette of colors. As soon as the yarn arrived, I could hardly wait to get started on this design.

Rook is one of my very favorite patterns in the book, but it probably gave me the most trouble design-wise. It was a little bit of a nightmare, actually. I started work on this pattern as Hurricane Sandy approached New York City in October 2012, and didn't finish until four months later at the end of February 2013. To put that in perspective, I was trying to design, and knit about 1½ to 2 new things every single month to make the seemingly impossible August 2013 deadline I had for my book.

I had a grand vision for Rook. I would invent a new shoulder construction just for this design–my very own method for a top-down seamless sweater with a simultaneous set-in sleeve cap. It's a lot of fun to knit, but boy it was a doozy to figure out!

Of course, I rarely get anything right on my first try, and this new shoulder construction was no exception. I knitted the whole body of the sweater, and half a sleeve before I realized that my original design had some serious problems. The armsyce was just too long and the top of the cap was strangely boxy. The long armsyce introduced a whole heap of other issues that I won't even bore you with.

It was clear I had to start over. I knew the concept had great potential but my time limitations were forcing me to consider scrapping the whole design. I was so sad, because I thought it was one of the very best designs in my whole book proposal.

After taking a little (two month) break from the project, I decided to give it another try. I refigured the math for the sleeve cap and got to work re-knitting the top portion of the sweater. Version 2 was everything I hoped it would be! An all around perfect fit.

Thankfully, most of the color-work in the lower portion of the sweater could be salvaged, but I would have to graft it by hand to the new top–not an easy task! And lucky you, I documented the whole thing, for your future blog reading delight.

The graft became 100% invisible after I blocked the sweater. Since the new shoulder section was shorter by a couple of inches, I was able to add a little more of that lovely Fair Isle pattern to the bottom, which made me really happy.

I think I look a little triumphant in that picture. What do you think?!

Of course making the decision to rip out weeks of work is not easy, but I've never regretted it once. It was my expectation that as I became a more experienced designer, that there would be many fewer of these kinds of harrowing experiences, but that is just not the case. In fact, I start over on things much more than I used to. I think I hold myself to an ever-higher standard, because I know that every new design can be a masterpiece. It might not look like a Rembrandt, but completing Rook was one of my proudest moments.

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


  • Julie Nandorfy
    almost 10 years ago

    I love this sweater too! And bought your book mostly for this design, although I like them all and plan on making quite a few. I will get started on Rook soon, I also love the colours you chose, so I'm sticking with those too.

  • Alexis Winslow
    almost 10 years ago

    Thanks Julie! I'm so glad you like this design. It's also one of my favorites. I hope you share pictures of your project(s) on Ravelry. I really love seeing what people do with my patterns :)

  • Stacy
    almost 10 years ago

    Epic fixing Alexis! You are one courageous knitter. I think Rook will be my next knit from the book.

  • Alexis Winslow
    almost 10 years ago

    Thank-you Stacy! I still get a phantom twinge of pain in my neck every time I look at that grafting montage! I hope you'll post pictures of your finished Rook Pullover on Ravelry so I can admire it :)

  • Susanna
    almost 10 years ago

    It is actually really encouraging to learn that the people who design the fabulous knits we see in books don't always get it right first time either! As a new-ish knitter who is interested in design, its very encouraging to learn that others have the same problems I do.

  • Alexis Winslow
    almost 10 years ago

    Hi Susanna, I'm so glad to hear that this story has encouraged you! Good luck with your knitting. Hopefully you never have to do something this crazy :)

  • MJ
    over 9 years ago

    Hello Alexis, I am the proud owner of your pattern for the Wildmere Cardigan. What a FANTASTIC PUZZLE that pattern is! This posting has been most interesting to me, and has given me a renewed sense of ability to become a designer again. Not to say that I am happy about your difficulties with your Rook design (I am NOT) but the education you offer is invaluable to me. So, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for the wonderful education. In return, I would like to offer you a tool I found to assist in determining an Armscye. Here is the link: I hope you find this useful... and wish you every success using the information. Knitting Daily led me to your blog after seeing the article for your Graphic Knits. I CANNOT tell you how excited I was to see that you have something new for us... and am anxious beyond belief to purchase more of your designs. Have a great day! MJ

  • Alexis Winslow
    over 9 years ago

    Hi MJ, I'm so glad this post inspired you! Thanks for the info. That armscye tool will definitely be useful. I'm also glad that you're excited about this new collection. I hope you pick up a copy of the book. If you end up making anything, please share some pics on Ravelry to inspire us all :) Alexis

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