Finishing Sirdal got me on a roll with my stranded knitting projects. I wanted nothing more than to cast on for Mara, but I did have the foresight (not to mention the anxiety about starting something this complex) to swatch. The swatch I knit to check the gauge just wasn’t enough. All it told me was that I needed size 2.5 mm Addis (U.S. 1) to get the 8 stitches per inch. (Before you gasp at the idea of my knitting this sweater in such small needles, consider that I’m a loose knitter. The pattern itself calls for size 3 mm, and going down two needle sizes is not unusual for me.)
I did not want to attempt casting on until I tried a swatch of corrugated ribbing—something I’d never done before.
The pattern tells you to knit the buttonband flat, and I’ve seen recommendations for knitting the body ribbing flat and joining into rounds on the first knitted row. So I began to knit flat, only to realize that with all the color changes, there were strands of yarn hanging off each end. My mental image of a nice smooth edge to the ribbing was replaced by the reality of as many ends to weave in as there would be if I steeked. And if I steeked, there would be some extra stitches to overcast neatly, leaving a much better edge at the cardigan front. So after knitting about an inch of the ribbing flat, I switched to knitting it in the “round.” By that I mean that I knit only on the right side and cut the yarn when I finished the row, starting again on the right side for the next round.
The second thing I learned was that going down a size (to 0s) for the ribbing was a mistake. The ribbing would be too tight. I get the ribbing gauge, strange as it seems, with the same size needles as the body—2.5 mm. The reason is that the purls do pull in. I’m doing my combined knitting purls, by scooping the purl, rather than a Continental purl. For me this makes a nicer column, but the purl is tighter.
Once I got the ribbing down pat, I proceeded to knit a bit of the first red-natural-salmon motif. It did not look like the picture on the cover of the hardcover edition. The red zigzags (bottom of swatch) were too heavy.
So at this point, I went back to my sources describing yarn dominance, and I really wasn’t sure what hand should hold the various colors. There was only one way to check—by swatching every motif. There are only three, so this isn’t as complicated as it might seem.
Once I did this, I could see at once that I needed to hold the red yarn in my right hand, and the salmon/natural in my left. That is how I held the yarn for the top motif of the two red ones in the swatch, and it looks much better.
The smaller green-blue-purple motif is a bit more subtle, and difficult to see on the swatch photo. I split the motif in half, and knit the bottom with the light blues in my left hand and the dark blue, green, and purple in my right. This makes the background a bit brighter, and it makes the motif look a bit sharper.
The top motif looked surprisingly different as I tested its color dominance. The bottom looks washed out, but the top, knit with the background blues in my right hand and the plum, dark green and deep aqua in my left.
So now that I’ve duly written all these down in my project notebook, and I have the washed and blocked swatch to look at, Mara is officially on the needles.