Wednesday, January 04, 2006

On to 2006 - FLAK and more

I mentioned the FLAK (Follow-the-Leader Aran Knitalong ) in yesterday's post, and will explain a little today, for those who haven't heard about it. Janet Szabo, the Aran knitting designer and author, has a list called Aranknit, where all things Aran are discussed. Since I have done a couple of Arans and other cable items, and discovered that I really enjoy cabling and pattern stitches, I joined a few months ago, mostly as a lurker.

Janet decided to host a knitalong for an Aran sweater starting with the new year, with the ability to totally customize a top-down Aran or use her stitch patterns and just customize the size and fit. She is an amazing knitter and designer, so this knitalong is a great opportunity to work with her and also (hopefully) finish a sweater.

The first step is selecting and swatching to get the gauge, which was the December set-up. What with the holidays , etc. I decided to save the swatching for New Year's weekend. I had set out skeins of 4 yarns in preparation - Araucania Nature Wool, Rowanspun DK, Lavold Silky Wool (the one I really wanted to use, as I mistakenly bought double the number of skeins in the same color), And Dale Sisik.

I have been really undecided about which to use for this sweater, because I wanted to use a stash yarn, and the recommended yardage for a woman's med-large means that I need 2000-2200 yards. The magic goal gauge set by Janet is 22 stitches/28 rows per 4" with the filler stitch.

I cast on the swatches for my FLAK on New Year's Eve day, and boy, they seemed to take forever, as I was knitting 2 1/2+ inches on each of size #4, 5, and 6 needles, to see which looked the best and had the best hand. I left each swatch attached to the ball for washing, as I planned to rip and re-wind the 3 balls I didn't pick.

I didn't even finish the Sisik swatch - it is just way too fuzzy for Aran patternwork, even though I love the color (cranberry) and feel of the yarn.

After washing and drying, the Araucania was just too large - it's a true worsted weight and didn't want to get down to the gauge, even on small needles. The choice between the last two was tough, but I finally went with the Rowanspun on size 5 needles, because it had a "crisper" feel that I felt would be better for the cable details. Janet has recommended a firm gauge and hand for this sweater, but the DK yarn is a little drapier, which I want to try for this Aran. Also, I love the color, which is "eau de Nil", a slightly heathery sea green that will go with lots of other colors. Here's the washed swatch, done in Double Moss Stitch (my chosen filler stitch for the sweater).
Hard to see the details, but the color is pretty true. I think that I need to work on different lighting, or try outdoors, to get the textures of Aran knitting.
I'll be showing more pictures of FLAK-in-progress over the course of the knitalong. Next step - swatching the cables.