Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Fiber & Friends #4

Possibly the biggest-deal class I did at Fiber & Friends was the Fisher Lassie Cardigan class with Bonne Marie Burns, the designer. What an eye-opening pleasure it was to approach the making of a complex sweater with its designer by your side!
(c) Bonne Marie Burns
The Fisher Lassie is a modern adaptation of the traditional fisherman's gansey design. The Net Loft has been undertaking a major gansey project in Cordova for over a year, learning about and recreating the historical garment for contemporary fishers in a location as dedicated to commercial fishing as the British and Dutch herring towns were in the 19th century. In the days before synthetic waterproof clothing, tightly knit wool was the best choice for keeping warm when wet. Ganseys had special design features to enable vigorous movement, yet were also displays of beautiful textures that showed the knitter's skill and imagination.

Uncredited photo of Dutch fishermen in their ganseys

Bonne Marie Burns designed the Fisher Lassie as a cardigan partly because in modern centrally-heated times we go in and out of warm and cool, and a cardigan is easier to put on and take off as needed. Out of respect for tradition, it is made with a wool yarn, but a substantial dk weight that is still less dense than the traditional 5-ply.

Over the two days of the class, we learned about measuring for size, and how to choose the right size to make based on the amount of ease the garment was designed for, and the amount of ease we personally prefer. Gauge, of course, is a major factor in the size of the sweater that actually turns up on the needles. We swatched carefully and thoroughly, thinking about needle material and knitting location as well as simply needle size. It all makes a difference!

This sweater has a rather unique construction, and it was terrific to have the designer there to explain it in detail. Overall, it is "knit in one piece", but sequence is important. First the patterned two upper parts of the front are knitted. Then the upper back is picked up and knit into the fronts, with the back neck cast on in the middle. When front and back are the same length (and on the same row of the texture pattern!) the armhole bottom is cast on and the whole thing is worked from side to back to other side. Almost as if it were in the round, but you have to stop at the button bands, turn over, and go back around with the other side facing. It's a little more complicated than the average sweater.

Bonne Marie (center) explains some concepts
 We had Bonne Marie's own original to examine up close and personal, which was a great help. In addition to the particulars of this sweater, she taught us some great techniques to use in all our future knitting: a sturdy same-row buttonhole, a pick-up-and-knit that is as strong as a sewn seam, how to sew on a button that will never come off.

Eventually we were fully prepared to cast on for the Real Thing.

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