Ann is reading Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I know this because recent conversations with Ann have included dialogue such as:
Me: Our internet service is down! I’m using the personal hotspot on my cell phone to post to MDK.
Ann: That’s like eating the seed wheat! Your phone bill is going to be crazy.
Me: Also, it’s really cold here.
Ann: Are you twisting the hay yet?
Luckily, between the ages of 9 and 12 (14 if I’m honest), I read the Little House on the Prairie books at least a half-dozen times each, and probably The Long Winter a couple times more. It’s the best one! Pa holing up in a snowbank! Eating the Christmas candy to survive! Rope line to get home from school in a blizzard! (I may be making up some of these details, or mixing them up with On the Banks of Plum Creek, but they are graven on my very soul.) So Ann can just slip these references in, no problem.
In today’s post, I am going to demonstrate how I am totally Pa Ingalls-ing a pullover for myself, using log cabin construction.
Disclaimer: this is not a pattern. It’s an approach. An attitude. If you, too, are a hardheaded (and possibly feckless) person like Pa Ingalls, feel free to adapt my methods to your own log cabin pullover. But it’s not a pattern. If you are easily scared by badgers building larger-than-usual dens, or anything like that, this process may not be for you.
Step One: Choose a Template
As we know, a pullover is made up of knitted fabric that has been organized into a specific shape. If you have a pullover you like, you can use it as a template.
If the pullover you like is a pullover that you knitted from a written pattern, even better! That pattern will be a big help at certain points in your journey.
But first, just use the pullover itself as a starting point. Lay it out on your bed. Flatten it down real good. Observe its design features.
I have a tried-and-true pullover that I like very much, Relax by Ririko. I made it three or four years ago, and I’ve worn it so much that its front now has more pills than than stitches.
So I recently knit another one, in Jill Draper Makes Stuff Esopus (shade Vamp). (Cue shrieks of agony for this most excellent, recently discontinued yarn.)
Here is my new Relax-in-progress, laid out flat on the bed. All that is missing are the wee sleeve flippers.
Observation: from the hem to the start of the underarm shaping, Relax is just a rectangle. That’s good news for log-cabin knitting.
Step Two: Knit to Fill in the Template
Like Pa trying to get the wagon across the plains, I’m in the tall grass of Step Two at the moment. I started with a center strip that is 12 stitches wide and 36 garter ridges long. Then I followed the basic instructions for creating a U-shape using log cabin construction. (Handily, these instructions are in MDK Field Guide No. 4: Log Cabin. You can also figure them out pretty easily just by looking at the knitting.) My rules: pick up a stitch in each garter ridge and each bound-off stitch, knit 12 garter ridges, and bind off on the right side. The goal: to fill the space on my template, aka my Relax pullover, that is below the under-arm sleeve shaping.
As my knitted piece grows, I lay it on the template to see how close I’m getting.
(The yarn for my log cabin version of Relax is Sylph, in the shade Eddy.)
Getting pretty close. My U shape is going to need some side strips so that the piece gets wide enough without getting too long.
Step Three: Follow the Pattern
When my piece reaches roughly the same size as the template, I will stop working my log cabin pattern, pick up stitches across the top of the piece, and start following the Relax pattern. (If I were using a sweater for my template that did not have a pattern, I’d have to work out the shaping details myself. Hurray for the pattern!)
Here’s my sketch of how I would construct my Relaxing Log Cabin:
And here’s the schematic from the Relax pattern:
It should work, yes? (I hear you sighing, Ma Ingalls! But I’m doing it anyway!)
There is one little fly in my ointment. Relax is worked in stockinette stitch. My log cabin, at least so far, is worked in garter stitch. These two stitch patterns have a different row gauge, which means that working the under-arm increases exactly according to the Relax pattern would not yield the same angle in garter stitch.
(The under-arm increases in question.)
I still have a little time to think about this. I think it might be nice to work that section of the sweater, or maybe the whole top of it, in stockinette. That way I’ll get the shaping right, and I think stockinette would make a nice textural contrast to the garter body.
I also don’t think it would be that big of a deal to do this little bit of shaping in garter stitch. I can add a row or two, or spread the increases out, and get a very similar shape.
Stay tuned, log cabineers!
If it doesn’t work, I can always pack up the family and move to another town.