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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Malpeque Leaves Home

At long last, Malpeque is ready to make its way to San Francisco. Despite languishing on the needles, and the attention required to knit with the yarn recommended by the pattern, it was an enjoyable knit. At first glance the pattern seems overwhelming. There are extensive notes on how to maintain the lace pattering when working the edges and executing the shaping, but they look more daunting than they are. The waist and bust shaping occur at different rates, with shaping along the front at another. You could wonder about your sanity in choosing to even think of knitting the piece.

To keep everything on track, it seemed easiest to map out the shaping for the back and fronts using a spreadsheet. The pattern was specific about the rows on which most shaping was to occur (every 10 rows, every 8 rows) and where it was to start. That made it very easy to determine the row number for each increase or decrease. Based on tension, it was even possible to accurately predict the row numbers for shoulder shaping. Once the row numbers were calculated for each set of shaping instructions, they were all placed in the same set of columns in the spreadsheet and sorted by row number. The resulting shaping instructions looked like this:

Row Instruction Stitches
94 dec waist 79
104 dec neck 78
108 inc bust 79
118 dec neck 78

Taking the time to make the shaping spreadsheet was worth it, and made keeping track of progress very simple. While smart counters in knitCompanion were used, they do not keep stitch counts for each row. With the start and/or end pattern markers moving with each shaping instruction, it was important to know what the stitch count should be for any given row. This helped avoid a misshapen mess and to correctly place the pattern. It really was not as difficult as it sounds, but there were a few times when tinking/minor frogging was necessary because the stitch count was off.

Some significant mistakes were made along the way. Misreading the instructions for the front led to a 2x2 ribbed border for the right front. While it looked fine, the fabric was too thick for the purchased pin to slide through nicely, and the look bothered me. Knitting a sample border in 1x1 ribbing made it clear that the piece was headed for the frog pond. Sometimes it just pays off to take the rough road and do the work, since I am so much happier with the look. I also misplaced the patterning on the first sleeve, starting on row 1 instead of row 17, as instructed. That didn’t seem to matter, so the same mistake was repeated for the second sleeve.

Things to like: The design and the yarn are both gorgeous. It was a bit of a challenge to keep track of the shaping and ensuring stitch counts along the way for the fronts, but it was fun never the less. To be sure, Malpeque is one of the best looking and most luxurious garments ever produced by my hands. The surface of the garment are very smooth and even. There’s an indulgent softness and squoosh factor to the sweater that’s irresistible. My mother-in-law will look fabulous in it, and with a bit of luck, she’ll like it too.

Not so much: I took a long time to get going and really focus on this project. It’s probably because working with black is not very entertaining. The yarn, while resulting in a beautiful fabric, can be a bit of a pain to work with.

Malpeque, size 39.5
1900 yds Catherine Lowe Couture Yarns Merino 5 in black
3.25, 3.75 mm needles

Pin from Plover Designs

Yarn notes: The yarn used for this project is glorious and is significantly different from any yarn I’ve used before. This particular offering consists of 5 individual plies of merino lightly held together with a bit of sizing. The sizing holds the plies parallel to each other in the knitting, and washes away easily. The yarn does not behave like a traditional yarn where the plies are twisted together. Despite being a 100% wool product, there is no stretch to the yarn while it is being worked. It does require careful attention since it is very easy to leave a ply behind to spoil the surface of the knitting. I also had to pay attention to the tension applied to the yarn while working the project to ensure the end result would meet the specifications of last summer’s swatching experiments, but that’s got to do with me and not the yarn. The surface of the knitting is really quite superior, even before blocking.

Would I use this yarn brand again? Abso-freakin’-lutely! The very minute I’ve saved my yarn allowance up, some is going to be ordered for me. Me, me, me. It’ll take a little while, since my knitting budget for the quarter has been spent, but it’s going to happen.


  1. Gale- It's truly gorgeous. I'm assuming you will choose something other than black?

  2. It's gorgeous. No stretch in the wool, that's so odd.

    Care to send it a few miles short of SF? No? lol