In Rowan 56, designer Martin Storey presents the beautful "Roan", with as lovely a charted colorwork pattern as ever I have seen:
Photo by Peter Christian Christiansen
So lovely is Roan that knitters everywhere immediately embraced it, including our own Ginny G. But a quick perusal of the projects on Ravelry reveals the caveats of other knitters:
1. It's knit back and forth in rows, rather than circularly
2. It's *oddly* shaped. The schematic looks something like this:
Challenge 1: Knitting Flat. I have no idea why our knitting friends in England insist on working traditional stranded colorwork back and forth, in rows. This piece is even referred to as "Fair Isle" by the designer, though I doubt if any traditional knitters on Fair or anywhere in Shetland would claim this as their own. And that's not because the style is modern, though it is. It's because knitting this in 5 flat pieces and then seaming them together would be absolutely miserable. True Fair Isle knitting is worked circularly, by definition.
Challenge 2: Shaping. I suspect that Roan's silhouette is influenced by the Japanese Kimono, with its square drop-shoulder sleeves and continuous neck opening. But there's just one little problem: The shape of this piece doesn't allow us anywhere to put our necks. I've read the directions and checked them twice, and the pattern clearly states that the two front rectangles should meet at the center of the back. Which means there's no notch for the wearer's neck. The fronts, correspondingly, have to hike up at the center, (see photo above: "hold the bucket up higher, honey!") Anatomically speaking, this shape can't properly fit a body.
This is the shape I would make, if I were to knit Roan. The chart and stitch counts will still work perfectly, with just a couple of small changes. I've imagined a few things that would make it friendlier to wear, and much more fun to knit:
The first issue I would address is the lack of back neckline. The design would still look as it was intended, but fit better, with the simple execution of some decreases, adjacent to the top of the front opening. I'd calculate the math something like this:
I'd also taper the sleeves slightly at the cuff, just because I find true Kimono sleeves to be uncomfortably sloppy. To do that, I'd draw a diagonal line on the chart from the cuff to the sleeve top, lopping off about 20% of the total sleeve sts at the cuff edges, like this:
Then I would knit two tubes. That's it. They would look like this:
The purple lines indicate where the vertical cuts happen, and the wee hearts represent evenly-spaced increases and decreases. See how those neckline decreases cause my body tube to deform a little (get smaller) at the top? It will lay flat once the center front cut is made.
Alternatively, I could just knit a perfect cylinder for the body tube and cut out a narrow triangle from the front neckline: no math or decrease spacing required!
Important: Notice I have not indicated any special cutting area for the armholes? That's because I'd want to make the sleeves first, separate them, and sew their underarm seams. Then, and only then, would I cut some slashes into the sides of the body tube that are the exact measurement of the finished sleeve tops. Never try to knit sleeve tops that fit openings - it's too hard. Cut openings to fit sleeve tops. It's easy. For a tutorial on conjoined sleeves, CLICK HERE and HERE
Here are where the cut edges end up:
And that's all there is to it. The stitch counts in the edgings would change, but that's about it. I drew a little slope in my shoulders for these diagrams, But on further reflection, I wouldn't actually add that shaping. A square drop shoulder is perfectly kimono-like, and much easier to work.
I believe that knitting which is truly beautiful has to be satisfying (both fun and skill-enhancing) to make, AND it has to make us feel beautiful when we wear it. Without those two elements, we might as well just go shopping.
Whaddya think, Gentle Readers? Would you be more, or less willing to take a whack at Roan with these modifications?