School Me, Please?

In order to justify all the spinning I've been doing (as if!), I've decided to actually knit a sweater.  Or possibly two (Did I mention, lotsa Cormo?).  I think it wants to be a deeply-textured, cabled Aran.  Something uber-traditional, with a wide center panel, and shoulder straps...maybe a turtleneck...

And then I realized that I have never knitted a real live Aran sweater.  Sweaters with cables, sure, but never what I would consider the the real deal.  I've bought books, been to classes, queued patterns, and never once actually done the deed.  Not sure why not, but there it is.  Knitting is always full of things we've never done before, thank God.

So it seems to me that a bit of practice is in order.  I'm going to take the unusual step of knitting somebody else's pattern, before I strike out to design my own.  But which one?  I'm having trouble narrowing it down.

Here's a beauty by Marie Wallin.   I do love me some knots and crosses.  And that funnel-neck is super cool - I dig the way the cable sort of crawls up the sides of it.

And one by Hayfield, whose designers clearly know exactly what they are doing.  Nice, restrained use of bobbles.  This company scares me to bits because there are no charts.  Really?  What century are we in?

Or how about this one, by Friend of the Blog, Sandi Rosner?  Totally dreamy.  And the sweater's not bad, either.  Particularly that shoulder strap/sleeve situation.

What do you think makes a cabled sweater design really special?  I especially love it when the cables/elements continue into the edgings, such as in Kathy Zimmerman designs.  I also love it when the cables are positioned to enhance garment shaping, like Nora Gaughn does.  What/who are your favorites?

Aside from design specifics, what technical elements do you think make a great cabled knitting pattern?  Do you feel that charts are essential?  What designer/publisher uses the clearest symbols?  Who has the best size range?  Most intuitive instructions?

Share your opinions, won't you, Gentle Readers?  I gotta get some more know-how!