Reverse Engineering a Frog

You remember this one:  Once Upon a Time, I made a tube of knitting, and cut it into panels, then appliqued them onto a boiled wool jacket.  I've been trying ever since to figure out how to make a knittable sweater pattern for you from it.

You might also remember that I completely finished said knitted sweater once, only to decide that it was a toad, and banish it to time out.  For around two years.

God love you, Gentle Readers; knitters have long memories.  I get reminded at least once a week that I promised to make this happen, and that I have not yet done so.  I'm so happy that you won't let me get away with giving up the Battle of the Frog.  I know that once I figure this one out, you'll be really proud of me.  And you have been SO patient.  I went back into the pond, so to speak, to think like a knitter, and try sorting it out a different way.

I decided to work out the best shape for every piece of the sweater, and then choose how to knit each piece most easily.  As for the original, the stranded colorwork part should be worked as a circular tube:


Then we should cut the three panels apart, and shape the neckline curve by cutting it:

Next, we can join the shoulder seams, then pick up and knit the collar around the neckline curve.  The collar is best worked circularly, too:

The collar will have a solid self-facing, (which I didn't draw) for stability, and we can shape the whole thing a little bit by changing needle sizes a few times to get a more funnel-, less cylindrical-shape .  After cutting the collar steek, we'd fold the facing inside and stitch it down. 

Other than the turn-back cuffs (which I'll get to), the rest of the piece is all solid black, which is one of the things I love about it - the stranded parts sort of stand alone, framed by their solid background.  Another thing I love about the original is its sexy, feminine shaping, both at the waist and gathered sleeve heads.  The best way to get those pieces right is to work them flat, like this:

But of course, the cuffs are stranded, so they should be worked together in a tube, then cut apart:

Then sleeves with gathered tops can be worked flat, up from those:


The whole thing would then be sewn together, with appliqued ribbons and whatever other gee-gaws I can't resist slapping on (Nothing in Moderation; except Moderation).

The only question left is:  Am I the only one crazy enough to make a sweater this way?  I imagine those of you who have been through my "Sexy, Shapely Steeks" class will see how it could work.  That's the class where we deconstruct different knitted shapes to see where steeks could be added to make easier, more fun, and sexier knitting.  But I'm worried the rest of the world might come after me with torches and pitchforks, once they read the pattern. 

What do the knitters think?  Is this mixture of construction techniques intimidating, or something you'd happily attempt? I could just simplify the whole thing by making a drop-shoulder, stranded-all-the-way-around cardigan. But that would be a completely different sweater than the original.  I'd never want to underestimate the power of knitters to make what they want to make.  But I don't want to cause anybody's hair to fall out, either.

Weigh in, won't you, O Friends With Opinions?

I'm So Happy You Asked

I made some cuffs for the Frog Prince:

And while I did that, I pondered Silkie Van Tassel's excellent question:  "If you were spinning yarn for colorwork, would you make 2-ply or 3-ply?"

It gives me the opportunity to mount my very favorite soapbox:  "Not All Stranded Colorwork Is Fair Isle".

My answer to Silkie is Yes.  The number of plies I'd make would depend on the project, and the effect I was hoping to achieve.  Here's an exerpt from Teach Yourself Visually Color Knitting to explain more:

2-ply yarns are twisted together in the reverse direction from which their individual strands are spun.  Opposing the twist energy of two strands causes a yarn to be balanced.  2-ply yarns are known for the minuscule shadows created by their opposed strands.  Fair Isle knitters have long prized 2-ply yarns for this unique characteristic.  The tiny shadows cast by two opposing plies are part of what gives traditional Fair Isle stranded colorwork its special look.  The thousands of ply shadows soften and blend its many intricate color changes.

Photo by VirtualYarns

Photo by VirtualYarns

Three individually spun strands twisted together in the reverse direction from their spin are called a 3-ply yarn.  Three strands together have a rounded cross-section, and the tiny shadows of their plies are much less visible than in 2-ply.  Three strands make for a cohesive yarn with great strength and resistance to abrasion.  3-ply yarn offers superior stitch definition - a huge advantage when you want to knit crisp, clear motifs.  Well-defined stitches also highlight and enhance the contrast between colors.

Photo by Grumperina

Photo by Grumperina

All of which is a long answer for a short question:  Are you knitting Fair Isle, Scandinavian, or something totally else?  All stranded colorwork is not the same, so neither should its yarns be.  Vive La Difference!

Dissecting a Frog

The Frog Prince, as you may remember, was sent to Time Out.  Like, two years ago.  The process of translating this design from a tailored boiled wool jacket into a sweater that regular people could just have fun knitting did not go as I had hoped.  Not even a little bit.  Rather than a sweater that looks like the original jacket, I ended up with Franken-Frog.  The sleeves didn't puff.  The hem didn't swing.  The underarms did this bizarre batwing/dolman thing (The cast of Dyanasty called; they want their sleeves back).  And in the meantime, they stopped making the tapestry ribbon I had trimmed the original in.

In spite of all these problems, I had forged on, hoping I would somehow come to love the Franken-Frog in the fullness of time.  This denial may have had something to do with the 5 skeins of size 2 stockinette I had invested.  I did all the finishing (sans the tapestry ribbon trim; the plan was to hunt down a replacement after I fell in love again).  I even edged the wee beastie in velvet, all the way around.  All I had left to do was recreate the deep, patterned cuffs, when something snapped, and I just couldn't go on.  I hung the Frog in a corner of the living room.  Which did nothing to make me love it, because people kept coming into my living room and asking why I didn't just finish that thing, already.  Time marched on.  Books got written.  Other designs that I love have been born.  I've continued to make promises and excuses to the dear knitters who still want to make Frog Princes of their own.  There formed a fine layer of dust on Franken-Frog's velvet trim.

And then one night a couple of months ago, I dreamed that I was frogging the Frog.  It wasn't sad, but cathartic.  Like finding the real sweater trapped inside the Franken-Frog.  And when I woke up, I determined that it was time to admit defeat.  It was time to Frog the Frog.

And so, today was the day:

It took all morning.  And it wasn't as cathartic as in my dream.  But it's done now, and I'm ready to wash and reskein the yarn.  And then I'll go back to the drawing board, in earnest.  For those of you who have not given up on me, I thank you.  For those who have no idea why anybody would want a sweater with frogs on it in the first place, I have to say that I kinda feel the same for now.  But I'm not giving up, and neither should you, my would-be Princesses.  Wish me luck: I'm gonna reincarnate the Frog Prince.