Pimlico Shrug

One of my earliest projects. It’s from a book by Tracy Ullman and Mel Clark, pictured here:

This is a book for beginning knitters. It’s not a new book, but even though some of the projects are not current fashions, others are timeless. It has good advice peppered throughout. Also, while the patterns are suitable for beginners, there are several that jump out at me, still, as attractive, interesting projects I’d like to make.

This cardigan is a cozy, slouchy thing made from a glorified rectangle. As a new knitter, it took me forever. Cardigans made of rectangles are simple in construction, but there is more knitting in total than something which is shaped to the body. Both types of design are great for different reasons, but when I was less familiar with shaping, and with garment construction in general, I took comfort in rectangles.

Okay, I still do. The simplicity appeals to me.

Here is a photo of the cardigan from the book:

The concept is a comfortable, slouchy, just-throw-it-on kind of sweater, and it’s great for that. Also, it is extremely warm.

Here’s mine:

I have a terrible time photographing this garment. I’m never sure how to lay it out, and the color of the yarn shows up weirdly.

I knitted it in Cascade 220. The shade is called Galaxy. It’s a dark purple with subtle flecks of other colors in it. That all sounds weirder than it actually is. It reads as very dark purple, and has worked well for me as a less-boring neutral. I didn’t even try to capture the color accurately on camera.

I wouldn’t recommend Cascade 220 for this project. It doesn’t lend itself to creating a garment with the same glorious drape as the cardigan in the photo. However, the finished project is serviceable, and I still really like it.

As an aside, when I was learning to knit, I didn’t feel I deserved nice yarn because I didn’t know if my projects were going to be successful, so I’d buy the cheapest ‘practice’ yarn I could, and experiment with that. When I think back, I don’t know what to say about that strategy. I guess some of my very earliest stuff really was too simple and nothing I’d really want to wear, but I wish I had switched to nice yarn much sooner. Cascade 220 is fine for projects which are designed for such a yarn, but I shouldn’t have used it (or similar yarn) when it wasn’t the yarn for the job. You invest so many hours in cardigans, and if you care for them well, they last a nice, long time (this one is, I think, maybe 12 years old so far). I’d have enjoyed this sweater even more if I had used a more appropriate yarn.

It’s a difficult balance, because you have to do lots of knitting in order to increase skill level, but it can get expensive. And, if you don’t use a suitable yarn for the project, the project isn’t very successful. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to maintain that balance, thinking about how I could get materials for the projects I wanted to do. There are people who have interesting methods like purchasing sweaters at the thrift store to unravel and use as yarn (although you have to check how the sweater was constructed to see if that will work or not), but my strategy was mostly to use cheap yarn or patterns which used the least yardage. I still habitually shy away from high-yardage projects, even though circumstances are different now. Other times, I have completed projects, then unraveled them to reuse the yarn on another, new project. You really have to be careful the yarn won’t look too tattered, though, or that you can unravel it. Not every yarn will tolerate unraveling.

There are other ways to address the issue: choosing projects with a more open stitch pattern, knitting fewer but more challenging projects, or, rather than making an entire garment, instead add edgings to sewing projects or to items you already own. You may know people who will commission projects, and you can get practice while getting paid (although, good luck getting paid adequately for your time). Sometimes people or businesses will donate yarn for knitters to make into items for those in need.

Back to this project: Can you see the stitch pattern? The open triangles? Those caused me anxiety! They were new to me, and, working from written instructions I wasn’t quite sure I had completed a maneuver which wouldn’t come undone at the first opportunity. I felt very triumphant when the triangles stayed in, and they were a fun technique to learn.

Maybe I should make it again, better? I have so many projects on my to-do list, though…