Friday, July 31, 2015

Saltmarsh Shell: Alternations & Renovations

I've just released a new pattern called Saltmarsh Shell.  I'm happy with this one:  It's quick and easy to knit, but has lots of textural interest and fun stitch patterns to keep you amused.  This was my first time working with a linen yarn, and while I do admit to being a wool girl, I found that I quite enjoyed the experience. 

My design philosophy has always been to create fun, approachable patterns for both novice and experienced knitters alike.  I also like to design items that allow the knitter to easily adapt the pattern to make the finished piece their own.  Saltmarsh Shell is certainly one of those pieces, and so I thought I'd post about several of what I call "alterations & renovations" -- simple modifications that change the look of the garment without having to re-write the pattern.

ALTERATION #1:  THE BACK NECK.  Saltmarsh Shell is a modified boat-neck style pullover.  There is a little bit of shaping at the back neck, which provides for a better fit.  But maybe your body type is such that you're not worried about that, or maybe you just don't want to deal with shaping.  So don't.  Work the back until the total length is achieved and then put all of the stitches on a holder for binding off later.  Easy-peasy done!

ALTERNATION #2:  THE FRONT NECK.  The front of this shell has a straight split in the center of the body that is worked for about 3" or so, and then the neck is gently tapered to the shoulders.  As shown in the pictures, this shaping is blocked so that the neck split portion stands straight up -- more or less.  You can see in the picture below that one side of the split is falling over a bit.  This is just the nature of the design.  If that doesn't suit you, or you want to add a bit more finishing pizzazz, try adding a little button-and-loop closure at the top of the split.  It would look darling. 

Or maybe you like the look of fold-over lapels.  Simply fold the splits over when blocking the piece, and voila.  You can tack down the lapels if you'd like, or even sew on decorative buttons to add a little something extra to the sweater, like so (my button stash didn't turn up a really appropriate button, but you get the idea): 

Or maybe you don't care about neck splits or lapels or shaping and you just want a boat neck already.  Knit the front exactly like the back.  Bind off both pieces all the way across, sew the shoulder seams, and BOOM DONE.

ALTERATION #3:  THE COLORS.  I chose two closely related watery green and gray colors for my project.  I chose them because I liked them -- they really called to me when I was wandering through the Anzula booth at Stitches West -- and because they said "summer" to me.  Working with two similar colors in the border pattern, which is a simple slipped-stitch check, results in a subtle textural effect.  But just think how contrasting colors would look:  They'd make the check pattern stand out and really pop.  If you're all about color and patterns, go ahead and choose something wild!

ALTERATION #4:  THE STITCH PATTERNS.  As mentioned in Alteration #3 above, the bottom border pattern is a slipped-stitch check.  I like working with slipped stitches, but that may not be your thing.  Or maybe you just want a solid color for your sweater.  The stitch pattern for the bodice is a simple knit-purl pattern.  So simply knit the entire sweater in that pattern.  I worked my original prototype this way, and it looks just fine.  Not as striking maybe, but just fine.  And working with just the single color and simple knit-purl patterns means that your sweater will be finished even faster.  Just be sure to check your stitch counts before you cast on. 

ALTERATION #5:  THE YARN (AND FIT).  I knit Saltmarsh Shell in Anzula Vera, a linen/silk blend.  Lovely stuff.  But, as you probably know, linen does not have much elasticity.  Because of this, I suggest in the pattern that you choose a size with at least an inch or two of positive ease.  But what if you chose another yarn, say for example a nice sproingy merino?  The resilience of such a yarn would mean you could choose a size with zero ease, giving you a form-fitting garment to show off some curves.  Keep in mind that Saltmarsh Shell is a simple rectangular boat-neck with no side shaping, so don't go all crazy with trying to get curvaceous, but a little bit of stretch looks great.  (My first prototype was knit in a yarn with more stretch than linen but less than merino; I did like the way it fit.)


Whether you chose to knit Saltmarsh Shell or not, I hope these alterations & renovations give you ideas for adapting any pattern to better suit your style and needs.  Happy Knitting!