Thursday, January 07, 2016

Plum Wine is my first design for 2016!  It's a classic cardigan, featuring interesting lines at the shoulder and a beautifully delicate allover cable pattern.  The motif is a combination of slipped stitches and cables, and these vertical lines make for a really crisp and flattering sweater.

Bolder slipped stitches accent the front and provide a transition between the cables and the button band.  The cables themselves provide a subtle bit of waist shaping as they skim the body, and the pattern is set off by simple stockinette shoulders and sleeves. The transitions above and below the pattern section are set off by simple horizontal garter rows.

The sleeve shaping is a little unexpected on this one, featuring a diagonal seam that falls back on the shoulders.  It shows up beautifully against the simple knitted fabric.  Plus, the switch to stockinette for the final shaping makes for neat and easy finishing and shoulder knitting. 

I tried a new technique with this, deciding to add short rowed, set in sleeves.  I think I may have a new favorite sleeve method - because it was way easier than you'd think, quite simple to work, and creates a nicely finished looking sleeve. The sweater is knit from the bottom up, separated at underarm and seamed at the shoulder. The sleeves are worked onto the seamed armholes and knit downwards towards the wrist.

Plum Wine is a super-versatile layering piece. Melissa liked it  worn it over a casual dress, and I tend to wear it with jeans and either a tee shirt or tunic underneath - although I did wear it out to a holiday party with a deep green casual cotton/lace dress, a long fancy necklace and black boots, The husband approved, as did a couple of friends - so I think it worked. The light worsted weight fabric is warm without being heavy, and the simple heathered plum color looks great with almost anything.

If plum isn't your thing, check out Tolt Yarn and Wool to see the other colors that Thirteen Mile comes in, - Spruce is my second favorite, and it actually smells like trees when it arrives!!  They all smell good.  That's because all the yarns from this Montana farm are either finished in natural shades or plant dyed by hand.  And the heathers that Becky Weed and Dave Tyler create are subtle and stunning and I may have gasped when that first box of spruce arrived.

Anyways, the cardigan was designed to showcase the beautiful yarn - I thought the delicate heather needed some delicate cables.  The motif is easy to memorize and the sweater can be knit as either a long cardigan as shown, or as a shorter piece (see the test knits!).  As always, I have included notes in the pattern in the spots where you may want to modify.

All the details - and the test knits - are on my Ravelry Pattern Page.  The PDF to knit this is available for $7.00 - either on Ravelry or in the patterns section of this blog.

Now, I don't have a cocktail but if you want the Plum Wine story, I thought it would be totally appropriate to name this sweater with this big ol' bottle in mind.  (bottles behind for scale)

I know your eyebrows went up, but bear with me, because:

A. It's better tasting than you think (you can see we've had some already).
B. The maker of this wine totally embodies the spirit of sustainable farming and tradition for me.

Ralph's homemade tape label :)

Many of you already know that I am pretty close to my grandparents and that I still see them often. This bottle was given to me over the holidays, as one of my Grandmas cleaned out a cabinet or two and it's full of childhood memories for me -- of one of their best friends, who I grew up seeing when I was with them.

Ralph and Irma Griesenbeck lived a town or two away, and as long as I've known him, Ralph was growing things in his yard.  He had peach trees and plum trees and maybe a pear tree, and a giant garden on the grassy spot behind their 4 bed/2 bath ranch in New Jersey. He's a guy who loved to experiment with food, and he had a serious green thumb. I spent my childhood being served Ralph's pie, or Ralph's preserves, or Ralph's canned peppers, or whatever other concoction he was working on that season, because nothing in that yard went to waste. Ever. For better or for worse.

And you have to remember that he was born in 1925, served in WWII and is 91 now, so he kind of predates the big urban and suburban movement to do these things. In fact, looking back, I think he was a bit of a pioneer, and he just loved using the bounty from his yard.  Nobody else in our world made these things, but he did and he sure made a lot. (Which is why I think Irma encouraged him to share....)  Sometimes the stuff was good, and sometimes not so much, but looking back, I've got to give Ralph his due because he was committed to working his land and using his resources and planning for the next season.  He really loved seeing what he could grow and use and make.

So, when my Grandma handed me this bottle a couple of weeks back with the comment, "It's not new wine, Thea.  Taste it before you make anyone else drink it."  I totally remembered Ralph and knew exactly what my purple sweater should be called.  :)