Friday, 25 September 2009

Mosaic Jersey - Finished!!!!!!!!

No longer a UFO! It's done! Thanks and hugs to Romney for taking the pictures.

Mosaic Jersey finished
This is the most ambitious garment I've ever made, and I've been knitting it since February, on and off. I really learnt a lot. The pattern is vintage, from 1947 if I remember correctly.

I didn't adapt the shape at all, I just went with the pattern. The only change I made was to the colourwork. In the original, the all-over colour pattern, different from the one I've used, is in Fair Isle. I didn't want to do that because:

  • The result would be unwearably hot
  • The pattern is knitted flat, and there are very good reasons why Fair Isle is usually knitted in the round
  • The pattern given is a risky one for Fair Isle, with very long floats
  • Fair Isle is very difficult to keep smooth and even at the best of times, and I don't think I can do it with floats that long.
Instead I chose this very beautiful pattern from the Mosaic chapter of Barbara C. Walker's Charted Knitting Designs. Mosaic knitting is a slipped-stitch technique, such that you are only ever working with one colour at a time. You construct each row in two passes, one with each colour. It's explained in the book, it's very easy to do, and it's very easy to keep both even and correct, but the downside is that each row gets done twice. So it's probably slower than Fair Isle - though perhaps not by much, as Fair Isle is so fiddly and you have to spend so much time untangling.

The material is Jamiesons' Shetland Spindrift, which is pretty thin, a bit like sock wool. The brooch is from the vintage counter at John Lewis Oxford Street.

Things I learned include:

Increases and decreases in mosaic knitting

Detail of sleeve endIt's very simple. It works fine if you just ignore one of the colours. If you do the increases and decreases only in the light rows, the dark rows don't count when you're deciding when the next one comes. And don't worry about the colour of the stitch you're increasing or decreasing, just do it close to the edge, take whatever comes up, and let the pattern correct itself over the next couple of rows. The problem vanishes into the seam. Also, the back of the fabric has regular two-by-two stripes, and these make it very easy to count rows.

Change of gauge for shaping

This pattern uses changes of gauge - by taking a smaller needle for a while - for the inward shaping to the waist and for the wrists. This is an extremely elegant solution, I'll certainly use it in my own designs. In a colour pattern like this, it's neatly simple, and it occurs to me that it's also visually slimming at those points because the pattern gets slightly smaller and recedes visually.

Flat colourwork

If you knit a colour pattern flat, you can match it up exactly at the seams and have it look as though the diamonds are coming out of either side of a mirror. This is very pleasing.

Sewing together

Don't bother trying to sew it together with the Shetland Spindrift. It sticks together too much and hasn't got the tensile strength to pull and make an invisible seam. Get some superwash sock wool and use that for the seams. It works.


At a first approximation - sample of one - the default size for patterns of this period seems to be a pretty good fit for me. My gauge is slightly looser than specified, but the result is still a very tight fit, as designed - in the picture I've vaguely imitated the pose of the lady on the front of the pattern. I am a dress size 10 UK, or sometimes an 8, depending on the retailer (that might be a 6 or 4 American size.)


The small gauge is scary, but the effect is stunning.

Didn't realise that would happen

A high neckline and detailed all-over pattern makes my boobs look bigger.

So, am I going to wear it?

Yes I am, when the weather gets cold. It's definitely designed for a world without central heating, so there aren't that many situations where I can wear it. But if I'm going to be outdoors in the cold and I want to look really stylish, this is the thing to wear. The Shetland wool felts beautifully, so I don't want to have to wash it too much, and I'll be very careful when I do. I'm thinking of making underarm pads to protect it. (On the other hand, I long to make a big piece of the same fabric and felt it into a beautiful handbag). It's also quite short in the body, like most patterns of this period, so there aren't all that many garments I can wear it with. But it will definitely get worn.


maya said...

Wow, wow...what a stylish garment. I like the diamond pattern and the color as well, it mixes well with jeans as you have already noticed.
About the unexpecting enlarging effect, the same happens with patterned tights, small net patterns reduce, big ones enlarge; as my partner reminds me often. I also like the photo styling, which has managed to convey retro by way of your pose and brooch and contemporary thanks to the denin skirt and white furniture and background in one go.

Thanks for the technical info, it will be handy if I ever feel brave and attempt to knit Mosaic style.

Let's hope for a cold spell for a chance to seeing you wearing it.

msHedgehog said...

@maya, I knew you would like it :)
I ought to have mentioned the colours - they are "Pacific" and "Sky". Neither of them is actually billed as a 'heather' as far as I can tell, but both of them do look heathery close up. The dark blue (Pacific) has a lot of red bits in it, and the light blue a lot of dark bits and white bits. The Jamiesons' comes in a lot of colours and there are certainly other combinations that would work as well, for example they have lots of greens and pinks and purples. I can also imagine doing this pattern in two contrasting colours of the same value, rather than two values of similar colour. I am not sure whether it would work as well, but I think what would happen is that the colours would merge visually and the overall effect, seen from any distance, would be something in between. So red and blue would look purple, but not necessarily in a pleasing way. You'd have to be very careful and a test piece would have to be quite large. Red and white, or red and grey, or red and gold, might be nice.

JeanZ said...

Can i have one for chrismas please?

Jo A said...

Small gauge rocks! I'm glad you could stay true to the pattern - there is something very satisfying about historical reconstruction (which perhaps explains my fascination with Bohus). And need I say that it looks divine? Even if it hadn't fitted I would have been tempted to keep it as a beautiful sample.