The Coral Cardigan: A Perfect Warm-Weather Knit

New knitting magazines come out all the time, with fabulous new patterns that go to the top of the queue. But what about that pattern from last year's magazine? The one that you absolutely loved; the one that you had to knit next; the one that made you want to put down the project you were working on and start swatching? Is it marked with a Post-It, sitting in a stack of old magazines equally littered with Post-Its? That's where most of my must-knit-now projects are.

The Coral Cardigan by Nancy Eiseman
Dinah modeling her beautiful Coral Cardigan

To inspire you to dig out that pattern and get going on it, I'm highlighting a pattern from last year's summer Interweave Knits: The Coral Cardigan by Nancy Eiseman. This cardigan knitting pattern is unique because the knitter actually designs the lace pattern. The Coral Cardigan uses an unusual random-lace technique that results in a meandering, organic texture.

The guidelines from the designer are simple: "Work yarnover/decrease pairs, intermixed with 0-3 knit stitches, in any order on right-side rows. For example, a row might consist of this pattern (yarnover/decrease pairs are shown in brackets): K2, [k2tog, yo], k1, [yo, ssk], [k2tog, yo], k3, [yo, k2tog], k2, [k2tog, yo], [ssk, yo], k2, [yo, k2tog], [ssk, yo], k2, [yo, k2tog], k1, and so on to the end of the row (or use this as a large multiple and repeat from the beginning). Change the pattern order every odd-numbered row."

This approach certainly adds some challenge to a simple wrap cardigan! Here's one of my friends, Dinah Demers, to walk you through her experience knitting the Coral Cardigan.

Coral Cardigan by Nancy Eiseman, Interweave Knits Summer 2011, knitted by Dinah Demers

Yarn: Classic Elite Classic Silk, #6979 Red Grape, 10 skeins
Needles: US size 6, although the pattern recommended size 7s
Size knitted:
My measurements:
5' 11¾" tall, 35½" bust, 32" waist

I really enjoyed working with the recommended Classic Elite Classic Silk yarn. It was enjoyable to knit with, somehow combining both luscious softness and practical sturdiness at the same time. The yarn is very well suited for the coral-inspired stitch pattern, and the resulting knit fabric has a wonderful drape. I chose a dark purple, one of my favorite colors, and am delighted with the result.

The random lace technique employed for the fabric of the cardigan was difficult for me at first, because when it comes to knitting, I tend to be very "pattern" oriented. As I read the stitch guide, my brow furrowed. "Work any combination of knit sts and yarnover-decrease pairs separated by 0-3 knit stitches, randomly across the row." Perhaps because of my background in the sciences, my first thought was to use a random number generator, and then I could randomly assign numbers corresponding to stitches, then to stitch combinations. . . Well, you get the picture. But I decided to be brave and forge ahead without the security of a set stitch pattern to follow.

After knitting a gauge swatch and determining that I needed to go down a needle size from that recommended in the pattern directions (down to a size 6), I cast on and started knitting. After working about an inch of the pattern stitch, I found that the stress of knitting random lace combos was causing me to knit with intense tension. My hands were cramped, and my "lace" puckered like little knots of wire. Frog time.

Attempt 2. Armed with my 110-line-long list of randomly generated stitch combination sequences, and a glass of wine, I started again. Much Better!! Much to my delight, after an inch or two, though, I found myself referring to my chart less and less. Soon, I actually felt settled into a relaxed, organic process of knitting. As the published pattern advised, I did have to count stitches often, to ensure that my stitch count remained correct, but the stitches just seemed to flow, and the resulting pattern did in fact begin to resemble the graceful forms of a branching coral.

Dinah's coral lace pattern

I've been knitting for about six years, but I must admit that I am not very adventurous when it comes to making major modifications to published patterns. However, I did choose to increase the overall length of the body from the cast on edge to the armholes by 2 inches (I'm just under 6 feet tall), and I increased the length of the sleeves similarly by 2.5 inches.

This is one pattern where reading it through from start to finish is extremely important, because the directions for a number of the shapings (neck band decreases, waist shaping, neck shaping, etc.) occur "at the same time," depending upon the overall length of the piece in progress. I did keep a row-by-row list, to keep track off the number of rows between each of the separate sets of shaping, decreases, cast-offs.

Though I have enjoyed working this cardigan in the random lace stitch, and love the final result, I do think that it took me longer to complete the project than it would have if the stitch had been more repetitive. But, knitting is not a time trial, right? It's about that feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment experienced the first time I slip my arms into a well-fitting garment, just off the needles and pieced together.

—Dinah Demers

I liked this cardigan knitting pattern even more after I read Dinah's project diary and saw her finished cardi in person. It's stunning, and it looks beautiful on her.

Join me and dig out your back issues to see what you picked as your must-knit projects. Don't have any back issues? Get the Interweave Knits 2011 Collection CD; it contains all of the 2011 issues of Interweave Knits, and you can print out your must-knits instead of losing track of them in stacks of magazines!


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