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Nature's first green is gold

Her hardest hue to hold.

If you're willing to tolerate the terrible disservice I'm doing to Mr. Frost, hear me now: gold really is the hardest hue to hold, for my Olympus, anyway. The perpetually grey light we've been having lately - a run of rotten weather - isn't helping, either. In person, the pattern is subtle but clearly visible, creating a richly ornate, parlor carpet-like effect; in pixels, it looks like a muddy mess.

At any rate, I'm almost done with the body of this jacket; only a couple more rows until the neck shaping starts. Then, we'll just have sleeves and finishing to go. Can I ask your opinion on something?

My first sketch had sleeves patterned all the way to a close-fitting wrist, finished with a cuff covered in the same small dice patterning the collar. I've been thinking, though, that maybe the colorwork should end below the elbow, and continue into a lower arm of plain oatmeal, echoing the body welt. What do you think? Then, there's the issue of shape - should it be a tapering, fitted sleeve with a narrow hem, or a slightly belled sleeve with a narrow hem, or a fitted sleeve with a wide turned-back cuff? Decisions, decisions.



I have an idea for a spring sweater with cables on the bias, but first I need to teach myself how to do this. Can you help?


You're planning to knit the body straight up and down, crossed with diagonal cables as a design element, yes? If so, it's easy-peasy to make rope cables slant however you like:

All you need to do is create a section of biased fabric enclosing the cable, with decreases on one side and increases on the other. For the cable above, the chart would look like this:

The cable will slant towards the side with decreases, and away from the side with increases. As you can see, adding shaping on every row creates a fairly steep decrease. You could shape only every right-side row, or even less often than that, for a subtler slope.

Be aware that making a bias fabric in this way will cause the bottom edge of the fabric to scallop, and the entire piece to slope a little (unless you have a mirror-image slopes balancing each other). Both issues can be corrected in blocking - or they can become design elements.

If you mean a cable that runs truly horizontal, your best choice is to knit a cable panel first, and then pick up stitches along the sides and work perpendicularly from it. Check out this tasty pattern to see this at work.

When blocking Branching Out in Kid Merino, do you recommend the soak, spritz, or steam method? (I'm thinking soak, but I'd love your opinion.)

Many thanks!


I almost always recommend the soaking method for lace, but it depends on the finished effect you'd like. For a very flat fabric with nice drape, soak and pin aggressively. For a cushier, cozier piece, spritz it and just gently pull it into shape with your fingers.

I generally feel that lace worked in mohair or mohair-blend yarns really benefits from a very thorough blocking - opening up the yarnovers lets the pattern shine, and has the added benefit of showing off that gorgeous halo against lots of negative space. I'd recommend soaking the scarf in lukewarm water with a dribble of wool wash or shampoo, rinsing carefully in water of the same temperature, and rolling it up in a thirsty towel to get almost all the water out. Pin the four corners out first - use a big T-square to check your angles - to your target measurements. Then, place a pin bisecting each side. Place eight more pins, dividing each new "section" in half - and again, and again, until the whole thing has been satisfactorily pinned out.

If scalloping edges are a concern (as it is for me - I usually block lace so tightly it rises off the blocking surface as it dries and shrinks, like a drumskin), you might try running a very long length of sturdy cotton yarn all around the perimeter of the scarf before washing, making a running stitch close to the edge that catches every other row. Leave a loop at each corner. Pin it out as usual - you will find that drawing the string taut will help you create very straight edges without blocking wires.

I have been working up some different ideas for doing some colour/Norwegian/Fair Isle knitting (the obsession can be viewed on my blog), and I have a question about materials.

I live in the SF Bay area and do not necessarily want a heavy wool pullover as it's never quite cold enough for one, but would like to make one of the range of Alice Starmore/Poetry in Stitches/etc pullies in cotton or a silk blend. The book "More Sweaters" by Lise Kolstad and Tone Takle talks briefly about using fibers other than wool, but not in any great detail.

My question is regarding the steeking and fibers other than wool. I have never gotten up the nerve to do a steek, so I have a lack of knowledge there, but all the things I have read on others blogs and some books talk about the wool "sticking to itself", and thus it would be hard for it to come apart.

If I knit a sweater in cotton that requires a steek in it, do you think it would hold together once cut? Obviously I have a lack of knowledge about the steeking, but thought I would ask before
attempting, what are your thoughts are on knitting a colourwork sweater with non-wool fibers? What are the drawbacks? Would it even work?


Bravo on you for thinking outside the box! It's so easy to order a kit and whip out a (gorgeous) McFairIsle; I'm glad you're looking to put some personality into patterns, thinking about how to make them work better for you. A few thoughts:

The first thing I would encourage you to consider is the reason why stranded colorwork in wool works so well.


The luminous, painterly shifting of colors in a well-planned pattern owes a lot to the properties of the yarn itself. Shetland wool is quite fuzzy, with a halo of hairs sticking out of the knitted fabric - he resulting fabric traps light, and the patterns have an organic depth. The contrast between light pattern and dark background (or vice-versa) becomes the knitted equivalent of chiaroscuro, hinting at countours with shadow and light.

A completely smooth yarn, as most cottons are, would create a flatter, more graphic effect (though the feathered lines created by knit stitch Vs blur the lines a little) - imagine a pieced quilt, or a cut-out. This in itself is not a bad thing (I hear some guy named Matisse made some cut-outs that were pretty good), but it's something to think about.

Then, make sure that the materials you'll want to use actually exist. Wools meant for colorwork - jumperweight Shetland and some nice Icelandic and Norwegian wools - come in dizzyingly expansive palettes of colors, but most other yarn lines have much smaller ranges. It will be difficult to get a, say, Starmore-style effect if the yarn you're using only has two shades of blue.

Last, some technical issues. You're absolutely right; cotton, silk, and other non-felting yarns aren't great for traditional steeks, which rely on the natural tendency of wool fibers to grab onto each other to keep from falling apart (for further reading on what will and won't work for different types of yarn, check out this series about steeks from the archives). With cotton yarn, you pretty much have two choices: machine-sew the steek before cutting (boo! hiss! In my opinion, machine sewing and hand knitting are never good for each other, though lots of people feel differently), or work a wound steek. You can either wrap the yarn several times around the needle at each steek, drop the loops on the previous row, wind some more on, and cut up the center of the ladders when you're done, or knit a steek all the way up the side and then ladder the stitches before or after cutting. Either way, you'll end up with a bush of ends (two for every row) that need to be woven in, braided, or otherwise dealt with:

and that's a royal pain. It's almost worth just knitting flat, in pieces, instead.

Cotton is also a lot less forgiving of imperfect execution than wool - almost any inconsistency in stranded knitting will block out with a good washing and pinning in wool yarns, but cotton stitches will more or less hold the shapes they were made in. Take care as you work to make sure everything already looks good on the needle.

The last thing: cotton is heavy. Remember that stranded knitting produces a double-thick fabric at a fairly dense gauge. Walking around in two layers of fingering weight cotton may not be too warm, but it might be exhausting!

All that said, I encourage you to swatch away. Colorwork in cotton and silk can look fresh and modern and very lovely - just take a second to think about how you'll handle those issues before you begin.

unraveling is an advice column for knitters, with fresh content every Wednesday and Friday. Send your questions, signed with your name, blog url, or psuedonym to unraveling@eunnyjang.com. Your question may be edited for style and space.


On your jacket -- I think the oatmeal needs to be repeated somewhere -- collar? sleeves? both?

The pattern is lovely. I think it would be best continued all the way to the bottom of the sleeve and that a slight bell cuff would echo the bottom of the sweater's body nicely. A different colored bottom on the sleeve would make your arms (and everyone else's too) look shorty, chopped and more stocky, whereas a continues pattern tends to elongate the arm.

While I love the idea of ending the pattern below the elbow and then a slight bell shape, I wouldn't do it for the reason Heide wrote. I would go with the original design.

I think putting oatmeal on the sleeves might give the illusion that the whole garment has been dipped in bleach. I would pattern the sleeves all the way.

What about using the oatmeal as the contrast colour on blue collar and cuffs?

I third the vote for pattern all the way down the sleeves. As for the style, I would go with bell sleeves. Take this opinion with a grain of salt, though; this is based entirely on comfort, which is really the only thing I think about fashion-wise. I am like Gilda: I base my fashion taste on what doesn't itch. (Or bind, or pull, or whatever.)

Love the jacket. Love it. I like the pattern going down the sleeves and I love bell sleeves. I think the sleeves would look nice w/ the style of the jacket.

I like the sketch with the sleeves going all the way down. I think the oatmeal on the sleeves would shortchange the colorwork. The overall sketch lends a very old-world Hollywood glamour, in my opinion- very pretty! I like the idea of tighter sleeves on this piece, for the sake of the look; but you should definitely make them how your sleeves are most comfortable!

Ok, well.. I have to differ with the other comments and would go for oatmeal starting just under the elbow, and belled sleeves to echo the shaping on the body...

Gorgeous! Pattern all the way down the sleeves with slight bell sleeve. Will you be selling this pattern? Tou have the most amazing aesthetic.

My two cents? If this were my sweater I would stop the pattern and continue with plain oatmeal for the lower part of the sleeves. I think that would be a much more interesting look. However, Heide may have a good point with her comment about arms looking shorter and more stocky with this type of pattern, so...what do I know? Otherwise, I would probably have wide turned-up cuffs in oatmeal.

I think bell sleeves with the pattern all the way to the bottom. What might be kind of cool, but I'm not sure how manageable - a two layer sleeve. Do a bell shape with a split from the elbow down in pattern ending with the checked edging to match the collar and a fitted undersleeve either narrow rib or stockinette in the oatmeal. It would totally coordinate with the fit and design of the jacket and you'd get a slightly hidden repeat of the oatmeal. Or what about an inserted oatmeal strip down the center of the sleeve with a piped look dividing the oatmeal insert from the rest of the patterned sleeve. Make the sleeve slightly gather at the shoulder and a bit more full for this version with it ending in an i-cord cast off that narrows the width at your wrist - kind of gathered in appearance to mimic the shoulder. Does any of that make sense? Just tossing some ideas around.

I think using the oatmeal color on the lower sleeves might work nicely--but so might the all-patterned sleeve. Either way (although I generally do love belled sleeves) I would go with fitted, because the jacket has a stand-up collar, not a spread collar, and is so closely fitted (even though the bottom widens, it appears to do so only enough to follow the shape of the body)--sure, if it were a vest, wear it over a shirt with contrasting billowy sleeves, but for a jacket, the slightly belled sleeve shape just wouldn't set off the body shape, in my opinion. (And ixnay on the urned-back cufftay). Knit one with oatmeal and one all-patterned! You're speedy. I did that for a sweater design when I couldn't decide, and ended up choosing the one that was not originally my favorite.

God, that sweater is going to be stunning! I like Cora's idea of split, belled patterned sleeves, with fitted oatmeal underneath. That would be gorgeous, I think. If not, my vote is for fitted, patterned sleeves.

I'm in the continued-pattern-down-the-sleeve camp. I think a slight bell would give interest, although I like the thought of perhaps a centimeter or so of oatmeal to provide definition. The Market Square Pullover sleeves come to mind. It will be stunning no matter how you decide to finish it.
I'm loving your Unravelings, by the way.

I am going to dissent and say no to bell sleeves because I think the flare of the body and the bell sleeves together would be too much. So I vote for tapered sleeves. I like having the oatmeal color in the sleeve too but not starting as far up as the elbow. I think that would cut up the jacket into top half and bottom half. Maybe just use the oatmeal for a slight cuff? I worry that a turned up cuff would make the jacket too heavy. There's a femininity in this jacket.

Love your ideas, Eunny. My advice would be to make the oatmeal on the lower sleeves the same length as the oatmeal on the main part of the sweater. And slightly flared sleeves with the same cuff edge as the bottom edge of the body would complement the flare-and-fit of the garment. Whatever you decide, I have no doubt you'll have a lovely result.

i love your original sketch, and i think you should stick with it. it looks really really classy.

My vote is for either fitted patterned sleeves or a slight turned cuff in oatmeal, depending on your personal clothing style.

I'd say ecco in the sleeves. gives it more balance.

lovely look to it.

Have you considered three-quarter sleeves? I like them with the tight fitted look.

As soon as I read "sleeves patterned all the way to a close-fitting wrist" I thought that some oatmeal at the wrist would be a nice touch. Keep the close-fitting sleeve to go with the general close-fitting nature of the body. I'd recommend that the proportion of patterned sleeve to solid oatmeal be considerably less than in the body, where the oatmeal is perhaps 25% of the total top-to-bottom design. Maybe have the last 1/8 of the sleeve in oatmeal. I think if the border between pattern and oatmeal in the sleeve more-or-less lined up with the waist where the body changes from pattern to oatmeal it would not look good (sorry I can't be more articulate about that).

I also very much like ecco's idea of the 2-layer cuff. Or maybe having the last 1/2' - 1" of the sleeve oatmeal, plus at the back of the cuff -- right where the sleeve buttons would be on a man's suit jacket -- have an inverted V of the oatmeal. Sort of like this, except the inverted V would be about 3 times as high as the width of the solid strip at the cuff.

________ (lower underlining represents the lower edge of cuff)

I think you should make a narrow, tapered sleeve with the pattern continued on the sleeve. I'm afraid an oatmeal color from the elbow down might make the garment look too much like a layered t-shirt thing. You know, colorful/interesting t-shirt over a plain white shirt.

The whole thing is so beautiful.

I like Cora's general idea of an oatmeal undersleeve, or of an inset. Maybe a long triangular inset along the outer edges, with resulting bell sleeves? But I hesitate to suggest much of anything, as I bow down before your designing prowess!

I am agreeing with Mandy and Evelyn - tight fitting sleeves in pattern with an open cuff in oatmeal, almost like an unbuttoned shirt cuff turned back over a sweater sleeve. In my mind's eye, the garment has a medieval look, and needs a little knitted coif to go with it. (Hey, isn't one of Vermeer's models wearing a top that's similar?)I apologize if this doesn't match your idea at all! So far, it's really gorgeous.

fitted sleeves in pattern to below the elbow (3/4 length) then flared to wrist in oatmeal. Mimicking the body. LOVE IT.

What will the collar be? flared in oatmeal?

I think that you should DEFINITELY continue the colorwork down the whole length of the sleeve, but use the oatmeal color for the collar. Also, I personally think that since you are using such an elaborate (and stunning!!)pattern for the body of the sweater, make the sleeve shape/construction simple. I think making a fitted sleeve with a slight bell at the ends would be gorgeous. I wouldn't let the sleeves roll, I would hem them. Although, now that I think about it, thick oatmeal cuffs at the ends would be equally stunning.
Anything you do to this sweater will be fantastic. Your pattern is absolutely beautiful - there is no way you could mess it up. Truly.

I would go with the sleeve pattern continuing all the way down. I think oatmeal at the bottom, while perhaps looking nice on the sweater, will provide a striped effect that probably isn't so great for your shape & height. I'm just guessing from photos though, which can be really misleading. I think a bell cuff might echo it nicely and you can always pair the sweater with a nice shirt with flowy sleeves instead.

How are you thinking about closing the sweater?

Go with your original sketch, it's perfect the way you had it. No oatmeal in the sleeves, I think there's enough in the body already. Beautiful knitting Eunny!

Sleeves... my vote would go with the blue and gold pattern all the way down the sleeves with a tapered fitting sleeve, it would make a nice contract to the pleeted and slightly belled lower part of the jacket. But truly anyway you go will be stunning.

And thanks for your very thoughtful and through provoking comment to my colour knitting question... it's back to the swatching!

I do just have to say that everytime I read your blog, I am just amazed by the wealth of knowledge you have regarding knitting! Truly! I'm not envious, just in awe.
Also, I think with your sweater, you should switch to the oatmeal at or around the elbow, as you suggested. I say this for a couple of reasons. First, I think it would be easier to construct the sleeve in a plain color as to continuting in the pattern. Second, I really do think that it would like nice, connecting the coloring of the sleeves with the body. Bur maybe have the oatmeal color begin a bit below where the oatmeal color is on the body of the sweater; I guess I mean to not have it match in length, if that makes sense.

Going purely on visual lines, I think you should extend the pattern the full length of the sleeve - or risk the arms looking stumpy. You want attention at the waist, not the elbow, right? Extend the arm pattern down and arms will appear longer and slimmer.

I'd repeat the gold somewhere, though - maybe in an edging or a vent on the cuff? You could do a v-shaped gold vent and close it with a fabric button / braid kind of deal.

Or not... :) Bell sleeves get my vote too.

It would be nice to have the oatmeal echoed somewhere but I have never liked it when sleeves were patterned/plain. Also consider that the bottom half of your sleeve is likely going to be exposed to more dirt, do you want it a solid, lighter color? With another nod to practicality, a close fitting wrist is ideal for a jacket. Plus even though the flat sweater in progress looks a bit belled, I have a feeling that once it's on you it will just be a nice, fitted jacket.

I think that the pattern all the way down is perfect, with a slight bell. It is so elegant and feminine.

Personally, I don't like wide cuffs, so I'd go with the tapered sleeve. I like the idea of the pattern all the way down, with perhaps just an inch or so of oatmeal at the cuff, just to finish it off.

On a completely different subject, thanks for the info about diagonal cables. I've been hankering for a raglan pullover with cables coming down the four raglan seams at the shoulders. Any advice?

I would love a fitted sleeve with a narrow hem and patterning all the way down the sleeve. In any case, I can't wait to see it finished and hope you'll publish a pattern very soon. Because there just aren't any fair-isle or norvegian patterns out there and I really really want to knit one! Keep up the good work!

I think it would look great if you kept the patterning on the sleeve, but did a slight turn up cuff with the oatmeal. That would be gorgeous.

I'd go for sleeves patterned all the way wrist, with the cuff matching the collar. Otherwise it might look like two halves of two sweaters jammed together - a knit cut'n'shut, if you will! My personal preference for sleeve shape would be a tapering fitted sleeve with a narrow hem, or a slightly belled sleeve with a narrow hem. A wide turned-back cuff might be too much detail, on a sweater you really want the pattern and body shape to shine through.

Eunny, I love the original sketch the best. I vote for pattern all the way down the sleeve to a close, fitted wrist with narrow hem. I also prefer the patterned collar just as sketched.

honestly, I think that if you stop the patterning just below the elbow (matching the line of the other solid/pattern join, it will make your body look trunkated. It creates a fairly bold vertical line that hides any long sleek look you might have acheived. Now, if you were a really tall and skinny model with a LOOONG waist, it might be fine. But from what I have seen, you're sort of short like me. Lines like that are hardly ever good for short people.

I think a slightly 17th century/ 1950s-60s bold turned back cuff would look great, perhaps in the dice pattern including the oatmeal.

I vote for fitted sleeves in pattern to below the elbow, then a slight bell in oatmeal, to match the body.

If it really makes the arms look short and/or stumpy, I would rather change the oatmeal color to something DARKER than the pattern colors than change the concept of the sleeves mimicking the body.

A plethora of style elements often blurs the elegance of the design and starts to look busy. My vote is for fitted, patterned sleeves with the edging matching the collar, just as you have sketched.


I'm in agreement with Karen! I would choose the fitted, patterned sleeves with edging to match the collar!

I like the idea of having the oatmeal color from the elbow down in a slight bell to mimic what happens at the waist. What a beautiful project this is turning into!

I'd say oatmeal, slightly belled....I think it would compliment the oatmeal in the body quite well and not make the arms so "busy"...

Another great column! Learned something new AGAIN! :)

Beautiful work! I think you should go with the slight bell shape, and pattern it all the way down... to avoid making the arms look shorter. Either way, the jacket is very beautiful!

Wow, I just can't imagine seeing what you have in person. From your sketch, I vote to have the pattern all the way down to the sleeves. I think it would look weierd to have it stop at the elbow.

And once again, this blog provides me with a wealth of knowledge!! Thanks Eunny!

A wise old guru on a wind-swept hill once said, "Never change your first mind." Me, myself, personally, I think your original sketch is perfect. Flared, oatmeal lower sleeves might have too much contrast, and detract from the gorgeous body and overall look of the sweater. Your perfect taste, however, will prevail.
LOVE the "Unraveling" column!

I stopped to read the responses after the second comment because I want to give you an opinion fast (mine run strong) and Heide said it exactly like I would have, so no need to repeat it. It looks fabulous despite the difficulties you have taking a better picture. vj

If this were my creation I would continue the sleeves in this gorgeous pattern, possibly with a small up-turned and slit cuff only in oatmeal.
I will ( see, I am talking as if this was already my project....) also make the collar in oatmeal, thus framing the pattern where ever possible with just a bit of light contrast.
In your case I am not sure about the sleeve....a bell shaped sleeve looks really nice, but since the bodice in a way is already bell shaped...maybe that is enough...also a fitted sleeve might be more practical for some people....
I personally would under no circumstances knit the sleeves in oatmeal from the elbow down, because I would fear that the vast expanse of body and sleeves ( especially with the arms down ) in plain beige would only distract from the wonderfully intricate pattern of the rest of the jacket......
I am still holding my breath and keeping my fingers crossed so you might find the time to make a commercial pattern out of the jacket....
I already imagine it with a straight skirt or slacks in raw silk......possibly in Laquer Red and Gold to express my love for so many things Asian ( 15 years of living there have left their mark ) and to have something new for my birthday and Christmas...almost the same date.....it would be perfect timing !

Thank you for being such an inspiration and most of all for staying away from big needles, boxy sweaters and drop shoulders.....


I'd be for the idea of a flared shape sleeve to echo the shaping. I'm not so sure about the oatmeal color in the sleeve tho, it's going to cut you off and make you very shaped. in your case that's okay, as you have a nice shape. But what kind of skirt can you then wear with it? Probably have to be gray to blend with the bottom of the sweater or you're going to look very chopped up. JMNSHO.

A vote for oatmeal cuffs (extending up to the elbow) -- elegant, like long gloves, and giving the garment a NOrdic quality.

Definitely oatmeal, slightly belled sleeves. It will make the whole design come together. Lovely knitting.

Colorwork should end below the elbow, and continue into a lower arm of plain oatmeal, echoing the body welt. YES! Then, there's the issue of shape - slightly belled 3/4 sleeve with a narrow hem - A couple of inches short of the wrist.

It looks beautiful!

Ok, this may be way outside the box, but why not do 3/4 length sleeves with a bit of the oatmeal color for ribbing? I actually hate long sleeves--they are so confining. Would this be utter heresy?

What a stunning jacket! I would humbly suggest that you knit the sleeves in pattern, but make them long enoug to cover the top of your hand, with a "V" opening either on top or bottom of the hand. Then you could trim the bottom of the sleeve and the V opeing with the oatmeal, and even possibly face the inside of the sleeve with the oatmeal so that it shows whenever the sleeve moves. This would be very feminine without being "rennaissance" looking and would tie into the oatmeal on the body of the jacket.Just my two cents!

I actually have a cotton garment with a colorwork border... http://vintagefusionhandcrafts.blogspot.com/2005/03/feeling-productive.html
which surprisingly is wearable in Singapore's weather!

For your project, I'll suggest straight sleeves -- I've tried that with one of my cardi and it works really well.

I'm a little late coming to this party with my opinion...but I'd say go with the pattern all the way down with a slightly belled sleeve & a narrow hem. It's looking stunning. Now that I have learned to knit Fair Isle, this one is definitely my taste (fitted, not too busy & gorgeous!)

Might I just say that your photographs are incredible! I'm just starting up my own little knitting blog, and my photos aren't nearly as pretty because my camera is absolutely awful. How do you get your shots to work out so nicely? Do you use a light tent? What camera/ add-ons do you use? Thanks for any help you can offer!

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