MAKING IT, OURSELVES: Bellows Cardigan

Bellows Cardigan FO Front Brooklyn Tweed

I wish there were a font to convey my smile as I type this edition of Making It, Ourselves—you know how you can hear if the person on the other end of the phone is smiling? Well, I can’t help but grin from ear to ear when I talk about my Bellows Cardigan.

It’s been done for a few days, and I’ve worn it in public a couple of times so far. I’d like to say that I take a demure “oh, this old thing?” attitude when people compliment my sweater, but it’s more like, “HEY EVERYONE CHECK OUT MY SWEATER I MADE IT AHHHH!” Sorry, everyone—I’m pretty excited. There’s nothing quite like seeing something through, from the first glimmer to the final product.

Bellows_BackAndSide

When I wrote about the legend of the Aran sweater last month, I learned that the traditional Irish fisherman’s garment has an interesting history—just not the history that many of us supposed it to have. Thinking about the Aran as part of an early 20th-century tourism campaign allowed me to see past its supposed “authenticity” and gave me license to follow up with a modern take—less high-necked, less intricate, and in a shade other than the natural cream. Enter the Bellows.

I would say the making of this sweater was a labor of love, but it wasn’t even all that laborious. It was just pure love! I thought a lot about which yarn to use, and ultimately went with O-Wool’s merino/cotton blend Balance in the color Sapphire (14 skeins—enough to complete the 2nd size in the pattern, and then some). This yarn was on my radar thanks to Fringe Association‘s Karen Templer, who used the same yarn (in Graphite) for her own Bellows. While I don’t always love knitting with cotton—it has a different stickiness and less give than wool—having cotton in the mix makes this garment seem more versatile, so I can keep it on hand in all seasons.

The color is divine. I knew I wanted my Bellows to be navy, because it’s my favorite neutral and I don’t currently own a navy cardigan, but I never expected such dimension! This yarn is ever so slightly mottled due to the natural dye process (and even more so after soaking some of the excess dye out), yet it still reads as a solid. In some lights, it looks true blue; in others, it’s a deep midnight; in between, it’s a dark chambray. I love it.

As I said, the knitting was mostly a breeze—and thrillingly quick!–but if you read last week’s post, then you know that I ran into trouble with the button band. I cast on too few stitches, so the band was pulling the front pieces upwards and out of shape. That was a dark day. Though I was in denial for a few hours, I knew right away that I’d need to frog (rip out) the whole band. I’ve heard many crafters (like the aforementioned Karen Templer) admit to being “perfectionists,” but I had never identified with that mindset. I was usually content with a “good enough” project. UNTIL NOW. Now, perfectionists, I feel you. This is my Bellows and t’will be perfect!

That said, “perfect” is still subjective. Like, I’m perfectly fine with the one extra twist in one of the front cables. (Did you notice?) But I could not let that uneven button band stand. So I ripped that part out and re-did it. In the end, as Queen Karen would probably have predicted, it was actually a blessing: the re-do gave me a second chance to perfect not only that hemline but also the button holes and collar. I think there’s a life lesson in there somewhere.

Bellows_OpenFront

Thanks to Bellows, I now own the perfect chunky, slouchy cardigan. Not only do I look forward to wearing it often—i.e. every day—but I also already have two more in the pipeline. One for my husband (this one is just in my mind so far but will happen later this year) and another for a good friend who is moving away (this one I’ve already swatched for.) So the Bellows journey wasn’t just fun while it lasted; it continues…

Bellows Cardigan Swatch O-Wool Balance Sunstone

Thanks for reading, and may your life be blessed with annoying re-dos that ultimately make you smile. #cheesy

–LWS

 

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