Another fiction-inspired sweater design

I suppose it was inevitable that two of my worlds – books and knitting – would collide, and I’m enjoying the result! I am also seeing the beginning of a trend.

The first one, of course, was the “Ithilien Brocade Jacket“, inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings character Eowyn.

The inspiration for this new one is Lessa, a pivotal person on Anne McCaffrey’s Pern.  The Dragonriders of Pern series, beginning with “Dragonflight”, is a classic in the sci-fi/fantasy genre (I’m not even touching that genre controversy), and I think Lessa can take some of the credit for that.  She is one of many characters who are beautifully crafted, believable, and very human.

This sweater is also intended as a compliment to Anne McCaffrey, herself a knitter.  She even wrote a contemporary fiction book, “Stitch in Snow”, whose protagonist is a nearly-obsessed knitter of Aran sweaters.

There are a couple of reasons that I like this confluence of interests.  First, fiction makes for a fascinating starting place for a sweater design.  I have come to realize that great characters in an interesting plot is only part of what draws me back to certain books.  When an author places those elements in a landscape that is almost another character itself, and then wraps them in cultures, traditions and history, that sub-creation becomes almost irresistible.  Paul Kocher, in his book “Master of Middle Earth”, defined the allure of certain fictional worlds: “Familiar but not too familiar, strange but not too strange.”  That rich background of culture and character is an endless source of ideas for creative readers, and once again, my chosen medium is yarn.

Another reason I like designing sweaters ‘for’ fictional characters is much less esoteric – they ALWAYS like what I like!  Once I decide they would like something, of course they can’t argue.  There are no tiresome negotiations on color, length, neckline, any of the gazillion little decisions that go into a new design.  It may be selfish, but there it is.  I like deciding these things, and it’s even better when I can imagine someone I admire peering over my shoulder to check on her sweater’s progress and nodding in approval.

Now, on to the details.  “Lessa” (the obvious name for the pattern) had to be red for Ruatha, and have cables to represent her distant Irish ancestry.  It needed to be fitted (easy to slip a wherhide flying jacket over), and had to be made of soft wool.  There are definitely sheep on Pern, but apparently not so many other fiber animals.  And it had to be warm, for those late-night hikes across a frosty Weyr bowl to the kitchen cavern.  After long consideration, the yarn I selected is KnitPicks’ Merino Style in Hollyberry.

So here’s its beginning… at least the first iteration!

Back neck

This is going to be a split funnel neck; a wide cable flows down the center front and back, with the center section of that cable repeated down the sleeves.

Right saddle (neck/shoulder)

The second picture is a view of the saddle, with the stitches to be picked up for the sleeve held on white yarn.  The front sections are on blue stitch holders.

I’m most likely going to rip out what you see here.  There are a couple of things bugging me about it, and I may end up knitting the set-in sleeve caps in the round along with the body of the sweater, instead of picking up from the armhole and working them separately.

I have a couple more tweaks in the design just to make it more interesting, but we’ll get to them as we go along.

The wonderful cable pattern is from Annie Maloney’s Cable Knitting Handbook.  I love the cable designs in this book!  And I’m using construction techniques from Janet Szabo’s Aran Sweater Design.  I cannot recommend it highly enough, either!  Armed with these two excellent resources, anyone who is interested in creating their own cabled sweater design will be ready to go.

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