Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Michigan yarn and dolman sweaters

There are two yarn shops that I frequent whenever I'm in Grand Rapids - Threadbender and Country Needleworks - both of which are quite near where my parents live. Country Needleworks, which as the name suggests does not exclusively sell yarn, is particularly convenient as it is located right next to a great fabric shop, so between the two of them you can cover all your crafting needs in one trip. Threadbender has a better selection of yarn, but Country Needlework is not bad, and I picked up a sweater's worth of a lovely Michigan yarn there.

The yarn is Shepherd's Wool from Stonehenge Fibre Mill. I discovered this yarn in a shop I visited in Virginia just before New Years, and when I got back to Michigan I was tempted to go up and visit the mill. But it's located in East Jordan, even farther north than Traverse City - over a 6 hour round trip from my parent's place - so I couldn't really justify it after the 24 hour round trip we had just made to Washington DC. Maybe on my next visit.

Shepherd's Wool is a merino worsted weight, dyed in a range of lovely subtle colours. I picked a light toasty browny-orange colour. I thought it was quite reasonably priced for a merino, and the 100gm skeins have a good yardage. I got 1000 yards for about $50 - around £35.

When I got home I just had to start knitting it right away. I've had Holl by Kirsten Johnstone on my list all Autumn, and the Shepherd's Wool seemed a perfect yarn for this project (I had planned to knit it in Debbie Bliss Fez, but I couldn't get gauge, and Fez would undoubtedly have been too soft to maintain the structure of the pattern).

Ziggurat - for more photos and notes visit
Holl is a reverse stockinette, regularly ridged, cropped, dolman sleeve sweater, knit from the bottom up, over the shoulder and down the back. You cast off a neck hole, sew up the sides, and voila, a sweater. You can add long sleeves or not.

I find this sweater construction extremely satisfying. There is something childishly simple about it. In fact, it reminds me strikingly of doll dresses I made as a child. Take a rectangle of cloth, cut a hole for the head, sew up the sides leaving holes for the arms, tie on a belt, and you're set.

Yet it has a sophisticated look that belies the simplicity of design. The shoulders are boxy and almost mannish, but the drape you get from the extra fabric under the arms lends a more feminine air. The term 'dolman' comes from the Turkish for robe, a style that was adopted for military dress in Europe from the 16th centuries, and then for women's dress in the late 1800 and early 1900s. The style had a revival in the 1940s and another mini-revival in the 1980s.

It's not a style that is particularly in fashion at the moment, but I like it all the better for that. Also, according to Wikipedia, dolman sleeves "had the effect of making the shoulders look sloped therefore minimizing the appearance of the waist" - not a bad effect around this time of year.