One of my New Year's resolutions was to take a long, hard look at my wardrobe and update it -- without having to mortgage my life away to pay for it.
I've decided to shun the hand-knits and use up some of my leftover wools. My bauble sweater is just what my budget dictated, and it's right in style. Take any hand-knit (or store-bought, machine-knit) sweater and cover it with perky knitted baubles or popcorns. Each bauble is knitted from one 36-inch, three-ply strand of crewel wool, which I have lying around the house in colorful but disorganized profusion. The baubles can be knitted with normal knitting worsted sweater yarn as well, but I wanted to use up all of the odds and ends of crewel wool that had gone into various needlework projects.
You can choose a scheme of bright, lollipop colors or a monochromatic one in shades of plum, aubergine, heather, raspberry and lilac. Or gradually change the color of the baubles from deep green to kelly to chartreuse and finally to lemon yellow as they march in rows up the front of your sweater. Put the baubles on a solid sweater of snow white, jet black or a shade to coordinate with the popcorns.
There are many popcorn patterns, all easy to knit. The one I chose works well if you are knitting the sweater in worsted weight yarn from scratch and add the popcorns as you go. (You can also use this pattern to make the popcorns separately and then attach them to a ready-made sweater, putting the ends through to the reverse side and tying a knot.) When you get to the place where you want to add a bauble, drop your sweater yarn and tie on a length of crewel wool for your popcorn.
Each popcorn is made by working a cluster of five stitches into one stitch and working four rows of stokinette stitch over those five stitches as follows. aOn the right side, in the next sweater stitch, knit, purl, knit, purl, knit (five stitches made in one stitch), turn work, purl all five stitches, turn work, knit all five stitches, turn work, purl all five stitches, turn work, knit all five stitches, do not turn work. With the left-hand needle, pass the first four stitches, one after the other, over the fifth stitch, which remains on the needle. Drop the end of the crewel wool (do not cut), pick up your sweater yarn and continue knitting.
This pattern produces a rather flat popcorn which can be quite handsome. But I wanted my popcorns to be round and puffy, so, before knotting my wool ends, I threaded a large-eye needle and ran an end of the crewel wool through my first popcorn stitches, gathering them up tightly to form a neat ball, then securing them on the back of my sweater with a knot.
How many popcorns you use and where you space them is up to you, the designer. Mine are placed evey four inches and are staggered in rows two inches apart.
Now that I've seen what fun these baubles can be, I'm already making plans to add two or three tightly packed rows of popcorns around the neckline and wrists of an old sweater to transform it from basically boring to beautifully baubled.
Q. The quilt I recently made is lovely, but I can't use it half the year because it's much too warm for comfort. Is there such a thing as a "cool" quilt?
A. Quilts seem to be on everyone's mind these days and there have been all sorts of experiments -- "summer" quilts being one of them. Proceed with your quilt top as you would ordinarily, but instead of filling it with polyester batting, yet some light-weight flannel at a fabric shop, or use a double thickness of bed sheeting.