And now for something blue

It’s been a while since I wrote a Wearability Wednesday Post.   This is a series in which I revisit a knit garment and look at its wearability, style and durability.  Let’s face it, sometimes you knit something that seems just wonderful at the time, and then it never gets worn.  Maybe it’s the wrong colour, or the wrong length, or just doesn’t fit in with your style.  Sometimes, on the other hand, you knit something that hits all of the right buttons and you wear it to death.

This sweater is Ingenue, from a pattern by Wendy Bernard.  I knit it for my daughter Leah in January 2010.   It took three weeks from start to finish.  The above photos show Leah wearing it when I first knit it.   I used Malabrigo Merino Worsted in the colour Buscando Azul.  This was the first time I had ever knit with Malabrigo, which has a huge following.  (Did you know that yarns have Fan Girls?)

Mostly I knit it exactly as written in the pattern, making just a few modifications.   Below, are the comments on my Ravelry entry for this project, describing the mods (if you aren’t interested in the knitting knitty gritty, you may skip this part):

“As usual, my row gauge was off, so I had to adjust the math. I made the sweater two inches longer, added extra waist increases, and switched to a size 10 (US) for the bottom. For the sleeves, I added 6 stitches evenly around the sleeve just before starting the ridge pattern. This kept the cuff from pulling in. I did 5 pattern repeats on the bottom and cuffs but left off the purl row at the end, instead binding off in knit. I didn’t like the way they curled out, so I hemmed them, folding them back at the purl row of the 4th pattern ridge; this gave a much neater finish. If I were to knit this again, I would do fewer sleeve increases during the raglan shaping because the sleeves have a little too much bulk.”

Leah has worn this sweater countless times.  This is a sweater that sees serious wear.  We took some more photos of it last month in Vancouver.  (It is a very sad fact about this last summer in Vancouver that this wool sweater got lots of wear in August.)

The pattern for Ingenue can be found in Wendy Bernard’s book, Custom Knits.  I knit another of the patterns from that book, my Flash of Purple, incidentally also for Leah.  I documented the latter on the blog here, but here’s a photo:

Wendy is a great designer, who understands that every body is different; she incorporates tailoring tips into her patterns to help you get just the right fit.  I would highly recommend this book to any sweater knitter.  Wendy has a new book out, Custom Knits 2, which I haven’t had a chance to look at yet, but I would bet it’s also great.

To go back to the Ingenue, what is it about this sweater that makes it a keeper?  From Leah’s perspective, it is incredibly soft, cozy, easy to wear, goes with lots of things, can be dressed up or down, gets noticed, and is an absolutely gorgeous colour.  From a knitting perspective, it is easy as pie to knit, but still manages to not be too boring.  There are nearly one thousand Ingenues up on Ravelry.  This makes it a very popular knit.  It manages to look good on most people.  I have seen some seriously big, curvy women rocking their Ingenues; you don’t have to be young and gorgeous like Leah to carry this off.  It has some panache.

The absolutely best thing about this sweater (which is also the worst thing) is the Malabrigo.  The colour is Fantastic.  The photos can’t do it justice.  It is an amazing, rich, beautiful, textured, deep blue that is absolutely mesmerizing.  It does not look like any sweater that you could buy in a store.  When we were in Vancouver, Leah got stopped in a parking lot of a Chinese restaurant on Commercial Drive by a father accompanied by his kids.  He wanted to know where she got it (and was really blown away by the fact that someone actually knit it for her).

It is also unbelievably soft.  Malabrigo has to be felt to be believed; it really is that soft.  And this, I’m afraid, is also it’s downfall.  Malabrigo is so soft, that it pills almost instantly.  The first time you pull it on, it will start to pill.  The photo below shows how beautiful and lovely the sweater is, but if you look closely, you can see that it is definitely pilling (this despite having just been washed and de-pilled).  After a couple of washes, the whole fabric takes on a fuzzy patina.

In the future I would think carefully about what kinds of projects I used Malabrigo in.  I wouldn’t choose to use it in a pattern that requires crisp stitch definition.  Malabrigo isn’t crisp.  But it is soft as butter, and luxurious to wear.  The next time I knit up an Ingenue, I would probably use Malabrigo, and I would definitely knit it for me.