Zahedra by Robin Melanson

Remember the days when one hung out for the next issue of Interweave Knits? Rushed it down to your local coffeeshop to pour over it with friends, analyse it all to death, intend to knit just everything in it? Those days have well and truly gone.

I will never go electronic in preference to hard print and continue to buy knitting books whenever one comes out that takes my fancy – though I do think every publisher should take the Ysolda route and provide the .pdf version free with hard copy books. The thing about magazines, however, is not that the format is outmoded since for me it isn’t, but that magazines are no longer the best source of good patterns. The online opportunities are fabulous for designers now, firstly to completely go it alone, or secondly to use the sites like Ravelry, Patternfish or Twist Collective, which is the source of Zahedra. For now, at least, Twist Collective has the highest standards of the various online pattern conglomerations. I look forward to the quarterly installments of their online publication the way I used to do with the magazines.

Zahedra on a grey winter's day in Geneva.
Zahedra on a grey winter’s day in Geneva.

It’s been a good while since I wrote up knitting for my blog, but since nobody has finished one of these yet, maybe my thoughts will come in handy.

Zahedra on a grey winter's day in Geneva.
Zahedra on a grey winter’s day in Geneva.

Pattern Zehedra A great, well written pattern. When I observed the back is worked across 4 charts and some non-chart stitches as well, I wondered already if this was for the too hard basket, but what a snivelling coward I am. Within a few rows the pattern is so easy that you don’t need the charts at all and the various stitch markers to help wend you way through the charts can be discarded too. It is perfectly simple to fit in the side shaping with the repetitions of the larger chart. Really, it couldn’t be more straightforward.

Yarn Karabella Aurora Chunky has come in for some flack on Ravelry: at 50m a ball, you do not want ANY joins and evidently that is far from what people are finding. I used 23.5 balls for this jacket and 5 of them balls had joins: a couple half way through or so, a couple close to the end. Not the end of the world, I found the very short pieces useful, but still. This is an expensive yarn and I think we can be fussy about it. It would be so much better if it came in 100g balls. The yarn itself is fantastic, like its sibling Aurora eight. I have several jumpers made of this, a couple of which have been worn many many times over five or so winters and they look about new. If this line had the quality of Debbie Bliss’s or Jo Sharp’s colour palettes as well as the variety, it would be the perfect wool. That’s speaking as one who finds most wool impossible to put to the skin, whereas this is never an issue with Aurora. Do you want to know if I felt like that half way through darning in almost 100 ends? YES. I still felt like that.

Modifications I shortened the ribbing of the sleeves as I needed to cut a couple of inches off their length and wanted that in proportion. I used 5.5mm and 6mm needles, a little smaller than recommended for this yarn. Again, because of the concern about stretching – the jacket weighs over 1 kg – I thought maybe tightening up the gauge a little would be a good thing.

Thoughts First of all, If you are using pure wool, as I was, this is a heavy garment. I suggest ignoring the instructions to attach the back and fronts together before embarking upon the button bands: do them first, they take a while and it will be much lighter, easier work.

Zahedra on a grey winter's day in Geneva.
Zahedra on a grey winter’s day in Geneva.

I made the mistake of changing the type of button holes without changing the placement to match: stupidly, starting from the bottom, I made the first hole 5 stitches in – that is fine doing so from the top of the button band, but NOT the bottom!!!

There are so many different traps to fall into if you start messing around with patterns. My gauge is smaller than recommended with a two-fold result: firstly I have nothing like the positive ease the pattern suggests – that is, 4-6 inches. I erred on snug deliberately, not really intending as snug as it is, but being concerned that a stretchy stitch in a heavy yarn would lead to stretching in the fullness of time. I love it like it is, as it makes it an inside cardigan as well as a warm out-doors affair.

Zahedra on a grey winter's day in Geneva.
Zahedra on a grey winter’s day in Geneva.

Today I was in it, wandering around Geneva at about zero – it was snowing – with only a blouse on underneath and I wasn’t as warm as toast, but nor was I cold. Impressive! The other effect of the gauge difference, however, is that maybe the pockets are a little too narrow: I would have liked them an inch or so wider and this would have been simple to achieve if I’d realised the implications of what I was doing.

All in all? I am really awfully happy with this. Robin Melanson is a great designer, not one of the super trendy ones around at the moment, but I want things that last and this retro jacket is just the ticket how can retro ever get outdated? Not only that, I am tired of the trend to one piece knitting. Seams and sewing are intrinsically important parts of knitting, they add structural integrity as well as lines that look good. Not to mention places to weave in ends: I had almost 100 (yikes!!) to darn in and having a seam to direct the ends to makes a huge difference. It’s a nightmare trying to hide them in seamless knitting. And constant knitting in the round with an increasingly cumbersome and heavy item is another thing to be balanced against an hour’s sewing up. It’s the sort of thing Melanson has her own views on and she talks about them in the Twist Collective blog here

Which reminds me, to end with a confession, although Robin recommends backstitch for the sleeves I muddled about with mattress stitch of a sort and I feel like it is okay. I have an aversion to backstitch because my very favourite designer in the world does, but that’s a story for another time.

Thanks to ace camera man, Manny, for coming out in the cold with me.


4 thoughts on “Zahedra by Robin Melanson

  1. Great – I love good technical writing, and this has nice crunchy details. Suddenly I find that I know something serious about a mystery.


  2. Wow! Well done you! It must be lovely and warm as well and doing it on slightly smaller needles sounds very sensible at that weight. (No point in bringing it Downunder right now – it is rather warm here.)


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