It’s only natural that, at least as far as can be gauged from the #fringeandfriendslogalong hashtag on Instagram, the Fringe and Friends Log Cabin Knitalong is dominated by glorious blankets. After all, the log cabin knitting technique is rooted in the traditional quilt block of the same name. In its most elemental form, log cabin—knitted or sewn—yields square shapes; it can require some doing even to stretch a log cabin into a rectangle.
Garments, needing to cover a three-dimensional human body with parts that bend, are a bigger challenge. It’s a fun puzzle: can I use this technique to make a garment I would actually wear, that doesn’t look like somebody picked up a potholder and pieced it into a sweater?
The first log cabin sweater I ever saw was in Debbie New’s landmark book, Unexpected Knitting.
Unexpected Knitting is holy writ to me, never more than 10 steps away from my desk, but I did not like this sweater. I wanted to like it, and I could see that it would be fun to knit, but I couldn’t see beyond the blocky bulkiness and utter lack of drape.
The next log cabin sweater I remember seeing was this one, from Rodarte’s Fall/Winter 2011 collection:
It was thrilling to see designers I greatly admire playing with one of my favorite motifs, but I didn’t really like this sweater either. So literal! It teeters on the line between handmade and homemade; at a minimum it needs a good blocking. It failed my personal test of “would this look ok in real life, or would I need to explain it to everyone constantly?” (When a non-knitter asks me, “did you make that?”—I die a little. If a knitter asks me the same question, I puff up to nearly double my size.)
In Search of a Wearable Log Cabin
My solution: start with a sweater pattern I love, and use it as a template. Knit a piece of fabric to fit that template, using log cabin technique, but in a yarn (Sylph) and at a gauge (sock-ish) that I hope will yield a sweater I don’t have to explain because it is, first and foremost, an ordinary nice sweater.
Here’s where I am on the back of the sweater right now:
I’ve nearly done the underarm increases.
Then I’ll knit, in reverse stockinette stitch, for a few inches more to give the sleeve openings some depth, and do the neck and shoulder shaping according to the pattern. I’m planning to use the same arrangement of log cabin strips (a u-shape) for the front of the sweater.
Nagging little doubt: I overshot the width of the body a little bit. I hope my sweater doesn’t end up swamping instead of draping.
Keep Your Eye On
The ingenuity of knitters is amazing. Here are a few garments-in-progress that I’ve been watching as closely as Olive scans the back yard for deer and box turtles.
(Edited to add: I didn’t have to wait long. Check out Jaime’s circle skirt.)
I’m on the edge of my seat, Megan; please update!
Chris of @makeandwear is trying to decide whether her log cabin top will be diagonal or squared-up in its orientation. She seems to be leaning diagonal, despite the extra construction challenges. (I have Dress Form Envy. It seems like having a dress form helps a lot with making clothing out of squares of fabric.)
Like me, Casey Rich @gingerpidge is working on a pullover. (Unlike me, Casey can sketch.) Her palette is so so so me me me.
If I missed any log cabin garments out there, please let me know. Right now, the log cabin garment band may be a happy few, but I feel like we’re onto something.