The original St Brigid came from this book. No, actually, the original St Brigid (pronounced "breed") was a celtic goddess, or a catholic nun, depending on who you ask. Same difference. St Brigid's day is at the beginning of february, halfway between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. Spring is coming, St Brigid travelled the land giving blessings to people who left cake out for her, and if it rained on St Brigid's day, you knew it would be a good summer for farming. Same deal if hedgehogs came out of their holes and were running around. (hmm, sound familiar?)
So, if the goddess/nun story is any indication, St Brigid adapts well. Here she is, in four forms: celtic fertility symbol, sainted nun, Alice Starmore creation, adapted sweater.
What follows is detailed instructions on how to make the adapted St. Brigid.
I used Galway, which is a basic plain, multi-ply worsted-weight wool. Yarns I consider equivalent are Patons Classic Merino, Cascade 220, and Wool of the Andes. My stockinette gauge was 4.5 sts/inch on US #8 (5.00 mm) needles. For my size, I used 6 balls of Galway. Each ball is 100 grams and 210 yards. The sweater took a little under 1200 yards.
If you want to make yours identical to mine, say if you're some sort of creepy stalker making a Beth mannequin for your basement, my color is #703 in Galway Highland Heathers.
My idea in adapting the pattern was to make it SMALLER. The original sweater is very long and very wide. Not really my style. This sweater is about 36" around, and 24" long, so it hangs just slightly past the top of my jeans pockets. You can easily adapt it to be wider by adding stitches on the side of the front and back pieces; the sleeves are still very loose, though, so even if you're making a larger sweater, you probably won't need to alter the sleeves at all (except for the length of the saddle, but I'll get to that).
Starmore's pattern comes with a couple of charts that you'll need to knit this - unless of course you want to substitute charts of your own. I'll give the sizes:
Chart A, double moss stitch: not used in my version.
Chart B, 3-stranded braid (9 stitches) flanked by 2 columns of purl and one of knit. 15 stitches.
Chart C, right-handed fancy cable. 19 sts, increases to 23.
Chart D, double fancy cable (charts C and E twisted together). 35 sts, increases to 43.
Chart E, left-handed fancy cable. Basically a mirror image of chart C.
In places I've replaced Chart B with a 2x2 cable. It's 4 knit stitches, and every 4 rows you cable the 2 on the right over the 2 on the left.
The sweater is made in four pieces: one back (a rectangle); one front
(a rectangle with neck cutout); two sleeves (trapezoids with saddles sticking out the top). Here are the pieces spread out so you can see them better.
Front/back: purl 1, Chart C, 2x2 cable, Chart D, 2x2 cable, Chart E, purl 1. The extra side stitches are helpful for sewing. Work them in reverse stockinette, slipping the first stitch of every row if you like.
To adjust this sweater for a larger size (as written it's about 36"), just add extra stitches of reverse stockinette at the sides. You already know your stockinette gauge, right? (hint: 4.5 sts/inch if you were paying attention). There are four places to add stitches: the right side of the front, the left side of the front, the right side of the back, and the left side of the back. So figure out how many extra inches you need; multiply by 4.5 to get the number of extra stitches you need; then divide that by 4 so you add 1/4 of the stitches in each of those four places. Example: you want a 44" sweater. That's 8 extra inches, which means 36 stitches. 36 divided by 4 is 9. So you need to add 9 stitches on either side of the front, and 9 stitches on either side of the back. If you like, you can work the extra stitches in moss stitch or some other pattern.
The back is 5 repeats plus about 10 rows. That's about 124 rows. This piece will be 23 inches long after blocking. Mine was about 20" long when it first came off the needles.
On the front, I did 5 repeats of the C/D/E chart before starting the neck. I bound off all the Chart D stitches and then worked each side separately, decreasing one st at the neckline every other row. Bind off on the 10th row, so your front is the same length as your back.
BLOCK THESE PIECES NOW, because you need to take an important measurement. I recommend clearing off the kitchen table, laying down a few towels, and then a garbage bag. The towels give you something to pin into and the garbage bag gives a nice non-absorbent surface that will help the pieces to dry faster. If you don't have pins, that's OK. block it anyway.
The important measure is for the saddle. Answer these two questions to your own satisfaction:
1. How long is the bound-off edge on each side of the neck? For me, it was 4.5".
2. How many rows do you get, in your blocked garment, in 4.5 inches? For me, it was about 24.
So, I will make my saddles 24 inches long. Perhaps at this point you are wondering, what the hell is a saddle and why should I care? This picture explains it all:
So the saddle is the tab on top of the sleeve that becomes the shoulder of the sweater - like an epaulet. It needs to be as long as the shoulder is wide (this is what you measured). Alice Starmore gives a guideline for how wide it should be - no more than 3 inches, or something like that. I AM MAKING THIS NUMBER UP, if you want the real story you should check out her book. I don't remember what the number actually is. I do know that her Cromarty sweater has a very wide saddle, almost 5 inches. So I guess you can break the rules sometimes.
Our saddle will be done in Chart B, the braid, and it will be about 2 inches wide.
If you want to leave the saddle out entirely, that's OK too. Just make the front and back of the sweater an inch longer, and sew it up like a regular drop-shoulder construction.
OK, so here's how I cast on for the sleeve (starting at the wrist): one stitch, Chart C, Chart B, Chart E, one stitch.
This sleeve is already quite wide, so you could probably just knit it straight with no shaping. But here's what I did - my version should work for almost anybody, since it makes a really big wide sleeve. Still, if it's too small for you, feel free to add extra reverse stockinette like you did for the body.
I increased by one stitch on each side, every SIXTH row, but only for the first 4 pattern repeats. In other words, I increased every 6th row, 14 times.
My sleeve was exactly 5 repeats long (112 rows).
As you begin the next row, bind off the side pattern stitches, leaving one stitch for seaming. Work across.
On the next row, bind off all the side pattern stitches on that side, again leaving one stitch for seaming. You now have 17 stitches - 15 stitches from Chart B, plus the two extras.
Work Chart B for the number of rows you calculated above for the length of the saddle. My saddle was 24 rows long. Bind off and block.
While you're waiting for the sleeves to block, you can start knitting the collar braid, and/or you can make the Victory Lap mitts (see pattern below).
You are now ready to sew up the sweater! Isn't that exciting? No? Oh well. It's necessary, though, since by this point it's too late to change your mind and knit it in the round! Here's how I sewed it up. Feel free to wing it, and then skip ahead to the collar directions.
Spread the sweater out flat on a table or the floor, and start with the saddles. Using one armspan's worth of yarn, start where the saddle meets the neckline. Sew the 4.5 inches from there to the corner. You'll have a lot of sewing yarn left over; don't cut it yet.
Take another armspan of yarn, and use that to sew the other side of the saddle, neckline to corner like you did before.
Now, you'll want to make sure that you don't stretch out one side of the sleeve more than the other when you sew it down. Pick the spot where the edges of the sleeves should meet the body, and make sure it's the same on the front and back. Mark the spot by running a scrap of yarn through both pieces (using a yarn needle or crochet hook), and tie a knot in the yarn. You could pin it instead, but I prefer this method.
Now, use your two long pieces of sewing yarn to sew the sleeves to the side of the body. Repeat for the other side of the sweater, making sure that the attachment point you marked above is in the same place on both the right and left sides of the sweater. You don't want one sleeve wider than the other at the armpit.
Now for the big long easy seams. They aren't on very visible parts of the sweater, so I relax here and use an overcast stitch, which is fast and easy but maybe not the prettiest. You, do whatever you like.
Start at the armpit and sew toward the waistline; then start again at the armpit and sew the sleeve toward the wrist. Stop often to check that the pieces are lined up correctly. Repeat for the other side and you're done! Try it on. Looks like Flashdance, huh? Time for the collar.
Cast on Chart B plus, if you like, two extra stitches. Knit until it's long enough (about 15 repeats). Don't bind off! You want to be able to adjust the length, by either knitting more or ripping back.
If you haven't been using mattress stitch, now is a good time to learn. It makes an almost invisible seam.
Hold the braid against the neckline, with a corner of the cast-on edge next to one of the seams where the saddle meets the back. Start sewing here, stretching the braid as you go. The idea is for the sewn edge of the braid to be stretched out, and the edge of the braid next to your neck to be less stretched. This makes it lie flat against your neck.
Keep going until you're back to where you started. Knit more or rip back, as needed, to make the right length. Then join the ends by Kitchener stitch. You'll have to wing it a little, since kitchener stitch isn't usually done with a cast-on edge, but you should be able to figure it out. Even if it's a little sloppy, people will be too busy oohing and aahing at your beautiful sweater to notice whether your collar seam is perfect.
Victory Lap mitts
Using dpns in the same size as your sweater (for me, Size 8), CO 24 sts. Work in 1x1 ribbing for 20 rows.
Thumb gusset: place marker, M1, K1, M1, place marker. Cont in pattern, then patt next round plain.
Increase one stitch next to each marker (that's 2 stitches) every other row until there are 11 stitches between the markers. Work 3 more rounds without increasing. (You can work the gusset in stockinette or in ribbing, your choice.)
Leave the 11 thumb sts on a scrap of yarn, CO 3 sts, and keep going: Work 12 more rounds and then bind off.
Finishing the thumb: work on the 11 stitches from the scrap yarn, and pick up another 5 sts at the thumb joint, along the edge where you CO'd the 3 sts.
Work 5 rounds in ribbing, decreasing 1 st near the thumb joint for the first 3 of those rounds. BO and you're done! Weave in ends, enjoy warmth.