No, it’s not a spello! The word I wanted is ‘runes,’ as in the ancient Viking written characters.
Last spring I was working on a stealth project — stealth just because I wanted to keep it close to the vest. This sweater was a labor of love and an homage to a very talented designer: Elsebeth Lavold.
Elsebeth Lavold created a special design for her travelling exhibit “Knitting Along the Viking Trail.” The exhibit made its way to the Vesterheim Museum in Decorah, Iowa last fall and I was thrilled to travel there with good friend Kathy to see it (I posted about it here). The REAL reason I wanted to go was to see the Holy Grail of Lavold knitting in person: Brage (aka, The Dragon Sweater). I even called the Vesterheim ahead of time to make sure the “dragon sweater” was indeed part of the exhibit! I wanted to see it because I wanted to knit it.
There is no specific pattern for Brage. Part of the quest is making the pattern your own. When there, I was able to photograph it in some detail and get really up close and personal.
Several Ravelers have finished their own versions of Brage, one of whom is Dicksie. Her sweater was very inspiring and her notes extremely helpful.
The next step of the quest? Finding the right yarn. The original Brage was knit in a fairly large gauge (4.5 sts/inch) with very “wooly” yarn. I also think it had probably stretched out somewhat in its travels. I wanted to use something in a finer gauge. Because it was knit in a golden color, I kept seeing in that way in my mind’s eye, but decided to go a different direction. I finally chose Shepherd’s Wool by Stonehedge in color Berries. It is gorgeous 100% wool and butter soft. I used it for Alexandria, as well. I knit it using US 5’s for the ribbing and US 6’s for the body. I wanted it to be firmly knit to make the cables pop.
Many of the components for the design can be found in Lavold’s book, Viking Patterns for Knitting. The main cable, runes, and the head of the dragon are found there. There is a cool website that translates words into rune characters, which I used to create the name I placed on the front of my sweater: “lv2knit” — my knitting moniker! Lavold’s version says Brage.
The next step was putting the pieces together into a pattern that would fit moi. The actual knitting went smoothly. The last piece was the dragon itself, which is appliqued onto the front. No pattern for the dragon, but the photos and Dicksie’s notes served as a guide.
Here are all the pieces of the Brage puzzle put together:
Brage by Elsebeth Lavold; Rendered by Susan Rainey, Shepherd’s Wool in Berries
I grafted both shoulders (which I never do except in fair isle because sweaters need structure), so I added a strip of bias tape along the “seamline” on the inside for stability.
I used French knots to create the spine and added a bead the same color as the sweater to create the eye. I really had to putter with the sewing to get it the way I wanted!
This motif reminds me of a tattoo because of where it is placed on the shoulder! This was not in the Vikings Book, but a Raveler charted it (some corrections were necessary, so I recharted it). I placed my motif closer to the wrist because I did not want it in the crook of my elbow.
And here is a close up of my name. I did not use “Susan” because it looked too much like the English word, and I wanted it to be a bit more cryptic. I added two French knots for the “two” because there wasn’t a character for the number. Yes, I know the two dots are not in the correct place!
Besides the dragon, the fussiest part was getting the ribbing to work. I wanted it NOT to cinch in a lot, so I used a k2, p2 rib and decreased the 2 purls down to one on the last rib row (except at the main cable). The ribbing also had to line up with the main cable, which took some figuring.
So there it is. The quest is complete. And worth every minute of knitting, worth every mile of driving. I love this sweater. I really love this sweater! It fits like a dream. It’s soft and yet feels like “real wool” (which it is!).
So my dragon tale comes to an end! I entered it in this year’s Minnesota State Fair and will see how it did in a couple of days. But no matter how it fares, I am truly happy with this project.
PS — Tiger is available if anyone is interested! 😉