Saturday, April 11, 2015

SWEATING THE SWEATER

I've been knitting for about five years and in that time I've done countless pairs of socks, scarves, ear warmers, and hats.  I've done a handful of afghans, lots of bears for the Mother Bear Project, and a few pair of mittens.  I'm always knitting something and have developed a crafty form of ADD which causes the inability to simply watch t.v. or a movie without knitting needles in my hands (a fact which embarrasses my daughter at a movie theater to no end).

The February Baby Sweater
The one thing I had not managed was an adult sweater.  I've done baby sweaters and am particularly fond of Elizabeth Zimmermann's February Baby Sweater from The Knitter's Workshop.  The thought of jumping from something tiny and relatively quick to something that would span my girth was a little daunting.  Last fall, though, I decided to cast on for a sweater of my own.  Six months later I have knit (and unraveled) five of them.  I knit a sixth that is still intact and I just finished the seventh.  Ding!  Ding!  Ding! I think we have a winner.

This gull pattern would have been
so pretty in an adult size.
I'd love to show you photos of my misadventures in sweater-making, but each time I started unraveling the second I realized it was a dud, figuring the quicker I turned the malformed sweater into wound balls of yarn the less time I'd spend thinking how many hours I wasted making it.  Because of my love of the aforementioned Zimmermann baby sweater, I wanted to make an adult version a lady developed.  (Free pattern found here.)  I made it and it was too large.  Not only too large, it seemed to hang off me as attractively as an over sized hospital gown...made of wool yarn.  Immediately unraveled.

All that remains of
The Tomten Jacket.
Next was my attempt at another Zimmermann pattern, The Tomten Jacket.  (Found in Knitting Without Tears or through Schoolhouse Press here.)  I had made a child's version for Foghorn when she was smaller and she got a fair amount of use out of it considering it was about 10% too small and she grew quickly.  Anyway, I knit this baby up in the same burgundy yarn I'd used on the February Lady Sweater above, but added a couple stripes of rose colored yarn around the bottom since this thing was nothing but garter stitch and I thought might be too plain.  I finished.  It was huge.  Now, for the non-knitters let me explain about gauge.  When you see a gauge listed in a pattern, it tells you how many stitches/rows per inch the pattern is based on.  Smart people make a test swatch and see if their gauge matches the pattern.  If not, they need to change the needle size until the correct gauge is achieved.  On the first two sweaters I did not make a swatch, but I did check the gauge after I'd knit a portion of the sweater itself and in both cases it seemed correct.  In the case of The Tomten Jacket, it wasn't just that it was too big, but that I misunderstood that this thing has super deep arm holes, so  when I measured from my underarm to where the sweater should end, my calculation didn't take into account that the armhole starts a good four or five inches below the armpit.  Therefore, this thing was that much longer.  Um, yeah.  It looked less like a sweater and more like a horseman's duster.  I realized, though, besides being too big, this thing was just not going to be my style.  Too boxy and those giant sleeves just weren't going to work for me.  Frogged again.  (For the non-knitter, "frogged" mean unraveling your work.  Rip-it.  Rip-it.)

My third Shalom.  I was
so sick of knitting this color by
then I never even bothered
to unravel it.
The third attempt was the Shalom Sweater, an extremely popular pattern out there on the Interwebs.  (Available free here.)  The problem with the Shalom Sweater is that it's written by an individual, not a professional pattern-maker, and has directions just for her size.  This pattern is for a bust measurement of 32-34". Ummmm, I think my chest was bigger than that at birth.  (Sorry, Mom.)  I found various people on Ravelry (bless them) who had resized the pattern and tried to find one that seemed to roughly match my measurements.  I did.  I knitted it.  It was huge.  Seeing a pattern here?  I decided I would be brilliant and re-knit the same pattern but with smaller needles.  Dud.  Then, and even I'm questioning why I wasn't stuck in a rubber room at this point, I unraveled it and knit it a third time.  And it was a disaster.  Okay, so maybe the Shalom Sweater was not for me.

Hey, it's at least wearable.
I gave up for a few months and then started scouring Ravelry for a new cardigan.  I came upon a Leisure Arts pattern (found here) that, based on the model's jewelry and clothing, probably dates from the 80s.  It was a long, simple, v-neck cardigan.  Not as intricate as my other attempts, which is what I wanted.  Something straightforward and relatively simple.  I was a good little soldier and knitted a gauge swatch.  Still, my tendency to knit big made me go a size down on the pattern.  I finished a week or so ago and I wasn't completely displeased.  It's not overly attractive, I admit.  My husband looked at me as we prepared to leave for my mother's and said, "Aren't you going to change into something else?"  Sensing my wrath (or perhaps catching a glimpse of my Charles Manson eyes) he quickly added, "It's a nice sweater...to wear around the house.  But why don't you wear something else to go somewhere?"  I actually considered this one a minor success.  It's a little big (cursed again), but it fits like a sweater and it looks like the pattern picture and I even managed to sew all those seams competently.  I slop around the house in it, but it wasn't the home run I was hoping for.

Fast forward to a week ago when, pumped up on Easter candy, I headed to Ravelry again.  I found My Favorite Cardigan from Fancy Tiger Crafts (pattern here).  It was a very simple sweater.  No frills, no lacy pattern, no pockets.  Just a basic cardigan.  The pattern description mentioned that it was adjustable and there were several points during the process when it could be checked for fit.  Revolutionary!  I downloaded the pattern and used the JoAnn gift card and cash given to me by my mother and sister in my Easter baskets to get some yarn.  I so lacked faith that this would work out that I chose Red Heart acrylic yarn in the color Grey Heather, which I'm currently using on a charity project for the Arkansas Special Olympics.  I figured when this sweater-making session ended in tragedy, I'd use the unraveled yarn for the S.O. kids.  By some miracle, that turned out to be unnecessary.

Vintage buttons stolen from my mother.
They were still in package and were originally $.15.
This one actually turned out right!  It's not fancy and it's (dare I admit it) a little on the small side.  I was so certain I would knit it too big, as I had every other one, that I sized down.  Turns out that was a mistake.  My gauge was spot on.  Technically I could button the little darling, but it would look too much like a sausage in a casing for my taste so I'll just let it hang open until I lose those ten or fifteen pounds (which I'm sure is going to happen any year now).  Yes, I made some errors.  It's about an inch too long, as I misunderstood part of the instructions for the border.  And I ended up not liking the look of five buttons on it after I made five button holes.  Pretend you don't see those extra ones.  All in all, though, I'm happy.

Bingo!


Of course, this is the sweater that caused someone-who-will-remain-nameless to shout, "Ahhhh!  Ugly sweater alert!"  Now I know what hand-knit goodness to make the little darling for Christmas.  She didn't really want that new iPod anyway.

2 comments:

lillianscupboard said...

I thought the pink sweater was OK except it was too big, but this one is perfect. The color, the style, the size - everything is just right.

Nancy Susanna Breen said...

That's a really smart-looking sweater, having seen it in person as well as on here. I'll have to re-think my resistance to sweaters as autumn approaches and I start considering Christmas gift requests. (I liked the pinkish sweater, but as I said Sunday, it's a bit too Holly-Hunter-in-Broadcast-News for 2015.)