Monday, January 20, 2014

Trial and Error

I'm usually not the kind of knitter who hesitates to fiddle with patterns, make my own modifications, or just wing it.  But I'm feeling a strong desire at the moment to look up a pattern and make it exactly as written.  You see, I have finally finished this sweater:

Yarn is Ella Rae Country Tweed, and the tale of this sweater is a saga.  The Norse kind, with lots of swordfights, buckets of blood and whimsical gods throwing a wrench into the works. 

It all started with my perfectly understandable desire to knit my husband a sweater.  Something thick and warm, I thought.  A bit oversized, for layering on really cold wintry days.  Simple, plain, in bulky yarn.  A nice quick knit.  (Cue the mocking laughter of the god of chaos.)   

I found the yarn on sale at Webs a year and a half ago, during their spring tent sale.  The tent is crucial to the story, because it was due to the shade of the tent that I failed to realize I had not twenty skeins of a single color, but rather ten skeins each of two different colorways- one black tweed, the other navy blue tweed.  I made the discovery at the point where I had knit ten skeins into the entire body of a sweater and opened the second packet, only to realize the color difference. 

And then I dithered.  I looked to see if there was more yarn available.  Not that I really wanted to buy more- I'd then have enough yarn in the other color for half a sweater.  And I certainly didn't want two sweaters in this yarn.  I was already getting a little tired of it.  (Not the sign of a speedy resolution, you will note.)  However, I eventually formulated a Plan.  I would redesign the sweater in two colors.    The only problem with this plan is that the new design called for me to start in the other color- the one I hadn't been using.  But I gritted my teeth and ripped back the whole body of the sweater, and then reknit it up to the yoke in the blue, threw in a row of black for contrast (a trick I developed knitting mittens out of scrap yarn years ago) and then switched to the darker color.  So far, so good. 

But no sooner had I changed colors and it was time to tackle the neckline.  I'd seen a kid's sweater pattern with the crossover shawl collar, and thought it looked both cozy and well suited to my husband's dislike of things that fit closely around the front of his neck.  (Most of his sweaters are stretched out in the neck from his habit of plucking them away from his throat- the only one that isn't is the one with a zippered placquet- which he never zips, no matter how chilly the day.)

But, not having a pattern, I had no real idea what the right proportions were.  I knit it once, but the collar was too shallow.  I ripped it back to the armscyes and reknit it, starting the neck sooner.  I got past the crossover, but the collar itself needed a lot of extra fullness- probably short rows would have been sensible, but I didn't want the garter rows of the collar to angle-  I wanted them all parallel.  The first attempt was way too tight.  The second, still too tight.   On the third attempt I knit quadruple the stitches I had originally thought it needed and that finally did the trick.  Four garter rows knit into each column of stitches around the neck.  It ripples a bit around the seam at the back of the neck, but that's fine- the fold over of the collar hides it, and the fullness allows the collar to settle comfortably around the neck.  Finally, I was happy with it. 

And once I had the neck finally straight, I could safely knit the sleeves.   But even here, I had take a couple of runs at it before sorting it out.  I wanted to knit from the shoulder down to the cuff (it makes it easy to adjust the length of the sleeves at the end).  But I couldn't get picked-up stitches around the shoulder to look right- the bulky yarn wouldn't lie smoothly.  So I cast on, and knit down a ways, then joined the first sleeve with a seam.   I carefully calculated what seemed like a reasonable rate of decreases to go down the sleeve- but by the time I reached elbow length, it was clear that the sleeve wasn't decreasing nearly fast enough.  I took it back to the color change and tried again, this time finally getting it right. 

Not even photographing the sweater was easy- I spread out the sweater on the floor and then had to remove a fluffy cat several times before he got bored and let me take the shot. 
Biscuit thinks the sweater is cozy.
I'm glad that I persevered until I got something I was satisfied with.   I am reminded that 'trial and error' is a long annoying way to do something.  I have a renewed appreciation for the efforts of pattern designers.   And  I'm really really glad it's finally done. 


  1. Mom teases me becuase I can't seem to knit a pattern without making mods - I'm glad I'm not the only one. But that's the whole reason we knit, right? So we can get a garment that's exactly what we want!

  2. It's beautiful and I know that feeling of, and thank heavens it's *done*!

  3. Oh no!!!!!!!!!!!!! I swear I was laughing WITH you, not AT you. Darn knitting gods!!!