This cowl was the result of my needing something to keep from fidgeting during a language course last year. As was usual in the autumn, I started carrying yarn and needles around in my bag to keep my hands occupied. This led to my friend wanting to pick up knitting again and asking for a simple ...
I just finished making this. It is my first sweater. It is also the first full thing I’ve ever knit. I’m rather happy with the result. It actually looks more boobtastic on me because I tend to wear my belts a bit higher (short torso and all) and have a bit more curve than this form does.
So my recent crafting timeline looks something like this.
Two months ago, I visited my buddies in Turku. We visited a local yarn store and talked a lot about yarn, crochet, sheep, and general winter craft stuff. I returned home with a deep need to Make Things again. I immediately dug out my yarn stash and crochet hooks, which hadn’t seen the light in nearly a decade, and started churning out small project after project until my hands felt like they were ready to fall off. I also started using my Ravelry account for the first time in months, and ended up with a to-do queue that would probably clothe a small island nation.
A month and a week ago, I went to visit my very first Finnish friend and expressed regrets over never really learning to knit. She, figuring there was no time like the present, whipped out some needles and a ball of yarn and patiently demonstrated Continental knitting for me right there and then. I think she might have had to correct every other stitch I made in those first few agonizingly slow and clumsy minutes, but I finally saw where everything was supposed to go. Something actually clicked and made sense this time around, probably because I’d been scrutinizing stitch structures so closely for the past month. Later that week, I went out and bought my first pair of straight knitting needles. This was quickly followed by a pair of circulars.
After doing a few stitch sampler blocks for my in-progress patchwork afghan, I went for my first project. The first thing you’re supposed to knit is a scarf right? Well, I tried. It wasn’t meant to be. Figuring it as an all-or-nothing sort of deal, I set my sights instead on the real goal of learning to knit — full-sized garments. Finding the simplest-yet-still-wearable sweater pattern possible, I cast on and tried my luck. The first week of sweater-making went well, right up until I reached the neckline and botched the entire thing by not understanding what “add second ball of yarn” meant. The entire project had to be frogged because my stitches were too tight to pick up after dropping and I learned a hard lesson in monitoring my stitch tension. Some time during all of that, I mail-ordered a cute little kit of KnitPro interchangeable circulars.
Starting over again, the sweater grew a lot faster since I knew what I was doing and my hands had developed enough muscle memory for me not to worry as much with my stitches. I learned to increase and decrease. I learned how to join yarn by felting so I wouldn’t leave a messy knot in my wool garments. I learned how to add a second ball of yarn so that my neck hole could actually fit a head through it. Ten days after my second start, with only a few further fumbles, I had an entire sweater. Sure, there were a few inconsistencies — I used a needle half a size larger than recommended because the store where I shopped didn’t carry the size I needed at the time. I compensated by making the sweater a size smaller. Turns out I could have gone two sizes smaller, but live and learn. I also misread the pattern a bit and ended up with a garter stitch side seam stripe rather than just an edging along the bottom vents. This ended up looking like a nice design detail, actually, and helped hide my less-than stellar handseaming. Chose to not add a garter stitch cuff to the wrists, since the arms were already quite long on their own and I rather liked the rolled edges. I ended up with something closer to a tunic — a few inches more and it could have been a mini-dress, really. Done up with a belt, big necklace and leggings, it actually fits right in with the stuff currently in stores. Go figure.
The real kicker? All the lecturing I got from teachers back in school was right, much as I hate to admit it. Blocking does wonders for smoothing out the details. This was how the sweater looked immediately after finishing. It was all fuzzy and smelled like five different hand lotions plus two cats. The stitches were kinda bumpy and the hems were flipping up in odd places. I’m usually far too impatient to block things neatly, so I tossed the thing in the washing machine on wool setting, figuring it would have to get a taste of what I was going to put it through normally. I put it onto the dressform to block dry and come back in the morning to find a light, comfortable sweater tunic with lovely smooth stitches! This might just be enough to convince me to hand-block my next sweater, if it comes in pieces. Woohoo!
You know that purple wool pullover I’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks? The one I’ve aptly named the What Could Go Wrong sweater? After getting more than halfway through this past weekend, I had to completely frog it and start over because I seriously messed up the neck hole (no, really — did something weird and turned it into a keyhole… and didn’t notice until four rows later). Why didn’t I just pull it apart past the neck, you ask? Because I had knitted the whole thing so tight that the yarn shrunk back in on itself and I couldn’t pick up the stitches using even the smallest needle size without having the next three loops disappear Lesson learned. (PS. Yes, I am using my new Knit Pro circulars with purple acrylic needles and a purple cord. Completely coincidental, but the color coding is kinda hilarious.)
I started over this past Monday, making sure to knit a lot looser this time. The good news is that I’m 1/2 done with the front again (it’s going a lot faster now that I know what I’m doing and what to look for), and this time around it looks a lot more uniform and neater, since my hands have learned a lot since I first picked up needles two weeks ago. Fingers crossed that I’ll have something wearable by Easter, which was the original deadline in my head for this thing.
To make myself feel slightly better about this minor sweater mishap, I’ve decided to post some pictures of my favorite sweater purchases over the last few years. This should also help remind me why I’m spending so much time and energy doing all of this — so I can start designing and making all the pretty stuff in my head. And, y’know, not pay as much for all the stuff I see in the catalogs. Hey, learning patternmaking has kept me from impulse-buying tons of dresses and blouses over the past decade, so it might work.
Click for bigger versions, because the details are super cute. Sparrow’s Cape Coat Cardigan was one of my outerwear purchases in December of 2009 and I still adore it. It was perfect on its own for mild-but-soggy California winters and fit very well (once the cape was removed) under thicker coats when we did our holiday Finland visit. I’m using it more as an autumn/spring jacket now that I’ve got a larger array of outerwear choices, but it still makes me happy seeing this in the coat rack. The color is quite unique — a mustardy-gold just starting to turn to olive green and the felted wool is utterly soft and non-itchy. Details such as the long ribbing on the lower arm, cute contrast lining, roomy pockets, detachable cape and shapely back seaming made it worth paying full Anthro price (which I probably only do on a couple of items a year). Like most of the stuff I tend to fall for, the shape is not entirely modern, but not particularly dated (though with a definite dash of historical influence), which means it will hopefully be usable for a long time to come.
Seems everything around me at the moment is half finished. Probably because I’ve thrown myself into a pile of larger projects with no instant gratification in sight. Boo.
First, the saga of the purple yarn. I bought a few skeins of this pretty lavender wool to make my first full-sized knit project with, y’see. Then I started working on what should have been a simple eternity scarf pattern which went horribly wrong. Wrong beyond the possibility of fixing — as in, there were checkerboard spots where there were suppose to be stripes wrong. Luckily, I had only done perhaps 10 rows at that point, so it was frogged.
Upon starting over, I decided that I might as well dive right in and do the one thing that I’d learned knitting to do — make clothing. It took a while to track down a pattern simple enough for an utter beginner to try, but that was accomplished. The thing is, I know myself well enough to understand that this huge burst of obsessive energy at the beginning of learning something new will only last for so long. So why not use it for a big project that would otherwise inch along for months, buried beneath a pile of fifty other projects, once the shiny novelty of knitting wears off?
To my delight, this time the pattern actually worked. After just a couple inches of the front panel, it was obvious that all the measurements would work out just fine. Sure, this sweater will probably end up rather lumpy and homely due to my irregular n00b stitching, but it’ll be wearable and it’ll be MINE.
As of Monday morning, I have 1/3 of the front done and should reach the sleeves by tonight. I’m having some tension problems, it seems, because I’m rowing out here and there. It’s sporadic, though, so I’ll have to observe more closely to see what’s triggering it. It’s exciting to see a garment grow in such a neat and orderly manner, though — unlike the scary malignant tumor-type growth that the first attempt with this yarn turned out.
In other news, I stole a cardboard box from the cats’ play pile and blocked my afghan squares this weekend. This is news because I have not blocked anything since my first week of design school, when we were required to by a teacher peering over our shoulders. So the fact that my lazy butt is actually starting to block things again probably is a good sign that I might be taking this stuff seriously. Woohoo!
Neat little stack of 10 6-inch afghan sampler squares. Of course, I’ll need another 90 of these things to make the blanket I’m planning, but it’s a good start. It should be ready by next winter