20 January 2008

37 Reasons that I'm NOT a Master Knitter

I knew someone who I would call a Knitting Artist or Master Knitter, Virginia van Santen. Her earliest memory was when she was 2, sitting on the back of her mother's bike, knitting. She worked in the same yarn store as my brother in Edmonton and knew everything about knitting. She died her own yarns specifically for projects (and to sell) to be able to expand her palette of colours. My brother and I would always go to her to ask her about problems, new techniques, fibres whenever we came across them. Really she was a living knitting expert. She could rattle off the proper recipe for socks, sweaters, mitts off from memory like nobody's business.

The coolest things that she would make would be these fabulous knitted boxes/bowls. Stranded with her own dyed yarns and knit in the round, she would start at the inside bottom work her way up, turn for the top edge and knit all the way back down to the bottom again. Some even had matching sculptural lids. She never used patterns, would make up her own regardless of stranded colourwork or knitted lace. Virginia was a Master Knitter.

And though I'm able to knit lace, and make a mean stranded colourwork mitten, I'm no Virginia.

But the main reason that I wouldn't call myself a Master Knitter or associate 'Artist' with my skills as a knitter is because I have yet to make a sweater that fits just how I like. The first sweater I ever made, I don't even wear. The next two are in time outs (as some may have noticed on the right side) and the third, well, let's just say the body's going to be going back to ribbing.

That's why I took NO knitting with me on holiday. Nothing. Not one skein of yarn or pair of double points entered into my luggage the ENTIRE trip. But that's not to say I didn't have knitting on the brain. I was spending the quality time away from the knitting to figure out what to do to fix the sweater angst I've been having. This may be the first time you're hearing of it, but let me tell you, there's been angst. And it's been tightening my gauge for months.

Let's take a look at the gallery of misbehaving sweaters:

1. Illfittin' Sweater, 2. Too Short Sleeves, 3. Pregancy Pouch, 4. Adds two extra inches

This sweater is made out of beautiful Rowan tweedy goodness and cost a pretty penny. I figured if I was going to take the time to make a sweater, I might as well use something I liked. And at the time I had very few expenses and a well paying University job. But I should have been more discriminating when choosing a pattern.

The sweater has been adapted to be narrower, longer, and to get rid of the drop sleeves and STILL could use more improvements. The gauge is too loose. The front pocket should have 2-3 rows less than the sweater behind so that it doesn't pooch open and add more to the bellular area. There's at least 2 more inches that could come out of the side. I may have been sporting a little more poundage at the time I knit this, but this was never a fitted garment. The sweater could use 2 inches more length and 1.5 inches longer on the sleeves. Oh and that white stripe? It's a slightly smaller gauge. And when I don't wear a cream t-shirt underneath, you can see (or read) what's underneath.

Plus this mo-fo is WAAAAAAARM. Really it's an outer layer Spring/Fallish sort of sweater, not the deal with the winter thermostat wars at work weight that I was going for. That's what you get with worsted weight 100% wool I guess.

Next, whatever happened to the Noro Surprise Jacket?

1. Bodice Neckline, 2. The Back, 3. The Front, 4. But the sleeves are good

Well I'll tell you. In the second (or is it the third?) reknitting of this sweater, I over compensated in the creating a better fitting sleeve and rather than start all over again (again), I decided to be smarter and knit in some short rowish darts or 'speed stripes' as I termed them. What I didn't consider was how these speed stripes would change the neckline from a simple square necked cardigan to a Renaissance Festival ready bodice necklined sweater (not that there's anything wrong with that, it's simply not my style). But the sleeves are perfection right down to the colour transitions that the yarn gave me.

So frustrated with the having finished this sweater for the second (or is it the third?) time, I put the misbehaving knit into a time out. Theoretically all it needs is some buttons & blocking, but some careful consideration of how to get this knit to behave have left it in a time out for a while now. I am the sort of crazy that would completely rip it out for a third (or is it fourth?) time and start all over again, but then I'm pretty sure something else would go wrong. Or maybe I just wouldn't like how the colour on the sleeves worked out.

Instead, I think taking it back to wear the 4 inches of neckline stitches are put on holders and knit a few inches more. Then reducing the neck by 1 or 2 inches would probably work much better with the amount of extra neck that's added by the 'speed stripes.' At least that's what I'm thinking. But I'm still not quite ready to launch into the shenanigans quite yet. So Time Out is where it shall remain for the moment.

How about the progress on the Sideways Pullover?


Also recently placed in a time out, this sweater has some problems as you can see. I was worried how it was going to turn out, so stole Sharon's strategy of seaming while knitting to see how this was going to fit and was not happy with what I saw. The sleeve is too long. The body of the sweater is too short. The bottom ribbing is picked up and knit down from where it currently ends and I'd have to knit about 4 inches to get it to a length that I like and that's NOT the look I was going for. Oh AND the sweater body is too narrow. I'd like a little more ease please.

You can see that when blocked flat (which was in my plans) the brioche expands enough to add the length the sweater is lacking (yay for blocking!) but I've knit the sweater at a tight enough gauge that I don't think it will want to stay blocked out, or block as much as I'd like (boo for tight gauge!). So looks like a restart is needed.

But that's not where we're going to be stopping with this examination.

The length of the sleeve and general sleeve appearance could be fixed with a simple stitched down hem with a lovely contrasting colour in a lighter weight yarn (Briggs & Little Sport anyone?) and I think I'll begin with a provisional cast on to allow for just that.

In terms of adding more length, I could follow the pattern more closely and add some more rows before & after the neck part. Instead, I think I'm going to go for more of a boat neck/cowly sort of thing and knit the neck itself longer. If I were to continue in this gauge I would rip back on the front & backs to just before casting off the neck and add an inch or two. But as I'm pretty sure about going for a looser gauge, I think I'll make the neck a little taller too. I think a little more cowl won't drive me crazy.

But what's the status on the Pink Lopi Raglan?

Well the body's all knit up. But measuring the width I've realised it's not wide enough and no amount of magic blocking can fix that. I'm not even sure I could physically get it on my body and am certain that I'm not comfortable putting what that would look like onto the internets. All you need to know is that it's too narrow, the gauge is way too tight and the ribbing flips up even just as I'm knitting.

Instead I give you two perfect sleeves!

The power of a little bit of smart knitting, I spent time measuring how wide I REALLY wanted it to be at the wrist and how much ease I REALLY wanted around the biggest part of my arm. I plugged those measurements into the gauge to figure out the initial cast on and the target number of stitches. Then I took the length of the sleeve to the underarm and figured out how frequently I would have to increase to get to the target amount of stitches in the right number of rows. This probably isn't going to mean much to some of you, I just wanted you to know how hard (or not hard) it was.

The big change I made from knitting the sweater body to the sleeves (and probably why they are so perfect) is that I went up by 0.5 mm in needle size after the ribbing. No flipping and perfect gauge make these sleeves perfection. Even trying to wrangle an octopus can't get me down on these sleeves. I'm so high on the now completed perfect sleeves that I'm about ready to re-tackle the sweater body and maybe even start on the Time Out pile.

Some of you may be asking 'But what about the Cable Eyelet Ribbed Cardigan? Is it also been misbehaving and in a time out?'
Nope, it's coming along just fine. Like a great book, I'm in no rush to finish it. Instead I pick it up here and there and savour every stitch. Every yarn over, knit 2 together, and purl is so delightful that I don't mind making it last. With the gauge of yarn that I'm using it's not hard to do.

3 comments:

Pinneguri said...

One day when the good Mrs. Virginia woke up at the age of - let's say - 12, she was master knitter, and never again in her 109 years life knit anything remotely beyond 112%. Magic.

Please, stop whining and see what you have done and all the great ideas you have. I? Whenever unhappy about it I leave it, and will never ever learn like Mrs. Virginia: Do and fail, do again and fail less. And sometimes make masterwork that other people remember for the rest of their life.
Just like you.

jane said...

For the record, it took a team of people to come up with the above solutions, but just one person to make the screw ups.

But yes, alright, I'll stop my whining already...I can't guarantee not to stop cringing and squirming though.

AliP said...

Those are some mighty fine sleeve there, darlin'!
I'm finally on the flap of sock #2 and the sweater that never ends has almost a sleeve and almost a body. I don't think I am so much cut out for the commitment that is "sweater".