Monday, April 07, 2008

My First Sweater

I find myself pondering the question of why knit sweaters. You can buy perfect, machine-knit sweaters in a variety of styles, colors, and sizes. Why bother knitting one yourself? If you think I have an answer, you're wrong. The reason I knit this sweater is my mom de-stashed something like 12 balls of this yarn. I think the sweater took about 6. I wasn't sure what to do with it. I'm not a variegated yarn kind of gal, but I love turquoise so I gave it a shot. What did I have to lose? A whole bunch of free yarn. And time.
After doing extensive research for an appropriate pattern and reading all about yarn and knitting, I found a pattern that worked. I needed a simple stitch since the variegated yarn creates enough interest on it's own. No lace, no cables, just plain stockinette. The yarn is half cotton, half acrylic and I was worried about it stretching out from the weight of the cotton and it's inelastic nature (I don't know whether being half acrylic tempers this much, one would think it would, but I'm not experienced enough to know.) I found a pattern on the Drops site for a bolero jacket, perfect, it has room the stretch without swallowing me up. Plus, as I'm comfortably situated in my late 30s, I'd like to show off my waist as long as I have one.
This was a pretty easy knit. I've now accepted that in knitting (and perhaps in all things), I must be willing to rip back when I make a mistake. No more "damn the torpedos, full speed ahead" (my usual m.o.). Mistakes are little signs that something is wrong and it doesn't take all that long to fix. It's just demoralizing, but before you know it you've ripped back and are moving forward once again.
The knitty gritty (there is more on Ravelry):
Needles: size 9, I use Denise Circulars
Yarn: Sirdar Spree Chunky - what's the weight, bulky? worsted? I don't know but I got gauge, which is how I found this pattern. Drops allows you to pattern search on gauge.
This was my first sweater and I've only been knitting 6 months, so I didn't bring a whole lot of information with me. It took me a few tries to understand the pattern. Based on the measurements in the pattern, I choose to make a size Large. After the first few rows, I realized it would be too big, so I ripped back and made a size Small. Even though I got gauge (and my knitting showed I continued to be dead on), this sweater was knitting out 2 inches larger than the measurements in the pattern. I don't know why, maybe it's the yarn I used, I did not use the recommended yarn. Who knows. When I finished, I felt the sweater was a little tight across the upper arms and back on the first wearing. On the second, it felt completely comfortable. Who knows what is going to happen to this thing with wear and washing.
Sleeves: Since I have so much yarn and this sweater is intended for wearing in the cool early spring, I did not want short sleeves. Because of concern for the stretching of the yarn, I did not want long sleeves. I shot for 3/4 sleeves and that's pretty much what I got. Being a newbie, I wasn't quite sure about increasing and decreasing and didn't want to bother. I had fallen in love with some bell sleeves I saw in other patterns and dreamed of doing that. But I thought I should keep is simple. So I took the widest measurement of the sleeve (where the pattern joins it to the body) and knit that the full length of the sleeve. I'm happy with how it came out. It was a lot of knitting in the round, but it was easy and I used the two circular needle method of knitting small diameter tubes. Not that the sleeve was all that small, but small enough that using a singular circular would have been difficult, if not impossible. When I first joined the sleeves to the body, I needed to work with a second circular again as I approached the arm because it was so tight in that area. After a few rows, though, there was enough room to knit on just one circular.
Neckline/Buttonband: I ignored the pattern directions to hold the 5 stitches of button band on each side while knitting the rest of the sweater. I continued to knit the first and last 5 stitches in garter. It made the top of the sweater a little funky, but I've got no problem wearing a sweater that looks handknit and has imperfections in it. It strikes me as very human. When I came to the last rows of the sweater, I changed to garter stitch so that the back collar would match the waistbands and side. I tried decreasing within the first 5 stitches of each side every other row to taper it off -- I only did this for 5 rows. It looks okay, but I could have done better. But I was not about to attempt knitting out the collar seperately and attaching it. I'm pretty sure that would have looked worse.
Buttons: I made the yarn-over button-holes but though the bolero was a little snug to button in front. Plus, yarn-over button-holes are sloppy looking (so the knitting books tell me). I decided to chain stitch some ties from the yarn. I inserted one chain through the 2 button-holes on one side and then took the other chain and inserted that through 2 places to correspond. One each side, I tied the two ends together so I can't accidentally pull the chain out. However, neither tie is sewn in so I can remove them and replace them with ribbon or some other fixture. To close the bolero, I simply tie the ties in a bow -- it creates a double-bow look because each tie is doubled.