Sunday, October 26, 2008

I Love It When a Shrug Comes Together

I have just about finished this shrug that was my 'shrug of torment' but may become my 'shrug of triumph.'

Long story short, I began a project from the book, Knit Tricks! that involved knitting two long rectangles. Each rectangle is seamed on the top and bottom at its ends, creating a sleeve with an opening that loops around the torso. With two of them you have two sleeves with the torso loops criss-crossing your middle. It looked cute on the mannequin in the book. Well, as I knitted, I realized this would be a bear to get on and off and it was likely that it would be hot, since the torso would be double-wrapped in knit material. So I put it down for a long time. Since I had used such cheap yarn, I saw no point in ripping it to use for another project. So it sat and sat. In my time on Ravelry, I eventually found a new pattern (the Donegal ribbed shrug) for which I could use what I had already knit. It worked, but I heavily modified the pattern leading to the philosophical question, at what point does a design become your own and not simply the modification of a pattern? Who knows.

Yarn: Caron Simply Soft, raspberry
Needles: Size 9 (I use Denise Circulars so I am constantly adapting the length of the cord)
Pattern: heavily modified the Donegal ribbed shrug
CO 60 stitches. Knit in 2 by 5 ribbing; I chose knit 2, purl 5 as my 'right' side. After knitting 10 inches for the abandoned pattern, I switched to the shrug. I decided that I would skip the cuff in the pattern (because I'm lazy and didn't want to knit extra fabric just to roll it over as a cuff. And maybe I didn't like the look, but I think it was the laziness). I was concerned that the sleeve might feel tight around my elbow and upper arm so I increased a bit once the sleeve was about 13 1/2 or 14 inches long.

Increasing in ribbing is an interesting thing. I decided to increase on the RS by doing K1, M1, staying in pattern to the 3rd stitch from the end and then doing an M1. I did three increase rows on the RS, so I ended up with 6 extra stitches (66; sort of ironic because I actually CO 66 for the first project and ripped that out). I continued to work these 66 sts in pattern for the shrug until it looked like I was coming to the opposite upper arm (I kept measuring the shrug against myself to get a feel for when that would happen). For the decreases, I decreased stitches per RS row three times (decreasing a total of 6 stitches). For each decrease row, I knit 2 together, followed the pattern until the last 2 stitches and then ssk.

The shrug ended up being 64 inches long and then I seamed up the sleeves. The sleeves are not a perfect match and the pattern does go off course where the seam occurs. If you want to plan for a perfect match, go for it. It was too much for me and I just don't care.

I decided I wanted the ends of the scarf to taper and I wanted that to be a result of binding off, so I decided I would do the scarf in two parts and seam it together at the middle (which would be at the back of my neck). At one time I thought I would simply seam the middle, at other times I thought I would save myself the effort of seaming and simply pick up the stitches and knit it out the other way. I went with picking up the stitches and knitting it the other way. Don't do this, it is stupid, difficult and you end up with a shift in your knit and purl columns that cannot be reconciled. On the up side, you get an Escher-esque join at the back of your neck. I have long hair, so it won't be seen anyway when I'm wearing it. But learn from my mistakes, just seam that sucker.

CO 58. Knit in 2x5 ribbing for about 30". Again, I measured against myself, holding the CO end at the back of my neck and seeing if it was long enough to cross my torso and meet in the center of my back. At about 30", I began decreases to keep the taper. I decreased at the beginning and ending of every row. I began with knit2together and ended with ssk. I decreased until I had 16 stitches and then bound off.

After the mess that was my picking up stitches to knit out the other way, I followed the pattern until it was about 15" from the center and then started the vertical slit in the center for the keyhole. This was a modification to the pattern, which called for a horizontal keyhole which I didn't like. To make the vertical keyhole, I knit in pattern to the center, held the other half of the stitches on a holder and knit out one side for 5 inches, setting those aside. Then I picked up the other side and knit that out to match and then joined them all together again. The keyhole was about 5 inches long and then I continued in pattern. I thought it looked floppy, so I later reinforced it with single crochet around the keyhole. This reminded me too much of a Georgia O'Keefe painting and I hated the way the scarf look stuck through the keyhole so I ripped out the crochet and seamed the keyhole. My advice is to skip the keyhole. I think I'm beginning to hate the keyhole concept, which I once thought was so clever.

I finished the other side of the scarf and followed the same pattern for decreasing and then edged the scarf and the bottom of the shrug in single crochet to firm it up and keep it from rolling. To finish the shrug, I picked up stitches along the bottom of the shrug (54 sts) and knit an inch or so of 2x2 ribbing. Then I seamed this ribbing to the scarf.

The anticipated buttonholes ended up being wrong, so I moved them. I had initially thought I would put buttons and button holes on the ends of the scarf but in holding is up to myself, it created a huge gap. But moving the location of the buttons and buttonholes will create a nice, shapely fit. It's all in the geometry, baby.

I added the buttons based on what looked best when I was fitting it. I also knit in buttonholes but found that only one of them was correctly placed. The other hole I seamed up and then added a button loop by chainstitching and single crocheting. However, when I closed the back, it had an ugly gap. So much for planning.

As an interim fix, I chained a cord on each end of the scarf, between the buttons and buttonholes and tied a bow.

I was an improvement, but I felt I could do better.

This is my final answer. I removed the buttons, kept that center tie and added cords where the top button and button hole had been. I'm satisfied with this solution. Buttons would have been fine, I really just need to put that bottom button higher.

So maybe this "pattern" stinks, but this is a 'go with the flow' garment that you fit to yourself as you knit it. No slavishly, blindly following a pattern because I'm not giving you enough of one to slavishly follow. You can thank me later. Just call me the Swedish Chef of sweater design.

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