Friday, January 17, 2014

My knit swirl sweater

photo by Dave Ellison

My knit swirl sweater is finished. Only 12 months in the making. It’s beautiful and I feel so good wearing it. Good as in warm, but also as in elegant. The knit, Swirl! pattern by Sandra McIver makes a wonderful sweater. However, this simple pattern has reminded me that I must keep track of every row and I must read the pattern carefully.The sweater is knit all in one piece from the bottom up. The sleeves are knit from back to front and from cuff to cuff as stitches added on to the body. When I began the sleeves, I read K2tog (knit two together) instead of slipping the first edge stitch of each row. That is a sloppy mistake to make. I can’t even imagine how I made it, but I knit 30 rows K2tog at the beginning of each row. My subconscious knew there was something wrong. I kept trying to figure out what shape the cuff of the sleeve would be with all those decreases. However, I didn’t listen to my subconscious until I got to the middle of the cuff and the pattern didn’t tell me to add all those stitches back. It was obvious then that I was doing something wrong. I reread the pattern and saw my mistake immediately. I ripped out those thirty rows and reknit them.

But I wasn’t done with mistakes. I also chose not to shorten my sleeve. Even though I’m only 5’2” tall, I persuaded myself that I had average length arms so that I wouldn’t have to do the calculations for how to shorten the sleeves. When I sewed the last seam on the sweater and slipped it on, the sleeves dangled six inches below my finger tips. Okay, I thought, I really am short. I could cut off the sleeves or turn them back, but I would no longer have an elegant sweater.
The other problem was that even though I had tried on a sweater in this pattern and size at the yarn store, my sweater didn’t fit me well. It had too much sweater in the underarm area, almost a dolman sleeve. There was no way I could wear my sweater under my winter jacket.

I went back to the yarn store for help. “Is it worth taking out the entire sleeves, upper back, shawl collar and upper bodice to correct the sleeve length? Can you help me figure out how to decrease the amount of sweater in my underarms at the same time?”

Now comes the really wonderful thing about buying yarn from someone with whom you have a connection. “Let’s see,” the sales woman said, putting down her knitting and picking up my sweater. “I think that you get your sleeve length by gradually adding stitches at the underarm. The longer the sleeve, the more stitches you add. Let me get my pattern.” She dug through her knitting basket and emerged triumphant. “Yes, to decrease the sleeve length, you add fewer stitches in the underarm. If you rip out half your sweater, and reknit it, with these changes to the pattern, it should fit perfectly.”
And it did.

Not all patterns fit all body sizes and shapes. Not all pattern designers are good designers. Some samples are made to fit the model for photographs by using strategically placed clothespins out of the camera’s view. But my knit swirl sweater, when made by following the pattern, fit me perfectly. It was a joy to knit and is a joy to wear.

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