The Sweater

It’s been quite the week.  So, I’ll tell you about this sweater.

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Quince & Co. Puffin in Pea Coat

 

Back in September, the Fringe Association’s Karen Templer started an Improvised Top-Down knitalong ( apparently “knitalong” is one word – I don’t understand either).  I jumped on board, excited to take on the challenge of knitting a sweater without a pattern, and learn about sweater construction in a “next level’ sort of way.  As Nancy at my local yarn shop once told me “you are the master of your knitting,” and this seemed like a solid step toward actually believing that sentiment. Now, I’m pretty proud that I was able to plan, knit, and finish a wearable garment that is (almost) my size. It’s a pretty empowering thing for a knitter, and I’m so glad I took part. This sweater, however, had issues from the get-go.

First, I neglected to account for my button band stitches. I realized my error early on,  but instead of ripping and fixing the stitch count when I was only an inch into the sweater (sighs deeply, rolls eyes) I pressed on – deciding to pick-up stitches and add the band at the end.  Certainly, I assured myself, everything would be fine…

I re-knit the sleeves a time or two, trying to determine out how fast to decrease. Clearly, I never figured it out.  I think part of my sleeve issue was perhaps related to my yoke depth, but I could also just be making things up to sound like I know what I’m talking about.  I love the ribbed section that makes up the oversized hem, but when I pretend it’s buttoned, the hem has the added effect of making the top half look like a mushroom with a wonky neckline. Turns out that shape isn’t super flattering.

There were obviously fit issues, but I finished the sweater anyway, crossed my fingers, wove in ends, and blocked it in the hopes that it’s problems would magically be remedied.  After drying for three days it was clear that this sweater would in no way be okay to leave as is. Frumpy town has no place here. Something must be done.

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Did I mention that my initial plan was a for a fitted sweater with limited positive ease? Such a rookie.  This past week I stared at this ill-fitting sweater, sulked in the frustration of efforts gone awry, contemplated what should or should not be done, and came to a few conclusions…

You can’t ignore the facts.  This sweater does not fit. I could tell you it does – insist that what you and I see is in fact the finest sweater in the history of sweaters, but facts are facts.  There are no alternatives.

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I knew what I wanted – what I valued and expected this cardigan to become. What I ended up with does not reflect what I hoped for.  I could pretend that it’s fine, hang it in my closet for the next four years and ignore it’s issues and lack of effectiveness, but it won’t change the fact and I need a cardigan in my wardrobe that works for my every day life.

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A little extra fabric (and a few bulldog puppy hairs) in the front…

There are those who would look at this sweater and tell me it’s just fine.  I need to get over my expectations and wear it.  What do I have to complain about when I have a sweater that will keep me warm? But it isn’t right, and I would know that every time I put it on.  Starting over will have it’s frustrations, but I’m doing it anyway… it will be worth the extra effort in the end.

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Since I don’t require a cardigan that I can fit body armor under, I’ve decided to rip and re-knit.  I am capable of making a positive change – I can rethink, reshape, and recreate this thing that’s gone wrong. If I’m not sure of the next step, or how to go about solving a particular problem, I know there is an incredible community out there, ready to lend a hand.  First, I’ll plan – you see, before I rip apart something that “works,” I think it’s important to have a better option already worked out.

Deep breath. Here we go.

 

Pet Peeves & Soft Pants

I was in the middle of instruction.  Second graders had gathered around the rug, and I was gently trying to steer conversation to a place where the kids would miraculously make the connection I needed them to as we learned about solfege – that’s “do, re, mi” and so on for the general public (note: if you are imagining me singing and dancing around my classroom like Julie Andrew’s while being followed by immaculately groomed children with excellent pitch, this is not QUITE accurate).  I asked a big leading question and got nothing.  Blank stares. Silence.  I reframed the question, and waited for them to have a little think time.  The room was quiet (a phenomenon which only seems to happen when I need them to talk)…. and then finally, a hand.  Her hand was stretching  hard to the ceiling, blonde pony swinging, eyes alight with her eagerness to share –  clearly, there had been a lightbulb moment. Great learning was taking place.  Moments like these – this is why I teach.  I called on her, “Yes C., what did you notice?”

C:  “I’m wearing SUPER soft pants today.”

September was about as productive as that lesson.  My project plans were in place, the materials ready, the eagerness to make was there, and yet somehow things didn’t end up quite like I had planned.  I’d like to tell you this is out of the ordinary… then again, I’d also like to tell you I didn’t lose a cardigan for a month, only to find it stuffed into the top of our entryway coat closet, buried under a pile of mittens.

School is now well and truly underway, and my ability to remain functional, let alone awake, later than about 9:00 p.m. has seriously deteriorated.  Those late night hours are typically my time to chip away at one of my in progress knitting projects, tape pdf patterns together, or sew drapes into play clothes for all of the Von Trapp children.  Instead, I’ve found myself lounging in the big green chair with my laptop, researching new projects or falling fast asleep after only one row of knitting. Fortunately, those single rows did help me to move forward on a few WIPs (which for most makers stands for “Works In Progress.” I find “Waiting In Piles” to also be quite apt).

Exhibit A:

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This remarkably poor photo makes my knitting needles look glow in the dark. Unfortunately, they are not.

This is my #fringeandfriends knit along sweater.  The challenge was to knit a top down sweater without a pattern. I decided to make a bulky weight cardigan out of Puffin from Quince & Co. This is meant to be a sweater I toss on over PJs while making coffee, wear with jeans to go out to dinner, or sweat through while jumping around with children at work. My hopes and dreams for this sweater are great – my ability to finish it – not so much.  Sure, I’ve made progress since my last post, but that was a month ago, and this sweater is knit with big yarn on big needles.  I should be wearing it already. I am happy to report that I’m at least 3/4 of one sleeve farther along than this photo shows.  However, there is a chance I’m going to rip that sleeve out and reknit it so it doesn’t look as though I was trying to make it big enough to fit both of my arms at once.

Exhibit B:

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This teeny-tiny sweater received some attention during an unexpected trip to the laundromat.  Ginger the bulldog created a situation which required us to give the sheets, duvet, and down comforter a thorough washing. I actually mucked up the first row of the lace pattern after dividing for the sleeves because counting stitches is something I tend to regard as a “suggestion.” In the photo you can see where I had just ripped the lace out and made a panicked dive to save the live stitches for a do-over.  Fortunately, the caffeine saw me through the dicey moments, and victory was mine.

I’ve made some minor headway on a few other things this month, with one notable exception – this blog.  This is where I admit that one of my great pet peeves is following a blog where the blogger rarely blogs (try saying that five times fast).  Ironic, isn’t it?  So, this month’s project list includes some much needed new garments for fall, as well as a few more blog posts… and perhaps, if the mood strikes, I’ll make myself a pair of super soft pants.