Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Finishing School: Lessons Learned

Well, I did it. I finished the sweater I was working on, in time to wear it on the plane to France, which I'll be boarding later this afternoon. As I approached the finish line, I headed on over to the store to pick out buttons. I needed three big ones.

I don't know about you, but for me, shopping for buttons counts as a pretty exciting adventure. For starters, since I waited til I was just about done knitting (are we ever really done knitting?), this was like a reward or icing on the cake or cherry on the sundae or picking out the perfect shoes once you've already got just the right dress. It's a sign you're about ready to unveil the triumph of a project completed.

Another thing I got worked up over was just hanging out in the button section of the store. Actually, there's that one wall of buttons, but there are also a lot of cool ones around the checkout desk. But the wall of buttons thrills me because you have this big collection of all sorts of sizes, colors, and designs. Sort of like going through a jewelry box. Plus, as with the yarn, there's the tactile pleasure of feeling the different surfaces of the buttons, smooth, textured, glass, plastic, wood...

I wound up with three from Lantern Moon, really gorgeous, about 2" in diameter. Then I brought them home, and set them out where I could look at them, and practically hear them whispering to me that, just as soon as I finished my seams, I could sew them on.

I have to say that, as I sat to seam the sweater, I thought a lot of Renate, HCW's own Finishing Queen. A lot of folks send their unseamed pieces to her so she can work her magic on them. Maybe she could come to my house and just make this sweater come together magically? Because even though I'd learned to seam in Fran's sweater class, that was almost a year ago, and I realized as I tried to get going, that I'd pretty much forgotten what to do. It was early on a Sunday morning, store not yet open, so I turned to my friend, The Internet, and found this How To Mattress Stitch Video. That was helpful, and so I set myself to the task. There were a lot of seams-- this sweater has raglan sleeves and a hood. And it's a really long, really heavy sweater, so it was pretty tricky to maneuver, and took the better part of the day.

Then there were all of those ends I had to weave in-- I think I used something like fifteen balls of yarn and I thought I'd never get to Button Time. I finally took a break Sunday night. Monday morning, I had to knit three more loops-- instead of i-cords, the recipe called for a pretty fast technique: cast on twelve, then immediately bind them off. I made a note of the final, final stitch, relieved to reach it (and, on another note, excited this meant I GET TO MOVE ON TO ANOTHER PROJECT!)

Then, at super long last, after all these months, it was Button Time. I got them on, tried on the sweater, and noticed a couple of things. First of all, I had to move one of the buttons. Second of all, and this is sort of funny, I realized a big error I'd made. It's not an end of the world error, but it certainly taught me a huge lesson, emphasis on the word huge.

Okay, so the pattern was pretty hard for me, and called for a repeating eight row pattern that included bobbles and cables. As I went along, sometimes I'd see a little error. Mostly I kept going, reminding myself no one would be able to spot the error. A few times, I took the time to rip out and fix things, which wasn't really fun, but did make me feel sort of proud that I've reached a point where I can rip out without having a breakdown, and get those stitches back on the needles without having to take it all the way back to the cast on. You know that old saying about not seeing the forest for the trees? Well let's just say all those little errors turned out to be the trees. Here is where I made an error in the forest:

When I tried the sweater on, it was big. Really really big. Like massively big. I had to roll up the sleeves, which is not what the designer intended. Then I pulled on the hood, which hung down over my head to a sort of Grim Reaper effect. How the heck did the sweater get so huge? Here are a couple of pictures:

I looked at the pattern again. And for some reason I can no longer remember, I apparently determined that I was supposed to knit the version designed for a 50" bust. Hello? I might be well-endowed, folks, but I am not a 50-incher. Yikes. Maybe I was thinking that patterns probably run small, or that I wanted the sweater to be roomy. It certainly is that. Warren, my bf, tried to console me by saying it's like those Snuggie blankets with arms.

Yes, a very expensive Snuggie. One that took maybe three hundred hours to knit. I'm not too upset with the results. First of all, it's a gorgeous sweater (I credit the designer). Second, I certainly will be able to wear plenty of layers under it-- very important since I think it's about five degrees in Paris. Plus, it's only my second tricky-pattern sweater, and even if I didn't get the seams perfect, and even if it does hang on me, I still have the enormous satisfaction, as I move into my tenth (or is it eleventh?) year of knitting, that I can really, truly read patterns now. (At least some patterns.) This blows me away, since for the first four years I only garter stitched rectangles.

So there you go-- my New Year's vow of 2009: Knit a Sweater, has been realized not once but twice this year. I'm going to work on hand warmers in the plane, and I brought a couple of pairs of socks worth of yarn to work on while I'm on vacation. These will be a nice break from knitting big (literally). But I'm seeing another sweater or two in the works for 2010. And looking back over the year, I am so glad I took that class. Thanks Fran!

Okay, au revoir. I'll let you know how the yarn shops are over there. I've already been googling to track down the best ones.


SAQA- Atlantic Canada said...

Did you knit a swatch before you started to check the gauge? That's usually where I screw up.


shannon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
shannon said...

Not only swatch, but actually check the math on the original pattern to make sure that the gauge that the designer gets produces the results that the pattern states for finished measurements.


indigo warrior said...

I've heard that the good yarn, on the continent, is in the department stores.

I find that few women really know what size they are. Deciding you are huge is a bad idea. Get a tape measure and a friend! Find out how much 'ease' the designer intended. Even swatches can lie. One bad day and your sweater is being knit more tightly. On vacation? The fabric you produce is loose as a goose. Fun, huh?