Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Tale of Two Sweaters

This is a story about two knitted sweaters, one finished and one in the trash.

Sweater One:  Long ago I bought some Rowan Yorkshire Tweed yarn in a lovely brick red. I bought the yarn because I liked the color with tweed flecks but had no specific pattern in mind. Although the yarn is labeled as dk weight, I knit it at a gauge between dk and worsted weight. In other words, my gauge was not suitable for sweaters knit with dk or worsted weight yarn. Still, I knit five swatches on various sized needles and tried three different sweater patterns.

Last December, I settled on the Garter Yoke Cardigan which is a well written pattern. I cast on the required number of stitches, modified the neckline, and knit beyond the yoke into the body. In order to get the correct gauge for this pattern, I knit with size 6 needles. Every time I knit on the sweater my hands hurt. Although the yarn was manufactured from "new wool," the fabric growing beneath my needles felt like cardboard. Last week, I decided life is too short to knit cardboard which hurts my hands. Quite relieved, I yanked the needle out, cut off the remaining yarn, and plunked the sweater in the trash. Usually, I salvage the yarn from abandoned projects. However, I had knitted these three balls of yarn so many times, I threw them away. I'll donate the remaining yarn to a good home because another knitter might get a different gauge. As for me, next time I'm tempted to buy a sweater's worth of yarn, I'll go in search of a pattern.

Sweater Two: Several years later, I purchased 1500 yards of Ultra Alpaca by Berocco to knit the Cassidy Cardigan. Ultra Alpaca with it's fiber content of 50% wool and 50% alpaca combines the softness of alpaca with the memory of wool. Knitting with Ultra Alpaca on the suggested needle size was like knitting with butter. I began knitting this sweater on August 4, 2010 toward the end of my father's life. The challenge of a cabled sweater and soft yarn was good company as Dad entered into hospice care.

While knitting this sweater, I learned to fix cables twisted the wrong way. After I sewed the sleeves into the body of the sweater, I discovered they were three inches too long for my short arms. I took out the cast on edges and pulled the bottom ribbing stitches out one by one. I used the Russian bind off at the bottom of the sleeves. In February, I did some research on Ravelry and figured out how to replace the hood with a collar of the small cable pattern used in the body of the sweater. I used my grandmother's technique of sewing grosgrain ribbon under the button band to make the front edge more stable. This past week, I finished weaving in the ends and sewed on a set of flat buttons which pulled the buttonhole side of the sweater out of shape. In order to accommodate the thickness of the knitted fabric, I sewed on another set of buttons with shanks. Although they were a slight improvement, the front edge still pulls a bit. However, the soft sweater fits well, and the cables all twist in the right directions. Other imperfections are part of the charm of my handmade projects.