A Tale of Two Sweaters

Can I tell you something? I made this sweater twice. Well, not this exact sweater. But I used this yarn and knitted up a perfectly fine sweater and then completely frogged it, all seven skeins of yarn, rewound them, and knit up another complete sweater. 

I bought this yarn on the last day before lockdown orders came out in March last year, knowing that I'd need a Project to work on. I finished the first sweater in October, then fully eight months into the pandemic. And in that time, the pandemic really made me take stock of what matters: relationships, self care, patience and joy. And, among other things, I have realized that life is too short for sweaters that you won't wear. I loved the bobbles and details, the months I spent working out the stitch pattern. But the whole thing just felt too heavy, too awkward. I'd pull at the neckline every time I wore it. So I took it apart. 

And you know what? I love my new sweater. It is the exact same yarn (plus a few more skeins) but the fit is so much better, it keeps me perfectly warm in my wintery apartment, and is easy to pull on and off and to wear. It's the little things like this that are getting me through the year. 

Yarn: Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash Wool in black
Patterns: Version 1 based on Caron Great Curves Knit Poncho
Cost: $140

Let's start with the first one. I love intricate stitch patterns and have spent a lot of time pouring over my copy of the Japanese Stitch Bible. For this project I was especially intrigued with the delicate lacy patterns that hid within them increase rows, allowing a pattern to expand as you work it. I spent months translating this technique to a shawl sweater pattern with raglan sleeves, using the knit stitches to create the narrow neckline and then growing wider as I worked down. I figured the whole design out in Excel, using the rows and columns to record each stitch. It was incredibly challenging and interesting work, and really held my attention. 

However, as is often the case when I try to create my own knit patterns, the end result is often not as wearable as I'd like. I find it much more challenging to work out necklines and sleeveheads in knitting than in sewing patterns. Living in a warmer California climate, I also struggle to match my knitting projects to what will actually get worn. 

While I wore this sweater poncho a few times, it never felt quite right. The whole garment felt heavy and cumbersome to put on over my head. It was also a bit unbalanced and would pull toward the back, chocking me a bit at the collar. While I loved the artistry and the process of creating this garment, the end result was lacking. So I snapped a few pictures to document my work and began the tedious process of taking it all back apart. 

Unfortunately, most of my knitting projects end this way. I've even knit a sweater twice where I didn't like the first or second version. However, I was determined this time to get it right and started researching knit patterns, which I vowed to follow to the letter. Up until this point, the only sweater I have ever really loved is the one I knit for my husband, the Brooklyn Tweed Hugo Sweater. So I decided my best bet was to try another pattern from them.

I eventually landed on the Watermark pattern. The instructions matched my yarn gauge and, with its open, pull-on style, it seemed like an easy pattern to wear. While I struggled a bit at first with the instructions, I found it to be a really quality pattern with well-thought out details. And you know what? I love it! It works well with my yarn, the fit is good and not too snug, and I have been wearing it nearly every day since I finished it. 


While I tried to stick faithfully to the pattern to achieve the best possible result, I did make a few adjustments. First, I found that my yarn gauge knit up slightly larger than what the pattern called for (even on smaller needles), so I knit the smallest size, realizing it would come out a bit bigger. However, when it came to the armholes, I made them two sizes larger and knit the sleeves two sizes larger to match. This worked really well for me, creating a cozy sweater but with enough room in the arms to wear with long-sleeve tops. I do believe they sized up the sweater for the models so it was hard to determine how snuggly the pattern was supposed to fit, but this solution suited me. 

The other thing I did was shorten the pattern. Again it was actually kind of hard to tell where the hem fell on the models from the pictures, but after looking at several Ravelry projects I decided to shorten mine by about 2-3 inches. I did this by starting the waist decrease early. Of course now I can't remember exactly how many inches I took off (was it 2? was it 4?) but it hits me now right at the hip. 

The stitch pattern on this sweater, while not quite as cool as the Japanese Stitch Bible, also added some visual interest and was fun to knit. It is seen better on the back of the sweater. 

The only challenge I had, and you can see it in the photo above. Was with the yarn dye lot. When I was making this sweater I realized I would need a few more balls of yarn and, now that in-person shopping at limited capacity is back open, went in after the holidays to pick up some more. I carefully checked the dye lot but realized only much later that I had only checked the dye lot of the first skein I picked up, not all of them. I do a lot of knitting at night and really only realized the color variation after I had already knit up the back portion of the sweater. Luckily, black is easy enough to fix and, if it really bothers me, I'll dunk the whole thing in some dye to try to even out the color. 

I suppose the last thing I'll note is just a word about the yarn and pattern companies I used. I was quite proud of myself for shopping local for this yarn, especially as I know retail stores have been struggling. But my friend let me know later that the particular brand of yarn I selected, Cascade Yarns, have been vocal Trump supporters and harassing others on social media. It's been a bit hard to untangle whether it was the present or former owners and exactly what beliefs they do or don't hold, but I was very disappointed to hear this. Especially with recent conversations on the topic, it strikes me that it is best to support companies that are working to make this space as inclusive as possible rather than going about business as usual or actively supporting a racist leader. Similarly, Brooklyn Tweed has recently been accused of copying and profiting off of the yarn of a local Oakland seller, A Verb for Keeping Warm. While mistakes will be made and it is not possible to have a "perfect" source for all your projects, I am reconsidering both these companies for projects in the future in favor of more inclusive companies based on what I learned while making this sweater. 

In practicing a craft I find there is always more to learn. From what projects suit me to where to source my supplies, I welcome the challenge of constantly learning and improving. 

3 comments:

  1. yes, a thing that is not comfortable to wear is such a disappointment. But your final result is so nice

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  2. The final sweater is well worth it, I think you made the right choice! I also find it so very difficult to suze knitting properly... I haven’t really figured it out to be honest. I know, keep gauge... but I really want to make a toile!

    ReplyDelete
  3. wow, cute design. I like your designs of sweater.
    ED-EMS

    ReplyDelete

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