Thursday, 10 November 2011

NaNoBlogMo 10 - They Can't All Be Successes

I have mentioned a few times now that as a knitter I'm not much of a pattern person (which is very similar to how as a cook I'm not much of a recipe person). I tend to learn and make stuff up as I go (likewise for cooking). Now that is all well and good when I'm making scarves or even the occasional hat, but can someone BS their way through a sweater? Sort of. If nothing else, my first sweater taught me quite a few lessons about knitting, which I will tell you about below.

After I had been knitting for less than a year, I thought I would attempt a sweater. No big deal, I hadn't used a single pattern yet and had no idea how to read them but obviously I could just puzzle out what I needed to do. I had used patterns when sewing before so I had a rough idea what the pieces should look like, and I knew how to increase and decrease stitches so I could make the right shapes. I figured that was all I needed.
(Lesson One: Don't be Cocky)

I bought some nice cushy Lion's Brand Homespun in a lovely whitish/rainbowish color scheme. It was certainly cheaper than a lot of other options at 98% acrylic, 2% polyester, but since I was buying quite a few skeins to make a sweater, I didn't want to break the bank.

(Lesson Two: If You Are Going To Take The Time/Effort To Make A Sweater, Invest In Decent Yarn)

I had this brilliant method I had deduced to give me a preview of how wide something was going to be when it was out the stitches on your needle as you cast on about one stitch apart. Of course I was off. WAY OFF.
(Lesson Three: If Size Is Important In Your Project, Just Knit A Freakin' Gauge Swatch Already)

I knitted the ENTIRE front and the ENTIRE back of the sweater, all the while thinking that they looked too wide. No worries, I thought to myself, if its too wide I can just take it in a bit when I sew the pieces together!
(Lesson Four: Denial Doesn't Help Anything)

Of course they ended up too huge. Then I had another brilliant plan (and I'm sure you can see how far my brilliance had got me at this point), knitted things shrink in hot water and the dryer! I happily headed down to my dorm's laundry room and ran my sweater front and back through a hot water wash and a few dryer cycles, only to discover to my dismay that they ended up exactly the same size...only warmer.
(Lesson Five: Wool Shrinks...Acrylic Doesn't)

Facing defeat, I frogged what I had already knitted and remade the front and the back. I did have the presence of mind before I tore apart the giant sweater pieces to measure how wide I wanted the sweater to be compared to what I had already made, count the stitches that added up to that width and then remake the pieces with that amount. I had basically knitted the most unnecessarily complicated gauge swatches ever.
(Lesson Six: If Possible, Use Your Mistakes To Your Advantage)

The sleeves weren't as bad, but they certainly weren't good. I started at the shoulder and knit my way down, slightly decreasing the amount of stitches as I went. I often held up what I had made so far on my arm to make sure it would fit ok. They were shaping up to be good sleeves. At one point I held them up and realized they were a good length. Just to be sure they were going to be long enough once everything was sewed together, I knitted what I can only imagine was another 6 inches.
(Lesson Seven: Take Measurements, Then USE Your Measurements)

When all the pieces were done, I sewed everything together. That part went blessedly smoothly since I had a lot of hand sewing experience and had the foresight to match up the edges as I went along, etc. Finally I had the chance to try on my sweater...a sweater I had knit myself!
(Lesson Eight: Don't Get Your Hopes Up)

What a mess. The body was short, the sleeves were too long, the neck hole was huge and ugly. It was at that point that it occurred to me that I hated the way the stockinette knit rolled up at the edges and I hadn't thought about cuffs or a collar.
(Lesson Nine: Figure Out The Details Ahead Of Time)

Someone suggested to me at that point that I make a cowl neck to at least salvage the neck hole. Figuring I might as well, I knitted another sheet of stockinette (did I mention I didn't even know how to knit in the round at this point?), sewed it up and sewed it on. It didn't really help.
(Lesson Ten: Adding Frills To Crap Still Leaves You With Crap)

I wore the sweater only once in public that I can remember; to work to show to a woman who also knitted. I got a few stares that day. After that it was shoved into my drawer and half-forgotten. I didn't want to wear it, but I couldn't very well get rid of was my first sweater! I dug it out when I was going through my clothes recently and put it on again for the first time in years just to take pictures for this blog post. As I was griping about how terrible a sweater it was, my mother said she liked it. In disbelief, I offered the sweater to her. It really was the perfect solution. I wasn't getting rid of it, and someone was using it.
(Lesson Eleven: Everyone Has Different Tastes, Especially With Knitted Goods)

I posted a picture of the sweater on Facebook and to my surprise... more people seem to like it. The flaws in it that are screamingly relevant to me don't even seem like an issue to some.
(Lesson Twelve: No One Will Ever Be As Harsh As You When It Comes To Your Knitting)

I obviously kept knitting after the sweater incident; sometimes with patterns, sometimes without. I learned from my mistakes and I always kept trying new things. I eventually learned things like how to knit on double pointed needles, how to do color work, how to knit cables and a bunch of other little knitting lessons that have been building up in my repertoire.
(Lesson Thirteen: Keep Learning)

And someday I do eventually plan to knit myself a decent sweater. For years I have thought about knitting this sweater from, and maybe someday I actually will.
(Lesson Fourteen: Cry, Then Laugh, Then Try Again)


  1. I love this post! It's fun, insightful, and original. How clever to arrange the narrative into lessons. You rock, my friend!

  2. It actually does look pretty cute on your mom.

  3. While I was reading I thought, it's not so bad and I love the cowl neck! Also, the sweater you want to knit is similar to a sweater pattern that I love on ravelry. I promise if I make one I won't wear it when you wear yours!

  4. I love it. I'm enjoying these very much! PS: I too, own that shirt.